The referendum moves ahead “Mientras Uribe respire que nadie aspire”
Sep 042009
  • The Colombian newsmagazine Semana revealed that Colombia’s presidential intelligence service (DAS) is still spying on judges, journalists and opposition politicians. The shocking revelations come six months after these practices were first revealed. “The wiretapping and surveillance of members of the [Supreme] Court, journalists, politicians and some lawyers are still happening. And if that were not enough, they have extended to some presidential candidates, and, recently, to congressmen. ‘What is happening in the last few weeks that interests us? Simple: the [presidential reelection] referendum. We must know what the politicians are up to and what they are thinking,’ one of the people in charge of these monitoring tasks told Semana while he showed part of his labors. Surveillance using active or retired detectives, the use of vehicles disguised as taxis or telecommunications companies, and the use of wiretapping equipment not in official inventories are among the methods employed.” The response of former President and OAS Secretary-General César Gaviria was strong: “Uribe is a dictator who has turned the DAS into a criminal machine.
  • The Miami Herald ran a disturbing story Wednesday about the Colombian government’s inability to prosecute a U.S. sergeant and a contractor accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in 2007. “The suspects, Sgt. Michael Coen and contractor César Ruiz, were taken out of Colombia under diplomatic immunity, and do not face criminal charges in the United States in the rape in a room at Colombia’s Germán Olano Air Force Base in Melgar, 62 miles west of Bogotá.” Three weeks ago, the girl’s mother was denied the ability to testify about the case in Colombia’s Senate.
  • The head of Colombia’s armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla, told Colombia’s Caracol Radio that the presence of U.S. troops at Colombian bases would not increase the presence of U.S. personnel in Colombia: “There is a tendency to diminish because better technologies exist every day, and technology reduces the number of men [needed].”
  • The State Department canceled about $30 million in aid to Honduras yesterday, following a meeting between deposed President Manuel Zelaya and Secretary of State Clinton. My take is on the Huffington Post website.
  • The U.S. oil giant Chevron released evidence from a hidden-camera sting operation against the Ecuadorian judge trying a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit demanding that the company pay for Amazon-basin pollution left behind decades ago by Texaco, which Chevron purchased in 2001. In the recordings, Judge Juan Núñez appears to say “Si, señor” when asked by an American businessman whether Chevron will lose the case – even though the judge has yet to return a verdict. “In a newspaper interview, Nuñez denied that he told Hansen [the businessman] a predetermined verdict,” reports Time. “His supporters say it’s unclear in the videos, especially given Hansen’s tortured Spanish, what exactly Nuñez is responding to.” Don’t miss the excellent pair of editorials the Los Angeles Times published about the case last weekend.
  • Mexican President Felipe Calderón gave his third annual State of the Union address on Wednesday. Drug-related violence continued unabated, including the massacre of 18 people at a drug rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juárez. The U.S. government announced the release of $214 million in Mérida Initiative aid, including funds for five helicopters for the military. President Calderón’s approval rating stands at 68 percent, according to a poll published this week by Mexico’s Reforma newspaper.
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is in the midst of an 11-day tour to Libya, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Belarus and Russia. All six maintain distant or unfriendly relations with the United States. Asked about the trip, a State Department spokesman said the United States “respects every country’s sovereign decision” to maintain diplomatic relations with other countries.
  • In Bolivia, three months before December 6 presidential elections, Evo Morales is polling between 41 and 52 percent, far higher than his divided rivals. An Equipos MORI poll revealed 41 percent of Bolivians ranked Morales as Bolivia’s best president since the restoration of democracy in 1982; Víctor Paz Estenssoro was a distant second with 24 percent.
  • Peru’s drug-funded and increasingly active Shining Path insurgency shot down an army helicopter this week. The incident spurred Defense Minister Rafael Rey to appear before Congress for a discussion of the group’s new tactics, which include “well-planned, strategically planned tunnels, bases for antiaircraft guns, and explosive traps.”
  • In Chile, a judge has issued 129 warrants for the arrest of members of the Pinochet regime’s internal security service, the DINA. They are to be charged with killings and disappearances of leftists during the dictatorship.

2 Responses to “Friday links”

  1. Louis Says:

    Great sleuthing. This DAS story just confirms what many people have been murmuring about. Such chutzpah, these DAS people have.

  2. lfm Says:

    Something tells me we haven’t heard the half of it. Shady DAS connections have been cropping up in all sorts of places for years. I’ve been told from moderately-informed sources that if only the press bothered to look into the DAS the sh*t would hit the fan. Of course, scandals are no longer what they used to be with the press constantly saying “move on, people, nothing to see here!” In all fairness, my source on this is several degrees removed from the center of the action. But it certainly sounds plausible. Moreover, seems this is not “a few bad apples.” No, this seems to be one big rotten orchard planted there deliberately by the very farmers who knew what they were doing.

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