Jorge Noguera, President Uribe’s former intelligence director now standing trial for murder, testified that he gave information about labor union activity directly to the president.
- We have added a podcast to the “Just the Facts” website. The first episode discusses the debate in Colombia over President Ãlvaro Uribe’s apparent desire to run for a third term in office, which just suffered a setback in the justice system. Download or listen to the 12-and-a-half-minute .mp3 file here or at our podcast page. Keep in mind that we’re new at this. They will get better.
- Cambio, one of Colombia’s two main newsmagazines, is going to stop publishing on a weekly basis. Instead, it will be a monthly devoted to lifestyle issues. This is a loss for Colombia; in 2009 Cambio broke two big stories: the existence of military-base talks between the U.S. and Colombian governments, and the use of an agricultural subsidy program to give cash to some of the country’s biggest landholders. The “La Silla VacÃa” website speculates that the magazine’s abrupt retreat owes to indirect pressure from Ãlvaro Uribe’s government.
- The recently formed Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) will meet in Quito on Tuesday the 9th to discuss responses to the earthquake in Haiti. Colombia’s President Uribe, who doesn’t always attend these meetings, plans to go to this one. He is not expected to meet bilaterally with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, even though Colombia and Ecuador appear to be nearing the end of a two-year break in diplomatic relations. Though they’re unlikely to have a bilateral meeting, this will be the first time in many very tense months that Uribe and Venezuelan President Hugo ChÃ¡vez will be in the same room.
- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a congressional panel that the Obama administration would “absolutely” work with Congress to pass the Colombia Free Trade Agreement in 2010. He was quickly contradicted, however. Reuters reports: “Both the Treasury Department and U.S. Trade Representative’s office later issued statements clarifying Geithner’s comment. They said U.S. trade officials still had to resolve outstanding issues with the three countries before Obama would send the FTAs to Congress for a vote.”
- President Uribe held a rare debate with academic detractors at BogotÃ¡’s Jorge Tadeo Lozano University. (Much better link here.)
- Columbia University Colombia expert Aldo CÃvico interviewed Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) for Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper. English here, Spanish here.
- Colombian police trained counterparts from 23 countries last year, including 4,500 Mexicans.
- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, spent three days in Honduras. At the end of his trip he told reporters he disagreed with the Obama administration’s call for the Honduran government to nominate a “Truth Commission,” which would investigate crimes committed since the June 2009 coup. It’s better to “close the book,” Rohrabacher concluded.
- President Obama called Chilean President-Elect SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±era to congratulate him on his recent election win. PiÃ±era asked Obama for a bilateral meeting.
- Ecuadorian authorities seized 63 tons of cocaine in 2009. That is by far a record, showing the country’s increasing use as a narcotrafficking corridor. By comparison, Colombia seized 203 tons in 2009 (Excel file).
- Costa Ricans go to the polls Sunday for a presidential election. Laura Chinchilla of President Oscar Arias’s PLN party has a comfortable lead in the polls, though it is not clear whether she will beat the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
- Much coverage of the Haiti humanitarian and rebuilding effort is linked here, at the “Just the Facts” website.