Paraguay faces fallout after president's ouster

Paraguay's Lugo
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- The governments of South America have united to punish Paraguay for  removing President Fernando Lugo on Friday, suspending the country’s membership in regional organizations for what some leaders are calling a coup.

When news spread that the Paraguayan Senate had voted to oust the left-leaning former Catholic bishop, widespread condemnation came quickly from leaders in a region with bad memories of dictatorships and democratic instability. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said her government would not recognize the new government formed by Federico Franco, who served as Lugo’s vice president before turning against him.

“Argentina will not validate the coup d’etat in Paraguay,” Kirchner said. “This is about more than Lugo.... This is a definitive attack on institutions and a replay of situations we had thought were totally forgotten.”

For all of Latin America’s varied ideological stripes, the negative response was surprisingly unanimous. Left-wing governments in Venezuela and Ecuador announced they’d cut off shipments of oil. Chile’s conservative government pulled its ambassador from the country. Colombia’s president, Miguel Santos, issued a statement saying there may have been an “abuse” of the proceedings. And regional powerhouse Brazil has put forward the possibility of further sanctions against Asuncion.

U.S. State Department representative Victoria Nuland said on Monday that Washington is “quite concerned about the speed of the process used for this impeachment in Paraguay."

Paraguay has been suspended from both Unasur, or the Union of South American Nations, and Mercosur, the regional trading bloc, until new elections take place.

Mercosur will hold an emergency meeting this week in Argentina to decide what action to take against the poor, land-locked nation. Lugo continues to consider himself the legitimate president of Paraguay and said he will attend the summit to explain the situation. It’s unclear what effect the actions will have on the new government in Paraguay, which has denounced its dismissal from the organizations.

It’s also unclear why the Paraguayan Senate voted now to oust Lugo, who would have been replaced in nine months during an election in which he could not participate.  The Senate's  impeachment proceedings consisted of broad charges of mismanaging the country after a land dispute turned deadly. It was conducted in a matter of hours, and Lugo was not allowed to prepare his own defense. The vote was nearly unanimous.

The government of Mexico, which is not a member of the South American organizations, released a statement affirming that “even if the political judgment took place according to the procedures established in the Paraguayan Constitution, Mexico considers that the proceedings did not give ex-President Lugo the time and space needed for the defense he had a right to.”


 Gay marriage, long legal in Spain, now in its dictionary

Dozens of Syrian military men said to have defected

Mexico election candidates rally thousands in final days of race

-- Vincent Bevins

Photo: Ousted Paraguay President Fernando Lugo gives one of his bodyguards a traditional drink before a meeting  in Asuncion, Paraguay. Credit: Cesar Olmedo / Associated Press





Global death toll of environmental activists rising, report says


In April, Chut Wutty was shot to death in the Cambodian forests he was so outspoken in defending, a slaying that outraged human rights activists suspicious of the conflicting explanations given by police.

His death appears to be part of a chilling trend. Growing numbers of activists and others defending the environment have been killed over the last decade, according to a new report from the environmental watchdog group Global Witness.

The London-based group says more than 100 people were killed last year while protesting or investigating environmental causes -- the highest death toll it has found in a decade of tracking such killings.

It linked the apparent rise in environmental slayings to fierce competition for dwindling resources worldwide that have put local activists "in the firing line" as they protest against being forced out of their homes to make way for development, losing the forests they rely on and other disputes.

Such killings often go unpunished, Global Witness lamented. In Brazil, for example, fewer than 10% of such cases have gone to court and barely 1% of them have led to convictions, the report said, quoting the Catholic Land Commission.

The death toll is "the sharpest of wake-up calls" for delegates convening in Rio de Janiero on Wednesday as the United Nations holds the biggest conference in its history to save the environment, Global Witness campaigner Billy Kyte said. "Over one person a week is being murdered for defending rights to forests and land."

The watchdog group consulted with other human rights groups, journalists and the United Nations and scoured website and academic studies to come up with its figures. It found that Brazil, Peru, Colombia and the Philippines had the highest numbers of killings, though it cautioned that there was an alarming lack of information and monitoring in much of Asia and Africa, which might mask killings there.

