Tuesday, August 23, 2011

US aid to Colombia linked to Uribe corruption scandal


US funding, and possibly some US officials, may be tied to the wiretapping and corruption scandal currently under congressional investigation implicating the former Alvaro Uribe administration in Colombia. According to the Washington Post, funds from the US were being diverted and abused in a campaign against Supreme Court justices, political opponents, and other civil society groups. US officials deny any knowledge that the money was going towards abuses of power. However, William Romero, a top official at the Department of Administrative Security, the DAS, in Colombia said that the department relied heavily on US technological support through wiretapping devices, camera and cell phone interception systems.

The Colombian general attorney’s office is currently investigating the DAS, with six former intelligence officials already admitting to involvement and more than a dozen others on trial. Uribe himself is being investigated by a legislative commission and testified before congress last week, denying any involvement or knowledge of the corruption.

Colombia receives the most military funding of any country in Latin America, at $6 billion dollars during Uribe’s presidency alone. The money was supposed to go towards anti-drug and insurgency campaigns, but instead fueled efforts to quell investigations by the Colombian Supreme Court and political opponents into paramilitary and drug-lord ties with the administration. In a revealing story cited yesterday, a former secret agent under the Uribe administration talks about her infiltration of the Colombian courts.

Top Stories:

  • · Continuing from the feature story on Nicaragua yesterday, a few corrections: There is no single opposition party, but rather numerous parties and alliances and Ortega’s first presidency was 1985-1990, not 1979. Prior to 1985, he served on the ‘Junta de Gobierno’, or Government Junta, a five person legislative body composed of members from different parts of civil society. Chuck Kaufman from the Nicaragua Network provides some background on the restrictions on electoral observation: “We're going to be seeing those increasingly in Latin America in response to the millions of dollars in ‘democracy promotion’ funding the US has been pouring in to fund opposition to Leftist governments, especially the ALBA countries, through USAID and NED. Nicaragua especially has reasons to distrust international observation and national observation by groups that rely heavily on US funding such as Ethics and Transparency. The US spent more per Nicaraguan voter in 1990 than Bush and Dukaukis combined spent per US voter in 1988, yet international observers called those elections ‘free and fair.’”
  • · Border Lines Blog posted a review of a recently published book, El Sicario—the Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin, which tells the story of a Mexican boy turned killer and then turned back to redemption. According to the review, the book provides a humane and, in some ways, relatable account of drug violence in Mexico.
  • · As the September elections are quickly approaching, the Guatemalan media has been denying fair access to political candidates by censoring political advertisements and spots, reporting flawed newspaper polls, and presenting biased coverage of political debates, reports Robert Amsterdam. According to candidate Juan Gutierrez, the uneven coverage has seriously damaged his campaign, refusing to run campaign ads and misreporting on successful rallies. Meanwhile, coverage of Otto Perez Molina and his campaign seems to be unlimited.
  • · The creation of citizen journalism website, HablaCentro, now allows people in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Venezuela to post ‘news and information useful to their communities’ through the internet, social networking, and mobile devices. Kara Andrade created the site in order to provide anyone the opportunity to get their story published—so that they ‘don’t need to wait until a journalist from a well-known medium comes to interview them.’
  • · According to El Faro, Salvadoran representatives, including an ex-vice president were given land that was purchased by the government and designated for poor landless peasants. The Salvadoran Institute of Agrarian Transformation (ISTA) began the process of doling out land grants to needy farmers under an agrarian reform in 1980, while also selling off (or giving away) large pieces of property at extremely low prices to government officials.
  • · The presidents of Mexico and Costa Rica, Felipe Calderon and Laura Chincilla, signed an agreement on Monday to exchange information regarding the fight against narco-trafficking and extradite stolen airplanes and vehicles, reports El Faro.
  • · In Colombia, the FARC has been guarding coca crops with landmines with increasing frequency in recent years resulting in the death and injury of civilian eradicators, bringing into question the effectiveness of cocaine eradication programs in the country.
  • · According to El Universal and InSight Crime, another Mexican mayor—the fifth so far this year—was kidnapped and killed on August 19th, most likely by drug-related criminals.
  • · Watch an excellent interview from Democracy Now with Francisco Goldman, author of “The Art of Political Murder: Who Murdered the Bishop” commenting on the leading Guatemalan presidential candidate and ex-military official, Otto Perez Molina and the human rights accusations against him.
  • · In an interview with Al-Jazeera, security expert Fred Burton argues that US counterterrorism activities has hindered efforts to fight corruption among border officials and police. Watch the video here.
  • · Javier Antonio Calle Serna, a.k.a. ‘El Doctor’, leader of the Colombian drug gang, the Rastrojos is preparing to turn himself in to U.S. authorities in a negotiation with the D.E.A. Serna would receive protection for his family from the U.S. in exchange for brokering a deal.