By Dialogo February 18, 2009 Colombia’s main leftist rebel group said Tuesday that it “executed” eight Indians in the country’s remote southwest, accusing them of acting as paid informants for Colombia’s military. The communique posted on a Web site sympathetic to the rebels followed widespread but unconfirmed reports that as many as 27 Awa Indians had been killed — allegations that prompted denunciations by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch. The development was a major blow to efforts by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to promote a prisoner swap with the government and to be removed from the European Union’s list of terror organizations. President Alvaro Uribe said offensive operations would be stepped up against the FARC. “Our decision today is to accentuate our anti-terrorism policies,” he said in Brazil, where he was on a state visit. Colombia’s military challenged the rebel justification for the killings, denying the slain Indians had been informants, and alleging the FARC was pushing the Awa off their lands so it could plant drug crops. There are about 20,000 Awa, and like many indigenous groups, they have often become enmeshed in a conflict in which far-right militias and drug traffickers frequently exact violence on civilians they accuse of collaborating with their foes. The FARC said the eight were detained on Feb. 6 in a rural district of Barbacoas, Narino state, and all confessed to having worked with the army for two years. “Given the pressure of the operation, their responsibility in the death of numerous guerrillas and their irrefutable active participation in the conflict, they were executed,” the statement on the ANNCOL site said. The country’s armed forces chief called the guerrilla claim false. “Not a single peso has been paid” to the Awa — nor were the Indians used as informants about rebel movements, Gen. Freddy Padilla told The Associated Press by telephone. In a separate communique, the army division that operates in the area accused the FARC of forcing the Awa off their reserve so it can plant coca, the basis for cocaine. Fighting over coca crops is a key reason behind the forced displacement of more than 2.8 million Colombians — an internal refugee problem second only to that of Sudan. The FARC has tried to improve its international image and recently released six hostages, an act peace activists saw as a hopeful indication that a dialogue with Uribe’s government might be opened. The opposition senator who brokered the release, Piedad Cordoba, on Tuesday called the FARC’s killing of the Indians “a major snag” for efforts to obtain new releases or a prisoner swap. She said she feared it would radicalize both sides of the conflict. The U.N. says Colombia has 87 indigenous groups, more than a third of which are at risk of extinction due largely to the conflict and forced displacement.
Measures Governments are Taking The term “money laundering” is said to have originated from the Mafia ownership of laundromats in the United States during the 1930s. Today, however, targeting the illicit proceeds of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) has gained the attention of governments around the world. While money laundering itself is quite complex, it consists of three basic steps: 1. Placement, where the money is most vulnerable to detection because it is considered dirty money. Some of the more prominent examples are making multiple cash deposits less than $10,000, purchasing multiple money orders below the reporting threshold, and using close associates to make multiple bank deposits. 2. Layering is the second stage in which the perpetrators attempt to disassociate the money from its original source. This is where money begins to be transferred to and from multiple accounts in an effort to make these transactions difficult to detect. 3. Finally, integration is the process of using funds for legitimate purposes because the funds essentially have been cleaned. Some of the methods used to further disguise these funds include real estate purchases, investments in front companies, stocks and foreign businesses. While many people unwittingly participate in money laundering, there are also many participants who are fully aware of the crime being committed. In 2007 the Costa Rican National Police dismantled a large drug trafficking organization in a sting titled Operation Border. Costa Rican newspaper reporter Otto Vargas, quotes the Costa Rican National Police as saying, “…behind these people exist a large number of collaborators (…), also pilots, air traffic controllers, owners of clandestine landing strips, drug transporters, laboratory owners, and other people dedicated to money laundering,” he wrote in Costa Rican daily, La Nación. Vargas’ remark is extremely poignant in that it highlights the complexity of money laundering by distinguishing the fact that is it not an individual act. Notable Cash Seizures By Dialogo July 01, 2011 According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations, the International Monetary Fund believes that money laundering may account for 2% to 5% of the world’s gross domestic product, estimated to be as high as $3.61 trillion. The Tax Justice Network, an independent organization launched in the British Houses of Parliament in 2003 dedicated to analysis and advocacy in the field of tax and regulation, reported that developing countries lose an estimated $858.6 billion – $1.06 trillion annually in illicit financial outflows. Money laundering also has an effect on national policy because of mistakes in measurement errors on national account statistics and it also threatens monetary instability due to unsound asset structures in commodities, according to the United Nations Department of Public Information. The accumulation of wealth by DTOs poses a grave threat to the security of nations in this hemisphere. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated, “Where crime and corruption reign and drug money perverts the economy, the state no longer has a monopoly on the use of force and its citizens no longer trust their leaders and public institutions.” The BBC reported that Mexican drug cartels have so much cash at their disposal that they have managed to consistently infiltrate police, from the grassroots level to the very top. The U.S. Congressional Research Service reports that according to the United Nations Office of Drug Control, homicide rates have increased in Latin America “from 19.9 per 100,000 people in 2003 to 32.6 per 100,000 people in 2008.” While the exact correlation to drug trafficking is unknown, it is almost certain that the illicit narcotics trade plays a major role in the significant increase in homicides in this hemisphere. It is important to note that Latin America and the Caribbean has some of the highest homicide rates in the entire world. These regions serve as transit zones for drugs bound for North America. A further analysis indicates homicide rates are extreme in the transit zone countries. In the United States, the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 is the cornerstone of the nation’s effort to combat money laundering. It requires U.S. financial institutions to maintain records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, file reports of cash transactions exceeding $10,000, and also report other suspicious activities that may signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. Mexico has made significant progress in the past year in its efforts to combat illicit financial flows by implementing tough anti-money laundering laws. As a result of these stringent new laws, Mexico has seen an astonishing 75% reduction in U.S. currency deposits. Some of the key provisions of the new law impose a limit on cash deposits by Mexican individuals of $4,000 per month; foreign tourists are allowed to exchange only up to $1,500 per month; no more than $7,700 may be used as cash towards the purchase of vehicles, boats or planes; and making it illegal to purchase real estate in cash, reported The Washington Post. What are the results when governments undertake similar measures? A telling example is the case of Pablo Escobar, one of the most well-known drug traffickers in history, who at one point had an estimated net worth of $25 billion. In a documentary about his life, “Sins of my Father,” his son, Sebastian Marroquín, formerly Juan Pablo Escobar, stated the following: “Why am I not a drug trafficker? Because I was with my father, hiding next to him surrounded by millions of dollars and we were starving, where we’d been hiding for a week and ran out of food. That’s when I understood that the money from drug trafficking is absolutely worthless.” *Anthony Williams is a Doctoral candidate in Homeland Security and Defense at the National Graduate School, Falmouth, MA, and is a member of a Joint Staff within the U.S. Department of Defense. In March, 2007, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and Mexican law enforcement made the largest single drug cash seizure in history, totaling $207 million dollars, in what was a front for a Mexican pharmaceutical company. In September, 2009, United States Immigration Customs and Enforcements (ICE) agents along with Colombian and Mexican authorities seized over $41 million in shipping containers. “We recognize both the U.S. government and Mexican authorities as our best allies in the fight against organized crime and thank and congratulate ICE for their support and collaboration,” said General Oscar Naranjo Trujillo, director general of the Colombian National Police. The Impact of Money Laundering Future Efforts to Curtail Money Laundering The United States National Drug Control Strategy states, “undermining the financial infrastructure of trafficking organizations has proven to be one of the most effective means to disrupt the market for illegal drugs.” This statement is significant because when a government captures a high value target or head of a DTO, that individual is quickly replaced by the next in line and so the cycle of organized crime will continue to function. However, if the funding stream is broken, these organizations lack the means to purchase materials necessary to produce and distribute illicit narcotics. By dismantling the financial infrastructure, the capability exists to bankrupt these criminal organizations. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and its associated nation-states set the year 2019 as their target date to significantly reduce or eliminate money laundering related to illicit drugs. To tackle the growing threats posed by the transfers of funds from illicit proceeds, the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental policy-making body on financial crimes, urges transnational cooperation to meet the objectives established by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
By Dialogo March 13, 2013 Jonas Sture Oredsson, a Swedish national who was expelled by the Colombian authorities from Colombia in December 2010, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for drug trafficking by the Swedish justice system. The Scandinavian country’s legal authorities considered that 40-year-old Oredsson was leading a group responsible for smuggling over a ton of cocaine that was seized by the French authorities off the coast of Martinica. The court sentenced Mauritz Andersson, the only person aboard the boat where the cocaine was seized in 2010, to 14 years of prison given the “exceptionally large scale” of the crime. Two other men were also tried for a failed attempt to smuggle 700 kilos from Colombia to Sweden, a 30-year-old who was sentenced to eight years and a 33-year-old who got one year in prison. In December 2010, the Colombian Intelligence and Immigration Service announced the deportation of Oredsson, “since he was wanted for drug trafficking by the authorities in Sweden, where he is considered the leader of an organization that smuggles huge amounts of cocaine from South America to Europe.”
