With today’s headline, we go outside the major papers to a significant story developing in Colombia where a mass grave containing an estimated 2000 bodies was recently discovered near the city of La Macarena. Via Plan Colombia and Beyond who has the major details of the story, the Nuevo Herald reports yesterday that the unidentified bodies were dumped in the grave fairly recently by the Colombian military (Adam Isacson says the mid-2000s while Jairo Ramírez of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia says the dates on plaques near the grave begin in 2005). A commander of the Colombian Army claims the bodies are those of guerrillas, captured by the armed forces but residents of the area maintain the mass grave is filled with relatives and friends who’ve disappeared in the last 4 years—individuals who they say were unaffiliated with guerrilla groups that operate in the area.
The grave is already being considered the largest single discovery of unmarked bodies ever found in Colombia, according to the Nuevo Herald. Excavations by the Colombian prosecutor-general’s office are set to begin sometime in March. And, as Adam Isacson notes, the shock waves of the discovery could reach the United States since La Macarena has been an important site of U.S.-supported military and development operations. He writes:
“In this area, the U.S. government supported and advised the Colombian Army’s 2004-2006 “Plan Patriota” military offensive, and since 2007 has supported the “Plan for the Integral Consolidation of La Macarena” or PCIM, part of the new “Integrated Action” framework that is now guiding much U.S. assistance.”
In two other Colombia-related pieces this morning, Reuters notes that an anti-crime plan being proposed by President Alvaro Uribe, which would see the government paying students to spy and inform on violent gangs in Medellin, is drawing fierce criticism from the opposition. And independent journalist Mareclo Ballvé of New America Media has new details about the increased use of unmanned (and unarmed) drones in counter-narcotics surveillance operations in Latin America—from Colombia to Mexico.
In other news today:
· The Wall Street Journal documents the ongoing challenges of aid delivery in Haiti this morning. “Trucks conked out. Communication with the U.S. military broke down. Traffic snarled the streets. Hungry crowds made handing out food unsafe”—these are all problems that the paper’s Christopher Rhoads reports on while traveling with US soldiers charged with food distribution. Also, the New York Times reports that Port-au-Prince continues to feel aftershocks, over two weeks after the initial 7.0 quake devastated the city. The paper also looks at how the historic tensions between Haiti and the DR have eased amidst the tragedy of the past weeks. “Our relations with Haiti will never be the same,” Pastor Vásquez, a senior diplomat at the Dominican Embassy in Haiti, tells the Times. The Dominican Republic has waived visa restrictions for Haitians seeking emergency medical care, authorized nearly 300 flights carrying aid and donated $11 million. And with opinions on Haiti this morning, Paul Collier and Jean-Louis Warnholz write again, saying that recovery efforts must now turn toward the question of creating jobs in Haiti. They argue private business will be essential for this and call on private investors to work with one another. The two cite George Soros who recently committed $25 million for “smart investments that catalyze Haiti’s competitive advantages.” And the Washington Post argues that the U.S. should “allow Haitians with relatives in the United States to join their families here as quickly as practicable,” rather than freezing the issuance of new visas.
· The AP says that Cuba is seeking an accord with the US on human trafficking. The issue will likely be discussed in the next round of migration talks, scheduled for next month. The tentative date for the meeting is Feb. 19 in Havana but the US has not yet responded on whether or not the talks will actually occur, reports the news service.
· From Nicaragua, an appellate court has reopened three old corruption cases against former President Arnoldo Aleman. The cases involve the sale of a government company, as well as purchases of cattle and a government plane, the AP writes. Aleman said recently that he wants to challenge Daniel Ortega in 2011 elections. Also, from AQ, news that Carlos Fernando Chamorro, famous Nicaraguan journalist and critic of the president, said this week he is leaving his job at Telenica Channel 8 after the sale of the station to relatives of President Ortega.
· Also from AQ, a piece examining the construction of a potential alliance between the PRD and the PAN ahead of 2012 elections in Mexico.
· At NACLA, an interesting piece from Roger Burbach of the Center for Study of the Americas, examining growing tensions between the government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and the country’s social movements who oppose the president’s development agenda and governing style.
· News from the on-going dirty war investigations in the Southern Cone this week include the identification of 11 individuals--among the last to see Chilean President Salvador Allenda before the bombing of La Moneda in 1973—by forensic scientists. Also, Brazil recently extradited Uruguayan colonel Manuel Cordero to Argentina where he will stand trial for Operation Condor-related crimes. Cordero—an Uruguayan intelligence agent at the time—has been wanted for his involvement in the disappearance of an Argentine citizen.
· From Amnesty International, a set of recommendations for the new government of Pepe Lobo in Honduras (full report here), regarding what should be done to investigate rights abuses carried out by the coup regime. AI writes:
“The 13 recommendations include issues relating to investigations into the human rights abuses committed by security forces, rejecting amnesty laws for those responsible for the crimes, training judges on international human rights legislation and setting up an effective witness protection programme.”