Álvaro Uribe Vélez

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Posted by motoman 04/13/2009 @ 10:14

Tags : álvaro uribe vélez, colombia, south america, americas, world

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Bulltick: Uribe Plans 2010 Run - Latin Business Chronicle
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's re-election will boost foreign direct investment despite international protests, one expert predicts. BY CHRONICLE STAFF Colombian president Alvaro Uribe will likely run for re-election in a move that will generate a...
Álvaro Uribe is definitely not a democrat - Colombia Reports
After the interview that Colombia's president Álvaro Uribe gave to the BBC it is hard to deny: Alvaro Uribe is not a democrat. For quite a long time I have been thinking that perhaps I was wrong, that perhaps my liberal tendencies were my bias towards...
President Uribe reiterated guarantees for the release of kidnapped ... - SNE
The President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez reiterated this Monday that the Government offers guarantees for the liberation of the kidnapped members of the Armed Forces, but he warned that it will not be allowed “that a liberation, little by little,...
Opponents of Uribe's re-election seek rapprochement - Colombia Reports
German Vargas Lleras, leader of coalition party Cambio Radical, Monday met with the opposition politicians Cesar Gaviria (Liberals) and Luis Eduardo Garzon (Polo) to discuss a broad opposition to the re-election of President Alvaro Uribe....
Row in Colombia Over Soldier's Release - New York Times
President Álvaro Uribe, a conservative who is popular for his hard-line security policies, said the senator, Piedad Córdoba, a possible presidential candidate in next year's elections, was not authorized to broker the deal to free the soldier,...
No evidence that Uribe ordered wiretapping: DAS - Colombia Reports
According to Muñoz, Iguarán had told Court Magistrates and President Álvaro Uribe about the lack of evidence the illegal wiretapping was known within the Casa de Nariño and had elaborated about some of the details of the investigation in a meeting with...
De la U wants parliamentary immunity - Colombia Reports
In a meeting with President Alvaro Uribe Restrepo said members of Congress feel they are not protected and that is why it is necessary to "publicly open the debate about creating a constitutional reform and to take up this important topic on...
Uribe brothers to 'reinvest profit in community' - Colombia Reports
The sons of President Alvaro Uribe reiterated that they will not attend the Senate plenary session Tuesday evening, where the controversy over their alleged enrichment through insider trading will be discussed. The brothers claim the profit they made...
Seven Colombian troops killed in rebel ambush: official - AFP
President Alvaro Uribe condemned the latest ambush, telling journalists in Medellin, 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Bogota, that the FARC were "terrorists who cowardly attack with explosives." Founded in 1964, the FARC remains the largest...
Visits of foreigners to Colombia raised 24,2% in April 2009 - SNE
That was reported by President Álvaro Uribe Vélez during the closure of the Business Meeting 'Colombia Crece' in Cartagena, after highlighting the importance of financing small hotels to promote tourism. Cartagena, May 7 (SP)....

Radio Televisión Nacional de Colombia

Radio Televisión Nacional de Colombia (RTVC, "National Radio Television of Colombia") is a public radio and television entity in Colombia. It was created by the Decree 3525, 28 October 2004, after dissolving Inravisión and the public television production company Audiovisuales, during President Álvaro Uribe Vélez administration.

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United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia

Logo of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia

The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC, in Spanish), are considered by the US Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). This organization was formed in April 1997 as an umbrella paramilitary federation led by the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá (ACCU) that sought to consolidate many local and regional illegal paramilitary groups in Colombia, each intending to protect different local economic, social and political interests by fighting insurgents in their areas. AUC itself previously estimated that it had authority over most of the illegal paramilitary forces within Colombia, with the remainder being independent or splinter factions. It is estimated that it has more than 20,000 militants. The AUC is considered to be a terrorist organization by many countries and organizations, including the United States and the European Union.

The AUC claimed its primary objective was to protect its sponsors and its supporters from insurgents and their activities, because the Colombian state had historically failed to do so. The AUC asserted itself as a regional and national counter-insurgency force. Former AUC leader Carlos Castaño Gil in 2000 claimed 70 percent of the AUC's operational costs were financed with cocaine-related earnings, the rest coming from "donations" from its sponsors.

Although, it is claimed the AUC demobilized in early 2006, there have been death threats issued by them since. One example of this was on May 8, 2008, when employees of a community radio station (Sarare FM Stereo) received a message stating : "For the wellbeing of you and your loved ones, do not meddle in subjects that do not concern the radio station. AUC, Arauca". A few days later the letters AUC were daubed on the front of their office. This threat was made due to their participation in a public meeting attended by members of a Congressional Human Rights Commission on the 27 September 2007. Here, members of the public denounced human rights abuses committed in Arauca Department by different parties to the armed conflict, including the AUC.

The AUC's main enemies are the leftist insurgency groups Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN). All three are in the European Union's lists of terrorist organizations and also classified as Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States Department of State. The State Department added the AUC to the list in 2001, condemning it for massacres, torture, and other human rights abuses against civilians.

According to the Colombian National Police, in the first ten months of 2000 the AUC conducted 804 assassinations, 203 kidnappings, and 75 massacres with 507 victims. The AUC claims the victims were mostly guerrillas or sympathizers. Combat tactics consist of conventional and guerrilla operations against main force insurgent units. AUC clashes with military and police units gradually increased, although the group has traditionally been friendly with government security forces.

Human Rights Watch reports allege that numerous elements within the Colombian military and police have collaborated or continue to tolerate local AUC paramilitary groups .

Under the leadership of Salvatore Mancuso, son of Italian immigrants, the AUC maintained close links with the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta concerning cocaine trafficking .

In March 2007, the international fruit corporation, Chiquita, admitted to having paid the AUC from 1997 to 2004 $1.7 million in order to protect its workers and operations, in Urabá and Santa Marta, of which at least $825,000 came after the AUC was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department in 2001. These payments were often made through a group belonging to the Convivir network, a government-sponsored program of rural security cooperatives. The payments were arranged during a 1997 meeting between Carlos Castaño with officials from Banadex, a subsidiary of Chiquita. Chiquita subsequently made a plea bargain with the United States Department of Justice, and agreed to pay a $25 million fine. Colombia's attorney general, Mario Iguarán, also opened a case on Chiquita. He stated that he will request the extradition of eight Chiquita officials connected to the case. He has also charged Chiquita of using one of their ships to smuggle weapons (some 3,400 AK-47 rifles and 4 million rounds of ammunition) for the AUC. These charges were first brought ahead in a 2003 report from the Organization of American States (OEA).

Later, Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran Arana contradicted himself by claiming the extraditions could not be done since the implicated persons had not been "identified and charged." Specifically, Iguarán asserted "there are indeed some Chiquita Brands directors, but we are not able to ask for them in extradition, rather we have to have some information contained in the agreement reached with the U.S. court that includes a confidentiality agreement." Nonetheless, specific information on the identities of the Chiquita directors, executives, and senior employees have already been presented before the Colombian Attorney General's Office, namely CYRUS FREIDHEIM JR., RODERICK M. HILLS, ROBERT OLSON, MORTEN ARNTZEN, JEFFREY D. BENJAMIN, STEVEN STANBROOK, DURK I. JAGER, JAIME SERRA, ROBERT F. KISTINGER, JAMES B. RILEY, ROBERT W. FISHER, CARL H. LINDNER, KEITH LINDER, and STEVEN WARSHAW.

Recently, after a cease-fire was declared (which in practice has been publicly admitted by the AUC and the government to be partial, resulting in a reduction but not the cessation of killings), the government of Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez has begun talks with the group with the aim to eventually dismantle the organization and reintegrate its members to society. The stated deadline for completing the demobilization process was originally December 2005, but was later extended into February 2006. Between 2003 and February 2 2006, about 17,000 of the AUC's 20,000 fighters have surrendered their weapons. This is more than double the figure originally estimated by the government before negotiations began.

A draft law was presented to the public which offered to pardon the members of any illegal armed group (which would legally include both guerrillas and paramilitaries, (i.e. members of both left- and right-wing groups) that declared a cease-fire and entered talks with the government, in return for, mainly, their verified demobilization, concentration within a specific geographic area and the symbolic reparation of the offenses committed against the victims of their actions. After much discussion and controversy over it, a further revised draft was distributed to the media and political circles. This new project was not officially submitted for approval by the Colombian Congress and further public discussion on the matter continued.

The bill, among other details, called for the creation of a three to five member Truth Tribunal which would study each case brought before it (at the request of the President), after the groups/individuals sign an agreement to respect international humanitarian laws and accept the authority of the Tribunal, in exchange for a minimum sentence of five to ten years (part of it could possibly be served outside jail) for those guilty of the most serious crimes, the confession of the crimes which were committed in connection with the activities of the illegal armed group, and the completion of concrete acts of reparation towards the victims.

If the Tribunal were to deny the benefits to anyone, there would be no possibility of reconsideration. However, the President would be able to veto individuals who did receive a favorable sentence. This new draft version of the law would have been in effect only until 31 December 2006.

Human Rights Watch spokesman Jose Miguel Vivanco publicly stated, during one of the final audiences which were created to discuss aspects of the original bill (of which he remained highly critical), that the new proposition seemed to be considerably more in line with international standards, at first glance, but that more needed to be done in order to fully resolve the issue.

Salvatore Mancuso, one of the AUC's main commanders, publicly expressed that he was against both any potential extradition of either himself or his "comrades in arms" to the USA and refused "spending any day in jail".

Also, there have been internal conflicts within the illegal organization, as other AUC leaders have mutually accused each other of being tainted with narcotrafficking and their troops have even met in combat. These different, regionalistic and sometimes warring factions within the AUC, make successfully concluding any peace initiative a considerably difficult task.