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo August 17, 2016 The Peruvian Navy coordinated the fifth edition of the Warships & Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Conference Latin America 2016. The international conference helps create business opportunities and investment agreements for fleet modernization to confront probable threats. For three days, officers from the navies of Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Canada met in the city of Lima, Peru, to exchange knowledge on vessel acquisition and operational communications, as well as the development of combat-support, patrol, and surveillance vessels. Representatives from shipyards, defense companies and producers, as well as officers from the Peruvian Armed Forces, the National Police, and officers from the navies and naval projects from the navies of Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, and Honduras, among others, attended. OPV Latin America allowed for direct interaction between manufacturers and their end-users. The annual event was an initiative of Defence IQ, a British organization, and Peru’s Naval Association of Surface Officers in coordination with the Peruvian Navy. Previous editions were held in Brazil in 2012 and 2013, Colombia in 2014, and Ecuador last year. European and U.S. defense firms learned requirements for building new vessels. Naval engineers, who participate in the design and construction process for several projects, saw current technologies for surface platforms, both for frigates and OPVs. Admiral Jorge Montoya Manrique, former commander of the Joint Command of the Peruvian Armed Forces and president of Peru’s Naval Association of Surface Officers told Diálogo: “it is in every country’s national interest to have a naval industry that is vigorous, self-sustaining, and sustainable over time. Countries require a fleet with deterrence capability, which is efficient, and which has the relevant speed to protect the exclusive economic zones of each country, as well as to combat drug trafficking and illegal fishing, and using OPVs for these functions is more economic.” For Peru, modernizing its squadron is important because its fleet is more than 30 years old. The Peruvian Navy plans to acquire six frigates and four OPVs to combat drug trafficking organizations and confront future challenges. “Peru is in the process of defining the surface platform that will replace the frigates and corvettes. The modernization program, which is projected to be developed over the next 10 to 15 years, includes the acquisition of OPV units, small patrol boats, and frigates, so that Peru’s Navy can successfully complete its defense missions,” Adm. Montoya said. During the event, according to the Peruvian Navy, Latin American officers dealt with topics such as “How Technology Transfers its Support to Plans and Modernization of the Peruvian Navy;” “Challenges and Prospects for the Construction of Mexican Naval Vessels;” and “Honduran OPV Fleet and High-Security Boats.” “Among new technologies, we need to select robust propulsion systems that require long periods of time between scheduled maintenance; the latest technology in arms systems; medium and long-range radars; anti-aircraft missiles; and rocket-assisted cannons for future vessels,” Adm. Montoya continued. As reported in the TV program Noti Naval on June 30th, Rear Admiral (r) Carlos de Izcue Arnillas, commercial manager of Peru’s state-run shipyard Marine Industrial Services (SIMA, for its Spanish acronym), said, “We need to transfer technology, knowledge, and experiences so that we can be up to the challenge, which is no longer just national but also regional and global.” The Peruvian Navy is committed to an important fleet modernization program that will be developed over the next 10 to 15 years. It is building four to 10 small patrol-type units with 500 metric tons of displacement. These units are useful for operations close to the coast. The Navy also plans to modernize and modify its corvettes as patrol boats. “Honduras, like us and all the countries of the region, has a problem controlling illicit activity related to drug trafficking. The Honduran Navy (FNH, for its Spanish acronym) is looking to build lighter patrol boats, not very big and with less tonnage,” Adm. Montoya explained. “Mexico has a project to construct 60 vessels of this type.” The Honduran Government plans to acquire an OPV-80 to patrol its exclusive economic zone. In April, the FNH announced the acquisition of a BAL-C Short Range Logistic Support Ship from Colombia’s state-run shipyard, Science and Technology Corporation for the Development of the Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industry. Through phases I and II of Plan Orion, Colombia has modernized its FS-1500 Padilla Class frigates and has begun a program to construct OPVs. Brazil’s Plan Propuser has not yet started due to budgetary problems. Chile has acquired used frigates and modernized them, according to a report from the Infodefensa website. The international conference attendees took a tour through the SIMA shipyard facilities and observed a maritime interdiction exercise that the Peruvian Navy organized exclusively for the participants. “This type of event [Warships & OPV Conference Latin America] allows us to share and understand issues, and that is fundamental for countries like ours, which is trying to grow its state-run naval industry SIMA,” said Rear Admiral Silvio Alva Villamón, executive director of SIMA. “And this discussion is doubly important in Peru because there is an opportunity for other members of the national industry’s productive apparatus to participate in and understand the importance of the naval industry.” Peru has undertaken various naval construction projects in the past five years. Notable among them is the manufacture of various riverine combat units; maritime and coastal patrol boats; Itinerant Social Action Platforms (PIAS, for its Spanish acronym), which provide medical assistance and social programs to residents of the Amazon jungle; the Navy’s first multipurpose vessel, called Varayoc; and the Unión training ship, the largest vessel of its kind in Latin America.
