Posts Tagged ‘Colombia’


August 22, 2010

Venezuela, More Deadly Than Iraq, Wonders Why

CARACAS, Venezuela — Some here joke that they might be safer if they lived in Baghdad. The numbers bear them out.

In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.

Even Mexico’s infamous drug war has claimed fewer lives.

Venezuelans have absorbed such grim statistics for years. Those with means have hidden their homes behind walls and hired foreign security experts to advise them on how to avoid kidnappings and killings. And rich and poor alike have resigned themselves to living with a murder rate that the opposition says remains low on the list of the government’s priorities.

Then a front-page photograph in a leading independent newspaper — and the government’s reaction — shocked the nation, and rekindled public debate over violent crime.

The photo in the paper, El Nacional, is unquestionably gory. It shows a dozen homicide victims strewn about the city’s largest morgue, just a sample of an unusually anarchic two-day stretch in this already perilous place.

While many Venezuelans saw the picture as a sober reminder of their vulnerability and a chance to effect change, the government took a different stand.

A court ordered the paper to stop publishing images of violence, as if that would quiet growing questions about why the government — despite proclaiming a revolution that heralds socialist values — has been unable to close the dangerous gap between rich and poor and make the country’s streets safer.

“Forget the hundreds of children who die from stray bullets, or the kids who go through the horror of seeing their parents or older siblings killed before their eyes,” said Teodoro Petkoff, the editor of another newspaper here, mocking the court’s decision in a front-page editorial. “Their problem is the photograph.”

Venezuela is struggling with a decade-long surge in homicides, with about 118,541 since President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a group that compiles figures based on police files. (The government has stopped publicly releasing its own detailed homicide statistics, but has not disputed the group’s numbers, and news reports citing unreleased government figures suggest human rights groups may actually be undercounting murders).

There have been 43,792 homicides in Venezuela since 2007, according to the violence observatory, compared with about 28,000 deaths from drug-related violence in Mexico since that country’s assault on cartels began in late 2006.

Caracas itself is almost unrivaled among large cities in the Americas for its homicide rate, which currently stands at around 200 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to Roberto Briceño-León, the sociologist at the Central University of Venezuela who directs the violence observatory.

That compares with recent measures of 22.7 per 100,000 people in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, and 14 per 100,000 in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. As Mr. Chávez’s government often points out, Venezuela’s crime problem did not emerge overnight, and the concern over murders preceded his rise to power.

But scholars here describe the climb in homicides in the past decade as unprecedented in Venezuelan history; the number of homicides last year was more than three times higher than when Mr. Chávez was elected in 1998.

Reasons for the surge are complex and varied, experts say. While many Latin American economies are growing fast, Venezuela’s has continued to shrink. The gap between rich and poor remains wide, despite spending on anti-poverty programs, fueling resentment. Adding to that, the nation is awash in millions of illegal firearms.

Police salaries remain low, sapping motivation. And in a country with the highest inflation rate in the hemisphere, more than 30 percent a year, some officers have turned to supplementing their incomes with crimes like kidnappings.

But some crime specialists say another factor has to be considered: Mr. Chávez’s government itself. The judicial system has grown increasingly politicized, losing independent judges and aligning itself more closely with Mr. Chávez’s political movement. Many experienced state employees have had to leave public service, or even the country.

More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest, Mr. Briceño-León said. But cases against Mr. Chavez’s critics — including judges, dissident generals and media executives — are increasingly common.

Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, a state encompassing parts of Caracas, told reporters last week that Mr. Chávez had worsened the homicide problem by cutting money for state and city governments led by political opponents and then removing thousands of guns from their police forces after losing regional elections.

But the government says it is trying to address the problem. It recently created a security force, the Bolivarian National Police, and a new Experimental Security University where police recruits get training from advisers from Cuba and Nicaragua, two allies that have historically maintained murder rates among Latin America’s lowest.

The national police’s overriding priority, said Víctor Díaz, a senior official on the force and an administrator at the new university, is “unrestricted respect for human rights.”

“I’m not saying we’ll be weak,” he said, “but the idea is to use dialogue and dissuasion as methods of verbal control when approaching problems.”

