- Colombia’s House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday authorizing a referendum on whether President Ãlvaro Uribe can run for a third term. But the bill appears to allow him to run for a non-consecutive term in 2014, not in 2010. The Colombian Academy of Language was brought in to decipher the verb tense used in the bill (”a verbal inflection of a pluperfect participle”), to try to determine whether Uribe would have to wait for a third straight term. While Uribe has not yet announced his intentions, there are more indications that he has his eye on 2010, and the Colombian Senate could change the bill in his favor.
- If Uribe cannot run again until 2014, Reuters provides a short list of political figures who could be leading candidates in 2010. The list includes both opposition leaders hoping for an upset victory, and pro-government politicians who would face a significant likelihood of playing Medvedev to Uribe’s Putin.
- Leaders of 31 Latin American countries met in Brazil this week to discuss a range of economic and security issues. The United States was not invited.
- “Please, nobody take off your shoes.” – Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva at a summit press conference.
- Leaders present at the summit made interesting proposals. Bolivia’s Evo Morales called on the entire region to expel its U.S. ambassadors until the United States lifts its embargo on Cuba. Ecuador’s Rafael Correa called on President Obama to end Plan Colombia and the Cuba embargo. Hugo ChÃ¡vez brought up the possibility of inviting the DEA back to Venezuela, after ejecting them in 2006. And Cuba’s RaÃºl Castro offered to release some political prisoners if the U.S. government freed five alleged Cuban spies in U.S. jails.
- Brazil-based analyst Sam Logan published a very thorough overview of the Obama administration’s likely plans for hemispheric relations on the site of Switzerland’s International Relations and Security Network.
- Ted Galen Carpenter of the libertarian Cato Institute pokes holes in the Bush administration’s claim that significant progress has been made on reducing cocaine availability in the United States.
And what was the sky-high street price of cocaine that justified such optimism? $170 per gram. Adjusted for inflation, that price was actually higher than the latest price spike to just under $183. Yet clearly that earlier alleged supply-side victory in the drug war was short lived. According to the DEAâ€™s own statistics in the December 2008 report, cocaine prices had declined to a mere $96 per gram by January 2007.
- In a very long interview with El Espectador, President Uribe’s chief peace negotiator, Luis Carlos Restrepo, says that the FARC are now highly permeable to government infiltration.
At this moment the FARC are a very porous structure. Not the closed, inviolable one that we knew until very recently. The number of people who have demobilized have allowed us to have communication channels to others who remain in the FARC, they allow us to know what is happening on the inside, so that our psychological actions are more effective.
- The U.S. group Witness for Peace has produced a stirring 13-minute video on extrajudicial executions in Colombia.
- “In my opinion, many of the recent acts with regard to human rights violations began before Uribe was president, when there was violence with impunity. He is trying to strengthen institutions like justice. Crimes must be investigated, among the military and in other places. That is being done, and nothing was done before. It is impossible to fix everything in eight years, but there have been advances.” – Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-New York), interviewed in the Colombian magazine Cambio.
- Panamanian police skirmished with a Colombian armed group on Panama’s soil a week ago. Ecuadorian troops keep finding FARC encampments in jungles near the border.
- A delegation from China’s Defense Ministry paid a visit to BogotÃ¡ this week. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos visited Russia in October. It appears Colombia is no longer putting all of its military eggs in the U.S. basket.
- Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega spent the week in Russia, where his plans may include a visit to the pro-Russian separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in Georgia.
- Venezuela’s government expressed hope that the massive cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe “will not be used to destabilize politically” the authoritarian government of Robert Mugabe.
- In Argentina, a court ordered the release on bail of 14 former military officers accused of very serious human-rights abuses during the military dictatorship that ended in 1983. They are still facing trial, but have been jailed for two years or more without trial. Among those freed, at least temporarily, is former naval intelligence officer Alfredo Astiz, the “Angel of Death” profiled in Tina Rosenberg’s 1991 book Children of Cain, convicted in absentia in France for the killing of two French nuns. President Cristina FernÃ¡ndez called their release an “embarrassment.”