Friday, August 19, 2011

Top Stories, August 19 2011

· After just eight months in office, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has lost her fourth minister amid corruption allegations. Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi resigned due to media reports which say he accepted bribes from agriculture companies, but denies the allegations on his website.

· In two operations, the National Police of Peru intercepted and seized a one-ton shipment of cocaine on its way to Turkey and Spain, InSight Crime reported yesterday. All individuals arrested –three Colombian, two Colombian women, and one Peruvian—will be investigated for involvement in international drug cartels.

· The U.S. State Department announced Wednesday that U.S. law enforcement agencies will begin a program to train local and state police officers from Mexico as part of the two nations’ efforts to combat transnational drug cartels.

· The ex-president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, testified before Congress in an effort to defend himself and some of his top aides against accusations of wiretapping and illegal eavesdropping. Uribe was questioned by a commission responsible for investigating his administration’s role in the ‘chuzadas’ scandal in which Colombia’s intelligence agency, DAS, wiretapped Supreme Court justices, leftist politicians, and human rights workers. Uribe denied involvement, arguing that he is “a victim of criminal vengeance.”

· After announcing the temporary suspension of coca eradication programs in Peru, the State Department released a statement saying they did not believe this decision ‘represents a permanent shift in the Peruvian government’s counternarcotics policy.’ In a video posted by El Comercio, the ex-president of Peru Alejandro Toledo supports the decision, arguing that it is important for the country to re-evaluate its strategies.

· The Peruvian indigenous population is losing its faith in President Ollanta Humala as he continues to encourage oil investment and hopes to ‘attract up to $20 billion in petroleum and gas investments’. Former indigenous supports worry that Humala will not make good on his promises to protect their traditional lands and communities.

· Following up on a blurb earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reports on “the pile up of allegations” within Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s administration. The barrage of scandals has “paralyzed” the government as officials and lawmakers struggle to prevent a political catastrophe. Rousseff’s government is only eight months old and there is already talk of former President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva running in the next 2014 election.

· President Obama announced a plan to individually review 300,000 immigrant deportation cases and give those individuals who do not pose a serious threat to the nation the opportunity to stay in the U.S. and apply for a work permit. The plan emerges amid political pressure on the Obama administration to reform immigration policy and criticisms at the record number of deportations filed in the past year.

· El Faro published an extensive report chronicling recent events at the heart of the “road of death” drug trafficking route that follows from Nicaragua up through Guatemala. The report includes direct interviews with El Tigre, a police commissioner in charge of the region of Copan, also accused of involvement in a death squad against supposed criminals. InSight Crime summarizes and highlights the article in an English translation.

· The District Attorney’s office in Bogota, Colombia accused an ex-military, Freddy Rendon Herrera, a.k.a El Aleman, of recruiting 329 underage children, presenting testimony from former recruits.

· A number of government secretaries in Mexico openly admitted before legislators knowledge of DEA, FBI, CIA, ATF, and State Department presence throughout all provinces in the country. They denied that the agents’ work was operative, instead arguing that their purpose there is purely intelligence based.

· Bolivia sees a rise in human trafficking rates, specifically individuals who are being smuggled to Russia on false hopes of obtaining jobs as foreign workers.

· The Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Colombia was launched on Monday, officially eliminating tariffs in an effort to ensure growth and facilitate trade relations between the two countries.

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