By Iris Amador/Diálogo August 23, 2017 The Honduran Armed Forces and the Nicaraguan Army have renewed their commitment to working together to protect the border that unites them. Meeting in Managua in late July, Major General Francisco Isaías Álvarez, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Honduran Armed Forces, and General Julio César Avilés, the commander-in-chief of the Nicaraguan Army, signed a Working Protocol to approve the rollout of a new phase of Coordinated Operation Morazán-Sandino, which both military organizations have been conducting for three years. Operation Morazán-Sandino began in 2014 for the purpose of creating a secure environment in the border region between Honduras and Nicaragua. These Central American nations share a 966-kilometer border stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the end of the Coco or Segovia River in the Atlantic Ocean. “Joint task forces are set up to conduct these operations but they are temporary in nature,” Infantry Colonel Jorge Cerrato, a spokesman for the Honduran Armed Forces, explained to Diálogo. “The operation is activated periodically, generally for no more than 15-day periods, when there is a desire to do something with a greater impact in the area.” Phase six After conducting the first phase in 2014, two operations were conducted in 2015 and two more — phases four and five — in 2016. The sixth and most recent phase of the operation was completed in 2017, from the end of June to the beginning of July. “There are fewer problems on our border with Nicaragua than on the other borders, but our obligation is to remain on alert in order to preserve the stability of the area,” Col. Cerrato said. As a result of the latest operation, the authorities captured a dozen people for various crimes and arrested a small number of unauthorized migrants. They seized cash, weapons, munitions, and marijuana plants, as well as processed marijuana. The authorities of both nations also reported the seizure of wood and more than 80 head of cattle. In addition, three illegal border crossings were disabled and a clandestine landing strip was destroyed. A rugged border The two nations have set a goal of conducting at least one operation of this kind per year, but it is expected that one more operation will be conducted before the end of 2017, which does not mean that the border will be unprotected until the next mission. “There are permanent patrols for fighting petty crime and organized crime in those sectors,” Honduran Military Justice Lieutenant Colonel Santos Nolasco, a spokesman for Honduras’s National Inter-Agency Security Force (FUSINA, per its Spanish acronym), told Diálogo. “FUSINA has security units all along the border. In recent years the country has taken measures to strengthen its land, air, and maritime shields, and the monitoring is constant.” According to Lt. Col. Nolasco, the greatest threat on the border with Nicaragua is not drug trafficking, given how traffickers are looking to move most drugs by sea. “On our border with Nicaragua, what keeps us most busy is the contraband of natural resources and the movement of unauthorized migrants, which, it should be noted, has decreased by more than 50 percent relative to the previous year.” The border shared by Honduras and Nicaragua is mostly rugged, rich in a diversity of flora and fauna, which explains why there is so much contraband in bird species that are at risk of extinction. “We frequently seize exotic birds, such as scarlet ibis and parrots,” Lt. Col. Nolasco said. “We hand the animals over to the Honduran Institute of Forestry Conservation, whose staff takes charge of caring for these specimens and providing them veterinary care before releasing them back into their natural habitat.” Ongoing cooperation According to the Honduran Armed Forces, there are long-term operations to fight petty crime and organized crime in those sectors, and they confirm that communication channels with Nicaraguan service members remain open. “There is always an exchange of information and experiences to be more effective,” Lt. Col. Nolasco indicated. “These renewed efforts have had good results for controlling criminal gangs that are looking to operate in that sector and for guarding against contraband and tax fraud. Success in that region is owed to the high degree of cooperation and coordination between our two nations.” Honduras keeps joint task forces on its borders with El Salvador and Guatemala. Col. Cerrato did not rule out the possibility of one day establishing a task force with Nicaragua similar to the Lenca-Sumpul or Maya-Chortí task forces that already exist. “It’s possible that we might consolidate. It all depends on the need,” Col. Cerrato said. “The activation of Operation Morazán-Sandino has served to bolster the trust-building measures between our two nations and the scenarios are always being evaluated.” In their respective press releases, the armed services of both countries were in agreement that, “coordinated operations will continue to be planned and conducted in order to increase the security levels in border sectors for the benefit of the people of both nations.”
By Taciana Moury/Diálogo October 23, 2017 The Brazilian Army (EB, per its Portuguese acronym) already began preparations for the AMAZONLOG 2017 Multinational Interagency Logistics Exercise in the city of Tabatinga, located in the Amazon region near the Tri-border area between Brazil, Colombia and Peru. The event to take place November 6th –13th, will combine the armed forces of 16 nations.Logistics operations required for the viability of the exercise have been ongoing since July. The main reason for the advance preparation relies on the difficulty to access Tabatinga. The city is located about 1,000 kilometers from Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas. According to the Brazilian Army public affairs office, the Social Communication Center of the Army (CCOMSEX, per its Portuguese acronym), preparation for the event required advance planning and the involvement of various EB military units to allocate, prepare and transport equipment. The coordination falls under the Army Logistics Support Base. “Currently, preparation of the terrain is being finalized so that adjustments can be made for the rains in the region. Teams from the 6th Construction Engineering Battalion and the Transport Headquarters are already in Tabatinga working on infrastructure preparation,” CCOMSEX reported in a press release. General Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira, commander of the Brazilian Army Logistic Command, told Diálogo that logistics planning is essential for holding an event of AMAZONLOG’s stature. “It’s a remote region with few services and very little infrastructure, which faces weather and geographic adversities. Developing solutions and rapid responses to aid the populations impacted by any kind of accident is a huge challenge.” Twenty eight vehicles