lunes, 3 de diciembre de 2012

Pact with government further divides Mexican Left

Members of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) distanced themselves on 3 December from the multi-party Pact for Mexico signed earlier by the party's leader Jesús Zambrano Grijalva, echoing the party's earlier reservations about a pact that included the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The PRD, its political allies and protest groups bitterly challenged the PRI's general-elections victory last July, alleging there had been fraud. The pact appeared to open another crack in this party, following the departure of its former leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador to start his own political movement. The Pact for Mexico, promoted by President Enrique Peña Nieto, was to facilitate legislation through prior party agreements. But the PRD's secretary-general and deputy-head Alejandro Sánchez Camacho stated in a communiqué that the party did not recognize the signature and its political committee would debate Zambrano's initiative, El Universal reported. The daily noted that Sánchez belonged to the National Democratic Left current (Izquierda Democrática Nacional) within the PRD, distinct from Zambrano's reforming New Left current, which apparently had more support. He criticised Zambrano for letting himself be "wooed" by Peña Nieto's declarations and said his signature was "in a private capacity" and had "no validity" for lacking the approbation of party mechanisms. Zambrano defended his decision to sign on 2 December as "a risk worth taking," Milenio reported on 3 December. Differences with other parties persisted, he said, but the PRD was committed to reforms in Mexico. "We are profoundly dissatisfied with the state of our country," with problems too big to be solved by a "single force or a single man," he said.

Colombian army kills over 20 FARC rebels

At least 20 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were thought killed in the night of 1-2 December when the army bombarded three FARC camps in the southern district of Ricaurte near Ecuador's frontier, the army declared. The dead were members of the Mariscal Sucre mobile column and included its commander, a FARC veteran of 25 years dubbed Guillermo Pequeño (Little Guillermo). The head of the armed forces joint command for south-western Colombia General Leonardo Barrero Gordillo said the bases were recently found through intelligence work, whereupon the army proceeded to destroy them, the broadcaster Caracol reported on 3 December. He said chains were found in the bombed area, sugggesting that the FARC were holding hostages in this zone. Two members of the FARC negotiating team in Cuba recently made apparently contradictory remarks on hostage-taking by the FARC. On 2 December, the former partner of the FARC's late leader Manuel Marulanda, a guerrilla dubbed Sandra Ramírez, told the journal Juventud Rebelde that the FARC had "prisoners of war" not hostages, and would release them when the state frees jailed guerrillas. This caused upset as the FARC claimed to have freed all of its military and police hostages last April, Dpa and Venezuela's El Universal reported on 3 December. She was contradicted the next day by the senior negotiator Rodrigo Granda. He was reported as telling a radio station in Bogotá that "we can guarantee the country we have no prisoners of war" and Ramírez might have been "flippant" in her remarks. Granda said she was referring to the past and recalled that the FARC had promised to end hostage-taking for ransom, El Espectador reported. Alongside skeptical Colombian officials, the private foundation Los que Faltan (Those Missing) believes the FARC do still hold hostages. Two of its members, Ismael and Amalia Márquez - a couple whose son Enrique Márquez Díaz was kidnapped almost 14 years ago - told Caracol television on 3 December that they were not surprised to hear the FARC's comments on hostages, in spite of uncertainty over the exact number of hostages. Ismael Márquez said the army commander Alejandro Navas Ramos had cited 128 as the number of servicemen suspected to be in FARC hands. Of their kidnapped son, Amalia said they had had no direct news or proof that he was alive for three years now.

Almost 87,000 Colombians caught HIV virus

There were 86,990 registered cases in Colombia of infection with HIV - the virus that destroys the human immune system and causes AIDS - between the first reported case in 1983 and the end of 2011, the health ministry stated on 1 December, World Aids Day. A ministry communiqué stated that 7,991 infections were for the year 2011 and 93 per cent of those had been through sexual intercourse, Spain's EFE reported. The greatest number of HIV infections that year occurred in Bogotá - 1,609 - while the age groups with most infections were of 25-29 and 30-34 years, with 17.98 and 16.46 per cent of all infections in Colombia. The agency cited an adviser to the ministry as stressing the need for a "community response" and collaborative actions by civic groups to help curb infections, beside the state's promotion of "official access to prevention" and assistance to infected individuals. The ministry stated that infections remained "concentrated" among "more vulnerable" groups, particularly men who had sex with men. Separately, police arrested on 1 December a truck driver who may have "recklessly" infected some 50 women with HIV over several years while knowing he was HIV-positive, El Tiempo reported on 3 December. The 57-year-old who was diagnosed with HIV in 2006, may be jailed for 72 months on the charge of acting against public health. Police said the "50 or more" women he may have infected during his "uncontrolled sexual life" included a 16-year-old virgin whom he raped in 2007. Apparently that encounter first brought him to police attention.

Mexican parties sign Pact to facilitate reforms

Mexico's three main political parties signed the Pact for Mexico (Pacto por México) on 2 December, pledging to collaborate on legislative initatives and forward the agenda of structural and economic reforms touted by the new President Enrique Peña Nieto, Reuters reported. In this pact, the parties would negotiate initiatives before voting and consult with sectors in society when formulating legislation. "We have to talk to build consensus...as politicians we need to turn coincidences into a basis for reaching essential agreements," Peña Nieto said during the signature ceremony in Chapultepec Castle, the former imperial and presidential residence in Mexico City. The agency observed that fundamental reforms were suspended in Mexico in recent years as parties refused to pay the political cost of unpopular initiatives proposed by the conservative governments that ruled Mexico in 2000-2012; this halted cross-party collaboration in parliament. Mexico's interior minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong cited the first initiatives to be discussed in this pact as relating to an ordering of public finances in indebted states and municipalities and to fomenting competition in broadcasting and telecommunications. An editorial on 3 December in the daily Excelsior welcomed the move as "an excellent signal for society" and observed that "the first impression" it gave was that "the new government and...the parties really negotiated and offer a serious document with 95 more or less concrete commitments gathering many of the three forces' proposals" in the July 2012 general elections. The pact's implementation, it added, would depend on tax reforms that would "significantly increase" the state's capacity to finance itself, given the inclusion of pledges relating to social security. Spokesmen for the three main parties - the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), conservative National Action Party (PAN) and socialist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) - also welcomed the pact, expressing hope it would benefit Mexico. The PAN's parliamentary coordinator Alberto Villarreal said his party would not "deny our country the reforms needed for its advancement. We will not be the ones to impede Mexico's advancement and growth," El Universal reported. He was perhaps referring to the two PAN governments' inability to legislate reforms in the preceding 12 years for lack of support from other parties, particularly the PRI.