The Spoils of Peace: Drugs, Terror and Tyranny

According to Breitbart News, the FARC is the third richest terrorist group in the world, earning an estimated $600 million dollars a year, mostly through drug trafficking.  A recent DEA report revealed the FARC syndicate works in concert with Mexican Drug Cartels to access U.S. markets.  To enter the European market, the FARC partners with Al-Qaeda, according to Moroccan and Spanish news sources — It’s an impressive global network of drug traffickers and terrorists


On November 6, 1985, an alliance between Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the terrorist group M-19 resulted in the violent siege of Colombia’s Palace of Justice.  M-19, financed and armed by Escobar, murdered 15 Supreme Court magistrates, 29 civilians and 11 members of the armed forces, by gunfire, grenade attacks and immolation. For Escobar it was an opportunity to derail the Court’s extradition deliberations; for the M-19 it was an attempted coup to establish a communist dictatorship.  The siege failed because the Armed Forces, led by General Armando Arias Cabrales, and Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega defeated the terrorists, saving 263 lives in the process. But thirty years on, the alliance between drugs, communism and terror has been fully consummated in the form of the narco-terrorist group FARC – and Colombia is on the brink of becoming a narco-failed State.November 12-2015

The ongoing peace negotiations between President Juan Manuel Santos’ government and the FARC presume that the FARC is merely a political insurgency. The government has argued – through Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre – that all its atrocities are, therefore, “political” and pardonable under Colombian law.  However, while the FARC leaders certainly want to impose a communist regime, they are also a successful criminal syndicate – more sophisticated and wealthier than Escobar’s Cartel ever was.

Eduardo Montealegre y Jaime Bernal Cuéllar

According to Breitbart News, the FARC is the third richest terrorist group in the world, earning an estimated $600 million dollars a year, mostly through drug trafficking.  A recent DEA report revealed the FARC syndicate works in concert with Mexican Drug Cartels to access U.S. markets.  To enter the European market, the FARC partners with Al-Qaeda, according to Moroccan and Spanish news sources — It’s an impressive global network of drug traffickers and terrorists.

Yet AG Montealegre’s Office maintains that the FARC are neither drug traffickers or terrorists.  President Santos has even asked the media to “de-escalate verbal violence” and stop using those terms to refer to the FARC.  The AG’s argument, as made by prosecutors at a Justice and Peace hearing in 2014, was that there was no evidence to establish that the FARC had become an organization “dedicated exclusively to drug trafficking.”  But the fact that they are also dedicated to kidnapping, extortion, sexual slavery and illegal mining, does not negate the 250 tons of cocaine exported in 2013, according to narcotics and terrorism expert Diego Corrales; or the more than 300 tons they exported in 2014, per the U.N.

Nor can the atrocities that the FARC has committed to maintain control of the drug trade be ignored.  The massacre by the FARC of 34 civilians in La Gabarra, in Colombia’s northeast region, can hardly be described as a “political” crime of freedom-fighters. According to survivor accounts in El Tiempo, members of the FARC arrived at a coca-growing camp in the pre-dawn hours of June 15, 2004. They forced the workers onto the ground at gunpoint, tied them up, and shot them with AK-47s – all because the coca camp was controlled by paramilitaries, the FARC’s competitors in the drug business.

More heinous still, was the FARC’s massacre at Taraza, in December 2001. FARC members rounded up civilians in a paramilitary-run coca processing lab in the village, murdered them, and then set fire to 17 houses in the area, according to witnesses. Eleven of the deceased were found decapitated and had been dismembered with machetes or chainsaws.

Still, President Santos claims that the Peace Process that will allow all FARC leaders to avoid jail, enable them to hold government positions and engage in politics, will end the drug problem: “We have a golden opportunity,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post, saying the FARC would help persuade farmers to stop growing coca – the same farmers the FARC  has “persuaded” for decades to grow it.

Colombians aren’t buying it. A November Gallup poll showed 91 percent of the population did not support the FARC and 81 percent do not believe the FARC will stop drug trafficking.  Their positions are well-founded:  during the four years of the peace negotiations, coca production has increased. In fact, thanks to the FARC’s “persuasive” tactics, Colombia is once again the world’s top coca producer, as reported in the Washington Post this week.   What does this mean for the U.S.? According to General John Kelly, Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, the drugs exported by the FARC result in 40,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.

As Colombians reflected this week on the 30 years since the M-19’s siege of the Palace of Justice, Jaime Castro, Colombia’s Minister of Government at the time, said in an interview: “If the assailants had triumphed, we would have been a narco-State.”   That possibility is more real today than ever:  Through the current peace deal, backed by the Obama Administration, the Santos government is poised to deliver the country to one of the most brutal criminal enterprises in the world. Colombians don’t deserve that. The U.S. should not support it.

Colombia Nature

Colombia has a very diverse geography and as such, is home to equally diverse nature and wildlife.  With two coastlines on different oceans as well as the famous Andes Mountain range and part of the Amazon rainforest, there are many opportunities to experience unique flora and fauna throughout the country.

A favourite destination for bird watchers, Colombia is home to over 1,800 species of birds.  This number is more than the amount of bird species found in North America and Europe combined.  The national bird of Colombia is the Andean Condor which, naturally, inhabits the Andes Mountain range.  One of the largest birds in the world, the condor has a wingspan of up to 3.2 m (10.5 ft).