"It's difficult to know whether [the apparent increase in killings] is because there are more murders or whether it has now become more difficult for these things to be ignored," Radford University professor Bill Kovarik was quoted in the report released Tuesday. Either way, it's "an emerging and visible pattern."


Red Cross set to enter battle-weary Syrian city of Homs

Hostage situation in France ends; suspect arrested, captives safe

Future in electoral politics for Chilean student leader Camila Vallejo?

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A woman cries during the funeral in April for Chut Wutty, a prominent environmental activist killed in the Cambodian forests he was so outspoken in defending. Credit: Mak Remissa / European Pressphoto Agency

Mexico candidate Peña Nieto seeks Colombia drug fighter as advisor

Oscar naranjo epn ap

MEXICO CITY -- Former Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto, leading in polls to become Mexico's next president, has appointed the former chief of Colombia's national police to work as an "external advisor" for public security if he wins the July 1 election.

The appointment of Gen. Oscar Naranjo, announced Thursday, is read as a signal to observers in Mexico and the United States that Peña Nieto would make the pursuit of drug trafficking a high priority amid growing allegations that top members of his party have had ties to organized crime.

Peña Nieto maintains a steady lead in polls as candidate for the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. He called Colombia a model for success in the U.S.-backed fight against drug traffickers.

Naranjo, 55, is credited with helping take down top Colombian trafficker Pablo Escobar in 1993, as well as for recent successes to curtail coca production and battle the country's largest guerrilla army,  the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Both Mexico and Colombia are recipients of U.S. security aid.

Continue reading »

Must Reads: Syrian life, Colombian deaths and Mexican politics

In Mexico, anti-Institutional Revolutionary Party protester

From the Hollywood sway of China to a political comeback in Mexico, here are the five stories you shouldn't miss from this past week in global news:

The fall and rise of Mexico's PRI

Hollywood gripped by pressure system from China

Syria town's residents grow accustomed to violence

In Colombia, 6 sentenced in 'false positives' death scheme

In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood candidate's deeper intentions are unclear

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A demonstrator holds up Mexico's national flag during a May 28 protest against a possible return of the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in Mexico City. Credit: Alexandre Meneghini / Associated Press

Controversial dam project in Chile's Patagonia region on hold

Chliean President Sebastian Pinera

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Plans to build a $3.2-billion complex of dams that would have flooded thousands of acres in the bio-diverse Patagonia region in southern Chile have been put on indefinite hold in the face of ongoing protests against the project.

The five dams of the so-called HidroAysen project would increase Chile’s electricity capacity by 15% upon  completion in 2020. But it also would have flooded 12,500 acres of pristine territory that is increasingly popular as an eco-tourism destination.

Project partner Colbun, a utility company, announced Thursday that it was suspending work on an environmental impact study that is a prerequisite to starting the project, saying the government lacked a clear energy policy. The power utility that is majority partner, Enel-Endesa, also made it known that it wants to call a board of directors meeting to reconsider the project, roughly 1,000 miles south of the capital, Santiago.

The five dams would add 2,750 megawatts of power to the national power grid. 

Protests have been frequent in the year since the dam was given preliminary approval. Thousands of marchers poured into the streets of Santiago in April to protest a Supreme Court decision greenlighting the project.

Critics claimed that the rationale for the project was mainly to provide cheap energy to mining companies, not to consumers. Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has called the plan a “political and financial folly,” were among the groups opposed to the project.

Also opposing it is the Roman Catholic bishop of the Aysen region, Luis Infanti de la Mora, who in a pastoral letter last year said it would provide little local benefit.

But President Sebastian Pinera remains solidly behind the project, making the case that dams are necessary to reduce Chile's  96% dependence on imported oil. But his backing of HidroAysen has been a factor in his plummeting support in polls.

The government responded Friday by rejecting the notion of a suspension and insisting that it has a “clear energy policy.” Opposition group Aysen Future Foundation said in a statement that the suspension highlights the fact that the project is questionable and that support for it has diminished.

