This week’s likely top stories: President Juan Manuel Santos announces new ministers; Venezuela and Colombia crack down on smuggling; Codelco’s CEO has new plans for Chuquicamata Mine; Bolivia deports an Argentine accused of crimes against humanity; a fire at a Pemex refinery kills at least four people.
President Santos to announce new Cabinet: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is expected to announce new Cabinet ministers today as he launches his second term in office. Of the 16 Cabinet positions, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón, Minister of Finance Mauricio Cárdenas, and Minister of Foreign Relations María Ángela Holguín will retain their titles, while former Minister of the Interior Aurelio Iragorri will now be Minister of Agriculture, and Juan Fernando Cristo, former president of the Senate, will take Iragorri’s place at the ministry of the interior. At his inauguration address last week, Santos said that in addition to signing a peace agreement with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC), he will focus on education and equality as pillars of his 2014-2018 presidential term.
Venezuela to shut its border with Colombia at night: Effective today, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos have agreed to close the Colombia-Venezuela border between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am each night in an effort to reduce smuggling. Heavily subsidized Venezuelan goods—such as food and fuel—can be sold at much higher prices in Colombia, causing tax losses for the state and profits for drug gangs and guerrilla groups. So far this year, the Venezuelan government has seized 21,000 tons of food and 40 million liters of fuel that were destined for Colombia. Maduro and Santos agreed to the measures on August 1 at a summit in Colombia.
New Codelco CEO says open-pit mine must go underground: Nelson Pizarro, the new CEO of Chile’s state-owned copper mining company Codelco, said on Sunday that Chile’s open-pit Chuquicamata Mine should be transformed into a subterranean mine to make it profitable. Pizarro, who was named Codelco’s CEO at the end of July and will officially take over on September 1, faces opposition from the miners’ unions, who say that the plan to revamp the mine will cause many to lose their jobs because many are not trained to work underground. Pizarro replied that “if the unions don’t do their part, there will be no future for Codelco.” Codelco is currently the largest producer of copper in the world.
Bolivia deports Argentine accused of Dirty War crimes: Jorge Horacio Páez Senestrari, a former infantry captain during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship, has been deported back to Argentina after he was captured on Friday in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Páez was accused of committing crimes against humanity in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz during the dictatorship. He had been temporarily released from prison in San Juan in 2011 to await his trial, but after he failed to attend his hearing, local police and Interpol issued an international alert for his arrest. Now that he has returned to Argentina, Páez’s trial is expected to resume.
Pemex refinery accident in Mexico: A fire that broke out on Friday at a Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) oil refinery in Ciudad Madero, Mexico, had killed at least four people as of Sunday night. Seven refinery workers were still hospitalized, according to Pemex officials. The latest explosion happened as workers performed maintenance on an empty petroleum coke tank, which was used to hold a solid carbon by-product of the oil refining process. On July 24, a different fire had broken out at the refinery, injuring 23 workers. Last week, the Mexican government passed secondary legislation to open its energy sector to private and foreign investment for the first time in over 70 years, in an effort to increase production and attract foreign expertise and technology.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos began his second term yesterday after winning reelection in the second round in June, defeating Óscar Iván Zuluaga who was backed by former President Álvaro Uribe. Santos based his campaign on the promise of a peace, with the hope of coming to an agreement the left-wing guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC).
When Santos initiated the process of peace talks with the FARC in 2012, he broke with Uribe, his former mentor, who had a military-based approach toward dealing with the guerrilla groups. In response, the FARC announced a cease-fire—though the group has engaged in some acts of violence since this announcement—and the Colombian government began peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba in November 2012.
The Corte Constitucional de Colombia (Constitutional Court of Colombia) decided on Wednesday that it will allow guerrillas who give up their arms to participate in politics, unless they have been accused of committing crimes against humanity or genocide. This is seen as another victory for Santos, as Rafael Guarín, a former vice minister of defense and uribista, had previously challenged Santos peace reform in court, attempting to block any future political participation of guerrillas in the Colombian government.