As well as birds, Colombia also hosts over 450 mammal species.  Of these 450 species, approximately 22% are listed as either endangered or critically endangered.  Interestingly, Colombia has the largest number of terrestrial mammals (those that live predominantly or entirely on land) in the world.  Some of the most common animals that are found in Colombia are anteaters, sloths, tapirs, spectacled bears, deer, capybaras, pumas, jaguars and several monkey species.

While there is a large population of terrestrial mammals in the country, Colombia’s two coastlines, one on the Pacific Ocean and one on the Caribbean means that the waters surrounding the country are home to diverse marine life.  As Colombia is only now emerging as a popular tourist destination, its Pacific coast is truly a hidden gem that hosts some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world.  Humpback whales are common here and the isolation of the area provides an incredibly unique experience.  In the Chocó department on the northern Caribbean coast, leatherback sea turtles are frequent visitors returning each year to lay their eggs.  Colombia hosts the island of Malpelo, a nature reserve and UNESCO listed World Heritage Site located 378 km (235 mi) from the mainland.  Malpelo affords visitors amazing diving adventures as the area is known for its unique shark population which includes hundreds of hammerhead and silky sharks.

In order to preserve the country’s remarkable wildlife and fragile ecosystems, a network of protected areas has been established throughout the years.  As of 2013, there were fifty-six designated areas that have been classified as national natural parks, flora and fauna sanctuaries, national reserves, parkways and unique natural areas.  These various regions account for more than 10% of the country.  Two of the most popular national parks of Colombia are Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park and Tayrona National Natural Park.  Rosario and San Bernardo was established in 1977 as a way to protect colourful coral reefs and the underwater ecosystem that exists there.  It is the only underwater park in the country boasting 52 species of coral and 215 fish species.  Tayrona National Natural Park was designated in 1969 to preserve the biological and archaeological integrity of the area.  Popular with bird lovers, the area is home to over 300 bird species as well as more than 100 mammal species.


Colombia Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy to navigate travel information section dedicated to Colombia.

Learn about the history and culture of Colombia, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Colombia’s nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with ‘Country Quickfacts’ compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information will help ensure you’re properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Colombia for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Colombia tours today!

Extend Your Trip

After your Colombia tours, why not consider another of Goway’s Latin America tours. These include a large selection of other exciting countries in Central and South America. We offer Chile vacation packages and Easter Island tours, Ecuador vacation packages which include Galapagos cruisesPeru vacatiion packages which include Machu Picchu tours and Brazil tours including Iguassu Falls tours among many others.


Concorde: 40 fascinating facts

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A joint venture between the British and French governments, Concorde redefined what it was to fly when its first commercial flight took off 40 years ago today. To celebrate the momentous occasion, here are 40 intriguing facts about the supersonic aircraft.

1. Concorde’s first successfully completed supersonic flight took place on October 1, 1969, but it wasn’t until January 21, 1976, that the first commercial flights took place. On that day a British Airways Concorde flight flew from London to Bahrain and an Air France Concorde flight flew from Paris to Rio de Janeiro via Dakar.

2. A one-way fare on the inaugural flight from London to Bahrain cost £356; at the time flying the route in a conventional first-class service cost £309.50.

3. The aircraft seated 100 passengers: 40 in the front cabin and 60 in the rear cabin.

4. Flights accommodated a crew of nine: two pilots, one flight engineer and a cabin crew of six.

5. The aircraft was subjected to 5,000 hours of testing before it was first certified for passenger flight, making it the most tested aircraft ever

6. The first Concorde flight to America was to Dallas Forth Worth on September 20, 1973.

7. The quintessential Concorde route, between London and New York, was inaugurated on November 22, 1977.

8. A typical London to New York crossing would take a little less than three and a half hours as opposed to about eight hours for a subsonic flight

9. Concorde still holds the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a civil aircraft. The quickest Concorde flight from New York to London, on February 7 1996, took just two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.

10. Concorde fares between London and New York cost over £1,000 by the 1980s, but canny passengers could save hundreds of pounds by flying the route as a courier and personally delivering sensitive cargo between the two destinations.

11. Concorde had a take-off speed of 220 knots (250mph) and a cruising speed of 1350mph – more than twice the speed of sound. Its landing speed was 187mph.

12. The first round-the-world flight by a BA Concorde took place on November 8, 1986. The aircraft covered 28,238 miles in 29 hours 59 minutes.

13. Concorde could fly up to 60,000ft, a height of over 11 miles. From there, at the edge of space in the layers between the stratosphere and the ionosphere it was possible for passengers to see the curvature of the Earth.

14. Due to the intense heat of the airframe, Concorde could stretch anywhere from six to 10 inches during flight. Every surface, even the windows, was warm to the touch by the end of the flight.

15. Concorde was painted in a specially developed white paint to accommodate these changes in temperature and to dissipate the heat generated by supersonic flight.

16. The plane had a fuel capacity of 26,286 Imperial gallons (119,500 litres) and consumed 5,638 Imperial gallons (25,629 litres) per hour.