loaded with 25 containers full of equipment to set up the exercise are already on their way to the site. The trip across land stretched from Rio de Janeiro to Porto Velho, the capital of Rondônia, in the northern region of Brazil. From that point, the River Transport Center of the Amazon Military Command (CMA, per its Portuguese acronym) moved the equipment to Tabatinga. Concerted efforts to prepare the terrain and the urban areas involved ensued, according to information from CCOMSEX. “Our special border force has received special attention from EB, paving roads, repairing the sewage system, port infrastructure, establishing better communication networks, and renovating the local power grid to bring it into compliance, as well as repairing structures linked to support health services for the local population,” EB explained. Lead-up events In addition to sending in equipment for the setup, EB held strategic coordination meetings for the exercise, and trained service members on effectively completing the missions of AMAZONLOG 2017 and some of the events leading up to it. Among those was the Tabletop Exercise held at the CMA in Manaus, August 28th –September 1st. Service members from the armed forces of five partner nations and representatives from various government agencies participated in that exercise. The activity that included troops and resources simulated military crisis and operations modeled after the events to take place in the upcoming exercise. Participants also took the opportunity to get a head start on coordinating efforts for the AMAZONLOG exercise. During the simulation, a master conceptualization of the logistics exercise was presented at the strategic, political, tactical, and operational levels. Another activity was the Humanitarian Logistics Symposium held at the same time as the Military Materiel Exhibition, September 26th–28th, in the capital of the state of Amazonas. “Issues of a humanitarian nature were discussed, such as providing aid to displaced civilians, assisting civilians affected by drug trafficking and terrorism, ancillary operations in support of the civilian population, and the role of law enforcement officers in remote regions prone to transnational crime and recurring natural disasters such as droughts and floods,” explained CCOMSEX. According to EB, the Military Materiel Exhibition also opened up spaces for companies in the defense sector to demonstrate their products. Companies working on clean energy production, which can be a double benefit for Amazonian communities, were of special interest. U.S. Army Major Cornelius D. Wilbert, a military science advisor with the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, praised these events for their quality and noted how important AMAZONLOG is in tightening relations between the United States and Brazil. “The expo and symposium were impressive events, and allowed great collaboration between military and industry partners. We are excited to demonstrate our technologies and enable long lasting partnerships that will benefit both our nations,” he said. Multinational Interagency Logistics Exercise The exercise itself is due to gather nearly 1,500 people—officials and military officers from Brazil and foreign nations—through the installation of an Integrated Multinational Logistics Base in Tabatinga, November 6th¬–13th. EB alone has 1,000 service members participating. Sailors and airmen from the Brazilian Navy and Air Force will also take part in the combined exercise. Military observers from 16 nations—among them representatives from Canada, Chile, Germany, Israel, and the United Kingdom—have already confirmed their attendance. Brazil, Colombia, and Peru will participate with troops and logistical units, and the United States with observers and logistical units. The United States will send a C-130 transport plane, a mobile kitchen, a water purification station, and a medical team. In a press conference held in Manaus, General Racine Lima of the Brazilian Army, and in charge of coordinating AMAZONLOG 2017, explained that the operation, in addition to promoting shared experiences and the development of knowledge, skills, and mutual trust, will establish a center for multinational logistics coordination in the Americas. “Through the center, it will be possible to gather data and information needed for the rapid mobilization of military forces to assist populations during emergencies,” he noted. Training service members and civilians on the use of the logistics system to assist populations, as happens in peacekeeping and humanitarian aid missions, will be a priority during AMAZONLOG. “It’s an opportunity to increase the interoperability of the armed forces and agencies of border nations in the region with those of the other participating nations, building a multinational capacity for response in the fields of humanitarian operations and logistics,” Gen. Theophilo said, adding that the exercise will help provide better assistance to the border communities involved.
By Kay Valle/Diálogo August 01, 2018 Humanitarian brigades of the Honduran Armed Forces, in cooperation with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), provided free health services to western and central Honduran communities. The assistance campaigns, conducted June 2–July 5, 2018, provided medical care, social services, and supplies to more than 50,000 people. Hundreds of service members of the Armed Forces, including medical and military personal, took part in the campaign along with 30 CBN volunteers. CBN’s mobile clinic visited the departments of Copán, Ocotepeque, Lempira, Intibucá, Comayagua, Francisco Morazán, Valle, and Paraíso, and stopped over in many communities. “A total of 20 brigades deployed in the country,” Honduran Army Colonel Jayme Argueta, chief of Policy of the Armed Forces’ Directorate of Plans, Policies, Programs, and Civil Affairs, told Diálogo. “Members of CBN, the Armed Forces, and civil volunteers took part in each campaign.” Vital relief In each community, adults, children, and senior citizens formed long lines early in the morning to be seen by general practitioners, pediatricians, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, dentists, and other health professionals. In addition to preventive services and treatments, brigades distributed medicine and supplies, such as food, hygiene kits, clothes, and other items. The brigades provide vital relief to people in rural and remote communities who suffer from a lack of health services and resources. Neither the long trip to the brigades nor the long lines discouraged villagers, who on occasion ventured from one brigade to another. Such was the case of Luis Alberto Álvarez Rodas, who waited since 6 a.m. on June 22nd to be treated for diabetes and hypertension at the brigade in the Kennedy neighborhood of Tegucigalpa. Two days later, the 55-year-old man would travel to the Honduran Air Force Central Complex, also in