- The Defense Council of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) will meet in Quito on Tuesday the 15th. Mutual confidence-building measures will be high on the agenda. Confidence-building will be ever more important as South America embarks on a wave of arms purchases, including two big ones announced last week.
- Venezuela announced that it will buy 100 tanks and an unknown number of short-range missiles from Russia. (The New York Times questions whether Venezuela will be able to pay: “[President Hugo] ChÃ¡vez would have to find a way to pay for the missiles while he struggles to meet other obligations. With oil prices dropping sharply from their peak last year, Venezuela owes an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion to a wide variety of foreign companies, including suppliers of basic items like food.”
- Brazil will make a multi-billion-dollar purchase of French fighter aircraft. Argentina’s La NaciÃ³n says that Brazil’s recent purchases from France, including a joint venture for a nuclear submarine, will also help revive Brazil’s nuclear energy program.
- Meanwhile, Bolivia plans to buy from Russia a new presidential airplane and about $70 million more in military equipment. For its part, Chile may move in the other direction: President Michelle Bachelet has submitted legislation to do away with a legacy of the Pinochet years: the automatic transfer of 10 percent of the country’s copper profits to the armed forces’ procurement fund.
- In an unexpected move, Colombia’s acting attorney-general, Guillermo Mendoza, ordered the arrest of retired Gen. Francisco RenÃ© Pedraza. He is charged with aiding and abetting the paramilitaries who carried out the horrific April 2001 Alto Naya massacre in Valle del Cauca and Cauca departments. Gen. Pedraza headed the Cali-based 3rd Brigade, which did nothing to stop Carlos CastaÃ±o’s AUC paramilitary organization – particularly UrabÃ¡-based paramilitary leader Ã‰ver Veloza, or “H.H.” – from forming the murderous Bloque Calima paramilitary front in 1999-2001. “The Sixth Division,” a 2001 report from Human Rights Watch, discusses the 3rd Brigade’s collaboration with the Bloque Calima.
Note as of 8:30 September 14: El Espectador had this scoop late Friday: Gen. Pedraza was released, and the charges against him dropped, on Friday. It appears to be a technicality: “the prosecutor in charge of the case was not empowered to order his arrest.”
- El Tiempo shares the proof-of-life videos of ten FARC hostages, military and police officers who have been held for ten years or more. The Colombian Army intercepted the videos by stopping the messenger – believed to be on his way to delivering the videos to Colombian Senator and frequent hostage mediator Piedad CÃ³rdoba – on September 5. Global Post has a video about the long struggle of Gustavo Moncayo, father of one of the FARC’s remaining hostages, who does not appear in the intercepted videos.
- The Christian Science Monitor reports on the FARC’s increased use of homemade landmines, which has contributed to a 15 percent increase in Colombian military casualties since last year.
- Bloomberg, The Economist, and Semana magazine all discuss the unprecedented recent steps that Venezuela has been taking to reduce trade and travel ties to Colombia.
- Semana identifies Maximilano Bonilla, alias “Valenciano,” as the narcotrafficker seeking, through a wave of recent murders, to take control of the drug trade in a broad swath of northern Colombia that had been under the control of now-extradited paramilitary leaders.
- On September 10, the Mexican daily El Universal reported, Mexico registered its 5,000th organized crime-related killing of 2009, reaching 5,018 by the end of the day. In all of 2008, the newspaper counted about 5,600 such murders – so 2009 is virtually assured to be even more violent than last year. On Monday President Felipe CalderÃ³n replaced embattled Attorney-General Eduardo Medina Mora. Medina’s appointed successor, former Chihuahua state Attorney-General Arturo ChÃ¡vez, has come under fire from Mexican human rights groups and other critics for failing to address two phenomena that marked his tenure: the hundreds of disappearances of womenÂ in Ciudad JuÃ¡rez, and the growth of the JuÃ¡rez drug cartel.
- Two and a half months after the June 28 coup in which its military helped kick elected President Manuel Zelaya out of the country, the armed forces of Honduras are being excluded from U.S. military exercises and cooperation activities. These include the annual PANAMAX 2009 counter-terror exercise, which began September 11 (”Honduras withdrew from the exercise August 10″), and the August 17-21 Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program conference that U.S. Special Operations Command South hosted in Miami for Central American and Caribbean security forces.
- “August 21 marked the second time an American has graduated from the Brazilian Jungle Warfare Instruction Center (Centro de Instrucao de Guerra na Selva),” reports the U.S. Southern Command.