Santos will face an uphill battle, with 61 percent of Colombians skeptical that FARC is interested in peace, and 50 percent disapproving of Santos’ approach towards peace. He also has faces opposition from Uribe, who now serves as a senator, and his allies in congress, as well as a smaller guerrilla group, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional, (National Liberation Army—ELN), who have recently been stepping up attacks on infrastructure.
Human Rights Watch released a report today that documents killings, disappearances and sexual violence against Afro-Colombian communities in Tumaco, a city in southwestern Nariño department. The abuses were reportedly committed by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–FARC).
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said that “the FARC has a tight grip over the lives of many Tumaco residents, who are forced to keep silent as the guerrillas plant their fields with landmines, drive them from their homes, and kill their neighbors and loved ones with impunity.”
In addition to the crimes committed by FARC, the report highlights abuses by neo-paramilitaries and police, and the general atmosphere of crime in the state. Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch believes that of the 17 killings that took place in 2013 and 2014, 12 are likely to be attributed to FARC.
Despite the high levels of crime, an increase of 200 policemen in Tumaco has reduced the level of homicides by 41 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to El Espectador. The city has created a five-year plan from 2014-2019 that proposes infrastructure investments such as power plants, improving the port and airport, and building 200 interest-free housing units.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos threatened on Tuesday to halt peace negotiations with FARC after continuing attacks—including an attack on the Ariari aqueduct on Saturday, which left around 16,000 people without water in the Colombia state Meta, and an attack on an electrical tower in Buenaventura on Monday, leaving 450,000 without power. After the attack in Meta, Santos stated, “They are digging their own political grave because this is exactly what makes people reject them.”
Santos will begin his second term on August 7, after a competitive election that showcased many Colombians’ skepticism towards achieving peace with the FARC. Out of 17 countries in the hemisphere, Colombia ranked 11th overall in Americas Quarterly’s 2014 Social Inclusion Index, which was released on Tuesday.
On June 15, 15.8 million Colombians went to the polls and gave peace a chance—literally. With 51 percent of the vote, President Juan Manuel Santos won a second term against the Centro Democrático´s Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who won 45 percent.
In three weeks, Santos bounced back from his defeat in the first-round election on May 25 and secured four more years in the Casa de Nariño. The 2014 elections realigned political forces in Colombia and drew a new political map, with important future consequences.
Here are five takeaways from Santos' win:
1. Promises of peace
Santos ran his campaign for re-election on the promise to continue the current peace negotiations with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana, Cuba.
With low levels of public support for his administration, Santos owes his victory to voters’ leap of faith that it will be possible to sign a peace deal with guerrilleros. Between the first round and the runoff election, Santos’ campaign managed to obtain key endorsements from the left-wing opposition—the Polo Democrático Alternativo—and the center-left Alianza Verde. This support, based exclusively on the continuation of the peace process, ended up being crucial to Santos' victory.
In other words, Santos' re-election is, more than anything, a mandate to negotiate with the FARC.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with recently re-elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday as part of his four-nation tour of the Americas. The primary focus of the meeting was to discuss the ongoing peace talks with the Colombian insurgent groups. For the past 18 months the Colombian government has been negotiating with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN)—the two groups that have been involved in the Colombia’s internal conflict over the last 50 years. The talks were central to Santos’ win over Centro Democrático (Democratic Center) challenger Óscar Iván Zuluaga on Sunday with 50.95 percent of the vote.
While the U.S. has provided more than $9 billion since 2000 to help fund Plan Colombia, which has been fighting the drug war and the FARC and ELN insurgents, its current assistance is at its lowest level since 1998, with only $300 million sent this year. Biden affirmed the U.S.’ support of Colombia during the peace negotiations, but gave no specifics as to how such backing would be carried out. “Just as the United States has supported Colombia’s leaders in the battlefield, so do we fully support you at the negotiation table,” Biden told reporters.
¿Cómo se gobierna con la izquierda y la derecha en la oposición? ¿Cómo se concilia a un país donde casi 7 millones de personas (los que votaron por Óscar Iván Zuluaga) creen que el camino es la guerra y que no se debería estar sentado en la Habana con terroristas? ¿Cómo se entiende que lo del domingo fue, más que un voto por Juan Manuel Santos, un plebiscito por la paz—y que no es un cheque en blanco para el presidente, sino el momento de firmar acuerdos y ejecutarlos?