Tegucigalpa, for another consultation. “I’m coming today for a checkup for my diseases,” Álvarez told Diálogo. “For a poor person like me, the services of the brigade really help. I’ll visit another brigade at the Air Force to get my eyesight checked.” Additional support In addition to medical services, the campaign offered legal consultations, beauty services such as haircuts and dyes, and spiritual guidance by CBN. Children enjoyed games, bounce houses, and other leisure activities, turning the events into festivities. Vilma Pérez, mother of a 6-year-old girl, traveled to the brigade at the Kennedy neighborhood to receive dental care. For Pérez, the care of the dentistry team and the festive atmosphere were a blessing. “I don’t have enough financial means, so I can’t go to a private clinic,” Pérez told Diálogo. “Thank God for the brigades.” As part of the support, the Armed Forces fumigated communities and visited and treated the water with chemicals to control mosquito-borne plagues. Some communities, such as the municipality of Jesús de Otoro, department of Intibucá, also received help from the Armed Forces’ First Engineers Battalion, who repaired 15 kilometers of roads. “With the medical caravan, CBN joins the institutional efforts of the Armed Forces,” Honduran Naval Force Captain José Domingo Meza, director of Public Affairs for the Armed Forces, told Diálogo. “They support the population by providing assistance with a modern medical clinic, advanced technology, and medicine, while the Armed Forces provide logistics support and medical personnel.” The brigades served a total of 56,906 people, said Col. Argueta. “In one month we assisted more people than planned,” he added. Alliance agreement The assistance campaign was conducted under the framework of an agreement in early April 2018 between the Honduran Armed Forces and CBN. The U.S. broadcasting and production company sponsors medical assistance services in rural areas around the world. The goal is to provide basic health services, medical supplies, and training in health matters. “We’ve been working on this agreement for a long time to see how we can help more through an institution as big as CBN,” Honduran Defense Minister Fredy Santiago Díaz Zelaya said. “[The goal is] to put into practice the knowledge they have and especially the resources […] to continue supporting Honduras just as the Armed Forces know how to.” In addition to CBN-assisted brigades, the Armed Forces expect to conduct more than 150 medical brigades in 2018. “This partnership was beneficial not only for the medical care provided, but also the strengthening of moral and spiritual values, which is in line with the goals of the Armed Forces’ social outreach projects,” Capt. Meza concluded.
By Lorena Baires / Diálogo September 20, 2019 The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), through the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, donated four Bell UH-1ST helicopters to the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security’s Air Vigilance Service (SVA, in Spanish), in the first half of 2019. The aircraft will extend by two more years the Air Training Program, which INL leads since 2009 to counter narcotrafficking and air and maritime criminal activities and to provide assistance in natural disasters and humanitarian crises.“The helicopters will cover the whole territory and will combat narcotrafficking and transnational organized crime. These will also have the opportunity to offer services in emergencies and other situations,” Richard Glenn, INL Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, told the press. “Year after year, we see the efficiency with which they handle the tools and training that we provide. Costa Rica shares with the United States the willpower and sense of collective mission to confront regional problems.”The U.S. investment is valued at $48 million and includes the four helicopters; their refurbishing, maintenance, and spare parts, in addition to training for SVA members. “The training program started with 25 SVA officers, including pilots, co-pilots, and maintenance and logistics technicians,” Captain Juan Luis Vargas, SVA commander, told Diálogo. “We will start a four-month module with the flight crews. When our crew is ready, we will begin executing operations to counter organized crime. The idea is for crews of both countries to merge during the missions.”The program seeks to have SVA fully manage the units after the two years of training. “These capabilities will promote and strengthen state security institutions. We will count on support from both the U.S. and Colombian Armed Forces’ instructors,” said Major Patrick Beville, U.S. Air Force Foreign Affairs officer in Costa Rica.U.S. subject matter experts inspect the donated aircraft. After two years of training, the Costa Rican Air Vigilance Service will manage the units. (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica)The helicopters hold 15 people, three crew members and 12 passengers. They have two engines and can reach speeds of up to 127 miles per hour. With a load capacity of 7,303 pounds, they have a coverage range of 209 miles. Another advantage is that they can operate in mountainous terrain and variable conditions, ideal for the country’s geography.“It’s a functional aircraft that will give us great autonomy; we won’t have to ask other countries for help, since its load cabin allows for two configurations: one to carry passengers, and another to transport up to a ton of cargo,” Capt. Vargas said. “If we have to provide emergency assistance, the cabin can become a medical area, where we can put up to six stretchers and arrange a space for medical personnel. They come equipped with cranes for vertical rescue or humanitarian airdrops.”The aircraft cabins are armored on the sides and under the pilots’ seats. They also allow pilots to conduct instrument flights and use night goggles. With this technology, SVA will be able to execute strategies to counter organized crime together with the National Coast Guard Service and the National Police.According to INL, Costa Rica ranked third in drug seizures among Latin American countries in 2018. “In 2018, we seized 33 tons of marijuana, and so far this year , we’ve seized nine,” said Miguel Soto, Costa Rican minister of security. “As this is one of the first stops to smuggle U.S.-bound cocaine, we counter speedboats that operate hundreds of miles off the Pacific coast.”Costa Rica is one of the main and strongest U.S. partners in the fight against transnational threats in the region. “For many years, our countries have been close operational and strategic partners in a variety of security cooperation activities,” said Hakim Hasan, information officer at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica. “With this combined work, our partnership transforms the country’s capabilities to secure its borders, improve security, and address the causes of crime.”
