lunes, 17 de febrero de 2014

Venezuelan President says "extreme Right" planning to kill opponent

Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro said in Caracas on 17 February that the "extreme Right" was planning to kill one of the country's opponents and "blame it on the Government," Europa Press reported, citing Venezuela's official AVN agency. The opponent in question was Leopoldo López, leader of the Voluntad Popular party whom the Government accused of fomenting violent protests in recent days and ordered arrested. Mr López was to hand himself in to authorities on 18 February though perhaps not in the way intended by them. He called on Venezuelans to march with him "up to a point" toward the Interior Ministry in central Caracas, after which he would walk alone to present a petition; the authorities could then arrest him "illegally" if they so wished, Europa Press cited him as saying. Opposition politicians were variously announcing their intention to accompany Mr López on his march to the Ministry. President Maduro said in turn that the López family had told authorities that armed men, apparently state security agents, had been hovering around their house in recent days. He said "when we checked there were no" security agents "on the street looking for Leopoldo López," adding that "we'll do everything to avoid" the "tragedy" of his death in case of a "plot." The President separately ordered expelled on 16 February three unnamed consular officials of the US embassy in Caracas, for alleged meddling in the country's internal affairs, CNN reported. He said the Government had been "observing" the diplomats' activities in private universities for months now. The move followed the US State Department's calls on the Venezuelan Government to free detained protesters.

Thirty seven killed in El Salvador's "most violent" weekend in 2014

Mara gangs were blamed for a spike in violence in El Salvador that provoked 37 deaths in the weekend of 15-16 February, described as the most violent weekend so far in 2014. Many of the killings appeared to be for gang rivalries and included the "massacre" of four "supposed gangsters" in the district of Santa María. The figures, reported in the dailies El Mundo and La Prensa Gráficawere put out by the head of the state prosecution service (Fiscalía-General de la República) Luis Martínez, writing on the website Twitter. The prosecutor has repeatedly criticized the Government's allegedly benevolent attitude to a 2012 ceasefire between the gangs, which the Government has hailed as having reduced murders but which Mr Martínez and critics denounce as anything from a "farse" to a sham or "hypocrisy." The prosecutor said on 16 February that "in responsible states, criminals are not given concessions nor rewards or assurances and certainly not negotiations." Asked if he thought if the gangs were trying to sow fear ahead of the next round of presidential elections in March, Mr Martínez told journalists to "ask the politicians." The website cited the head of the state Legal Medicine service José Miguel Fortín Magaña as giving 133 as the number of homicide victims so far in February.

Colombian general resigns following corruption reports in Army

A Colombian general resigned early on 17 February after the review Semana reported on taped conversations apparently revealing a "corruption ring" of officers including generals and colonels earning large sums of cash from Army contracts. The tapes revealed names of officers presumably acting as middlemen in the allocation of contracts to Army suppliers, and included the name of General Javier Rey Navas, head of the Armed Forces General Staff until today and a former head of the Army air force. The Defence Ministry accepted his resignation within hours. The State Inspectorate was to send teams to various Army installations for preliminary investigations into Semana's revelations, before deciding whether or not to proceed with any prosecution through the Public Ministry or state prosecution service, Caracol radio reported. While the Minister of Defence Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno was cited that day as saying the ministry would have "zero tolerance" for corruption in the Army, the Ministry cautioned on the website Twitter that it was talking for now to the officers named in the corruption tapes, as "the least is to respect their honour and listen to them." The review Semana also reported on 16 February on taped conversations in which the Army Commander General Leonardo Barrero Gordillo talks on familiar terms with a colonel detained and being investigated over incidents of extra-judicial killings attributed to the Army called False Positives. The review observed that the conversations, which reportedly occurred in 2012-13, were irregular on various grounds: the colonel was able to call the General's mobile phone from jail, the informal tone of conversations, the General's audible "contempt" for state prosecutors investigating the cases etc.. The Defence Ministry announced on 17 February the reappointments of officers in charge of premises where "false positive" suspects were being kept, Radio Santa Fe reported.

FARC guerrillas kill five policemen in Colombia

Suspected guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ambushed and killed five policemen guarding a coca eradication team in the district of Tarazá on 17 February, Colombian media reported. Three policemen were injured in the attack and one was said to be missing, following an attack suspected as the work of the FARC's Front 36, Caracol radio reported. Police said the FARC used explosives and long-range rifles in the incident. The Army separately reported on 15 February the surrender of two FARC guerrillas and one from the National Liberation Army/ELN in different parts of the country. A 12-year veteran of the FARC was reported to have "fled" and surrendered to the Army in the north-eastern district of Manaure Balcón del César, another surrendred to the Army in Ocaña, and an ELN fighter surrendered with arms and equipment at a police or army post outside the town of Teorama.