Para-politicians and their “avatars,” from PequeÃ±o Tirano
- Colombia’s biggest political controversy of the week came from President Uribe’s proposal, apparently unconsulted with MedellÃn authorities, to fight gang violence by paying the city’s students who serve as informantsÂ passing intelligence to the authorities.
- President Obama’s brief “State of the Union” mention of trade with Colombia raised hopes in BogotÃ¡ that the White House might seek congressional ratification of the free-trade agreement signed in 2006, even though U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield warned a week ago that trade agreements never win approval in legislative election years. Colombian Ambassador to the United States Carolina Barco counseled patience, and former Bush Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega noted that Obama’s language did not state clearly that he intends to act for the agreement’s ratification.
- The Colombian non-governmental organization CODHES reported its estimate of the number of Colombians newly displaced by violence in 2009: 286,389 people. That number, while shockingly high, is actually lower than the group’s 2008 estimate of 380,863 newly displaced people.
- A very strange story in El Tiempo covers an event the armed forces held for the accused Soacha “false positives” defendants, who were recently released from jail as they await trial for killing Colombian civilians. The 46 soldiers participated in aromatherapy and psycho-social workshops, while their visiting family members were entertained: clowns for the children and massages and makeovers for the women.
- Of every 100 guerrillas that the Colombian government has taken out of commission, estimates JosÃ© Fernando Isaza, the FARC manages to recruit 83 new ones.
- The VerdadAbierta.com website has a long and disturbing interview with “Jorge Pirata,” one of the leaders of the paramilitaries who dominated Colombia’s eastern plains in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In text and video, he tells the history of the AUC’s brutal rise in the region south and east of BogotÃ¡.
- The “PequeÃ±o Tirano” cartoon is back, this time mocking the relatives, or “avatars,” of jailed para-politicians who are running for office in Colombia’s March congressional elections.
- As Porfirio Lobo takes over the presidency of Honduras and Manuel Zelaya leaves for exile in the Dominican Republic, the Tegucigalpa government’s treasury is down to its last US$50 million. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela warned yesterday that Washington will not support Honduras’ return to the OAS until President Lobo takes steps foreseen in the San JosÃ© Accord, like forming a “unity government” and establishing a “truth commission” for crimes committed after the June 2009 coup.
- “Bloggings by Boz” excerpts all references to Latin America in the draft Quadrennial Defense Review that leaked this week. It’s definitely not too much to read in one sitting.
- Recently re-inaugurated President Evo Morales just named a new high command and now wants to change the Bolivian armed forces’ doctrine. “My great dream, my great desire,” he said, “is that our armed forces be internationally recognized as anti-capitalist.”
- Chile is buying 18 F-16 fighter planes from the United States for $270 million. “We don’t want to go out and hit anybody” with the country’s fleet of 44 F-16s, said Chile’s armed forces chief, Ricardo Ortega. But “everyone who is watching us, everyone around us, now knows that we have the capacity to hit hard, that is, it’s best that they leave us alone.”
- A USA Today/Gallup poll finds 63% of Americans favoring a longer-term U.S. military presence in Haiti, going beyond the emergency phase until “basic services are restored.” Meanwhile U.S. military logistics authorities estimate that most troops will pull out of Haiti within three to six months.
- In Venezuela, Hugo ChÃ¡vez’s vice president and defense minister, RamÃ³n CarrizÃ¡lez, abruptly quit on Monday, citing “personal reasons.” Some Venezuelan analysts speculate that he quit over disagreement with the role of Cuban officers in the Venezuelan military’s high command, or that it was part of a “loyalty test” amid rising internal discontent within the armed forces.
- New America Media reports on Latin American militaries’ increasing use of unmanned drone aircraft, most of them purchased from Israel.