Tag Archive | "president"

Colombia: Former President Uribe Questioned over Paramilitary Ties


Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe (Photo/Wikipedia)

Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe (Photo/Wikipedia)

Yesterday, Colombia’s Senate began its debate on the link between former president Alvaro Uribe and right-wing paramilitary groups.

In a 90-minute speech, Senator Iván Cepeda outlined the case against Uribe, now a senator, and presented documents and testimony by former paramilitaries.

Cepeda said: “Alvaro Uribe has made all types of decisions that, in one way or another, have favoured people linked to the paramilitary and drug trafficking. He handed over licences for hangars, planes, and runways to people linked to drug trafficking. He has legalised security companies linked to or run by paramilitaries. He has defended a referendum that at the time sought to eliminate extraditions for the Medellín cartel and drug-trafficking organisations.”

However, Uribe stormed out of the chamber calling it a “moral lynching”, promoted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the “media servant of terrorism”. After walking across Plaza Bolivar to present evidence to the Supreme Court accusing Cepada of slander, he returned to defend his record.

The former president dismissed the accusations – many involve his family and date from the start of his political career in Medellín when the city was dominated by Pablo Escobar’s cocaine cartel – as being politically motivated, and dodged many of the questions that were raised.

As he was president between 2002-2010 Uribe can only be investigated by the Commission of Accusation of the Chamber.

As president, Uribe beefed up security forces and intensified military offensives against the FARC, helping to dramatically reduce what was then one of the world’s highest murder and kidnapping rates. He also extradited more than 1,000 suspected drug traffickers to the US, earning him a reputation as Washington’s staunchest ally in the region. However, his policies and support of paramilitary groups have also linked him to massive human rights abuses. The investigation is seen to be an important step in the country’s search for reconciliation after decades of bitter fighting.

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Colombia: Santos Wins Second Term in Presidential Run-Off


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
(Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has been re-elected for a second term after winning yesterday’s presidential run-off. With 99.9% of the votes counted, Santos was ahead with 50.9% of the votes, compared to his opponent Oscar Iván Zuluanga’s 45%.

The vote was seen to be a referendum on the peace talks with left-wing guerrilla group FARC. The government-backed negotiations, which began in November 2012, aim to bring Colombia’s five decade-long civil war to an end.

“Colombians with very different options, including many who don’t sympathise with my government, mobilised for the cause, the cause of peace,” said Santos during his celebratory speech. “They came forward knowing that history has its moments, and this is a time for peace, a time to end this long and bloody conflict.”

He called on FARC and the ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla movement, to listen to the message of the Colombian people and end the armed conflict.

Although the peace talks dominated both candidates’ campaigns, polls prior to yesterday’s run-off indicated that Colombians are more worried about unemployment, crime, improving health services, and the quality of education. This was reflected in the turnout, which was up 10% from the first round, but still only around half of Colombians voted yesterday.

During his second four-year term, Santos will have to tackle these issues as well as keeping his campaign promise of finalising the negotiations with FARC, and also move forward with peace talks with the ELN. As any agreement with the guerrillas will have to be approved in a referendum, so Santos also faces the challenge of having an eventual accord be signed off by Colombians, 73% of whom do not want FARC to be able to participate in politics, and 83% of whom believe the rebels must be sent to jail.

The government also faces a difficult time in the legislature, with a strong opposition headed by former president Álvaro Uribe, who is against the peace talks and will likely attempt to block an eventual agreement.

The new government will also face further issues in terms of poverty as the country has been growing at a rate of 4%, but a third of the population of 47m lives in poverty.

 

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Colombia: Campaigns Close Ahead of Presidential Run-Off


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is running for re-election (Photo: Facebook official account)

Election campaigns officially ended in Colombia yesterday, a week before Sunday’s presidential run-off, which sees incumbent Juan Manuel Santos, up for re-election, face right-wing opposition candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga.

The race looks to be a tight one, with three of the five polls putting Santos as victor, whilst two give the next presidential term to Zuluaga. The first round saw the opposition candidate, backed by former president Álvaro Uribe, beat the incumbent, winning with 29.3% of the votes, to Santos’ 25.7%. However, in the first round, absenteeism hit 60%, and both candidates used yesterday’s final acts to encourage people to get out and vote. 

