martes, 23 de junio de 2015

Colombian president changes his defence minister

Luis Carlos Villegas Echeverri became Colombia's defence minister on 22 June, replacing Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, who was appointed as Colombia's new ambassador to the United States. The newspaper El Espectador observed that the new minister, a lawyer and former businessman, was considered a skilled negotiator able to "manage various interests" in the country at a time when the state was negotiating with and fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It described the outgoing minister as too closely associated with a military response to the FARC and with security policies associated with the former conservative president, Álvaro Uribe. President Juan Manuel Santos commented on his successor's "diplomatic" and "managerial" skills and his ability to "talk while making war," which he said was presently the quickest way to end the civil conflict in Colombia. Mr Santos also appointed María Lorena Gutiérrez Minister of the Presidency, a post created under his government, in place of Néstor Humberto Martínez. The position was described in 2014 as designed to coordinate the work of ministers and keep a tab on the legislative agenda.

Venezuela to hold parliamentary polls on 6 December

Venezuelan authorities set 6 December as the date of their country's next parliamentary elections, a decision welcomed by leading opponents apparently confident of their success and keen to reduce the powers of the socialist President Nicolás Maduro. The government nevertheless was apparently not to invite foreign observers like the Organisation of American States (OAS) or the European Union, Voice of America reported on 23 June. The broadcaster cited the head of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, as stating however that Venezuela would allow members of UNASUR - a grouping of states more sympathetic to Venezuela's socialist regime - to "accompany" the process, observing that this was far more restricted than "observing" polls. That involves checking the electoral process and pre-electoral conditions weeks or months before the actual voting day. One of the country's leading conservative opponents, the former legislator María Corina Machado, wrote on her Twitter account that it was no surprise the regime did not want observers given the "very harsh" reports written by the EU and OAS in their "last electoral mission" in Venezuela, whose date was not specified. Venezuela last held parliamentary polls in September 2010. Mitzy Ledezma, wife of Antonio Ledezma, the liberal mayor of Caracas presently under house arrest on subversion charges, wrote on her husband's Twitter page that opponents must now fight to have observers from the OAS or EU. The governor of the northern state of Miranda and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, welcomed the electoral announcement also writing on Twitter, and observed there was "finally" a date allowing Venezuelans to "make it," presumably meaning make political changes. Candidacies were to be registered between 3 and 7 August, and campaigning would be from 13 November to midnight on 3 December, VOA reported.