By Ricardo Guanipa D’Erizans/Diálogo June 04, 2020 The Nicolás Maduro regime has lifted the prohibition on river mining, authorizing gold and diamond exploitation in six rivers in the country’s south. The April 8 decree declared the Aro, Caroní, Caura, Cuchivero, Cuyuní, and Yuruari rivers (vital riverine areas in the Amazon) suitable for mining, incorporating them with the Orinoco Mining Arc project — an area that covers 12 percent of the Venezuelan territory and comprises Bolívar and Amazonas states.In mid-April, the Venezuelan National Assembly led by Juan Guaidó condemned and rejected this decree, which, according to legislators, could worsen environmental conditions, increase persecution of indigenous communities, and is also a constitutional violation.River mining was already carried out illegally in Venezuela, so critics said that the decree was created only for Maduro to continue to plunder the nation’s wealth and finance narcotrafficking.“Maduro is just formalizing illegal mining activities in Venezuelan rivers,” Liborio Guarulla, former governor of Amazonas state on the border with Colombia, told Diálogo. “We’ve been denouncing the same activities for four years […]. In Amazonas state, Colombian guerrillas and Venezuelan irregular groups carry out illegal mining, working in some way with the protection of the Venezuelan government.”During a parliamentary session on April 21, representative Américo De Grazia called the decree a “legal monstrosity” and blamed narco-terrorist groups.“The FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], the ELN [National Liberation Army], and Hezbollah have taken by force every mining site in southern Orinoco, in the Venezuelan Amazon, and in the Orinoco Delta, causing ecocide and displacing a great number of indigenous ethnic groups,” De Grazia said.Guarulla said that Maduro and his closest allies, whom the United States formally charged with narcotrafficking, will profit even more from river mining with this decree, because they will be able to control rivers, which according to him, are already being used to transport drugs from Colombia to the Atlantic.“The activities are conducted on the Guaviare [a tributary of the Orinoco River in Colombia] but mainly on the Orinoco River, which allows [narcotraffickers] to reach Venezuelan territory and go to Brazil or the Atlantic Ocean with their drug shipments,” Guarulla said.In addition to politicians, several environmental and human rights groups have opposed Maduro’s decree for its highly damaging impact on the environment and the suffering that mining brings to the Mining Arc’s indigenous people. Many are forced to work under the threat of violence, are subjected to atrocities, and even killed, indicates the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank, in its April 2020 report, Illegal Mining in Venezuela: Death and Devastation in the Amazonas and Orinoco Regions.On May 8, the Ecological Research Center of Venezuela reported that criminal groups that carry out mining operations on the Caura River, which was declared suitable for exploitation, had killed 13 members of the Yekuana indigenous community. According to PROVEA, a Venezuelan nongovernmental organization for human rights, at least 16 indigenous communities, totaling about 50,000 people, live near the rivers that are now open to mining in Bolívar state.The decree’s illegal nature has also been pointed out. The Political Ecology Observatory of Venezuela reported on its website that river mining violates Sections 53 and 54 of the Venezuelan Constitution’s Water Law.“The rivers in Bolívar state are part of the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and 90 percent of the water supply for all of Venezuela,” representative Rachid Yasbek, told Diálogo. “For this reason, before Chavismo came to power, constitutional orders banned these mining activities in Venezuelan rivers. However, Maduro uses the exploitation of this gold to maintain his dictatorship, after having destroyed the country’s entire productive apparatus.”
