U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND
HEADLINE NEWS FOR MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2007
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US SOUTHCOM RELATED STORIES
1. USS Gridley Joins Fleet In Miami Ceremony
Top military officials joined other dignitaries in a commissioning ceremony for the USS Gridley, a new
Source: Miami Herald 02/11/2007
By Carol Rosenberg
With the blast of a foghorn and a belch of exhaust, the most agile, lethal naval destroyer the Pentagon has
yet produced joined the American fleet in a ceremony on Saturday at the Port of Miami-Dade.
Adm. James Stavridis, head of the Southern Command, declared the $1 billion guided-missile
destroyer USS Gridley ``pound for pound, gun for gun, sailor for sailor the absolute apotheosis of
combat power at sea.''
He warned the 278-member crew, ``One day you will fire your guns and your missiles in anger. It
will happen because we live in a dangerous world.''
But he also assured them they will sail Caribbean waters and ``go with willing hands to work on an
orphanage, to help paint a civil project in friendly countries less fortunate than our own.''
The ship is named for a 19th-century naval captain, Charles V. Gridley, whose USS Olympia fired
America's opening shots in the Spanish-American war, in the Port of Manila Bay.
It was built at Maine's Bath Iron Works and came here for Miami's first ever commissioning ceremony at
the request of its first skipper, Cmdr. Steve Shinego, a Hallandale Beach native.
More than 4,000 spectators -- veterans, sailors' families and future sailors -- watched under a noonday sun
from a dock at the Port of Miami-Dade while dignitaries delivered speeches from the deck of the haze-
gray warship, which was wrapped in red, white and blue bunting.
''Welcome to a beautiful day in South Florida -- so much like Maine,'' cracked Lt. Cmdr. Dave Perry,
second in command of the ship, serving as master of ceremonies.
''It's a privilege to serve on this warship. It's a privilege to be in Miami this week,'' said his boss, Shinego,
lamenting that his father, a retired soldier and Miami-Dade detective, was too ill to attend.
But the highlight of the 90-minute ceremony was when, by order of Gridley's great-great granddaughter --
''Man our ship and bring her to life'' -- sailors in dress whites ran up the ship's gangways.
They then lined the deck, to the cheers of the spectators below, as Gridley delivered a cacophony of
gunfire and sirens, its radar whirling.
''What a magnificent Bath-built ship. This city has rolled out the red carpet for the USS Gridley,'' gushed
Cathy Forst of Colorado, the great-great granddaughter, who christened the ship with the crack of a
champagne bottle in Maine a year ago.
Miami attorney Frank Jimenez, now Navy general counsel, brought the Pentagon's greetings and a
As a young lawyer on Biscayne Boulevard, ''I never dreamed I would help launch a proud vessel of the
United States Navy at this grand port,'' he said. ``It is a sheer delight to do so.''
''When a fighting ship sails, she sails for us all,'' added Jimenez. ``When she fights, she fights for us all.
When she traverses the seas in defense of American interests and values, she promotes peace and stability
for us all.''
The ship, the fourth in the U.S. Navy named Gridley, will be based in San Diego.
This version would go to war as part of an aircraft carrier group. It's equipped with two twin-engine Sea
Hawk attack helicopters, a 96-cell Tomahawk missile system, torpedoes, state-of-the-art air defenses, a 5-
inch, .62-caliber gun and a war room called the Combat Information Center that looks like a Hollywood
World War II and Vietnam veterans of Gridleys past, plus families of current Gridley sailors, came from
across the country for the week-long port visit, which got some Gridley sailors coveted Super Bowl seats.
Also on hand were seven Gridleys of Dayton, Ohio -- distant kin of the original sea captain, who learned
on the Internet of the celebration and secured passes.
''I loved it,'' said Bill Gridley, 54, a General Motors technician. ``Ever since I was a little boy, my dad told
me stuff about the USS Gridley. And I kept praying they'd make another one.''
2. USS Gridley Christened In Miami
Source: Fox 10 Mobile 02/10/2007
MIAMI - With a blast of a foghorn and a belch of exhaust, naval destroyer U-S-S Gridley joined the
American fleet in a ceremony today at the Port of Miami.
Admiral James Stavridis, said the one-billion-dollar guided-missile was quote "the absolute
apotheosis of combat power at sea."
More than four-thousand spectators watched the christening of Pentagon's newest ship, which boasts a
The ship is named for 19th century naval captain, Charles V- Gridley, whose U-S-S Olympia fired
America's opening shots in the Spanish-American war, in the Port of Manila Bay.
3. Stavridis Addresses Key SOUTHCOM Issues
Source: Navy Compass 02/09/2007
By MC3 Tim Wightman - Navy Compass Staff
Commander, United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Adm. James G. Stavridis sat down
with us just prior to his keynote address at the "West2007" AFCEA/Naval Institute Conference
Feb. 1 at the San Diego Convention Center. The following is an excerpt from that interview, in which
he talks about SOUTHCOM, the upcoming deployment of the USNS Comfort, and various partnerships
and humanitarian programs SOUTHCOM has in place with the other countries in that region.
Q) Admiral, what do you want Sailors, Marines, their families and the local San Diego community to
know about SOUTHCOM and the security environment in your Area of Responsibility (AOR)?
Adm. Stavridis: What I would want people to know about
SOUTHCOM is that it is an enormous region and a very diverse
region. It has 32 countries, 13 territories, 450 million people; we're
responsible for U.S. national security interests throughout that region.
The majority of the folks are Spanish-speaking, nearly 200 million
people who speak Portuguese, there are many French speakers and
many English speakers - in the Caribbean principally. So it's a notably
diverse region of the world with which we have enormous economic
linkages and we have, as well, tremendous demographic linkages; 15
percent of our population today are Hispanics or Spanish speakers, and
that percentage will probably go up to around 25 percent by the middle
of the century. So we have great economic linkage, great demographic
linkage, and finally we have tremendous political linkage in that
almost every one of these countries, all but one, Cuba, is a democracy
So I would want our Sailors here to know that this is an important and
a vibrant region, and when we call on them to operate in the waters of
the Caribbean, off the Atlantic coast, and the Pacific coast, in exercises Adm. James G. Stavridis
with our partners in counter-narcotics operations, in counter-terrorist
operations, they are operation in a part of the world that is not only
important to the United States but also the home of the United States. We all share the Americas together,
they're our home.
Q) Sir, what are the ways in which SOUTHCOM encourages partnerships within it's area of emphasis in
the U.S., the Caribbean, Central and South America?
Adm. Stavridis: Our particular lane, if you will, is military to military partnering. So we work directly
with the individual militaries in almost all the countries in the region. Secondly, we work through the
embassies in each of the countries to participate in humanitarian-type projects. New Horizons is an
example of that, and maybe we can talk about that in a minute. Thirdly, we partner with other agencies of
the U.S. government - like the Drug Enforcement Administration or United States Agency for
International Development - to take on projects that we think will be helpful in creating a positive
partnership throughout the region.
Q) Sir, if you would, could you talk a little bit about the "Enduring Friendship" program and what that
means for Sailors and Marines?
Adm. Stavridis: "Enduring Friendship" is a terrific program that we've instituted over the last year or so
which will provide some of our partner nations in the Caribbean with the ability to monitor their
coastlines using radars, investigate suspicious contacts at sea using high speed patrol boats, share
information linked together using communications and demonstrate command and control of the forces
that can go out and help them govern the territorial seas throughout the Caribbean which, let's face it, is a
pathway for terrorism and a pathway for narcotics coming into the United States. So, our job is to link up
with a variety of countries in the Caribbean and do that. And what it means for Sailors is that our Sailors
can expect to come in to the Caribbean and work with partners from places like Jamaica, Belize,
Honduras, Nicaragua and other countries throughout the Caribbean region.
Q) Many San Diego area Sailors and civilians have supported USNS Mercy's missions to the Pacific -
how will their experiences be used in the SOUTHCOM AOR?
Adm. Stavridis: We are hopeful we'll be able to deploy the sister ship to the Mercy, the "Comfort," to our
region this summer. So, all those experiences that we underwent with the Mercy deployment are being
rolled up as lessons learned for us to use at SOUTHCOM for the possible deployment of the Comfort. So
I see great utility - in what the hard working Sailors put together here on this coast - to my region,
particularly down in the Caribbean.
Q) Can you discuss what U.S. Army and Air Force personnel are doing right now in Honduras for the
Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE)?
Adm. Stavridis: We use the MEDRETE program to bring medical assistance to communities in need
throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Typically, what we'll do is use reserve Army and Air Force
folks - we have used Navy at times - to go into, let's say for example a village, in Honduras, Guatemala or
Peru; and in those countries we'll go in and set up a clinic. Last year for example, I think we saw well
over a quarter of a million patients and over 60,000 livestock - we also bring veterinarians with us. So it
provides medical assistants to folks who don't have access to very good health care, and it helps us in
training - it's great training for our folks - and it also helps spread good will and increase the possibility of
good partnerships between the United States and our neighbors to the south.
Adm. Stavridis also discussed future Navy and Marine Corps deployments to SOUTHCOM, noting that
he expects to see "quite a few" - principally involving counter-narcotics operations and counter-terrorism
- and that Spanish and Portuguese-speaking service members are needed. He also spoke about the region's
efforts in the War on Terror, mentioning their responsibilities at Guantanamo Bay at the Detention and
Interrogation Center. And he said that while there are no active terrorism operations afoot in the region,
he believes there is a high potential for it because of the region's path straight into the heart of America. In
conclusion, Stavridis emphasized the qualities he feels are the most important for young Sailors, Marines,
Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen to possess - civility, creativity, determination, honesty and integrity.
"I think if those things are executed by people in an organization," Stavridis said, "then you have a world
of good shipmates, and good shipmates working together can move the world."
4. U.S. Gives Bahamas $3.2 Mil In Gifts To Protect Borders
Source: The Bahama Journal 02/09/2007
By Quincy Parker
The Bahamas secured $3.2 million in boats and back-up maintenance on Thursday plus ongoing technical
support as part of its long-standing partnership with its "great friend to the north", the United States.
The gift came as a result of "Enduring Friendship", an initiative aimed at enhancing multilateral security
by supporting water-based policing in partner nations throughout the region.
As part of that programme, The Bahamas will receive four 43-feet interceptor Nor-Tech boats designed
for speed and manoeuvrability in both open ocean and shallow water.
Each boat is valued at $450,000.
Included in the boat’s purchase price is 300 hours of preventative maintenance repairs support per vessel.
Twelve to 15 personnel will be trained at a cost of $116,000 at the SOUTHCOM facility in Miami
during a 60-day course.
The U.S. has also given The Bahamas four boat trailers, valued at $10,000 each; two Ford F450 (or
similar) super duty 4X4 pickups to pull the trailers, each at a cost of $45,000; four jet-dock boat docks
valued at $40,000 each; forward looking infrared (FLIR) systems for boats at a cost of $8,000 each, and
general support to a joint anti-smuggling unit (JASU), including supplies and equipment valued at
Some $970,000 has also been spent on communications equipment, including servers, thin-client systems,
installation, integration, maintenance, etc.
The technical support is valued at $25,000 per year. According to U.S. officials the equipment is expected
to arrive in The Bahamas through the end of 2007 and next year.
"These boats and backup maintenance and technical support will greatly assist in improving our patrol
and interdiction capabilities, to the mutual benefit of both nations," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister
of National Security Cynthia Pratt said.
"They represent a true and tangible expression of our enduring bi-lateral relationship. "Enduring
Friendship" is therefore appropriately named because under its rubric, the excellent neighbourly ties that
have marked our relationship for centuries will continue in a meaningful and productive way. It reflects
our deep mutual respect and our firm recognition of our shared interests in maritime security."
The announcement followed the deputy prime minister’s brief meeting at the Cabinet Office
Thursday with U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas John Rood and a delegation from the United
States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) headed by Colonel Jorge Matos.
According to Ambassador Rood, Enduring Friendship will build on the successes of numerous
programmes, including Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OBPAT).
"This programme means so much. It shows our commitment, trust and belief in The Bahamas," he said.
"With all the latest equipment and training, the OPBAT programme will be stronger. If you combine this
with the additional aerial surveillance that is being put into place, your borders are going to be more
protected than they have ever been whether from drug or migrant traffickers, poachers, or even in the case
of search and rescue. You are going to have better capabilities at sea."
Much to the satisfaction of local authorities, the U.S. government recently decided to keep the Drug
Enforcement Agency (DEA) supplied with army helicopters even after the Pentagon withdraws its fleet
later this year.
As part of that agreement, which must be approved by the White House, the Pentagon will give the DEA
three Sikorsky S-76 helicopters in 2008 and provide other assets to temporarily fill the gap created when
the Blackhawks are withdrawn by October 1 of this year.
The United States made an additional commitment to spend $3.4 million a year for the next five years to
maintain the "Hawk’s Nest" helicopter base in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas is one of only four countries in the region participating in the Enduring Friendship, along
with the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Panama.
It is anticipated that additional countries will be brought into the programme during its second phase,
according to Ambassador Rood.
"We first look at who are our friends in the region and it is clear that The Bahamas is our friend. We have
worked very closely together," Ambassador Rood explained, when asked how countries are selected.
"We are neighbours and this is what neighbours do – help each other. The Bahamas has helped us on
numerous occasions. We, in turn are here to help The Bahamas when we are able."
5. Americans Held In Colombia Remembered
Source: Florida Today 02/10/2007
By Norman R. Moody
The U.S. Southern Command will hold a remembrance ceremony for three Americans, including a
Brevard County man, currently held hostage in Colombia.
Navy Admiral James Stavridis, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, will preside over a ceremony
to commemorate the fourth year of the kidnapping of Thomas Howes of Merritt Island, Marc Gonsalves
and Keith Stansell by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The three contractors for a State Department coca-eradication operation based at Patrick Air Force Based
were kidnapped shortly after their Cessna Caravan crashed in southern Colombia Feb. 13, 2003.
The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. Monday at U.S. Southern Command headquarters, 3511 N.W. 91st
6. Copter Pilots A Honduras Lifeline
Search and rescue: Precision flying on low fuel brought out injured survivors of crash that killed 3
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution 02/10/2007
By Jeremy Schwartz - Cox International Correspondent
Tegucigalpa, Honduras — By the time pilots spotted the giant X on the ground, the helicopters were
running low on fuel and the sun was dipping dangerously low on the horizon.
Dispatched from the U.S. military's last remaining base in Central America, four helicopters had been
soaring fruitlessly Tuesday over impenetrable mountain canopy in search of an elusive town called
Malpais, a remote, desperately poor village that doesn't appear on most maps. The pilots had already
made an emergency fuel landing and couldn't fly after nightfall.
The team of pilots and medics wasn't exactly sure what awaited them —- all they knew was that an open-
bed truck carrying a crew of missionaries had flipped over and slid down a steep ravine.
Finally, the pilots sighted the X marked on one of the village's few flat spaces and a man holding a big
sheet. As they approached the one-room evangelical church, they were met by a scene of remarkable
Although they later would learn that three missionaries had died and another dozen were seriously
injured, missionaries and Honduran villagers were attending to patients, building makeshift stretchers and
clearing spaces for helicopters.
"Everyone in the missionary group was phenomenally helpful," said Army Maj. Jackie O'Herrin, a
surgeon and the senior medical officer on the scene. "They were very calm despite having gone through
this horrible ordeal."
By Friday afternoon, all but one survivor, suffering from a head injury, had flown back to Atlanta. It's not
clear when the remaining survivor will be stable enough to fly, officials said.
The bodies of the three dead missionaries could be flown back as soon as today, once death certificates
are obtained, said U.S. Consul General Ian Brownlee.
Military personnel from the Soto Cano Air Base, many of them Iraq and Afghanistan veterans,
praised the missionaries — as well as a contingent of Honduran villagers — for their cool under fire
and quick thinking.
The missionaries likely saved lives by moving the injured from the crash site to the little church in
Malpais, since the helicopters wouldn't have been able to land near the rocky ravine.
And the presence of doctors in the group, including one who was riding on the truck and gave immediate
treatment despite being injured himself, was crucial, Army doctors said.
Once back in Malpais, thanks to a community effort to load victims into trucks, Dr. Don Griffin of
Newnan helped stabilize patients, along with a Honduran doctor from a neighboring town, Dr. Wilmer
Padilla, officials said.
Griffin didn't venture out on the truck with the 26 other missionaries and Hondurans, who were going to
put concrete floors in surrounding homes. Instead, he was setting up a clinic in Malpais to attend to the
minor medical needs of the villagers.
When word of the accident reached him, he went about setting up a makeshift acute care clinic.
"We got the bleeding controlled as much as we could," Griffin said Thursday from Honduras. "Then the
helicopters arrived. That was a godsend."
Without the military helicopter pilots, who have helped in several rescue missions throughout Central
America, the injured missionaries faced a tortuous 10-hour ride over dirt roads and blind mountain passes
to the nearest hospital.
Tough spot to find
Throughout the nearly 3 1/2 hours it took to find the villagers, the pilots were forced to make emergency
fuel landings and stop in unnamed mountain villages to ask for directions to the crash site. And in a
country as mountainous as Honduras, finding a flat space to land a helicopter can be nearly impossible.
"Thank God for soccer in this part of the world, because there's always a flat spot for soccer
fields," said U.S. Army Col. Christopher Hughes, Joint Task Force Bravo Commander at Soto
Cano Air Base.
In all, four helicopters landed in Malpais, squeezing into any flat space pilots could find.
"We landed literally in pens where they kept their animals," said Chief Warrant Officer Jarrod Hayes,
who piloted a Blackhawk helicopter. "The locals were moving the animals so we could set down."
Officials hoped to bring all the injured to Tegucigalpa, the capital, and Honduras's modern Military
Hospital. But only two helicopters had enough fuel to make the 120-mile flight —- the other two were
diverted to the coastal city of La Ceiba, along with those with fewer injuries, which included the mayor of
The military base was alerted to the accident when Padilla, the area doctor, learned of the accident and
called his counterpart, Dr. Carlos Duron, a Honduran medical liaison at the base.
Padilla had a GPS device, but was 40 miles away from Malpais. He drove to the village, but somehow
gave grid coordinates 14 miles away, a mistake officials attribute to weak cellphone signals in the area.
"These pilots did an amazing job of search and rescue," Duron said. "They were about to run out of fuel."
7. U.S. Military Evacuates American Volunteers Injured in Honduras
Source: American Forces Press Service 02/09/2007
Capt. Alysia R. Harvey, USAF, Special to American Forces Press Service
SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, Feb. 8, 2007 – U.S. military personnel here helped medically
evacuate a group of American volunteers after a bus crash near the village of Mal Pais, Honduras, Feb. 6.
Three people died and 10 others suffered head trauma, broken bones and other injuries when their vehicle
rolled over in a remote part of Honduras, an hour and a half from Tegucigalpa.
U.S. military personnel from Soto Cano Air Base evacuated the injured volunteers the day of the accident.
Joint Task Force Bravo launched a medical evacuation helicopter less than an hour after receiving the call
for help. Most Honduran hospitals have limited medical evacuation capability, U.S. officials said.
JTF Bravo officials explained that the evacuation involved a dangerous helicopter exertion into
mountainous terrain during bad weather. Due to the remoteness of the crash site, four U.S. helicopters
were used to find the casualties and evacuate them to hospitals in La Ceiba and Tegucigalpa. The next
day, troops from JTF Bravo moved eight victims originally taken to La Ceiba on to Tegucigalpa, where
they were to receive further assistance from the U.S. Embassy.
The killed and injured volunteers were members of a 28-person team from four churches in Newnan and
Cartersville, Ga. Their group is linked with the nonprofit organization Honduras Outreach, Inc., based in
Joint Task Force Bravo is part of U.S. Southern Command's mission of protecting the southern
approaches of the United States with an active defense against all threats. Part of achieving that mission
relies on establishing regional partnerships and developing a military capability that can support security,
stability, a functional judicial system and an institutional respect for human rights within these partners.
JTF Bravo is housed on Soto-Cano Air Base, a forward operating base in Honduras that supports a variety
of missions, including counterdrug, search and rescue, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance.
“We train to respond rapidly to events throughout Central America,” said U.S. Army Col. Christopher
Hughes, Joint Task Force Bravo commander. “We are proud to have assisted in this mission because the
chance to save lives and alleviate suffering is very important to us.
“We pray for the speedy recoveries of those who were injured in this unfortunate accident and extend our
heartfelt condolences to the family members of those who lost their lives,” he added.
(Air Force Capt. Alysia R. Harvey is the Joint Task Force Bravo public affairs officer.)
8. Tragedy Fails To Deter Missionaries From Work
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 02/09/2007
By Jeremy Schwartz
Tegucigalpa, Honduras — When word of the accident reached the remote mountain community of
Malpaís, villagers scrambled to rearrange the pews in their small evangelical church to make room for
tarps for the injured.
Someone managed to find a cellphone with a signal and called the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, seven
tortuous hours away by car, and pleaded for help: a truck carrying nearly two dozen Atlanta-area
missionaries had tumbled off a road into a sharp ravine Tuesday. Three were dead, and many more were
Soon, four U.S. Army helicopters lifted off from a base 135 miles away. Even with the help of GPS
devices, the helicopters couldn't find the village of Malpaís, which means "bad country."