17. The aircraft had a range of 4,143 miles (6,667 kms).

18. Though they spent little time on board, Concorde passengers could expect to be generously fed. The menu on British Airways’ first commercial flight included Dom Perignon 1969 champagne, caviar and lobster canapes, grilled fillet steak, palm heart salad with Roquefort dressing and fresh strawberries with double cream. In another sign of the times, customers were also offered Havana cigars.

19. Only 14 different Concorde aircraft ever flew commercially.

20. Concorde didn’t just transport passengers and their luggage. It was sometimes used to transport human organs, diamonds and currency.

21. James Callaghan was the first British prime minister to travel at supersonic speeds when he flew by Concorde to see President Carter in Washington to negotiate landing rights for the aircraft in the US.

22. Concorde was also popular with the Queen and celebrities. Joan Collins travelled with the aircraft so frequently that she became something of an ambassador for the service. Other notable passengers included Elton John, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor and Sean Connery.

23. Diana Ross was arrested before boarding Concorde, for assaulting a security officer who had attempted to search her.

24. Phil Collins famously used Concorde to perform at Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia on July 13, 1985.

25. Concorde made just under 50,000 flights during its lifespan.

26. Concorde was also chartered for private group tours. The first, from Heathrow to Nice for the Monaco Grand Prix, departed on May 15, 1983.

27. Some 2.5 million passengers flew supersonically with Concorde.

28. Concorde’s oldest passenger was Eva Woodman, from Bristol. She was aged 105 during her flight from Filton over the Bay of Biscay in 1998.

29. Plans to enhance Concorde’s interiors were scuppered when the aircraft was withdrawn from service. Sir Terence Conran had been enlisted to revitalise the décor in 2001 and had planned lighting features that would turn a cool blue when Concorde flew through the sound barrier at Mach 1. The proposal was never realised.

30. During the design process that preceded the development of Concorde, the aircraft manufacturing company Handley Page Limited suggested seating passengers within compartments in the plane’s wings.

31. A planned route from London to Singapore via Bahrain, operated in conjunction with Singapore Airlines, was cancelled after just three return flights due to complains about noise disturbances caused by the aircraft’s sonic boom.

32. Concorde was impeded from flying over Saudi Arabian airspace as it was felt that noise from the aircraft would disturb camel breeding.

33. The most disastrous day in Concorde’s history was on July 25, 2000. A flight departing from Paris ran over a piece of titanium that had fallen from another aircraft. It burst the tire and resulted in the fuel tank igniting. The plane crashed killing all on board.

34. Though it has fallen from public consciousness, Russia’s TU-144 supersonic aircraft commenced service before Concorde. It made its maiden flight on December 31, 1968, two months before Concorde, and went into service delivering cargo the following year. It first flew passengers in 1977 and after crashing twice was withdrawn from commercial service in 1985.

35. During its time in service, Concorde’s profitability figures weren’t released by BA but it is understood that the service wasn’t a profitable enterprise. Fuel costs were significant and other incidents, such as the Paris crash, caused consumers to lose confidence in the aircraft. After the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001, passenger rates fell to less than 50 per cent.

36. Concorde’s last commercial flight was from New York to Heathrow on October 24, 2003.

37. By the time flights finished, Concorde was the last BA aircraft that had a flight engineers as part of the crew.

38. Concorde can still be seen at the following sites: Museum of Flight, East Fortune, near Edinburgh (Alpha Alpha); Heathrow Airport (Alpha Bravo), Aviation viewing park, Manchester Airport (Alpha Charlie), The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York (Alpha Delta); Grantley Adams Airport, Bridgetown, Barbados (Alpha Echo); Airbus UK, Filton, Bristol (Alpha Foxtrot); The Museum of Flight, Seattle (Alpha Golf). An eighth Concorde (Delta Golf), owned by British Airways but never operated commercially, was the final test aircraft.  It can be seen at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge.

39. Though BA has no plans to recommence Concorde flights, the aircraft may fly again soon. Club Concorde, a collective of aviation enthusiasts and former Concorde pilots and charterers, claims it has adequate financial backing and expertise to independently place a Concorde plane on display on London’s South Bank by 2017 and to return the supersonic aircraft to service by 2019.

40. Concorde has also provided inspiration to a number of other aviation and engineering firms that are hoping to launch transatlantic commercial supersonic flights by the 2020s.

 

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Fidel Castro was a brutal dictator, says Donald Trump

