Today in Latin America
Top Story –Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos easily cruised to victory in a second round presidential election on Sunday, winning roughly 69 percent of the votes with 99 percent of the ballots counted, according to Colombian daily El Tiempo.
The opposition candidate, former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus of the Green Party, admited defeat and thanked his supporters.
Santos served as defense minister for current President Alvaro Uribe, whose security policies, designed to rein in a half-century old marxist uprising led by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have made him one of Colombia’s most popular presidents.
Santos made it clear that he will continue Uribe’s hard line against the FARC. “Let the terrorists hear, and let the world hear: the FARC’s time has run out,” Santos said during his victory speech on Sunday, according to Mexican news agency El Milenio.
Seven Colombian police officers and three soldiers were killed in separate incidents by suspected leftist guerrilla groups on the day of the election, The Associated Press reports. The Colombian authorities suspect the FARC of involvement in one of the attacks.
As a high-ranking official in the Uribe administration, Santos has shared both the praise and criticism of President Uribe’s security policies.
Uribe has dealt heavy blows to the FARC. The Colombian military killed the FARC’s second-in-command, known by his nom de guerre as Raúl Reyes, in an airstrike along the Ecuadorian border in March 2008. The FARC were further debilitated two months later when their leader and founding member, known as Manuel Marulanda, died of a heart attack. An increased military presence, financed largely by more than $6 billion in U.S. aid through a program called Plan Colombia, has made Colombia’s cities and major highways more secure.
Uribe has also presided over the release of some key FARC hostages. A military operation recovered a group of 15 hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, in 2008. The Uribe administration also negotiated the release of some of the longest-held hostages, Pablo Moncayo and Josué Daniel Calvo, in March. Both had been in captivity for 12 years.
The Sunday before the election, the Colombian military led another attack against the FARC, resulting in the release of another four hostages.
But Uribe’s security policies, known as “democratic security” in Colombia, have also drawn criticism. An incursion into neighboring Ecuador during an attack by Colombia’s armed forces against a FARC camp led the Ecuadoran courts to issue an arrest warrant for Santos.
Santos was also in charge of the military during the “false positives” scandal, in which members of the Colombian military killed noncombatants and dressed them up as guerrillas in order to inflate combat statistics. A number of military officers resigned because of the scandal, including the head of the army, though U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston found no evidence that the killings constituted official government policy.
Santos will take office on Aug. 7, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Other Top News: The mayor of the Mexican town of Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, Manuel Lara Rodríguez, was killed on Saturday by gunmen in the city of Ciudad Juárez, where he had fled after receiving death threats.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
- Documented immigrants should not be deported for minor drug infractions, the Supreme Court says. Read more at Alison Bowen’s “Beyond Borders” blog.
- Displacement of peasants by armed actors continues to plague Colombia, according to Marco Romero of the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES). Mike Samras reports on Romero’s talk in Washington.
- Also, WOLA announced a second death threat from a Colombian paramilitary group for its work with displaced people.
- Check out this weekend’s World Cup schedule and the Latin America News Dispatch staff picks to win it all.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- An undocumented student at Harvard University will not be deported to Mexico after being detained for nearly two weeks ago by immigration authorities at a Texas airport.
- Mexican writer Carlos Monsivais was honored at a memorial service in Mexico City Sunday, a day after he died of respiratory illness.
- The season’s first hurricane, Celia, has moved to open waters off of Mexico’s Pacific coast.
- The ability of Cubans to communicate with each other and the rest of the world using telephones and computers remains well below regional standards, according to a new U.N. report.
- The U.S. and Cuba held their third meeting over the last two years on Friday to discuss immigration issues.
- U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and actress Angelina Jolie met with Haitian President René Préval and other government officials on Saturday to discuss the situation of the country’s children in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake.
- A Pennsylvania man was arrested by Customs and Border Protection officers after he allegedly attempted to smuggle four pounds of cocaine through Dulles International Airport from El Salvador.
- All landmines from Nicaragua’s civil war in the 1980s have been removed and the cleared land will be available to farmers.
- Costa Rica’s central bank could intervene in the foreign-exchange market to reduce swings in currency, according to the country’s central bank president.
- Three Colombian soldiers and seven police officers were killed in separate incidents during the day of the country’s presidential runoff election.
- Hugo Chavéz’s Venezuelan government asked Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant for Guillermo Zuloaga, the owner Globovision who fled Venezuela.
- A British student died after falling from a cliff in Ecuador while riding a quad bike.
- Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana has unexpectedly resigned from his position, citing personal reasons.
- Flooding has killed 20 people in the northeastern Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Alagoas.
- Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, has referred the case of a prominent Chilean priest accused of sexually abusing former parishioners to the Vatican.
- Argentine environmentalists raised a blockade against neighboring Uruguay on Saturday, after a four-year protest against a paper factory accused of polluting the river.
Image: Globovisión @ Flickr.