So missionaries and villagers built bonfires, hoping the smoke would signal the soldiers. They planted
sticks in the ground and attached huge white sheets, hoping the pilots would be able to gauge wind
direction as they landed in the treacherous terrain.
When the helicopters touched down 3 1/2 hours after the accident, U.S. soldiers came pouring out.
"Saints couldn't have looked better," said Ernest Taylor, one of the missionary group's leaders and a
member of the First Baptist Church of Newnan.
Taylor was not on the truck but arrived at the accident scene shortly after the mishap.He, other mission
members and U.S. authorities recounted Thursday the details of what happened.
Soon the injured were back in Tegucigalpa, recovering at a military hospital or at a hospital in the coastal
city of La Ceiba. The dead — Perry Goad and Ric Mason, members of a Cartersville church, and Martha
Fuller of a Newnan church — were airlifted to Atlanta.
Emotional welcome home
Survivors — shaken, but still convinced of the importance of their work — returned home Thursday.
Shortly after 8 p.m., a plane from Miami carrying 21 missionaries arrived at the Atlanta airport. Families,
friends, pastors, nonprofit officials and TV crews had been waiting for them. At the first sight of each
other, some of them began to weep.
Some had broken arms, which were bandaged and in casts. Their eyes were red from exhaustion. Others
had scratches on their necks, noses and other parts.
Four members of the group remain in a military hospital in the capital with a broken arm, scalp wounds
and other nonlife-threatening injuries.
Officials and witnesses say the deadliest accident involving missionaries in Honduras in recent memory
could have been worse. The group included a contingent of doctors, two of whom were riding in the
The doctors gave immediate aid to the wounded. And without the helicopters from the nearby base, it may
have taken hours, if not days, to return to the Honduran capital.
"You come to a place like this and government infrastructure is just very limited, especially out in that
part of the world," said Ian Brownlee, the U.S. consul-general in Honduras. "That's the risk that these
folks run when they come here."
The missionaries were from four North Georgia churches: First United Methodist, First Baptist and
Cornerstone United Methodist, all in Newnan; and Tabernacle Baptist of Cartersville.
The group, members of the Atlanta-area nonprofit Honduras Outreach Inc., had been coming to the
remote corner of Honduras, called the Agalta Valley, for more than a decade, always in the first week of
February. Most of the missionaries, a group of businessmen, executives and tradesmen, had been
returning for years, including the three who died Tuesday.
"Our group is known for going where no one else wants to go," Taylor said.
Last year, the group installed running water in the town of El Portillo de Coyolito, rigging a cistern on a
mountaintop and using gravity to supply water to the village's new sinks.
Before that, village women gathered water from the same creek where the village's sewage was deposited,
First venture into area
Much of the area lives in desperate poverty — Honduras Outreach says the average annual salary is $600,
and many villages lack running water and electricity.
This was to be the first year that the group would work in Malpaís, about two hours from Honduras
Outreach Inc.'s ranch in El Paraiso, which includes clinics, schools and an array of classes for residents.
They were warned that Malpaís was so remote that townspeople were wary of Americans.
"But we got to that village, and people just wrapped their arms around us," said Jan Taylor, Ernest
Taylor's wife and head of the organization's hygiene program.
Malpaís was to become Honduras Outreach's latest model village, meaning volunteers would offer intense
aid, religious instruction and scholarships for children, few of whom usually progress past elementary
The group arrived and got to work on Monday. They laid concrete on three dirt floors, put in three or four
latrines and started building chimneys, to keep smoke from billowing through the humble village homes.
They got rid of lice in the kids' heads, shaving the boys and giving the girls an oil shampoo. They handed
out 52 toothbrushes and began Bible classes.
"Tuesday would have been the same," Taylor said. A group stayed at the elementary school to do hygiene
and medical work, while 26 missionaries and villagers, including the Malpaís mayor, set out for some
nearby homes to continue renovations. They left in a large, open-backed, military-style truck.
About a mile out of town the truck lost its grip on the curving road and slipped down the ravine. The three
who died were riding in the bed of the vehicle.
After the fall, a missionary and a Honduran managed to crawl back up the ravine and flag down a passing
truck. Within minutes, the remaining missionaries and villagers descended on the accident site, using car
seats as stretchers and bundling up the wounded into trucks for the ride back to town.
The driver, an American missionary, was briefly detained by Honduran authorities as is customary in car
accidents resulting in death, said Brownlee, the consul-general. Prosecutors declined to press charges,
after the embassy expressed its belief that the crash was a simple accident.
Ernest Taylor said the organization takes numerous safety precautions. Travel is never at night, and the
organization does not permit its members to drink alcohol while in Honduras.
The deaths were the first the organization has suffered in Honduras, officials said.
The last time an American missionary was killed was in July 2005 when a pickup lost its brakes on a
mountain road, Brownlee said.
On Thursday, missionaries remembered the three who died with sadness, but vowed to continue coming
"These three people who died ... loved it with all their heart," Ernest Taylor said. "They loved working,
being with the kids, fixing the homes."
Many of those who remain will be back next year.
"God gave us a mission, and that mission hasn't stopped," Jan Taylor said. "When you're called, you have
a mission to do and you do it."
Staff writer Charles Yoo contributed to this article.
9. Guantanamo Guard Rekindles Friendship With Former Captive
Source: The Independent 02/12/2007
By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor
One of the American soldiers guarding Moazzam Begg during his detention in Guantanamo Bay has
contacted him two years after his release to try to rekindle their relationship.
In a heart-felt exchange of e-mails and telephone calls, a female guard, identified only as Thompson, says
she misses the conversations she had with Mr Begg and applauds his campaign to close the American
Ms Thompson, originally from the Virgin Islands but now based in Arizona, spent several months
guarding Mr Begg and a number of other British detainees during 2004. For long periods she was the only
guard with whom Mr Begg had contact and on one occasion she tried to help him when he had a mental
Now the policewoman and army reservist has written to him asking if he would be happy to continue their
relationship even though they are no longer captor and captive.
In an e-mail sent to Mr Begg last week, she said she had read his book about his captivity with
"amazement" which had made her "laugh and cry". Mr Begg said he had sent her back an e-mail with his
"I got a call later in the week," he said. "She asked: 'Do you know who it is?' I immediately recognised
her voice and I asked what she was doing now? She said: 'You're not going to like this - I've become a
full-time duty soldier.' I said that seemed a bit strange because I didn't think she really liked the military
lifestyle. She replied that she liked the money." In her e-mail, Ms Thompson explained that she was
grateful that in his book Mr Begg had been "just" about some of the soldiers, who had guarded him. "I
was happy to talk to her because she had been one of the guards who had shown me compassion," said Mr
Begg. "She had not been prejudgmental and had taken an interest in Britain and my culture."
Mr Begg remembers one occasion when, after she returned from leave, she gave him a Cadbury's Creme
Egg because he had told her that there was a Cadbury's factory where he lived in Birmingham. "Normally,
back in Birmingham, I hated Creme Eggs but I can tell you I devoured this one. It made a huge difference
in that type of situation."
Mr Begg, who now campaigns as a spokesman for the charity Caged Prisoners, says he will not reveal Ms
Thompson's true identity unless she agrees.
"I must protect her confidentiality," he said. "She was the only white woman soldier from the Virgin
Islands so it would be easy to identify her. I don't want to put her at risk. The soldiers from the Virgin
Islands were very different from the other guards. I think it was because they came from a different
culture themselves. They showed us empathy and understanding.Once I lost my mind and started hitting
the walls. She was in the room with me and kept saying that she wished there was something she could do
Mr Begg hopes to be able to develop the relationship so that they continue learning from each other: "I
don't think she is looking for atonement or anything like that. She doesn't believe she was responsible for
what happened to me nor [does she believe she] has done anything wrong. She was only part of the
system. She even congratulated me for my work I am doing to shut down Guantanamo. What this
relationship demonstrates is that it wasn't all hatred in Guantanamo ... It meant I couldn't hate all the
* The Home Secretary has ridiculed suggestions that Britain has become a "police state" for Muslims. The
accusation was made by Abu Bakr, one of nine suspects questioned over an alleged plot in Birmingham to
kidnap and kill a Muslim soldier. John Reid said it was "a completely absurd proposition" given that Mr
Bakr was "released under the laws of our democratic, libertarian constitution, against the wishes of the
police who wanted to hold him longer".
10. Gates: Prisoner Abuse Hurts U.S.
Source: USA Today 02/11/2007
MUNICH, Germany (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday that prisoner abuse scandals in
Iraq and Guantanamo Bay and other mistakes have damaged America's reputation, and work must be
done to prove the U.S. is still a force for good in the world.
While he did not mention the war in Iraq, he told a conference of top security officials from around the
world that the U.S. has to do a better job of explaining its policies and actions.
For the last century most people believed that "while we might from time to time do something stupid,
that we were a force for good in the world," Gates said.
And while he said a lot of people still believe that, he added, "I think we also have made some mistakes
and have not presented our case as well as we might in many instances. I think we have to work on that."
Delivering his first speech as Pentagon chief, Gates also made an urgent call for NATO allies to live up to
their promises to supply military and economic aid for Afghanistan, saying that failing to do so would be
And in a carefully worded rebuke, he used both humor and some pointed jabs to blunt Russia's sharp
attack against U.S. foreign policy a day earlier.
In remarks before a prestigious security forum, Gates dismissed as dated Cold War rhetoric Russian
President Vladimir Putin's charge Saturday that the United States is seeding a new arms race.
A day after Putin blamed U.S. policy for inciting other countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend
themselves, Gates responded: "As an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with
nostalgia for a less complex time. Almost."
Then, as the audience chuckled, he added, however, that he has accepted Putin's invitation to visit Russia.
"We all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in partnership with other
countries, including Russia," said Gates. "One Cold War was quite enough."
The bulk of his speech was devoted to the future of the NATO alliance, and the need to work together to
defend the trans-Atlantic community against any security threats.
He struck a familiar theme — one he pressed during a NATO defense ministers meeting this week, when
he urged the allies to follow through on their promises to help secure and rebuild Afghanistan.
"It is vitally important that the success Afghanistan has achieved not be allowed to slip away through
neglect or lack of political will or resolve," Gates said. Failure to muster a strong military effort combined
with economic development and a counternarcotics plan "would be a mark of shame," he said.
Gates also sketched out the challenges ahead, from Iran's nuclear ambitions and the situation in the
Middle East to China's recent anti-satellite tests and Russia's arms sales.
Just eight weeks on the job, Gates used the conference and a NATO gathering earlier in the week to
introduce himself to the international community and meet privately with a number of defense ministers.
In other comments, he said the Bush administration would like to close Guantanamo Bay detention
facility, but there are a number of serious and committed terrorists there that should never be let free. And
he said detainee trials there will be conducted openly and with adequate defense for them.
Referring to problems the U.S. has had convincing other countries to accept some detainees, Gates said
the issue is a difficult problem the nation will continue to work through.
Delivered amid growing tensions between the U.S. and Russia and to an audience including many Iraq
and Afghanistan war skeptics, the speech was the first public test of Gates' diplomatic skills. It came at a
venue that at times had been dominated by his more bombastic predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld.
So as he neared the end of his remarks, Gates made a deliberate move to separate himself from Rumsfeld
and any lingering discord.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, Rumsfeld sharply criticized nations opposed to the conflict — specifically
France and Germany — referring to them as "Old Europe."
Without mentioning Rumsfeld's name, Gates said some people have tried to divide the allies into
categories — such as east and west, north versus south.
"I'm even told that some have even spoken in terms of 'old' Europe versus 'new,'" Gates said. "All of these
characterizations belong in the past."
11. ABC Crew Visits Guantanamo
Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation 02/11/2007
By Michael Rowland
ELIZABETH JACKSON: The plight of David Hicks is back in the spotlight as the Australian terror
suspect prepares to face a new US military trial.
There's been claim and counter-claim over the conditions he lives in at Guantanamo Bay, and his mental
and physical state.
The ABC last week got rare access to the detention centre to get a first-hand look at the maximum
security wing where Hicks is locked up.
And our correspondent Michael Rowland also got an even clearer understanding of how sensitive the US
Military is about anything that happens at Guantanamo.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: There are about 395 men held captive by the US Military at Guantanamo Bay.
Last week, myself and colleague, cameraman Dan Sweetapple, became two more, albeit temporarily.
For the two days we were at the detention centre, our every movement was closely watched by a veritable
battalion of military public affairs officers, armed only with very sharp eyes and the ability to say no in
dozens of different ways.
Within an hour of touching down, a barrage of rules and restrictions was raining down on us, and our
journalistic body armour was struggling to cope.
"No, you can't film any images of a detainee's face, or any other images that may identify him. No, you
can't film the location of the detention centre. No, you can't shoot unoccupied guard towers. And, no, you
can't film a large section of the Guantanamo coastline."
"These aren't rules," insisted a smiling PR officer, "just guidelines."
But guidelines, if broken, could have us kicked off the island.
What followed was an experience that could best be described as character forming.
Most places we went, particularly if they were anywhere near the six detention camps, the military was
literally looking over our shoulders, even to the point of peering through Dan's viewfinder.
At Camp Six, the high-security compound where David Hicks is locked up, we were restricted to filming
the cells from a safe distance. The detainees peering back at us through their cell doors, and the stony
faces of the guards who in turn were watching them, could not be filmed.
Tight shots became the order of the day, as did shots of empty interrogation rooms, empty recreation
yards and empty show cells.
On our visit to Camp Six we were accompanied by no fewer than seven military types.
There was also Jim, the taciturn fellow in civilian clothes, whose job it was to look back at every frame
we shot and order any images deemed prohibited, and there were many, be erased.
It was a surreal experience but, then again, Guantanamo Bay is a surreal place.
Just a mile or two down the road from the foreboding detention camps, and you could be in any small
Fast-food outlets jostle with a department store and a nine-hole golf course for the attention of the nearly
5,000 service personnel and their families who live on this well-armed slice of southern Cuba. There's
even a Starbucks.
There's also the commanding officer with an easy smile and gentle demeanour.
When he talks about the dangerous terrorists he believes are populating Guantanamo Bay, Rear Admiral
Harry Harris sounds more like a doctor or a high school teacher than the chief warden of a widely-loathed
Interview over, Admiral Harris spoke passionately about his love of Australian country music and bold
McLaren Vale shiraz.
And so wrapped up an insightful but incredibly challenging visit to Guantanamo Bay.
Not having gone, I would never have had the opportunity to see for myself the stark living conditions
experienced by David Hicks, nor would I have the chance to speak face-to-face with the man ultimately
responsible for his care.
But I wouldn't have the half-dozen newly sprouted grey hairs now flecking my sunburnt temples.
12. Guantánamo Probe Flawed, Rights Group Says
Source: Bradenton Herald 02/09/2007
By Michael Melia
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A human rights group says the U.S. military failed to adequately
investigate the latest allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay -- and urged officials to permit
independent monitoring of the detention center.
In October, the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba, opened
an investigation into a Marine paralegal's report that Guantánamo guards bragged about beating detainees.
Amnesty International said the probe was ''flawed'' because the chief investigator, Army Col. Richard
Bassett, did not interview any detainees before concluding there was no evidence of mistreatment.
A report by Bassett will be reviewed by the Pentagon Inspector General's office to ensure that it
sufficiently addresses the issues raised by the complaint, said Bill Goehring, an office spokesman.
Amnesty said the U.S. administration should not be left to investigate itself.
''U.S. authorities should allow independent bodies, including Amnesty International, to visit the detention
center and interview all prisoners in order to ensure that their complaints are not going unheard,'' the
London-based group said in a statement issued Thursday.
Representatives from the Red Cross are allowed access to Guantánamo detainees, but they keep their
findings and any government recommendations confidential.
Bassett's recommendations, approved Wednesday by the Navy admiral in charge of Southern Command,
called for no disciplinary action against the guards named by Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny, a member of
a detainee's defense team. She said sailors she met inside a Guantánamo bar in September described
beating detainees as common practice.
Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, Cerveny's boss, said that assigning the investigation to the Miami-based
command in charge of the Caribbean naval base ``is like having a wolf round up the sheep.''
Officials say that a dozen internal reviews of detention operations in recent years have not found a culture
that condones mistreatment at Guantánamo, where nearly 400 men are held on suspicion of links to al
Qaeda or the Taliban.
''Abuse is not tolerated,'' said Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand, a Guantánamo spokesman. ``We take all
allegations of abuse seriously and support all investigations fully.''
Guards at Guantánamo have faced disciplinary proceedings for at least eight substantiated cases of abuse,
according to documents released to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act
Those cases, reported through 2004, included incidents of a guard striking a detainee with a handheld
radio after he was subdued during a disturbance, the use of pepper spray on a detainee and a female
interrogator who sat in a detainee's lap and ran her fingers through his hair.
Officials insist that many other claims of abuse -- made through lawyers or to military review panels -- are
invented or exaggerated as a tactic to damage their American captors.
13. U.S. Military Building School
U.S. military program benefits Santa Teresa's communities in Carazo
Source: La Prensa 02/09/2007
By Anne Perez Rivera
The dust, the sun and the effort of walking three kilometers to reach the closest school that teaches
primary education will soon be a thing of the past for the children of La Calera, one of the 52 rural
communities of Santa Teresa, a municipality from the department of Carazo.
In April the children of La Calera will have a new school with an infrastructure that will accommodate all
elementary grades of education and will put an end to long treks to another school in El Valle, three
kilometers from La Calera.
"This school was built in 1986 and since nobody had repaired or remodeled or even talked about building
a new one," said Elida Baez talking about the Jose Martin Cortes Venegas school, which pretty much is
one classroom in which students from first to fourth grade share.
The new school includes the construction of a new library, a bigger yard and sanitary services, a total area
which measures 59 by 30 feet.
The new construction that easily surpasses $100,000 not including the transfer of materials and
manpower is being conducted by the U.S. Southern Command and its program New Horizons.
In addition to the school in La Calera, the New Horizons program will directly benefit the population of
La Conquista and Santa Teresa also in the Carazo municipality with a new medical clinic equipped with
The North American brigade also built a water well in Caliguate, a rural area part of Santa Teresa, where
the military contingent if currently based.
The well will stay there for the use of the community once the military group leaves the area.
The functions of New Horizons in Nicaragua also include the upcoming visits of three American
military medical groups that will provide free medical care and veterinary services that will provide
help to the communities of La Pita, El Sol and Santa Teresa from Feb. 22-28.
The construction of the facilities and the medical services will be possible thanks to approximately 250
North American military members according to Capt. Carlos Diaz, public affairs officer for New
"The theme of this New Horizons in Nicaragua is "Juntos Podemos" because the work that we are doing
here as a team is designed to benefit those who really need help," added Diaz.
The cost of the program in Nicaragua reaches 4.3 million dollars and is being financed by
USSOUTHCOM and is being executed with the support of the U.S. Embassy and the Nicaraguan
Thousands Will Benefit From Program
The Sandinista Mayor of Santa Teresa, Cristobal Conrado Portoblanco, explained that the population of
Santa Teresa reaches 22,000 who will benefit directly and indirectly from the projects sponsored by New
"The long trips for people seeking medical help, students and families will be eradicated, and that is a
great benefit to our population," said the mayor, who also mentioned that the resources of his municipality
alone would have not made possible the construction of a school and a medical clinic in the selected
Sixty percent of the population of Santa Teresa live in rural area.
The Liberal Mayor La Conquista, Tomas Umana said that his area will be also benefited by New
The population of La Conquista received medical attention in 2006 as part of New Horizons and will
again benefit from medical care thanks to the program that will be in Nicaragua until May.
OTHER AOR RELATED STORIES
14. Falkland Islanders “Feel Vulnerable” To Argentine Pressure
Source: Mercosur Press 02/11/2007
British ambassador in Buenos Aires John Hughes said the increased political and economic pressure
exercised by Argentina on the Falkland Islands has made the Islanders “feel vulnerable”.
Ambassador Hughes comments, made through the Embassy Press Spokesperson, follow the summoning
of Her Majesty’s representative last Friday to the Argentine Foreign Affairs Ministry where he was
informed of Argentina’s “concern and perplexity” over recent remarks from Falklands’ governor Alan
Huckle and MPA garrison commander Nick Davies reported in the British press.
However the British Embassy was quick to point out the Argentine’s government “clear public and
constitutional commitment to peaceful means of resolving the Falklands dispute”.
In an article published last February 5 credited to Chris Hughes from Port Stanley, and titled “Argies new
claim to isles 25 years after war; it could happen again any time says Governor”, Huckle is quoted saying
that "there is the fear that (the Argentine invasion) could happen again. There is a potential threat at all
times” and although “the (current) Argentine government is very different from the one in 1982 “it’s
pressing its sovereignty claim and has reduced co-operation”.
"People here are vulnerable. There are 3,000 islanders and they feel under threat”.
Brigadier Nick Davies, UK commander of the MPA 1,800 military presence, said: "In both countries
there`s going to be more attention paid this year to both remembering what happened in 1982 and the
issue of the Islands.
"My focus is to maintain our deterrent posture here and deal with whatever might happen”
"We are here to ensure we never have to do 1982 again. That is our stated mission - to deter any
aggression ... to make sure we`re not in a position where we lose the islands and have to retake them”,
said Brigadier Davies.