Esa Colombia política, llena de sorpresas—que, en medio de la propaganda sucia (como no), puso a la opinión pública a debatir si quiere más sangre y muertos o algún escenario de perdón y reconciliación—comienza una nueva era en que la mentada palabra “paz” cobrará su verdadero valor.
Porque fue la esperanza de paz la que hizo que las fuerzas de izquierda fueran con “tapabocas” a votar por Santos, quien propone el modelo de desarrollo neoliberal que tanto combaten.
En su discurso de triunfo, Santos fue vitoreado entusiastamente por un público que gritaba paz y a quienes se refirió como los “millones de compatriotas” que “votaron por la ilusión de cambiar el miedo por la esperanza,” y les propuso “desterrar para siempre el odio y la violencia de nuestra democracia.” Incluso le habló a las víctimas al subrayar que “es el momento de reconocerlas, es el momento de reconstruir regiones azotadas por la violencia.”
This week’s likely top stories: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos wins re-election; the U.S. Supreme Court rejects Argentina’s appeal; U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits Latin America; Bolivia hosts the G77+China Summit; Aecio Neves will represent the PSDB in Brazil’s elections.
Santos Re-elected President in Colombia: Colombian voters re-elected incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday, awarding him nearly 51 percent of the vote. Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who led in the first round election on May 25, gained only 45 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff election and delivered a concession speech on Sunday. Santos’ campaign focused on continuing his government’s peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana, and called his election a victory “of hope over fear.” Santos will be inaugurated on August 7 to serve another four-year term.
Argentine Appeal Rejected By U.S. Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a major blow to the Argentine government on Monday, rejecting the country’s appeal in its case against holdout creditors Aurelius Capital Management and NML Capital Ltd. The court let a lower-court ruling stand without comment, upholding a decision that Argentina owes more than $1.3 billion in principal and interest. The Argentine government warned that the decision could have severe consequences and “trigger a renewed economic catastrophe.” Argentina defaulted on about $100 billion of its debt during its 2001 financial crisis.
Biden to visit Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala: Obama administration officials announced on Sunday that Vice President Joe Biden will add a stop to his tour of Latin America this week: Guatemala. The vice president will attend today’s soccer match between the U.S. and Ghana in Brazil, and then visit Colombia and the Dominican Republic before meeting with Central American leaders in Guatemala on Friday. The vice president is expected to discuss the soaring number of unaccompanied Central American minors who have crossed into the United States without papers. This year, 48,000 unaccompanied young immigrants were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol.
Bolivia Hosts G77+China Summit: Bolivia hosted the G77+China Summit this weekend in Santa Cruz, marking the 50th anniversary of a group of 77 developing countries that has since expanded to 133 countries. China, while not a member of the G77, joined the summit to signal its increasing trade ties with the region. Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a new world order where “the peoples of the world can grow in peace and live well” and an end to the UN Security Council, which Morales said has only reinforced global hierarchies and no longer promotes peace. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the importance of the G77+ China for global development and added that countries must protect human rights to achieve sustainable development. The summit concluded with a call to end poverty by the year 2030.
Aecio Neves to Run Against Rousseff in October: The Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party—PSDB), nominated Senator Aecio Neves to run for president against incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil’s October 5 presidential elections. On Saturday, Neves, a former governor from the state of Minas Gerais, said that he would implement a more austere economic policy, reducing public spending to reign in the country’s inflation. However, Neves also said in a June 2 interview that his government would continue funding the popular Bolsa Familia cash transfer program. Current polls show that Rousseff holds an eight percentage point lead over Neves in the case of a runoff election, which would take place on October 26.