Tonight the pair will face off in their final televised debate before Sunday’s elections.

The ballot is seen to be a referendum on peace talks with left-wing guerrilla group FARC, which could end Colombia’s five decade-long conflict. During a second term, Santos aims to bring peace to Colombia, continuing the peace talks with FARC, which began last year in Havanna, Cuba. Zuluaga, who had initially run on a platform of ending the talks with FARC, has changed his stance since the first round, and now says that under his mandate peace would continue to be negotiated, but under the condition that FARC offer a ceasefire.

On Saturday, FARC announced a ceasefire for the elections, which would last from 9th to 30th June. The group undertook a similar ceasefire during the first round of the elections. The announcement came on the same day that the government and FARC made a joint announcement to “recognise their mutual responsibilities” to victims of the civil war. The announcement is seen to be a landmark, and likely to boost Santos’ campaign, as it is the first time both sides have officially not only recognised victims, but also both sides’ debt to them.

Although the peace talks have dominated both candidates’ campaigns, the polls indicate that Colombians are more worried about unemployment, crime, improving health services, and the quality of education. The country has been growing at a rate of 4%, but a third of the population of 47m lives in poverty.

 

 

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Latin America News Roundup: 27th January 2014


The map shows the proposed boundaries (in red and blue) and the final boundary as established by the ICJ (in black). Courtesy of ICJ.

The map shows the proposed boundaries (in red and blue) and the final boundary as established by the ICJ (in black). (Image courtesy of ICJ)

Chile and Peru: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague issued a ruling today on a long standing maritime border dispute between Chile and Peru. The ruling considered both positions in establishing a new maritime boundary, which extends along the line proposed by Chile -parallel to the Equator- for the first 80 nautical miles, and continues along the equidistance line proposed by Peru from there on. The dispute between the two countries, brought before the ICJ by Peru in 2008, concerned a triangle of around 38,000km2 rich in fishing resources, especially anchovies. The fishing industry in this area produces revenue for an estimated US$200m yearly, and the places most affected by the decision will be the Chilean town of Arica and the Peruvian town of Tacna. Whilst both governments have pledged to abide by the ruling, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said that “this transfer constitutes an unfortunate loss for our country.” Peruvian President Ollanta Humala celebrated that the ICJ “recognised the validity of the Peruvian position” and that his country “has won over 70% of the lawsuit.” Alvaro García Linera, Vice-president of Bolivia, said that the ruling “offers a very important precedent” and that President Evo Morales will refer to the matter tomorrow at the Celac summit in Cuba. The landlocked country is also involved in territorial disputes with Chile.

Honduras: Juan Orlando Hernández was sworn in as President of Honduras today. The ceremony took place at 9.50am local time in Tegucigalpa, and was attended by foreign dignitaries from around 80 countries. During his opening speech, Hernández promised to create 100,000 new jobs and to improve the quality of life of the 800,000 Honduran families that earn less than US$1 per month. He also pledged to improve the social security system, education, and to fight against corruption. Hernández was elected president on 24th November for a four-year term, amidst allegations of fraud by rival party LIBRE. Members of LIBRE organised a demonstration in Tegucigalpa to coincide with the ceremony, in protest against the “fraudulent” electoral process.

Ecuador: A man has been sentenced to six months in prison for killing a condor. Manuel Damián Damián, 61, confessed to the crime after pictures started circulating on social networks in April 2013 showing him with a dead female condor. Since he was arrested in November 2013, he will have to complete another four months in prison, pay a US$5,333 fine, and upon his release he will have to complete a series of environmental remediation tasks imposed by the tribunal. The condor is an endangered species -according to Ecuador’s Environment Ministry, there are fewer than 50 left in the wild, and 19 in captivity, in the country.

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Chile: Michelle Bachelet Wins Presidential Election


President Elect Michelle Bachelet (Photo: AFP/Martín Bernetti/Télam/cf)

President Elect Michelle Bachelet (Photo: AFP/Martín Bernetti/Télam/cf)

Former president Michelle Bachelet has taken victory in the second and final round of Chilean elections to become president once again. Bachelet beat opponent Evelyn Matthei with 62.16% of the vote against 37.83% in yesterday’s election.

