Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vietnam-era Huey, Vichada.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The army throwing leaflets over the jungle, urging the guerrillas to desert (2008).

FARC guerrillas, Antioquia (2008).

Paras from Bloque Resistencia Tayrona (2006.)

Para from Bloque Central Bolivar (2005).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Party Accused Of Mafia Ties Now Ranks No. 4 In Colombia

5 Mar 2010 18:44 EDT

By Matthew Bristow


BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--A party founded less than six months ago, many of whose candidates were shunned by mainstream parties for alleged links to organized crime, is on course to win nine of the 102 seats in the Colombian senate in the elections held on Sunday.

The strong performance by the Party of National Integration, or PIN, shows that illegal paramilitary organizations continue to wield influence in Colombian politics, said Patrick Esteruelas, a Latin America analyst with the Eurasia Group, a political risk-research and consulting firm.

"This is a party that is exclusively made up of candidates that have been discredited by more established parties, and brothers, sisters, relatives, and associates of congressmen that have been disgraced, and in some cases thrown in jail," said Esteruelas. "That they could post reasonably well in these congressional elections, despite everything that has transpired about the 'parapolitics' scandal, shows that there is still a certain degree of influence."

The PIN has 8.1% of the vote, with 94% of polling stations reporting, making it the fourth-largest party in Colombia, behind The Party of the U, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party.

The PIN is one of several parties that supports the policies of President Alvaro Uribe. It gained strong support on Colombia's Caribbean coast and in the provinces of Santander and Valle del Cauca. Its leader, Samuel Arrieta, told Dow Jones Newswires that his party had been slandered by the Colombian media.

"If there is an investigation in progress, in Colombia or anywhere else, people are innocent until proven guilty," Arrieta said.

"We have people such as Teresa Garcia, the sister of [former senator] Alvaro Garcia, who was condemned by the supreme court for parapolitics. But in Colombia, as in the rest of the world, the person who committed the crime has to respond, not anyone else. To accuse someone because her brother was condemned isn't within our constitutional and legal system."

During the "parapolitics" scandal, 77 members of Colombia's congress were investigated for ties to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, an illegal paramilitary group that was largely financed by drug money. Thirty-nine of those investigated are now in jail awaiting trial, according to Bogota-based human rights group Indepaz.

The election observers of the Organization of American States, or OAS, said they were concerned by cases of vote-buying in Sunday's elections, El Tiempo newspaper reported. However, the incidents hadn't been sufficiently serious to invalidate the election results, El Tiempo reported the OAS as saying. The OAS will present its official report on the elections Tuesday morning.

"In Colombia an immense number of votes are bought," said opposition senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, whose left-wing Polo Democratico party saw its share of the vote fall sharply. "In Colombia elections are won by corruption and crime."

Robledo said some election campaigns had been "run from prisons."

In 2005, AUC warlord Salvatore Mancuso told Colombian television that around a third of the Colombian congress were "friends" of his organization.

"Thirty-five percent of congress (members) are elected in zones where the paramilitaries had a presence," Mancuso said. "In these zones we charged taxes, administered justice, and had territorial and military control. And everyone who wanted to be involved in politics in the region had to coordinate with our political representatives."

Mancuso has since been extradited to the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges.

The Uribe government has repeatedly argued that the links between politicians and paramilitaries only came to light as a result of its peace process with the AUC, and says it welcomes the prosecution of corrupt politicians of all parties.

Colombia's center-right political parties, which have supported President Uribe during his eight years in power, retained control of both houses of Congress in Sunday's elections. The Party of the U, led by presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos, retained its position as Colombia's largest party, getting 25% of the vote, followed by the Conservative Party, which got 21%, with 94% of polling stations reporting.

"The results of the Party of the U and the Conservative Party mean that we are an important part of the governing coalition," said Arrieta, the PIN party's leader.