Las elecciones del domingo pasado no sólo generaron un nuevo equilibrio de fuerzas en el Congreso sino que también reflejaron varias tendencias políticas.
El senador Uribe y 18 más
El resultado más destacado de la jornada electoral del 9 de marzo fue la irrupción del Centro Democrático como segunda fuerza política en el Senado. El estreno de un partido con más de 2 millones de votos—representando el 14 por ciento del total de los votos depositados—se convirtió en la noticia principal de las elecciones. A pesar de haber denunciado el Congreso como “ilegítimo” y corrupto en su cuenta de twitter, el nuevo senador Uribe confirmó que se posesionará en su escaño desde el Legislativo. La llegada de una bancada de 19 opositores de derecha al Senado no sólo reduce las amplias mayorías de la Unidad Nacional—el partido del presidente Juan Manuel Santos—sino que también obliga a recomponer las alianzas dentro la Cámara Alta. Los senadores conservadores y de la Opción Ciudadana (antiguo Partido de Integración Nacional—PIN) también subirán su cotización como nuevos “fieles” del Centro Democrático en el Senado.
Finalmente las sospechas se cumplieron: el expresidente Álvaro Uribe llegó al Senado de la República de Colombia convirtiéndose en el mayor elector de la jornada, y logró que 19 candidatos de su nuevo movimiento, Centro Democrático, ocuparan sillas en el congreso. Aunque los más optimistas dentro de sus filas pronosticaban hasta 35 sillas, lo cierto es que el Centro Democrático solo fue superado por el Partido de la U—que logró 21 sillas—un movimiento paradójicamente creado a su imagen y semejanza ocho años atrás, cuando sus integrantes apoyaban a quien hoy es su principal enemigo: el presidente Juan Manuel Santos.
Aunque Santos conserva la mayoría en el congreso—pues los partidos Liberal, Cambio Radical y Conservador que hacen parte de la Unidad Nacional, en suma lo dejan con el 65 por ciento del Congreso—lo cierto es que se vienen debates álgidos con Uribe como el gran opositor a la paz, que es el caballito de batalla de Santos. Y, continuando con las paradojas de la política, el partido de Uribe se queda en una esfera que hasta hace dos días era ocupada sólo por el izquierdista Polo Democrático, el único contrapeso que el oficialismo tenía en el hemiciclo.
Lo que puede resultar esperanzador, en medio de la falta de legitimidad de un Congreso que lleva años eligiendo a parapolíticos y que en estos comicios no fue la excepción—33 electos tienen relaciones "non sanctas" con grupos armados, según la Fundación Paz y Reconciliación—es que figuras de gran peso político pueden generar debates sesudos y plurales. Pesos pesados como Jorge Robledo e Iván Cepeda (Polo Democrático), Claudia López—un fenómeno electoral con 80.000 votos de opinión—y Antonio Navarro (Partido Verde), Horacio Serpa, Viviane Morales y Juan Manuel Galán (Partido Liberal) y Carlos Fernando Galán (Cambio Radical), han ocupado altos cargos en el Estado. Estas figuras tienen trayectoria política, se les conoce por su seriedad y pocos cuestionan su transparencia.
Likely top stories this week: Salvadoran presidential candidates are running neck-in-neck; former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe wins a Senate seat; Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet meets regional leaders before her inauguration; UNASUR countries gather in Chile to discuss Venezuela; Brazil inaugurates its ninth World Cup stadium, with three more to go.
Salvadoran Elections Remain “Too Close to Call”: Salvadorans went to the polls on Sunday in a runoff election between presidential candidates Salvador Sánchez Cerén and Norman Quijano. The country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal asked both candidates to refrain from claiming victory until the results have been fully calculated—which may take until Thursday, according to officials. Vice President Sánchez Cerén, of the Farabundo Martí Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional—FMLN) and a former guerrilla, was just ahead of Quijano, of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista—Arena) party, in the latest polls, with a razor-thin .22 percentage point lead.
