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Editorial 10

Written by February 11 2020 0

A report claiming ties between former President Alvaro Uribe and imprisoned Mexican drug kingpin “El Chapo” Guzman has now prompted even President Uribe’s longest-running, harshest media critic to trash the report as unsubstantiated.

The apparent fake-news report – first broadcast by fired former Colombian Attorney General’s Office investigator and convicted criminal Richard Maok, and subsequently repeated in UK-based newspaper Daily Mail --also prompted President Uribe’s lawyers to issue an unusual February 10 news release contradicting the report.

The biggest surprise, however, came from fierce Uribe critic, former Semana magazine columnist and now Univision editorial director Daniel Coronell, who trashed the apparent fake-news story, pulling it from Univision broadcasts “because I consider that this report hasn’t been verified by independent [rather than the usual anti-Uribe, left-wing-biased] journalists,” Coronell stated.

In addition, President Uribe’s Bogota-based attorneys Jaime Granados and Jaime Lombana issued the following press release (obtained by Medellin Herald) denouncing the Maok report as a fantastical fabrication:

“Responding to new calumnies proffered against President Alvaro Uribe Velez, we state the following:

“Richard Maok is a fugitive from Colombian justice, condemned [by the Colombian Supreme Court] for grave crimes against the administration of national justice.

“Aided by political sectors adverse to President Uribe [including left-wing Senator and former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro], Maok fled to Canada where he enjoys immunity from his crimes.

“Since years ago, this shadowy person has proffered a series of infamies against various public persons including Luis Camilo Osorio, former Attorney General [of Colombia]. These ‘denunciations’ [by Maok], lacking any seriousness, have been debunked.

“Now, [Maok] has chosen President Uribe as victim of his absurd calumnies, trying to link [Uribe] to the Sinaloa cartel. Lamentably, international news media have echoed these fantastical tales, staining the good name of President Uribe.

“President Uribe has been recognized globally and regionally as one of the most important leaders in the struggle against narcotrafficking. Statistics [during Uribe’s two terms as President] are unprecedented: Reduction [of coca plantation areas] from 180,000 hectares during Plan Colombia to 62,000; more than 1,150 [cocaine traffickers] extradited [to the United States]; seizures of cocaine rising from 95 tonnes in 2002 to more than 1,330 tonnes at the end of his term – achievements that were key in the transformation of Colombia and our democracy. Because of that he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest decoration given by the U.S. government to any civilian,” the bulletin from Uribe’s lawyers concludes.

Written by January 22 2020 0

Despite isolated acts of vandalism in Medellin by small groups of extreme left-wingers who attacked a few municipal bus stations, police stations, bank offices and a hotel during a January 21 protest march here, Medellin mainly demonstrated once again that peaceful protest is respected by nearly all its citizens.

Contrast that to Bogota where left-wing extremists once again viciously attacked and injured police, as shown in this video taken by witnesses: https://www.facebook.com/GuardianesdeAntioquiaMedellin1/videos/863143347459656/UzpfSTEwMDA0MDQzNDEzMTYzOTpWSzoyNDEwODMzODIyMzU0ODEy/

In all, six policemen were injured by “encapuchados” (hooded left-wing extremists) in Bogota – down in number from the dozens of police injured and hospitalized during protest marches last November, where three other persons died as a result of police shooting back at “encapuchados” (hooded extremists) who were throwing bombs and rocks, gang-beating anti-riot police and attempting to burn and destroy private businesses and public facilities.

Ironically, newly elected Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez – who had campaigned on a populist promise to block the use of the “ESMAD” anti-riot police – embarrassingly conceded that she likewise had to deploy these troops to stop senseless violence and road-blockings by extremist protesters.

New Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero – who similarly had criticized ESMAD in his election campaign – likewise deployed anti-riot police when violent actors began attacking buildings and bus stations, as well as threatening peaceful citizens in Medellin.