Fidel Castro was a brutal dictator, says Donald Trump “Today, the world marks the death of a brutal dictator who pressed it to his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights “Ricardo Puentes Puentes Ricardo Melo Melo Melo By Ricardo Puentes November 29, 2016 Definitely, new winds are blowing in the world wearied by windstorms left that ravaged wherever they settled. I do not think the novelty of cosmetics Macri style changes, or MUD in Venezuela, which remain more of the same: Socialists under a borrowed garment cove not do well. But, undoubtedly, the cooling air arriving from France and the United States as a haven of peace announcement after the tragedies recipe cooked with Marx, gives us reason to believe that dark night ends. Fidel Castro widows mourn as plaideras the tyrant’s death. All chieftains of State, without exception, pay homage to the murderer and sent messages of condolences to Ral, Juan Manuel Santos roulades mourning the death of Castro, his mentor Juan Manuel Santos roulades mourning the death of Castro, his mentor other tyrant who survives to continue the genocide. Juan Manuel Santos, baptized by Fidel Castro with the alias “Santiago”, his disciple and recruited from the mid-nineties, was the first to offer their respects to the family of the murderer. Pope Francisco envi psame message to Ral Castro expressing “condolences to your excellency and the dems relatives of the deceased dignitary, as well as the government and the people of that beloved nation.” So did the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, the General Secretariat of UNASUR, the president of Venezuela Nicols Maduro, President of Peru Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Peru’s president Ollanta Humala, President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, of Mexico, Enrique Pea Nieto and Per, Rafael Correa; also that of El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez. He could not miss Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Likewise they were going Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina, President of Uruguay, Tabar Vazquez, the former president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, Jimmy Morales, president of Guatemala. Mariano Rajoy, president of the Spanish government, did the same. So did Vladimir Putin, Russia; Franois Hollande of France and Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. Chinese President Xi Jinping, envi condolences too, and as same Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India. The most expressive of Colombian president Ernesto Samper was elected with money from drug trafficking, and Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations. Fidel Castro was part of those Drug cartels whose money financed Samper, apart, of course the ideological confluence. Samper, in a string of messages on twitter, expres:

The Most Absurd Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos today will not transform his “peace” deal with the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] into a good agreement. In fact, the agreement would be devastating for the country, which is why Colombia rejected it in a plebiscite on October 2, 2016, and will continue to do so. The deal, if implemented, would destroy the country’s democratic institutions and prolong the suffering of the Colombian people; it would not contribute to building peace or national harmony. Colombia will defend itself until it definitively defeats the criminal ambitions of the FARC. And a Nobel Peace prize for Santos will not magically change that fact.

From that point of view, the Nobel prize awarded to Santos is both useless and grotesque. Most appallingly, the prize was presented by the Committee “in honor of the Colombian public who, despite all the abuses it has suffered, has not lost hope in building a just peace.” Who is the Committee mocking? Because the Colombians that the Committee claims to honor with Santos’ prize are the very Colombians who voted against Santos and the FARC on October 2 – the very Colombians who seek a just peace and not a false peace, one based on the most scandalous impunity for the leaders of an organization that has committed all types of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

To say that Colombia has suffered “abuses” is evidence that those awarding the prize either want to minimize he crimes of these narco-communists or they are completely ignorant as to what the FARC’s has done to Colombians.

Will the Nobel Peace Prize lead Santos to adopt a reasonable position? Throughout these six years of secret conversations in Cuba, Santos never demanded that the FARC negotiate its surrender without destabilizing Colombia’s democratic institutions and its free-market economy. And that is precisely what this now-defunct, 297-page agreement, conceived between the FARC ad Santos, under the tutelage and watchful eye of two Latin American dictatorships, would achieve. That is why the deal was voted down in the plebiscite.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee missed the mark again, arguing that they wanted to help Colombia achieve peace. In reality, what they did was to humiliate those who voted against the deal in the Plebiscite and, most of all, the victims of the FARC and a nation that has suffered FARC atrocities for 60 years. Will the Nobel Prize help Santos and the FARC try to resuscitate the 297-page agreement and disavow the vote of millions of Colombians?

We are not the only ones who fear this. Public opinion in Spain and in prestigious Spanish news outlets, who are more familiar with Colombia’s situation than Norway, have not hesitated to condemn the decision of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. A poll run by the Madrid daily ABC reveals that 83 per cent of those polled were against Santos having received the prize. El Español, another Madrid daily, stressed “the definitive discrediting of the Nobel Peace Prize.” Yet another daily, OK Diario concluded, “the Norwegians punish the will of the Colombian people by giving Santos the Nobel Prize.” And web-based Libertad Digital stated, “Juan Manuel Santos is the Nobel Peace Prize winner for surrendering to narco-terrorism.”

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Rabin, Perez, and Arafat in 1994, for “substituting hate for cooperation” did not lead to peace in Palestine, nor did it impede the onslaught of the second intifada in 2000. Will the same happen in Colombia? The Nobel Peace Prize is not , after all, interested in society’s problems. It is a prize that exists in order to impose a particular viewpoint regarding international conflicts, and to benefit Norway’s and Sweden’s international relations.

In Colombia, the awarding of the prize to Santos raises many concerns. Will it help the Colombian President energetically confront the reticence of the FARC leaders, who refuse to revisit any of the points in the deal signed in Havana? Or will it instead help him advance his peace program, ignoring the will of the majority of the voters who rejected the deal in the October 2 plebiscite?

Former President Alvaro Uribe, who leads a movement for a just peace within the democratic system, congratulated Santos for his prize, but expressed a wish

that it ‘’lead to changing an agreement that is harmful to democracy.” And that is the point, to change the harmful Havana agreements.

The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Santos didn’t change the situation, nor did it create a new one. The political stage was already set and has only two angles: On one side, there are the results of the October 2 plebiscite, which rejected the deal with the FARC. Thus, the Havana deal was not ratified – it died. The electorate’s vote on October 2, was legally binding. It was a mandate for the President that he cannot mock.

