Friday, September 7, 2012

FARC Names 3 out of 5 Negotiators for Peace Talks

At a press conference in Havana, a group of spokespeople for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) named three out of the five negotiators they want to deploy to Norway in October for peace talks, reports Semana.

One of those names already represents a serious obstacle for the negotiations: the FARC say they want alias “Simon Trinidad,” a former university professor and high-ranking member of the FARC who was extradited to the US in 2005 on drug trafficking charges. For his involvement in the kidnapping of three US contractors in 2003, he was issued one of the highest prison sentences ever for an extradited FARC leader: 60 years.

The Colombian government says that because Trinidad is in US custody, it is beyond their authority to ensure his presence at the negotiating table.

The FARC also named alias “Ivan Marquez,” a member of the FARC’s ruling council and one of its most radical political leaders, and alias “Jesús Santrich,” Marquez’s second-in-command of the Caribbean Bloc.

The group of spokespeople in Havana also said that they would propose that both the guerrillas and the government observe a truce during the negotiations in Oslo, a proposal that has already been firmly rejected by President Juan Manuel Santos. "There's not going to be any cease-fire. We will not give anything until we get the final agreement, and I want to make that very clear,” the president said, according to the AP.

Also played at the Havana press conference was a new video recording of FARC top leader alias “Timochenko,” sitting at a table alongside Ivan Marquez. Timochenko issued several defiant statements in the video, declaring that the FARC “have never been so strong or so united.”

Notably, at the press conference, the FARC denied for the first time being behind the attempted bombing of former interior minister Fernando Londoño in Bogota last May, which killed two of the minister’s bodyguards and injured at least 39 people.

News Briefs
  • The New York Times examines the murder of a Venezuelan diplomat in Kenya, noting that the man arrested for the crime, Dwight Sagaray, also worked at the embassy. He managed to obtain his high rank despite little experience in foreign service, the Times reports, adding: “Mr. Saragay’s easy vault to a top post in the foreign service is emblematic of a diplomatic corps that has been transformed to meet political ends and reward loyalists within Mr. Chávez’s Socialist-inspired revolution, according to retired diplomats critical of the government.” Saragay’s lawyers told the Times that the accused was “nowhere near” the embassy the night of the murder, and said that the Venezuelan government promoted Saragay quickly, then “threw him to the wolves.”
  • The US Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted one of the former wives of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Guzman’s current wife, believed to his third or fourth, is a former Mexico beauty queen who gave birth to twins in a Los Angeles hospital in September 2011. There are currently no charges against her. 
  • The captain of a US cargo ship was arrested in the Venezuelan port city of Maracaibo after Venezuelan authorities found three rifles on the ship and accused the crew of arms trafficking, reports Reuters
  • Human Rights Watch called the resignation of Colombian magistrate Ivan Velasquez a “major loss for Colombia’s justice system.” Velasquez oversaw the investigation and conviction of approximately 50 members of Congress for paramilitary ties. 
  • Infosur examines some of the advances that Chile has made against fighting organized crime, including signing a treaty with Argentina last June pledging more cooperation in the battle against drug, human, and weapons trafficking. And in late August, a court in Santiago convicted four people on human trafficking charges for the first time, according to Infosur. 
  • The police and interior minister of Mexico say that the August 24 shooting of two CIA agents in a US embassy car is because police mistook the vehicle occupants for suspected kidnappers. The victim of the kidnapping, identified as the head of public relations for National Institute of Anthropology and History, made a television appearance in which he praised the police for rescuing him. “It is unfair, it is an outrage, it's incredible to me that they're going around saying those police are criminals,” the kidnapping victim said, according to the LA Times
  • The Economist reports that even though Argentina’s national statistics agency, the INDEC, states that the average cost of food amounts to about six pesos per person per day, the reality is closer to a minimum of six pesos per meal. An independent study by the University of Buenos Aires has put the average daily cost of a healthy diet at 24 pesos per person. The Economist argues that the INDEC’s figures on food costs is part of wider problem in which the government publishes “bogus” statistics. “The government will always give the figures that suit its needs,” the manager of an Argentine soup kitchen commented to the magazine. 
  • President Hugo Chavez and his minister of indigenous affairs said that the media had exaggerated reports of an indigenous massacre in the remote Amazon in order to discredit the administration during the presidential election campaign, the Guardian reports. Survival International has criticized what it calls the government’s “repeated denials” that the indigenous were killed by gold miners in the region. The Brazilian representative of Survival International told the Guardian that the government had not actually conducted an investigation in the community allegedly affected by the massacre, and that “It is such a remote area that it might take a really long time for the truth come out.”
  • The Texas Observer with a feature on Mexican exiles living in the US due to threats of drug violence, and their reaction to the aftermath of the July 1 presidential election. 
  • The average cost of electricity in Brazilian households will fall by an average of 16 percent by next year, as part of a wider effort in Brazil to accelerate growth through improved infrastructure, said President Dilma Rousseff. Mercopress reports
  • The Economist interviews one of the senior founders of Peruvian guerrilla group the Shining Path, Elena Iparraguirre, in prison. The magazine notes that other senior leaders of the group will start leaving prison in 2013, having served sentences of 20 years or more. This will accompany efforts by the group to establish a political party, calling their political movement Movadef. 
  • Global Post with a video report from a town in Oaxaca, Mexico, described as “a haven for open gay and transvestite men.”

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