Paramilitary leader Carlos Mauricio Garcia alias "Doble Cero" ("Double Zero") or "Rodrigo", who since the 1980s had been a close associate of Castaño within the AUC, was found dead on 30 May 2004. He had strongly objected to what he considered an improperly close relationship between the AUC and drug traffickers, and was also opposed to the group's talks with the government. "Double Zero" had fallen into disgrace in recent years, leading to the formation of his own independent "Bloque Metro" ("Metro Bloc"), which operated in the Antioquia area until it was exterminated by rival paramilitary commanders from the AUC mainstream.

Separately, in events which remain clouded and confusing, former AUC supreme leader Carlos Castaño, who had become relatively isolated from the organization, apparently suffered an attempt on his life on 16 April 2004, presumably at the hands of either his own bodyguards, those of rival paramilitary troops, or perhaps even other entities altogether. Acting AUC commanders claim to believe that there was an accidental exchange of gunfire between his bodyguards and a separate group of paramilitary fighters, but that he may still be alive and possibly in hiding.

Other independent sources within the group and among its dissident factions claim that he and his men were captured and tortured before being executed and then buried by order of other AUC top leaders (perhaps his own brother Vicente Castaño and/or Diego Fernando Murillo), who have become increasingly close to narcotraffickers and their trade. Colombian investigators found a makeshift grave and an unidentified body (yet apparently not Castaño's) near the supposed area of the events. Those same sources allege that the bodies of Castaño and his other companions were dug up and taken to other locations before the investigators could arrive.

It has been speculated in the Colombian and international press that this could be a potential blow to the peace process, as Castaño seemed to become relatively critical of the increasing association with narcotraffickers in recent years and more willing to compromise with the Colombian state, and thus the remaining AUC commanders (such as Mancuso and "Don Berna") would potentially maintain a much less open negotiating position in the ongoing talks with the Uribe government.

The death of AUC co-founder Carlos Castaño remained unexplained for two years, and was subject of wild and rampant speculation. One of the more exotic rumours (dating to 1 June 2004), stated that unidentified diplomatic sources told the AFP agency that Castaño had been spirited away to Israel, via Panama, with U.S. assistance. No specific reasoning or details regarding this claim were produced. The governments of the United States, Colombia, and Israel denied these allegations.

Details about Castaño's possible fate began to emerge in 2006. The Cali-based Nuevo Diario Occidente reported that an assassin hired by Vicente Castaño confessed to the police that he had killed Carlos in 2004. This assassin's confessions allowed Colombian authorities to locate Castaño's body in August 2006, and DNA tests confirmed its identity in September that year.

In early May 2004, Venezuelan authorities arrested at least 100 individuals that they accused of being Colombian paramilitaries and of scheming, together with part of the Venezuelan opposition, to begin a series of scheduled attacks against heavily fortified military targets within Caracas, aiming at the overthrow of President Hugo Chávez.

The AUC officially denied that they had anything to do with them. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe congratulated the Venezuelan president for the capture and pledged to cooperate with the investigation, while President Chávez himself declared that, as far as he was concerned, he did not believe that Uribe had anything to with the operation, for which he blamed "elements" within "the oligarchies of Miami and Bogotá", also implicating individual high-ranking U.S. and Colombian military officers, who have denied such involvement.

Colombian Vice-president Francisco Santos Calderón added that he hoped that the Venezuelan government would pursue with equal zeal those FARC and ELN guerrillas who would also be present in Venezuela. The Venezuelan opposition dismissed the whole event as a "setup", claiming that Chávez intended to interfere with the potential approval of a referendum which sought to remove him from power.

In November 2004, the Colombian Supreme Court approved the extradition of top paramilitary leaders Salvatore Mancuso and Carlos Castaño, together with that of the guerrilla commander Simón Trinidad, the only one of the men to be in state custody (Castaño's extradition was approved because the court considered that the matter of his death was not yet clear).

The court ruled that the three US extradition requests, all for charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, respected current Colombian law procedures and therefore they could now proceed, once the Colombian president gave his approval.

It has been speculated in the Colombian press that the government would possibly approve the extradition of Salvatore Mancuso, but would delay it for the duration of the peace talks that he and his organization are conducting with the state. Mancuso himself has declared that he will continue to participate in the process despite the Supreme Court's ruling.

In early December and late November, there have been new events in the peace negotiations with the AUC. First, several hundred men of the Bloque Bananero (loosely translated, the Banana Producers' Bloc) turned in their weapons and demobilized in order to be reintegrated into civilian life. This group operated in the Uraba region of northern Antioquia, where the AUC had dislodged the FARC and gained total control in the mid- to late nineties. However, the AUC remain in the area with the presence of other divisions in order to maintain the peace and prevent the FARC from returning.

A few weeks later, the Catatumbo Bloc also demobilized. This was a milestone in Colombian history, for, with its 1425 mercenaries, the Catatumbo Bloc was one of the most important AUC groups in Colombia. With them Salvatore Mancuso, the AUC's military leader, turned himself in. A few days later, the government announced that it would not make Mancuso's extradition effective as long as he avoided criminal activities and fulfilled his commitments to the peace process.

Both of these massive demobilizations of AUC groups are an apparent improvement over the first one in 2003 in Medellin because on this occasion important leaders turned themselves in and the weapons presented were assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and rockets, rather than the homemade shotguns and old, malfunctioning revolvers that were turned in the first demobilization. The AUC was supposed to have demobilized completely by 2006, but this did not happen.

Many Colombian and international observers are skeptical about the demobilization's prospects and see multiple causes for criticism. A concern shared by a high number of critics, both inside and outside the country, is that the demobilization process, if it does not provide a legal framework that contemplates the proper doses of truth, reparation and justice, could allow those who have committed human rights violations to possibly enjoy an undue degree of impunity for their crimes. A different kind of concern is held by a few of the supporters of the demobilization process, some of which believe that, without a certain degree of acceptance from the paramilitaries themselves, any unillateral attempts at reducing impunity could stay in writing and not be practically effective.

A smaller number of the critics have also expressed their fear that the current administration could integrate the AUC into its civilian defence militias or other military structures. Military and government spokesmen have stated multiple times that there is no intention to integrate the AUC into the state's legal security apparatus. While no reports of that occurring have been put forward yet, there have been signs of some individual paramilitaries expressing an interest in wanting to join (or form) private security companies in areas that formerly were under their influence and control, in order to prevent possible guerrilla inroads.

The debate on the subject of potential impunity has had a high profile in both the international and Colombian media, with critical views being expressed in Chicago Tribune and New York Times editorials, in addition to many Colombian outlets. The main argument of several editorials has been that the international community should not help fund the demobilization process until the necessary legal framework to minimize impunity is in place. This position was also echoed by representatives of the international community in a February 2005 donor's conference in Cartagena.

After many public and private discussions through mid-to-late 2004, in early 2005, a number of Colombian congressmen, including senator Rafael Pardo and Gina Parody (traditionally holding pro-government positions) and Wilson Borja (a former leftwing labor leader who survived a paramilitary assassination attempt back in 2000) among others, independently presented a multiparty draft bill that, according to several observers such as Colombian and international NGOs (including Human Rights Watch), indicates a substantial improvement (compared to the government's previous initiatives) in meeting the necessary conditions of adequately dismantling paramilitarism and reducing impunity. Among these sectors, there is a semblance of a broad concesus in support of this bill.

Colombian Congressional discussion on the subject was set to begin on February 15, 2005, but suffered several delays. The Colombian government's own official draft had apparently gradually incorporated several of the provisions in the Pardo, Parody and Borja proposal, but a number of disagreements remained, which would be the source for further debate on the subject. Other congressmen, including supporters of the government, also begun to present their own draft projects.

On February 23, the top AUC leaders published an online document on their webpage which stated that that they will not submit to a legal framework that, in their own words, would force them to suffer through an undue humiliation that their leftwing guerrilla foes would not contemplate for themselves. They also declared that they are in favor of laws that will allow their fighters to return to civilian and productive lives in a fair, peaceful and equitable manner. In the absence of such conditions, they claimed that the consequence would be the end of the negotiations and their preferring to face the prospect of continuing "war and death". A government communique answered that the AUC should not put pressure on Congress, the media or the Executive on the matter of the legal framework, and that they would have five days to leave the Ralito zone if they chose to quit the talks. The AUC later reduced the tone of its earlier remarks.

On April 11, an AUC spokesman repeated their claims that the current proposal for amnesty was too harsh primarily because it still allowed extradition for drug charges.

In the early morning of May 13, 2008, thirteen high-profile paramilitary leaders were taken from their jail cells in a surprise action by the Colombian government. According to Colombian Interior Minister Carlos Holguin they have been refusing to comply to the country's Peace and Justice law and were therefore extradited to the United States. Amongst them are Salvatore Mancuso, Don Berna, Jorge 40, Cuco Vanoy and Diego Ruiz Arroyave (cousin of assassinated paramilitary leades Miguel Arroyave).. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe said immediately afterwards the United States has agreed to compensate the victims of extradited paramilitary warlords with any international assets they might surrender. The US State Department said the US' courts can also help the victims by sharing information on atrocities with Colombian authorities.

The Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that “ according to Colombian law, the reasons claimed by the President of the Republic to proceed with the previously-suspended extraditions are also grounds for their removal from the application of the ‘Law of Justice and Peace’ and for the loss of the benefits established therein”.

After his extradition to the United States, Colombian paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso has continued to testify via satellite as part of the Justice and Peace process. On November 18, 2008, Revista Semana reported on Mancuso's declarations about the 1997 El Aro massacre, in which he stated that the AUC had received logistical help from the Colombian military and police.

