sábado, 9 de marzo de 2013

Colombian guerrillas free two hostages

Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) freed on 8 March two Germans it had held hostages since November, and was reported to have stated its inclination to free a Canadian mining employee kidnapped in January. The ELN kidnapped the German brothers on 3 November in the north-eastern district of Teorama, though it only confirmed this on 4 February, speculating in a communiqué that they might have been spies as there was no convincing explanation for their presence where they were found. The two were held "in the mountains of Catatumbo" in the Norte de Santander department where they were kidnapped, and were to be flown back to Europe on 9 March, El Tiempo reported. The Canadian hostage Jernoc Wobert was kidnapped in the northern district of Norosí on 18 January alongside five other contractors or employees of the firm Geo Explorer; the five were handed over to Red Cross representatives on 12 February, El Tiempo reported.

Venezuela swears in acting leader, elections called

After heads of state paid their respects on 8 March to Venezuela's late President Hugo Chávez, his designated successor and former vice-president Nicolás Maduro Moros took the oath as Acting President and immediately instructed election authorities to call general elections as the constitution demands, to allow Venezuelans to "know democratically who their President will be." He resigned as vice-president as laws required, and appointed the Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza, son-in-law of the late president, as Executive Vice-President. Maduro asked the National Electoral Council (CNE) to implement "corresponding evaluations" before setting a date for general elections, and urged the opposition to present its candidates, Venezuela's state news agency AVN reported. The opposition politician and governor of the state of Miranda Henrique Capriles Radonsky had earlier objected to Maduro becoming a candidate while remaining Executive Vice-President, calling this an abuse of authority; he observed at a press conference on 8 March that the people would give their opinion at the polls on "how they have used the death of President Hugo Chávez for electoral and propaganda purposes," El Universal reported. An unspecified number of people were heard to have started banging pots and pans - this being one of the forms in which Latin Americans like to protest - on balconies in Caracas, in an apparent and anticipated objection to Maduro's inauguration as Acting President, Spain's ABC reported. Earlier that day some 30 heads of state gathered to pay their respects to the late president, at a ceremony in the Military Academy in Caracas where Chávez's body was on display in a glass casket. The dignitaries included the presidents of Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Cuba, as well as prominent friends and admirers like the former Colombian senator Pilar Córdoba, who wept before the coffin and was comforted by Maduro and the late president's daughter. She has intermittently played the role of an intermediary between Venezuela, Colombia and FARC guerrillas, facilitating the release of certain hostages in Colombia.