This was an even more eventful week than usual in Colombia. The three big stories were:
- Para-politics – more members of Colombia’s Congress and a governor were arrested for paramilitary collusion. Then top paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso began naming some very unusual names – including top government officials, generals and major corporations – in his “justice and peace” confession. (NY Times, Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, El Tiempo)
- Wiretaps – Sunday’s Semana magazine published transcripts of “demobilized” paramilitary figures ordering drug deals and murders by telephone. These leaks revealed that police had illegally intercepted over 8,000 hours of telephone conversations over the past few years, including those of politicians, opposition figures and journalists. The national police chief and eleven police generals had to step down. (Washington Post, LA Times, Semana)
- FARC hostages – Police official John Pinchao was 25 when the FARC took him prisoner in a December 1998 raid on the provincial capital of MitÃº. Three weeks ago Pinchao, now 33, escaped his captors and found his way to freedom after 19 days in the jungles of VaupÃ©s, near Brazil. Pinchao had news about the nearly 60 hostages whom the guerrillas have been holding to pressure for a political exchange. All are alive, including Ãngrid Betancourt and the three U.S. contractors captured in 2003. But some are ill, and all are subject to cruel punishments if they attempt escape. (L.A. Times, AP, El Tiempo) The FARC rejected President Uribe’s offer – which seemed more spur-of-the-moment than well-thought out – to free dozens of guerrilla prisoners in Colombian jails. (Semana)
A cover story in Businessweek gushes about Colombia’s improved climate for foreign investors (there are even 5-star restaurants!), while the Economist takes a more sober view of trade-unionist murders.
A new round of talks began between Colombia’s government and the ELN guerrillas. This received little attention, and that’s a good thing – more progress can be made outside the spotlight.
The White House Drug Czar’s office found a likely increase in coca-growing in Peru in 2006. Colombia estimates are not out yet.
In Mexico, narco-related violence has claimed over 1,000 lives so far this year. A spate of articles in the U.S. press have questioned the CalderÃ³n government’s decision to deploy the military to fight drug-trafficking organizations. This decision has come under fire from Mexico’s human-rights ombudsman, who has issued two critical statements in the past week. (Chicago Tribune, LA Times, AP)