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National Liberation Army (Colombia)

Flag of ELN.svg

National Liberation Army (Spanish: Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) is a revolutionary, Marxist, insurgent guerrilla group that has been operating in several regions of Colombia since 1964.

The ELN is less known than the largest Colombian rebel group, the FARC, is smaller, estimated at between 3,500 to 5,000 guerrillas. Unlike the FARC, which has a strongly orthodox Marxist background, the ELN, at least at the beginning, was strongly influenced by the liberation theology.

The US State Department has listed the ELN as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, ostensibly because of its notorious reputation for ransom kidnappings and armed attacks on Colombia's infrastructure. In April 2004, the European Union added the ELN to its list of terrorist organizations for those actions and its breaches of humanitarian law.

Some of the ELN's main practices include the proliferation of ground mines, which have sometimes hurt or killed civilians.

In mid-2006, mutual rivalries between local FARC and ELN forces escalated into hostilities in Arauca, along the border with Venezuela. According to the BBC, "the FARC have for some years moved to take over ELN territory near the Venezuelan border, and the smaller rebel army reacted by killing several FARC militants". A statement posted on FARC's homepage accused the ELN of "attacks that we only expected from the enemy".

The ELN's main source of income is the levying of taxes from businesses and middle class civilians in its areas of operation. To enforce these taxes, they frequently take civilians captive to use as leverage. While the ELN uses the terms "war taxes" and "retentions" for these actions, critics insist they constitute "extortion" and "kidnapping".

According to Claudia Calle, spokesperson of País Libre, a Colombian foundation for victims of abductions, the ELN is responsible for the death of 153 hostages between 2000 and 2007. According to País Libre, ELN abducted over 3,000 people between 2000 and 2007 and currently still holds 240 people captive.

On December 7, 18 ELN guerilla surrender to the Colombian army, in the northwestern province of Chocó.

The group was originally founded by Cuban-trained Fabio Vásquez Castaño who along with his brother and other relatives initially held important positions within the organization.

The outspoken Father Camilo Torres Restrepo (a well-known university professor of egalitarian and eventually Marxist leanings who was highly critical of Colombia's income distribution, named after a revolutionary figure in Colombia's late colonial history), was attracted to the radical new ideas of liberation theology and joined the group with the intent of putting them into practice inside a revolutionary environment. Torres himself died shortly after joining the ELN during his first combat, but he remained as an important symbol both for the group as a whole and to other like-minded priests who gradually followed his example, most from relatively low positions in the Roman Catholic Church's structure.

After suffering both internal crisis and military defeat in the early 1970s, it was Father Manuel Pérez alias "El Cura Pérez" ("Pérez the Priest") from Spain, who eventually assumed joint-leadership of the group along with current leader Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias "Gabino", and presided over the ELN as one of its most recognized figures from the late 1970s until he died of hepatitis in 1998.

It has been considered that Manuel Pérez had a large role in giving ultimate shape to the ELN's ideology, which has traditionally been considered as a mixture of Cuban revolutionary theory with extreme liberation theology, calling for a Christian and Communist solution to Colombia's problems of corruption, poverty and political exclusion, through the use of guerrilla activity, conventional warfare and also what has been termed as terrorist action. Observers have commented that, since the death of Manuel Pérez, the movement may arguably have begun to slowly lose focus regarding many of its earlier concerns, such as the necessary unity of revolutionary activity with Christian and social action, in order to win over the population to their cause.

The ELN guerrillas were seriously crippled by the Anorí operation carried out by the Colombian military from 1973 to 1974, but managed to reconstitute themselves and escape destruction, in part due to the government of Alfonso López Michelsen allowing them to escape encirclement, hoping to initiate a peace process with the group. The ELN survived and managed to sustain itself through the extortion of private and foreign oil companies, including several of German origin and large-scale kidnapping, and, to a lesser degree, with indirect profits from the drug trade such as the taxation of crops.

One such kidnapping victim was Glen Heggstad, a lone U.S. motorcycle rider touring South America. He was taken hostage while on the road from Bogotá to Medellín in November, 2001 and held for a month. He has since written a book detailing his ordeal titled Two Wheels Through Terror. His tale was also featured in an episode of "Locked Up Abroad" shown during the second season originally aired in 2007 on National Geographic Channel.

The ELN did not participate in the peace process that the administration of Andrés Pastrana Arango attempted during 1998 to 2002 with the FARC, though it did engage in exploratory talks, kept contacts and discussed the possibility of eventually joining a peace initiative. A government initiative in favor of granting a demilitarized zone in the south of the Bolívar Department to the ELN was stalled and eventually prevented, due to pressure from some of the location's inhabitants and from the AUC paramilitaries operating in the region.

Some sectors within the ELN have apparently been hit hard both by the AUC right wing paramilitaries and, more recently, the different military offensives initiated under the Uribe administration and the strengthening of the Colombian Army, which has been the basis for reductions in estimates of its currently available manpower.

Previous contacts continued during the early days of the Álvaro Uribe Vélez government but eventually were severed, neither party being fully trusting of the other. Only in mid-2004 the ELN and the government began to make a series of moves that, with the announced mediation of the Vicente Fox government of Mexico, lead to another round of exploratory talks.

On July 24, 2004 the ELN apparently abducted Misael Vacca Ramírez, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Yopal, though their reasons were not clarified. The kidnappers said that Ramírez would be released with a message, but "Francisco Galán", a senior jailed ELN commander who has often acted as an intermediary between the government and the ELN's high command, said he did not know whether the group was responsible. The Bishop was subsequently released by ELN members, in good health, on July 27th, after his kidnapping had been condemned by Amnesty International and Pope John Paul II, among others. As far as is publicly known, he did not have any message to announce on behalf of the ELN.

Eventually, the ELN questioned Mexico's participation in the talks, arguing that it did not have confidence in the actions of a government which voted against Fidel Castro's Cuba during an United Nations vote. This led the Mexican government to end its participation.

In December 2005, the ELN and the Colombian government began a new round of exploratory talks in La Habana, Cuba, with the presence of the ELN's military commander "Antonio García", as well as "Francisco Galán" and "Ramiro Vargas". This was considered the direct result of three months of previous consultations with representatives of different sectors of public society through the figure of a "House of Peace" ("Casa de Paz" in Spanish).

Representatives from Norway, Spain and Switzerland joined both parties at the talks as observers.

The talks ended by December 22 and both parties agreed to meet again in January 2006. After a series or preliminary encounters, the next round of talks was later rescheduled for early-mid February.

During the February talks, which continued to move at a slow pace, the government decided to formally suspend capture orders for "Antonio García" and "Ramiro Vargas", recognizing them as negotiators and, implicitly, as political actors. The move was also joined by the creation of what was termed an alternative and complementary mechanism that could be used to deal with difficult issues and matters that concerned both parties, outside the main negotiating table. A formal negotiation process has yet to begin.

On March 23, the ELN freed a Colombian soldier that it had kidnapped on February 25, delivering him to the International Committee of the Red Cross, saying that it was a unilateral sign of good will.

The ELN's "Antonio García" is expected to visit Colombia from April 17 to April 28, participating in different meetings with representatives of several political, economic and social sectors. The third round of the exploratory talks would have originally taken place in La Habana, Cuba from May 2 to May 12.

The third round of talks was later moved to late April, taking place from April 25 to April 28. Both parties reiterated their respect for the content and spirit of all previous agreements, and that they would continue working towards the design of a future peace process. The Colombian government and the ELN intend to study documents previously elaborated during the "House of Peace" stage, as well as documents from other participants and observers. Both parties are expected to meet again after Colombia's May 28 presidential elections.

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe invited ELN Spokesman Francisco Galán for new talks about peace on April 3, 2008. The two spoke in the presidential palace. After the meeting Galán says the ELN will return to the negotiation table. The ELN released a press note shortly after that saying the rebel group "does not share the views" of Galán and dismissed him as their spokesman. The Marxist rebels did say they will continue to let Galán negotiate between the Colombian government and the rebels.

On May 26, 2008 the ELN writes a letter to the FARC secretariat, seeking cooperation with Colombia's largest rebel group to overcome “the difficulties we are experiencing in today’s Colombian insurgent movement”. The letter is published on the ELN website.

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Álvaro Uribe

Álvaro Uribe

Álvaro Uribe Vélez (IPA:  (born 4 July 1952 in Medellín) is the 39th President of Colombia and is currently serving his second term in office.

Before his current role in politics Uribe was a lawyer. He studied law at the University of Antioquia and completed a management course at Harvard University.

Uribe started his politics career in his home department of Antioquia. He has held office in the Medellín Public Enterprises (Empresas Públicas de Medellín) and in the Ministry of Labor and in the Civil Aeronautic. Later he held office as the mayor of Medellín in 1982, then he was Senator between 1986 and 1994 and finally Governor of Antioquia between 1995 and 1997 before he was elected President of Colombia in 2002.

He was awarded the Simón Bolívar Scholarship of the British Council and was nominated Senior Associate Member at the Saint Antony's College in the University of Oxford after completing his term in office as the governor of Antioquia in 1998.

Under his presidency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have suffered a series of military defeats, the main paramilitary groups have gone through a demobililization process and he has spearheaded several Free Trade Agreements with different countries.

Álvaro Uribe is the oldest of five children. His father Alberto Uribe Sierra was a wealthy landowner and cattle rancher and his mother Laura Vélez was a former council woman. At the age of 10 his family left their Salgar ranch and moved to Medellín.

Uribe attended Jesuit and Benedictine schools and graduated in 1970 from the Jorge Robledo Institute. His academic performance exempted him from all final exams during the last two years of school.

Uribe studied law at the University of Antioquia and he graduated in 1977. He became a member of the Colombian Liberal Party's "Liberal Youth" wing while studying at the University of Antioquia. He was an honor student during his time at the university.

