Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bomb Discovered in Buenos Aires Theater Ahead of Uribe Visit

Argentine police found and deactivated a small bomb in a downtown Buenos Aires theater yesterday, just one day before former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe was scheduled to speak at a management conference there. AFP reports that maintenance and security personnel found the bomb on the second floor of the Grand Rex Theater, where Uribe was set to host a cocktail party.

The discovery comes just a week after a bombing in Bogota aimed at Uribe's former interior minister, Fernando Londoño killed two people and injured Londoño himself.

The federal judge charged with investigating the incident, Judge Norberto Oyarbide, told reporters that the small device was fixed to a cell phone and hidden in a lamp. It was reportedly timed to go off at 4:30 p.m. local time, when the venue would be full of people. "It was a simple device but strong enough to cause the death of people nearby," Oyarbide said.

Security at the theater has been heightened in response to the bomb scare, and Uribe plans to go ahead with the event, but this has done nothing to stop speculation over those behind the attempt. Reuters notes that the top suspects are left wing Colombian rebels in either the FARC or ELN, although neither group has claimed responsibility. The news agency quotes Colombian security analyst Alfredo Rangel, who notes that “The guerrillas have tentacles that reach into other countries. It is to be expected that the FARC would have contacts with extreme leftist groups in Buenos Aires that could have helped with this attack."

Had the bombing gone as planned, it would likely have been extremely harmful to Argentina’s international image, which has already taken a beating due to criticism of President Cristina Fernandez’s economic policies, more confrontational stance on the Falkland Islands issue, and concern over Argentina’s deepening relationship with Iran.

Uribe, meanwhile, has been uncharacteristically silent about the episode. Argentina’s Clarin newspaper reports that the usually vociferous ex-president has not mentioned the bomb scare on his Twitter account, which he updates frequently and has used as a soapbox in the past.

News Briefs
  • More details have emerged about the controversial drug operation that took place in the eastern Honduran town of Ahuas earlier this month. The Associated Press has interviewed residents who claim that the DEA-backed operation which reportedly ended in the death of four innocent civilians was followed by a raid of the town. Locals say that masked drug agents searched their homes and interrogated them, and also claim that many of them were Americans and spoke in English. The allegations raise questions about the United States’ role in fighting drug trafficking in Honduras, and are sure to fuel criticism of US presence in the country.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on Brazil’s ongoing economic slowdown, and President Dilma Rousseff’s attempts to remedy it. On Monday Rousseff announced the latest in a series of stimulus measures intended to boost growth, including $1 billion in tax cuts on car sales as well as relaxed rules on auto financing.
  • Meanwhile, the AP profiles Argentina’s economic woes. While the government projected that the GDP would see 5.1 percent growth this year, analysts say it will be more like 2.5 to 3 percent, a far cry from last year’s 8.9 percent rise.
  • IPS takes a look at attempts by the Caribbean nations of CARICOM to lobby Mexico (current chair of the G20) to promote their interests in the upcoming G20 summit in June. At the top of their agenda is reforming international finance institutions like the World Bank and IMF.
  • Dominican ex-president Hipolito Mejia denounced the results of the recent presidential elections yesterday, calling it "the product of manipulation and an abuse of power." He did not, however, formally challenge the results or call for a recount.
  • Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan is scheduled to testify before Congress today, where he is expected to tell lawmakers that security protocol was not breached during the Cartagena prostitution scandal.
  • The United Nations Committee Against Torture yesterday called on Cuba to provide information about the recent deaths of several political prisoners, as well as the arrests of some 2,400 protestors last year, reports the Miami Herald.  Ironically, Cuban state media outlet Prensa Latina published an article yesterday entitled “Cuba: Over 50 Years without Tortures or Abuse to Prisoners.”
  • AP with a look at how Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul, has made her own mark on Cuban politics in her fight for LGBT rights.
  • The LA Times has a heartwarming piece on FARC hostage Sgt. Jose Libardo Forero, held for 12 years, and his little pet pig named “Josefo,” who Forero credits with keeping him sane during captivity.