-- Fabiola Gutierrez in Santiago and Chris Kraul in Bogota, Colombia


Eurozone unemployment rate remains at record high

Slight gains for left in Mexico's presidential election campaign

U.N. human rights body condemns Syria forces for Houla killings



Photo: Chilean President Sebastian Pinera  Credit:  Luis Manuel de la Maza / Chilean  Presidential Press Office 


Colombian rebels release French journalist

BOGOTA, Colombia  -- French journalist Romeo Langlois was released by his leftist rebel captors Wednesday, more than a month after he was taken prisoner during a bloody confrontation with an army unit that the video reporter was accompanying.

Members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, former Sen. Piedad Cordoba and a representative of the French government, Jean-Baptiste Chauvin,  were present to take Langlois away from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The release took place in Montanita township in southeast Caqueta province, according to the Press Freedom Foundation.

 Langlois, a 35-year-old freelance reporter for Le Figaro newspaper and France 24 cable channel, was released by the 15th Front of the FARC not far from where he was taken prisoner April 28 after suffering a bullet  wound in an arm. He had accompanied an army unit deployed to destroy illicit coca crops, the base material for cocaine.

TV images of Langlois after his release showed him thin and with his left arm bandaged, but in apparently good condition.

Four soldiers were killed and four wounded in the seven-hour battle that led to Langlois' capture. Three rebels were killed, according to a rebel commander speaking on a video released after Langlois’ capture. The commander described the reporter as a “prisoner of war.”

The FARC in April released its last 10 military hostages, some of whom had been held as long as 14 years. The group said previously that it was giving up political kidnappings, although it has not promised to not take civilians hostage.


Mexico's PRI opens campaign office in Los Angeles

Syrian consul for California loses hope, severs ties with Assad

Former aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron arrested

-- Chris Kraul

Photo: French Journalist Romeo Langlois looks out from a Red Cross vehicle after being  handed over by Colombian rebels on May 30.   Credit: Fernando Vergara / Associated Press


Peru declares state of emergency after violence at mine protests

Peru President Ollanta Humala
LIMA, Peru -- The Peruvian government on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in a southeastern province after eight days of protests over a proposed expansion of a huge copper mine left at least two residents dead and 70 police injured.

The government's emergency declaration covers the province of Espinar and suspends constitutional liberties of speech and assembly for 30 days. The government also ordered the arrest of a protest leader, Herbert Huaman, who heads the Front for the Defense of Espinar Interests.

Violence in Espinar broke out over the weekend after President Ollanta Humala described  demonstrators protesting a $1.5-billion expansion of the Tintaya mine as leftist radicals. Widespread property damage was reported, as was the brief kidnapping of a judge.

Humala used a similar state of emergency decree in December to squelch protests in northern Cajamarca over the proposed Conga mine, a project Humala was counting on to finance his ambitious social agenda.  The government is now reviewing the $4.8-billion Conga copper and gold mine project, but Humala's strong defense of mining has distanced him from part of his impoverished support base.

The protests involve mainly peasant communities and resemble demonstrations held last year in Cajamarca, where residents waged a long-running and still unresolved campaign against the Conga project proposed by Colorado–based Newmont Mining.

Residents in Espinar complain that mining firm Swiss-based Xstrata doesn’t hire enough local workers, violates environmental laws and transfers too low a percentage of mining royalties to the local municipalities.

In a statement Tuesday, Xstrata said it lamented the violence and was ready to discuss residents’ complaints, but it insisted, as it has in the past, that it is fulfilling its social and economic obligations. The company said it would be willing to initiate new environmental monitoring procedures to assure compliance.

Social conflict expert Javier Torres of the Lima-based SER civil society group said the violence could have been avoided, and he blamed the government’s slow response to simmering tensions.

“The reluctance of the government to intervene before the conflict reached a level of violence, and of the [protest] leaders to dialogue, added to the silence of the Tintaya mine’s management, have been causes of these tragic events,” Torres said in an interview.

The global commodities boom has made mining Peru’s biggest industry, fueling the nation’s economic growth to an expected 6% this year. Mining attracted $21 billion in foreign investment from 1996 through 2010. Over the last half of 2011, Xstrata was the largest single mining investor in Peru, with $450 million plowed into its projects.

Analysts such as Torres say the perception of Peru as a mining mecca could be hurt unless community relations improve.

“As long as the government considers that [social] inclusion means the distribution of resources  according to a certain formula, and that those who protest are sheep being led by a handful of radical extremists, there will be no solution to these conflicts,” Torres said.