Senior officials in Mr. Chávez’s government say the deployment of the national police, whose ranks number fewer than 2,500, has succeeded in reducing homicides in at least one violent area of Caracas where they began patrolling this year.

Still, human rights groups suggest the new policing efforts have been far too timid. Incosec, a research group here that focuses on security issues, counted 5,962 homicides in just 10 of Venezuela’s 23 states in the first half of this year.

Meanwhile, the debate over the morgue photograph published by El Nacional is intensifying, evolving into a broader discussion over the government’s efforts to clamp down on the news outlets it does not control.

The government says the photograph was meant to undermine it, not to inform the public. The authorities are also threatening an inquiry into “Rotten Town,” a video by a Venezuelan reggae singer that shows an innocent child struck down by a stray bullet. For all the government’s protests, the video has spread rapidly across the Internet since its release here this month.

Given the government’s stance in these cases, many here worry it is focusing on the messenger, not the underlying message.

Hector Olivares, 47, waited outside the morgue early one morning this month to recover the body of his son, also named Hector, 21. He said his son was at a party in the slum of El Cercado, on the outskirts of Caracas, when a gunman opened fire.

Mr. Olivares said Hector was the second son he had lost in a senseless murder, after another son was killed four years ago at the age of 22. He said he did not blame Mr. Chávez for the killings, but he pleaded with the president to make combating crime a higher priority.

“We elected him to crack down on the problems we face,” he said. “But there’s no control of criminals on the street, no control of anything.”

María Eugenia Díaz contributed reporting.

Venezuela, More Deadly Than Iraq, Debates Why – NYTimes.com

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How Chávez tries to hide the truth about his government
Washington Post Editorial
Friday, August 13, 2010; A18

ONE OF the principal goals of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s foreign policy is preventing governments or international organizations from telling the truth about him. Over the past couple of years, captured documents and other evidence have established beyond any reasonable doubt that Mr. Chávez’s regime has provided haven and material support to the FARC movement in neighboring Colombia — a group that is known for massacres of civilians, hostage taking and drug trafficking, and that has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department and the European Union. That places Mr. Chávez in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and, at least in theory, exposes him to U.S. and international sanctions.
Luckily for Mr. Chávez, the Obama administration and other Security Council members have shown little interest in recognizing what, in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism, amounts to a smoking gun. But discussion and debate about the evidence — such as Colombia’s recent presentation to a meeting of the Organization of American States — makes this ostrich act difficult to continue. So Mr. Chávez has dedicated himself to bullying and intimidating those who dare to speak publicly about what everyone in the Western Hemisphere knows to be true.
His most conspicuous recent target was former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, who ordered the report to the OAS shortly before leaving office. Mr. Chávez’s response to the maps, photographs, videos and other documentary evidence laid out by Colombia’s ambassador was to immediately break diplomatic relations and to threaten war. When Mr. Uribe’s successor, Juan Manuel Santos, signaled that he was ready to address the FARC problem through private discussions, the Venezuelan caudillo instantly reversed himself. On Tuesday he traveled to Colombia to meet Mr. Santos and agreed to restore relations.
Mr. Chávez also focused his attention on Larry Leon Palmer, the veteran diplomat nominated by the Obama administration as its next ambassador to Venezuela. Some Republicans question whether the United States should retain ambassadorial relations with Mr. Chávez’s government, and the nominee received a searching set of “questions for the record” from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s senior GOP member, Richard G. Lugar (Ind.).
To his credit and that of the State Department, Mr. Palmer answered truthfully. He said that he was “keenly aware of the clear ties between members of the Venezuelan government and Colombian guerrillas.” He said that he was “concerned” that two individuals designated as international drug traffickers by the Treasury Department “are high-ranking officials of the Venezuelan government.” He reported “growing Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation in the fields of intelligence services and the military” and “morale and equipment problems” in the Venezuelan army.
Mr. Chávez once again was quick to respond. On his weekly television show on Sunday, he announced that Mr. Palmer would not be allowed to take up his post in Caracas because “he has disqualified himself by breaking all the rules of diplomacy, by prejudging us.” He said that the Obama administration would have to “look for another candidate.” The State Department responded that it was sticking with Mr. Palmer. It should. If ignoring the facts about Mr. Chávez is a requirement for sending an ambassador to Caracas, then it would be better not to have one.

