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Tuesday, March 30, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia hostage release mission delayed by rain.

I made some comments about this release (and the successful release of another hostage yesterday, in a post yesterday.

Once Moncayo is released, the FARC will still have roughly twenty police and soldiers in their custody (according to press accounts).    They say that they will release no more prisoners until the government agrees to a prisoner exchange of some sort.

Interestingly, President Uribe appears willing to consider a negotiation on that count.  The BBC reported yesterday:  Colombia’s Uribe ‘not against’ hostage-rebel swap.  His main public requirement being that released rebels not be allowed to return to fighting.  The piece notes “There is unlikely to be any development on exchanging prisoners until the new president takes office in August.”  This strikes me as correct.

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Monday, March 29, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

Pregame

365.88 (3/29/10)

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By Steven L. Taylor

No, I am not talking about health care reform or what to do about the Tea Partiers, but rather the Colombian Conservative Party.  Despite its revitalization of late from party on life support to key coalition partner in terms of governing, it is facing a tough road in its quest for the presidency.

It is worth pointing out that during the post-National Front era1 that the Liberals dominated presidential elections until the era of Uribe, winning in 1974, 1978, 1986, 1990 and 1994.  A Conservative, running as a pluriparitasn candidate under the label of the “National Movement” (Betancur) won in 1982 when the PL split its vote between the mainline candidate (ex-president López) and the New Liberal Party candidate (Galán).  In 1998 the PC-endorsed, but technically independent,2 Andrés Pastrana won, beating Liberal Horacio Serpa.3  In 2002 the PC nominee, Juan Camilo Restrepo withdrew before the elections and the PC supported Uribe.

In fact, the last time that that the PC had a candidate on the ballot actually running the Conservative label was 1990 when Rodrgio Lloreda was the candidate the of Partido Social Conservador 4  The last time a Conservative, running as a Conservative, won the presidency was when Misael Pastrana (father of the aforementioned Andrés) did so in 1970 in what was not only the last year of the National Front (which should have guaranteed Pastrana the presidency basically uncontested-see footnote #1 below) but instead was probably awarded to him as a result of electoral fraud, as the likelihood is that the former military dictator,5 Gustav Rojas Pinilla, probably won that election.  Prior to that, the PC last won a contested (and non-National Front election) was in 1946 (when the PL split the vote with two candidates).6

Keep in mind, too, that despite all of this difficulty at winning the presidency, that the Colombian party system was very much a two-party one until 1991, with the two parties being the Conservatives and the Liberals.

All of this is to say that Noemí Sanín has a of of historical baggage to carry into the May elections as the Conservative nominee.  Again:  she will be the first candidate to explicitly run as a “Conservative” since 1990 and depending on how one wants to count things, it has either been a while, or a very long while,7 since the Conservatives have won the Casa de Nariño.

And now, there appears to be internal fracturing within the PC.  Specifically, Semana reports (Conato de rebelión) that a major Conservative figure, Carlos Rodado Noriega (described by the article as a “blue sacred cow”—blue is the official color of the PC) , is resigning his post as Ambassador to Spain to work for the campaign of Juan Manuel Santos of La U (who leads Sanín in all the polls).  The article also notes that the son of a major Conservative figure ran for, and won, a seat in the Chamber as a member of La U.8

Further, the article looks at recent polling and finds that only 9% of the voters from the primary who voted for Sanín’s adversary, Andrés Felipe Arias, plan to vote for Sanín in the first round.  Instead, 62% of them plan to vote for Santos.  Of course, the numbers also show that 32% of those who voted for Sanín also plan to vote for Santos.  Part of that is lack of party loyalty and part of that is the result of an open primary during the congressional elections when a lot of non-Conservatives (or, at least, lukewarm ones) were able to vote in the primary if they so chose.

All of this is to say that the PC’s presidential drought is quite likely to continue, even though Sanín may end up being the most successful such candidate in some time.

To me it will be interesting to see how the PC is able to handle its relative success in legislative elections while dealing with likely failure on the presidential level.