Meanwhile, Colombia President Ivan Duque on January 21 once again publicly endorsed the constitutional right of Colombian citizens to organize and carry-out peaceful protest marches. He also cited the new and continuing dialogs between his government and proactive citizen delegates who are pushing further reforms to public education, the national health system, cultural initiatives, pensions and work rules -- all by democratic means rather than by violence.

However, the politically radical “Comite Nacional de Paro” (the national protest-march organizers) rejected President Duque’s invitation to participate in the new talks, instead pushing protest actions and anti-democratic, non-negotiable demands, which inevitably led to more violence and extremist hatred.

This group published a list of 104 demands including a 100% nationalization of the partly-privatized Ecopetrol oil company (which would require billions of dollars of new government expenses in already heavily debt-ridden Colombia); conversion of relatively efficient private-sector services such as telecom and internet to state ownership; a new law that would ban oil production via “fracking” (such a ban ironically would guarantee an accelerated demise of Ecopetrol and all its union jobs as conventional oil is rapidly disappearing in Colombia); a dismantling of anti-riot police (ensuring even more violence by extremists); and a politically biased dismantling of criminal “paramilitary” groups (but not any dismantling of the extreme left wing narco-terrorist ELN group, which instead would be favored by unilateral “peace” talks -- while ignoring continual ELN violence).

The protest group also demands that Colombia ban spraying of herbicides that kill the coca plant -- the backbone for cocaine narco-trafficking by criminal extremist groups including ELN.

Ironically, Colombia has seen a huge increase in coca and cocaine production – triggering the inevitable rise in violence by narco-gangster groups including ex-FARC and ELN -- as a result of a decision by the former President Santos administration to concede to demands by these criminal groups to ban the use of aerial spraying.

However, President Duque is pushing for a gradual return of such spraying -- hence infuriating the extreme left and other criminal groups here.

Written by January 10 2020 0

Certain politically biased non-government organizations (NGOs), several left-wing politicos, some naïve blogs and fake-news outfits in Colombia repeatedly and overwhelmingly blame former President Alvaro Uribe, his political successors and the Colombian army for murders of various social activists following the 2016 “peace” agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC narco-communist terrorist group.

But in nearly all cases, these murders are in fact caused by various narco-gangster groups and criminal miners -- including hundreds of “dissident” members of FARC that rejected the “peace” deal.

As noted in a new report by the nonpartisan, independent InsightCrime bulletin, “while Cauca [rather than Antioquia or Medellin] has seen the worst of the violence against local community leaders in 2019, the motives for these killings reflect the wider reasons for such targeted violence across Colombia.

“According to the organization Somos Defensores, one of the main reasons social leaders are targeted is due to their participation in the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).

“Social leaders can also run afoul of criminal groups when trying to stem the tide of illegal economies within their communities. Many victims were involved in activities related to coca crop substitution, the creation of legal jobs, or land redistribution, all efforts which can curtail drug production and help rural residents find sustainable alternatives,” the bulletin noted.

Similarly, according to the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz – INDEPAZ), “other risk factors contributing to violence against social leaders include denunciations of armed actors, accusations of mismanagement of public funds by state entities, and claims to the right to use natural resources,” InsightCrime noted.

“The problems facing social leaders in Cauca are exacerbated by the department’s crucial location as a drug trafficking corridor. According to the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), around 17,000 hectares of coca were produced in this department alone in 2018.

“Cauca has therefore become hotly contested by a range of criminal groups, seeking an advantage there, including the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación – EPL) and at least five dissident fronts of the FARC,” the report noted.

President Duque Steps-Up Enforcement

Meanwhile, on a related front, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced January 9 a further crackdown on these violent actors that are targeting social leaders.

For full-year 2019, “we had a reduction in the killings of social leaders of close to 25%,” Duque noted, citing the latest Colombia Attorney General’s report. But even that reduction isn’t nearly sufficient, he added.