Uribe elected to Senate in Colombian Elections: In Sunday’s legislative elections, President Juan Manuel Santos’ coalition claimed 47 out of 102 Senate seats and 92 out of 166 seats in the Lower House, while voters elected former President Álvaro Uribe of the Democratic Center (Centro Democrático) to a seat in the Senate. Uribe has been highly critical of Santos’ government’s peace talks with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) in Havana. Santos congratulated Uribe and said, “I hope that we can leave aside the hatred and resentments, and can work for the country.” Santos is running for re-election in May’s presidential elections.
Bachelet to Meet with Maduro Before Inauguration: Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet will have an intense day of meetings before her inauguration on Tuesday, including a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and other regional leaders. More than 20 countries are sending representatives to the inauguration. Vice President Joe Biden will represent the United States, and met with Bachelet this morning.
UNASUR Meeting in Chile: Latin American foreign ministers and heads of state in the Union of South American Nations (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas—UNASUR) will meet in Chile on Wednesday to discuss the political unrest in Venezuela, where an estimated 21 people have died in continuing protests. This morning, the Venezuelan National Guard reportedly dismantled barricades in the city of San Cristobal. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the UNASUR meeting last Thursday, adding that the Venezuelan president “would never be capable of repressing his own people.”
Brazil Inaugurates World Cup Stadium: On Sunday, Brazil inaugurated its ninth World Cup stadium in the Amazonian city of Manaus. The stadium, Arena da Amazonia, was inaugurated a month later than expected and is still not yet fully completed, but 20,000 people attended a regional championship match there on Sunday. Three workers were killed in the stadium’s construction, and it cost $70 million more than expected. Brazil still needs to complete construction on three stadiums before June: Itaquerão in São Paulo, the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá, and the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.
The Colombian Government on Tuesday accused the leftist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) of plotting to kill former President Álvaro Uribe. Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said he had met with Uribe to inform him of “the detection of a plan by the FARC's Teofilo Forero Mobile Column to make an attempt on his life."
The plot was revealed amid tense peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC that have been taking place in Havana since last November. Uribe, who waged a fierce war against the FARC during his presidency from 2002 to 2010 and reduced the rebel group’s ranks by half, has been an outspoken critic of the talks. Minister Pinzón said that Uribe and his family would receive whatever security they needed in addition to their standard 300-person detail.
The news comes less than a week after the government and the FARC reached a key point in peace negotiations by agreeing on a framework for the creation of new political parties to represent disarmed rebel groups. The other four items to be on the agenda include disarmament, illicit drugs, rights of the victims and peace deal implementation. The president of the Colombian Congress, Juan Fernando Cristo, said that if the plot is confirmed, “we have to demand that the [FARC] negotiators in Havana explain it to the country.”
Top stories this week are likely to include: Senate Judiciary Committee begins mark-up of the U.S. immigration reform bill; Álvaro Uribe reacts to Nicolás Maduro; Ríos Montt genocide trial is briefly suspended; Barack Obama criticizes the imprisonment of an American filmmaker in Venezuela; and 100 prisoners participate in the Guantánamo hunger strike.
Immigration Reform in the Judiciary Committee: On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin to mark up the 844-page immigration reform bill drafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" U.S. senators with amendments to be considered due by 5:00pm on Tuesday. Dozens of amendments are expected to be submitted by members of the Judiciary Committee, including the Uniting American Families Act—an amendment to be offered by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would allow U.S. citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for green cards. On Friday, President Barack Obama said that he supported a proposal, calling it the “right thing to do.” If passed in committee, critics say the amendment could erode bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform. On Friday during his visit to Mexico, Obama said he was “optimistic” that Congress could pass immigration reform this year.
Venezuelan and Colombian Heads of State Face Off: Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe said Sunday that he would bring Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights for putting his life in danger after Maduro accused Uribe on Friday of plotting to kill him. Maduro also alleged that Uribe was involved in the murder of Jhonny González, a sports reporter who was shot to death last week. On Sunday, former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana criticized Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for not speaking out immediately against Maduro's accusations.
Guatemalan Constitutional Court Suspends Ríos Montt Trial: Guatemala's Constitutional Court announced on Saturday a "provisional" suspension of the genocide trial of former General Efraín Ríos Montt while it resolves an injunction request filed by Ríos Montt's attorney, Francisco García Gudiel. However, a definitive ruling on the genocide trial is expected this week after the Constitutional Court ruled on April 30 that the case could proceed. The presiding judge, Jazmín Barrios, granted a week’s recess so that García Gudiel could review the file against his client.