How Chávez tries to hide the truth about his government


Colombia, Venezuela Agree to Restore Diplomatic Relations After Dispute

(Corrects date of Bolivar’s death in sixth paragraph.)
Venezuela and Colombia agreed to restore diplomatic relations and vowed to step up security along their border to prevent Marxist guerrillas and drug traffickers from mounting attacks or using dense jungle for hideouts.
The two countries will form joint committees to work on any lingering issues, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday after meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez. The nations had been locked in a dispute over Colombian accusations that Venezuela was harboring rebels.
“We are starting this relationship from zero in a frank and sincere way,” Santos, who was inaugurated as president Aug. 7, told reporters in a joint news conference with Chavez in the town of Santa Marta. “The two countries will re-establish diplomatic relations and create a roadmap so that all aspects of relations can progress, advance and deepen.”
The agreement paves the way for a restoration in trade between the countries, which plummeted during the past two years amid accusations that Chavez was aiding the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in its campaign to disrupt the government. Chavez put troops on high alert along the 1,375-mile (2,200- kilometer) border July 30 after Santos’ predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, said as many as 1,500 rebels are launching cross-border attacks from Venezuela.
Chavez, speaking after Santos, said he doesn’t allow illegal groups to operate in Venezuela. He said he examined documents that Colombia said proved the existence of rebel camps in Venezuela and found that there were no outposts.
‘Always Doubts’
“There are always doubts, but President Santos has promised to believe me when I say that Venezuela’s government does not support Colombian guerrillas,” Chavez told reporters after the meeting at the estate where his 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar died in 1830. “If I supported the guerrillas the results would be quite notable — they would have weapons and money.”
Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin will travel to Caracas within two weeks to jumpstart relations, Chavez said.
Venezuela gave assurances that it will pay debts to exporters dating from July 2009 when Chavez first froze commerce, Santos said. Venezuela owes some $800 million to Colombian exporters, according to the Venezuela-Colombia Chamber for Economic Integration, a Caracas-based business group.
Trade between the nations tumbled to $651 million in the first five months of this year from $2.26 billion in the same period of 2008, the last year of normal relations, according to Colombia’s statistics agency. Colombia’s central bank, while acknowledging that the ongoing row cut into trade, says the impact is being offset by the global economic recovery.
‘Kick in the Pants’
“Santos knows he needs better diplomacy with Venezuela, he knows he can’t enter office kicking Chavez in the shins, he has to open talks and look super reasonable,” said Myles Frechette, U.S. ambassador to Colombia from 1994 to 1997. “He won’t be confrontational but he will give Chavez a good kick in the pants if need be.”
Venezuela’s economy will shrink 2.6 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
“It would be convenient to reopen the border, but it’s not a matter of life or death for Colombia’s exporters,” said Rafael Mejia, president of the Colombian Agriculture Society. “The real issue is that Venezuela doesn’t pay.”
The yield on Colombia’s benchmark 11 percent bonds due 2020 has dropped to 7.2 from 7.96 since Santos’ election June 20. The peso has gained 4.7 percent over the same period, the most among major Latin American currencies tracked by Bloomberg.
Even if Chavez opens the border to trade, many exporters are wary of rushing back, said Jorge Bedoya, head of the National Federation of Colombian Poultry Farmers.
Trade Tensions
“It’s important that Chavez takes it seriously and abides by the rules,” said Bedoya, whose members lost as much as $60 million in trade to Venezuela before finding new markets locally and in Asia.
The collapse in commercial ties likely contributed to rising prices in Venezuela because of the costs of importing food and other items from longer distances, said Luis Alberto Rusian, president of the Venezuelan-Colombian Chamber for Economic Integration, or CAVECOL.
“Colombia’s natural market has always been Venezuela just as the natural market for Venezuela is Colombia,” Rusian said. “We also need to rebuild confidence between businesses and this is going to take some time.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Helen Murphy in Bogota at hmurphy1@bloomberg.net

Colombia, Venezuela Agree to Restore Diplomatic Relations After Dispute – Bloomberg


venezuela in the news this week… we’ll see what comes of it…

this is the latest one from the Financial Times.
(Note: Highlights in bold and italics, MasterBlog)

Venezuela: Bolivarian bravado

By John Paul Rathbone and Benedict Mander

Published: August 5 2010 23:20 | Last updated: August 5 2010 23:20

Hugo Chávez

The giant Pepsi globe that once loomed above Plaza Venezuela in the traffic-clogged heart of Caracas had long been a landmark of the South American capital’s skyline. Now it is gone, dismantled piece by piece in June.