Since taking-over in July 2018 (following the landslide election of President Duque), the Attorney General’s office has stepped-up attacks on criminal organizations and will expand these efforts in 2020, the president added.

“Thanks to the clarifications made by the Attorney General’s office regarding the murders of social leaders, ex-combatants and human rights defenders, it has been determined that those behind these crimes are [in fact] drug traffickers, illegal miners and organized armed groups,”  Duque noted.

Written by June 18 2018 1

By 54% to 42%, moderate conservative Ivan Duque handily defeated socialist-populist Gustavo Petro in the final round of Colombia’s presidential voting June 17, with Medellin and Antioquia providing most of the margin of victory.

Both Medellin and Antioquia massively delivered 72% of their votes for Duque compared to only 22% for Petro, while Duque also won majorities in 24 of Colombia’s 32 departments.

Petro won 54% of the vote in Bogota, where he once held the Mayor’s office.

Duque’s vice-presidential running mate -- veteran Conservative Party politician Marta Lucia Ramirez -- now becomes Colombia’s first-ever female Vice President.

In an attempt to broaden his appeal to more-moderate voters, former M-19 guerrilla Petro spent the past several weeks trying to whitewash his socialist-populist past including issuance of a feeble statement calling for a repeat of elections in the socialist dictatorship of neighboring Venezuela, whose leaders and governments he has publicly defended.

During the presidential campaign, Petro also issued a veiled threat -- disguised as an “invitation” -- that suggested he would expropriate the sugar-cane processing operations of Medellin-based Carlos Ardila Lulle, owner of the mainstream RCN radio and television news network. Such a threat carries frightening consequences, as Venezuela's government has similarly expropriated and destroyed nearly the entire private sector in that country, triggering a near-total collapse of the economy and forcing millions to flee the resulting starvation and a massive surge of street violence.

RCN’s “NTN24” international broadcast network was thrown out of Venezuela for vigorous and continuing exposes of that government’s massive corruption, its collusion with Colombian narco-terrorist communist groups including FARC and ELN, its repression of free speech, free press, free markets and Venezuela’s freedom parties, its rigging of elections, and its imprisonment of opposition leaders.

The Venezuelan government had been hoping that Petro would defeat Duque, as Duque is among a group of leading South American politicians who have brought suit in an international human-rights court against Venezuela’s fraudulent elections and its massive repressions.

Following a consistent pattern of insulting Duque and his supporters -- rather than democratically congratulating Duque on an overwhelming victory -- Petro instead claimed in his post-election speech that Duque won the presidential race by “lying” about Petro’s veiled autocratic-socialist agenda.

In contrast to Petro’s venom, Duque's post-election speech continued to offer words of moderation and conciliation.

“We are not going to deprive anyone of the rights they have achieved in our country,” Duque said. “We are always going to have a constructive attitude in government, deliberative but motivated to consolidate this idea of the ‘Pact for Colombia,’ where we move forward an agenda of reforms to make this country grow, defeat poverty, expand the middle class, and plant hope again in every corner of the territory . . .

“[I]f illicit crops [coca and cocaine trafficking] continue to grow in our country, threatening national security, if [narco-terrorist] money and hidden weapons reappear, we see that there are some who allow, with their weapons, to continue obstructing the institutional course of the country or what is worse, silencing the authorities and silencing citizenship, then what we are doing is breaking the longing for peace . . .

“Our country has to be the country of environmental sustainability, [so] here we are going to protect the [highland] páramos, the rivers, the diverse ecosystems, the protection of fauna and flora, the promotion of electric vehicles, the country of reduction, reuse and recycling, the country of twenty-first century ethics that protect nature and create entrepreneurship where [the environment] is also preserved . . .

“We are going to become once and for all the nation of social justice, of equity policy, where in the whole territory we guarantee a dignified education, with [full-day] classes, with double [breakfast and lunch] feeding, with preschools, with technical education and where free university education reaches strata 1 and 2 [the poorest sectors] of our country,” he added.

