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February 25, 2007
Former Ambassador to Colombia Dies
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo:  Law Professor Covey T. Oliver, 93; Served as Ambassador to Colombia:

He was named to the Inter-American Juridical Committee of the Organization of American States by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Two years later, Dr. Oliver, who spoke fluent Spanish and Portuguese, was named ambassador to Colombia, where he served for two years. In 1967, he became assistant secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs and was U.S. coordinator of the Alliance for Progress. He later held an executive position with the World Bank.

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February 22, 2007
Five Years a Captive: Ingrid Betancourt
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

El Tiempo has a special section dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the kidnapping of Senator and presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt by the FARC.

For some stories in English:

  • WaPo: Kin of Kidnapped Colombian Pol Upset
  • Reuters: Uribe says Betancourt may be out of Colombia
    Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, kidnapped by Marxist rebels during her 2002 campaign, may have been taken to another country by her captors, President Alvaro Uribe said on Wednesday.

    “It is a possibility we have been studying. We have heard some versions of this,” Uribe told reporters, declining to give more details.

    Colombia borders Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. Colombian officials say the guerrillas sometimes hide out in poorly patrolled border areas in neighboring countries.

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More Parapolitics: Former DAS Chief Arrested
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombia’s ex-spy chief charged

Colombia’s former intelligence chief has been arrested and charged with murder and collaborating with right-wing militias.

Jorge Noguera, head of the Administrative Security Department (DAS), resigned in October but has denied any wrongdoing.

Eight members of President Alvaro Uribe’s coalition have been jailed for supporting drug-running militias.

I am still in the process trying to absorb the “parapolitica” situation. My early reaction is that this is the kind of thing that is simultaneously good and bad. Bad for obvious reasons, given the seriousness of the charges. The good part is that the justice system is rooting out, and arresting, high level members of the government for serious human rights violations.

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Colombia: the Sequel (a.k.a., Afghanistan)
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Spero News reports (Plan Afghanistan: Another Colombia mistake) that the next ambassador to Afghanistan is likely to be William Wood:

Wood, the US ambassador to Colombia since mid-2003, has been nominated to serve as the US ambassador to Afghanistan. His credentials, most agree, are strong. But it is worrying that he might promote the same failed policies used in Colombia - a supply-side drug control strategy that has a heavy military element with little development aid attached.

Colombia and Afghanistan have some commonalities. The governments of both countries fight an asymmetric war against an insurgency determined to remove it from power. Colombia is the world’s leading supplier of cocaine, Afghanistan of heroin. And both countries receive heavy amounts of military aid directed at combating “terrorism” and reducing drug demand inside the US and elsewhere through inflating street prices by attacking the supply.

I have no doubt that we will pursue identical policies in Afghanistan as we have in Colombia (with potentially disastrous consequences, as I noted last week).

Greg Weeks noted the same trend earlier this week, including the training of Afghan police by the Colombians.

Cross-posted at PoliBlog Main

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February 20, 2007
Uribe Names Former Hostage as New Foreign Minister
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Ex-hostage is Colombia minister

Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe has named Fernando Araujo as foreign minister, weeks after he escaped from six years’ captivity in rebel hands.

He was held hostage by the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) until he fled last month.

Mr Araujo, 51, served as a minister in a previous Colombian administration.

He will replace Maria Consuelo Araujo - no relation - who resigned after her brother was arrested on suspicion of links with paramilitaries

Regarding the ministerial vacancy:

Earlier on Monday, Maria Consuelo Araujo stepped down as foreign minister after the arrest of her brother - also named Araujo.

Alvaro Araujo, a senator, became the highest-ranked politician arrested on suspicion of links with paramilitary groups.

Ms Araujo’s father is also being investigated for alleged paramilitary links.

Here’s some biographical info via El Tiempo (Con el nombramiento de Fernando Araújo Perdomo en la Cancillería, Uribe le apuesta a un símbolo):

El nuevo canciller tiene 51 años, es ingeniero civil de la Universidad Javeriana y es una nueva carta en el Gobierno para los conservadores. Antes de su designación, sonó como posible alcalde de Cartagena y sus copartidarios lo postularon como Comisionado de Paz.

If anything, it is a most remarkable turn-around to go from kidnap victim for multiple years to foreign minister in a few weeks!

.

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February 18, 2007
Senator, Brother of DefMin, Arrested for Paramilitary Ties
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombian politician is arrested

The brother of Colombias foreign minister has been arrested on suspicion of ties with paramilitaries involved in the countrys drug trade.