Kenyan police say Nairobi blast was a bomb attack

Syrian diplomats being expelled across Europe, elsewhere

Kofi Annan meets with Assad as peace plan in Syria teeters

-- Adriana Leon in Lima and Chris Kraul in Bogota, Colombia

Photo: Peruvian President Ollanta Humala. Credit: Jeon Heon-Kyun / European Pressphoto Agency

Must Reads: Befriending a pig and braving the elements


From the frigid heights of a glacier in Kashmir to the thrills of an election in Egypt, here are five stories you shouldn't miss from this last week in global news:

Foreign actors in India do well by playing the bad

Merkel comes under increasing fire in Euro crisis

Colombia rebels' hostage recalls friendship with wild pig

Egypt lines up to vote in its first free presidential election

For troops on Siachen Glacier, the elements are the enemy

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A picture released by the Pakistani military's Inter Services Public Relations on April 8, 2012, shows Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani visiting the Siachen region. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency / Inter Services Public Relations

Energy deals boost Colombia-Venezuela ties despite border violence

Colombia venezuela
BOGOTA, Colombia, and CARACAS, Venezuela -- Notwithstanding a border attack this week by leftist rebels hiding in Venezuela that left 12 Colombian soldiers dead, relations between the neighboring nations have improved steadily in recent months, as evidenced by energy deals including a proposed $8-billion pipeline as well as a crackdown on gasoline smuggling.

Fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, apparently fled back to Venezuela after the bloody ambush  Monday, prompting a promise from President Hugo Chavez to send three army battalions to the Perija Mountains area to drive the rebels from their sparsely populated refuge.

“We are active on the border ... and we will patrol by air and land,” Chavez said during a televised meeting of ministers, his first public appearance since returning from medical treatment in Cuba two weeks ago. “We are not going to permit this and as we’ve said a million times, all we want is peace for Colombia.”

Chavez’s declaration came as Colombian Mining and Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas said that Venezuela had agreed to expand exports of discount gasoline to several Colombian border states. The aim is to frustrate a cross-border gas smuggling racket controlled by mafias and terrorist groups, Cardenas said.

Continue reading »

Argentina bomb defused where Colombia's ex-president was to speak

Bomb found at Gran Rex Theater in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

BUENOS AIRES -- Argentine officials on Tuesday found a bomb in a Buenos Aires auditorium where former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is scheduled to speak.

Federal police said the crude explosive was discovered by employees at the Gran Rex Theater in central Buenos Aires, where Uribe is to participate in a business leadership conference Wednesday. No group immediately claimed responsibility and there were no arrests.

Authorities said the bomb consisted of a cardboard box filled with black powder explosive and a cellphone connected to a detonator.

On May 15, Colombia’s former interior minister, Fernando Londoño, was the target of a bombing that killed his driver and bodyguard. Some officials suspect the rebels known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were responsible, although no suspects have been named officially.

The cellphone was programmed to detonate Wednesday afternoon, when the highest concentration of people was expected at a post-conference cocktail hour. 

Investigating Judge Norberto Oyarbide said the bomb constituted a “very serious” plot and could have had “unpredictable consequences.”

"It’s a simple apparatus but sufficient to cause the death of people who were nearby,” Oyarbide said at a news conference in front of the theater. Also scheduled to speak at the Wednesday conference are Guy Caron, co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, and an official with the Barcelona pro soccer team.

Late Tuesday afternoon, organizers said the conference would go on as scheduled.

Leftist organizations and Colombian residents critical of the presence of Uribe had planned a midday demonstration Wednesday to protest his appearance.

There was no comment from the Argentine government as of late Tuesday. Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon issued a statement saying his government “rejected any form of terrorism.” 


U.N. nuclear chief reports tentative deal with Iran

U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan leaving post a year early

Lebanon court releases Islamist whose arrest triggered clashes

-- Andres D’Alessandro in Buenos Aires and Chris Kraul in Bogota, Colombia

Photo: Police stand guard outside the Gran Rex Theater in Buenos Aires on Tuesday. Credit: Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press 



Recommended on Facebook


Times Global Bureaus »

Click on bureau location to view articles

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts



In Case You Missed It...