"My job is to make sure that any interference at any level, whether it`s someone making an incursion or
someone wanting to take control of the Islands, is an extremely costly venture for anyone”.
Brigadier Davies also underlined that the infantry in the Falklands are equipped with the same weapons
system as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Journalist Hughes in his article underlines that Argentine president Kirchner has put the Falklands back
on the country’s agenda and with presidential elections this year “means he will rally support to claim the
remote South Atlantic islands”. Kirchner has vowed to pressure Britain into handing them over through
economic moves, banning trade and passenger flights to Argentina.
The Daily Mirror states that British commanders and officials in the Islands believe Argentina “could use
this year`s 25th anniversary of the Falklands War to renew its claim of sovereignty over the British held
The Daily Mirror article was picked up in Buenos Aires by the pro government Clarin newspaper that
revealed the Friday meeting, “a couple of hours after Foreign Affairs minister Jorge Taiana had returned
from a week long visit to France”.
Apparently and according to Buenos Aires diplomatic sources quoted by Clarin, Argentina is concerned
“with real British intentions behind the current statements from Huckle and Davies”.
The Kirchner administration believes that the recent string of statements is a “campaign by Britain” to
take advantage of the imminent 25th anniversary of the war and install as a fact the “alleged Argentine
aggressiveness” thus justifying the “unsustainable occupation of the Malvinas Islands”, reports Clarin.
According to Embassy sources Ambassador Hughes pointed out that the military garrison in the Falklands
“was not news to anybody” and additionally described Argentina as “a valued international partner” with
whom the UK regularly cooperates in international organizations and other matters including non
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Besides at military level, “there was good interaction with the Argentines through high level reciprocal
visits, staff college exchanges and regular military talks” said the British embassy spokes person.
With the imminence of the commemorations of the 1982 South Atlantic conflict (April 2, Argentine
invasion to June 14, British recovery), literally tens of journalists and television crews have landed on the
15. Bolivia Implements New Military Doctrine
Source: Latin Press 02/10/2007
By Mario Hubert Garrido
La Paz, Feb 9 (Prensa Latina) The Bolivian government is getting into its second year with a new military
doctrine aimed to serve the country's majorities, in line with an ongoing process of changes.
According to Minister of Defense, Walker San Miguel, the transformation in the military, started since
December 2005 with the electoral triumph of Evo Morales, is rather profound.
In an interview with Prensa Latina, San Miguel explained that the security and defense doctrine started to
have its own peculiarities since the first year of the Morales Government.
In our continent, to speak about defense policies one has to refer to cooperative security, he said, while he
mentioned the example of the attention to the Amazon.
Countries which are part of such regions must unite to have more information and build confidence to
face common issues like the fight against drug trafficking, organized crime and environmental
Therefore, there has been a rapprochement with neighboring countries and their high ranking military
officials, namely Paraguay, Chile and Peru.
In a new time of democracies in our countries, with left-wing governments in power, the voice of the
continent needs to be heard in different fora, such as the Andean Community of Nations or the Common
Market of the South.
It must also be heard in the South American Community of Nations, and even in the United Nations and
its Security Council, currently made up of big economic, military powers, which have a US-imposed
unilateral vision of defense.
San Miguel said that a new, very particular defense doctrine is brewing in Bolivia, in a process o
transformation also covering the Armed Forces.
Very different from the panorama of the 70s, our vision is currently similar to those from neighboring
nations or Cuba, which are countries that have undergone comprehensive changes in their democracies,
such as Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Chile or Venezuela, rather than the US, said the minister.
We don't have problems faced by other nations, like terrorism. However, we have our own challenges,
and the way we chose to face them must be respected, he added.
South America is a region of great aspirations and efforts in wiping out poverty, while the US should
address the worrying levels of exploitation of natural resources that have put the very subsistence of
humanity into risk.
As part of its interest in taking part in the new development strategy, the Armed Forces presented its new
proposal about the country's security and defense before a Constituent Assembly commission.
This proposal is the result of three years or so of hard joint work involving the Armed Forces, public
institutions and civil society. It broadens the mission of the Armed Forces to activities "involving a moral
The project determines the State domains; it also updates the extraordinary measures, traffic regulation
and the time for foreign troops' stay and leaving.
Conflicts of jurisdiction and competence between ordinary and military justice are removed as part of this
The current Armed Forces respond to programmatic basis established by the ruling Movement towards
Socialism (MAS), including the respect of the country's institutions and the technological development of
the different units, explained Minister San Miguel.
This is not about promoting an arms race, but rather giving military command what they need to
accomplish their mission properly, he stressed.
16. Morales Seizes Control Of Swiss Tin Smelter
Source: Financial Times 02/10/2007
By Hal Weitzman
Bolivia's President Evo Morales on Friday signalled his determination to pursue his nationalisation
agenda by issuing a decree to take back into state hands a tin smelter owned by a Swiss company.
"Vinto will pass into the hands of the Bolivian state," said Mr. Morales, who made the announcement in
Oruro flanked by his vice-president and other cabinet members.
Glencore, a Swiss commodity trading house, bought the Vinto tin smelter in 2005 as part of its $100m
(€77m, £51m) purchase of tin and zinc producer Compania Minera del Sur from Gonzalo Sánchez de
Lozada, the former Bolivian president who was forced from office in 2003 and fled to the US. Mr.
Sánchez de Lozada's government originally privatised the smelter in 1996.
"We are fulfilling the mandate that the Bolivian people have given us, which is to take back the natural
resources of this land, its privatised industries that were auctioned off to transnational companies," said
"It is time to industrialise all the natural resources that were sold off by successive governments that
followed neo-liberal policies."
The announcement came at the end of a challenging week for Mr. Morales's government. He was forced
to drop parts of his plan to increase mining taxes after tens of thousands of miners marched to La Paz to
demonstrate against the proposal. In the face of their determined protests, Mr. Morales agreed to freeze
their taxes at current levels.
His nationalisation of the hydrocarbons sector has also become bogged down. Manuel Morales Olivera,
the new head of YPFB, the state energy company, is a political appointee with little experience or
technical expertise. YPFB has made no progress in negotiations with Brazil over the price of gas exports,
and has delayed putting into effect the new oil contracts signed with foreign investors last year.
The president vented his frustration this week on Transredes, a pipeline operator controlled by Shell,
saying he would expel the company if investigations revealed it was behind violent protests in southern
Bolivia that shut down gas pipelines for several days.
Guillermo Dalence, mining minister, said Vinto would eventually give the state a virtual monopoly in
commercialising tin production within Bolivia and suggested the government had in its sights on other
private companies in the sector. "Today Vinto, tomorrow we don't know who," he said.
Vinto produces some 30,000 tonnes of tin a year. Glencore made no public statement yesterday but denied
that it had been contacted by the Bolivian government.
17. Bolivia Nationalizes Swiss Tin Smelter
Source: Associated Press 02/09/2007
By Juan Karita
VINTO, Bolivia — President Evo Morales on Friday signed a decree nationalizing a tin smelter owned by
the Swiss mining company Glencore International AG, a first step toward his declared ambition of
winning his government a larger share of Bolivia's mineral wealth.
Morales did not immediately name the terms for the takeover of the Vinto plant, the country's only
operating smelter. He stressed that Bolivia must not only control its rich mineral resources but also their
refining from raw ore to valuable metals.
"Our natural resources have been looted again and again," Morales told the smelter's employees. "We
have never been permitted to industrialize our own natural resources. With so many false pretexts ... they
tried to keep Bolivia merely an exporter raw materials. But now the hour has come to industrialize all of
our natural resources."
Officials at Glencore and its Bolivian subsidiary Sinchi Wayra could not immediately be reached for
Morales has spoken broadly about nationalizing Bolivia's mining sector, but the industry's complex
structure makes unlikely an across-the-board move similar to last year's oil and gas nationalization decree.
The Vinto smelter, located near Oruro on the high Andean plain 110 miles southeast of La Paz, was _
until Friday _ entirely in private hands, but all of Bolivia's extensive mineral deposits are already owned
by the government.
State mining company Comibol works a handful of the deposits, but most are mined through private
concessions split between independent Bolivian miners' cooperatives _ most still working with hammer
and chisel _ and giant international companies, including Glencore and U.S.-based companies Coeur
d'Alene Mines and Apex Silver Mines Ltd.
Morales has said that only those concessions left idle or lacking investment will be returned to the state.
In the meantime, the president has proposed a tax hike aimed at recovering a greater share of Bolivia's
soaring mineral revenues, driven in part by demand from China.
18. Nine Die In Shootouts In Rio
Source: EFE 02/11/2007
Rio de Janeiro, Feb 11 (EFE).- At least nine people died Sunday in a series of confrontations between
drug traffickers, paramilitaries and police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian officials said.
The violence began on Sunday morning when a group of drug traffickers tried to move back into and
occupy the Kelson slum - or "favela" - in northern Rio to reestablish control over drug sales locations in
an area now dominated by paramilitaries.
The drug gang was opposed with gunfire by the militias, as Rio's paramilitaries are known, leaving at
least three dead.
After the frustrated attempt to take over the favela, five gunmen fled in an all-terrain vehicle along Brasil
Avenue, one of the city's main arteries, and along the way they killed a police corporal and stole his
Authorities do not know if the corporal, who was not in uniform, was killed for resisting the car theft or
because the gunmen discovered that he was a police officer.
Shortly thereafter, the five gunmen were intercepted and surrounded a few blocks away on Brasil Ave. by
a group of police, who shot them all to death inside their vehicle. Allegedly, the five victims also fired on
The police said that they found four pistols and a grenade inside the vehicle.
Among the alleged drug traffickers killed in the incident was one identified as Alex Silva de Oliveira,
known as "Perereca" and the head of the gang that controlled the illicit drug traffic in Kelson before it was
occupied by the militias.
The paramilitaries, made up mainly of police and ex-police, have organized in the Rio favelas over the
past few months to expel the drug traffickers that dominated most of the city's poor neighborhoods.
The militias currently control some 90 favelas and support their activities by collecting "taxes" from the
residents in exchange for supposedly guaranteeing their security.
Last week, other clashes between drug traffickers and militias left at least 10 people dead in different
slums in the city, motivating regional Gov. Sergio Cabral to say that police will combat both groups and
will not allow "independent republics" to exist within Rio de Janeiro.
Police, meanwhile, arrested the suspected head of a band accused of killing a 6-year-old boy by dragging
him behind a stolen vehicle through Rio's streets for seven kilometers (five miles).
Carlos Eduardo Toledo de Lima, 23, turned himself in at a police station on Saturday and was promptly
Toledo de Lima is the fifth of the alleged attackers taken into custody for the crime, which has caused a
great commotion in Brazil.
The accused is the head of the band of attackers who allegedly killed Joao Helio Fernandes. The boy died
from numerous injuries and his body was completely disfigured after being dragged behind the vehicle.
Supposedly, the men riding in the vehicle did not notice that the boy had somehow become caught on one
of the seatbelts hanging from a door.
19. Uribe Reiterates Readiness To Swap Prisoners With FARC
Source: EFE 02/11/2007
Bogotá, Feb 11 (EFE) - Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on the weekend reiterated his readiness to
exchange prisoners with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, whenever the rebels
"don't deceive us any more."
"If a humanitarian, reasonable exchange can be made, the government is ready. (We'll do) that if those
gentlemen in the FARC don't deceive us any more," Uribe said in an address Saturday to the community
council in La Union, a village in Nariño province, which borders on Ecuador.
The president said that his administration had made every effort to achieve the exchange and "at this time
the delegates from France, Spain and Switzerland are authorized for a new attempt."
He added, however, that "what concerns us is that many times the FARC has told the European countries
that it is ready for the humanitarian accord and it's lying to them."
Uribe said that the prisoner swap with the FARC has two limitations: the government will not set aside a
territorial safe haven for the rebels within which the swap could take place and it will not allow the
imprisoned FARC members freed in the exchange to return to the guerrilla organization's ranks.
The administration has been emphatic in saying that it will not pull security forces out of the Pradera and
Florida municipalities in southwestern Valle del Cauca province - the area the rebels have said they want
cleared - and that it will not permit the freed rebels to return to FARC ranks so that they can commit
"I could not, as president, free FARC guerrillas from jail so that they could go back to committing crimes.
I ask for the understanding of the Colombian people ... on that matter," Uribe said.
The Colombian government is asking that the guerrillas freed under a humanitarian accord either go to
other countries or enter a program to reinsert them into local society and under no conditions that they
take up arms again.
Leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, meanwhile, has been asked to help foster a humanitarian
exchange of people kidnapped by the FARC for imprisoned guerrillas, the Venezuelan press reported.
The request was made by former Colombian minister Alvaro Leiva through Luis Fernando Rosas
Londoño, who traveled to the Venezuelan capital expressly for that purpose on an undetermined date,
according to the Caracas daily El Universal. There has been no official announcement of that supposed
The paper reported that Rosas Londoño delivered a letter from Leiva to Venezuelan lawmaker Reinaldo
Garcia, a member of the National Assembly's human rights subcommittee, in which he broached the
Uribe, a centrist who was re-elected last year and is one of Washington's few remaining staunch allies in
Latin America, has urged Marxist rebels waging a four-decade-old revolution "to either negotiate or be
defeated by the democratic state."
The insurgents are believed to be holding several hundred people hostage, most of them for ransom but a
few dozen "high-profile" captives to be used as bargaining chips in an eventual swap for jailed rebels.
20. America Is Doped Up In Colombia For A Bad Trip In Afghanistan
Source: Time on line (UK) 02/11/2007
By Simon Jenkins
Last week NATO defence ministers met in Seville to review the coming spring offensive in Afghanistan.
It was like Great War generals dining in Versailles to discuss the trenches. The new NATO commander,
US General John Craddock, asked for 2,000 more troops. Just one more push and the Taliban would be
defeated, the Afghan army readied to fight, the opium dealers arrested and more aid committed to
reconstruction. It was as simple as that. Anyone for paella?
How does this strategy look from the other place in the world where it is being tried, Colombia? This
month Washington is redeploying one of its star diplomats, William Wood, from Bogotá to Kabul with
the enthusiastic blessing of the Pentagon. Wood has been overseeing Plan Colombia, President Clinton’s
eight-year effort to fight the cocaine cartels and left-wing insurgents and make Latin America safe for
Wood will be joining the new US NATO commander in Kabul, General Dan McNeill, and reversing the
allegedly feeble policies of the outgoing British commander, General David Richards. The fourfold
increase in violence over the past year is attributed by the Americans to an excess of soft hearts and
minds. Wood will want to beef up poppy eradication to starve the insurgency of revenue.
Colombia is undeniably a country which, six years ago, faced disaster. Main roads were blocked by
mafiosi and kidnappings and massacres were endemic. Drug lords, revolutionaries and right-wing
paramilitaries fought for control of a trade that supplied 90% of America’s cocaine. The Cali and
Medellin cartels offered to finance public services and pay off Colombia’s foreign debt in return for
quasi-recognition by Bogotá. This admirably capitalist innovation — de facto legalising supply — was
too much for the Americans.
Instead Washington pumped $600m a year into Colombia’s army and police, enabling the central
government to reestablish a measure of command over its own country. An independent, Alvaro Uribe,
was elected president in 2002 and hurled men and money at security. The murder rate fell by a third and
kidnappings by two thirds. Most of Colombia is now as safe as anywhere in Latin America. Uribe was
reelected last year with 62% of the vote in a fair election.
Uribe cannot stem the cocaine trade. Crop-spraying shifts production into Bolivia, Peru and the Amazon
jungle, where mile upon mile of virgin forest is lost to coca each year, an ecological disaster that is a
direct result of western drugs policy. As long as prohibition sustains a lucrative market for narcotics,
countries such as Colombia will supply it. Traditional coca-growing nations on the Andean spine will
have their politics and economics blighted by criminality. Growth will be stifled and governments left
vulnerable to left-wing rebellion. The war on drugs is the stupidest war on earth.
The best that elected leaders such as Uribe can hope for is to establish a desperate equilibrium: drug
suppliers kept relatively nonviolent while right-wing vigilantes are half-tolerated to counterbalance left-
wing guerrillas. The only test is survival and as long as Uribe survives America smiles. On an
increasingly rabid anti-American continent he is one sure ally.
Cut to Afghanistan. Here, too, the West is intervening in a narco-economy that is destabilising a pro-
western government. Here, too, quantities of aid have been dedicated to security yet have fed corruption.
Here, too, intervention has boosted drug production and stacked the cards against law and order. This
year’s Afghan poppy crop is predicted to be the largest on record. European demand has boosted the price
paid for Afghan poppies to nine times that of wheat. At this differential a policy of crop substitution is
Afghanistan is not Colombia. Here the West is not using a local government to implement its drugs and
counter-insurgency policy. Some 40,000 NATO troops from more than 30 different countries are gathered
in Kabul. Since many of them refuse to fight, the city has become a holiday camp for the world’s military
elite. Outside the capital, military occupation acts as a recruiting sergeant for insurgency, leaving NATO
bases constantly on the defensive. The war in Afghanistan is proving that an enemy can be held at bay but
only at vast expense in money and casualties. It will not be defeated.
The British policy of occupying small towns to win hearts and minds has been a bloody failure. It was
wisely replaced last autumn with deals struck with local power brokers, the so-called Musa Qala and
Helmand protocols. Up to $5m is handed over to any warlord who can claim provincial control, accepting
the pragmatism of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who on January 29 even called for negotiation
with the Taliban. The local British commander, Brigadier Jerry Thomas, was explicit in seeking to
“empower local people to use traditional tribal structures . . . to find an Afghan solution to an Afghan
problem”. In truth, there is no other conceivable way to disengage from this mess. A similar “endgame” is
being pursued by the new American commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, in securing safe areas
policed by local militias.
Now the Americans wish to reverse British realpolitik. To them what Afghanistan needs is a taste of
Colombia and Ambassador Wood.
Musa Qala must be reoccupied and poppy-spraying must commence. This defies the view of western
intelligence in Kabul which has been convinced that America’s heavy-handed tactics and addiction to
aerial bombardment have cost the West five years in Afghanistan. Local commanders are equally opposed
to the opium eradication that obsesses the defence ministry in London and the Foreign Office’s Kim
Howells. Apart from the futility of trying to spray so vast an area as Helmand, drug lords are the only
counterweight to the Taliban. Poisoning Afghanistan’s staple crop and contaminating fields and water
supply will push up the price of opium and further breed hatred of the occupation. It is madness.
In Colombia the Americans achieved a sort of equilibrium because local politics was left to police the
narco-economy. In Afghanistan Karzai is treated as an American puppet whose authority outside Kabul
depends entirely on occupying forces. There is no way that provincial Afghanistan will be pacified by
Nato and left to Karzai’s army. Afghan troops (like the Iraqis) will not fight local militias. Training them
to do so is pointless as they merely switch sides when the occupiers depart. Ask the few journalists brave
enough to visit the battlefields of Helmand and the Pakistan border.
In Colombia the central government enjoyed sufficient democratic legitimacy for its army to drive
insurgents into the jungle and induce the drug lords and paramilitaries to surrender (some of) their guns
and power, albeit at a heavy cost in justice and human rights. Afghanistan has never enjoyed such central
authority, except briefly under the Taliban. It will not do so under the guns of 30 occupying powers. The
south of the country craves security and gets only bombs and bullets and is increasingly inclined to the
iron rule of the Taliban. Since any prospective Karzai/Taliban coalition is unlikely to please the Tajiks
and other tribes of the north, all western meddling will achieve is to set Afghanistan on the road back to
Having visited both Afghanistan and Colombia, I have no doubt that those countries’ miseries start and
end in narcotics. With an almighty and bloodthirsty effort, the production of cocaine in Colombia and
opium in Afghanistan might possibly be displaced, but only to other benighted countries. What would be
the point? As long as rich countries consume these substances in massive quantities it is hypocritical to
lay waste the poor countries producing them and thus make them poorer.
Punishing supply is not a “parallel” policy to curbing demand, as economically illiterate policy makers
pretend. Demand is never curbed by limiting supply, since supply responds to price. It just will not work.
Hence pretending to victory in Colombia is no different from staving off defeat in Afghanistan. Both are
cruel expiations of western narco-guilt. The difference is that in Afghanistan intervention has led us into
an unwinnable war.
21. 'Secret' Colombian City Gets Rediscovered
A building boom fueled by tourism is remaking Cartagena. Some worry the old Caribbean port's charm
Source: Los Angeles Times 02/11/2007
By Andrea Alegria and Chris Kraul
LA BOQUILLA, COLOMBIA - A few years ago, impoverished fisherman Marcial Ortega could barely
afford to feed his 14 children, much less buy them shoes. But now his worries are over. A beneficiary of
this region's building boom, he is selling his half-acre beachfront lot and cabanas this month for a cool $1
The 63-year-old Ortega held out for years, impassively listening to fast-talking developers bid up the price
of his seaside plot. But declining fish stocks, rising taxes and nonstop harassment by developers finally
convinced him it was time to leave this tiny fishing community a few miles up the coast from the Spanish
colonial city of Cartagena. He sold to Spanish developers who plan to build a high-rise apartment
"I had to find a way out of here," said Ortega, the concrete-block house he soon will vacate nearly
overtaken by encroaching high-rises.
