Archive for the ‘Colombia’ Category

The retreat of U.S. interests from Latin America has left a vacuum for the Chinese to fill

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 BY ILAN BERMAN You have to feel a bit sorry for the Obama administration. The White House in December announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, including establishing a U.S. Embassy in Havana and formally revisiting Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism. The move was a clear effort by Washington to distinguish itself in a new international theater.

But that gambit was soon eclipsed by another: In a meeting that could herald a significant shift in the Western Hemisphere’s balance of power, China hosted a high-profile summit earlier this month with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or Celac.

Celac is a relatively recent invention. Conceived in 2010 at a meeting in Caracas hosted by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez , it is designed to deepen integration among Central and South American states—while excluding the U.S. and Canada. The 33-member bloc explicitly styles itself as an alternative to the U.S.-led Organization of ... Read More

Ex presidentes de Colombia, México y Chile asistirán a foro opositor en Venezuela

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

Los expresidentes Andrés Pastrana, de Colombia, Felipe Calderón, de México, y Sebastián Piñera, de Chile, asistirán en Caracas el 26 de enero a un foro organizado por dirigentes opositores al Gobierno venezolano, informó este jueves la exdiputada María Corina Machado.

“Los tres expresidentes van a visitar a Venezuela en una agenda muy intensa de varios días en la cual podrán tener contacto directo con distintos sectores de la sociedad”, señaló Machado en una rueda de prensa en la capital venezolana.

La dirigente opositora dijo que en el foro “Poder Ciudadano y la Democracia de Hoy” los expresidentes podrán conversar con “familiares y víctimas de la represión y la violación sistemática de los derechos humanos del régimen del señor (Nicolás) Maduro”, presidente de Venezuela.

“Los temas fundamentales precisamente serán el poder ciudadano, las transiciones a la democracia, los desafíos en América Latina, libertad frente al autoritarismo y el populismo, y desde luego, los derechos ... Read More

Race on the high seas: Cartels feature new, faster smuggling boats

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Perry Chiaramonte

Latin America’s drug cartels are leaving the U.S. Coast Guard in their wake, with new and faster speedboats law enforcement officials say are virtually undetectable by radar.

The new boats, nicknamed “Picudas,” after a tropical fish whose long, thin bodies they resemble, are made of fiberglass, making them invisible to radar and efficient with fuel. While older smuggling vessels took as long as three days to make the trip from Costa Rica to Jamaica, the Picuda can make the trip in two.

Dialogo, a newspaper published by the Pentagon’s Southern Command, quoted one Coast Guard source that called the craft “a wave-breaking go-fast wonder that defies radar detection.” The boats give the bad guys a leg up on authorities trying to cut off the flow of South American drugs, according to the article.

“They [cartels] are being forced to do something that they would rather not,” Adam ... Read More

Colombia ready for truce talks with Farc – President Santos

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »

Juan Manuel Santos said he had asked negotiators to start discussions “as soon as possible”.

He said a unilateral truce declared by the leftist rebels last month “has been a step in the right direction”.

The government had previously refused to join the ceasefire, saying the Farc would use it to rearm.

The two sides have been engaged in peace talks in Cuba since November 2012 to try to end decades of conflict.


‘Real belief’

In a televised address on Wednesday, Mr Santos said peace was closer than ever and it was now time “to de-escalate the intensity of the conflict”.

“We’re closer than ever to secure peace and make it a reality for us, our children and our children’s children.

“I have given instructions to the negotiators to initiate as soon as possible a discussion on the point of the definitive bilateral ceasefire and end of hostilities.”

Mr Santos added that high-ranking military officials had already been ... Read More

Latin America 2015: Time for Reform

| January 13th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Daniel Zovatto

Latin America is starting off 2015 with a clear economic slowdown. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) projects a modest recovery (2.2 per cent) with respect to last year (in 2014 growth was only 1.1 per cent, the lowest since the 2009 crisis), though these calculations may vary due to several factors.

The world economy is not helping. The downward trend in raw materials prices, scant dynamism in global demand, and the appreciation of the dollar are three factors that work against the region today.

Venezuela and Argentina, are facing very complex economic contexts. Venezuela is in the midst of stagflation (aggravated by plummeting oil prices); and Argentina is experiencing negative growth, high inflation, and the unresolved conflict with the “vulture funds.”

