- Do not miss the Miami Herald’s disturbing 3-part series published this week about the “false positives” scandal in Colombia and its human impact.
- After more than a year of consideration in Colombia’s Congress, Colombia’s Victims’ Law effectively died this week. The law, which sought to institute a special system of reparations, in line with internationally accepted standards, for the conflict’s hundreds of thousands of victims, went before Colombia’s House of Representatives for its final debate on Tuesday. While the version of the law that Colombia’s Senate approved a year ago made victims of all armed groups eligible for reparations, the House bill – changed under heavy pressure from the Uribe government – declared victims of the government security forces (a small fraction of the total) ineligible.
The reason for the change was ideological: President Uribe argued that the military must not be placed “on the same level” as the FARC, ELN and paramilitaries. But the House version of the bill would have forced victims of the military – including the relatives of young men killed last year in Soacha – to wait many years for the responsible soldiers to be prosecuted in regular courts before receiving any reparation.
There was a glimmer of hope on Wednesday and Thursday when the congressional committee reconciling the two bills’ differences chose to go with the Senate version, thus making all victims eligible for reparations. But then the Uribe government then sent a letter from Treasury Minister Ã“scar IvÃ¡n Zuluaga arguing that the bill’s provision for full reparations would be too expensive to fulfill. This virtually guarantees that the majority uribista legislature will reject the final, reconciled bill. As Semana magazine put it, “The Government Left the Victims Without Their Law.”
- Interviewed in Semana magazine, the chief of Colombia’s armed forces (and acting defense minister), Gen. Freddy Padilla, makes a revealing comment. Padilla blames Colombia’s difficulty in getting free-trade agreements approved in the United States and Canada not on Colombia’s human rights troubles, but on what he views as FARC guerrilla “diplomacy.”
Interviewer Gustavo GÃ³mez: Are you concerned that the President has recognized that “false positives” have slowed the ratification of free trade agreements?
Gen. Freddy Padilla: There is a diffusion of information that hammers away at the international community’s mind, so that the so-called “FARC diplomacy” has to leave some effects. Canada is one of the countries that has allowed the greatest quantity of refugees. It is crucial to understand that many of them have ideological tendencies, and that is surely one of the means used by organizations interested in diffusing information against the government’s purposes.
- The House Armed Services Committee has completed its version of the 2010 Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2647). Section 2873 of that Act includes some intriguing language about the use of U.S. funds to make improvements to the Palanquero airbase in Cundinamarca, Colombia, where many U.S. assets based in Manta, Ecuador, are expected to be relocated.
(a) Congressional Notification of Agreement- None of the amounts authorized to be appropriated by this division or otherwise made available for military construction for fiscal year 2010 may be obligated to commence construction of a Cooperative Security Location at the German Olano Airbase (the Palanquero AB Development Project) in Palanquero, Colombia, until at least 15 days after the date on which the Secretary of Defense certifies to the congressional defense committees that an agreement has been entered into with the Government of Colombia that permits the establishment of the Cooperative Security Location at the German Olano Airbase in a manner that will enable the United States Southern Command to execute its Theater Posture Strategy in cooperation with the Armed Forces of Colombia.
(b) Prohibition on Permanent United States Military Installation- The agreement referred to in subsection (a) may not provide for or authorize the establishment of a United States military installation or base for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Colombia.
The Committee’s summary document [PDF] interprets (a) as requiring the Defense Department to certify “that an agreement has been reached with Colombia that does not hinder Southern Command from executing its counter-narcotics strategy for the region.” I don’t know yet what this means.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies has released an evaluation of the U.S.-supported “Integrated Action” state-building-and-counterinsurgency program in La Macarena, Meta – the subject of three rather long entries to this weblog in May and June. The CSIS report, which also recommends that the program place a high priority on becoming more civilian in nature, is highly recommended.
- Victims’ leader JoaquÃn Emilio GarcÃa Lopera was killed this week by a re-armed paramilitary group in Antioquia’s increasingly violent Bajo Cauca region. GarcÃa led a group of victims of the Antioquia-based Miners’ Bloc of the former AUC, which was headed by now-extradited paramilitary leader Ramiro “Cuco” Vanoy.
- The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report Thursday noting that “about 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced in the last 5 years originated in the United States,” and that the United States, despite recent steps, still lacks “a comprehensive U.S. governmentwide strategy for addressing the problem.”
- USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship, paid a ten-day visit to Tumaco, NariÃ±o, as part of the U.S. Southern Command’s principal regional goodwill effort.
- Chile is buying 18 U.S.-made F-16 fighter planes from the Netherlands for $270 million.” This is in addition to 10 F-16s that the United States sold Chile in 2005 and 2006. Global Post reminds us, “In addition to the regular annual budget for defense, 10 percent of all copper revenues are automatically transferred to a secret reserve fund for military purchases.”
- Argentina has legislative elections on Sunday the 28th. Polls seem to agree that the pro-Kirchner Peronist bloc will lose its legislative majority – an outcome that President Cristina FernÃ¡ndez de Kirchner had sought to avoid by moving the vote ahead by four months.