"Now I'll have peace of mind, buy my wife a nice house and give my children things I didn't have, like an
The price fetched by Ortega's property reflects the frenzied real estate market in Cartagena, an
increasingly popular destination for foreign tourists and retirees. A decade ago, the charms of this fortress
city were the well-kept secret of wealthy Colombians and venturesome foreigners who knew that
Cartagena was relatively immune to the killings and kidnappings that elsewhere marked Colombia's civil
Colombia's security and economy have improved significantly since President Alvaro Uribe took office in
2002, and that has helped ignite a construction boom. Twenty luxury residential towers were built last
year and more than 60 are on the drawing board, including what would be Colombia's tallest building.
Seventeen projects are to be situated along the four-mile stretch of beach between the walled city and La
Two-thirds of the units being built or planned are marketed to foreign retirees and investors, who have
begun to take up residence in this breezy Caribbean city. Long anathema to U.S. hotel chains because of
Colombia's notorious violence, Cartagena is slated for new resort hotels bearing the Marriott and Donald
Fueling the construction is the increasing flow of tourists, who are feeding the pool of potential buyers.
The number of international visitors to Colombia grew 12% last year over 2005, and Cartagena was their
International arrivals at Cartagena's airport have more than doubled since 2003, and cruise ship lines,
which just a few years ago made only intermittent stops at the port, are back. Eight cruise lines, including
Royal Caribbean, will make a total of a dozen calls a month, on average, starting in August.
Founded in 1533, Cartagena was one of the most important colonial cities on the Spanish Main, where
shipments of gold and emeralds embarked and where settlers and slaves arrived. To protect it, the Spanish
monarchy spent a fortune on fortifications, including seven miles of walls and a dozen forts, many of
which are still standing, lending the city its historical charm.
The old city within the walls, filled with architectural gems, is remarkably well preserved - and in fact
was largely abandoned until the redevelopment craze hit in the 1980s. Strollers there get a pleasant
sensation of time warp.
Attracted by that charm are U.S. retirees such as Jim Pazynski of Madison, Wis. Last year he and his wife
moved into a high-rise apartment just up the beach from Ortega's shack.
"This is going to be another Miami Beach someday," said Pazynski, a retired J.C. Penney salesman.
Pointing in the direction of Ortega's property, he said, "Probably if you took a picture up that way now
and came back in 20 years, you are going to say, 'Oh my God, what happened?' "
Some residents and preservationists worry that growth is out of control or poorly planned, and jeopardizes
Roads and other infrastructure are woefully inadequate for the new development, critics say, and pollution
in surrounding estuaries is slowly killing off the livelihoods of fishermen like Ortega.
"The growth has little to do with the resources of the city and people who live here. It has a lot more to do
with globalization of tourism and the fact that most of the new housing is for foreigners," said Alberto
Abello, an economist at Bolivar Technological University in Cartagena.
Growth is taking place so fast that city officials seem at a loss to quantify it.
Neither the chamber of commerce nor the mayor's office could provide statistics or estimates on 2006
construction. In 2005, the last year for which figures are available, residential construction grew 53%
from the previous year, and observers doubt the pace has slowed.
"There are more cars on the same roads. Food, restaurants and taxis are more expensive. The public space
is more crowded. Now I pay more in living costs for less quality of life," said Oscar Collazos, a
newspaper columnist and novelist who has lived in Cartagena for eight years.
Collazos is concerned that his once "amiable city" will become a tourism "mega-city" similar to Cancun.
The demand for land is pushing prices up and the middle class out to marginal areas, he said.
The city is bracing for more exposure as it prepares for several major cultural events this year, including a
huge celebration planned for next month by the Colombian government to honor Nobel Prize-winning
author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who grew up in the region and owns a home here.
Later next month, Cartagena is to play host to the International Congress of the Spanish Language, which
is expected to attract 1,500 delegates, including the king and queen of Spain. And in November, the
World Tourism Organization will meet here.
Such events are far from the world of fisherman Ortega, who plans to reinvest his profit in another small
parcel of oceanfront land miles up the coast - and make another killing when development again reaches
"I love my town," Ortega said. "I don't want to leave. But what else can you do? ... There is nowhere to
put up a building anymore. They are all coming here to build."
Special correspondent Alegria reported from La Boquilla and Times staff writer Kraul from Cartagena.
22. Rally Held In Bogotá To Protest Uribe Accusations
Source: EFE 02/10/2007
Bogotá, Feb 10 (EFE).- Some 4,000 people took part in a rally organized by the Colombian left to
denounce accusations leveled against them by conservative President Alvaro Uribe, who has referred to
some of his political rivals as "plainclothes terrorists."
Under the slogan "Opposition to the streets," the left-wing, main opposition Alternative Democratic Pole
(PDA) and the Great Democratic Coalition - which comprises several grassroots organizations -
announced at Friday's gathering that they would lead a vigorous campaign in support of the rights of the
They also said they will demand full revelation of the truth in the peace process with the country's
supposedly demobilized AUC paramilitary federation, some 31,000 of whose members handed in their
weapons over the past couple of years.
Under the terms of the 2005 Peace and Justice Law, pushed through Congress by the U.S.-backed Uribe
administration to regulate the militiamen's reinsertion into society, former AUC members face a
maximum of eight years in prison if convicted of any of the scores of massacres of suspected rebel
sympathizers attributed to the rightists over the years.
Colombia's Constitutional Court upheld the law last year but conditioned the sentence reductions on full
disclosure and confession of crimes and reparations to victims.
"Here has begun a march by Colombians that will culminate with millions (of people) in the streets," said
Sen. Gustavo Petro, a PDA leader who sparked a war of words with Uribe by announcing that he would
convene a congressional session on the presumed links between people close to the president and the far-
Petro, a former member of the now-defunct M-19 guerrilla group, said recently that he wanted Congress
to look into the supposed ties that the president's brother, Santiago Uribe, and lawmakers allied with the
head of state maintained with the AUC.
Uribe shot back by labeling some leftist lawmakers as "plainclothes terrorists."
He said last Saturday that some members of the PDA, "who used to be in the M-19 that burned down the
Supreme Court building after being paid off by the mafia, took advantage of a peace process and ended up
in Congress where they want to give lessons on morality."
The acerbic comment came in the context of a three-month-old scandal stemming from revelations of
widespread influence in Colombian politics wielded for years by the drug-dealing, atrocity-committing
rightist militia organizations.
Uribe referred to the 1985 guerrilla assault on the Palace of Justice in which some 100 people, including
the justices of the Supreme Court, were killed. Although Uribe named no names, he seemed to be
referring to Petro and fellow PDI Sen. Antonio Navarro Wolff, also an M-19 veteran.
In his comments, Uribe again indicated he believes those who say that M-19 fighters were paid to attack
the high court by Pablo Escobar, the late drug lord who supposedly sought the destruction of all files and
evidence there that might have been used against him.
Members of the PDA, meanwhile, earlier this week filed a request for a "recurso de amparo," or
"sheltering writ," with the Supreme Court. The action, which is designed to guarantee a fundamental right
that is being threatened, could result in Uribe being ordered by the tribunal to withdraw his "terrorists"
Amid the political mudslinging, sectors of the opposition, labor unions and human rights groups say they
have been targeted by a new wave of threats from a "new generation of paramilitaries" made up of former
During the rally - for which some 2,000 yellow flags, the color of the PDA, were distributed - Petro said
that in March the Congress will look into alleged ties between the ex-top command of the AUC and
military officers in the planning of massacres.
"This gathering expresses the dignity of the Colombian people," said the secretary-general of the CGT
union, Julio Roberto Gomez.
"Behind the aggression is the fear that the PDA, the Colombian people, come to power in 2010 and that's
why they want to polarize the country, fill it with hate," said Gomez at the rally, which also was attended
by leaders of the CUT labor coalition, the country's largest, and the CTC union.
PDA candidate Carlos Gaviria was the second-leading vote-getter in the 2006 presidential election,
though he finished far behind the incumbent Uribe.
Petro, for his part, said the rally was just the beginning of a larger citizen movement and announced that
two more demonstrations will be held on May Day (May 1) and on May 23.
The PDA and the Grand Democratic Coalition plan to stage a "national civic strike" on that latter date, the
first in the country since Uribe first took office in August 2002.
Last month, the Attorney General's Office handed over to the Supreme Court a copy of a secret pact
signed in 2001 by dozens of politicians - including members of Congress, governors and mayors - with
The so-called "Pact of Ralito" was named for the place in northern Colombia where the conclave among
officials, politicians, ranchers, businessmen and leaders of the AUC took place in July of 2001.
The pact was provided to prosecutors by former AUC chief Salvatore Mancuso, who is wanted by the
Three sitting national legislators - Sens. Alvaro Garcia and Jorge Merlano and Rep. Erik Morris - already
have been indicted and jailed on charges of collaboration with an illegal armed group.
At least four more senators and two representatives are being investigated and may face similar charges.
23. Colombia Receives Drug Suspect Sought By U.S. And Jailed In Cuba
Source: New York Times 02/10/2007
By James C. McKinley, Simon Romero
MEXICO CITY, Feb. 9 - The leader of a Colombian drug cartel that American prosecutors say flooded
New York City streets with cocaine remained in custody in Colombia on Friday awaiting extradition,
after Cuba turned him over to the authorities there.
Cuba's decision to send the suspect, Luis Hernando Gómez Bustamante, to Colombia surprised American
authorities, law enforcement officials said. Cuba's government has no diplomatic relations with the United
States, and some people charged with crimes on American soil have found a haven in Havana.
Not Mr. Gómez Bustamante. He arrived in Bogotá late Thursday on a Colombian Air Force plane after
Cuban authorities handed him over to Colombian antinarcotics agents.
Mr. Gómez Bustamante, the reputed boss of the Norte del Valle cartel who is known as Rasguño, had
been held in Cuba since 2004, when he was arrested on immigration charges. He is wanted in New York
City on charges of money laundering, racketeering and drug smuggling.
During the 1990s, his organization was one of the most violent, lucrative and extensive cocaine-
smuggling rings in the world, accounting for at least 30 percent of the cocaine being imported into the
United States, Justice Department officials said.
Cuban officials gave no reason for their decision Thursday, and prosecutors in the United States declined
to comment on the matter.
Last year, Mr. Gómez Bustamante told a Colombian reporter that he wanted to be released from his
Cuban prison, even if it meant standing trial in the United States. Mario Iguarán, Colombia's attorney
general, suggested that the extradition stemmed from the prisoner's wishes. A spokesman for the Justice
Department confirmed that the United States was seeking to bring Mr. Gómez Bustamante to the United
States for trial.
His extradition would be a major victory for federal investigators and prosecutors in New York City, who
built a case against him over a decade. Investigators started out looking into businesses in Queens that
wired money to Colombia.
Those modest inquiries eventually led to the indictment of Juan Alberto Monsalve, who prosecutors
charge was the cartel's boss in New York. In May 2002, he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and murder.
He is now serving a life term.
Two years later, Mr. Gómez Bustamante was indicted on racketeering charges along with eight others,
and Colombian authorities seized $100 million worth of Mr. Bustamante's assets. He fled to Cuba but
never got past customs and immigration.
24. Cigarette Shortage Hits Cuban City
Source: Associated Press 02/10/2007
HAVANA (AP) - A chain of debts within the government supply system has caused a cigarette shortage
in Cuba's second-largest city, driving up the black market price of smokes, Cuban news media reported
The shortage led "a few unscrupulous people" in the eastern city of Santiago to sell Popular-brand
cigarettes for the equivalent of 95 cents a pack, nearly triple the normal price of 33 cents, according to the
Communist Party youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde.
The reports, first mentioned Friday by the government's Radio Rebelde, follow official exhortations for
Cuba's state-run press do more reporting on problems faced by Cuban citizens. It also gives a glimpse at
how the socialist economy here works.
According to the newspaper, the government retail company in Santiago owes about $430,000 to the
government's regional cigarette wholesaler, which in turn owes $95,000 to the government cigarette
The manufacturer stopped shipping cigarettes to the wholesaler after the debt extended past 30 days.
Juventud Rebelde said that officials were working to solve the payment problems and had begun to ease
the shortage by bringing in cigarettes from other areas.
It said the shortage had not affected supplies that are part of the monthly government rations, which are
nearly free though insufficient for many smokers.
The newspaper scolded local authorities for "deep fissures in the discipline of payment and efficiency
among companies in the field." It suggested the commerce sector in the area needed "an injection of
Despite providing the rations, Cuba's government has tried to discourage smoking, banning it from public
places in 2005. Still, smoking is widespread in Cuba.
25. Cuba Going After Illegal Satellite TV
Source: Miami Herald 02/10/2007
By Frances Robles
José Antonio provided the supplies and the technical know-how, and got a friend, Celestino, to pitch in on
weekends so they could sell illegal access to telenovelas and cartoons to fellow Cubans.
A full-page article in Thursday's Cuban daily newspaper Granma explained how the pair rented a shop
from a man named Lázaro in a Havana neighborhood, where they soldered and screwed bolts on satellite
dishes with enough materials to make at least 30.
Police dubbed it ''The Antenna Case.'' The three men now face up to three years in prison. A fourth man
had a net worth of more than $38,000 -- a fortune in Cuba -- mostly in electronics.
'They are sending a shot across the bow: `We're not going to permit this. We will try to control and do
something about it,' '' said University of Miami Cuba expert Andy Gómez. ``They are continuing to put a
fence around the island and secure what's coming in.''
Marti Getting Through
Just two months after the U.S. government announced it would transmit TV Martí, its anti-Castro
propaganda channel, on Direct TV -- which Cubans can watch with banned satellite dishes -- Cuban
authorities appear to be going after the illegal signals with a vengeance.
'The rise in the number of the people in the world who `consume' programs transmitted by satellite and
cable, fraudulently pirating [the signal] . . . is worrisome,'' Granma said. ``It shows the Bush
administration's double standard: On the one hand they severely punish television signal piracy in their
own country; on the other, they promote its use in Cuba.''
The newspaper story detailing the nearly year-old criminal case of José Antonio and his friends was the
second article denouncing TV Martí in a week. And Cubanet, a Miami-based exile news organization that
publishes dispatches from independent journalists on the island, reported Thursday that the Cuban
National Police and the telephone company were patrolling city streets on the hunt for illegal TV hook-
''The attention they are giving it now gives us confidence that TV Martí is working,'' said Alberto
Mascaro, chief of staff for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, the government office that runs TV Martí.
``If they are so worried about it, that only means one thing: It is working.''
Other experts said it's unclear whether the warning was a reply to TV Martí, or simply a demonstration of
power by newly named Communications Minister Ramiro Valdés, a hard-liner.
Satellite dishes are illegal in Cuba, except for the rare entities like hotels which have the required permit.
But U.S. officials estimate there are 10,000 to 30,000 dishes on the island assembled using smuggled
parts. In 2005, a Cuban-American named Carlos Valdés was arrested at the Havana airport trying to bring
in satellite receivers, cables, remote controls and batteries, Granma reported last year.
In a nation where there are only four TV channels, some families are eager to spend $10 a month for a
chance to watch Univisión and other U.S. stations. In August, Cubans watched exiles dancing on Calle
Ocho streets at news of Fidel Castro's sickness. Days later, the government began a crackdown.
The Direct TV signal also carries Azteca América, a channel that broadcasts one hour a day of TV Martí.
Critics have blasted the Office of Cuba Broadcasting for years, saying it spends millions of dollars
broadcasting shows nobody watches, because the Cuban government easily jams its nonsatellite signals.
The December move to air the programs on Direct TV was aimed at broadening the audience and skirting
''I would compare this to Iran, where our satellite TV is quite popular and eventually has led in the past six
months to a series of crackdowns on people with satellites, although it's always been illegal,'' said Larry
Hart, spokesman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees TV Martí. ``They seem to
crack down when they get word that too many people are getting the news.''
26. Castro's Brother Says Leader Recovering
Source: Associated Press 02/10/2007
By Anita Snow
Fidel Castro's older brother Ramon said Friday the ailing Cuban leader is recovering well from surgery
six months ago, joining his other brother Raul in a growing number of upbeat assessments.
"He is doing very well, protected by the socialist saints!" a beaming 82-year-old Ramon said after lunch
with Florida cattleman John Parke Wright, a good friend and frequent visitor to the island.
"Fidel is recovering well," added Ramon, who looks remarkably like Fidel - down to the now-wispy white
beard. "All of us brothers are very resilient."
Ramon spent his life in agriculture and ranching and never held any major government positions.
Ramon Castro's positive assessment came one day after his 75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister
and acting president, told reporters of 80-year-old Fidel: "He's getting better each day."
He also said Fidel was exercising in brief comments to the news media at the opening of an international
book fair. "He has a telephone at his side and uses it a lot."
Reporters had less luck earlier Friday getting a statement about Fidel's health from his son, Fidel Castro
Diaz-Balart - known as "Fidelito" - who spoke at an international economics conference in Havana. He
briefly greeted reporters and did not discuss his father before leaving.
Fidel's health condition and his exact ailment are state secrets.
The rebel leader stunned the nation on July 31 when he announced he had undergone intestinal surgery
and was provisionally ceding power to Raul - long his constitutionally designated successor.
Cuban officials have denied past U.S. government reports that Fidel was suffering from cancer. A Spanish
newspaper reported last month that the leader had diverticular disease, a weakening of the walls of the
colon common in older people, and was in "grave" condition.
Evidently seeking to knock down pessimistic reports about Fidel's health, the communist government on
Jan. 30 released a new video of the leader that showed him looking as if he had gained strength and
In the video, Fidel at one point was seen standing on his own during a visit by good friend and political
ally President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Fidel had looked far more gaunt and pale in a video released by the government in late October.
In recent days, Chavez and some Cuban officials have made encouraging assessments about Fidel's
health. Venezuela's ambassador to Cuba Ali Rodriguez Araque said earlier Thursday that Castro had
resumed eating after a long period of being unable to ingest solid foods.
27. Raul Says Fidel "Getting Better By The Day"
Source: EFE 02/09/2007
Havana, Feb 9 (EFE).- Fidel Castro's brother Raul, who has been running Cuba since the long-ruling
"comandante" underwent major intestinal surgery last summer, said his 80-year-old sibling is getting
better by the day and continues to play a leadership role.
"He is consulted about everything," Raul, the 75-year-old defense minister and provisional president, told
reporters here Thursday evening after taking part in a book fair.
"Fidel is getting better by the day, is doing a lot of exercise, has a telephone by his side, is up to date on
all the most important matters," said Raul.
"He uses his phone a lot. And luckily he doesn't call me but rather calls Lage (Vice President Carlos), he
calls Felipe (Perez Roque, foreign minister)," said Raul jokingly.
The comments came just over a week after Cuban state TV - the only television permitted on the
Communist-ruled island - broadcast images Jan. 30 of an encounter the previous day between Fidel and
visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Castro, who has not been seen in public since last July and whose condition is a state secret, appeared thin
but slightly more robust than in images broadcast in October.
Most of what is published or broadcast about Castro's condition is speculation.
Last month the Spanish daily El Pais reported that unwillingness to wear a colostomy bag led Fidel to opt
for a surgical procedure that resulted in complications which have kept him hospitalized.
Castro chose to avoid a colostomy due to the inconvenience of having to use a plastic bag to collect fecal
matter, the paper said, citing unnamed officials at Madrid's Gregorio Marañon Hospital, the professional
home of a noted surgeon who traveled in December to Cuba to examine Fidel and advise on his treatment.
El Pais said Castro was diagnosed last summer with diverticulitis, a condition involving inflammation of
the intestinal walls and internal bleeding.
In serious cases, the normal procedure is to perform a colostomy, a course of action that Castro and those
closest to him rejected due to the perceived inconvenience.
They preferred for the surgeon, after part of the large intestine had been removed, to connect the colon to
the rectum. But that operation failed because "the infection caused the connection to break, which allowed
feces into the abdomen, which caused a new peritonitis," according to the newspaper.
The 48-year-old Castro regime has not provided a diagnosis or prognosis for its maximum leader.
Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, head of surgery at Marañon Hospital, said after traveling to Cuba in December
that Fidel does not have cancer nor any other "malignant illness."
He said Castro was continuing to recover from a series of post-operative problems arising from the
original late-July surgery to stop intestinal bleeding.
The Cuban leader's post-operative difficulties were in a phase of "slow, but progressive, resolution," the
Spanish surgeon said Dec. 26.
Following the January articles in El Pais, Garcia Sabrido said the only reliable information about Castro's
health is what "comes from his medical team, and the rest are rumors, inaccuracies and things that are
Meanwhile, Venezuelan Ambassador to Cuba Ali Rodriguez said Thursday that Fidel's health is "getting
"One of the problems was that, before, he could not ingest solid food. But now he is, and that is
improving things significantly," he said in an interview with Venezuelan state television.
28. Venezuelan Reports Of Clandestine Meetings On Border Controversy Untrue - Dr Odeen
Source: Stabroek News 02/11/2007
By Miranda La Rose
Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela Dr Odeen Ishmael has dismissed as "totally untrue" an allegation in
the Venezuelan media he had been summoned by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry to a meeting
following the publication of an interview and an opinion piece, or that he had been involved in clandestine
negotiations with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy.