In 1993 he finished a post-graduate certificate in administration and management at the Harvard University.

Between 1998 and 2000 he studied at St Antony's College, Oxford University, England, on a British Council Simón Bolívar scholarship .

He is married to Lina Moreno de Uribe and has two sons, Tomás Uribe and Jerónimo Uribe.

Uribe's father was killed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas during a 1983 kidnapping attempt.

After his father's death Álvaro Uribe sold most of his inherited rural properties and concentrated on his political career as a member of the Colombian Liberal Party. He served on the Medellín city council between 1984 and 1986.

In 1976 Uribe was Chief of Assets for the Public Enterprises of Medellín (Empresas Públicas de Medellín). He served as Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor under Alfonso López Michelsen from 1977 to 1978. During this time he married Lina Moreno, a philosopher from Medellín. President Julio César Turbay named him Director of Civil Aviation from 1980 to 1982. He left this position to become Mayor of Medellín in 1982 serving for five months.

Uribe was elected one of Antioquia's senators from 1986 to 1990 and again from 1990 to 1994. As senator, he served as president of the Seventh Commission and he supported laws dealing with reform of pensions, labor and social security, as well as promotion of administrative careers, cooperative banking, black sugar, and protection for women. Some of the legislation later drew criticism, in particular that which reduced the state's responsibility for social security. During his later term he received official and unofficial awards as one of the "best senators" (1990, 1992 and 1993) and as the senator with the "best legislative initiatives" (1992).

He was elected governor of the department of Antioquia for the 1995 to 1997 term. During his term, Uribe put in practice what he termed the model for a communitarian state, where in theory citizens would participate in the administration's decision making. It was claimed that this model would help improve employment, education, administrative transparency and public security.

According to statistics provided by the governor's office and contemporary analysts, his governorship would reduce bureaucracy, create places for school students, strengthen the infrastructure, and the kidnapping rate fell dramatically. It is claimed that 1,200,000 poor people entered the subsidized health system.

Within his jurisdiction, Governor Uribe openly supported a national program of cooperative neighborhood watch groups that became known as CONVIVIR, which had been created by a February 11, 1994 decree of Colombia's Ministry of Defense. The groups quickly became controversial – while some reportedly improved security in communities and intelligence coordination with the military, many members apparently abused civilians, without serious oversight of their operations. In 1998, Human Rights Watch stated: "we have received credible information that indicated that the CONVIVIR groups of the Middle Magdalena and of the southern Cesar regions were directed by known paramilitaries and had threatened to assassinate Colombians that were considered as guerrilla sympathizers or which rejected joining the cooperative groups".

After much political debate, in November 1997 the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled that CONVIVIR members could not gather intelligence information or use military-grade weapons; other restrictions included more legal supervision. 237 restricted weapons were returned to authorities by the end of 1997. In early 1998, dozens of groups had their licenses revoked because they did not turn in their weapons or information about their personnel. Due to these measures, some gradually turned in weapons and phased themselves out. Other members did not comply and later joined paramilitary groups such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

In May 2007, the American Jewish Committee gave Uribe its “Light Unto The Nations” award. AJC President E. Robert Goodkind, who presented the award at AJC’s Annual Dinner, held at the National Building Museum in Washington stated: “President Uribe is a staunch ally of the United States, a good friend of Israel and the Jewish people, and is a firm believer in human dignity and human development in Colombia and the Americas”.

Uribe ran as an independent liberal candidate, having unofficially separated from his former party. His electoral platform centered on confronting Colombia's main guerrilla movement, the FARC. Other relevant propositions included slashing the national administration's expenses, fighting corruption and a national referendum to resolve several of the country's political and economic concerns.

Until at least 2001, polls showed that at most 2% of the electorate contemplated voting for Uribe and that the Liberal Party's Horacio Serpa would probably win. But public mood shifted in his favor after the peace process with the guerrillas degenerated. The administration of President Andrés Pastrana had failed for four years to secure a ceasefire, and Álvaro Uribe began to be seen as the candidate who may provide a viable security program. Former General Harold Bedoya, a candidate with a superficially similar program, remained marginalized.

Uribe was elected President of Colombia in the first round of the May 26, 2002 elections with 53% of the popular vote. His running mate was Francisco Santos, a member of the Santos family, who have a long-lasting tradition as members of the Colombian Liberal Party and as owners of Colombian daily newspaper El Tiempo. Santos was also one of the founders of the anti-kidnapping NGO Fundación País Libre, created shortly after his own experience as a hostage of drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Observers considered the elections mostly free of foul play at the national level, but there were instances of active intimidation of voters and candidates, by the actions of guerrilla and paramilitary groups. 47% of the potential electorate voted, down from the previous round of voting.

Some of Uribe's opponents made accusations during his campaign, especially in a speech by Horacio Serpa and a book published by Newsweek's Joseph Contreras, who interviewed Uribe that year. Claims centered on Uribe's alleged past personal relationships with members of the Medellín Cartel and the sympathy that some paramilitary spokesmen expressed towards Uribe as a candidate. Uribe and his supporters denied or undermined these claims, and critics have not committed to legal action.

Polls consistently show an unprecedented support for President Uribe by many Colombians, estimated at around 70% after his second year in office. Support is widespread, but highest among medium and higher income Colombians. Uribe's relative popularity is largely attributed to his administration's successful campaigns against the FARC and the ELN, and in part to the efforts to begin demobilizing the paramilitaries (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia). Also, analysts point out that Uribe is seen as a charismatic 24-hour workaholic and a promoter of personal and administrative austerity, which some interpret as a role model for other Colombians and politicians.

Uribe and his cabinet members travel outside Bogotá on weekends and, as part of the communitarian state model, organize weekly communitarian councils in every department, even remote regions of Colombia. The stated objective of these councils is to promote citizen participation and exchange direct feedback with local authorities, publicly hearing and discussing their concerns. These sessions are shown live on a public state television channel for several hours. Uribe's supporters widely believe that these councils have contributed to varying degrees of advancement in the resolution of local issues by simplifying "red tape". The councils are credited with keeping Uribe's popularity levels and reinforcing his image of a hardworking, plain-speaking politician.

Sympathizers consider that Uribe has achieved significant results in the fight against illegal armed groups, allowing civilian traffic to return to many roads abandoned during the 1990s. They believe he has tried to implement macroeconomic measures to stimulate internal commerce, growth and reduce unemployment, although he has not passed important bills such as a structural tax reform.

However, many of Uribe's opponents believe that his popularity may be overestimated and that most polls under-represent the opinions of poor voters who have no access to telephone lines or other standard polling methods, and may be less supportive of his administration. Some believe that Uribe has not done enough to address Colombia's problems or has contributed to them, and that the security and human rights situations still remain considerably fragile. A number of critics also consider Uribe's use of charisma during the councils a form of populism that, along with his general policies, may lead to lapses of authoritarianism on his part. Uribe has not done anything that openly violates Colombia's constitution or laws, though he supported a congressional modification of the constitution from 2004 to 2005 which reintroduced presidential reelection in the country.

Uribe's declared priority has been to contain or defeat the three main armed groups in Colombia, the AUC, ELN, and FARC. Military operations against them have intensified since he took office, especially against FARC.

In early 2002, Uribe's administration decreed a one-time tax of 1.2% of the liquid assets of the higher income Colombians and corporations, with the goal of raising US $800 million. More than $650 million was collected before the final payment quota was made, surpassing original expectations. Another goal was to increase defense expenditures from a current level of about 3.6% of GDP to 6% of GDP by 2006.

This policy has been considered controversial inside and outside Colombia, including by Uribe's political opponents and by some human rights organizations, because it allegedly provides an exclusively military perspective to the situation and places the civilian population at risk, increasing the dangers of abuses both by military forces, paramilitaries and guerrillas.

According to official government statistical information from August 2004, in two years, homicides, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks in Colombia decreased by as much as 50% - their lowest levels in almost 20 years. In 2003, there were 7,000 fewer homicides than in 2002 - a decrease of 27%. By April 2004, the government had established a permanent police or military presence in every Colombian municipality for the first time in decades.

An anti-terror statute criticized by many human rights groups was approved by Congress on December 11, 2003 but was struck down in August 2004 by the Colombian Constitutional Court during its review. The statute granted the military judicial police rights and allowed limited arrests and communication intercepts without warrants. It was struck down due to an error in the approval procedure, an objection the court has also presented towards other bills.

President Uribe's concrete actions tend to show him as a staunch enemy of narcotics trafficking, as his administration has been responsible for arresting and extraditing more drug traffickers to the United States and to other countries than all other presidents to date. He has been publicly recognized as a supporter of the US war on drugs by continually implementing the anti-drug strategy of Plan Colombia.

He is also recognized as a supporter of the US war on terror, and the invasion of Iraq. In January 2003, President Uribe ended a radio interview by asking "why isn't there any thought of an equivalent deployment to put an end to this problem , which has such potentially grave consequences?".

The Uribe administration has maintained generally positive diplomatic relations with Spain and most Latin American nations. It signed several accords, including one in 2004 for the joint construction of a pipeline with Venezuela, a security and anti-drug trafficking cooperation deal with Paraguay in 2005, a commercial and technological cooperation agreement with Bolivia in 2004, a defense agreement with Spain (which was modified in 2004 but still remained valid), and economic and cultural agreements with the People's Republic of China in April 2005.

Several analysts consider that, being a relative ally of the USA, Uribe would be ideologically opposed to left wing governments in Latin America and elsewhere. Yet, Uribe has participated in multilateral meetings and has held bilateral summits with presidents Hugo Chávez, Martín Torrijos, Lula da Silva, Ricardo Lagos, and Carlos Mesa, among others. Colombia has also maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba and the People's Republic of China.