The two largest economies of the region, Brazil and Mexico, are facing their own demons. Brazil President Dilma ... Read More

Colombia puts on a brave face as oil price plunges

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Andres Schipani in Bogotá and John Paul Rathbone in London

The currency has fallen by a quarter, the share price of the national energy company has halved and a low-intensity war rumbles in the background amid hopeful talk of peace. Yet this is not Russia, but Colombia.

South America’s best-performing big economy, and Washington’s closest ally in the region, has been caught on the hop by the 45 per cent fall in oil prices since June.

Colombia produces almost 1m barrels a day and oil accounts for more than a half of exports, a sixth of government revenues and 80 per cent of foreign investment inflows. But unlike other oil exporters such as Russia or neighbouring Venezuela, there is little talk of a pending economic crisis in Colombia, or even a drastic slowdown.

Although the oil price drop will hurt the country, and widen its twin fiscal ... Read More

Government welcomes guerrilla ceasefire but says it won’t back down

| December 19th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Jim Wyss

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday welcomed the decision by the country’s largest guerrilla group to declare a unilateral ceasefire, but said the armed forces would not let down their guard or quit defending the population.

On Wednesday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced an indefinite ceasefire and asked the international community to verify the détente. They also said they would only break the ceasefire if they were attacked.

“We value this gesture of a unilateral and indefinite ceasefire but we cannot accept conditions like international verification,” Santos said in the town of Quibdó in northern Colombia. He also said he had a constitutional and legal obligation “to defend the security and liberty of all Colombians in every corner of the country.”

Government and FARC negotiators have been meeting in Havana for more than two years trying to hammer out a deal that would end the half-century conflict. ... Read More

Colombia rejects FARC’s verification demand for ceasefire

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


(Reuters) – Colombia on Thursday welcomed an offer by Marxist rebels for a ceasefire but rejected their demand for independent monitoring, putting the plan to stop hostilities on uncertain ground hours before it was to start.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced an indefinite ceasefire from Saturday if the government allows independent verification. But Latin America’s oldest insurgency said it would be called off if government forces attacked.

In a statement, President Juan Manuel Santos’ government rejected the call for verification but did not explicitly address the demand for a bilateral ceasefire, though it has continually ruled that option out.

“This must remain clear: the government will continue fulfilling its indeclinable constitutional duty to guarantee and protect the rights of Colombians,” the statement said.

The FARC’s stance puts the government in an awkward position by leaving the success of the group’s offer to end hostilities up ... Read More

Colombian Rebels Propose Cease-fire

| December 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


BOGOTÁ, Colombia—Colombia’s largest Marxist rebel group says that it will embark on a unilateral, indefinite cease-fire beginning Saturday as a way to propel peace negotiations with President Juan Manuel Santos ’s government.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has in the past temporarily halted its operations for Christmas holidays and elections, but an indefinite cease fire is unprecedented. Mr. Santos’s government declined to comment on the announcement, though analysts who track the peace process said it creates prickly scenarios for his administration, such as whether it should also call for a cease fire.

“We have initiated a definitive path towards peace,” the FARC, whose leaders have been negotiating with the government in Cuba, said in a statement. “We have resolved to declare a unilateral cease-fire and end hostilities for an indefinite time.”

The FARC’s gesture came on the same day that President Barack Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba announced a ... Read More

Colombia’s Economy Grew 4.2% in 3Q on Construction Boom

| December 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Matthew Bristow and Christine Jenkins

Colombia grew at the fastest pace among major Latin American economies in the third quarter as a surge in home building and public works projects helped soften the impact of a contraction in oil and manufacturing.

Gross domestic product expanded 4.2 percent from a year earlier, little changed from the previous quarter’s 4.3 percent growth, the national statistics agency said today. Growth was in line with the median forecast of 27 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. GDP grew 0.6 percent from the previous quarter.

In the minutes to its November policy meeting published last week, the central bank said that internal demand is “dynamic” amid “increasingly adverse” world conditions. As growth remains robust, policy makers will leave the benchmark rate unchanged at 4.5 percent for a fourth straight month at their Dec. 19 board meeting, according to 24 of 25 analysts surveyed ... Read More

Colombia, U.S. design new cooperation agreement for a post-conflict world

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

The governments of Colombia and the United States spoked Friday about a new framework of bilateral cooperation in which Washington will support the South American country during its post-conflict era, if it reaches a definitive peace accord with its guerrilla groups.