Meanwhile, a Venezuelan historian has said President Hugo Chávez's Petrocaribe initiative could be
interpreted as representing political cooperation with Guyana, "which if well handled diplomatically will
allow the country [Venezuela] to obtain part of the area in dispute."
Asked if he had been called to meet with Venezuela's Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicolas Maduro after he
had told this newspaper on January 28 he found hope in the statement by a Communist ally of President
Hugo Chávez that the Venezuelan claim to Esequibo should be dropped, Ishmael said that there was
"absolutely no truth" that he had been summoned to the ministry on the issue.
The Venezuelan daily El Nacional of February 6 reported that he had been summoned to a meeting with
Minister Maduro, while El Universal of February 8 reported that Dr Ishmael had been having
"clandestine" meetings with the Venezuelan government.
Ishmael said that he was astounded to read the report about "clandestine" meetings, more especially since
the paper had not checked with him on the matter. He told Stabroek News yesterday from Caracas,
Venezuela, that there were a number of matters to attend to in the course of his duties which required his
presence at the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Those he cited included the shooting of a
Guyanese citizen by the Venezuelan military in Guyanese territory, as well as following up on the
objectives of the Joint Guyana/Venezuela Commission.
El Universal on February 8 reported that members of the Venezuelan non-governmental organization, the
Democratic Parliamentarian Forum in a communiqué had rejected the biased use of the National Armed
Forces under the Hugo Chávez government, and that "while Generals worship the personality of the
ruling caudillo, they remain silent in the face of the Guyana Government's public petition that Venezuela
waives its historic and legitimate reclamation over the Esequibo territory."
The newspaper went on to say that, "Under democratic governments, this subject matter was in the
spotlight of analysis by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now, however, they remain inexplicably silent vis-Ã -vis
a clandestine meeting with Guyana's Ambassador. Therefore, we have well-founded suspicions that there
are plans to waive our rights over such territory."
Ishmael said that the newspaper might have based its report on the opinion of Chávez ally, Jeronimo
Carerra, Chairman of the Communist Party of Venezuela, who in the weekly La Razon on September 3,
2006, had said that Venezuela formed part of strong imperialist pressures against Guyana in the early
1960s and with the current government being strongly anti-imperialist, "It is my firm opinion that a
decisive step of the present Bolivarian foreign policy sponsored by President Hugo Chavez would be to
eliminate decisively that absurd [Esequibo] claim."
Carrera had added that, "Such an action would free us of a ghost and open the door to a real and beneficial
approach to the entire English-speaking Caribbean region." The Guyanese ambassador had quoted Carrera
in his interview with this newspaper on January 28, and in an opinion piece written for Venezuelanalysis.
Ishmael said that, "While views are now openly expressed in Venezuela that the border claim should
come to an end, officially the Venezuela government continues to assert the claim to western Esequibo."
The Venezuelan authorities had never indicated they were considering withdrawing the claim, he said.
Nevertheless, now that Chávez was talking about socialism and anti-imperialism, "we believe that [he]
can correct the situation," since "our position is that twenty-first century socialism is incompatible with
Meanwhile, Saúl Ortega, Chairman of the Commission on Foreign Policy in the Venezuelan National
Assembly was reported in the February 5 edition of El Nacional as saying that, "The possibility of
Venezuela surrendering the Esequibo to Guyana is not being put forward, because it [Venezuela] will not
cede its legitimate rights and exercises them through diplomatic means."
Ortega said that the Venezuela and Guyana governments had discussed the issue, but the Commission on
Foreign Policy was unaware of the substance of the bilateral discussions. He emphasized that Guyana-
Venezuela relations had improved in recent years, observing, "In the past some tried to stir up conflicts
and create unrest between two brother nations. For this reason we are interested in, and are obligated to
march together for the general interest of our nations."
The daily said Ortega considered the territorial claim an inheritance of the colonialist powers: "This
situation is a heritage of the pillaging by the [colonial] powers in Latin America, which, in the course of
time has been shaded by the interests of the colonialists in order to create dissension, division and so
continue dominating our nations."
El Nacional also reported Head of the Postgraduate Department of History in Andres Bello Catholic
University, Manuel Donis Rios, as expressing the view that Guyana was attempting to muddy the waters
by mixing the historic claim to the Esequibo territory with the very diffuse proposal of twenty-first
century socialism. Donis said that the ideological position of the governments was an external factor to
the territorial integrity of the country and could only be settled when a consensus position had been
arrived at between the parties, or where Venezuela had officially withdrawn from the Geneva Accord.
He also contended that the Petrocaribe agreements could be interpreted as "an initiative for political
cooperation," and provided they were handled carefully could allow Venezuela "to obtain part of the area
[ie Esequibo] in dispute."
The Guyanese diplomat was reported by the paper as observing that the definition of marine and
submarine rights on the Esequibo Coast presented a new opportunity to reach agreement on concessions
between the countries; however, the Venezuelan historian thought that Guyana was maintaining a
consistent position for which it aimed to establish limits favourable to its interests and could deny
Venezuela access to the Atlantic.
Donis felt too that Venezuela should not allow the issue to drag out and should reiterate its commitment
to the Geneva Accord and encourage the General Secretariat of the United Nations to designate a new
Good Officer as soon as possible. Oliver Jackman, the former Good Officer from Barbados, died on
29. U.N. Pushes Deeper Into Haitian Slum
Source: Associated Press 02/11/2007
By Stevenson Jacobs
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - On the dusty streets of Haiti's largest slum, young men in baggy clothes
lounge outside bullet-pocked shacks, listening for the rumble of armored vehicles carrying U.N.
In the seaside slum of Cite Soleil, those are the sounds that precede gun battles and bloodshed, sending
the youths and everyone else scurrying for cover.
Frustrated by unrelenting kidnappings for ransom, killings and other crime, the United Nations is taking
on the powerful gangs that have flourished in the chaos following the ouster of former President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
The raids have the blessing of current President Rene Preval, who angrily warned gangs to "disarm or die"
Most U.N. peacekeeping forces usually deploy only after the guns have fallen silent, but the Haiti mission
goes on the offensive almost every day. Sent in more than two years ago, the 9,000-strong force is now
pushing ever deeper into Cite Soleil, and holding its ground with bases and checkpoints.
Haiti's ruling class welcomes them, and the veto-wielding governments on the U.N. Security Council are
united in wanting to see an end to the Caribbean country's nearly two decades of political upheaval.
"It's a new experience in U.N. peacekeeping," said David Wimhurst, a spokesman for the U.N. mission.
"It hasn't been easy, but we're making headway."
The crackdown has led to the killing or capture of several alleged gangsters. Critics say it has also taken
innocent lives in Cite Soleil, where 300,000 people scrape out a meager existence on streets lined with
ditches of raw sewage.
In a major operation Friday, more than 700 U.N. troops stormed Cite Soleil to seize a large swath of the
slum from gang control. A firefight lasting several hours left two soldiers injured and at least one
suspected gang member dead.
"We're encircling them. It's like a medieval siege, just trying to put pressure on them," Edmond Mulet, the
U.N. special envoy to Haiti, told reporters at U.N. headquarters on Jan. 29.
Mulet said the force takes fire "every day" and called gang leaders "psychopaths" who wantonly kidnap
and kill law-abiding Haitians.
Alix Fils-Aime, a top security adviser to Preval, said the gangs win favor in Cite Soleil in part by sharing
their loot with the poor. Robert Argant, president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, says: "These
guys are using the money they steal from people to get others around them to support them."
The gang members insist they are soldiers fighting for equality in a country where about 80 percent of
people live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.
"They call us gangsters, but everyone in this world is a gangster. When you're hungry, you're mad. When
you're thirsty, you're mad. When somebody is against you, you have to be mad," said a gang member,
who identified himself only as "Yamoska."
Preval, overwhelmingly elected a year ago, has sent emissaries to the gangs to negotiate a peaceful
disarmament, while at the same time deploying the national police to Cite Soleil for the first time since
The government also encourages the gangs to trade their weapons for job training and economic aid, but
that effort has only disarmed about 100 men and recovered a small pile of rusty, antiquated guns.
The gang members are no strangers to struggle. After Haiti's now-disbanded army toppled Aristide in a
1991 coup, paramilitary death squads sprayed Aristide's slum strongholds with gunfire, killing an untold
number of people. Some of today's gang members were orphaned by the killings, which eased in 1994
when U.S. troops restored Aristide.
Committed to maintaining support in the slums, Aristide sent the gangs money, food and - by many
accounts - weapons. Many gang members remain loyal to him today and say the U.N. is allied with their
enemies. Several told The Associated Press that they want to lay down their arms but fear being
vulnerable to U.N. raids.
The latest U.N. offensive began late last year, prompted by a string of bold, daylight kidnappings. Many
victims were schoolchildren snatched off the street. One teenager was murdered by her captors after her
family failed to come up with a ransom. She had been shot in both eyes.
On Dec. 22, peacekeepers stormed Cite Soleil to break up a kidnap gang. When fighting ended five hours
later, at least six people were dead and an unknown number wounded, the U.N. said.
The U.N. force said only gang members died, citing information from informants. But people in Cite
Soleil said at least 10 people were killed and none were gang members. They gathered the bodies in an
empty schoolhouse and demanded justice as female relatives sobbed.
"People have been killed, houses have been burned and lives have been destroyed. We want an
investigation," said Webster Maurice, a Cite Soleil activist.
U.N. officials say peacekeepers try to avoid harming bystanders.
In most of the U.N.'s 15 peacekeeping missions around the world, international troops are used mainly as
police to maintain order in post-conflict countries. Peacekeepers have clashed with militants in Congo and
Sierra Leone, but only in Haiti do they routinely take on armed street gangs, the U.N.'s Wimhurst said.
"We normally deal with rebel groups or armed factions who have leaders and have agreed to disarm or
enter into a political agreement. Here, none of that is true. They're just a bunch of gangs who fight us," he
Fifteen foreign soldiers and police have died, including several killed in clashes with gangs.
In most raids, blue-helmeted peacekeepers enter the slums in armored cars and on foot to secure gang-
controlled neighborhoods, arrest criminals and recover weapons. They may fire only if attacked.
Few in Haiti believe Cite Soleil will calm down unless its staggering poverty is addressed.
The United States recently announced a $20 million grant to create jobs and provide other aid, and foreign
donors are helping to improve the ill-equipped police force. But the country still only has about 6,000
police - an eighth of what it is thought to need.
30. U.N. Peacekeepers Raid Slum In Haiti
Source: Washington Post 02/10/2007
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 9 -- U.N. troops fought a block-by-block gun battle with gangs in one of
this capital's notorious slums Friday, in the force's largest offensive since being deployed here in 2004.
At least two U.N. soldiers and six gang members were injured in heavy fighting that sent the loud clap of
automatic weapons fire into the air above Cite Soleil, where poverty is rampant and canals serve as open
sewers. By late afternoon, the 700-member U.N. force had seized control of a large section of the slum
but failed to capture the main target of the raid, a powerful gang boss known as "Evens."
Evens is said to run a kidnapping and extortion empire in Cite Soleil. U.N. officials suspect him of being
a cannibal and say he earned the nickname "Little Knife" because he carves the bodies of his victims,
according to Edmond Mulet, head of the U.N. mission in Haiti. Mulet said Evens is also suspected of
killing cats in ritualized voodoo ceremonies because he considers them bad luck.
"He's a psychopath," Mulet said in an interview Friday at the heavily guarded Hotel Christopher, which
now serves as U.N. headquarters in Port-au-Prince.
U.N. troops spent much of Friday trying to corner Evens in the twisting streets of Cite Soleil, where he
and other gang leaders are known both for terrorizing residents and for doling out the social services that
Haiti's barely functioning government cannot provide. U.N. troops monitored Evens's calls on multiple
cellphones, cutting off service each time they intercepted a call in hopes of isolating him.
At times it appeared that Evens was trying to talk his way out. In the afternoon, a man believed to be
Evens was on a Port-au-Prince radio station offering to give up his weapons. He also attempted to reach
authorities but was given only two options: "Surrender or surrender," Mulet said.
"I don't want to kill him," the U.N. mission chief added. "I just want him to give up, surrender and face
Haiti has a notoriously corrupt and dysfunctional justice system. But Mulet said a special team of
prosecutors and judges has been identified by the year-old administration of President René Préval to
handle high-profile cases. Préval was elected in February 2006 after foreign diplomats negotiated a
settlement to avert a runoff and end days of protest. Préval replaced the interim government that struggled
to rule Haiti after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was toppled in 2004 and flown into exile on a U.S.
U.N. forces provide much of the law enforcement for the country, and oversee elections and many basic
services. The United Nations maintains a 9,000-member force made up of troops and police from 13
countries, with the largest contributions from Brazil and Uruguay.
After initially trying to negotiate with gang members, Préval has agreed to support an expanded military
force. The United Nations has conducted a series of raids since mid-December, when a sharp increase in
kidnappings sent panic through Port-au-Prince.
The threat of kidnapping is a daily concern for both poor and wealthy Haitians. On Friday, a Haitian
American missionary, Nathan Jean-Dieudonne, was released five days after being kidnapped in Croix-de-
Bouquets, a town outside Port-au-Prince.
U.N. officials believe Evens primarily finances his criminal organization with ransoms, which can range
from $50 for a street vendor to tens of thousands of dollars for working professionals. Gang leaders also
frequently force workers to turn over a portion of their earnings. In return, gangs dole out food and money
to cement support from the poor.
As U.N. troops sealed off entrances to Cite Soleil on Friday, residents clustered on the outskirts, waiting
hours to return to their homes. Soldiers searched women leaving the slums with baskets of fruit balanced
on their heads. Some residents applauded the raid; others, stoked by radio commentators who want the
U.N. force out of Haiti, railed against it.
Most just wanted to get home as the operation, which began at 3 a.m., stretched into the late afternoon. As
night fell, the fighting subsided, but U.N. forces remained stationed in Cite Soleil.
Earlier in the day, Miken Gay, a 45-year-old resident of the slum, tried to escape the sun by hunching
beneath the wooden cart he and seven friends were using to haul the frame of an abandoned car that they
hoped to sell as scrap metal.
"We want the gangs out of Cite Soleil," Gay said. "But I'm tired. I've been here all day."
Just a few days ago Gay was walking down the same street, he said, with a pocket full of cash, a rare
payday of about $3 after selling a stack of scavenged metal. A gang member he knew greeted him by
leveling a revolver at his head.
The man with the gun didn't have to say a word. Gay handed over the money and walked away.
31. U.N. Peacekeepers Fight Gangs In Haiti, One Street At A Time
Source: New York Times 02/10/2007
By Marc Lacey
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 5 - For years, street gangs have run Haiti right alongside the politicians.
With a disbanded army and a corrupted wreck of a police force, successive presidents have either used the
gangs against political rivals or just bought them off.
Recently, something extraordinary has occurred. President René Préval decided to take on the gangs and
set the 8,000 United Nations peacekeepers loose on them, a risky move that will determine the security of
the country and the success of his young government.
"We're taking back Port-au-Prince centimeter by centimeter," said Lt. Col. Abdesslam Elamarti, a
peacekeeper from Morocco. "We're pressing these gangs so the population can live in peace."
The offensive by the United Nations forces, who arrived here in 2004 after the ouster of President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide, began in earnest in late December. One of the fiercest battles took place on the morning
of Jan. 25 with a raid by hundreds of United Nations forces on a gang hide-out on the periphery of Cité
Soleil, this sprawling seaside capital's largest and most notorious slum.
After a fierce firefight in which gang members fired thousands of shots, United Nations officials
succeeded in taking over the hide-out, a former schoolhouse that gang members had once used to fire
upon peacekeepers and to demand money from passing motorists. The United Nations said four gang
members had been killed in the battle.
Other raids have followed, and though it is still too early to judge the operation, gang leaders seem to be
on the run, and armored United Nations vehicles now rumble through the crowded streets of Cité Soleil.
[Some 700 United Nations peacekeepers raided strongholds in Cité Soleil before dawn on Friday trying to
take control of abandoned buildings used by gang members. One person was killed and several others
wounded, including two peacekeepers, United Nations officials said.
["There will be no tolerance for the kidnappings, harassment and terror carried out by criminal gangs,"
Maj. Gen. Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, the commander of the United Nations forces, said in a
statement on Friday. "I will continue to cleanse these areas of the gangs who are robbing the Haitian
people of their security."]
The biggest of the United Nations operations have been aimed at one of the most wanted and feared of all
the gang leaders, an unlikely and unpredictable power broker in his 20s who goes simply by the name
Evans. Evans and his groups have been linked to a rash of kidnappings in the capital, and lately his men
have been locked in fierce battles with United Nations peacekeepers.
Within the confines of Cité Soleil, Evans's every whim is enforced with absolute authority. Deeply
superstitious, he recently said he suspected cats of bringing him bad luck after one appeared during a raid
by United Nations troops on one of his hide-outs, local residents and United Nations officials said.
So he issued an order that all cats were to be killed in his patch of the slum. His gunmen would be
rounding them up and roasting them, he told the people. When one woman resisted, he or one of his men
shot her, United Nations officials say.
Evans and the other leaders now hide in the maze of tin-roofed shanties that are home to some 300,000 of
Haiti's urban poor. Meanwhile, the local population debates which is a more effective strategy for dealing
with these young toughs, confronting or conversing with them.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has a long tradition of politics mixed with
thuggery. In the 1970s and '80s, François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude employed the Tontons
Macoute, dreaded paramilitary hoodlums.
Mr. Aristide was elected president in 1990 and again in 2000 with the support of the poor. Gang leaders,
who act as de facto spokesmen for long-neglected slums, gained entry to the presidential palace and
helped dole out jobs and other spoils to their men.
In his initial months in office, Mr. Préval, who had been Mr. Aristide's prime minister as well as president
from 1996 to 2001, followed a similarly conciliatory tack. He negotiated with gang leaders, including
Evans, inviting them at times to face-to-face meetings in the presidential palace, officials say.
But he has grown increasingly impatient with the gangs as they resisted surrendering their guns and
continued wreaking havoc on Port-au-Prince.
The kidnapping spree at the end of last year was the last straw. As the country prepared for Christmas,
street thugs began grabbing people off the street, taking them into the slums and demanding ransoms.
Then the kidnappers began singling out children. In one horrible episode, a teenage girl was killed and her
eyes were gouged out. Then, a school bus of children was seized by gunmen, prompting many terrified
parents to keep their children hidden at home.
Mr. Préval, who has support among Haiti's poor as well as its elite, found his coalition government under
attack as well, with opposition politicians in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies denouncing him for
allowing the violence. The president changed course, calling off negotiations with the gangsters and
giving the United Nations the go ahead to go after them.
Some local residents say that the raids are stirring up the gangs and that innocent people are getting
caught up in the cross-fire.
David Wimhurst, the spokesman for the United Nations mission, said that the peacekeepers were careful
to single out only combatants and that gang members had themselves killed civilians and then blamed the
Not everybody agrees that confrontation is the best way of calming the slums. "The gang men can
change," insisted Meleus Jean, 45, a pastor who runs a tiny church in Cité Soleil and who was once
almost hit by a stray bullet while delivering a Sunday morning sermon. "I talk to them and I think they are
gang men because they have nothing else. Fighting them will not change them."
One of those who has been criticized in the past for dealings with gang members has been Wyclef Jean,
the Haitian-American rapper formerly of the Fugees. "The problem is much bigger than the gang leaders,"
he said in a telephone interview from New York. "I'm not saying they are not part of the problem. When
people are killing people, that's a problem. But we don't have enough conversation."
But United Nations officials say the time for talk is over.
"If one of them goes to Préval and says, 'I want to give up,' and waves a white handkerchief, that is fine,"
said Edmond Mulet, a Guatemalan diplomat in charge of the United Nations mission here. "That's the
kind of conversation we want."
At the same time, nobody believes that arresting or killing the gang leaders will be enough to calm Port-
au-Prince. The violence is linked, most say, to the dire poverty.
"The people didn't ask to be born here," said Christy Jackson, 42, headmaster of a school in Cité Soleil.
"We didn't ask to live like this."
The United States government recently set aside $20 million to create jobs for young people in Cité Soleil
once the violence is quelled. In Solino, a neighborhood where the gangsters were chased away, people are
being paid to clean garbage from a clogged drainage ditch.
Mr. Jean, the singer, has numerous social projects under way, including a program to bring giant mobile
movie screens to poor neighborhoods, which have no cinemas.
Mr. Mulet, of the United Nations, said he believed that the gang leaders were beyond rehabilitation.
"They've been killing people, kidnapping people, torturing people, raping girls," he told reporters recently
in Washington. "It is very difficult to reinsert into society someone like that. A psychiatric institution
would be the best place to place them in the future - after we arrest them."
Even if the gangsters are all rounded up, the country's justice system is ill-equipped to handle them.
Justice is bought and sold in Haiti, with both police officers and judges routinely allowing bribes to
determine guilt or innocence. Jails are packed with people awaiting trial, most languishing for years.
On top of that, more and more narcotics have begun flowing through Haiti to the United States, law
enforcement officials say. It is Haiti's weakened state that is the big attraction to narcotics traffickers,
In a recent report on Haiti's woeful law enforcement apparatus, the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit
group committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflicts, said that without urgent reform "the current
escalation of organized violence and criminality may come to threaten the state itself."
