viernes, 11 de octubre de 2013

El Salvador holds 24 for extortion, finds grenades destined for Mexican cartel

Authorities in El Salvador detained in undated raids 24 suspected gangsters thought involved in "aggravated" extortion, one of the country's most widespread offences and apparently a monopoly of the Mara street gangs, the Salvadorean newspaper El Mundo reported on 10 October. The detained were identified as members of the two main Mara gangs Mara Salvatrucha and Mara-18. The daily qualified this separately as the first major action against extortion by the Anti-Extortion Task Force, formed in 2013 and trained and advised by the United States. The unit consists of members of the National Civil Police and of the anti-extortion office at the state prosecution service (Unidad Especializada Antiextorsiones de la Fiscalía General de la República). President Mauricio Funes separately declared on 10 October that a cache of "anti-tank grenades" found outside the capital had been stolen from the army and was suspected as destined for the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico, El Mundo reported. Mr Funes told the press "the only thing we know is that...as war weapons they were destined for the Zetas cartel," to be sent he stated by a recently dismantled, local gang. The cache of 213 M-90 anti-tank grenades was found on 8 October in the district of El Congo, north-west of the capital San Salvador. The President vowed that all those involved in the suspected bid to arm the Zetas would be caught and prosecuted. He said however there was presently no evidence that the Zetas, one of the continent's most violent cartels, were active in El Salvador.

Smaller Colombian parties sounding out former hostage's political interests

Two of Colombia's smaller parties were reportedly sounding out the former hostage and self-exiled politician Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio as a possible candidate for the Senate in parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2014, though contacts were said to be informal so far. Ms Betancourt, a former senator, was a presidential candidate in 2002 when she was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during campaign activity in southern Colombia. She was kept a prisoner until 2008 when the Army rescued her and several other hostages. In time she became one of Colombia's most prominent hostages, for her international connections, effectively drawing attention to the plight of other, unknown hostages of the FARC; she described her ordeal in the book Même le silence a une fin. Recently she was studying for a doctorate in theology at the University of Oxford. Parties interested in her return were Radical Change (Cambio Radical), a smaller liberal party with six parliamentarians, and the Greens or Green Alliance recently formed with the merging of the Green Party and the Progressives (Progresistas). The president of Cambio Radical Carlos Fernando Galán recently said Ms Betancourt would be "welcome" to compete in parliamentary polls with his party, the broadcaster Caracol reported on 10 October. His comments however suggested Ms Betancourt favoured the re-election of the country's sitting President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, backed by the Unity Party including Liberals and Conservatives. It was not clear however if Ms Betancourt intended to publicly back him before next year's presidential and parliamentary elections. Ms Betancourt was separately said to be "analysing" informal proposals made by the Greens to become a Senatorial candidate in March 2014, El Espectador reported on 8 October. The daily observed that a "delegation" of Ms Betancourt's "friends" from the party would travel to Paris in coming days to discuss further her possible return to Colombian politics. Ms Betancourt left Colombia in 2010 after announcing, then dropping, a lawsuit against the state for its alleged negligence or failure to protect her when she was kidnapped in 2002. The lawsuit provoked public outrage, sweeping away the widespread sympathy she enjoyed before and just after her rescue.

FARC guerrillas kill four Colombian soldiers in frontier zone

Four Colombian soldiers were killed in a shootout on 10 October with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Caracol radio and El Colombiano reported, citing an Army communiqué. The fighting took place in the north-eastern district of Arauquita near the Venezuelan frontier. The Army declared that troops opened fire on a group of 60 armed men apparently wearing army uniforms; the guerrillas were provisionally identified as members of the Drigelio Almareles company of the FARC's 10th Front, active in the frontier zone, El Colombiano reported. Two policemen were separately injured when unidentified individuals threw a grenade at a police patrol car in San Andrés de Cuerquia in the north-central department of Antioquia, El Colombiano reported on 10 October. The attackers were suspected to be members of the FARC, which had threatened a "black October" for police in this and neighbouring districts. The daily observed the attacks and recent acts of sabotage in nearby districts were possibly related to the construction of the Hidroituango dam in this part of Antioquia. The FARC were suspected to have destroyed machinery and vehicles belonging to contractor firms working on the dam on 7 and 9 October.