Peace was the basis of the meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had Friday in Bogotá with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, which also included a review of the two countries’ far-reaching bilateral agenda.

In a joint statement to the press with Santos after the meeting, Kerry expressed Washington’s hope that the Colombian government’s peace talks with the FARC, which have been going on for two years in Cuba, will be speeded up since “the longer it takes, the harder it may get” and because “we hope that 2015 can be the year that brings the Colombian people the security, the prosperity, and most ... Read More

Farc ‘amnesty’: Colombian marchers reject ‘impunity’

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »

Thousands of people have joined protests in Colombia against a possible amnesty for Farc rebels as part of a peace process to end 50 years of conflict.Many of the marchers were supporters of former President Alvaro Uribe, an opponent of his successor, Juan Manuel Santos.

They argue that peace should not come at the price of impunity.

In two years of talks in Havana, a number of issues have been agreed.

Negotiators are now discussing how the left-wing rebels should lay down their arms, and whether they should face prosecution for human rights atrocities and drug trafficking.

The rallies in several cities across the country were organised by the Colombia Quiere movement and backed by the Centro Democratic Party of former President Uribe.

In Medellin, where Mr Uribe led the march, he said: “We call on the army to support us by fighting and defeating the guerrillas, if the government wants it or not.”

On social ... Read More

The Day after Tomorrow: Colombia’s FARC and the End of the Conflict

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
International Crisis Group

Talks to end five decades of civil conflict in Colombia have seen unprecedented progress. But negotiators still need to agree on arguably the most sensitive point on their agenda: a bilateral ceasefire, the “leaving behind of weapons” (or disarmament) and the reintegration of FARC members. In its latest report, The Day after Tomorrow: Colombia’s FARC and the End of the Conflict, the International Crisis Group examines which guarantees will be needed so that both sides can trust the future agreement. The stakes could not be higher. If FARC’s transition to civilian life fails or is incomplete, more violence could ensue, posing threats to the political legitimacy of the entire peace accord.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

To win public faith in the talks and break the ground for a definitive ceasefire, both parties need to de-escalate the confrontation and build mutual confidence. This requires FARC to end ... Read More


| December 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
Andres Pastrana

Doctor JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERON  Presidente de la República Ciudad Señor Presidente

Tan pronto las Farc entregaron al general rehén, el señor Presidente de la República correspondió el gesto con una propuesta de amnistía para los delitos relativos al narcotráfico del grupo rebelde. El tema de las drogas ilícitas -que el gobierno daba por resuelto en La Habana- despertó esta vez, por razón de la extemporánea iniciativa presidencial, la indignación nacional.

Ya sea como pago del rescate de un general o claudicación de principios ante la guerrilla para lograr su firma a cualquier costo, el acto presidencial constituye una vergüenza. El amparo del narcotráfico bajo la sombrilla del pretexto político es la genuflexión del estado colombiano ante el poder del crimen organizado.

La excluyente y sectaria política de diálogo del señor presidente y sus amigos – en contravía de la gran mayoría del país- es cada día más débil ... Read More

La tonelada de cocaína de las FARC

| December 8th, 2014 | No Comments »

El país aún no supera su asombro ante la inesperada propuesta que lanzó la semana anterior el presidente Juan Manuel Santos, en el sentido de incluir en los diálogos de La Habana la discusión del narcotráfico como un delito político, y esa guerrilla sigue dando señales de que actúan como un cartel de la droga. Eso quedó demostrado este fin de semana luego de una operación de la Armada en la que incautó 1.123 kilos de clorhidrato de cocaína que estaba lista para ser enviada -vía marítima- hacia Centro América. La incautación se produjo en el corregimiento de Teherán, zona rural del municipio de Tumaco (Nariño) muy cerca al sitio donde el río Mira desemboca en el mar Pacífico, una zona rica en manglares que limita con Ecuador. “En el lugar se lograron ubicar tres caletas ocultas en medio de la vegetación, enterradas en un sector pantanoso. El alcaloide se encontraba distribuido en ... Read More

A Dangerous Deal-Sweetener in Colombia

| December 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos dropped a bombshell last week when he suggested, on a national radio network, that the definition of a political crime ought to be broadened to include drug trafficking. Crimes committed for “political” reasons aimed at rebellion in Colombia do not bar a person from holding public office while felony convictions do.