As bullets fly, everyone is under threat. One stray shot pierced the outer wall of a hospital in Cité Soleil
recently. "We don't know who shot it," said Marie Yves Noël, the chief nurse. The bullet continued on
through the maternity unit and then broke the glass of a pediatrics ward. Nobody was hit.
32. U.N. Chases Gang Chief; 1 Killed In Slum Firefight
Source: Miami Herald 02/10/2007
By Jacqueline Charles
PORT-AU-PRINCE - U.N. peacekeepers seized a chunk of Haiti's worst slum controlled by a notorious
gang leader after a lengthy firefight Friday that left at least one dead and four wounded, including two
Barbed wire and heavily armed U.N. police officers guarded several entrances into the Cité Soleil slum
late Friday after the predawn raid by several hundred of the U.N. forces.
The peacekeepers seized control of four strategic locations, including a house suspected of housing
kidnap victims, a water tower, and the center of the area known as Jamaica Base, that one of Haiti's most
notorious gang leaders, known as ''Evans,'' used as his center of operation.
Evans, one of a handful of key gang leaders that the U.N. peacekeeping forces are focused on putting out
of business, was not captured, but at least one Haitian was killed and four other persons were injured,
including two peacekeepers.
''We have not captured him. We don't believe we have killed him,'' Laurie Arellano, spokeswoman for the
U.N. peacekeeping mission, said just 2 ½ hours after the Blue Helmets finally took control of Evans'
''The objective was to secure the area. If we had killed or captured him, that would have been a big
impact. It doesn't change what we set out to do,'' Arellano added.
Arellano said Evans and his gang of supporters were terrorizing the population, using them as human
shields in firefights with authorities and extorting money from local businesses.
''By us having soldiers in Jamaica Base, they have no place to operate. There is no place for them to go
and hide,'' she added. ``You can't have security if you have gangs running sections of the town.''
By about 5 p.m. residents slowly began returning to their homes but were patted down by U.N. police
before they were allowed to walk through a tiny entrance on the road, blocked by barbed wire and trucks.
Amid the gunfire, many had ran out to a main highway nearby for safety.
''I don't know why they won't leave the population alone,'' Changlet LaFleur, 24, said about the U.N.
forces, angry at what he described as their entry into the neighborhood while firing their guns.
Both U.N. and Haitian authorities have come under criticism for their recent aggressive attacks on the
gangs, which have many of them running scared and changing locations.
But Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis told The Miami Herald Friday that the government is serious
about cracking down on the wave of kidnappings and other crime.
''Our job is to protect the population,'' he said. ``We asked them [gang members] to turn over their guns.
They started to, then afterward we saw a change in their direction. More kidnappings and killings.''
33. U.N. Peacekeepers Raid Haiti Slum
Source: Associated Press 02/09/2007
By Trent Jacobs
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers raided Haiti's largest slum Friday to
arrest gang members and seize a section of it - sparking a gunbattle that wounded at least two soldiers, the
top U.N. commander said. Witnesses said at least one man died.
More than 500 blue-helmeted troops in armored vehicles entered the seaside slum of Cite Soleil before
dawn and tried to seize several abandoned buildings that had been used by gangs to stage attacks, said
Maj. Gen. Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, the Brazilian commander of the 9,000-strong international
Dos Santos, speaking from Cite Soleil even as gunfire continued to echo through the streets, said gang
members fired thousands of rounds at peacekeepers, wounding two. Peacekeepers, including a sniper
stationed on a water tower, returned fire.
Dos Santos said he had no immediate information about casualties among gang members or civilians in
the densely populated slum of 300,000.
"We had a raid to try to arrest the criminals and recover their weapons they have inside this place," Dos
Santos told reporters.
AP journalists saw the blood-spattered body of a young man in a street. Witnesses said he was walking
through the area when he was shot. Residents moved the body inside a building.
Later, Associated Press journalists saw people from the slum use a wheelbarrow to carry out a motionless
woman bleeding from her chest. Slum residents said she was struck by a stray bullet at home.
Afterward, about 100 people from Cite Soleil protested outside the U.N. military base in the slum, waving
a white sheet and chanting "We want peace!"
"We want this fighting to stop so innocent people of Cite Soleil can stop being victims and live as human
beings," Damas Augustin, one of the protesters, said as peacekeepers put up barriers to keep them at bay.
Friday's raid was one of the biggest in months by peacekeepers, who were sent to the troubled Caribbean
country more than two years ago to quell violence in the chaotic of a 2004 revolt that toppled former
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
On Dec. 22, U.N. troops raided another part of Cite Soleil to break up a kidnapping gang. The U.N. said
six suspected gang members were killed, although slum dwellers said 10 people died and that all were
Dos Santos said most of the fighting happened in the Boston section of Cite Soleil, which is controlled by
a notorious street gang led by a shadowy figure known only as "Evens." He said peacekeepers had made
no arrests nor recovered any weapons.
Meanwhile, an American missionary kidnapped outside the Haitian capital was released Friday, U.N.
police and friends said, although there were conflicting reports about whether Nathan Jean-Dieudonne
was harmed during the ordeal.
Jean-Dieudonne, 58, a U.S. citizen of Haitian descent, was abducted Sunday while driving home from his
church in suburban Croix-des-Bouquets. It was not immediately clear if a ransom was paid.
Associated Press Writer Stevenson Jacobs contributed to this story.
34. UN Troops Storm Haiti Slum, In Gunfight With Gang
Source: Reuters 02/09/2007
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Hundreds of U.N. soldiers stormed a slum neighborhood in
Haiti's capital on Friday to try to wrest control from a criminal gang, prompting a gunfight that killed one
person and wounded several others, including two peacekeepers.
More than 700 U.N. troops from seven nations moved into the Cite Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince around 3
a.m. to arrest a feared gang leader known as Evans and take over territory occupied by his armed gang.
"The gangsters shot thousands of rounds at our troops when we entered the slum this morning," the
Brazilian U.N. troops' commander, Col. Barrosso Magno, said from the scene.
"We know that one person was killed and several others wounded."
A U.N. spokesman, Jean Jacques Simon, said two peacekeepers were slightly injured during the
operation, one from Jordan and another from Bolivia. But a U.N. military official said the Bolivian soldier
was hurt in a road accident.
The dead person was not identified.
Magno said the peacekeepers have taken over key positions held by the gangs.
U.N. peacekeepers deployed in Haiti since June 2004 and local police have been stepping up efforts to
quell criminal gangs blamed for much of Haiti's violence and kidnappings.
The raid came two hours after a kidnapped missionary was freed unharmed following payment of a
Nathan Jean Dieudonne, a U.S. missionary of Haitian origin, was abducted at gunpoint on Sunday on his
way back from church in the Croix-des-Bouquets suburb of Port-au-Prince. He was released about 1 a.m.
on Friday, said Fred Blaise, a spokesman for the U.N. police in Haiti.
"He is safe and sound and he was not physically mistreated," Blaise said.
He said Dieudonne's family paid a ransom but would not disclose the amount. Dieudonne's associates had
said the kidnappers initially demanded $500,000.
Haitian police and U.S. FBI agents participated in negotiations to secure Dieudonne's release, according
to the head of Haiti's anti-kidnapping police, Commissioner Henry Dossous.
Dieudonne, 58, runs a Protestant church known as Bethel d'Haiti. Police said he was driving with three
other people when gunmen halted the car and abducted him, then let the other passengers go.
Dieudonne had lived in the U.S. state of Virginia, where his wife is from, but the couple had mostly lived
in Haiti since the 1980s, his associates said.
35. Panama's Jailed Leader Noriega Is A 'Prisoner Of War'
Source: Bloomberg 02/09/2007
By Bill Faries
Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian leader held in a U.S. jail in Miami, is a
prisoner of war who must be returned to Panama following his release in September, the ex-dictator's
attorney Frank Rubino said.
Noriega, captured by U.S. forces in Panama following a U.S. invasion in December 1989, is wanted by
French authorities for alleged money laundering. He is due to complete a 20-year U.S. sentence on eight
drug-related charges on Sept. 9.
``General Noriega is a prisoner of war and I don't believe the U.S. has the legal authority to send him
anywhere but back to Panama,'' Rubino said. ``The Geneva Convention can't be more clear on this point.''
The legal status of Noriega, which the U.S. State and Justice Departments disagree on, could help
determine whether the former dictator can be extradited to France, where the charges against him date to a
1999 ruling by the district court of Paris. In Panama, Noriega has been convicted in abstentia of crimes
related to the murder of a political adversary, Hugo Spadafora.
``Noriega is not a prisoner of war,'' Brian Sierra, a spokesman at the U.S. Department of Justice in
Washington, wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg. ``He is a convict serving a term in U.S. federal prison on
drug trafficking and money laundering charges,'' Sierra said, adding that the department does not
comment on or confirm extradition requests from other countries.
State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus said by phone that Noriega's prisoner of war status
was confirmed by a court decision on Dec. 8, 1992.
``The Defendant Noriega is plainly a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention,'' the U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of Florida said in its ruling.
Noriega's role as both a convicted criminal and a former head of state present a challenge to existing legal
norms, said Ronald Slye, director of international and comparative law at the Seattle University School of
``I don't think the Geneva Convention contemplated a situation like this,'' said Slye, who served as the co-
editor of the 1999 book ``Deliberative Democracy and Human Rights.'' ``In that sense, this is similar to
the situation faced by the prisoners taken by the U.S. in the war on terror,'' he added.
Articles 118 and 119 of the Geneva Convention adopted in 1949 say that prisoners of war should be
repatriated following the conclusion of hostile activities or the end of their prison sentences. The
convention doesn't address what happens when a country not involved in the original conflict wants a
prisoner for a different crime, Slye said.
President George W. Bush has clashed with members of Congress and international allies over whether
the Geneva Convention applies to prisoners held at a U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and
alleged terrorists captured in military and anti-terrorist operations at home and abroad.
Then-President George H. W. Bush authorized U.S. forces to arrest Noriega during their Dec. 19, 1989
invasion of the Central American nation based on a pre-existing federal indictment. Noriega initially took
refuge in the Vatican's embassy, where he remained until surrendering on Jan. 3, 1990. He is now
imprisoned in the Federal Correctional Institute near Miami, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons says on
its Web site.
Professor Jordan Paust, a scholar of international law at the University of Houston, said Noriega's prisoner
of war status and his time served in Miami is irrelevant to the case.
``If Noriega is extraditable, it will be up to the president as a matter of discretion whether he wants to
extradite,'' Paust said. ``In international law, there's no double jeopardy, no sovereign immunity and no
statute of limitations,'' Paust added.
Noriega's release could put another prominent figure in U.S. relations with Latin American during the
1980s back in the spotlight. Daniel Ortega, who ruled Nicaragua in the 1980s and battled a U.S.-backed
insurgency group, was re-elected to the presidency in November.
``General Noriega would like to have a new trial,'' Rubino said when asked why Noriega wants to return
to Panama. ``His wife, children and grandchildren are there -- he has no ties to the U.S.,'' he added.
36. Informal Economy Proves Hard To Control
Source: Miami Herald 02/11/2007
By Tyler Bridges
LIMA - Wilmer Pinto never considered getting a business license when he installed a second-hand sewing
machine in a street doorway two years ago and began repairing clothing and shoes.
''Taxes are too high, and the paperwork keeps you from being able to work,'' Pinto said, taking a respite
from his job. ``Besides, I'd have to pay off someone to get a business license.''
Like tens of millions of Latin Americans, Pinto is a member of the informal economy. He pays no
business or sales taxes, but he also gets no paid vacations, has no health insurance, receives no labor or
consumer law protections and doesn't have access to bank credits.
Despite increasing efforts to address the problem, the International Labor Organization and the World
Bank, using slightly different measures, agree that about half of all urban workers in Latin America
operate off the books, outside of government scrutiny, for good or for bad.
Most economists say that the high level of informality discourages growth, limits investment in new
technology and encourages corruption.
William Maloney, the World Bank's lead economist for Latin America, said Chile and Uruguay have the
smallest numbers of workers in the region not covered by labor market protections -- the bank's definition
of the informal economy -- while Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru have the largest numbers.
Bolivia's informal economy is so big ''because the cost of doing anything -- getting a license or a
government authorization -- is too high,'' said former Finance Minister Juan Cariaga. ``It's why Bolivia is
one of the most corrupt countries in the world -- people would rather pay $100 to someone to get
On average, setting up a business takes five days in the United States, 19 days in Panama -- the fastest in
Latin America -- 27 days in Mexico, 72 days in Peru and 152 days in Brazil, according to the World Bank
study, ``Doing Business.''
In a region without unemployment insurance or food stamps, workers in the informal economy are not
considered unemployed -- they have to do something to put food on the table -- but they are commonly
underemployed, performing jobs that require little skill or training.
So they hawk trinkets at busy intersections, sell vegetables from makeshift food stands, guard vehicles
parked outside of restaurants for a few pennies and stand on sidewalks offering their services as
electricians or plumbers.
Many of them left Latin America's poor rural areas, hoping to earn more money in the teeming cities.
Peru has taken stabs at bringing more businesses under government purview.
In 2005, then-Labor Minister Juan Sheput sought to reduce the high costs of Peruvian businesses. Under
the law he tried to change, workers receive a month of vacation after being on the job only a year, and
when they leave their jobs, they receive a month's wage for every year of employment.
While this may sound good for workers, Sheput argued that it had the opposite effect. Losing so much
productivity from vacationing workers and having to pay a big bill when laying off employees
discourages companies from expanding their workforce, or at least putting the workers on the books and
making them eligible for vacations, overtime and health benefits.
''If it's easier to fire someone, it's easier to hire someone,'' Sheput said.
But when Sheput pushed a measure that would reduce vacation time for new workers and limit payments
to departing workers, powerful leftist labor unions and their allies in Congress torpedoed it for being
''The union aristocracy defends the small percentage of workers who have work in the formal sector,''
Sheput said, ``and they forget the millions of Peruvians in the informal sector.''
Numbers gathered by the Peruvian Economic Institute seem to buttress Sheput's point.
Of the 13 million Peruvians of working age, 2.3 million work in the private sector formal economy, 1
million work in the public sector formal economy and nearly 10 million work in the informal economy.
Fritz Du Bois, president of the institute, noted that a proposal currently before congress would give even
more lucrative severance payments -- only to the 2.3 million workers in the private sector formal
Pointing to Peru's booming economy, Du Bois asked, ``Shouldn't we use these exceptional circumstances
to invest in changing things that make us more competitive, like less red tape, labor rigidity and high
Du Bois said that was especially important as Peru attempts to capitalize on growing export opportunities.
Larger, formal companies account for nearly all of Peru's exports.
The World Bank's Maloney said the informal economy offers some advantages.
He said many small-business owners in the informal sector believe that being their own boss, escaping
taxes and avoiding government regulations outweigh the benefits of working for larger companies in the
formal economy that provide steady paychecks and the right to challenge an unfair firing.
Pinto prefers to be informal, even though he earns only $10 to $13 per day on average and works six days
a week. ''I may have to work 20 hours some days,'' he said, ``but I get to keep all the money.''
37. Fujimori Nearly Chokes To Death In His Chile Home
As Extradition Against Former Peruvian Strongman Advances
Source: El Merucurio, La Republica (Peru) 02/10/2007
By Benjamin Witte
(February 10, 2007) Infamous Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, long accused of gross human rights
violations committed during his 17-year military regime (1973-1990), died this past December 10 before
ever being convicted in a court of law (ST, Dec. 11, 2006).
It now appears that Chile’s other resident strongman, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori –
currently in the country awaiting possible extradition to Peru for alleged human rights abuses – came very
close to passing away under similar legal circumstances.
Last November, according to news reports, the 68-year-old ex president was lunching alone in his Las
Condes residence when he suddenly began choking on a piece of meat. Fujimori survived the incident
thanks to the quick application of the Hemilich maneuver by one of the Carabineros (uniformed Chilean
police officers) on site to guard the ex leader’s home.
Fujimori managed to keep the incident top secret until this week, when the Lima-based newspaper El
Comercio broke the story. Santiago hospital officials, the El Comercio article claims, confirmed the
The story broke, coincidentally, just as the seemingly stagnant extradition case against Fujimori seems to
have finally regained a bit of momentum. On Tuesday, Peru’s prosecution team handed the Chilean
Supreme Court its final report in support of extradition. The nearly 500-page document, according to top
Peruvian legal representative Alfredo Etcheberry, “proves” Fujimori’s guilt.
“The excuse that’s he’s given, that he was in some kind of bubble and was completely ignorant of what
his collaborators were doing, is implausible,” Etcheberry told reporters. “Fujimori was, little by little,
concentrating political power. He dissolved the Congress, meddled with the judiciary, placed the National
Intelligence Service – in which Vladimiro Montesinos operated – under his control, and enjoyed the full
backing of the then heads of the armed forces."
Fujimori governed Peru from 1990 to 2000 before internal pressures forced his flight to Japan, where he
famously tendered his resignation via fax. He remained in Japan for five years, taking advantage of his
Japanese citizenship – something he inherited from his parents, both Japanese immigrants to Peru – to
protect himself not only from requests that he be extradited to Peru, but also from two separate
international arrest warrants.
Then, on Nov. 6, 2005, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Fujimori flew to Chile, where, once his
presence became known, police detained him (ST, Nov. 7-8, 2005). The ex president has been in legal
limbo ever since.
Peruvian authorities originally asked that Fujimori, who’s been indicted on various charges in his native
Peru, be surrendered to them. Chile, however, opted to place the decision in the hands of its Supreme
Court, following protocol set by a 1932 extradition treaty between the two countries. As stipulated in the
treaty, the Court will make its eventual decision based on whether there is sufficient evidence against
Fujimori – not necessarily to convict, but enough to justify (from a Chilean legal perspective) the
indictments against him. In other words, Peruvian prosecutors, in presenting their case, must show that the
crimes for which Fujimori has been charged in Peru are equally serious crimes in Chile.
Those crimes, according to prosecutors, include 10 counts of corruption and two counts of human rights
violations. Prosecutors have suggested, among other things that Fujimori had direct knowledge of and
may have even ordered anti-subversion operations carried out by the so-called Colina Group. An
infamous death squad, the Colina Group is thought to be responsible for at least two massacres: one in
1991 in the Barrios Altos neighborhood of Lima, the other in 1992 at the University of La Cantuta.
Twenty-five people, including a small child and a professor, were murdered in the two massacres (ST,
Dec. 22, 2005).
During the months it was expected to take for the Court to reach a decision, Fujimori was to remain in
police custody, in a Santiago jail cell. The extradition case, however, has dragged on far longer than
originally expected and, last May, with no ruling on the foreseeable horizon, a panel of Court judges
voted to release Fujimori pending trial (ST, May 19, 2006). After making his bail payment of less than
US$3,000, Peru’s one-time leader then took up residence in Santiago’s upscale Las Condes
neighborhood. He’s since been spotted traveling around the country, on fishing trips and playing golf.
He also had a chance this past year to marry for the second time – to a 39-year-old Japanese
businesswoman named Satomi Kataoka. At the time of the wedding, Fujimori issued a statement calling it
“the happiest day of his life.”
More recently, however, legal pressure appears once again to be mounting against the former president.
Last November, a Peruvian judge issued a new international warrant for Fujimori’s arrest, this time in
relation to a 1992 prison massacre known as the Castro Castro case.
On May 6, 1992, Peruvian government forces launched an all out assault on the Miguel Castro Castro
high-security prison in Lima. The attack, using planes, heavy artillery, grenades and machine guns, lasted
three days and left 42 prisoners dead, approximately 200 wounded. The Fujimori government justified the
violence as an attempt to quell a prison riot. Evidence that emerged later, however, revealed that most of
the victims were shot in the head, apparently executed.
The Castro Castro case was also examined recently by the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Human
Rights Court (IAHRC). Late last December the IAHRC ruled against the Peruvian government, ordering
it to apologize for the 1992 massacre and pay reparations to families of victims.
Prosecutors have not cited the Castro Castro case in arguing for Fujimori’s extradition.
However, in the final report they submitted this week, Etcheberry and his team did include information
about past IAHRC rulings on both the Cantuta and Barrios Altos killings.
The report also included resolutions reached by two separate groups of legal experts – one from
Switzerland, the other from the United States. Both groups recommended that Fujimori should by tried in
The ex president’s defense team now has 20 days to file its own concluding document.
At that point Chilean public prosecutors will have their own opportunity to evaluate the evidence for and
against Fujimori’s extradition.
Judge Álvarez is expected to issue a final verdict some time later this year, maybe by September.
Regardless of how the judge rules, there is general concern among Fujimori’s opponents that he is
unlikely to ever face criminal trial.
One possibility is that Fujimori could again seek refuge in Japan. And even if he does eventually return to
Peru, it unclear exactly what type of legal pressure he would face there.
Certainly Peru’s political situation has changed greatly the past year-and-a-half. In late 2005, when
Fujimori first arrived in Chile, Peru was still led by the man who’d replaced him, Alejandro Toledo (2001
to 2006), a fierce critic of the exiled former leader. Toledo’s term in office, however, has since come to an
end. The country is now headed by Alan García who, during a pervious stint as Peru’s president (1985 to
1990), directed a government alleged to have committed its own human rights violations.