In her victory speech last night, she said, “I am proud to be your president elect. I am proud of the country we have and more of the country that we are going to build. The way the country moves forward depends on us all. Thank you very much, viva Chile!”

She was particularly thankful to young Chileans: “Thank you, especially to the young people who have shown the longing to build a free and quality public education system.”

Chilean constitution requires 50% of votes for presidential election but in the first round Bachelet garnered 47%, meaning both candidates entered a second round. In yesterday’s election, a record high of  58.21% of the Chilean registered to vote abstained.

Former director of the gender equality agency UN Women, Bachelet was also president of Chile between 2006 and 2010. As the Chilean constitution states that presidents cannot run for two consecutive terms in office, she did not seek reelection despite leaving office with very high approval ratings. She will be the first president since General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorial government, between 1973 and 1990, to serve two terms in office and will replace current president Sebastian Piñera in March 2014.

Bachelet’s manifesto included a range of constitutional, educational, and social reforms. Chile has in the last few year seen increased protests in disagreement with governmental policy. The current constitution was drawn up under General Pinochet 1980.

 

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Colombia: President Announces He Will Run for Re-Election


Juan Manuel Santos Colombian President (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
(Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, confirmed his plans to run for re-election in next year’s presidential race. In a televised speech yesterday, he expressed his commitment to undertake a second term in order to “complete the job” he began, and stated that “we cannot leave halfway through our work in security and economic issues.” Santos took office in August 2010.

After a few years in which Santos’ popularity dropped, recent actions taken by his government have seen his image rise. In particular, his re-initiation of peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in order to end years of armed conflict. An opinion poll carried out by Gallup showed that the president’s popularity had risen from 21% in August 2013 to 29% in November of the same year.

During his speech, Santos spoke about continuing the peace talks in order to provide safety and security for all citizens. Admitting he had hoped the negotiations with FARC, held in Cuba, would move along more rapidly, he stated: “Big transformations are not achieved in a short amount of time. I want to conserve peace and prosperity for this country. All Colombians want peace… However, we have certainly made important progress… the guerrilla group has accepted to adhere to democratic rules. We cannot lose all that we have done until now.”

Santos also discussed the steps taken to improve quality of life and alleviate thousands of Colombians from poverty through job creation: “We have created over 2 million job positions, more than any other country in Latin America. But there are still a vast number of unemployed individuals that remain.”

Admitting he had made mistakes during his term, he stated: “I am far from perfect, but I am convinced that the way to face problems is not with fire and blood… we must complete our job.”

Presidential elections will take place on 25th May 2014. Santos’ main opponent is Óscar Iván Zuluaga, supported by former president Álvaro Uribe, who is part of the Social Party of National Unity. His candidacy was announced by the former president a few months in advance in order to increase his popularity with the public and solidify his position as main opponent.

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Chile: Municipal Worker Strike Continues Into Final Week Before Elections


President Piñera speaks at official ceremony. This week, the president hopes to resolve municipal strikes which have lasted for three weeks. (photo courtesy of Chilean government)

President Piñera speaks at official ceremony. This week, Piñera hopes to resolve municipal strikes which have continued for over three weeks. (Photo courtesy of Chilean government)

Municipal workers, led by mayors across the country, continue their strike ahead of Chile’s presidential, congressional, and regional council elections on 17th November.

The Chilean Association of Municipalities (ACM), the main umbrella organisation for the country’s mayors, has affirmed that the elections will take place normally in line with the municipalities’ constitutional and legal responsibilities.

“Our municipal officials are democratic, they understand that this is a matter of the nation and that there is a responsibility of the municipalities and mayors to make sure these elections are conducted successfully,” the president of the mayor’s guild, Santiago Rebolledo, said in a statement released Sunday.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, President Sebastián Piñera called the strikes, now in their fourth week, “unjustified”. Piñera, who hopes protests will not define the end of his term the way they have much of the rest of it, called it “unacceptable to fill the cities with garbage, to deny the distribution of water to the most vulnerable sectors of the population, or to commit acts of violence or occupations.”

Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections will be the first to be voluntary, making it even more vital for municipal logistics to be sorted out in time. While authorities are unsure of levels of voter participation, Gonzalo Müller, a political scientist at the Universidad de Desarollo, told news site Emol that he expects a turnout of 50-53%.

“If the centre-right or independent bases do not show up to vote on Sunday, it will be easier for Bachelet to win in the first round,” said Müller, referring to the absolute majority frontrunner Michelle Bachelet needs to avoid a runoff.

Bachelet warned supporters Sunday against letting their guard down in the final days before the election. Chile’s first female president, is running for her second term on a platform of tax and education reform and the proposition of a new constitution.

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President Expected to Be Given All-Clear After Evaluation


President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (courtesy of Wikipedia)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Casa Rosada has reported that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will undergo neurological tests and scans Friday night, the results of which will be available to the public as of Saturday morning. The president is expected to receive the all-clear from doctors to return to her presidential duties this weekend.

Friday marked the one-month mark since the president underwent a last-minute operation to remove a subdural hematoma. She has been resting since then and has not been seen in public. Vice-president Amado Boudou has been working as the acting president since the operation.

According to latest reports, President Fernández will return to work in a progressive manner, initially based in the official residency in Olivos and in a limited capacity, without public events or air travel until further notice.

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Honduras: Polls Predict Tight Presidential Election Race


Presidential candidate Xiomara Castro (photo via official Facebook page)

Presidential candidate Xiomara Castro (photo via official Facebook page)

With the Honduran elections less than one month away, the wife of deposed former president, Xiomara Castro, is running neck-and-neck against the ruling party candidate Juan Orlando Hernández.

Ahead of the 24th November election, Reuters reports that Libre party candidate Xiomara Castro has a slight lead over Hernández the Partido Nacional candidate according to the latest polls.

Security and corruption are at the centre of the Honduran presidential campaign, unsurprisingly for a country with one of the world’s highest homicide rates, with 86.5 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants in 2012.

During a recent presidential forum Castro, whose husband Manuel Zelaya was elected in 2006 before being forced out in 2009 after a coup d’etat, reinitiated her position to tackle the violence with a community police force.

Hernández who is currently president of the National Congress is in the process of installing a new military police force to operate alongside the army.

Last week three US Congressmen wrote a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry to urge him to speak forcefully against attacks targeting human rights activists and opposition candidates.

They are concerned over a lack of democratic conditions to guarantee a free and fair election process.

“State security forces are taking on an increasingly central and ominous role in context of the election. We are particularly alarmed to learn that the ruling party, and its presidential candidate Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández, now dominates all the key institutions of the government, including the country’s electoral authority and the military, which distributes the ballots – leaving scarce recourse for Honduran citizens should fraud be committed in the electoral process, or human rights violations continue to threaten open debate. This is particularly troubling given the long history of electoral fraud in Honduras.”

The Honduran President, Porfirio Lobo, said that accusations of attacks and the lack of transparency in the electoral process are part of an international campaign against him and his government.

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President Recuperating ‘Normally’ Since Surgery


Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Photo courtesy of Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Photo courtesy of Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

The Casa Rosada has issued a press release detailing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s medical condition and progress since her operation on 8th October to remove a subdural hematoma.

President Fernandez de Kirchner yesterday underwent a brain scan at the Favaloro Foundation as part of a routine check up.

Spokesman of the presidency, Alfredo Scoccimarro later assured the public that “she is very well, recuperating, all the checks have been done”.  The scan showed “normal recovery for the amount of time that has elapsed since the surgery”.

He indicated that since the operation to remove a hematoma, the president has continued to recover normally with daily checks from neurosurgeon Dr Facundo Manes and cardiologist Francisco Klein y Ramiro Sánchez under the supervision of doctors Luis Bouonomo and Marcelo Ballesteros from the Presidential Medical Unit.

Scoccimarro added: “In the presidential residency, Cristina’s stiches were removed and yesterday the president visited the University Hospital of the Favoloro Foundation in order to have a brain scan.”

It was stated that checks will continue to be made each day until 30 days have lapsed since the original surgery. New assessment is to be carried out after that date. The medical advice concluded stating that she can go on short walks but must not engage in activities or exercise that require a large physical effort, anything that could stress her must be avoided.

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