Obama Calls Imprisonment of American in Venezuela "Ridiculous": Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said on Sunday that American Timothy Tracy was posing as a documentary filmmaker to spy on the Venezuelan government. Tracy was arrested after Venezuela’s April 14 election as he was leaving the country and was charged with conspiracy late last month, saying he was plotting with opposition groups to destabilize the country. U.S. President Obama called the Venezuelan government’s claim "ridiculous” in an interview with Telemundo this weekend. Maduro responded on Saturday by calling Obama the “grand chief of devils.”
100 Prisoners on Strike in Guantánamo: An Afghan prisoner at the Guantánamo military prison in Cuba alleged in a sworn affidavit released Sunday that soldiers roughly searched prisoners' Qurans in February, triggering a hunger strike in which at least 100 prisoners have been participating for the ninth consecutive day. At least 23 prisoners are now being force-fed, though a prison spokesman said that no one is experiencing life-threatening conditions. Marine General John Kelly, head of U.S. Southern Command, told reporters that there was “absolutely no mishandling of the Quran” inside the prison.
An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was discovered yesterday in a Buenos Aires venue slated to host former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe (2002–2010). The device was found at the Gran Rex Theater, where Mr. Uribe was scheduled to speak at a conference promoting dialogue between public- and private-sector leaders on innovation. According to the judge in charge of the case, Norberto Oyarbide, “the symposium will still take place and former president Uribe will attend.”
Uribe’s administration is generally credited with greatly reducing violence stemming from Colombia’s decades-long conflict with left-wing guerilla forces, but his hardline approach has also left him vulnerable to allegations that his administration had ties to paramilitary forces and authorized actions that resulted in widespread human rights violations. Allegations have also surfaced that, on Uribe’s watch, Colombia’s Department of Administrative Security (DAS) undertook widespread illegal wiretapping on opposition figures, politicians, judges and journalists.
Yesterday’s discovery comes only days after an assassination attempt against Uribe’s former Interior Minister, Fernando Londoño, which left two dead and dozens injured. Londoño is a vocal supporter of current President Juan Manuel Santos’ “Legal Framework for Peace,” a bill that would provide benefits for demobilized paramilitaries and guerrillas and even permit them to run for public office.
El secuestro de un periodista y sus últimos ataques contradicen la idea del término de la guerrilla generada por la liberación de rehenes.
Después de 47 años de lucha guerrillera en Colombia y el secuestro de 2,000 civiles y 250 militares, de acuerdo con el gobierno, las FARC anunciaron en marzo el fin del secuestro y la entrega de los últimos 10 rehenes uniformados. El gobierno interpretó el mensaje como el inicio del fin de la guerrilla, pero sus últimos ataques y el reciente secuestro de Roméo Langlois, periodista francés, demuestran su actividad.
La carta de las FARC con el anuncio del fin del secuestro supuso para algunos la puerta abierta a las negociaciones. “Es un paso impresionante que hay que aplaudir, pero hay una serie de obstáculos sociales, como las mismas fuerzas militares o los ganaderos que no quieren negociar. La comunidad internacional se va a meter y el mensaje con las liberaciones es que se está creando un ambiente de paz. A punta de conflicto, es muy difícil, y los últimos 10 años lo han demostrado”, señaló Ariel Ávila, analista de la Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris.
Mientras la incertidumbre rodea la situación del periodista francés, las FARC prosiguieron esta semana su ofensiva armada con un ataque el jueves a un campamento de carabineros en la frontera entre Colombia y Venezuela, que causó siete uniformados muertos y 12 heridos.
El 20 de febrero, se conmemoró una década de la ruptura del fallido proceso de los diálogos de paz entre las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) y el gobierno del presidente Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002). Esa fecha marcó el inicio del secuestro de políticos, comenzando por el de la excandidata Ingrid Betancourt, rescatada en 2008.
Last weekend, Colombia, headlines announce the worst in a series of military setbacks for the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos in its fight against the FARC.