There have been some diplomatic incidents and crises with Venezuela during his term, in particular around the 2005 Rodrigo Granda affair, Colombia's frustrated 2004 acquisition of 46 AMX-30 tanks from Spain, and an Alleged planned Venezuelan coup in 2004 by Colombian paramilitaries. These internationally worrying circumstances have been ultimately resolved through the use of official diplomatic channels and bilateral presidential summits (in the first two cases).

International law enforcement cooperation has been maintained with countries such as the USA, Spain, the United Kingdom, México, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Honduras and Brazil among others.

Uribe's government, along with Peru and Ecuador, negotiated and (with Peru) signed a free trade agreement with the US. On December 30, 2005, President Uribe signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Mercosur and gives Colombian products preferential access to the market of 230 million people. Trade negotiations have also been underway with Mexico, Chile, the Andean community and the USA over its current proposal.

The Uribe administration has continued dealing with the IMF and the World Bank, securing loans, agreeing to cut expenses, agreeing to continue debt payments, privatize public companies and foment investor confidence, in order to comply with financial orthodoxy. These measures have been successful in reducing inflation and the size of the state's deficit, according to the government and analysts from the previously mentioned international organizations.

Under Uribe, social spending has also seen a huge increase, mainly because of the privatizations of certain companies. The government's High Advisor for Social Policy, Juan Lozano, stated in February 2005 that the administration had by 2004 achieved an increase of 5 million affiliates to the subsidized health system (3.5 million added in 2004, for a total of 15.4 M affiliates), an increase of 2 million Colombians that receive meals and care through the Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) (for a total of 6.6 million), an increase of 1.7 million education slots in the National Service of Learning (SENA) (for a total of 2.7 million), an increase of 157% in the amount of microcredit available to small entrepreneurs, a reduction of unemployment from 15.6% in December 2002 to 12.1% by December 2004, the addition of almost 200,000 new houses to existing housing projects for the poor, a total of 750,000 new school slots in primary and high school, some 260,000 new university slots, the return of 70,000 displaced persons to their homes (under an 800% increase in the budget assigned to this matter), and support for a program that seeks to increase economic subsidies from 170,000 to 570,000 of the elderly by the end of the term.

The High Advisor added that a "colossal effort" is still required and work must continue, and that this progress would constitute a sign of the Uribe administration's positive effects on social indicators.

Companies such as Carbocol, Telecom Colombia, Bancafé, Minercol and others, which were either already in crisis or considered by the government as overly expensive to maintain under their current spending conditions, were among those restructured or privatized.

Most direct critics have considered Uribe's administration neoliberal, and argued that it has not addressed the root causes of poverty and unemployment, because continued application of traditional trade and tax policies tend to benefit private and foreign investors over small owners and workers. Union and labor claim that many of the privatizations and liquidations have been done to please the IMF, the World Bank and multinational companies, and will hurt several national industries in the long run. Supporters of Uribe counter these claims by pointing to the rising per capita GDP, fast and sustainable economic growth, low inflation, rising wages, lower public debt, lower unemployment and increased social expenditures of Uribe's government.

A national referendum was promoted during Uribe's campaign and later modified by Congress and judicial review. The ability to revoke Congress was removed, as was the option to vote "Yes" or "No" as a whole. The modified proposal was defeated at the polls on October 25, 2003, and several left-wing candidates opposed to the referendum were victorious at regional elections the following day. At least 25% of the electorate needed to vote on each of the 15 proposals in order it to be accepted, but overall participation was only 24.8% and only the first proposal ("political death for the corrupt") achieved this. All 15 proposals were approved by a substantial majority of those who voted.

Analysts considered these events a political setback for President Uribe, as one of his main campaign propositions had failed, despite his personal leadership. The "active abstention" and blank voting campaigns that his opponents, in particular the Independent Democratic Pole and the Colombian Liberal Party, had promoted were allegedly successful in convincing enough of their sympathizers to stay home and instead participate in the next day's round of elections.

A number of Uribe's own supporters did not participate, as they found the referendum, which had been modified by Congress and later by the Judicial branch, to be too complex, long and uninspiring. Some also pointed out that extraordinary electoral initiatives (that is, those voted outside standard electoral dates) have traditionally suffered complications in Colombia, including a lack of participation.

In September 2003, Uribe issued a speech that contained allegations against what he called "agents of terrorism" inside a minority of human rights organizations, while at the same time declaring that he respected criticism from most other established organizations and sources. Similar statements were later repeated in other instances. These statements were sharply criticized inside and outside Colombia because they could endanger the work of human rights and opposition figures.

Contacts begun in 2002 with the paramilitary AUC forces and their leader Carlos Castaño, which had publicly expressed their will to declare a cease-fire, continued in 2003 amid a degree of national and international controversy.

In 2004, Uribe successfully sought a Congressional amendment to the Colombian Constitution of 1991 which, if approved by the Colombian Constitutional Court, would allow him to run for a second term as president. Uribe originally had expressed his disagreement with consecutive reelection during his campaign, but later changed his mind, first at a private level and later in public appearances.

Many analysts considered that, in order to secure the approval of this reform, Uribe may have slacked on his campaign promises, because of what has been perceived as his indirect bribing of congressmen, through the alleged assignment of their relatives to the diplomatic corps and through promises of investment in their regions of origin. Uribe's supporters consider that no actual bribing took place, and that a consensus among the diverse sectors that back Uribe's policies in Congress had to be reached through political negotiation.

The amendment permitting a single reelection was approved by Congress in December 2004, and by the Constitutional Court in October 2005.

After some of the AUC's main leaders had declared a cease-fire and agreed to concentrate in Santa Fe de Ralito, several paramilitary demobilizations began in earnest, thousands of their "rank and file" fighters were disarmed and incorporated into government rehabilitation programs late in 2004. The main AUC leaders, who would be held responsible for atrocities, remained in the concentration zone and continued talks with the government's High Commissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo. A number of the paramilitary members who initially demobilized in Medellín apparently did not actually belong to the AUC and this caused public concern. The AUC commanders claimed, as the year ended, that they had difficulties controlling all of their personnel from their isolated position, that they had already demobilized some 20% of their forces, and that they would await for the drafting of the necessary legal framework before making any more significant moves.

In 2005 President Uribe and Colombia's congressmen prepared for the elections held in May and March 2006 respectively.

FARC, which some had been perceived as relatively passive, in February began to show signs of what analysts considered renewed vigor. It made a series of attacks against small military units, which left at least three dozen casualties. Uribe said in a speech that FARC remained strong and had never retreated, and he credited Colombia's soldiers for previous successes against FARC activities. He also said that he considers FARC to be cowards, because they hurt civilian targets during their ambushes.

Negotiations with the AUC also increased public anxiety. Discussions continued about the legal provisions to assure "justice, reparation and truth" after a full demobilization. Also according to many observers, paramilitary activity continued despite AUC's declared cease-fire, albeit at a reduced rate. The demobilizations were renewed in November and finished in the complete disbandment of the group by middle February 2007, although some of the paramilitary units rejected disbandment and returned to criminal activity. These groups became known as the Black Eagles. This group is relatively small in comparison to the AUC and haven't been able to achieve the notoriety or the military power of their predecessor, but are present on some former paramilitary areas, like Catatumbo and Choco.

The Colombian congress agreed to prosecute AUC leaders under the controversial Ley de Justicia y Paz, by which the paramilitary leaders would receive reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony and declarations of their entire criminal activity: links with drug dealers, assassinations, disappearances and massacres. These declarations are to be brought before an specialized judge, in a public hearing attended by the victims. The paramilitary leaders are also forced to "repair" the damage caused to the victims or their families: By disclosing the location of mass graves and by repaying each of them through economic assistance. As of 2008, these public hearings are still under way.

In 2004, Uribe's political supporters amended the constitution to allow him to run for a second term, previously proscribed by the Colombian constitution, and his own decision to run for a second term was announced in late 2005. With this amendment, Uribe was re-elected on May 28, 2006 for a second presidential term (2006-2010), and became the first president to be consecutively re-elected in Colombia in over a century. He received about 62% of the vote, consisting of about 7.3 million ballots in his favor.

Since his election in 2002, Uribe has maintained some of the highest approval ratings of any Latin American president, usually around 70%-80%. This is usually attributed to the major improvements in security, continuous social programs and sustained economic growth. His popularity levels among Colombians seem to be only marginally affected by the parapolitics scandal. During early 2008 Álvaro Uribe's approval rating hit an impressive 81%, one of the highest popularity levels of his entire presidency. In June 2008, after Operation Jaque, Uribe's approval rate rose to an unprecedented 91.47%.

In August 10, 2004, the National Security Archive (NSA) published a declassified 1991 intelligence report from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which contained a list of several individuals identified as "Colombian narco-traffickers". The document states that it is "not finally evaluated" intelligence information. The source for the report and the reporting officer's comments were not declassified.

The report listed then-Senator Álvaro Uribe as a "close personal friend of Pablo Escobar" and described him as "dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín cartel at high government levels". It also stated that Uribe had "attacked all forms of the extradition treaty" and that his father had been murdered because of a "connection with the narcotic traffickers".

In response, the Colombian Presidency made an official statement rejecting several of the accusations in the report, adding that the same information had been part of previous allegations during Uribe's 2002 presidential campaign. It argued that Senator Uribe's position on the extradition treaty was available in the congressional archives for 1989 and had been reiterated in 2002 interviews: to postpone a proposed popular referendum on the matter until after the 1990 parliamentary and presidential elections, to prevent drug traffickers from influencing the results of the vote.

