From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Petro Wins Mayoralty of Bogota on Anti-Corruption Platform
Gustavo Petro, a former presidential candidate and leftist guerrilla, won the mayoralty of Bogota in highly contested elections on October 30. Petro, an independent candidate, won 32.2 percent of the vote, beating his closest runner-up, Enrique Peñalosa, by 7 points, or 150,000 votes. A former Socialist senator, Petro campaigned as an independent with a fierce anti-corruption platform in a city whose last mayor was suspended and jailed in connection with corruption scandals. However, El Tiempo reports that the election was marked by a high rate of abstention, with 52.64 percent of bogotanos not participating. Such a high rate of abstention has occurred previously in Colombia, as in the 2007 election.
Colombia Dissolves Controversial Intelligence Agency
On October 31, the Colombian government officially dissolved the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), an agency tainted by scandals, including allegations of espionage and ties to paramilitary groups. Latin American News Dispatch reports that the agency will be replaced with a department connected to the executive branch, called the National Intelligence Agency. The dismantling of the agency came after the largest intelligence leak in Colombian history in September 2011, when it came to light that DAS employees sold thousands of classified documents containing sensitive intelligence information.
Chinese Minister Expands Military Cooperation on LatAm Tour
China's Vice President of the Central Military Commission, Colonel General Guo Boxiong, is on a three-country tour of Latin America this week. In Cuba, he met with President Raúl Castro and military leaders, promising to deepen bilateral ties. In Colombia, he signed an agreement to donate $1.5 million to the Colombian government for defense and military investments. He arrived in Peru today, where he will sign bilateral military cooperation agreements. Bloomberg covers the recently signed U.S.-Colombia trade agreement, commenting that it may have been too little too late, pushing Colombia to look for other partners such as China. Says AS/COA’s Eric Farnsworth: “The delay in passing this called into question the United States’ reliability as a partner.”