Friday, September 14, 2012

The Latest Reports on the FARC Peace Team

The FARC have named their team for peace negotiations to be held with the Colombian government, according to media reports.

A FARC source gave the AP a list of the guerrilla group’s main representatives in upcoming peace talks that differs from previous accounts in the Colombian press. El Tiempo ran a story with the same names, provided by its own sources in the rebel group.

As well as Ivan Marquez and Simon Trinidad, who have been named in previous reports, the source said that Rodrigo Granda (aka Ricardo Tellez), Andres Paris, and Marco Leon Calarca would be lead negotiators. As noted on previous posts, Colombian media reports have named Pablo Catatumbo, Carlos Antonio Lozada and Jesus Santrich as the last three representatives.

However, Eastern Bloc commande
Mauricio Jaramillo, aka El Medico, told Colombian media that Lozada and Cataumbo would not be negotiators. Santrich will be attending as part of a secondary delegation of five guerrillas, who the AP names as Hermes Aguilar, Bernardo Salcedo and Ruben Zamora.

Granda, Paris and Leon have all been in Cuba for the preliminary talks, and appeared on television when the negotiations were announced. Ivan Marquez is expected to head the team, according to El Tiempo.

The AP’s source also said that the talks would go ahead whether or not Simon Trinidad, currently serving a 60-year term in a maximum security prison in the US, was able to attend, and that he was on the list in order to emphasize his importance to the guerrillas.

El Tiempo commented that the negotiating team showed a clear emphasis on political leaders rather than military commanders, with figures such as Joaquin Gomez and Fabian Ramrez, who were prominent in previous negotiations, not included. It said that the absence of El Medico, commander of the FARC’s strongest fighting structure in the Eastern Bloc, was because he was suffering “urban fatigue” from being in Havana.

According to El Espectador, however, the FARC has named El Medico as the sixth lead negotiator, suggesting that the rebels are prepared for Simon Trinidad not being able to attend. The newspaper points out that it will be El Medico’s first time taking part in peace talks, while it will be the fourth time round for Calarca.

In Cuba, Granda gave an interview to the BBC in which he said that he was “supremely optimistic” about the talks, and denied that the rebels had been militarily defeated. Wearing a shirt and glasses, and sitting in front of a shelf of books, he told the BBC, "That's a mistake. We are strong militarily and politically. We have taken some blows, that's true. This is a war. But who can that war possibly suit?”

Senator Senator Roy Barreras from Partido de la U said that the FARC should be allowed to form a political party, if a peace process goes forward, as Colombia Reports reports.

News Briefs

  • In Bolivia, miners have lifted a blockade on the three main roads into La Paz after agreeing with the government to suspend the blockade until September 18 while talks take place, reports La Razon. The protesters, who are from cooperative Fedecomin, are demanding a share in the Colquiri tin and zinc mine, which the government nationalized in June. Another group of miners, part of state-run company Comibol, have blocked the road to the mine, and are demanding that no other group be allowed to work there, as Americas Quarterly sets out. Comibol’s president told Reuters that the turmoil, which has been going on since September 1, was costing the mine $250,000 a day in lost output.
  • Thousands of Argentines have taken to the streets in cities around the country to protest against the policies of President Cristina Kirchner, in what the AP describes as the biggest anti-government protests yet. The protesters are following a tradition of banging on pots and pans to make themselves heard. Al Jazeera reports that they were angry about corruption, the high rate of inflation, and about rumors that Kirchner might change the constitution to allow herself more time in power.
  • There are varying interpretations of what the capture of Mexican drug lord Jorge Eduardo Costilla or “El Coss” will mean for the Gulf Cartel, one of the country’s oldest trafficking groups. InSight Crime said that the leader’s arrest could hasten the decline of the cartel, handing its territory over to the rival Zetas, and Bloggings by Boz said that the Mexican government was simply clearing up the broken pieces of a weakened group, while Vanguardia reported that it would not be the end of the Gulf, with an operative named Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, alias "X-20" or "Pelon," stepping in to take over El Coss’ role.
  • A report from the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control warns of the risk of drug trafficking routes shifting back to the Caribbean, calling on the government not to overly support one sub-region at the expense of others, as the AP reports.
  • The AP has a report on Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s clashes with the head of press freedom watchdog Fundamedios. Ricaurte angered the president by speaking out against new legal measures to limit press freedom, including the “Democracy Code” which outlaws “biased” coverage of election campaigns. Correa has used a series of special government broadcasts to criticize Cesar Ricaurte, and accused him of working for the US government. 
  • Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has removed a senior member of his campaign team after a video was released which showed him apparently taking money in exchange for arranging a meeting with Capriles, reports the AP.
  • The NYT reports on the demolition of Haiti’s national palace, which was left unusable by the January 2010 earthquake and is now being torn down by the charity of actor Sean Penn. Aides told the newspaper that President Michel Martelly thought the continued presence of the damaged building in Port-au-Prince was a reminder of the tragedy which distracted people from the country’s recovery.
  • Amnesty International has released a statement criticizing Venezuela’s decision to withdraw from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, reports the WSJ.
  • The Economist has a piece on the progress of Raul Castro’s economic reforms in Cuba, saying that the changes seem to have been put on hold, with some suggesting that the ageing leader lacks the energy to overcome opposition from within his Communist Party.
  • The Economist reports on the crisis in the Colombian coffee industry, where heavy rains have destroyed harvests over the last three years, and the strong peso has hit profits -- “nowadays most coffee served in the country is brewed from beans grown in Ecuador or Peru.”
  • The Guardian has a slideshow of photos of the eruption of the Volcano of Fire in central Guatemala, which started spewing lava on Thursday. Some 33,000 people are being evacuated.

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