In a rural area of the department or Arauca, 10 soldiers and a corporal were killed when their unit was ambushed by the FARC. Arauca has remained a tough zone for the government to control: even during the heyday of former President Alvaro Uribe’s military offensive, the FARC maintained a considerable military power in Arauca. The ELN, a very weak group, has its only stronghold in that region.
Both groups have benefited from the fact that Arauca has a long border with Venezuela: a few years ago, when Venezuela had a policy of supporting Colombia’s guerilla groups, the FARC and the ELN established a sort of strategic rearguard beyond the border. Now that such policy is uncertain, they nonetheless take advantage of the border to escape the Army’s persecution, and to establish camps in Venezuelan territory.
How will this incident affect Santos’ policies?
“If you want peace, prepare for war” is a strategic maxim first written by Vegetius, a relatively unknown Roman author, who wrote treatises on military strategy and veterinary medicine. Such maxim can be interpreted in two ways. First, if you want your potential adversaries not to attack you, increase your military power so you will deter them. Second, if you are already involved in war, and you want to reach negotiated peace, you must build strength so that your enemy will conclude that talks are the best option to end the conflict; and you will have leverage at the negotiations.
El derecho a la ternura (The Right to Tenderness), a book that argues in favor of treating thy neighbor kindly, was somewhat of a local bestseller in Colombia in the mid-1990s. Its author, Luis Carlos Restrepo, had already been mildly successful with another book, La trampa de la razón (The Trap of Reason), which develops the quite original subject of how excessive reasoning is bad in fields like love, sex and friendship. Restrepo, a psychiatrist, became a somewhat successful public lecturer, and a frequent guest of morning radio and TV shows.
But he is now a prominent fugitive, wanted by the Colombian authorities, after his polemic term as Peace Commissioner during the Uribe administration. Restrepo, however, had fled the country, his whereabouts being completely unknown, and according to a statement released yesterday, is now seeking asylum.
The current situation dates back to 2002 when Álvaro Uribe announced he would appoint Luis Carlos Restrepo to lead his peace initiatives. It was a generally well-received choice: Restrepo’s experience as a psychiatrist and an author, dealing with issues such as friendship, tenderness and reconciliation seemed fit for the job.
What a difference a decade makes. The successful operation on Friday by Colombian armed forces that killed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla kingpin Guillermo León Sáenz—known by his nom de guerre Alfonso Cano—represents another in a series of victories for President Juan Manuel Santos and his counterinsurgency strategy. Santos’s security policy, built on his predecessors’ Andrés Pastrana and Álvaro Uribe, has put the defeat of the FARC in sight—after the 1990s when the region’s longest running civil war appeared to have reached stalemate.
While Marxist-inspired guerrilla movements from Guatemala to Argentina put down their arms in the 1980s and 1990s—the result of peace negotiations and democratic transitions—the FARC rebels and the National Liberation Army (ELN), have plagued Colombia for nearly five decades. Both forces claim to represent Colombia’s peasants and at times have managed to control large swaths of territory in Colombia’s rugged rural areas. Though they continue to wrap themselves in the rhetoric of class struggle, both of the groups long ago became little more than armed criminal syndicates bankrolled by the drug trade in cocaine and other illicit narcotics, illicit commerce in gems, extortion, and kidnapping.
But the assassination of Cano, 63, referred to by Santos as “el número uno,” calls into question the long-term viability of the FARC. Shortly after it had happened, Santos’s press office released a statement vowing that the FARC had reached a “breaking point.”
Cano had assumed operational control of the FARC in March 2008 after one of its founders—Manuel Marulanda, also known as Tirofijo (Sure Shot)—died of natural causes. That same month, Colombian troops killed Raul Reyes, the chief FARC spokesman and member of its seven-person Secretariat. Then in July of that year, the Colombian army launched a successful mission that rescued Íngrid Betancourt, a senator and presidential candidate at the time of her capture in 2002, and 14 other hostages.
These successive events illustrated the army’s increasing infiltration into FARC operations. They were the result of Plan Colombia, the U.S.-backed program of financial aid, military training and intelligence cooperation.