Wednesday, September 12, 2012

FARC Names Negotiators for Peace Talks

The FARC has named the final two members of its negotiating team for peace talks with the government; rebel bosses known as “Pablo Catatumbo” and "Carlos Antonio Lozada."

Caracol Radio reported that the men had been chosen as part of the team, and that their names would be officially announced by the FARC in the coming hours.

Lozada, whose real name is Luis Antonio Lozada Gallo, is the second-in-command of the Eastern Bloc. According to Caracol, he is thought to have studied abroad, in the old Soviet Union, and he is in charge of the group’s urban militias. He took part as a negotiator in the last round of peace talks, between 1998 and 2002.

Pablo Catatumbo, whose real name is Jorge Torres Victoria, is the head of the FARC’s Western Joint Command and a member of the seven-man leading Secretariat. He is a former member of the defunct M-19 guerrilla group and is thought to be in charge of coordinating drug shipments, according to Caracol. The United States has offered a reward of $2.5 million for information leading to his capture.

Last week it was reported that the other three members of the FARC’s five-man negotiating team would be alias “Ivan Marquez,” also a Secretariat member, and his second-in-command alias “Jesus Santrich,” as well as “Simon Trinidad,”who is currently in prison in the United States.

According to La Silla Vacia, Simon Trinidad’s lawyer said that the rebel, who is serving a 60-year sentence for his role in the kidnapping of three US contractors in 2003, has agreed to take part in the talks. Trinidad, who is being held in a maximum security prison in Colorado, only heard about the negotiations when he spoke to his lawyer on Thursday. He reportedly told the lawyer that he would do anything in his power to help, but said he didn’t know how he would be able to attend.

Lawyer Oscar Silva told La Silla Vacia that Thursday was the first time he had been able to speak with his client without harassment from US authorities. The rebel is held in his room for 22 hours a day, and has little communication with the outside world. Simon Trinidad told Silva that the only person who visits him is his mother.

For other members of the negotiating team, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is going to sign a decree suspending the arrest warrants against them. Semana lists the charges against Ivan Marquez, who has 28 convictions and 198 arrest warrants pending. It quotes the Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre, who said that it might be that no FARC guerrilla would have to go to prison, provided they release all hostages, pay compensation to victims, and take part in a process of reconstructing the truth.

Meanwhile, Semana reports that FARC overall commander “Timochenko” opened a Twitter account on September 5, and that the first person he chose to follow was President Santos.

News Briefs

  • The Wilson Center and IDEA International have released a report on the upcoming Venezuelan presidential elections. It praises the voting system, saying it is “reliable, allows for oversight and monitoring by the opposition, and rules out the possibility of a massive fraud that would go undetected.” However, it says that the electoral council has been politicized, that media coverage of the elections is unbalanced in favor of the government, and that campaign financing is opaque. The report comments that it is striking that it is the government that is promoting polarization of the political discourse, while the opposition is taking a more moderate stance. Latin America's Moment blog has more on the potential for instability and violence around the elections.
  • The Miami Herald looks at Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’ “guerrilla campaigning,” saying that he is using grassroot efforts to overcome Hugo Chavez, “one of the most powerful men in the hemisphere.”
  • Chavez announced that he is considering a proposal to join a group of non-aligned countries to help end the crisis in Syria, sending out his greetings to “President Bashar Assad and the Syrian people who are resisting an imperialist aggression,” reports the AP.
  • Rio Real blog asks if Rio de Janeiro’s program to pacify its favelas is going off the rails, after six teenagers were found murdered this week in Chatuba favela. Military police have now occupied the neighborhood, as the BBC reports.
  • A founding member of Mexico’s Zetas has been extradited to the US, reports the AP. Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, known as “El Mamito,” is accused of having taken part in the murder of immigration and customs agent Jaime Zapata last year.
  • The AP has a report on claims that the Chilean government fudged statistics to support its claim to have slashed poverty in the country. The authorities released their calculations on Friday, which showed that the gains were statistically insignificant: “While it’s possible poverty dropped as low as 13.6 percent of the population, it’s also possible poverty actually increased to 15.2 percent.”
  • The UN-backed anti-corruption commission in Guatemala, CICIG, has released its fifth annual report on its achievements in the country, noting that it has brought 207 people to trial, 70 of whom were convicted. Those tried include an ex-president, six former government ministers, and five former directors of the national police. Director Francisco Dall’Anese confirmed that the body would remain in place in the country until 2015, as the AP reports.
  • A group of 13 Cuban dissidents have launched a hunger strike to protests abuses by the government, reports the Miami Herald.
  • The LA Times looks at the exhumation of a mass paupers’ grave in Chiapas state, south Mexico. Most of the bodies are thought to be migrants from Central America who died trying to make their way to the United States. A forensic team has taken DNA samples from hundreds of people with missing relatives to help identify the bodies.
  • El Nuevo Herald and InSight Crime look at Peru’s Shining Path guerrilla group, 20 years on from the capture of founder Abimael Guzman.

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