On the other side is the FARC’s position. Upon learning the result of the plebiscite, [FARC leader] Timochenko said the “peace deal” was untouchable and that they demanded its implementation. Thus, the communist leader disavowed the vote of the Colombian people. And then there is the fact that President Santos has yet to reject Timochenko’s arbitrary position. He didn’t contradict Timochenko either before or after his meeting with former President Uribe and former Instpector General Alejandro Ordonez. And he did not do so after being informed of his Nobel prize.

This tension, which is being aggravated by those attempting to organize “pro-peace now” street rallies in order to discard the plebiscite into a historical limbo, will have to be resolved one way or another by the Colombian President, with or without a Nobel prize. Will he disavow the will of the people, legitimately and legally expressed in the plebiscite? The news that Santos is pursuing, through members of the Constitutional Court, a do-over of the plebiscite is a bad sign. He should be careful not to spark the ire of those citizens who want peace, but who reject the type of peace condensed in that 297-page disaster. Now more than ever, thanks to the awarding of the Nobel prize, national and international public opinion will be more aware of any move – in one direction or the other – by President Juan Manuel Santos.

Obama’s Plan Colombia: Supporting Drugs and Tyranny

The problem today, as it was in 1997, is a government in bed with criminal syndicates. How else could one describe a “negotiation” that offers complete impunity to the world’s leading Cartel, launders and protects its assets, and gives narco-terrorists political status and power? Back then that was called corruption; today, it’s called “peace.”

 

January 26/2016

On February 4, President Barak Obama will host his Colombian counter-part Juan Manuel Santos at the White House to commemorate 15 years of U.S. aid, through Plan Colombia. They will also discuss future aid in light of on-going peace negotiations in Havana between the Santos government and the narco-terrorist group FARC.  Ironically, the program conceived to combat drug trafficking and promote democracy in Colombia, promises only to strengthen the world’s leading drug cartel and support an emerging dictatorship.

The tenor of the meeting was forecast by an interview of Obama in Colombian daily El Tiempo this week. Gushing over the Santos-FARC “peace process,” the war on drugs, and the rule of law in Colombia, Obama’s comments painted a picture far removed from the reality Colombians live with every day.

“Colombia will be a model on how to achieve peace with justice,” Obama stated.  He added that the Colombian government had developed “a new anti-narcotics strategy,” and that, thanks to Plan Colombia, the U.S. had helped in the “re-establishment of the rule of law.”

Yes and no. Until about 2010, Plan Colombia was, indeed, effective in combating drug trafficking. Cocaine production went from 926 metric tons in 2001 to 350 metric tons in 2010, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. More than 2,000 criminals were extradited between 2002 and 2010, as drug trafficking and money laundering were aggressively investigated and prosecuted.

But four years of Santos-FARC negotiations have put Colombia back where it was before Plan Colombia – when the U.S. had decertified the country as a partner in the war on drugs and the Colombian President’s U.S. Visa had been canceled, due to his ties to drug Cartels.

Andrés Pastrana and Bill Clinton

Back then, U.S. Representative Dennis Hastert summed up the problem at a Committee on Government Reform and Oversight meeting in 1997: “International drug trafficking organizations based in Colombia are the world’s leading producers of cocaine… There can be no doubt that Colombia’s political and judicial systems are confronting corruption. Sentences for drug traffickers need to be strengthened, and a re-examination of money laundering and extradition needs to take place.”  As to the FARC, he stated: “There should be no mistake. The guerrillas of Colombia long ago abandoned ideology.”

Today, Colombia is again the world’s leading producer of cocaine, mostly attributable to the FARC.  In 2014, production rose to 442 metric tons; estimates for 2015 put it at 600 metric tons.  Aerial spraying of coca fields has been suspended, and manual eradication is impossible, as Santos has grounded the aerial support necessary to protect the troops.  The “new strategy” is not working.

The FARC’s wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine to be $600 million. Yet the Santos government protects the group’s assets, publicly echoing the terror group’s claim that they have no money. Since December 2015, Santos has denied two U.S. extradition requests for FARC terrorists wanted on drug-trafficking and kidnapping charges. More egregiously, the FARC has refused to finalize the deal, unless the U.S. releases convicted FARC leader “Simon Trinidad,” currently serving a 60-year sentence in the U.S. for his role in kidnapping three U.S. citizens in 2003.

While in 1997, then-Asst. Secretary of State Robert Gelbard complained that top drug lords were receiving “absurdly short” sentences,   under today’s peace deal, drug trafficking would be considered a “political” crime and drug lords would receive no jail terms at all.  Those already serving time would be released. In fact, the deal calls for no jail time for any atrocity, including crimes against humanity – a level of impunity that will likely trigger the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  And though the deal has not been ratified, 30 terrorists have already been pardoned and 17 were released last week.  The rule of law has never been so eroded.

Robert GelbardThe problem today, as it was in 1997, is a government in bed with criminal syndicates. How else could one describe a “negotiation” that offers complete impunity to the world’s leading Cartel, launders and protects its assets, and gives narco-terrorists political status and power? Twenty years ago that was called corruption; today, it’s called “peace.”

To implement this “peace,” Santos has asked Congress to adopt a law that would give him the power to rule-by-decree.  And despite promises to bring the deal to a national referendum, he has scrapped the idea, floating instead the possibility of a plebiscite, where the disingenuous single question would be: “do you want peace?” Not confident of a favorable outcome even with that long-used trick of tyrants, at Santos’ request Congress lowered the threshold of voter participation from 51 percent – as required by the Constitution – to 13 percent for the plebiscite to be valid.

