lunes, 17 de noviembre de 2014

Colombian general among five held by FARC, talks halted

Colombia suspended peace talks in Cuba with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country's largest communist guerrilla force, after the FARC kidnapped a general and two others in western Colombia on 16 November. General Rubén Darío Alzate Mora, head of the Titán task force used in anti-terrorism operations, was taken with a junior officer and a lawyer in a rural sector called Las Mercedes, near the town of Quibdó, Cali's El País reported. The three were reportedly in civilian clothes and detained as they came out of a boat in which they were travelling; another soldier apparently reentered the boat and escaped. The incident followed the kidnapping on 9 November of two soldiers in the district of Tame, El País reported, though the FARC have stressed the soldiers were "taken prisoner" after fighting, not kidnapped. The FARC vowed in February 2012 to end kidnappings for ransom, and stated in a communiqué that the two soldiers were being suitably treated, in keeping with international treaties regulating war captivity, El Tiempo reported on 17 November. The Ministry of Defence separately reported on 14 November that troops and police had killed three FARC guerrillas in fighting, possibly in the south-western district of Tumaco. The victims were identified as members of the Daniel Aldana mobile column; troops later found a nearby guerrilla camp that yielded items including rifles, ammunition and suspected drug-making equipment.

Bicycle use increases in Bogotá

A small, but increasing proportion of residents of Bogotá are reportedly using bicycles to move around the Colombian capital - a city particularly affected by car fumes - braving a range of dangers including getting run over. The proportion of residents who "use a bicycle" has reportedly increased from one per cent of the population in the 1990s to currently 19 per cent, while Bogota's Radio Santa Fe has cited a 177 per cent rise in daily bike trips from 281,000 in 2005 to 500,000 today; yet cycling remains occasional and far from generalised. A survey from 2011 showed that only four per cent of daily trips were made on bicycles.  The city government has promoted cycling through schemes like Bicicorredores, a lending system similar to those of many cities like Paris or Mexico City, and the more established Ciclovía. But persistent problems were said to include insufficient facilities to allow all those interested to use city bicycles, bike thefts and related violence, and danger from cars, El Tiempo reported on 16 November. The daily reported that the municipality intended to spend the equivalent of just over USD 16 million to expand the network of bike paths, which currently stretch 195 km. The city's transport secretary, María Constanza García was cited as saying that changing attitudes on transportation was essential, and "drivers should put themselves in bike users' shoes and respect the space provided for them." Bogota she said, was a "laboratory for creating awareness in other cities."