The official communique also stated that Uribe's father had been killed by FARC in 1983 during a kidnapping attempt and that in 1991 Senator Uribe was studying at Harvard University in the United States, as the Colombian Congress had been suspended during the sessions of the Constituent Assembly. The statement concluded by saying that Uribe had extradited more than 170 individuals to several countries around the world and that the President opposed any modification to current extradition mechanisms.

The NSA acknowledged that the information in the report was "only as good as its source" and that it was "difficult to verify the accuracy of the information" because of the details which remained classified. The NSA added that the report was different from average field intelligence as some degree of evaluation had already taken place "via interfaces with other agencies", that the source believed the statements to be true without qualifications, that the report included detailed information suggesting it would be employed for multiple uses, that much of the other information in the report was accurate and verifiable, and that significant effort had been spent on compiling the information.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Conway stated that the report was raw, uncorroborated information from one source and that "no conclusions can be drawn from it". Robert Zimmerman, U.S. Department of State deputy spokesman, rejected the allegations against Uribe and stated that his record was that of "a strong opponent of drug trafficking". Zimmerman added that "we have no credible information that substantiates or corroborates the allegations in an unevaluated 1991 report".

In 2007 Virginia Vallejo, media personality and former lover of Pablo Escobar, published her memoir “Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar”, where she accused several Colombian presidents of involvement with drug traffickers. She stated that Escobar "idolized" Uribe and that he and his partners in the Medellín Cartel had obtained "dozens of licenses for landing strips and hundreds for the aircraft and helicopters on which the infrastructure of the drug trafficking industry had been built" while Uribe served as Director of the Colombian Civil Aviation Agency (1980-1982). She also claimed that in June 1983 Pablo Escobar had lent his helicopter to bring back to Medellín the body of Álvaro Uribe’s father and his seriously wounded brother Santiago from the family ranch, where Alberto Uribe Sierra had been murdered by the FARC during an attempt to kidnap him.

President Uribe denied Vallejo’s allegations. He said he wasn’t a friend of Escobar “even when it was fashionable”, that he had no business or political dealings with him and that he had seen Virginia Vallejo only once, in an airport. He added that, due to his political visibility, “he had seen Pablo Escobar many times, but from a distance”. The president also claimed that, though he had begun wearing glasses only in 1990, Virginia Vallejo had referred to his “seminarist glasses” of 1983. Uribe argued that he had been “waiting for 20 years” for anyone to present photographs of any alleged meetings between him and Escobar. In an October 16, 2007 statement, the Director of Civil Aviation in Colombia said that former Director Uribe had implemented stronger regulations for the operation and licensing of aircraft, companies and landing strips, citing decree 2.303 of 1981 which introduced as a requirement a certificate from the National Council on Narcotics, which would be provided after consulting DAS, F-2, Customs, the Inspector General and Army Brigades. The statement mentioned that Director Uribe had already been investigated by the Inspector General of Colombia at his own request, leading to no formal charges.

President Uribe accused El Nuevo Herald's correspondent in Colombia, Gonzalo Guillén, of being behind Virginia Vallejo's book, describing him as someone who had "dedicated his journalistic career to infamy and lies". The journalist denied any involvement, arguing that he had only interviewed Vallejo once, for a July 2006 article. Guillén said that Uribe had been angered after his earlier publication of another book, "The Confidants of Pablo Escobar", which contained claims about the Uribe family's ties to organized crime. BBC News reported that Guillén, who said he had received 24 death threats in three days, left Colombia after Uribe's accusations.

Daniel Coronell, journalist and Revista Semana columnist, wrote an October 2007 opinion column mentioning the June 15th 1983 edition of Medellín's El Mundo newspaper, which had reported that Colombia's Civil Aviation provided a special permit to a helicopter belonging to Pablo Escobar, described as a landowner by the paper, which was used by Álvaro Uribe Velez to travel to the area where his father Alberto Uribe Sierra had been murdered by the FARC. Coronell also wrote that the June 16th edition of El Colombiano contained an invitation to Alberto Uribe's funeral from Escobar's "Medellín sin tugurios" foundation. During a heated radio debate with Coronell, President Uribe argued that the helicopter had been assigned to him by Colombia's Civil Aviation authority, that he did not know it belonged to Pablo Escobar during the crisis and would have otherwise refused to board it, and that he returned to Medellín with his father's body by land. He also reiterated that he had no links to Escobar.

On December 9, 2007 Gerardo Reyes of El Nuevo Herald published a story about the 1984 assassination of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and the seizure of a helicopter found during the earlier raid of the Tranquilandia drug lab complex. According to the article, Cecilia Lara Bonilla, Rodrigo's sister, had made a sworn statement in July 1984, indicating that the slain minister thought the anti-drug operation had compromised important politicians throughout the country and that the seized helicopter belonged to Alberto Uribe Sierra, Álvaro Uribe's father. Police Colonel Jaime Ramírez Gómez, in another declaration, had stated that Lara Bonilla feared retaliation from the owners of the helicopter and the airplanes seized in Tranquilandia, without specifying any names at the time. In a telephone conversation with El Nuevo Herald, Cecilia Lara Bonilla stated that she stood by her earlier declarations and said she believed her brother "did have many doubts about Uribe . He did not express them clearly." According to El Nuevo Herald, the newspaper had requested, but did not receive, any comments from the Colombian President's Press Office in October, before the story was published.

The article indicated that President Uribe had previously argued that the helicopter had been sold before the Tranquilandia operation. The judicial process which followed Lara Bonilla's murder included a DAS report which stated that the seized helicopter was registered as the property of a private enterprise managed by Carlos Alberto Amórtegui Romero, one of whose partners was Alberto Uribe Sierra. Jaime Alberto Uribe Vélez, one of the late Uribe Sierra's sons, had declared seventeen days after the anti-drug raid that the helicopter had been sold by the company to a third party a month before the operation, as payment for a debt. The judicial archives for the investigation did not contain any formal record of the transaction. The Colombian government sent a letter to El Nuevo Herald saying that Carlos Amórtegui, the legal representative of the company which owned the seized helicopter, had published a May 22, 1984 statement in Cromos magazine about the sale of the aircraft.

Rodrigo Lara Restrepo, son of the murdered Minister of Justice, had been named Colombia's Anti-Corruption Czar a year and a half before the publication of the article. Lara Restrepo told the Miami newspaper that he would make a declaration in the following days. Lara Restrepo later resigned his post, arguing that several government officials had known about the El Nuevo Herald story since October, without informing him about it, and that he had not previously read Cecilia Lara's 1984 statements. He added that he still believed in the Colombian government and the Uribe administration's fight against the drug cartels, but that his resignation was made as a sign of respect for his father.

The head of the Colombian President's Press Office, César Mauricio Velásquez, said that he decided not to reply to correspondent Gerardo Reyes, who had made an e-mail inquiry, and also criticized the journalist. He added that he had not thought about informing Rodrigo Lara Restrepo.

In November 2006, a political crisis emerged as several of Uribe's congressional supporters were questioned or charged by the Colombian Supreme Court and the office of the Attorney General for having alleged links to paramilitary groups. Álvaro Araújo, brother of Uribe's Foreign Minister María Consuelo Araújo, was among those summoned for questioning. In November, the former ambassador to Chile, Salvador Arana, was charged for the murder of a mayor in a small town in the Department of Sucre.

In April 2007, Senator Gustavo Petro made several accusations against President Uribe during a televised congressional debate about paramilitarism in Antioquia. Petro said that some of the Uribe family's farms in the north of the country had been previously used as staging grounds for paramilitary forces. He also showed a picture of Santiago Uribe, the President's brother, together with Fabio Ochoa, a drug dealer, in 1985. Petro also argued that Governor Uribe's office allowed paramilitary personnel to participate in some of the legal self-defense groups known as CONVIVIR. Another accusation concerned the possible participation of a helicopter belonging to the former Antioquia Governor's administration during a paramilitary massacre.

Two days later, President Uribe publicly revealed that former US Vice President Al Gore had cancelled his participation in a pro-environment event Uribe was to attend in Miami due to the continuing allegations against him. The Colombian President reacted by organizing a press conference during which he addressed several of the accusations Senator Petro and others had made against him. Uribe argued that his family had nothing to do with any massacres and that they had already sold the implicated farms several years before the alleged events. He also stated that the Uribes and the Ochoas were both famous in the horse breeding business, causing their meetings to be both common and public. He claimed that the helicopter's hours and missions had been strictly logged, making it impossible for it to have participated in any massacre. Uribe said that he supported the CONVIVIR groups but was not solely responsible for their creation, adding that other civilian and military authorities also participated in their oversight. He also said that he dismantled some CONVIVIR groups when doubts began to surround their activities.

On April 22, 2008, former senator Mario Uribe Escobar, one of the Colombian President's cousins and a close political ally, was arrested after being denied asylum at the Costa Rican embassy in Bogotá, as part of a judicial inquiry into the links between politicians and paramilitary groups. Mario Uribe has been accused of meeting with paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso in order to plan land seizures.

On April 23, 2008, President Uribe revealed that a former paramilitary fighter had accused him of helping to plan the 1997 massacre of El Aro, a charge which he said was under official investigation. Uribe described the accuser as a "disgruntled convict with an axe to grind", denied the charges and said there was proof of his innocence. The Colombian newsweekly Revista Semana reported that the paramilitary in question, Francisco Enrique Villalba Hernández, had not mentioned Uribe during previous declarations made more than five years ago, when he was sentenced for his own role in the massacre. The magazine also listed a number of possible inconsistencies in his most recent testimony, including the alleged presence of General Manosalva, who had died months before the date of the meeting where the massacre was planned.

