jueves, 31 de enero de 2013

Mexican parties reach registration deadline

January 31 was the deadline for political groups to inform Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) of their intention to become formal political parties, and this was reportedly done by an unprecedented 26 groupings including MORENA, the formation led by the veteran Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The IFE was now to consider their applications over a year and a half on the basis of legal requisites including having or mustering in that period at least 220,000 party militants and organizing at least 20 state gatherings with 3,000 participants or 200 district assemblies with 300 attending, La Jornada reported. Another requirement was that from January or February all expenses must be reported, presumably to the IFE. The daily observed that several parties were struck off the parties register this year for their inability to meet legal requisites, including the Social Democratic Party and the Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution.

Eleven killed in Guatemala's capital

Ten were reported killed in incidents in Ciudad de Guatemala on 30 January, including two policemen and a prison guard whose car was fired on by gunmen in a suspected ambush, Prensa Libre reported the next day. The patrol car was transporting a female prisoner who was also injured; she was rushed to the hospital to which she was being transferred earlier for tests. The Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla said the assailants may have wanted to rescue or kill the prisoner, who is serving a life sentence for murder. The body of a young woman was found in the Santa Catarina Pinula district outside the capital on 31 January, Prensa Libre reported separately; signs indicated she had been beaten to death. In the district of Guastatoya north east of the capital, police detained that day a man identified as head of a kidnapping ring and the suspected culprit in the murders of three individuals in July 2012. Four presumed associates were already detained in relation with two incidents in which the kidnapped victims were killed after the ransom demanded for them was paid, Prensa Libre reported.

Ecuador to invite observers for February polls

Ecuador's National Electoral Council (CNE) and Foreign Ministry are to invite 320 foreign observers to watch general elections scheduled for 17 February, these including journalists, politicians and relevant experts, Ecuador's Andes agency reported on 29 January. One of these was to be Ignacio Ramonet, a former editor of the review Le Monde diplomatique. Others were to represent regional groupings such as the Organization of American States, the Andean Parliament and the Arab League. The head of the CNE José Domingo Paredes Castillo said the observers would go to half the country's provinces, at the state's expense. "Democracy costs money and ensuring the transparency of what we are doing costs money and it is worth it," he said. A poll taken on 10 January by the local firm Market and published by the government daily El Ciudadano indicated the sitting president and candidate Rafael Correa to be 30 points ahead of his next rival Guillermo Lasso Mendoza, a banker heading the CREO campaign (Movimiento Creando Oportunidades). Forty nine per cent of 760 citizens from two provinces told the pollster they intended to vote for Correa, and 18 per cent for Lasso; the poll indicated Correa's PAIS coalition could win two thirds of seats in the 137-member parliament, El Ciudadano reported on 17 January. The election campaign began on 4 January and would last to 14 February.

Four Colombian soldiers killed fighting rebels

Four soldiers were reported killed and two wounded in a gun fight with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the south-eastern department of Nariño late on 30 January, while the FARC and state representatives were to resume peace talks in Havana on 31 January. The soldiers were killed when rebels fired on a patrol in the Puerto Sánchez locality of the district of Policarpa, amid ongoing army operations in southern Colombia, El Espectador and the broadcaster Caracol reported. The same day the FARC were thought to have kidnapped three oil-sector contractors in the district of Piamonte in the southern Cauca department, although this had yet to be verified. This followed the FARC's kidnapping of two policemen on 25 January and their recent declaration that they would resume hostage-taking. The engineers were stopped on a road by armed elements outside the district capital, Caracol reported. The National Association of the Kidnapped and Disappeared (Asociación Nacional de Secuestrados y Desaparecidos), a civic body, has stated its conviction that the FARC retained as captives "at least" 20 soldiers and policemen in spite of declaring in February 2012 that it had freed all servicemen. The broadcaster RCN La Radio cited its spokesman Rafael Mora as saying "we are certain that about 20 members of the military remain in the FARC's hands...we have documented data with the complaints and all the information needed in this case to show that the FARC still hold them." That is if they had not been murdered or had not died: RCN cited the mother of the sergent William Gómez Cabrera, reported as kidnapped in 2004 in the southern district of Teteyé, as saying that she had been "told" he was a killed a year later but had no reliable news. "I need to be told the truth. If they murdered him, they should tell me where they left him, where his remains are," she was cited as saying.

Locals form own police in western Mexico

Disgusted with crime and the apparent impotence of authorities, communities in Mexico's crime-ridden western coast are increasingly arming themselves and turning to "community policing," with the implicit approval of local mayors but prompting concern among state officials. The daily Crónica reported on 31 January on 150 members of a "community police" force being "sworn in" before municipal representatives in Florencio Villarreal in the state of Guerrero; these were to patrol 20 nearby localities or districts considered crime hot spots. The local force consisted of local residents and affiliates of the Union of Peoples and Organisations of the State of Guerrero (Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado de Guerrero, UPOEG), elected in village assemblies. Organizers said such militias were legal pursuant to Article 39 of the Constitution; they were in any case a measure of public fear and anger at how extortion or kidnapping seemed to continue unchecked in Guerrero and especially in this area, called the Costa Chica. A municipal official attending the ceremony said the mayor of Florencio Villarreal was in favour of such self-defence initiatives, Crónica reported. In another village in Guerrero, Ayutla de los Libres, the community was reportedly to "put on trial" on 31 January 30 individuals held in preceding weeks for suspected ties to organized crime. The Governor of Guerrero Ángel Aguirre Rivero urged the local groups on 29 January to respect the law while appreciating their desire "to help" with security; the head of UPOEG Bruno Plácido Valerio declared in response that crime had "overwhelmed" authorities in Guerrero and society was now "replacing" them for it, "assuming that sovereignty resides in the people not the representatives of institutions," Proceso reported on 30 January. Plácido said self-defence was not illegal, while authorities had failed to assure citizens' security; "it is they who should be judged and sanctioned for being indolent and negligent in the face of crime," he said.