Obama grandiosely stated in his interview, “the whole world is witness to the extraordinary progress Colombia has made.”  But most Colombians disagree. Santos has an approval rating of 21 percent, according to last week’s JanHaas poll. The main points of the peace deal – impunity and political status for terrorists – have consistently been rejected by around 80 percent of the population in numerous polls.

U.S. General Barry McCaffrey (Ret.), who helped formulate Plan Colombia as the former U.S. Drug Czar, stated in a recent PR Newswire interview that the Santos-FARC deal “could maintain or increase cocaine and heroin production, ease transit restrictions and enforcement, keep enormous profits for the FARC, worsen the heroin crisis in our country, and threaten the security of Colombia and increase U.S. drug abuse.”

Plan Colombia – as originally crafted – is needed today more than ever.  But it must not be used to prop up a Santos-FARC government in the so-called “post-conflict.”  Fortunately, it is the U.S. Congress that controls the purse strings; it must ensure that Plan Colombia remains true to its mission.

 

 

Colombia’s Children: Hostages of “Peace”

he leader of the Colombian narco-terrorist group FARC, known as Timochenko, revealed this week that — from the beginning of ‘peace’ dialogues with the Santos government — Santos’ brother, Enrique, promised the FARC no jail time for their crimes. In doing so, Timochenko confirmed that four years of negotiations have been a sham.  Indeed, calling the conversations in Havana a “negotiation” would presuppose two opposing parties trying to reach a consensus. But the only two parties involved in this scenario have been the FARC-Santos Alliance on one side and the Colombian people back at home – and the latter have not been invited to the table.  There is, however, one thing standing in the way of the Alliance’s goal of pardoning the FARC’s crimes and paving their way to power:  The FARC’s decades-long history of recruiting children for war and the more than 2,000 children currently held captive in their camps.

The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) estimates that in the last decade alone, about 20,000 children have been recruited by the FARC. More than 6,000 children have died in combat, according to the Ombudsman’s Office. Such was the fate of nine girls and 16 boys recruited into a terrorist unit under the command of Timochenko and Ivan Marquez, lead negotiator for the FARC, who were killed in combat in 2000 and 2001.  Another 52 children in that unit were rescued by the military.  Timochenko and Ivan Marquez were found guilty in September of recruiting more than 100 children in relation to this incident.

Since 1999, more than 5,500 children had been rescued or escaped from the FARC, according to the ICBF.  Victim accounts describe appalling conditions of sexual abuse, forced abortions, torture and brutality.  Thousands of children have died at the hands of their captors.  In a chilling account, FARC terrorist Elda Neyis Mosquera, alias ‘Karina’, who turned herself in after 28 years with the FARC, described how she participated in kidnapping dozens of children from schools in the Antioquia region and then murdered 38 of them for “failing to follow orders.”

Four years of “peace negotiations” have done nothing to help Colombia’s children.

Since 1999, more than 5,500 children had been rescued or escaped from the FARC

 

Today, the Department of Defense estimates there are around 2,000 children being held by the FARC, while other studies estimate that number to be around 3,500.

“Juan Manuel Santos has been completely indifferent to this crime,” stated Margarita Maria Restrepo, a congressional representative for the Centro Democratico party.  On the contrary, she added, “[Santos] has been absolutely complicit with the FARC.”

The evidence supports Ms. Restrepo.  Elected to Congress in 2014, she has focused on making the release of minors a requirement for continued talks in Havana.  In its public announcements, FARC leaders went from denying any recruitment of minors, to stating they had only 13 children under the age of 15, to agreeing to the “possibility of a custody exchange.” The Santos government has not pressed the issue.

In May of this year, Ms. Restrepo called on the FARC to release all minors in their ranks, setting a deadline of August 11, 2015. “Peace is the sum of actions of peace, not promises; not years of talking and talking without a single gesture that would indicate that they really want peace,” she stated.

The chief negotiator for the government, Humberto de La Calle, said he was “in agreement with the need to set limits.” But the deadline came and went, with no efforts by the Government or the FARC to meet it.   Agencies charged with ensuring the rights of children have been silent. A representative for UNICEF in Colombia even chastised Ms. Restrepo for her advocacy.  “He told me I should be more prudent because the subject of child recruitment was ‘altering the terms’ of the conversations in Havana,” she explained.  And when the peace deal was announced with such fanfare in September, it did not – as far as anyone can tell – demand the release of the captive children.

The Santos government has been creative in finding ways to give the FARC a pass on many of their crimes: the Attorney General, Luis Eduardo Montealegre, has endorsed making kidnapping and extortion political crimes, and drug trafficking has already been declared political – making these offenses eligible for pardon.  But child recruitment falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and, therefore, cannot be pardoned.

This makes the captive children an inconvenience – putting their lives in more danger than ever.  They are living proof of the FARC’s most heinous crime and of the Santos government’s failure to protect them.

The Obama Administration hailed the FARC-Santos deal as an example of “inclusive peace.” But it isn’t “inclusive” of these 2,000 children, or the tens of thousands that have been taken, or the families who have mourned them.  In backing this deal, Mr. Obama now shares accountability for their fate.

