lunes, 9 de diciembre de 2013

Colombian judiciary sacks Bogotá's mayor

The Inspector-General of Colombia Alejandro Ordoñez, the official empowered to discipline state officials, ordered dismissed on 9 December the mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro Urrego, for incompetence and the "chaos" he said the mayor provoked in December 2012 as he changed the city's trash collection system, Europa Press and Colombian media reported. Mr Petro was barred from holding office for 15 years, Caracol radio and Colprensa agency reported. The irregularities cited included the mayor's transfer of collection to the municipal firm Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogotá, which the Office of the Inspector-General (Procuraduría General de Colombia) stated lacked then sufficient experience and equipment for the job; the work was previously done by private firms. Radio Santa Fe observed this was the second time in recent years that the capital was left without a mayor; the state prosecution service dissmissed Samuel Moreno Rojas in May 2011 for irregularities in handing out public contracts. The Inspector-General told a press conference on 9 December that Mr Petro broke the law when he entrusted the municipal firm with duties he "knew" it could not implement, but also for restricting competition from private firms. That he said led to failure to collect 6-9,000 tonnes of trash from the capital's streets followed by "chaos" as the Municipality took makeshift measures to remedy the situation on 18-20 December, when the scheme began. The dismissal prompted the Minister of Justice Alfonso Gómez Méndez to say that the constitutional article allowing an unelected official to dismiss an elected one should be revised, Caracol radio reported.

Guerrillas declare Christmas ceasefire in Colombia, three soldiers shot

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), engaged in peace talks with the Colombian Government since October 2012, declared a unilateral ceasefire from 15 December to 15 January, a day after they launched a deadly bomb attack on a police station. The Government apparently did not intend to reciprocate the move. The FARC commander dubbed Pablo Catatumbo declared the ceasefire in Havana on 8 December, observing that Colombia did not "merit" the current "bloodletting," Europa Press reported. President Juan Manuel Santos had urged state forces a day earlier not to give the FARC "a minute's break" reacting to the bomb attack on a police station in the south-western district of Inzá. He said the FARC were "completely mistaken if they think they will take us toward a ceasefire with acts like this, which is what they are saying," the Presidential website reported. Colombia's former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, an outspoken critic of the talks, qualified the ceasefire as the "murderous farse of terrorism," writing on the website Twitter. "Infamous game with Colombia, they murder and now pretend with a ceasefire," Radio Santa Fe reported, quoting Mr Uribe's comments. He accused the "indolent" Santos Government of letting such killings proliferate around Colombia. "For President Santos these terrorists are not assassins but Mandelas," he wrote. Separately, unidentified gunmen shot dead three soldiers on 8 December, in a bar or "public establishment" in the north-eastern city of Cúcuta, Europa Press and Caracol radio reported. The killing was being investigated. Another soldier died on 8 December in a Medellín hospital where he was being treated for injuries sustained in a FARC bomb attack on 3 December, El Colombiano reported on 9 December. Suspected members of the FARC's Front 36 set off a bomb then as a patrol approached an electricity pylon near the district of Yarumal in Antioqiua.

Government leads in Venezuela polls, opponents win big cities

The liberal opposition won about 42 per cent of votes cast in Venezuela's 8 December municipal polls and the Government and allied parties 49 per cent - a bitter disappointment for the opposition as it had hoped Venezuelans would cast a massive vote of disapproval against the socialist government of Nicolás Maduro. The National Electoral Council (CNE)'s President Tibisay Lucena announced late that day that the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and allies had won just over 5.11 million or 49.2 per cent of all votes cast, and the opposition coalition Table of Democratic Unity (MUD, Mesa de Unidad Democrática), just over 4.435 million or 42.7 per cent of votes, Globovisión and EFE reported. The elections were for 335-7 mayors' positions and 2,500 municipal council seats; the participation rate was just under 59 per cent from an electorate of some 19 million. Radio France Internationale stated on 9 December that the Government and its allies thus retained control of roughly the same number of districts as before, 70 per cent, and had managed to increase their votes since the April presidential elections; it observed the Maduro government had "passed its test" in the elections. "They said I would have to resign if they won this, that this was a plebiscite. What will the MUD leadership do" with the defeat, Spain's El País cited Mr Maduro as asking on 8 December. Another Spanish daily, ABC cited him as telling opposition leaders to leave for a "dignified" exile in Mexico. Reuters agency observed that the Government's strong showing was no surprise given its strength in rural and sparsely-populated districts, but that the vote remained a disappointment for the opposition, which had expected to win more votes overall. The opposition retained control of a several important municipalities, including the capital Caracas and the country's second city Maracaibo, and won other cities including MaturínBarquisimeto and Valencia.