Much like the demolition of a statue of Christopher Columbus in the same square six years earlier, its removal was a crude symbol of President Hugo Chávez’s self-appointed role as the region’s anti-US, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist standard-bearer.

It was also a reminder of faded hopes that relations would improve either with the US under President Barack Obama, following the mutual antagonism of the George W. Bush era; or with America’s closest ally in the region, neighbouring Colombia. If anything, Mr Chávez has raised the volume of his nationalist-Marxist rhetoric as his problems have grown both at home and abroad.

In July, when Colombian leaders again accused Venezuela of sheltering Marxist guerrillas intent on destabilising their country, and were confident enough of their case to present it to the Organization of American States, Mr Chávez promptly called it an act of US-inspired “aggression” and broke off relations with Bogotá. Havana, which receives subsidised Venezuelan oil in return for medical services, lent Caracas rhetorical support: “We strive for peace and harmony,” said President Raúl Castro. “But … let no one have the least doubt on which side Cuba will stand.’’

Meanwhile, with the country in recession, red-hued government propaganda in multiple media hails Mr Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”. The president has taken to expounding how it is “bad to be rich” – though one graffito snipes back from a grimy Caracas wall: “If it’s bad to be rich, it’s worse to be poor.”

All this might otherwise be ignored as the bitter internal politics of a volatile tropical republic were it not for Venezuela’s strategic importance and fears that Mr Chávez might consolidate his grip on power at legislative elections next month.

“Elections are of great importance for Chávez. They give him legitimacy both at home and abroad – they give him an air of respectability,” says Teodoro Petkoff, a garrulous former leftist guerrilla who now edits the Caracas-based newspaper Tal Cual.

A clear victory for Mr Chávez’s United Socialist party of Venezuela at the September 26 polls would be likely to herald further radicalisation of his socialist project, ease the way for his election to a third six-year term in 2012 and thus boost worries elsewhere about regional tensions.

Watching the results most closely will be neighbours in the Andes – a regional tinderbox, given the prevalence of clashing ideologies, well-equipped troops and armed guerrilla and paramilitary groups – and Cuba, as Venezuela’s closest ideological ally.

A further geopolitical consideration stems from Venezuela’s role as transshipment point for what is said to be more than half the cocaine shipped across the Atlantic to Europe every year. The country’s trafficking situation is deteriorating, the UN warns in its latest World Drugs Report.

Also watching the election closely will be those energy importers who ogle the country’s vast crude oil reserves, the largest outside the Middle East. As those reserves are easily accessible and use proved technologies, BP’s deep-water oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has heightened their strategic value still further. That is as true for the US, which remains Venezuela’s biggest single oil market, as for rising energy users such as China, which recently curried favour as well as securing future oil supplies with a $20bn soft loan to Caracas.

With term limits abolished following a referendum last year, Mr Chávez has frequently expressed a wish to remain in office until 2021 – the 200th anniversary of independence from Spain – to see through his revolution. Yet, after 11 years in power, the extent to which he has succeeded in instilling in voters a mindset compatible with what he calls “21st century socialism” is debatable. (For example, he has condemned a widespread fondness for whiskey and Hummers.)

The government has therefore been working to boost its chances of maintaining in September the two-thirds majority necessary to push legislation through the National Assembly.

Changes to the electoral system this year mean rural areas will return more deputies than before, hindering the metropolitan-based opposition. State-owned media can meanwhile drench the country in pro-government propaganda. (While newspapers such as Mr Petkoff’s are highly critical, private sector broadcasters have been largely cowed into submission.)

Most unsettling of all is the possibility that Mr Chávez’s party might lose the vote yet still maintain effective control. In 2008, for example, the president res­ponded to the election of an opposition candidate as Caracas mayor by inventing a more senior post and ap­pointing a candidate of his choosing.

