Apologies for the silence during the latter part of the week. We were accompanying more visitors from Colombia, who were here for Monday’s hearings in the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
- At the hearings, the head of the “Justice and Peace” unit in Colombia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office (FiscalÃa) declared that some of the paramilitary leaders extradited to the United States would participate in as many as 60 confessions, via closed-circuit television, over the next few months.
- The Miami Herald ran a front-page story by Steven Dudley about the “Justice and Peace” testimony of RaÃºl HasbÃºn, a paramilitary leader in the UrabÃ¡ banana-producing region who was the key link between the paramilitaries and banana exporting companies like Chiquita Brands.
- The Washington Post ran a piece by Juan Forero about paramilitary-linked companies’ theft of land from Afro-Colombian communities, and the government’s halting efforts to return some of the land.
- Highly recommended is “Shoveling Water,” a 25-minute video from Witness for Peace explaining why the drug war has failed in Colombia. The footage and interviews are stunning.
- Colombia’s Constitutional Court has served as an important check on executive power, and has issued important decisions limiting the scope of security statutes, the Justice and Peace law, and laws that would have limited small farmers’ land rights. It will also rule over any attempt later this year to change Colombia’s constitution to allow President Ãlvaro Uribe to run for a third term. As six justices’ terms come to an end, President Uribe has nominated a list of mostly unknown lawyers to replace them, Cambio magazine explains. The effect on checks and balances in Colombia’s state is expected to be enormous.
- The Colombian newsmagazine Semana presents a jarringly conflicting range of views on the state of the FARC, a year after the March 26, 2008 death of the group’s maximum leader “Manuel Marulanda.”
- The FARC were certainly more active during this anniversary week. There was fierce combat in Guaviare department, and the guerrillas enforced “armed stoppages” (paros armados) that halted nearly all road traffic in the departments of Arauca and Putumayo. The author of the “Colombian Journey” blog, who lives in Arauca, gives an account of life in the town of Arauquita during the armed stoppage.
- President Ãlvaro Uribe’s closest advisor, JosÃ© Obdulio Gaviria, recently left his post and is now writing columns for Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper. His latest, alleging that the FARC is quietly manipulating the Democratic Party, is so full of paranoid inaccuracies that it would be an amusing parody of extremist ravings – were it not written by someone so close to the country’s president.
“A tiny sector of the Democratic Party defends the points of view of the Latin American extreme left, and defines the FARC as an ‘armed opposition’ party. The FARC (through this tiny sector) influences Democratic policy against Colombia. They have conditioned and limited U.S. cooperation – which they call aid – to, they say, prevent our soldiers from repressing, displacing, and plundering the people.”
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent two days in Mexico this week. Links to her public statements during the trip are here, and links to coverage of the trip are here.
- Bolivian President Evo Morales, incensed about the effect that a maritime border negotiation between Peru and Chile might have on Bolivia’s hope of someday recovering access to the Pacific, once again called Peruvian President AlÃ¡n GarcÃa “fat.”
- Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva absolved brown-eyed people of responsibility for the world financial crisis: “It is a crisis caused and encouraged by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything, but are now showing that they know nothing.”
- “He goes and accuses me of exporting terrorism: the least I can say is that he’s a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality.” – Hugo ChÃ¡vez, talking about Barack Obama last weekend.
I’m at an all-day conference today, so this may be the only post here all day. While preparing my PowerPoint, though, a search for a picture of the region’s leaders yielded the above image, which I had to share. It comes from artist “edwheeler” at the deviantART.com website. And it’s brilliant.
Left to right, in the style of Matt Groening’s “Simpsons” cartoons: Bolivian President Evo Morales, Ecuadorâ€™s Rafael Correa, Venezuelaâ€™s Hugo ChÃ¡vez, Colombian pop star Juanes (apparently the focus of the presidents’ attention), Colombiaâ€™s Ãlvaro Uribe, Peruâ€™s AlÃ¡n GarcÃa, and Brazilâ€™s Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.