Written by May 28 2018 1

In the first round of presidential elections May 27, moderate conservative Ivan Duque of the Centro Democratico party won the plurality of votes (39%) among five candidates.

Duque will face socialist-populist candidate Gustavo Petro of the “Colombia Humana” party (25% of first-round votes) in the second-round runoff election on June 17.

Duque won in 23 of Colombia’s departments (states), while Petro won in eight -- including the biggest strongholds of cocaine production (Chocó, Vaupés, Cauca, Putumayo and Nariño), all areas where left-wing extremists including ex-FARC, ELN and other narco-terrorist groups control large territories -- and have sympathizers among coca growers and also the socialist dictatorship in neighboring Venezuela, a government that Petro has defended.

Former Medellin mayor, Antioquia governor and public-education proponent Sergio Fajardo – a moderate with big national support among younger voters, students, and sentimental support among many Medellin and Antioquia voters -- took third place in the balloting, with 23.7% of the vote.

Fajardo beat all contenders in Bogota, the national capital, while Duque won Medellin handily (followed by Fajardo) and Petro got a paltry 7% of the Medellin vote.

Ironically, Bogota was suppposed to have been Petro's stronghold. Petro -- a former member of left-wing guerilla group M-19 that once murdered Colombia's Supreme Court members in an attack financed by the late narco kingpin Pablo Escobar -- previously was a Bogota mayor (2012 to 2015), but he left a bitter legacy of administrative chaos, political venom and demagoguery that turned-off many Bogota voters.

Given Antioquia’s overwhelming support for political moderate Duque in the first-round balloting, a significant portion of the Fajardo vote is now likely to swing to Duque in the second round, likely ensuring Duque’s final victory, according to analysts.

In total, Duque won 7.567 million votes in the first round, while Petro got 4.8 million and Fajardo gathered 4.59 million. Fourth-place finisher German Vargas Lleras got 7.3% of the votes (1.4 million). Analysts predict that nearly all of those mainly conservative Vargas voters will switch to Duque in the second round.

Duque, a former economist for the Inter-American Development Bank, is a Bogota native and a former Senator for the Centro Democratico party, formed by former President (now Senator) Alvaro Uribe – Colombia’s most popular politician.

In a speech following the first-round election results, Duque praised Fajardo for his life-long dedication to public education and ethical government, and termed the Vargas campaign as “serious.”

As for Petro, Duque stated: “I invite you today to have a campaign where we can debate clearly . . . [W]e are ready to confront ideas and proposals, we are ready to give Colombia a high-level debate, where we can air our differences, so that Colombians can define the course of the country, because I am sure that hope is above class hatred.”

Following a pattern from the primary election earlier this year, which Duque won handily, Petro’s post-election speech once again insulted Duque and his followers.

“The [party] machines went for Ivan Duque, but that’s not the way politics [should be] in Colombia. Either the country returns to violence or continues towards an era of peace. It is not an agreement with the FARC that is being resolved [by this election], it is much more than that,” Petro said.

Duque, who has criticized terms of the “peace” deal between FARC and outgoing President Juan Manual Santos, responded:

“In Colombia, there are no enemies of peace other than those who have used violence to silence the Colombian people. Therefore, we speak clearly to Colombia: we do not want to tear up the [peace] agreements, what we want is to make clear that the Colombia of peace, is the Colombia where peace meets justice, where there is truth, where there is reparation, there is compliance with penalties, and the wishes of the victims are met and repaired.

“For that reason, today I also say clearly that we have to be kind and generous with that guerrilla base that has made the transition to demobilization, disarmament and reintegration. But we have to ensure that they do not reoffend, that they repair their victims, they tell the whole truth, assuming responsibilities and they fulfill their sentences. Because if we do not have that, [then] peace will never be lasting.”

About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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