Photos found on a computer recovered from a FARC commander include this shot of a very young girl holding a rifle. (Source)
- In a surprise decision, Colombia’s National Electoral Commission last night declared invalid the signatures on petitions to allow President Ãlvaro Uribe to run for a third term. The signatures were needed for Colombia’s Congress to consider legislation to schedule a constitutional amendment referendum. That legislation was approved in September, and the referendum was expected to be held early next year. The Electoral Commission threw out the signatures, and potentially the referendum, arguing that the amount of money spent on the petition drive was illegal. The commission’s decision is appealable, and Uribe’s reelection backers are expected to do so.
- The latest bimonthly Invamer-Gallup poll gives President Uribe a 64 percent favorability rating, “the lowest favorability level the President has had in his seven years of government.” The Agro Ingreso Seguro scandal gets much blame.
- If you speak Spanish and have a sense of humor, don’t miss the two-part “PequeÃ±o Tirano” cartoon about the Agro Ingreso Seguro scandal.
- The Commander of the U.S. Army decorated a Colombian Army instructor at the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, leading Colombia’s Defense Ministry to publish a release headlined, “Colombian Army is Recognized by the United States as a Leader in Human Rights Training.”
- The Obama administration finally has its own assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Arturo Valenzuela was approved in a Senate vote last Friday and sworn in on Tuesday.
- Trade agreements with Colombia and Panama “are going to have to wait,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke this week, citing a backlogged agenda of higher legislative priorities.
- The FARC launched its biggest attack of the year early this week. 200 guerrillas overran a contingent of soldiers guarding communications antennas in Corinto, Cauca, killing 9. The government has responded by deploying 2,500 soldiers and police to the zone.
- Colombia’s Semana magazine published a long and disturbing story about efforts to torpedo official investigations into illegal surveillance and wiretaps by the presidential intelligence service (DAS): “Threats against investigators, hidden microphones to follow them, prosecutors fired by [acting Prosecutor-General] Guillermo Mendoza, and great distrust of the detectives charged with gathering evidence.”
- “As I look across our hemisphere at our security challenges, the recurring and growing challenge remains illicit trafficking,” Southern Command Commander Gen. Douglas Fraser said in a speech (PDF) in Miami this week.
- Key congressional Democrats joined a growing chorus of dismay about the State Department’s decision to change position and recognize the Honduran elections even without a reversal of the June 28 coup. A spokesman for Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) told the Washington Post: “The State Department’s abrupt change of policy towards Honduras last week — recognizing the elections scheduled for Nov. 29 even if the coup regime does not meet its commitments under the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord — caused the collapse of an accord it helped negotiate.”
- U.S. and Ecuadorian diplomats held a U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Dialogue to seek improved relations. However, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, warned that Ecuador is in danger of losing trade benefits under the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Elimination Act: “Ecuador is sticky. It’s difficult. It’s not easy … Ecuador is not helping itself. It’s a word to the wise. If they want to continue, a lot of that is in their hands too.”
- Forbes magazine’s list of “The World’s Most Powerful People,” published this week, puts JoaquÃn “El Chapo” GuzmÃ¡n, head of the largest branch of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, at number 41. Forbes ranks GuzmÃ¡n ahead of Dmitri Medvedev, Nicolas Sarkozy, and even Oprah Winfrey.