Another possibility, much discussed in the capital, is that he could rule by decree during the 100 days between the elections and the new deputies taking up their seats, changing irrevocably the legal landscape to his liking. A recent 40 per cent pay rise ensures the army’s loyalty.

“Chávez will not leave power voluntarily,” says Diego Arria, a leading opposition figure and former governor of Caracas. “This is a president whose motto is: ‘fatherland, socialism or death’. When they say death they mean us, not themselves.”

Such drastic outcomes may never come to pass. Despite the recession, crumbling public services, a series of damaging scandals and rampant violent crime, Mr Chávez still commands the support of about two in every five Venezuelans – roughly the same ap­proval rating as Mr Obama in the US.

In large part, this is due to his emotional bond with the poor, who in 2008 made up 28 per cent of the population, according to the UN. “Even with hunger and unemployment, I’m sticking with Chávez,” runs one refrain popular in the capital’s slums.

Gregory Wilpert, editor of pro-Chávez website Venezuelanalysis.com, emphasises that many have benefited from the government-run social programmes. “The process of devolving local governance to communities via the communal councils and other forms of participation also gives many people a real feeling of being a part of the political process,” he adds. Critics say such councils usurp the power of elected municipal governments.

. . .

Either way, to gain a decisive victory, Mr Chávez will need to win over undecided voters – the ni-nis, or neither-nors – who account for about one in three of the electorate, according to polls.

In 2006, when he was re-elected at the peak of both his popularity and the oil price boom, that problem was partly solved by throwing money around. The trouble for “chavistas” today is that there is less to spend. This year, for example, while the rest of the region is expected to grow by 5.2 per cent, Venezuela’s economy is forecast to shrink by 3 per cent, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America estimates. Inflation, meanwhile, is running at about 30 per cent.

Paradoxically, because oil prices are hovering around $80 a barrel, a healthy level historically, government finances are not in perilous shape. Rather, the main cause of the continuing recession is mismanagement – the biggest rock on which Mr Chávez’s revolution has floundered.

PDVSA, the state-owned oil company that is the dynamo of the economy, has been leached to fund social projects with cash that otherwise would have been used for much-needed investment. The non-oil economy has been hobbled too.

Capital flight has been propelled by the nationalisation drive Mr Chávez has launched in a range of sectors, including energy, finance and telecommunications. Attempts to prevent such flight have made matters worse. The rationing of foreign exchange has made importing harder, fuelling scarcity, inflation and a flourishing black market – dollars sell for about four times the cheapest official rate.

The multinationals that once made the country their regional base, attracted by its relative stability and large internal market, have upped sticks. A web of regulations has tightened around those private companies that have remained – most publicly at Polar, the food and beverage company that is an emblem of Venezuelan popular culture, which Mr Chávez has threatened to nationalise against union wishes. Private investment has slumped amid the deteriorating business climate. As for nationalised companies, the state has been unable to pick up the slack.

Since nationalisation in 2008, production in the cement sector has fallen 20 per cent, and in the steel sector by as much as 80 per cent, according to Caracas-based consultancy Ecoanalítica. Most embarrassing of all were the 100,000 tonnes of food found recently rotting in the warehouses of state-run food distribution network PDVAL. Mr Chávez blamed “US-backed fascist oligarchs”.

The opposition has failed to capitalise on such problems. One reason is that much of the electorate remains distrustful following early at­tempts to unseat the president including a botched coup in 2002 and a national strike that paralysed the economy.

. A final factor is that many of its candidates are drawn from two discredited parties, Democratic Action and the Social Christians, which once dominated the country’s politics.

Dissidents from Mr Chávez’s party and former personal allies pose a potential threat. But some of the most prominent opponents have been hounded out of the country or imprisoned. General Raúl Baduel, a former close friend who called the president a “traitor” has been controversially jailed for corruption.

. . .

All this has devalued Mr Chávez’s reputation abroad. He still enjoys occasional celebrity support, from Argentine footballer Diego Maradona and Hollywood film producer Oliver Stone, for example. Oil also ensures Caracas secures the odd multibillion-dollar deal – most notably an arms agreement with Moscow, after the US stopped selling weapons to Venezuela in 2006. Caracas and Havana remain locked in a symbiotic embrace. But the president’s vision retains little credence with the region’s leftwing, and many of the area’s leaders and diplomats are embarrassed by his virulent rhetoric and off-colour jokes.

