Friday links (Saturday edition)
El Tiempo’s website has very detailed results of the Datexco presidential-election poll in a PowerPoint file.
- If all goes according to plan, Brazilian helicopters will pick up two soldiers who have been held by the FARC for years. The guerrillas are releasing JosuÃ© Daniel Calvo MarÃn on Sunday and Pablo Emilio Moncayo. Moncayo, whose father has become famous in Colombia for his campaign to free him, has been a FARC hostage since late 1997. He was 18 when the guerrillas took him after a battle in Patascoy, Putumayo; he is 30 now.
- The head of Colombiaâ€™s armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla, told reporters that according to â€œhigh-quality intelligence,â€ the FARC are planning a campaign of high-profile attacks between now and the May 30 presidential election. This week saw several FARC attacks in southwestern Colombia: Cauca, Huila, a car bombing in downtown Buenaventura believed to be the work of the FARC, and a package bomb unwittingly delivered by a 12-year-old boy in NariÃ±o.
- Meanwhile violence attributed to â€œemergingâ€ paramilitary groups escalated in the northwestern department of CÃ³rdoba. Seven people, among them three teenagers, were massacred in a bar in Puerto Libertador. Radio journalist Clodomiro Castillo, a critic of politicians tied to paramilitary groups, was gunned down on the front porch of his house in MonterÃa.
- The two pro-Uribe candidates lead the polling for the May 30 elections.
- Gallup March 20-22: Juan Manuel Santos 34.2%; NoemÃ SanÃn 23.3%; Antanas Mockus 10.4%; Gustavo Petro 6.4%; GermÃ¡n Vargas Lleras 6.2%; Sergio Fajardo 6.1%; Rafael Pardo 5.1%
- Datexco March 20-23: Juan Manuel Santos 34.1%; NoemÃ SanÃn 21.7%; Antanas Mockus 8.9%; Gustavo Petro 7.1%; GermÃ¡n Vargas Lleras 6.6%; Rafael Pardo 5.5%; Sergio Fajardo 4.4%
- Both polls were taken before the first televised presidential debate, which took place the evening of March 23.
- In Venezuela, you can now be arrested for offending the president, as Guillermo Zuloaga, the owner of opposition-oriented television network GlobovisiÃ³n, found this week. Zuloaga was arrested (and later released pending trial) for comments he made at the Inter-American Press Association mid-year meeting a week earlier. The arrest came days after the detention of opposition politician Oswaldo Ãlvarez Paz, a former governor of the western state of Zulia, for comments he made on GlobovisiÃ³n alleging that President Hugo ChÃ¡vezâ€™s government is aiding narcotraffickers and guerrillas.
- A week after Cuban police roughly dispersed a protest by the Ladies in White dissident group, tens of thousands gathered in Miami for a demonstration led by musician Gloria Estefan. President Obama released a strong statement about the human rights situation in Cuba.
- The president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes of the FMLN party, apologized on behalf of the Salvadoran state for the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed by an assassin linked to pro-government death squads 30 years ago March 24.
- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton headed a delegation to Mexico March 23 that included the secretaries of defense and homeland security, among other officials. The â€œMÃ©rida High-Level Consultative Groupâ€ meeting made official some changes to the framework that has guided about $1.4 billion in U.S. aid to Mexico since 2008. From now on, the â€œMÃ©rida Initiativeâ€ will be far less military in nature, reports Shannon Oâ€™Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations: â€œmost of the requested $330 million for the programâ€™s 2011 budget will be targeted to Mexicoâ€™s judicial reforms and programs on good governance.â€
- â€œMexico is only one part, though probably the most important one, of a theater of operations that stretches from the Venezuelan-Cuban-Iranian alliance and the Andean Ridge, through Columbia and the FARC, up the cartel-controlled drug routes through Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico, and into the United States,â€ writes Col. Bob Killebrew of the influential Center for a New American Security, on the Foreign Policy blog of former Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks. â€œThe Venezuelan alliance is almost a classic geopolitical attempt to deny the US access to Latin America â€” probably including Mexico â€” and to gain access to our southern border.â€
- JosÃ© Miguel Insulza was reelected to a second five-year term as secretary-general of the Organization of American States. He faced no opponent.
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