LAT AM REVIEW: Colombian Attack; Mexican Drug Lord Seized, U.S. Coast Guard Focus on Western Hemisphere, Rio Defense Expo
U.S. Condemns Rebel Attack.
Eleven Colombian soldiers were killed in fighting with Marxist guerrillas last week (April 14), prompting Colombia’s president to resume air attacks against rebel camps.
The attack and the government’s response have many observers worried they could jeopardize peace talks seeking to end a 50-year insurgency that has cost thousands of lives in Colombia.
A spokesman for the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — which has been trying to overthrow the government since the 1960s — claimed the soldiers initiated the fighting near Cauca in western Colombia. But President Juan Manuel Santos called it a deliberate attack by the FARC and ordered the resumption of bombing raids on rebel targets. Seventeen other soldiers were wounded in the skirmish and one guerrilla was also killed.
Despite the violence, the Voice of America reported the two-year-old peace talks resumed on Thursday (April 16) in Havana, Cuba where Colombian government officials and FARC commanders are trying to negotiate an end to a war that has killed 220,000 and displaced millions since 1964.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement April 17 condemning “the brutal attack in Cauca orchestrated by the FARC.” The brief statement called the attack a “direct violation of the unilateral ceasefire FARC committed to” last December. “We support President Santos’ decision to continue negotiations but also lift his halt of aerial bombardment of FARC,” the statement added.
The State Department said it reaffirms “our continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.”
In February, the FARC said it would stop recruiting fighters younger than 17. Then in March, the two sides announced an initiative to work together to remove land mines, the New York Times reported. Soon afterward, Santos ordered a one-month halt to the aerial bombing of FARC encampments. Just a week prior to the latest attack, the president extended the bombing respite for another month.
Since the peace talks began, there have been other clashes with the FARC that resulted in a large number of casualties. In July 2013, the military reported that 15 soldiers died when the rebels attacked an oil pipeline, the Times added.
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Mexican Drug Lord Captured.
The head of another transnational drug cartel has been captured.
On Sunday (April 19) Mexican authorities said they have captured the man who has led the Juarez drug cartel since last year’s arrest of then-leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the Associated Press reported.
National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Jesus Salas Aguayo was caught Friday (April 17) about 130 kilometers south of the border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez. One of Salas’ bodyguards was killed and another was arrested.
Rubido said Salas Aguayo is linked to a 2010 car bombing in Ciudad Juarez, as well as a 2012 bar attack that killed 15, and the 2009 slaying of a protected witness in El Paso. The website of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says Salas Aguayo is wanted in the United States for possession and distribution of narcotics and for conspiracy.
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Coast Guard Focus.
The U.S. Coast Guard says it’s not enough to seize thousands of pounds of cocaine at sea or even arrest the people transporting illegal drugs by boat.
Instead, it’s crucial to defeat the transnational organized crime (TOC) networks behind the illicit commerce in narcotics and people, according to the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.
“Last year alone. the Coast Guard took 91 metric tons of cocaine out of the [trafficking] stream,” Lieutenant Commander. Devon Brennan told a briefing on the first day of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. He noted that seizure figure is three times the amount of drugs seized by all U.S. law enforcement agencies “including along the southwestern border.”
But going after transnational cartels is only part of the Coast Guard’s regional strategy. “In the next decade, the Coast Guard must confront significant challenges to maritime safety, efficiency and security in the Western Hemisphere,” the Strategy states, identifying three priorities over the next 10 years: combatting [criminal] networks, Securing Borders and Safeguarding Commerce.
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Brazil Defense Expo.
One of the biggest defense conferences in the Americas, Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD 2015), just ended in Rio de Janeiro.
“Despite budgetary uncertainties, the Brazilian Army remains steadfast in the pursuit of its key strategic projects,” according to IHS Jane’s website.
The army’s seven key strategic projects include the SISFRON border-monitoring system; a cyber defense project; the Guarani Strategic Project for (PEE Guarani) for a family of wheeled amphibious armored personnel carriers (APCs); and the Attainment of Full Operational Capability (OCOP) project, which aims to equip the army at a minimum level of readiness to guarantee the homeland defense mission.
Brazil’s defense strategy includes air and naval asset acquisitions to assert Brazilian control over its deepwater offshore oil reserves and to secure the waters of the Amazon Basin, which Brasilia considers a natural resources commodity as valuable as oil.
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