A day later the president clarified his remarks. Not all drug traffickers would be eligible to have their crimes reclassified, he said. Instead the proposal would be a sweetener offered by the government “specifically” for the narco-terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the peace talks, now in their fourth year in Havana. The idea, he said, is to prepare for “the day that members of FARC want to participate in politics.”

Colombian supporters of leniency for the narco-terrorists as a path to peace cheered. For everyone else the president’s remark confirmed what ... Read More

Colombia’s FARC Profit from Illegal Gold Mining in Peru

| December 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
From In Sight

By Marguerite Cawley

A journalist in Peru has reported that Colombia‘s FARC guerrillas are profiting from the illegal gold trade inside Peru, underscoring the rebels’ cross-border activities and their deep involvement in the lucrative illegal mining business.

According to reports by Cecilia Valenzuela in El Comercio and in television program Mira Quien Habla, an alliance has existed between the 63rd Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Peruvian illegal miners operating along the Putumayo River — which divides Colombia and Peru – for at least three years.

Octavio Ortiz Ramirez, alias “Wilmer El Burro,” the head of the 63rd Front of the FARC‘s Southern Bloc, charges the Peruvian miners for protection services and logistical support, she reported.

Colombian police have identified the Colombian national Jair Manrique Pedroza as the top buyer of illegal gold from this region, according to Valenzuela. El Tiempo reported that Colombian police have also identified the people who serve as go-betweens for the FARC leaders, gold miners and buyers.

Some ... Read More

Colombian president doubles down on talks with narcoguerrillas

| December 4th, 2014 | No Comments »

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos is betting his presidency on unpopular peace talks with a guerrilla group notorious for terrorism and narcotrafficking. He moved quickly to renew the peace process with the Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, after the group released of Brigadier General Rubén Darío Alzate and two other kidnap victims last Sunday.  Meanwhile, the incident appears to have galvanized negative attitudes toward the FARC, and the president and his peace initiative are losing popular support.

Santos was forced to suspend the Havana-based talks after Alzate and two companions were captured by guerrillas in the western province of Chocó on November 16th. Upon hearing of the kidnapping in mid-November, it was clear that Santos was concerned that the incident would undermine the FARC talks; he publicly questioned why Alzate violated military protocols while visiting a conflict zone.  In an emotional news conference after his release, Alzate offered his resignation, which ... Read More

Santos wants drug trafficking to be considered political crime

| December 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
Colombia Reports

President Juan Manuel Santos has suggested that FARC drug-trafficking could be considered a political crime in a move aimed at boosting the peace talks through sparing guerrillas from prosecutions.

Santos raised the possibility during an interview with RCN Radio on 2 December. “If we want to forgive or legalize to the thousands of combatants of the FARC, we will have to be more flexible” he said.

Any final agreement made through the Havana peace talks is likely to include an amnesty for political crimes, but currently guerrillas would still be liable to prosecution for crimes involved in fund-raising for the FARC, such as drug-trafficking, extortion, illegal mining, and kidnapping.

The proposal of Santos would mitigate this by extending the understanding of political offenses to “drug traffickingor benefiting from drug trafficking”.

The guerrillas are unwilling to serve even reduced prison sentences for crimes committed during their 50 year insurgency, presenting a key ... Read More

Japan’s profile rises in the Americas

| December 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


As Asian rival China invests billions in Latin America and snaps up strategic commodities, Japan also is looking at the region with new interest.

Shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Latin American tour in July, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a 10-day, five-nation swing through Latin America and the Caribbean.

His trips to Mexico and Brazil were the first bilateral visits by a Japanese prime minister in a decade, and his trip to Chile was the first such visit by a Japanese prime minister since 1996. Abe’s stop-over in Port of Spain marked the first time that a Japanese prime minister had ever visited the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, and his trip to Colombia also was the first official visit for a Japanese prime minister.

In September, Abe also held a summit with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela while both were attending the U.N. General Assembly and they discussed ... Read More

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