February 1, 2001 Regular News Russomanno talks judicial independence with students Russomanno talks judicial independence with students Bar President Herman Russomanno recently spoke at the Florida high school “We the People.. . The Citizens and the Constitution” mock congressional hearing competition at the University of Central Florida. The competition, at which the students demonstrate their knowledge of American rights and responsibilities, is sponsored by the Florida Law Related Education Association. Below is Russomanno’s speech on the importance of judicial independence. The Florida Bar is indeed honored to participate in the 2001 “We the People…The Citizen and The Constitution” High School Competition. On behalf of The Florida Bar and our Board of Governors, we congratulate you for your outstanding accomplishments. You are the students from the great state of Florida. You are the defending national champions. You are the best of the best, and due to your diligent preparation, you have qualified to participate in the state finals this year. You are exceptional students who have special gifts, which include the power of persuasion. You are also blessed to live in this wonderful country where you can study the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights and learn first hand the institutions of American Constitutional Democracy. As you study America’s constitutional ideals you see the influence of our ideals about government and human rights on the rest of the world. Few historic documents have had the impact of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. These words have been copied in other countries’ charters of freedom. The first three words of the Constitution’s Preamble, “We the People,” are so powerful. While written over 214 years ago, these simple words and what they represent are envied today by billions of people around the world. On behalf of The Florida Bar, we thank all the excellent teachers who have educated their students about the meaning and value of the U.S. Constitution. And to The Florida Law Related Education Association, its executive director Annette Boyd Pitts, Steve Shenkman and its entire staff, our congratulations for the outstanding work you do in improving justice through law and citizenship education opportunities. Your association has a distinguished history of developing and implementing law related education programs in Florida and through international exchange. What elements of American constitutionalism have been most widely adopted by other countries? The most widely admired and imitated feature of the U.S. Constitution, after the Bill of Rights, has been the establishment of an independent judiciary. An inviolate—secure from outside influence—judicial branch acts as the watchdog of the Constitution and prevents the executive and legislative branches of government from disregarding it. The judicial branch helps to ensure that the words of the Constitution will be obeyed by the government. As future leaders you must embrace the importance of judicial independence, you must protect our constitutional heritage, and you must vigorously defend judicial independence from attack. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson protested the fact that King George III “made judges dependent on his will alone.” British judges who wanted to keep their jobs lacked the power to rule against the Crown or Parliament. Fortunately, in our great country, the framers of our U.S. Constitution codified the concept of judicial independence into the Constitution by granting judges life tenure and providing salary protection. Simply stated, judicial independence means that judges need not fear punishment for using their best judgment to interpret the law. This precious concept is so important because it provides for continuity and stability in our legal system, guaranteeing that disputes can be resolved fairly and impartially either by the judge or by a jury. While trial by jury is a precious right in America, an independent judge does not fear for her or his job or good reputation when ruling against excessive governmental regulation, overzealous law enforcement, or discriminatory policies. Judges who are fearful that they can be punished—or removed from office—are less likely to be fair and impartial in cases that come before them. Courts in this country, including our distinguished Florida Supreme Court, have come under attack from partisan groups. These groups manufacture outrage and rant and rave about judicial decisions. These individuals who are impatient with the rule of law or reject it outright are attempting to secure their own interests by undermining judicial independence. An independent judiciary enriches democracy. The decisions of courageous judges, on matters such as education, voting rights, housing, the ability to ride in the front of a bus, drink from the same water fountain, enjoy the freedom of expression, have contributed to the free and open society we have today. America is a far better country because of our system of checks and balances. As we celebrate judicial independence we also celebrate diversity. There are some 200 students in this audience and it is so wonderful to see the rich diversity in this competition. Diversity in the legal profession and in our courts must become a reality. Justice may be blind but we all know that diversity in the courts, as in all aspects of society, sharpens our vision and makes us a stronger nation. We as a nation must celebrate our diversity. How many of you want to become lawyers? Let me see with a show of hands. It is gratifying to see so many of you raising your hands. I am so proud to be a lawyer. Always remember that lawyers help people. Regardless of your race, color or creed, lawyers are there to represent you. The law is a noble profession. It is a privilege to practice law; however, this privilege is burdened with conditions. Some of you one day will become Florida lawyers. You will be the leaders of our profession. As a lawyer you will take an oath of admission to The Florida Bar. You will raise you right hand and solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida. You will also swear to maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers. “So help me God.” As an officer of the court you will have awesome responsibilities. As a professional lawyer who embraces the creed of professionalism, you will care deeply about the law, the judicial system and the legal profession. The creed ends with these five words: “My word is my bond.” Your reputation is everything. Your good name can be lost in a split second. You can spend a lifetime trying to regain your reputation. As a lawyer, especially those of you who choose to become trial lawyers and enjoy a career in the courtroom, you will be tested in litigation. As we know there is, unfortunately, incivility in society. As trial lawyers, you must lead by example: Civility is not a sign of weakness but a badge of honor. As I complete my remarks I ask that you promise to write down your goals when you complete this competition. Place these written goals behind your high school diploma when you graduate later this year. Let us make a date 25 years from today to celebrate your accomplishments. In this distinguished group we may have a chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, a governor, a member of Congress, a member of the Florida Legislature, a law school dean or professor, a college university president or the executive director of the Florida Law Related Education Association. You can and will make a difference in shaping the future in the 21st century. Will you be remembered as a leader who fought to have full and equal participation of women and minorities in the legal profession and throughout the corporations of this country? Will you be remembered as a leader in government and who sought to unite our people? And finally, will you be remembered as a leader who truly believed in the importance of an independent judiciary and had the courage, conviction and commitment to vigorously protect judicial independence in the 21st century? Let us join hands today, walking shoulder to shoulder, and climb that mountain together. You are the guardians of an independent judiciary.