FARC Frees American Military Member #cmm457

ImagePhoto by: Paz Farc

           On the Sunday the leftist Colombian guerrilla group FARC freed a former US military member, Kevin Scott Sutay, who had been held captive since June 20, 2013.  The Daily Beast reported that Sutay had served in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011.

 

            FARC did not comment on the reasons for Mr. Sutay’s release but the move can be seen as a good gesture in order to spark the peace negotiations that have deteriorated in Havana earlier this month.

 

            It is not very clear why Mr. Sutay visited Colombia, in particular the jungle area.  He was kidnapped in Guaviare state, which is in the south of the country, and it’s an area not very well developed.  Earlier this month FARC released a letter, via Colombia Reports, written by Sutay for proof of his well-being:

 

            “I am enjoying my time here in the jungle, it’s a shame that you [FARC] are telling me that I cannot stay here much longer, you really are good people, I would like to stay for longer, but if you tell me that it’s better for me to leave, I believe you. Will you come to visit me? We can go to parties and have a good time.”

 

             FARC labeled Mr. Sutay a prisoner of war because they believe he is a mercenary working for a private security firm.  Companies like Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, operate in Colombia.  Journalist Eva Golinger reported in 2008 the largest military expansion in Latin America by Washington: “The U.S. Army Missile Command and Space Defense awarded contracts in the amount of 15 billion dollars to a group of private contractors, including Blackwater.”    

 

             Sutay is not the first American kidnaped by the group.  In 2003 ABC News reported three Americans, who worked for Northrop Grumman, a global security company, were captured when their surveillance plane crashed in the jungle.

Chilean Students Clash Violently with Police #cmm457

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In a scene reminiscent of the 1968 student protests, Chilean students clash with police during a mass student protest in the country’s capital, Santiago, on Thursday.  The students are demanding educational reform.

Chilean newspaper La Tercera states: “Officials believe some 18,000 demonstrators took part in the march, which was organized by the Confederation of Chilean Students (CONFECH) and two secondary school student groups, Aces and Cones. The demonstration resulted in 34 arrests while 14 police officers were said to be hurt.”

The violent confrontations with police are nothing new to Chile as student led marches tends to erupt every so often with similar response from the authority.  RT reports that the students are demanding a: “greater role in the decision making process in the run-up to the country’s presidential election on November 17.”  Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has hit a new low in his approval rating.

Student protests are becoming more popular in South America as in Colombia students are demanding a roll-back of the privatization of the educational system.  However, the student march in Colombia has been peaceful.

Students Protest Semi-nude in Colombia #cmm457

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Thousands of university students took the streets in Colombia’s biggest cities on Wednesday to demand the government to increase investments in education.  The students called their movement “Desnudaton” which would translate to “Nude-athon,” and they marched semi-nude exposing their torsos with many painting slogans on their bodies.  Colombia has been moving towards privatization of the higher educational system and the move is rejected by a large part of the population.

The newspaper El Espectador interviewed the spokesperson of the Mesa Amplia Nacional Estudiantil (MANE,) which means the National Student Bureau, Sergio Fernandez, as he criticized the privatization of university degrees by saying: “When a student asks for a loan for a million pesos in the long run we will end up paying three million pesos, and in a short-term loan we will pay two million pesos.”  The students are demanding a zero interest rate loan.  Fernandez continued to criticize the government of President Juan Manuel Santos saying: “The government lies to the people by pretending that there is no crisis in the university sector.”  Fernandez emphasized that the student movement demonstrates the contrary to government rhetoric.  The protest is scheduled to continue tomorrow, Thursday.

Negotiations End in Stalemate #cmm457

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On Sunday the peace negotiations taking place in Havana between the Colombian government and the left-wing guerrilla group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) came to an end when both sides could not come to an agreement regarding the saturated issue of political participation.

Both sides ended the 15th round peace negotiations after the parties accused each other of slowing the pace of the talks.  Negotiations have been in process for 11 months with only one agreement being reached.  Colombian newspaper El Espectador quoted Humber de la Calle, chief negotiator for the government, as saying: “The negotiations are not about FARC’s political position but on the agreed agenda.”  The comment came as a result of an earlier government accusation that FARC was trying to confuse the public by raising issues that are not part of the negotiations.

Iván Márquez, FARC’s chief negotiator for the peace delegation, responded to the criticism in a press conference by saying: “It is not wise to attempt to show the insurgency as the ones who slow down the rhythms for the progress of the process.”  Mr. Márquez continued his allegations by saying that the government: “Is not realistic when they want to impose themselves unilaterally on all decisions pertaining to crucial issues.”

Peace talks between the two groups began on November 19, 2012 in Havana, Cuba.  Nelson Acosta from Reuters reports that: “Polls in Colombia show the population is tiring of the talks, which have dragged on for 11 months with only a partial accord on agrarian reform, the first point of a six-point agenda.”  FARC was founded in 1964 with the objective of overthrowing the Colombian government which it sees as an arm of U.S. imperialism.  FARC considers itself a peasant army and it is the Western Hemisphere’s oldest and largest guerrilla group.

Warning of Upcoming Coups #cmm457

 

On his weekly Saturday television show, Enlace Ciudadano, which means Citizen Link, President of Ecuador Rafael Correa warned fellow leftists’ heads of state of upcoming coups.

The President stated that the traditional way of overthrowing a government is no longer viable, and that the world super powers are introducing new methods.  President Correa said: “All the attempts of coup d’état in Latin America in the twenty-first century have been against progressive governments, governments of the left.  We need to be very alert on the new forms of destabilization and overthrow.”  The president then continued to show examples of previous recent coup attempts starting with Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and the successful overthrown of Honduras democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya and Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo.

President Correa explained that in Ecuador, as well as in other countries of the region, the opposition to leftists’ governments are dedicated in organizing what he calls a “soft coup.”  The concept was introduced by American political science professor Gene Sharp in his book From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation.  The book has been the blueprint of Latin American opposition leaders.

The president closed the show by saying: “Coups are being disguised with discourses that deceive the people.”