Mr Chávez has thus failed to bring closer to reality the Latin American union he espouses in evocations of his 19th century independence hero, Simón Bolívar. Sometimes, as when he closed the frontier with Colombia, he has worked against it.

Yet his command of Venezuela – its economy, army and institutions, including the judiciary – has never been stronger. There is therefore every chance that Mr Chávez, whose political style tends towards confrontation rather than negotiation, will endure. ¡Venceremos! – “we will conquer” – as the former tank commander is fond of saying.

venezuela

see related post from the same FT piece:

FT.com / Comment / Analysis – Venezuela: Bolivarian bravado

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New president, old news…

Venezuela recalls ambassador to Colombia amid dispute

By the CNN Wire Staff
July 16, 2010 — Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)”

(CNN) — Venezuela recalled its ambassador to Colombia on Friday as it rejected Colombia’s assertion that Colombian rebels are living in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the administration of outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is trying to undermine the possible normalization of relations between the two countries, which have had strained ties in recent years.

“After eight years of failed diplomacy and of militarism as the only regional policy, President Uribe leaves a country at war, a government isolated in Latin America and detached from its neighbors,” the statement said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Venezuela was recalling its ambassador to Colombia for consultations.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government raised the prospect Friday of turning to international organizations. It said Colombia “has had a patient dialogue” for six years about its belief that Colombian “terrorists” were in Venezuela. It passed that information to Venezuelan authorities, the Colombian government said, but its overtures were “unsuccessful with relation to terrorist leaders.”

On Thursday, Colombian authorities said they have proof that high-ranking leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, live in Venezuela. The FARC is a Marxist rebel force that has been battling the Colombian state for decades.

Details of the evidence that Colombia may hold were not immediately clear.

Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva met with the members of the Colombian news media for about an hour and a half Thursday to discuss the matter.

After the meeting, Silva gave a brief statement to reporters reiterating that Colombia has coordinates and knows of apartments used in Venezuela by rebels with the FARC and another rebel group, the National Liberation Army, which is known by its Spanish acronym, ELN.

Colombian authorities are aware of meetings between rebels in Venezuela as recently as Thursday, and have evidence of rebel camps, Silva said.

“The continued and permanent tolerance of the presence of terrorists in that country is a threat to the security of Colombia,” he said.

On Friday, Venezuela criticized what it called the “pathetic media spectacle” in Colombia the day before.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Venezuelan authorities have investigated each time Colombia has asserted that FARC rebels were in Venezuela. It also said the Colombian president had made “irresponsible” assertions that Venezuela was helping FARC rebels.

Uribe is a two-term president who has high approval ratings for his tough stand against FARC.

Colombia has accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of supporting the rebels. Chavez has previously accused Colombian officials and right-wing paramilitary units of plotting his assassination.

Security analysts have said FARC guerrillas operate mostly in Colombia but have carried out extortion, kidnappings and other activities in Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador.

FARC is accused of trafficking in cocaine to finance its insurgency.

Colombia also has accused another neighbor, Ecuador, of giving refuge to rebels. In 2008, Colombia carried out a raid in Ecuadorian territory that resulted in the killing of a top FARC leader
Venezuela recalls ambassador to Colombia amid dispute – CNN.com
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Colombia charging ahead!!!

Colombian Exports Could Reach $40 Billion In 2010 
First Published Monday, 12 July 2010 11:29 pm – © 2010 Dow Jones 
(Updates with comments from Trade Minister; adds details and background) 
By Darcy Crowe 
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES 

BOGOTA -(Dow Jones)- Colombian exports are on pace to reach a record-breaking $40 billion this year as companies offset a decline in exports to neighboring Venezuela by finding new 
markets in Central America and the Caribbean, Trade Minister Guillermo Plata said Monday. 

The government expects exports to climb 22% in 2010 and break the $37.2 billion mark from 2008, despite a diplomatic dispute with Venezuela that has led to a 70% plunge in sales to that country, Plata said. 

“Colombia is diversifying its exports, and in the last three months, firms have started to offset the losses to Venezuela,” he said. Venezuela has traditionally been Colombia’s second-largest  trading partner, surpassed only by the U.S. 