 

COLOMBIA AN EXTORTED PEACE

The current “peace negotiation” between the Santos government and the FARC is a straight-forward extortion scheme:  The FARC is offering “peace” (or “protection”) in exchange for control of the government, through threats – and acts – of violence

In 2000, the image of Elvia Cortés Gil, a 55 year-old woman from rural Colombia, wearing a “necklace bomb”  made headlines around the world.   She had refused to pay “protection” money to FARC terrorists, so they forced the bomb around her neck, demanding $7,500 for its removal.  Colombian police and army officers attempted for seven hours to disarm the bomb before it detonated, decapitating Mrs. Cortez and killing a police officer.  This is one of thousands of instances of extortion, which has been the FARC’s bread and butter for decades.

They are still at it — on a grand scale. The current “peace negotiation” between the Santos government and the FARC is a straight-forward extortion scheme:  The FARC is offering “peace” (or “protection”) in exchange for control of the government, through threats – and acts – of violence.

The FARC is clear in its demands.  In a televised interview, FARC spokesman Rodrigo Granda said plainly:  “The goal is the seizing of power through any means of warfare.”   To get it, the crime syndicate has coerced the media, the opposition, and the Santos government itself through an intimidation campaign that has been brutally supported by violence.

Since the “negotiations” began, about three years ago, The FARC has killed or injured about 1,000 civilians and more than 2,000 members of the armed forces, according to statistics from the National Police and Military Forces.  Earlier this year, the FARC executed a “Pistol Plan” – named after drug lord Pablo Escobar’s “Pistol Plan” in the 1980s — killing 22 uniformed officers and two civilians.  Their goal was for Santos to call a bi-lateral cease-fire, and Santos obliged.

Elvira Cortés Gil, asesinada brutalmente por los terroristas de las FARC que le colocaron un collar bomba. El oficial del ejército que intentó ayudarla desactivando la bomba, murió también en el intento.

Journalists critical of the negotiations have been extorted to coerce their silence. Dario Acevedo Carmona, for example, columnist for the daily El Espectador, suspended his column after the FARC threatened his life through their website Anncol, which posted: “if we don’t ‘de-escalate’ him it will be hard to ‘acclimate’ the Colombian ‘family’ to peace.” (Their emphasis, not mine.)  Journalists know the threats are real: in 2012, Fernando Londoño, who hosts a popular radio show, was the victim of a bombing that left two dead and injured 39 people.

Extorsion has also been useful in seizing government control at a local level.  A recent example was the murder, in August of this year, of Genaro Garcia, the leader of an Afro-Colombian Community Council in Colombia’s Pacific region.  The FARC demanded that Mr. Garcia relinquish his position on the Council.  When he refused, he was murdered.

But the main target of this extortion scheme is former President Alvaro Uribe, Senator and leader of the opposition party “Centro Democratico.”   Despite threats to his life, public pronouncements by the Attorney General Luis Eduardo Montealegre threatening to prosecute him, and an elaborate publicity campaign to tarnish his reputation, Uribe has yet to be silenced.   On October 3,  the FARC sent a message in true Tony Soprano style:  On the same day that two hit-men attempted to assassinate Silvio Gomez Claro, a Centro Democratico candidate for mayor in the city of Pitalito, FARC leader “Timochenko” made this statement through El Espectador:  “Uribe, don’t miss this opportunity for reconciliation.”

Recently, the Government and the FARC have begun to disagree as to how the FARC will pay for their crimes against humanity.  In a not-so-subtle reminder of who the boss was, FARC leader Timochenko issued this warning in an interview with Telesur: “[at one time] one of our Commands informed us that they were perfectly-positioned to assassinate President Santos.” He then added that former FARC Commander Alfonso Cano only held off because it wouldn’t be valid while peace talks were ongoing.

The Santos Government is likely to give in to the latest FARC demands: complete absolution of their crimes, no decommissioning of their weapons or wealth, and political status.  In essence, the FARC would become a political party led by terrorists, funded by drug proceeds and backed by an army of criminals.  The U.S. government’s position on this dangerous scenario is troubling.  Bernard Aronson, U.S. Envoy to the peace talks, said to CM& news: “…We would treat them like any other political party in the country.”

Elvia Cortez, Genaro Garcia, and Fernando Londono defied extortion demands because they refused to relinquish basic freedoms: individual rights, the autonomy of local communities, and freedom of speech and of the press.   Uribe opposes the FARC’s extorted peace because he refuses to surrender the ideals of democracy and justice of a nation.  The U.S. should stand with them.

Cotton Fields Creedence Clear Water Revival

Last week i was traveling to my farm  on my Mercedes Benz in a hot weather and full or rice and cotton fields  around and it remind me this good old song.

Cotton Fields”
When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle,
In them old cotton fields back home;

It was down in Louisiana,
Just about a mile from Texarkana,
In them old cotton fields back home.

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can’t pick very much cotton,
In them old cotton fields back home.

Spartacus

Spartacus is a 1960 American epic historical drama film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo was based on the novel Spartacus by Howard Fast. It was inspired by the life story of the leader of a slave revolt in antiquity, Spartacus, and the events of the Third Servile War.

