jueves, 29 de agosto de 2013

President says Colombia in a "storm" for strikes

Colombia - its roads, food markets, colleges and parts of the health sector - appeared semi-functional on 29 August as angry farmers continued to block roads around the country and demonstrations took place in the capital Bogotá. EFE agency and El Colombiano reported that 17 marches were scheduled in Bogotá and there was no morning rush hour on 29 August as schools and universities cancelled classes and many drivers left cars at home to avoid possible harrassment. Health-sector workers in Bogotá were reported to be among several groups marching that day in solidarity with protesters elsewhere; demonstrators were to move from several spots toward the Plaza Bolívar, the setting of most government buildings. Scuffling and injuries were reported later in the day, and many shops and businesses closed early either to minimise possible damage or because many were keen to return home early. Public transportation worked more or less, although access to the centre was increasingly difficult as the day progressed. Graffiti was daubed on many banks and office buildings. El Colombiano reported that 48 demonstrations were expected that day across Colombia. Protesters' grievances included the difficult economic conditions faced by many farmers, which were expected to deteriorate as the country opens up to food importation for the free-trade treaties several governments have signed. President Juan Manuel Santos was cited as saying on 29 August that peasant protests were "valid" and his government would take measures designed to meet some of their concerns. He said he hoped talks between state and rural representatives in Tunja, north-east of Bogotá, would help end strikes and road blocks, at least in the department of Boyacá that includes Tunja, Caracol radio reported. The broadcaster separately cited strikers from Boyacá as saying that the President's declarations were positive but strikes could not end before there were "concrete agreements" on imports.

Colombian court to question politician over links to gunmen

The Colombian judiciary ordered detained the former governor of the department of Antioquia and aspiring presidential candidate in 2014, while it would investigate suspected or possible ties to criminals or paramilitaries in eastern Antioquia in the preceding decade, media reported on 28 and 29 August. A lawyer for Luis Alfredo Ramos Botero, a pre-candidate for the conservative Democratic Center and former Medellín mayor, said in Bogotá on 29 August that Mr Ramos would himself go to the Supreme Court chamber that had summoned him, the broadcaster Caracol reported. The politician was to explain about meetings held with paramilitaries in January 2005 and perhaps other occasions, and clarify whether or not those pertained to a demobilisation process underway at the time or went further. Mr Ramos's name has recurred in declarations made by former paramilitaries or criminals who in cases suggested that paramilitaries and certain politicians of Antioquia had discussed providing "mutual support." Mr Ramos has not denied meeting with paramilitaries, but said his meetings were in the context of demobilisation initiatives and witnessed by other parliamentarians, Semana reported on 28 August. Its report suggested that Mr Ramos's statements in this regard, made on different occasions, were not consistent. Mr Ramos was immediately removed from the Democratic Centre's list of presidential "pre-candidates," Caracol radio reported on 28 August. The Party's leader, the former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, said he was convinced Mr Ramos was not involved with criminals.