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez essentially shut the border to Colombian products last year in a heated diplomatic spat with Bogota. President-elect Juan Manuel Santos has said that fixing diplomatic and trade relations with Venezuela will be one of his priorities. Chavez is slated to attend Santos’ inauguration on Aug. 7. 

Plata said that even if the new administration is able to reopen the Venezuelan border to Colombian goods, the main goal should be diversifying exports. “Putting all our eggs in one basket is very risky,” he said. 

Exports to Venezuela could also suffer even if relations are restored due an economic recession and strict currency controls. 

As a result of the problems with Venezuela, China is now Colombia’s second-largest trading partner. Plata, however, highlighted that the products Colombia used to sell to Venezuela, such 
as manufactured and agricultural goods, are being redirected to markets in Central America and the Caribbean. 

This year’s export boom, however, has been driven by sales of commodities like oil, coal, coffee and ferronickel. Manufactured and agricultural goods, among others, are down 4.5%, a 
figure that Plata says is the result of the problems with Venezuela, which was a key market for these types of items. 

“It’s actually a very good number if you consider that sales to Venezuela are down 70% and shows that other markets are compensating for the decline,” he said. 

Foreign direct investment, meanwhile, could reach $10 billion this year, as money continues to pour into Colombia’s booming oil and mining industries, Plata said. Foreign direct 
investment in the country so far this year was $4.4 billion, 8.5% higher than in the same period in 2009. 

-By Darcy Crowe, Dow Jones Newswires; (57) 1 703 8953; darcy.crowe@dowjones.com 
Copyright © Automated Trader Ltd 2010 


charging ahead!!!

Colombian Exports Could Reach $40 Billion In 2010 
First Published Monday, 12 July 2010 11:29 pm – © 2010 Dow Jones 
(Updates with comments from Trade Minister; adds details and background) 
By Darcy Crowe 
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES 
BOGOTA -(Dow Jones)- Colombian exports are on pace to reach a record-breaking $40 billion this year as companies offset a decline in exports to neighboring Venezuela by finding new 
markets in Central America and the Caribbean, Trade Minister Guillermo Plata said Monday. 
The government expects exports to climb 22% in 2010 and break the $37.2 billion mark from 2008, despite a diplomatic dispute with Venezuela that has led to a 70% plunge in sales to that 
country, Plata said. 
“Colombia is diversifying its exports, and in the last three months, firms have started to offset the losses to Venezuela,” he said. Venezuela has traditionally been Colombia’s second-largest 
trading partner, surpassed only by the U.S. 
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez essentially shut the border to Colombian products last year in a heated diplomatic spat with Bogota. President-elect Juan Manuel Santos has said that 
fixing diplomatic and trade relations with Venezuela will be one of his priorities. Chavez is slated to attend Santos’ inauguration on Aug. 7. 
Plata said that even if the new administration is able to reopen the Venezuelan border to Colombian goods, the main goal should be diversifying exports. “Putting all our eggs in one basket 
is very risky,” he said. 
Exports to Venezuela could also suffer even if relations are restored due an economic recession and strict currency controls. 
As a result of the problems with Venezuela, China is now Colombia’s second-largest trading partner. Plata, however, highlighted that the products Colombia used to sell to Venezuela, such 
as manufactured and agricultural goods, are being redirected to markets in Central America and the Caribbean. 
This year’s export boom, however, has been driven by sales of commodities like oil, coal, coffee and ferronickel. Manufactured and agricultural goods, among others, are down 4.5%, a 
figure that Plata says is the result of the problems with Venezuela, which was a key market for these types of items. 
“It’s actually a very good number if you consider that sales to Venezuela are down 70% and shows that other markets are compensating for the decline,” he said. 
Foreign direct investment, meanwhile, could reach $10 billion this year, as money continues to pour into Colombia’s booming oil and mining industries, Plata said. Foreign direct 
investment in the country so far this year was $4.4 billion, 8.5% higher than in the same period in 2009. 
-By Darcy Crowe, Dow Jones Newswires; (57) 1 703 8953; darcy.crowe@dowjones.com 
Copyright © Automated Trader Ltd 2010 





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