The film starred Kirk Douglas as Spartacus, Laurence Olivier as the Roman general and politician Marcus Licinius Crassus, Peter Ustinov, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, as slave trader Lentulus Batiatus, John Gavin as Julius Caesar, Jean Simmons as Varinia, Charles Laughton as Sempronius Gracchus and Tony Curtis as Antoninus. The film won four Academy Awards in all.

Douglas, whose Bryna Productions company was producing the film, removed original director Anthony Mann after the first week of shooting. Kubrick, with whom Douglas had worked before, was brought on board to take over direction.[2] It is the only film directed by Kubrick where he did not have complete artistic control.

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted at the time as one of the Hollywood Ten. Kirk Douglas publicly announced that Trumbo was the screenwriter of Spartacus, and President-elect John F. Kennedy crossed American Legion picket lines to view the film, helping to end blacklisting.[3][4] The author of the novel on which it is based, Howard Fast, was also blacklisted, and originally had to self-publish it.

The film became the biggest moneymaker in Universal Studios‘ history, until it was surpassed by Airport (1970).[5]

n the 1st century BC, the Roman Republic has slid into corruption, its menial work done by armies of slaves. One of these, a proud and gifted man named Spartacus, is so uncooperative in his servitude that he is sentenced to fight as agladiator. He is trained at a school run by the unctuous Roman businessman Lentulus Batiatus, who instructs Spartacus’s trainer Marcellus to bully the slave mercilessly and break his spirit. Amid the abuse, Spartacus forms a quiet relationship with a serving woman named Varinia, whom he refuses to rape when she is sent to “entertain” him in his cell.

Batiatus receives a visit from the Roman senator Marcus Licinius Crassus, an arch-conservative who aims to become dictator of Rome. Crassus buys Varinia on a whim, and for the amusement of his companions arranges for Spartacus and three others to fight in pairs. When Spartacus is disarmed, his opponent, an African named Draba, spares his life in a burst of compassion and attacks the Roman audience, but is killed by an arena guard and Crassus. The next day, with the school’s atmosphere still tense over this episode, Batiatus takes Varinia away to Crassus’s house in Rome. Spartacus kills Marcellus, who was taunting him over this, and their fight escalates into a riot. The gladiators overwhelm their guards and escape into the Italian countryside.

Spartacus is elected chief of the fugitives and decides to lead them out of Italy and back to their homes. They plunder Roman country estates as they go, collecting enough money to buy sea transport from Rome’s foes, the pirates of Cilicia. Countless other slaves join the group, making it as large as an army. One of the new arrivals is Varinia, who escaped while being delivered to Crassus. Another is a slave entertainer named Antoninus, who also fled Crassus’s service after the Roman tried to seduce him. Privately Spartacus feels mentally inadequate because of his lack of education during years of servitude. However, he proves an excellent leader and organizes his diverse followers into a tough and self-sufficient community. Varinia, now his informal wife, becomes pregnant by him, and he also comes to regard the spirited Antoninus as a sort of son.

The Roman Senate becomes increasingly alarmed as Spartacus defeats the multiple armies it sends against him. Crassus’s populist opponent Gracchus knows that his rival will try to use the crisis as a justification for seizing control of the Roman army. To try and prevent this, Gracchus channels as much military power as possible into the hands of his own protege, a young senator named Julius Caesar. Although Caesar lacks Crassus’s contempt for the lower classes of Rome, he mistakes the man’s rigid outlook for nobility. Thus, when Gracchus reveals that he has bribed the Cilicians to get Spartacus out of Italy and rid Rome of the slave army, Caesar regards such tactics as beneath him and goes over to Crassus.

Crassus uses a bribe of his own to make the pirates abandon Spartacus and has the Roman army secretly force the rebels away from the coastline towards Rome. Amid panic that Spartacus means to sack the city, the Senate gives Crassus absolute power. Now surrounded by Romans, Spartacus convinces his men to die fighting. Just by rebelling, and proving themselves human, he says that they have struck a blow against slavery. In the ensuing battle, most of the slave army is massacred by Crassus’s forces. Afterward, when the Romans try to locate the rebel leader for special punishment, every surviving man shields him by shouting “I’m Spartacus!” As a result, Crassus has them all sentenced to death by crucifixion along the Via Appia.

Meanwhile, Crassus has found Varinia and Spartacus’s newborn son and has taken them prisoner. He is disturbed by the idea that Spartacus can command more love and loyalty than he can and hopes to compensate by making Varinia as devoted to him as she was to her former husband. When she rejects him, he furiously seeks out Spartacus (whom he recognizes from having watched him in the arena) and forces him to fight Antoninus to the death. The survivor is to be crucified, along with all the other men captured after the great battle. Spartacus kills Antoninus to spare him this fate. The incident leaves Crassus worried about Spartacus’s potential to live in legend as a martyr. In other matters he is also worried about Caesar, who he senses will someday eclipse him.

Gracchus, having seen Rome fall into tyranny, commits suicide. Before doing so, he bribes his friend Batiatus to rescue Spartacus’s family from Crassus and carry them away to freedom. On the way out of Rome, the group pass under Spartacus’s cross. Varinia is able to comfort him in his dying moments by showing him his little son, who will grow up without ever having been a slave.

Cast