Although on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum, up until 2007 Colombia and Venezuela had only one major impasse in their relations, the Rodrigo Granda affair, which had been overcome thanks to the direct talks between Uribe and Chávez. Álvaro Uribe's main political problem during 2007 was his handling of the humanitarian exchange situation: the FARC guerrillas have under their possession over 700 hostages, living under very difficult conditions in the vast Colombian jungle. These hostages included presidential candidate and French citizen Ingrid Betancourt (now freed), three American citizens (now freed), and several Colombian politicians and law enforcers. Some of the captives have been in the jungle for over 10 years. For the release of 40 of these hostages (the so called "canjeables" or "exchangeables") the FARC demands a Demilitarized Zone that includes the towns of Florida and Pradera. The government has refused to comply with this demand, deciding instead to push for a military rescue of the hostages, or by searching the mediation of third parties like Switzerland and the Catholic Church.

As all of those plans failed to get any positive outcome, Uribe appointed Senator Piedad Córdoba, to mediate between the government and the guerrillas in an attempt to secure the liberation of the hostages. Córdoba then asked Chávez to mediate also, with the consent of President Uribe. French president Nicolas Sarkozy was also willing to help in the mediation effort.

On November 8, 2007 Chávez met with alias "Iván Márquez" one of the highest members of the FARC and some other members of its Secretariat at the Palacio de Miraflores in a widely publicized event. After the event Chavez promised to deliver evidence that some of the hostages remained alive. When Chávez met with Sarkozy on November 19, Chávez was still waiting on the evidence. Lacking the "proof of life" that was promised to the families of the hostages, and seeing prominent FARC members using the media attention to promote their own ideology, Uribe became disgruntled with the mediation process.

On Novermber 22 Uribe abruptly ended the mediation after Chávez spoke with the high command of the Colombian military during a call made by Córdoba. Uribe had conditioned Chávez against any attempt to talk to military high command. Chávez initially accepted the decision, but tensions escalated as the presidents increasingly attacked each other verbally, with Chávez claiming that Uribe and the U.S. simply preferred the war continue, and Uribe implying Chávez supported the rebels.

Chávez announced a "freeze" of political relations and called Uribe a "pawn of the empire" and cut contact with the Colombian government, including rejecting calls from the Colombian embassy in Caracas. He announced his intent to sharply reduce bilateral commerce.

Chávez continued negotiating with the rebels and eventually secured the unilateral release of two, then four more, hostages to Venezuela which were meant as signs of good faith and preceded calls for more negotiations, which Uribe dismissed.

During the release of two hostages at the end of the convoluted Operation Emmanuel, Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramón Rodriguez Chacín told FARC fighters: "We are with you...Be strong. We are following your cause." Soon after, on January 11, Chávez claimed that both FARC and ELN weren't terrorist organizations, but legitimate armies with a political project respected in Venezuela. He then proceeded to ask for all nations to stop calling FARC and ELN "terrorist groups," and rather give them belligerent status.

A regional crisis began after Colombian troops killed FARC commander Raúl Reyes in a guerrilla camp inside Ecuadorian borders on March 1. Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua, which has a maritime dispute with Colombia, cut diplomatic ties with Colombia as a response, with Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa ordering troops to their respective borders with Colombia. Uribe in response placed the armed forces on high alert but did not move his troops to confront them even though the Colombian army is larger than Ecuador's and Venezuela's combined.

Several countries in the Americas criticized the incursion into Ecuador as a violation of national sovereignty, which was also denounced by an OAS resolution. The United States backed Colombia's position and internal support for the action remained strong, Uribe's popularity rising as a result.

The impasse was finally solved when Leonel Fernandez, President of the Dominican Republic, hosted an emergency summit of Latin American nations in Santo Domingo. He got Uribe, Correa, and Chavez to shake hands. Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega also announced the restoration of relations with Colombia at which Uribe told him that he would send him the bill for the plane fare for his ambassador.

In April 2008, Yidis Medina, a former congresswoman from the pro-government Colombian Conservative Party, claimed that members of President Uribe's administration had offered her to appoint local officials in her home province, in exchange for voting in favor of the 2004 reelection bill. According to Medina, the government had not fulfilled that promise, prompting her declaration. The Attorney General of Colombia ordered her arrest, after which she turned herself over to authorities and testified to the Supreme Court as part of the investigation. The opposition Alternative Democratic Pole party asked for President Uribe to be investigated for bribery. After the declarations made by Medina, the Supreme Court of Colombia sent copies of the process to other judicial authorities, who have the jurisdiction to investigate several former and current cabinet members and other high officials. The Accusations Commission of the Colombian Congress will study the matter and decide if there are enough merits to officially investigate President Uribe.

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El Espectador

A Washington printing press where the first issue of El Espectador was printed in 1887, Museo Universitario, University of Antioquia, History Collection at San Ignacio Building, Medellín, Colombia

El Espectador is a newspaper with national circulation within Colombia, founded by Fidel Cano Gutiérrez on 22 March 1887 in Medellín and published since 1915 in Bogotá. It changed from a daily to a weekly edition in 2001, following a financial crisis, and became a daily again since 11 May 2008, a comeback which had been long rumoured, in tabloid format (28 x 39.5 cm). Since 1997 its main shareholder is Julio Mario Santo Domingo.

It is the oldest newspaper in Colombia. Since its first issue to present its motto has been "El Espectador will work for the good of the country with liberal criteria and for the good of the liberal principles with patriotic criteria". It was initially published twice a week, 500 issues each. It defined itself as a political, literary, news and industrial newspaper. Years later it would become a daily and in 2001 became a weekly. Since then, the paper uses the slogan "El Espectador. Opinion is news", implying it now focuses in opinion articles, not in breaking news. This focus will continue in the daily edition started 11 May 2008.

In 1994, after conducting a survey, Le Monde considered El Espectador one of the best 8 daily newspapers in the world, along with The New York Times (United States), Financial Times (United Kingdom), Izvestia (Russia), People's Daily (China), Al Ahram (Egypt), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), and Times of India.

According to the latest Estudio General de Medios (EGM – Segunda Ola 2007 (II-2007)), El Espectador has 687,900 readers every week. It is a member of the Inter American Press Association and the Asociación de Diarios Colombianos (ANDIARIOS).

In 2007, its publisher Fidel Cano Correa said he did not agree with current President Álvaro Uribe Vélez's personal behaviour and government style, but he specified that was his own position and not the newspaper's.

Since 10 February 1915 El Espectador was simultaneously published in Medellín and Bogotá. Its Medellín edition was suspended on 20 July 1923.

In 1948, after the murder of Liberal Party chief Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, its circulation was suspended during three days. Since then, El Espectador had to deal with the censorship of the then ruling Conservative Party several times. On 9 November 1949, Luis Cano Villegas, its director, retired as a protest for the seizure of the entire edition by the government, being replaced by his brother Gabriel Cano Villegas. On 6 September 1952, its facilities, then located downtown Bogotá, as well as the building of competitor El Tiempo and the houses of Liberal Party leaders Eduardo Santos and Carlos Lleras Restrepo, were looted and partially destroyed, apparently with tolerance from the government. It reappeared on 16 September.

In 1955 the newspaper outspokenly opposed to the military government of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, publishing several articles by Alberto Lleras Camargo, with a big effect on public opinion. In December, the government accused El Espectador of several accounting and tax irregularities, and fined the newspaper with $10,000 on 20 December 1955. On 6 January 1956 the National Taxes Direction imposed El Espectador a sanction of $600,000. Its directors, who were forbidden to respond the accusations on the paper, suspended its publication that day.

In order to replace El Espectador, on 15 February 1956 appeared El Independiente, directed by Alberto Lleras Camargo, who retired in April when the newspaper was closed during a few months. It was published again in 1957 but due to an agreement by the opposition newspapers, it suspended its publication on 5 May. Five days later, Rojas Pinilla was ousted. El Independiente circulated until 1 June 1958, when it was formally replaced by El Espectador.

Throughout the 20th century El Espectador was the main Liberal newspaper, with El Tiempo, both holding an important political influence. Among its main contributors it had some of the most important Colombian journalists at the time, like Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero, Alberto Lleras Camargo, Eduardo Zalamea Borda, Gabriel García Márquez, Eduardo Caballero Calderón, Klim, Antonio Panesso Robledo, Inés de Montaña, Alfonso Castillo Gómez, José Salgar, as well as cartoonists Hernán Merino, Pepón, Consuelo Lago, and Osuna.

During the 20th century El Espectador criticized other mass media in Colombia, which preferred to remain silent instead of denouncing the atrocities happening in the country. On early 1980s, the then daily published several articles denouncing illegal loans and other irregularities against the Grupo Grancolombiano, one of the most powerful economical groups at the time. As a retaliation, several big companies pulled their ads on the paper out, which was already facing some financial issues. El Espectador disavowed this fact and dedicated a editorial piece to its credibility and the credibility of those economical groups.

As stated before, El Espectador stood firm against drug trafficking and often published articles on its crimes.

On 17 December 1986, the then director of El Espectador, Guillermo Cano Isaza, was assassinated in front of the newspaper offices by gunmen paid by Pablo Escobar, after publishing several articles critical of Colombia's drug barons. Cano left the headquarters around 19:00 on his family station wagon. After he made a U-turn on the Avenida El Espectador, one of the hitmen approached the wagon Cano was driving, shot him on his chest eight times, and then ran away on a motorcycle identified with the licence plate FAX84. Cano was 61 years-old, and had been a journalist for 44. His murder is still considered unpunished. The next day, El Espectador's main headline was Seguimos adelante ("We are going on").

On 2 September 1989 the paper's offices were bombed by the Medellín Cartel. The blast occurred around 06:30; it blew the building's roof up, destroyed the main entry and affected the newspaper's production. The bomb was hidden in a van parked minutes before it exploded in front of the main entry. The same day, 6 armed men broke into an exclusive island in Islas del Rosario, near Cartagena de Indias, and set fire to the Cano family's summer house.

