martes, 18 de febrero de 2014

Colombian President reshuffles military command after corruption reports

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos removed several generals from their posts on 18 February following reports of illegal money-making in the Army and of contacts between officers and detained suspects. Those removed included the head of the Armed Forces, General Leonardo Barrero Gordillo, appointed to his position in August 2013 in the last military reshuffle. The Ministry of Defence announced new members of the Armed Forces high command: General Juan Pablo Rodríguez Barragán, hitherto the Army Commander, became the new Armed Forces chief, General Javier Alberto Flórez Ariztizábal became head of the Armed Forces General Staff, General Jaime Alfonso Lasprilla Villamizar was the new Army chief and General Guillermo León León was the new Air Force chief. The Police and Navy commanders remained in place. The Ministry also named Vice-Admiral Henry John Blain as Inspector-General of the Armed Forces. The Minister of Defence Juan Carlos Pinzón said that day that General Barrero was retiring "with the certainty" he was not to be associated with any incident of corruption, though he said he had been "imprudent" in using inappropriate language, apparently about the judiciary, during recorded conversations, RCN La Radio reported. The broadcaster cited the Minister's comments on measures to be taken to verify recent reports of corruption in Army contracting procedures.

Venezuelan opponent held as "peaceful" crowds gather in Caracas

Venezuelan authorities arrested a prominent opponent in Caracas on 18 February over his alleged involvement in violent incidents during recent anti-Government protests, and after he surrendered to troops in one of the capital's public squares, media reported. Leopoldo López, head of the opposition Voluntad Popular party, has rejected all wrongdoing and denounced the country's "unjust" judiciary before a crowd of sympathisers. Pictures by those present indicated that a very large crowd came out to witness the arrest and express support. He was taken away in an armoured van, apparently to a prison outside the capital, Globovisión and the daily El Universal reported. Politicians in the crowd included the former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and the legislator Maria Corina Machado. Mr Capriles said then that the opposition's demands for change were fair and should be expressed through peaceful protests; "let's not allow the Government or infiltrators to...tarnish a just demand," the broadcaster Globovisión showed him saying. El Universal separately reported a postponement of a parliamentary session that day, which was scheduled to debate removing Ms Machado's parliamentary immunity. The daily reported another march that day by Government supporters who headed toward the Miraflores presidential palace, where they were to hear a speech by President Nicolás Maduro.

Marches planned in Caracas, parliament to debate opponent's immunity

Venezuela's parliament was to debate on 18 February depriving one of the country's prominent opposition legislators of her parliamentary immunity, as the capital Caracas prepared itself for planned marches by crowds supporting and opposing the socialist Government of Nicolás Maduro Moros. Maria Corina Machado has been one of the Government's fiercest critics and involved like other prominent opponents in recent protests in the capital by students and the public. The head of parliament's Defence and Security Committee William Fariñas said parliament would debate depriving her of her legislator's immunity for allegedly fomenting violence in the protests, adding that such "elements and personalities betray their nation," the broadcaster Globovisión reported. Mr Fariñas dubbed Ms Machado "a malevolant personality of Venezuelan politics," comparing her to the "Malinche of Mexico," the Aztec girl who accompanied Mexico's 16th century conqueror, Hernán Cortés. "There were serious investigations, we'll be showing some of that," he said, urging people to watch proceedings on the parliamentary channel. Ms Machado urged people planning to march in the capital that day to "record on their mobile phones" everything happening, the "the place, hour and those present," writing on the website Twitter. She wrote that the world was watching the Government as events unfolded, and "every repressive action will be known immediately."