martes, 27 de agosto de 2013

Broadcaster maps out Colombia's rural strikes

The broadcaster Caracol mapped out on 27 August the various farming-sector strikes that were affecting several Colombian departments for over a week now, and which had begun to cause shortages in places and raise food prices in Bogotá for blocked roads. The Government was reportedly to meet with strike representatives that evening. In a colour-coded and interactive diagram using Google maps, Caracol listed and categorised the sectors currently on strike, citing by region: the motives of discontent, estimated numbers of people affected by strikes and the value of economic losses incurred. The pictoral report indicated that the strikes had reasons that included subsidy demands, calls for state protection against several Free-Trade treaties the Government has signed, rising fuel prices and in cases Government action against illegal mining, the means of living for certain rural groups. The Minister of Agriculture separately rejected calls that he resign and said his ministry could not be blamed alone for the strikes. Francisco Estupiñan Heredia told Caracol radio on 27 August that he would stay in his post "until the President tells me to go," as he had made a "commitment" to serve the public. The President seemed already to have made public observations or a mild rebuke for his handling of the strikes. Mr Estupiñan observed however that the Ministry was not the only one responsible for strikes; he cited the "intransigence" of potato farmers, who he said had chosen to strike instead of pursuing talks in July.

Venezuelan President says "plot" against him hatched in United States

Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro insisted on 26 August that the arrest of two Colombians allegedly sent to assassinate him indicated that a plot was being hatched in the United States, and asked President Barack Obama whether he was ignorant of such machinations or involved. Mr Maduro made his remarks after a children's sporting event in Caracas; he said the Government had "coherently" reported on the plot's origins and President Obama would be "the first" not to know about it if he did not, the official AVN news agency reported. "Is President Obama so weak that they take decisions for him...to kill a Latin American head of state without his knowing?" he asked. Or was he too weak to prevent them he asked again, or "has he decided to physically eliminate me?" Officials earlier cited former US diplomats or officials of past Republican administrations, as well as Colombia's former president Álvaro Uribe, as elements allegedly involved in this and previous "plots." Mr Uribe rejected the latest, "infamous" charges; he said "the Venezuelan dictatorship should permit that country to recover democracy and repeat the elections as the last ones were a fraud," Europa Press reported on 27 August, citing comments he made on television. He was referring to Venezuela's April presidential elections. Mr Maduro said killing him would provoke a civil war and that he had observed "extreme nervousness" among the opposition in spite of its bid to "trivialise" the affair. "I have no doubt the main leaders of the fascist Right agree with this type of incident," he said. The country's leading opponent and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles dismissed the allegations as a "tale," speaking in public on 26 August. He also wrote on the website Twitter that this was another "distraction" intended to "cover up for insecurity, the hospital crisis, shortages, inflation, corruption." The President he wrote had a "record" number of such plots; "of the 11 conspiracies Maduro has denounced, four were to assassinate personalities. He does not know how to cover his incompetence," El Universal reported, citing Mr Capriles's comments on Twitter.

Honduras creating "military police" force to fight crime

The parliament of Honduras voted on 21 August to form the Public Order Military Police (PMOP, Policía Militar del Orden Público), which was to begin working in October 2013 and hopefully, help reduce crime in one of the world's most violent states. An existing Security Tax and assets confiscated from criminals were to finance the Military Police until 2014, when it would be funded from the state budget; the force would initially have 900 operatives, Europa Press reported on 22 August, citing the Honduran press. Parliament initially envisaged a budget of 24.5 million Honduran lempiras - about USD 1.2 million - for the corps, although Liberal parliamentarians reportedly observed it could cost as much as 300 million lempiras. A pertinent law approved after alterations determined the force's prerogatives and resources, but apparently also included innovations such as defining some of the activities of criminal gangs as terrorism for their impact on the life of Honduran society, La Prensa reported on 22 August. The daily reported on 26 August that the force would initially consist of persons picked for their relative youth, qualifications and training.

Sixteen reported killed around Honduras, three-year-old murdered

No less than 16 people were reported killed in presumed criminal incidents around Honduras on 25-26 August, 13 of these in the two main cities Tegucicalpa and San Pedro Sula and three in the northern department of Yoro. The victims included a 17-year-old boy killed in the district of Comyagüela outside the capital, and three youngsters shot dead at a bus terminal in Nueva Suyapa, another suburb of Tegucicalpa, El Heraldo reported. In Yoro, three indigenous Hondurans were killed on 26 August as they sought to prevent two men from cutting rare or protected trees in the district of Locomapa, EFE and Latin American media reported. The victims and their presumed assassins were of the same indigenous group the Tolupans or Tolupas; reports named the killers but it was not clear if they had been arrested. The businessman Jorge Laitano Andino was killed on 25 August in his home in Tegucicalpa; two of his brothers were killed earlier this year, El Heraldo reported. One brother was shot dead in April 2013 outside the home of the head of the Armed Forces Joint Command in Tegucicalpa, while another, Moisés Laitano, was killed on 21 July 2013. A three-year-old boy was kidnapped and murdered on 25 August and his body left outside his parents' home in San Pedro Sula early on 27 August, La Prensa reported. In a country where extreme violence has become the norm, the daily observed nevertheless that neighbours were horrified; the National Police reportedly "guaranteed" they would find the culprits.