On 29 May 2000 Reporters Without Borders issued a letter of protest to Interior Minister Humberto de La Calle Lombana, on the kidnapping of journalist Jineth Bedoya, at the time working for El Espectador, allegedly carried out by members of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). Robert Ménard, RWB's secretary general, "stated that he was "scandalised" by this latest attack on Bedoya". She would later join El Tiempo.

On 23 August 1999, a group called Colombian Rebel Army (ERC) published a communiqué issuing death threats against 21 personalities engaged in the then ongoing peace process, accusing them of "promoting war between Colombians". Among those personalities two El Espectador contributors were mentioned, Alfredo Molano y Arturo Alape. On 19 January 1999, Molano left the country (he would return years later). Molano had condemned the massacre of 130 people perpetrated weeks before by members of AUC commanded by Carlos Castaño, who had referred to Molano as "paraguerrilla". On 18 September, Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, who had worked for El Espectador and RCN Radio, went into exile.

Between February and May 2000, journalist Ignacio Gómez received at least 56 threatening letters. In an article published by El Espectador, Gómez had revealed that a massacre where 49 peasants were killed was perpetrated by paramilitary militias supported by members of the Colombian Army. After escaping a kidnapping attempt in Bogotá on 24 May, Gómez sought refuge in the United States on 1 June 2000. He would return to Colombia one year later and become part of Noticias Uno TV newscast.

On 21 March 2003 columnist Fernando Garavito left Colombia for the United States, after several death threats. He denounced human rights violations by AUC, as well as the alleged tolerance on drug barons in the past by the then presidential candidate Álvaro Uribe Vélez. On 8 February 2003 photojournalist Herminso Ruiz was beaten and had his camera confiscated by members of the Colombian National Police while he was covering El Nogal club bombing. The incident was contempt by organizations as RWB.

On May 2003 the newspaper, through an editorial written by its then director Ricardo Santamaría, reported on "interference" on an investigation it was carrying on the alleged irregularities in Banco del Pacífico, claiming that Police intelligence officials had obtained access to a draft of the report and sent it, through the Colombian National Police director, Teodoro Campo, to the then Interior Minister Fernando Londoño, who was a chairman of the bank. Organizations defending freedom of the press expressed their contempt and their "deep concern". Campo denied any involvement, while minister Londoño claimed the draft was sent anonymously to him.

On 18 November 2004, a Bogotá court sentenced columnist and film director Lisandro Duque to three days in jail and a 470 euros fine, for not publishing a rectification after a sentence for defamation, when in column published 13 April 2003 Duque criticized Claudia Triana de Vargas, manager of a film production company. Instead of rectifying, Duque wrote in a piece published 7 September that he had "no enough evidence" to support his criticism. Duque appealed the court sentence.

On 29 May 1996 the then daily newspaper launched its website elespectador.com. Its design format and layout have been changed several times In 2006 later added the .com to its logo, comments to the articles and user registration. Access hits to Elespectador.com grew 79% in 2007.

On 7 March 2008 elespectador.com was revamped, setting up four "editions": online, latest news, news map and print version. It also improved the registration system and the RSS feeds, and added tags, audio, and videos taken from Noticias Caracol, newscast from sister network Caracol TV, uploaded to its YouTube channel. The website is built with Drupal. Elespectador.com received the Colombian Chamber of Computing and Telecommunications's Premio Colombia en Línea 2008 award to the best online news website in the country.

Despite El Espectador had been the Colombian newspaper with the second highest circulation, after El Tiempo, the financial difficulties worsened and in 1997 the Cano family sold most of their shares in Comunican S.A., El Espectador publishing company, to Julio Mario Santo Domingo, who at the time owned Cromos, Caracol Radio (later sold to Spanish group PRISA) and Caracol TV. Its headquarters moved to the Avenida El Dorado. In September 2001 El Espectador became a weekly newspaper.

Since then, their editors Rodrigo Pardo, Carlos Lleras de la Fuente, Ricardo Santamaría, and Fidel Cano Correa tried to recover the financial balance and the newspaper's circulation. As a weekly, it was published on Saturdays, with Sunday's date. Counting with the free time readers have available on weekends, El Espectador focused on opinion, investigation, and analysis pieces, recovering its circulation, influence, and earnings.

In 2007 Fidel Cano Correa stated in an interview with Revista Semana that " is just a possibility. We have doing very well during the last three years, especially the last one." The Spanish group PRISA was considered as an strategic partner, but the negotiation failed when Santo Domingo refused to cede the control of the paper to PRISA. On 11 May 2008 El Espectador became a daily again, changing from broadsheet to tabloid format.

It also publishes three magazines, published once in a month each: Autos/Motos, Espacios, and Discovery Health. On Mondays El Espectador publishes a 6-page edition of The New York Times International Weekly, and on Tuesdays a two-paged Fox Sports minisection. It also syndicates articles from Harvard Business Review and El País.

Since 2004, Lucie Lacava's Lacava Design has been in charge of El Espectador's design for its print edition. El Espectador uses Hoefler & Frere-Jones's Mercury and Gotham typefaces since then.

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Instituto Nacional de Radio y Televisión

During President Álvaro Uribe Vélez administration, Inravisión was liquidated because of, according to the government, its growing pension liabilities, its technological backwardness, and the failed financial state of state-owned, privately-run Canal Uno.

It was succeeded by Radio Televisión Nacional de Colombia (RTVC).

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Colombian regional elections, 2007

Coat of arms of Colombia 3.svg

The Colombian elections of 2007 (Spanish: Elecciones regionales de Colombia, 2007) refers to the democratic elections of October 28, 2007 in the Republic of Colombia. The elections were organized as established by the Colombian Constitution of 1991 by the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) to elect Department governors with its respective Department Assemblies, Mayors with their respective City Councils and the Local Administrative Juntas (JAL).

The elections have been marked by the assassination of 22 candidates and the kidnapping of at least two. The main armed group targeting the elections is the marxist leninist guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as part of the Colombian armed conflict with the government of Colombia. The President of Colombia Álvaro Uribe Vélez publicly called not to vote for those candidates preferred by the FARC or candidates who were offering to buy people's vote. While in some areas there are reports of untrusting the elections due to the break out of the Parapolitica scandal in 2006 in which it was discovered that members of the demobilized paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) had been colluding with political leaders and members of the public force in order thwart adversaries and advance politically.

On this date some 27 million Colombians are apt to vote to elect between some 86 thousand candidates to represent 1,098 Colombian municipalities and 32 governors of Colombian Departments. Colombian authorities mobilized 167,559 soldiers and policemen in order to vigil the 9,950 voting sites.

The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported that the National Registrar of the Civil State (Registraduria Nacional del Estado Civil) announced several changes in some voting sites in the Colombian Caribbean region: In Cartagena and Magangue in Bolivar Department, Gonzalez in Cesar Department, Barranquilla and Malambo in Atlantico Department and Santa Marta and El Retén in Magdalena Department after there were reports of irregularities.

The local newspaper El Nuevo Día from Ibague, Tolima Department reported that opposition groups to Major Bolívar Guzmán blocked access to the town of Valle de San Juan also in Tolima Department, alleging that there had been a manipulation of the election process. The blockage prevented functionaries of the National Registrar from establishing elements needed for voting. Members of the Colombian National Police and the Colombian Army were called to reestablish control in the town.

There were also reports of fraudulent techniques used to obtain more votes, the most common was the Trasteo electoral (Literally "Vote Carrying") in which for example a municipality gets more votes than its official population able to vote, as it occurred in the municipality of Piojó in Atlántico Department where there were 6,088 people subscribed as apt to vote, but its actual population apt to vote over 18 years old is 2,988.

Caracol Radio reported that there had been 49 people captured for committing electoral fraud crimes and there had been 26 denunciations reported to the Inspector General of Colombia Edgardo Maya among these the possession of numerous IDs used to illegally vote more than once and the exchange of votes for money or groceries for votes. Inspector General Maya-Villazon also discarded any possibility that elected candidates sanctioned with disciplinary sanctions, penal crimes, impeachment or any other fault on this elections will not be able to take office. He also mentioned that in case any of these candidates took office will be suspended from office.

A month before the elections there were already some 70 homicides related to the Colombian regional elections of 2007, including government officials, perpetrated by guerrillas, former and new paramilitary groups or common delinquency. This tendency of using violence to coerce the population escalated when the paramilitary groups influenced the previous 2003 regional, presidential and legislative elections.

Onservers part of the mission sent by the Organization of American States (OAS) formally accused the FARC of being the main cause of the disruptions to the electoral process. Not only from violence but from coercion, but also mentioned that the elections were not in danger but for some people in certain areas. Like during the electoral day the FARC used explosives to destroy electrical towers in the souther Colombian Department of Nariño. This action left without electricity an area covered by some 5 municipalities. The Ombudsman of Colombia accused the emerging paramilitary gangs of also thwarting the election process in some areas. Some of this groups included Aguilas Negras, Los Traquetos, Los Mellizos, ''Los de Barranquilla, Los Paisas, Los 40, Macacos, Cuchillos and la Organización Nueva Generación.

On October 29, 2007, a day after the election, protesters of the losing candidate for mayor in the municipality of Ciénaga de Oro, Córdoba Department rioted and burned down the City hall and the local office of the National Registrar of the Civil State, alleging that there had been fraud. The winning candidate Plinio Di Paola won with a difference of 15 vote over the losing candidate. Also in Cordoba Department, in the town of Ayapel the office of the National Registrar was stoned. A state of emergency was sanctioned in several other populations of the Cordoba Department.

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Source : Wikipedia