Senator Alvaro Araujo is the highest ranking politician to be arrested as part of the investigation.

Further warrants have been issued for five other lawmakers allied to President Alvaro Uribe.

Three other lawmakers were jailed in November for links to paramilitaries fighting leftwing rebel groups.

The penetration of electoral politics by violent actors is hardly a shock. The real question is how far these investigations will go and to what degree it will possible to excise some connections from electoral politics.

At a minimum we can hope that this is the case:

Analysts say that the arrests are encouraging as they show increasing transparency in Colombian politics.

“Everyone knew the paramilitaries had infiltrated Congress,” said Pablo Casas of Colombian think-tank Security and Democracy.

“The good news is that the justice system is showing a certain level of independence.”

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February 10, 2007
‘El país vive grave crisis institucional’
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via El Tiempo: ‘El país vive grave crisis institucional’, reconocen obispos católicos durante su Asamblea

Del cuestionamiento no salvó ningún estamento: “El legislativo, el Ejecutivo, la administración de justicia, la Corte Constitucional, las Fuerzas Armadas y los órganos de control”.

Así lo advirtió ayer monseñor Luis Augusto Castro, presidente de la Conferencia Episcopal, en el mensaje de cierre de la Asamblea de obispos, la cual reunió esta semana a los 93 jerarcas del país en Bogotá.

There is no doubt that Colombia has deep and grave problems. However, the labeling of those problems as “crisis” is an analytical pet peeve of mine. Simply put, the problems that are often termed a “crisis” (e.g., the violence, governance problems) have been ongoing for decades. If a problem persists over time, even an acute, difficult problem, then that problem isn’t a “crisis” rather, it is the normal state of affairs.

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February 6, 2007
Senator Luis Guillermo Vélez Dies of Heart Attack
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via El Tiempo:
Murió el senador liberal Luis Guillermo Vélez, por una falla cardiaca

De 63 años de edad, el dirigente había sido internado esta mañana en la clínica Cardioinfantil de Bogotá, donde falleció de un infarto agudo del miocardio, según el parte médico.

Luis Guillermo Vélez hizo un amplio recorrido por la vida pública colombiana que incluyó el ejercicio de la política, la diplomacia, el periodismo y la cátedra universitaria. Fue senador por el Partido Liberal durante cuatro periodos consecutivos desde 1991, y en la última legislatura (2006) fue elegido como senador por el Partido de la U.

[…]

Y el año pasado, después de una agria polémica con la Dirección Nacional Liberal por haber apoyado la reelección del presidente Álvaro Uribe, Vélez se distanció de las directivas de esta colectividad e inició las convocatorias a los parlamentarios uribistas que luego dieron origen a la formación del partido de la U, del cual fue dirigente nacional y su coordinador en Antioquia.

63 is young, to be sure.

In terms of an “inside baseball” observation, I find the headline and story interesting, insofar as Vélez is identified as a “Liberal” when he was most recently elected as a member (and party leader) of the U. This is a typical reaction in Colombian journalism (and often in Colombian scholarship)-once a member of one of the traditional parties, always a member. To put this in semi-perspective it would be like Jim Jeffords (who left the GOP in 2001) having his obituary headlined “Republican Senator dies.”

February 3, 2007
Colombia’s Finance Minister to Step Down
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via Bloomberg: Colombia’s Carrasquilla Submitted His Resignation, People Say

Colombia’s Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla, who helped slash the budget deficit and foreign debt, handed President Alvaro Uribe his resignation on Jan. 24 citing personal reasons, people familiar with his decision said.

Carrasquilla, 47, stepped up to the post from deputy finance minister in June 2003, previously serving as a senior economist at the Inter-American Development Bank. He has headed the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s Development Committee since September 2005. Presidential spokesman Javier Hendez said the office won’t comment on what he called a rumor.

[…]

Speculation that Carrasquilla would step down appeared in newspapers such as El Tiempo and Portafolio in the past week. Possible successors include Agriculture Minister Andres Arias, former head of the National Planning Department Juan Carlos Echeverry, and Roberto Steiner, Colombia’s representative to the International Monetary Fund, Bear Stearns & Co.’s Latin American fixed-income analyst Alberto Bernal wrote in a report yesterday.

Under Carrasquilla, Colombia’s budget deficit shrank to about 0.4 percent of gross domestic product, the Finance Ministry said, from 2.8 percent of GDP in 2003, according to Bloomberg data. He also cut foreign borrowing as a portion of overall debt to 35 percent in 2006 from 48 percent in 2003.

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