TURKS & CAICOS
38. Ruling Party In Turks-Caicos Rules At Ballot Box
Source: Miami Herald 02/11/2007
By David McFadden
SAN JUAN - The Turks and Caicos Islands' ruling party has captured all but two of 15 seats in
parliamentary elections after a bitter campaign against the British territory's opposition, which alleged
widespread corruption by governing officials.
The Progressive National Party, under the leadership of Premier Michael Misick, emerged victorious in
Friday's general elections, capturing 13 of 15 electoral seats, the British Caribbean territory's government
announced Saturday after tallying votes.
Misick, who led the party to victory in 2003 after eight years in the opposition, will become premier for
his second term since the chief of the victorious party automatically becomes the islands' leader.
The ruling party, which touted vibrant economic growth under its leadership, captured all of the seats in
fast-growing Providenciales, Middle Caicos, South Caicos and North Caicos islands.
It split the four seats in the capital of Grand Turk with the People's Democratic Movement, the only
opposition party in the Turks and Caicos Islands, an eight-island dependency located between Haiti and
the Bahamas and about 600 miles southeast of Miami.
The opposition, led by party chief Floyd Seymour, alleged that wealthy expatriates were buying land in
backroom deals with Misick's government. They also maintained the economy is languishing and that the
lack of good jobs was forcing young people to leave the islands.
Nearly half of the territory's roughly 35,000 residents are foreigners -- including expatriates from Canada
and the United States, and thousands of poorer Haitians, Jamaicans and Dominicans. Native islanders
have long maintained they are given short shrift with jobs and resources.
The islands' primary industries are tourism, offshore banking and fishing.
As a British territory, the islands have a governor appointed by the British government who heads an
Executive Council of both elected and appointed representatives. The islands are largely self-governing
but defer to Britain in issues of defense, security and foreign affairs.
39. Venezuela A Hot Spot For Drug Trafficking
Venezuela's outgoing drug czar is included in a large dossier connecting high-level officials in the
country with drug trafficking.
Source: Miami Herald 02/12/2007
By Gerardo Reyes and Steven Dudley
CARACAS - A Boeing DC-9 can carry as many as 90 passengers or, as one recent drug case showed,
about 128 suitcases of cocaine.
Last April, Mexican authorities seized 5.1 tons of cocaine aboard a DC-9 coming from Venezuela. The
traffickers had removed the seats in the airplane and packed the drugs in identical suitcases that somehow
got past security at Caracas' principal airport, Maiquetía.
The case was a watershed, illustrating the brazen attitude with which drug traffickers seemed to be
operating in Venezuela and apparent cover they could expect from high-level Venezuelan government
Following the bust, officials from three governments who were tracking the shipment, said the traffickers
loaded the suitcases at Maiquetía. But Venezuela's then-drug czar Luis Correa claimed the cocaine had
been loaded in the northern Colombian city of Barranquilla. When confronted directly with more
evidence -- flight path, fuel used by the aircraft, time of the flight -- by other officials, Correa held his
The Venezuelan government announced last week that Correa had been removed as head of the National
Antidrug Office, but gave no reason, and there is no official investigation into his strange declarations.
The DC-9 case nevertheless remains part of a growing dossier on high-level Venezuelan officials possibly
involved in an increasing amount of drug trafficking in this country.
The dossier includes mysterious escapes of wanted drug traffickers who were in Venezuelan custody,
documents seized from right-wing Colombian paramilitaries and testimony of accused drug traffickers in
Authorities from Colombia and the United States also say that top traffickers from Colombia and Haiti
have made Venezuela their home in order to avoid detection from Colombian and U.S. authorities.
The rise in drug trafficking in Venezuela has coincided with crackdowns in neighboring Colombia, part of
a $7 billion effort to fight the illegal drug industry in that country, and the rule of Venezuelan President
A former army lieutenant colonel who became president in 1999, Chávez has banned U.S. surveillance
aircraft in Venezuelan airspace and effectively ended cooperation on drug matters with Washington.
Prior to Chávez, Venezuela was a transit point; now it appears to be a sieve: Since 1999, seizures are up
four-fold, just one of many signs investigators use to measure the permissiveness of the environment for
Another measure is the size of the loads decommissioned.
One trafficker, who allegedly took part in the five-ton DC-9 deal and is now jailed in Colombia, told
Colombian authorities that the huge load was split between three organizations, including one that he
called ''the generals,'' a reference to the high-level Venezuelan officers involved in the trafficking.
The trafficker, Feris Farid Domínguez, told authorities he worked as a ``coordinator of aerial routes.''
He told El Nuevo Herald in a jailhouse interview that he had regular contacts with top-level officials in
the Venezuelan government's investigative police, National Guard, the national registry and anti-drug
office, including Correa. He added that officials issued him a Venezuelan diplomatic passport, which he
showed to El Nuevo Herald, designating him as a Finance Ministry advisor, and they provided him with
`Cartel Of The Suns'
Domínguez also had said, according to records of his declarations to Colombian investigators obtained by
El Nuevo Herald, that he had met personally with Correa and that Correa had helped coordinate drug
shipments for the so-called ''Cartel of the Suns,'' allegedly run by top Venezuelan National Guard officers.
The suns are insignia of rank worn by Venezuelan generals, as U.S. generals wear stars.
It's not clear whether Domínguez's declarations, some of which were published last month in El Nuevo
Herald, led to Correa's departure last week.
Correa has denied Domínguez's allegations, but did not grant repeated Miami Herald requests for an
The Venezuelan government has made strides in recent months to crack down on drug trafficking.
Authorities captured two high-level traffickers this year and five last year, including Domínguez, which
President Chávez himself trumpeted as a triumph of anti-drug authorities.
The Venezuelans also have begun to work more openly with foreign governments, most notably the
British and the Dutch, which are working closely on intelligence matters with a vetted 15-man
Venezuelan police unit.
''We have the impression that they are serious about [combating drug trafficking] at all levels,'' Holland's
ambassador to Venezuela, Hinkinus Nijenhuis, told The Miami Herald in an interview.
But U.S. authorities have a decidely different impression. The Venezuelan government cut relations with
the Drug Enforcement Administration last year and has yet to sign an addendum to a bilateral cooperation
agreement that establishes the guidelines for how U.S. counter-drug officials can operate in Venezuela.
Colombian authorities are also troubled.
Many large-scale drug traffickers have simply moved their operations to Venezuela, a top official at the
country's investigative police told The Miami Herald on the condition of anonymity given the sensitive
nature of relations between the nations.
The official said that police had detected an increasing amount of drugs on outgoing Venezuelan ships in
a manner that he described as ''blatant'' and ``wanton.''
In October last year, the head of a Venezuelan counter-drug unit captured, then released, Hermagoras
González Polanco, a Colombian man with a $5 million reward and an Interpol red alert attached to his
name. The Interpol report said that González, who is wanted in the United States and Colombia, told the
Venezuelans that ``he had dedicated his whole life to farming.''
Other evidence of Venezuelan officials' complicity in drug trafficking is piling up at the Colombian
attorney general's office as its investigators sift through computer files confiscated during an arrest of a
member of a right-wing paramilitary group.
Both paramilitary units and their leftist guerrilla foes have financed their fight by delving into the
profitable drug trade.
In one of the files obtained by The Miami Herald, investigators say the paramilitaries worked through a
''commander general of the National Guard.'' The file does not identify the general, but goes on to say that
the ''general'' facilitated drug trafficking through Venezuela.
40. Venezuela Struggles With Doctor Shortage
Thousands of Cuban doctors have left Venezuela, severely disrupting the country's Barrio Adentro
Source: Miami Herald 02/12/2007
By Phil Gunson - Special to the Miami Herald
CARACAS - Thousands of Cuban doctors and other medical personnel working in President Hugo
Chávez's popular health clinics in poor neighborhoods have left Venezuela, according to Cuban doctors
and Venezuelan health volunteers.
Though some 15,000 remain, the departures have forced the government to close many of the clinics,
severely disrupting the Barrio Adentro program -- Inside the Barrio -- that many say helped Chávez win a
recall referendum in 2004 and a resounding reelection Dec. 3.
''They began to remove them eight or 10 months ago,'' said Judith Aponte, coordinator of the volunteer
neighborhood health committee in the Caracas barrio of Santa Eduwigis. ``We were lucky enough to have
eight doctors. Now there are just three.''
Barrio Adentro, launched four years ago, aims to bring primary healthcare to the country's poorest
inhabitants. More than 20,000 Cuban medical personnel -- doctors, nurses, dentists and others -- have
been the backbone of the program. There are more than 8,500 such clinics nationwide,
It's not clear why the Cubans left, though some Cuban doctors still here saythose who left had fulfilled
their three-year assignments. Hard facts about the program are often elusive. Even the pro-Chávez
government ombudsman, Germán Mundaraín, complained in a December report that it was ''very difficult
to obtain up-to-date information on spending figures and health indicators'' related to the program.
''The information is managed by Cuba, not by Venezuela,'' says María Elena Rodríguez, who coordinates
health research for the independent human rights group Provea, ``When we asked for cost figures last
year, [the Venezuelan health ministry] said, `If you get that information, please send it to us!'''
The doctors' departure is not believed to be connected to the defections of several of the Cuban medical
personnel. Nearly 50 such defectors are reported to be living in Colombia while awaiting U.S. visas.
In Santa Eduwigis, just one of the original six Barrio Adentro clinics is fully manned. In rural El Junquito,
on the outskirts of the capital, eight out of 11 clinics were closed when The Miami Herald visited in
''It's because the Cubans have gone home,'' said Gisela Cabrera, one of 1,100 Venezuelan doctors slated to
replace some of the Cubans when they finish a postgraduate course in primary health care.
Venezuela is currently dependent on the Cuban assistance, which the Chávez government originally
agreed to pay for with oil exports to Havana. But in November, two opposition oil experts presented
documents they said showed that Cuba had been paid a total of $340 million last year for ''goods and
services'' supplied under the terms of the oil agreement. The Chávez government denied any such
payments were made.
Cuban doctors working on the program, speaking on condition their names be withheld, confirmed the
medical personnel had left Venezuela and said that was because three years was the maximum tour of
duty abroad for the Cubans, who began arriving here in large numbers in 2003.
According to one of them, 6,800 Cubans were withdrawn in the course of last year. ''They will be
replaced,'' she said, although she could not say when. ''You have to remember,'' said another, ``that Cuba
needs doctors, too.''
On the island, there have been scattered reports of complaints that sending so many medical personnel to
Venezuela has left many Cuban clinics understaffed.
Last year, the Cuban government said 31,000 of its doctors -- nearly half the total -- were working on
humanitarian missions abroad. Cuban Vice-president Carlos Lage said last month, on a visit to Caracas,
that ''26,800 doctors and other health workers'' were involved in Barrio Adentro.
Deputy Venezuelan Health Minister Carlos Alvarado, who is in charge of the program, would neither
confirm nor deny that 6,800 Cuban medical personnel had in fact been withdrawn but said, ''We still have
15,000.'' He declined to clarify the number.
The decline in the Barrio Adentro clinics is so evident that both the Venezuelan Medical Federation --
which always opposed the presence of Cuban doctors -- and leading Venezuelan doctors involved with
the program have spoken of their concern.
Douglas León Natera, president of the Medical Federation, recently said that 45 per cent of clinics were
not fully operational. And Adolfo Delgado, who chairs a pro-government association of primary
healthcare specialists, said there were, ``many clinics abandoned . . . a situation which affects the
Fernando Bianco, president of the doctors' association in Caracas and a longtime supporter of Barrio
Adentro, told journalists last month that the program had been ''to some extent neglected,'' as the
government concentrated on other elements of the health service and had ``great deficiencies.''
The shrinking number of Cuban medical personnel is not the only problem facing the program.
Venezuelans involved with the program say that Cuban-supplied medicines are insufficient to meet
''There are usually enough medicines for the first five days of each month,'' said Venezuelan doctor Gisela
Cabrera. ''But sometimes they all go in one day, because people get word that the medicines have arrived.''
Alvarado acknowledged there were some ''flaws'' in the distribution of medicines, but claimed that ``for
the most part, it functions adequately.''
41. Venezuela May Control Food Distribution
Source: Associated Press 02/12/2007
By Christopher Toothaker
President Hugo Chavez's government has drafted a decree allowing officials to take control of food
distribution chains, including supermarkets and storage depots, if services are interrupted, officials said
Industry and Commerce Minister Maria Cristina Iglesias said the decree would help curb supply problems
that have caused severe shortages of meats, milk and sugar in recent weeks.
Industry officials blame the shortages on price controls that oblige retailers to sell at a loss, while the
government says the fault lies with unscrupulous speculators, including supermarket owners and
distributors, who hoard food or boost prices.
The National Assembly, which is entirely controlled by a coalition of pro-Chavez parties, approved
legislation last month granting the Venezuelan leader authority to enact sweeping measures by
presidential decree as his government steers the poverty-stricken South American country toward
Chavez vowed after winning re-election in December to nationalize Venezuela's largest
telecommunications company and the electricity sector and impose greater state control over the oil and
natural gas industries as part of his socialist revolution. His critics, however, fear he is steering the
country toward communism.
Iglesias did not provide specific details of how the decree could be implemented, saying only it would
"permit, in extreme cases, the re-establishment of an essential public service" if private companies such as
supermarket chains halt operations.
Supermarkets suspended sales of beef last week after one chain was shut down for two days for pricing
meat above government-set levels. Most items can still be found, but only by paying higher prices at
grocery stores or on the black market.
Authorities have raided warehouses and confiscated tons of food - mostly beef and sugar - from vendors
unwilling to sell inventories at the official price.
Full-page government advertisements published in newspapers on Sunday showed a fake mug shot under
a banner title reading "The Hoarder Is A Criminal," and warned consumers not to purchase foods at
Shortages of items ranging from milk to coffee have occurred since early 2003, when Chavez began
regulating prices for 400 basic products as a way to counter inflation and protect the poor.
42. Inflation, Food Scarcity Roil Venezuela
Source: Los Angeles Times 02/11/2007
By Chris Kraul
CARACAS, VENEZUELA - Police swooped down last week on a grimy central market district, forced
open a warehouse and seized 7 tons of a white substance. It wasn't cocaine. The contraband was sugar,
and the seizure of at least 184 tons nationwide showed how President Hugo Chavez's efforts to remake the
economy are fraying at the edges.
The bust near the Quinta Crespo market came as double-digit inflation and scarcity have hit Venezuela's
markets. The seizures were efforts to strike at what one Chavez supporter, Carabobo Gov. Luis Felipe
Acosta, said was hoarding by "terrorist capitalists who want to destroy the country."
But economists and industry officials describe the raids as the latest in a sequence of hamhanded,
politically motivated attempts to rein in market forces beyond Chavez's control. Inflation and the
development of a huge underground market in goods including sugar were simply symptoms of
mismanagement, they say.
Venezuela is rolling in oil wealth with about $46 billion in energy sales last year, and there is little risk of
a financial crisis in the near term. Chavez in recent years has tried to transfer much of the wealth to the
poor via welfare programs including cheap or free housing, the donation of cash and government assets to
worker cooperatives and free education.
Among the most ambitious and popular programs has been the establishment of the Mercal retail chain.
Since early 2003, the network of about 14,000 retail outlets mainly in poor barrios, has sold basic
foodstuffs and household goods at discounts of 35% off standard supermarket prices.
Chavez has imposed price controls on a variety of goods, such as 29 basic food items produced in
Venezuela including beans, cooking oil, meat and chicken. He also has imported such goods as
Uruguayan pasta and Brazilian pork that are resold to the poor at greatly reduced costs, thanks to
But mismanagement, rampant corruption and scarcities have cut into Mercal's operations. At the same
time, low prices set by the government have caused manufacturers and other suppliers either to cut
production or divert output to an enormous black market.
A recent government report found that Mercal sales in November fell in volume to half that of a year
earlier and that customers were increasingly unhappy with how the stores were run and what they sold. In
January, Chavez shuffled Mercal's management, expressing dismay that huge quantities of goods were
"This can't be. We should be going forward, not backward," Chavez said in a Jan. 21 broadcast to the
The suspicion is that much of the inventory is siphoned off before the products reach the shelves, sold
either to the domestic underground market or exported as contraband to Brazil, Colombia or Caribbean
At the same time, the flood of cash washing over Venezuela from oil sales has caused demand for all
goods - watches and whiskey, detergent and SUVs - to climb, adding inflationary pressure. In the last
week, Venezuela's central bank released figures showing that inflation rose in January to an annual rate of
more than 25%, twice the national target.
A survey by researchers at the National Federation of Teachers found that basic food prices increased in
the 12-month period that ended Jan. 31.
Food prices are rising faster than the increases in minimum wages that the government pushed through
last year. The reigniting of inflation threatens the poor constituency Chavez is trying to help, economists
Scarcity of items such as sugar, beans and meat and empty supermarket shelves dominated the headlines
here last week. Meat disappeared for several days after slaughterhouses shut down, saying they couldn't
afford to process meat at the prices set by the government.
A sugar industry source said production had fallen because prices the industry received were lower than
farmers' cost of production and because the government-sponsored takeover of sugar cane plantations had
In Yaracuy, a prime sugar-producing state west of Caracas, the capital, 80% of plantations have been
taken over by farmer cooperatives, the source said.
In the poor Caracas suburb of Catia on Saturday, sugar and chicken were being rationed at a Mercal shop
for the first time in a week. "I came in the morning and waited two hours for milk. Now I'm back in line
waiting for chicken, one to a family," said Marietta Abreu, as she stood with 100 other customers.
"It's the fault of the street vendors," she said, referring to the informal merchants who sell the black-
market goods. "They're always ahead of the game."
The government is trying to retain its grip by taking measures that at times seem highly improvisational.
Justifying the seizure of the sugar Thursday, officials declared it was illegal for sugar to remain in storage
for more than three days.
The government said it would ease the meat shortage by importing beef from Bolivia before someone
pointed out that imports from Bolivia were banned because of threat of foot-and-mouth disease.
Last week, the government announced it was forming a state-run company to buy and sell meat and fish.
Previously, Caracas city officials began a crackdown on the tens of thousands of street vendors in a bid to
clean up the city and inhibit the informal market.
In the Quinta Crespo market and in the informal stalls that surround it, sugar and tuna were being sold
under the table for three times the government-mandated prices, eggs and meat for twice the prescribed
"The government wants all the power, but they can't control how we think. This is a free country," said a
street vendor who was selling black beans at twice the regulated price of 45 cents a half-kilo.
43. Venezuela's Theoretical Democracy
Source: Los Angeles Times 02/10/2007
VENEZUELA, AS ITS president, Hugo Chavez, never tires of pointing out, is still a democracy. It's just a
place where democracy is a little more nonbinding than elsewhere.
To illustrate just how democratic the country is, the 167 members of the National Assembly - all of whom
support the president because the opposition boycotted the last parliamentary election - convened
outdoors in Caracas last month, to be better seen by the throngs of red-shirted Chavistas gathered in the
square, and unanimously voted themselves into irrelevance.
The vote gave Chavez the power to make laws by decree for 18 months, with no need to even use his
Assembly's rubber stamp. Seeing as how Chavez already had total control over the judicial branch, how
he is taking steps to quell opposition media and how he could have rammed any law he chose through the
Assembly with barely a semblance of debate or a whisper of protest, his new powers seem gratuitous. But
even symbolic oversight can be messy, bureaucratic and slow. Kind of like democracy.
Venezuela's constitution allows the legislature to cede decree powers to the president, which it has done
several times to other presidents and once before to Chavez, in 2000. But normally this occurs in times of
fiscal upheaval, not while the nation is swimming in oil revenues. Chavez is expected to use his powers
to, among other frightening things, do away with presidential term limits so he can remain in office
Predictably, the opposition newspaper Tal Cual played the Hitler card after Chavez's move, with a front-
page banner headline reading "Heil Hugo!" and an editorial comparing the National Assembly rollover to
the German Reichstag's vote in 1933 giving Hitler extraordinary powers. Chavez, even more predictably,
passed the charge onto President Bush. "Who would be the greater fascist, Hitler or Bush? They might
end up in a draw," Chavez brayed the day after winning his new authority.
Democracy still has a faint pulse in Venezuela; any Chavez decree can theoretically be overturned by
public referendum, as long as opponents gather signatures from 5% of the electorate. And Chavez,
destructive as his economic policies will eventually be to Venezuela, is no Hitler.
Now Mussolini, on the other hand...
44. Iran, Venezuela To Begin Direct Flights
Source: Associated Press 02/10/2007
Iran's national airline will begin direct flights to Venezuela next month in another sign of the two nations'
increasingly close ties.
Iran Air will operate a weekly, commercial flight linking Tehran and Caracas in March, the Venezuelan
government said in a statement Friday. Flights leaving Tehran will stop in Syria's capital of Damascus on
their way to Caracas, it said.
Iran Air opened a new office at the headquarters of Venezuela's state airline Conviasa in Caracas on
Friday, and Conviasa will soon open a commercial office in Iran, the statement said.
Iranian Ambassador Abdullah Zifan was quoted as saying that the flight will help strengthen ties between
Latin America and the Middle East by facilitating travel and will benefit the many families dispersed
across the two regions.
Zifan added that President Hugo Chavez "is much loved in our country and our people want to come here
to get to know this land."