En un verdadero pulso de poder se han convertido las últimas semanas de campaña a la presidencia en Colombia. Nunca en la historia reciente hubo tantas denuncias tan graves sobre financiación e infiltración de las campañas, y nunca tampoco el país había estado tan polarizado entre dos fuerzas de derecha. Nunca se agitaron con tal vehemencia dos fantasmas para asustar al electorado: el supuesto castro-chavismo que podría encarnar el presidente que busca su reelección, Juan Manuel Santos, y el regreso al autoritarismo de Álvaro Uribe que podría encarnar su candidato del Centro Democrático, Óscar Iván Zuluaga.
En el medio de esas extremas, cuñas publicitarias sobre la guerra buscan poner a los mismos militares contra el gobierno que se atrevió a negociar con las Farc, connotados columnistas y hasta empresarios piden rodear el proceso de paz, y una buena parte de la prensa nacional está a favor de Santos, mientras la regional coqueteándole a Zuluaga.
Encuestas que un día dan como ganador a Santos y otro a Zuluaga solo permiten concluir que habrá un empate técnico—y que el término “final de infarto” tan mentado en deportes y en política aplica perfectamente a lo que se vivirá este domingo en las urnas.
“En ocasiones se me ha descrito como una especie de Bruce Wayne suramericano: un niño privilegiado que juró vengar la muerte de su padre asesinado por unos bandidos. Dispuesto a hacer pactos con el diablo y a tolerar todo tipo de abusos, con el fin de llevar a cabo mi ‘misión’ y sin importar el precio, entré a la política y llegué a la Presidencia—según quienes así piensan—para vengarme de las FARC y de todos los grupos de izquierda.”
La cita es del reciente libro de Álvaro Uribe No hay causa perdida, y aunque el mismo Uribe toma como falsa esa interpretación, ¿cómo más se puede leer el desespero y la aversión con la que fustiga a diario al presidente Juan Manuel Santos, su ex-discípulo, y a todo lo que le huela a una paz negociada con la guerrilla?
Uribe intentó una paz con los paramilitares, a quienes les ofreció concesiones importantes en temas de cese de hostilidades, impunidad, reparación de víctimas y participación política, pero ahora no permite que el país se la juegue por la reconciliación con las Farc. Es como si su guerra contra las Farc se pudiera ganar solo con más muertes, como si no importara que el país se siguiera desangrando, como si para él firmar la paz fuera algo de cobardes o como si el perdón diera vergüenza. Todo esto porque la paz de Santos amenaza su proyecto de país y porque para el uribismo en la guerra tiene que haber un vencedor y un vencido. Uribe sin guerra sería el desvanecimiento de Uribe.
Con Rafael Pardo como alcalde interino, el ex-alcalde Gustavo Petro destituido y en campaña por una Asamblea Constituyente, y unas elecciones atípicas en ciernes pero sin fecha definida, Bogotá—la ciudad más importante de Colombia—padece un viacrucis como consecuencia de una serie de malas decisiones administrativas, políticas y de abuso de poder nunca antes vistas.
El 19 de marzo, Bogotá fue protagonista del fin de una larga batalla judicial que comenzó cuando el Procurador General, Alejandro Ordoñez—un católico empedernido que gobierna con crucifijo y creencias anticomunistas de antaño—declaró la muerte política para Gustavo Petro, el único ex-guerrillero que había logrado llegar a la jefatura de gobierno de la capital del país por voto popular. Es cierto que fueron 730 mil votos, una mayoría simple por los volúmenes de abstención en Colombia, pero fue elegido por voluntad popular al fin y al cabo.
El procurador destituyó a Petro de la Alcaldía y le decretó inhabilidad para ocupar cargos públicos por 15 años, como sanción por el caos y la improvisación en el esquema de recolección de basuras de Bogotá implementado por el ahora ex-mandatario. En Colombia el Procurador emite fallos de esta envergadura porque la procuraduría se encarga de castigar faltas disciplinarias y la Constitución así se lo permite. El asunto es que durante el mandato de Ordoñez, sus resoluciones parecen más una cacería de brujas contra opositores políticos—como en los casos de la ex-senadora Piedad Córdoba y el ex-alcalde de Medellín Alonso Salazar—que sanciones contra malos gobernantes por mal ejercicio del poder.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.