Relations between the two countries have tightened under Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, who are united in their antagonism to the U.S. government.
Venezuela and Iran plan to jointly produce everything from bricks to bicycles and are also cooperating in
the development of Venezuela's oil fields.
Last month, the oil-rich nations announced a joint $2 billion fund to finance investments in Venezuela and
Iran, as well as projects in other countries seeking to help thwart U.S. domination. The two leaders have
spoken of investing in infrastructure, social and energy projects, but have not offered specifics.
45. The Allende School For Subverting Democracy
Source: The Baltimore Sun 02/11/2007
By Daniel Mandel
On Jan. 31, the Venezuelan Congress gave recently re-elected President Hugo Chavez sweeping powers
to rule by decree, allowing him to continue his march to a one-party state. In Bolivia, Evo Morales lags
somewhat behind his Venezuelan mentor, having still to contend with a recalcitrant judiciary and
legislature. And only weeks ago, former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega returned to power in Nicaragua.
Clearly, Latin America's anti-American left is enjoying a second wind.
How are they doing it? According to Mr. Morales, Cuba's Fidel Castro advised him in 2003 not to stage
an "armed uprising" but to "make transformations, democratic revolutions, what Chavez is doing." But
who is Mr. Chavez's model? It is Chile's Salvador Allende - with appropriate improvements.
This may seem odd, because Augusto Pinochet's 1973 removal of Mr. Allende's Marxist government in
Chile, and human rights abuses by security forces within Mr. Pinochet's subsequent military government,
have overshadowed international perception of the Allende years. Yet Mr. Allende nearly succeeded in
three short years in turning Chile, Latin America's oldest and most stable democracy, into a Marxist
dictatorship. How did he go about it?
Mr. Allende narrowly won the presidency with 36 percent of a three-way vote and the confirmation of a
fair-minded congress after committing himself to a Statute of Guarantees of individual liberties. This was
a mere tactical ploy (as he told the French communist writer Regis Debray), which he never intended to
honor. Instead, he used every device to subvert the Chilean Constitution, negate the law or bypass the
Mr. Allende resorted 32 times in respect of 93 measures to an emergency power permitting him to
override congress and the courts. All but one Chilean bank was acquired by the state through share-
buyouts, using misappropriated revenues; factories were requisitioned through misuse of administrative
decrees; and farms were expropriated, often at gunpoint, thanks to a forgotten decree from 1932 that
remained by oversight on the statute books. The only nationalization that proceeded legally, with due
approval of congress, was that of some large multinationals.
That these policies led to triple-digit inflation, currency devaluation, economic chaos and social tumult
bordering on civil war is not surprising; nor is the fact that the congress eventually voted 81-47 to call on
Mr. Pinochet's military to remove the government. The surprise is to see a return to - indeed an
improvement on - Mr. Allende's methods in Venezuela while today Chile prospers.
Mr. Chavez now possesses Mr. Allende's ability to rule by decree. He has stacked the courts with judges
dependent on his favor. Aware of Mr. Allende's alienation of the military by seeking to politicize it, he
has simply purged it of anyone who might oppose him. Foreign oil operations and electrical and
telecommunications companies are being taken over by stealth and political pressure not dissimilar to the
stratagems that were used by Mr. Allende to acquire Chilean banks.
Mindful of the fragmentation of the radical left that helped undo Mr. Allende's hold on power, Mr.
Chavez has announced moves to merge several pro-government parties into one. He is also setting his
sights on curtailing the media and curbing the parliamentary opposition, the last two pillars of the old
liberties still standing. Francis Fukuyama of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
at the Johns Hopkins University calls Venezuela a "postmodern dictatorship, neither fully democratic nor
fully totalitarian," but he appears to have forgotten about Mr. Allende's Chilean prototype.
In Bolivia, Mr. Morales can lay claim to having purged Bolivia's military leadership and broken contracts
with energy investors. Lacking the emergency powers under the constitution that permitted Mr. Allende
so much mischief, Mr. Morales is trying simply to rewrite it. Frustrated in that quest for the moment by
the absence of the necessary two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly, he is proposing that a
simple majority is sufficient.
Who will decide? The country's Supreme Court? But here Mr. Morales is seeking to appoint four judges
via recess appointments - a reasonable democratic procedure in itself, except that, in this case, Mr.
Morales has not bothered to initiate the legal parliamentary nomination process. It is easy to understand
why: Presumably, his preferred nominees would be voted down by the Assembly.
In Nicaragua, manipulation of election laws and perhaps also pre-existing Sandinista control of some key
institutions, including the election authority, permitted Mr. Ortega to return as president. It is too early to
say what Mr. Ortega will do in - or more precisely, to - Nicaragua, but he has at his disposal some ready
models to the south.
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua lack some key democratic virtues - a nonpoliticized military, an
independent judiciary, a strong parliamentary opposition - that enabled Chile to extricate itself from Mr.
Allende. What will be their deliverance?
46. Bush's Lame-Duck Visit Too Late?
Source: Miami Herald 02/10/2007
By Andres Oppenheimer
President Bush's upcoming visit to five Latin American countries starting March 8 will be his biggest
effort ever to improve ties with the region, but the trip may come too late to counter Venezuelan President
Hugo Chávez's checkbook diplomacy and the growing anti-American sentiment in the region.
Bush, who during his 2000 campaign vowed to make Latin America a ''fundamental commitment of my
presidency'' but later put the region on the back burner, will travel to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia,
Guatemala and Mexico. The six-day trip will be Bush's longest to the region ever.
But Bush will visit the region as a weak president. The Latin American presidents who will receive him
will be aware that he is a lame-duck leader with an opposition Congress, whose vice president is not
running for president. In fact, this will be the first White House in 80 years with no candidate for the
Bush's hosts will also probably know that the U.S. president will have little to say in the selection of his
party's candidate for the 2008 elections. Barring a sudden reversal of Bush's political fortune, few
Republican candidates will want to be seen with a president whose popularity has plummeted to 28
percent in the latest CBS News poll.
In addition, Bush will be arriving in Latin America only a few months before the July 1 expiration of his
congressional authority to negotiate new free trade deals in an expedited way. His hosts know that an
increasingly protectionist Congress -- buoyed by cable television isolationist zealots such as CNN's Lou
Dobbs -- may not extend the president's so-called trade promotion authority.
Making things worse, Bush's popularity in many countries, especially in South America, is as low as it
''Bush goes to Latin America with a significant liability,'' says Arturo Valenzuela, a former head of Latin
American affairs at the Clinton White House. ``It has less to do with U.S. Latin America policy than with
a generalized rejection of the U.S. posture in the world, which makes it much more difficult for him to
engage with the region's leaders.''
U.S. officials shrug off these arguments, noting that the U.S. president has a unique power to start
initiatives and speed up existing ones.
Some Bush supporters say that the very fact that he will be a bystander in the 2008 election will be a big
plus for the Latin American countries he will be visiting: for the first time, a U.S. president will be able to
talk with his southern neighbors without thinking exclusively about U.S. domestic politics, and taking a
long-term view of what's needed to improve U.S.-Latin American ties, they say.
Others say that Bush may also be able to make some concrete progress in Mexico, perhaps his most
important stop, on issues such as drugs, migration and unresolved trade disputes over trucking rights and
''In Mexico's case, it won't be a public relations visit,'' says Manuel Rocha, a former U.S. diplomat in
several Latin American countries.
``The U.S. political establishment got really scared in the recent Mexican elections. Much like what
happened in the former Soviet Union, there is a bipartisan consensus in Washington that Mexico deserves
more U.S. attention because it's a national security issue.''
My opinion: I don't think Bush will be able to win many hearts and minds in Latin America while U.S.
troops remain in Iraq and Chávez continues promising petro-dollars to any leader who is willing to be
photographed with him.
If anything, Bush will be able to remind Latin American countries that the U.S. economy offers huge
opportunities for them to increase exports, get more foreign investments and receive more tourists. To put
things in perspective, just one U.S. state -- Florida -- has a $680 billion economy that is nearly three times
bigger than the combined gross domestic product of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
If Bush manages to convey the idea that the Chinese communists have long understood -- which is that no
matter what you think about Washington's foreign policy, the United States remains the biggest buyer of
the world's goods and services -- the U.S. president will be able to consider his trip a success.
47. Democracy's Future In Venezuela, The Region
Source: Miami Herald 02/10/2007
By Condoleezza Rice
Below are excerpts from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's testimony at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs
Committee on Wednesday.
Q. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral: I'm very concerned about the growing challenge in Venezuela with
Hugo Chávez and what he's doing to intimidate and manipulate his country, moving away from
democracy and toward a dictatorship. Do you believe that freedom is under attack in Venezuela? Do you
believe that there are human-rights issues? What are our plans to promote democratic reform and support
a civil society in Venezuela?
A. Rice: First of all, yes, I believe there's an assault on democracy in Venezuela. And I believe that there
are significant human-rights issues.
The United States has been one of the strongest supporters of nongovernmental organizations that are
trying to operate there. For instance, the organization Sumate: The president [Bush] met with the woman
who was under attack, being charged by Venezuela. Though the case has not been decided, we think it
may have helped, because we got the European Union ambassadors to go and sit there for the trial every
day, just to make an international statement.
We raise these issues in the Organization of American States at all times and with all the states in the
region. I do believe that the president of Venezuela is really destroying his own country economically,
politically. And this is a place with which we've had traditionally very good relations and would like to
continue to have good relations.
Our ambassador has had some trouble there because he's gone out and worked with kids and had baseball
games and the like, and it's not very well-liked by the government but it's liked by the Venezuelan people.
We're going to continue to try to do those things.
One thing that we want to avoid is to get into a rhetorical contest with the president of Venezuela, because
frankly it takes the spotlight off of our very positive agenda in Latin America. And, in fact, we work very
well, whether it is governments of the left or governments of the right, with any number of governments
It's not a left-right issue, which is, I think, the way he would like to make it. It's not a U.S.-Venezuela
issue. This is about the United States and democratic countries and the OAS Democratic Charter. . . .
It's a good question where we put the country at this point, because I think it's in a transition, a negative
transition, if you will. We need to look at how we are spending our aid in Venezuela. I've had discussions
with people about support for free trade unions in Venezuela, something that perhaps could be done by
labor organizations. That would be, I think, a helpful thing for the people of Venezuela.
The Catholic Church is under attack in Venezuela. We have discussions with the church about that. And
so we're going to continue to press the case. We're going to continue to fund organizations that are trying
to resist. But I think we want to make this about American defense of democracy, not a rhetorical contest
with the president of Venezuela. In that regard he probably did himself no good with his speech at the
U.N. General Assembly; made it not very hard, actually, to argue that Venezuela had no place on the
Security Council. And as you noticed, they're not there.
48. U.S. Offers Diplomacy In Latin America
Source: Associated Press 02/10/2007
By Bill Cormier
A top U.S. official said Washington was willing to work with most of Latin America's leftist governments
but criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's moves to nationalize industries as a return to the
"failed policies of the past."
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and Thomas Shannon, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin
America, met Friday with leftist Argentine President Nestor Kirchner during a visit seen as an attempt to
counter the influence of Chavez, a fierce U.S. critic who has used windfall oil profits to gain allies in the
Burns said Washington respects all fairly elected leaders and is committed to "open channels" with
democratic governments, including recently elected leftists Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in
"You will find our government is very ecumenical. We deal with left governments, center governments,
right governments," he said. As for "the far-left radical governments of Cuba and Venezuela ... that's
The U.S. delegation's visit to Argentina comes on the heels of the White House's announcement that
President Bush will tour Latin America in March, visiting Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and
That trip, the White House said, would underscore U.S. commitment to democratic governments in the
region, where most have warm ties with Chavez, who has called Bush "the devil."
Burns praised Argentina for its "leadership role" in Latin America in opposing terrorism and nuclear
proliferation, but had harsh words for Chavez's recent moves to nationalize strategic sectors and grant
himself the power to rule largely by decree for 18 months have alarmed critics.
Critics charge Chavez is steering his Venezuela toward Cuban-style communism, while his supporters say
he is trying to help the poor and counter historic U.S. domination of the region.
"In our judgment, the policies of Chavez to nationalize industries and return to state socialism mark a
return to the failed policies of the past," Burns said.
"Frankly, you have to wonder if Chavez's plan is to become president for life, which is also at variance
with the trends in this region and most other regions around the world...."
Meanwhile, Burns lauded Argentine support for Washington's efforts to check nuclear programs in Iran
and North Korea.
"What Argentina is doing I think as the leader in South America, indeed in all of Latin America, is saying
to the world that we all need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons," he added.
He also cited Argentina as one of two key hemispheric partners with Washington on drafting new
international regulations for better safeguarding ports and shipping containers from possible terrorist
49. Police Salutes At Airport Gain World Attention
Source: Miami Herald 02/10/2007
By David Ovalle
The body of Master Sgt. Shawn A. Richardson arrived at Miami International Airport an hour behind
schedule. It was 1:30 a.m.
He was greeted by fire trucks and a row of Miami-Dade police officers, an impromptu honor guard that
carefully draped the American flag over his casket and escorted the sergeant from the runway.
The brief ceremony passed quietly, but not unnoticed.
Touched, American Airlines Capt. Gary Blied wrote an essay and e-mailed it to some friends. They
forwarded it to others.
Blied's moving words spread quickly around the world. Thousands of e-mails popped into his inbox.
Tearful phone calls came from as far away as Sri Lanka. Church bulletins and newspapers reprinted the
Now, officials may implement a special designation for flights carrying fallen military personnel. And
special decorated carts will be used for their caskets at some commercial airports.
Capt. Blied says of his e-mail: ``Nobody has been more surprised than me. I've been flying over 20 years.
I've never seen a reception quite like this.''
About a year ago, Miami-Dade airport officers began noticing military personnel trying to get on the
airfield as the caskets were unloaded from planes.
''Sometimes, there wasn't any family. They wouldn't send a hearse,'' said recently retired Miami-Dade Sgt.
Kevin Dougherty, who led the effort. ``Or they were going to put the casket on a luggage cart.''
Said Miami-Dade Sgt. Mike Kirkland: ``I was in the Army. I would hate for someone to treat me like that
if I was deceased.''
Spurred Into Action
Dougherty and officers coordinate with the Transportation Security Administration and American
Airlines to find out arrival times of bodies.
Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue trucks spray water in ceremonial arches over arriving planes. K9 officers sweep
hearses for security.
Airport and federal customs officers form impromptu honor guards to greet caskets, covered with a U.S.
flag they bought themselves.
Bodies can arrive on short notice. Officers often stay to help on their own time.
Once a soldier's body arrived, but the connecting flight to Nicaragua was not to leave until the next day.
His casket was stored in a warehouse, guarded all night by officers. ''Our guys switched out every two
hours until he left,'' Kirkland said.
How the servicemen dies is irrelevant. On a recent ceremony, a Navy seaman named Takuma J. Heath,
killed in a motorcycle accident, arrived from Orlando.
''We really don't ask their names,'' Sgt. Rudy Espinosa said. Some were killed in combat, others were not.
``We just do it out of appreciation for the fallen heroes.''
The ceremonies were done discreetly until last summer, when a short letter arrived to Miami-Dade Police
Director Robert Parker.
''These actions, conducted without fanfare, are both humbling and inspiring. This represents the very best
of America,'' said the letter, signed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker and Kenneth Preston,
Sergeant Major of the Army.
A Natural Leader
Master Sgt. Shawn A. Richardson, Florida son, second-generation Air Force machinist, dog lover, was
born at Eglin Air Force Base on Oct. 10, 1971. His father, Charles, also an Air Force machinist, retired a
''He was always kind of joking he was going to outrank Dad,'' said his mother, Ophelia Lee.
Fond of animals, Richardson toyed with becoming a veterinarian. Instead, in January 1990, he joined the
force. His airmen at Kadena Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan called him a natural leader.
Said airman Josh Cordoso, 22: ```He was the only person who ever gave me recognition. I'd never been
up for any awards but he put me up for professional of the month.''
On Nov. 25, Richardson told his wife, Maria, he was going to take a ride on his motorcycle before sunset.
Less than a mile away from base, Richardson -- in full protective gear -- lost control and hit his head on
the concrete base of a fence. His helmet had slipped off.
Notes On The Arrival
On Dec. 3, Captain Blied was told Richardson would be aboard his flight from Chicago to Miami.
Pre-flight: ``I went down onto the ramp and found the long box appropriately stationed off to the side in a
luggage cart. The curtains on the cart were pulled. I spent a few moments in prayer with him.''
After touchdown in Miami, the plane was met by a Miami-Dade patrol car.
``As we approached the ramp we noticed the lights. There were at least a half-dozen fire trucks, no less
than 15 police cars and countless other vehicles.
They were all parked in rows with their lights flashing. As we taxied our aircraft to the gate, the fire
trucks saluted our arrival with crossed streams of water shooting over the aircraft.''
He looked up into the plane's windows. ``Not one of our passengers had moved until our fallen soldier
had departed the aircraft.''
Capt. Blied typed his account and e-mailed it. Within three days, he said, he was averaging 100 e-mails a
day. It appeared in several military and Midwest newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune.
In all, Blied received more than 2,500 e-mails. Phone calls, too. ''I can't tell you how many people have
called me and were literally crying on the phone,'' he said.
The essay, which appears on scores of military blogs and websites, reached a Federal Aviation Authority
control tower specialist in Rochester, N.Y., where a furor erupted in December when a woman
complained she saw a military casket on a luggage cart.
The controller, Brian Blazey, sent the e-mail and a proposal to Washington that would create a
designation -- FSP, or ``Fallen Service Personnel -- to be added to a flight plan to give airports time to
prepare for their arrival.
Now, the FAA is considering officially adopting the designation, a spokeswoman said.
Also, Blied said, American Airlines is painting luggage carts with the five seals of the military, to
transport caskets at airports. ''The cleanest, best-looking luggage carts we've got,'' he said.
`The Silent Majority'
In late December, Sgt. Russell Barrett, who was mentored by Richardson, walked into the machine shop
at Kadena Air Force base. Here is where Richardson oversaw a crew of about 30 machinist and welders
from the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron fashioning parts for fighter jets and other aircraft.
Barrett held in his hand a printout. It was Capt. Blied's e-mail. He began reading.
``Every now and then you see it: the silent majority that makes this country the best in the world.''
A world away from Miami International Airport, his men wept.
50. State Of The Americas
Source: Washington Post 02/09/2007
By Mariela Sanchez
“The current situation of the Americas is democracy and economic growth...We have reason to be
optimistic,” OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza boldly stated yesterday at the Center for
Insulza gave the keynote address at The State of the Americas, an event by The Americas Project at the
Center that brought together distinguished panelists to discuss the United States’ relationship with and
place in the Americas amid a wave of democratic elections in Latin America.
Panelists agreed that the positive electoral outcomes were reason for optimism in the Americas, but they
also worried that frustration with slower governmental action on pressing issues could lead to instability
in fragile democracies.
“We have to strengthen political institutions, the capacity for the government to deliver,” Insulza said. He
cited poverty, inequality, and discrimination as a few of the key problems affecting the Americas and the
strength of their democracies. “It’s a developing region, but it’s not a poor region,” Insulza explained.
“Certainly those that have more reason to disbelieve...are those who wonder whether they will finally get
their share of the economic bonanza.”
“There is probably no issue that serves as a better common denominator [than poverty],” Cynthia Arnson,
the director of the Latin American program at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said. It
is economic conflicts like these that invite governmental instability.
Insulza explained that despite the improving situation democracy has allowed, the shortcuts to reform that
a concentration of power allows remains preferable to too many—especially with economic disparities
still rampant. “It’s a democratic threat in the narrow sense of the word,” he said; as social and economic
problems stagnate the danger that the democracy will disintegrate will only increase.
The United States can play a pivotal role in strengthening the democracies by committing more resources
and leadership to the region in its fight for broad based economic growth and increased democratic
strength. Yet panel members cited the absence of strategic thinking as a central failure in current U.S.
policy toward the region. Arturo Valenzuela, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at
Georgetown University, for example, began his participation with the simple and troubling observation
that “[t]he problem we face in dealing with Latin America in terms of U.S. foreign policy is we don’t
think about the region strategically.” Valenzuela also noted that the corrosive effect of the Iraq War had a
spillover effect on U.S. policy toward Latin America. “U.S. moral and political leadership is affected by
the war in Iraq,” Valenzuela said. “That’s a reality.”
Marcela Sanchez from The Washington Post noted that the Americas were passing through “interesting
times” and underscored the difference in perspective between the United States and Latin American
countries as a partial explanation for the different response specific developments were eliciting. “The
reason why Latin America does not react perhaps the way the U.S. does...is because they realize they are
family, they are neighbors, and once you start getting involved judging what others are doing there is
always a concern that someone will come around and judge what they are doing.” She also emphasized
ideas emerging from the region that are reacting to inequality like conditional cash transfers, urban
renewal, and anti-gang social programs that are having positive impacts without the need for huge
Although there is certainly much more that needs to be done to strengthen democracy in the region, it is
clear that much progress has been made. Despite the fears and continued problems, comparatively and
historically Latin America is finds itself in a strong position. Insulza strongly believed that “Undoubtedly
democracy is strong in Latin America these days.”