  1. The National Front was a power-sharing regime that lasted fro 1958-1974 wherein the Colombian presidency alternated between the Liberal and Conservatives every four years. []
  2. i.e., on the ballot and in his campaign literature he did not identify as a Conservative.  Instead on the ballot in place of a party name was “The Great Alliance for Change” and instead of a party logo was the word “The Change is Andrés.” []
  3. Who would go to lose to Uribe twice:  in 2002 and 2006. []
  4. The party briefly changed its name in the late 1980s/early 1990s. []
  5. 1953-1957 []
  6. The party won the office in 1950, also, but in an essentially uncontested process. []
  7. Some would say 1998, others 1982, and yet others 1970. []
  8. Miguel Gómez Martínez, son of former Senator Enrique Gómez.  The Gómez family was once one of the two major Conseravtive families, but it is also true that since 1990, the Gómez’s have been more than willing to run under non-Conservative labels.  Miguel’s uncle, for example, ran for the presidency in 1990 under the “National Salvation Movement” label. []
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By Steven L. Taylor

imageA third poll, this one by Ipsos-Napoleon Franco [PDF], provides another snapshot of the Colombian electorate in regards to the pending first round election for president.  The numbers are quite similar to the two previous polls (i.e., Gallup and Datexco).

Beyond the question of candidate-preference (as detailed on the right), 54% of the respondents think that Colombia is on the right path and 77% have a favorable view of President Uribe.  Both of those numbers are good news for Juan Manuel Santos and also explains why the top two candidates come from the current governing coalition.

Interestingly, 24% of respondents identify their party affiliation as with the Liberals, but PL candidate Rafael Pardo only has 4% in the poll.

Party affiliation in the poll is as follows:

La U 27%
Liberal 24%
No Party 19%
Conservative 16%
Polo Democrático 5%
Cambio Radical 3%
Other Party 3%
Independent 3%
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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LATColombian rebels release soldier held for 11 months

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, released Josue Daniel Calvo, 23, to a team that included representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, a Brazilian helicopter crew and leftist Sen. Piedad Cordoba, a key intermediary in other FARC hostage releases over the last two years.

The FARC has promised to also release another solider, Pablo Emilio Moncayo.  Moncayo was captured when he was 18 and has been in the FARC’s custody for 12 years.   It is an almost inconceivable notion:  basically he has spent his entire adult life as a prisoner.

Moncayo’s father once walked across Colombia to draw attention to his son’s plight.  Hopefully father and son will soon be reunited.

Still, as I have noted about the FARC in the past:  I fail to see (and most Colombians fail to see) how holding a young man fulfilling his required service to the military for almost half his life serves social justice or the cause of the “revolution.”  The FARC have, despite their rhetoric about fighting the oligarchy, more frequently than not ended up attacking the people for whom they claim to fight.  Regardless of anything else, this has long struck me as a rather ineffective method to achieve revolutionary change.

The BBC’s write-up is here: click.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Moscow Metro hit by deadly suicide bombings

At least 37 people have been killed after two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on Moscow Metro trains in the morning rush hour, officials say.

Twenty-four died in the first blast at 0756 (0356 GMT) as a train stood at the central Lubyanka station, beneath the offices of the FSB intelligence agency.

About 40 minutes later, a second explosion ripped through a train at Park Kultury, leaving another 13 dead.

No one has yet claimed responsibility, although the early money appears to be on Chechen separatists.

As a side note, I see that Fox News continues to make the editorial choice to use the term “homicide bomber” to refer to such attacks:  Homicide Bombers Kill 37 on Moscow Subway.  While I understand that the goal is to put the emphasis on the murders rather than the death of the bomber, I have always found the terms awkward and actually one that is less descriptive than “suicide bomber” as it would seem to me that someone who planted a bomb and then ran away or someone who remote-detonated a bomb would also be a “homicide bomber.”  Indeed, it would seem that, properly defined, someone who planted an IED, for example, could fit the term “homicide bomber.”  The term “suicide bomber,” therefore, actually conveys more information than does “homicide bomber.” 

For that matter, I find the concept of a suicide bomber actually somewhat more frightening than someone attacking from afar, if only because such a person is willing to die in an attempt to ensure maximum damage.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

Liberty in Spring

365.87 (3/28/10). Taken in Birmingham, AL.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN:  Obama makes surprise trip to Afghanistan.

My position on surprise visits to Afghanistan is the same as my position on surprise visits to Iraq:  as long as the security situation is such that high level US functionaries can only travel there is secret, it is an indication of lack of success.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via McClatchy:  Maliki’s forces move against winning Sunni candidates

At least four Sunni Muslim candidates who appear to have won parliamentary seats on the winning ticket of secular leader Ayad Allawi have become targets of investigation by security forces reporting to the narrowly defeated Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, according to interviews Saturday with relatives, Iraqi security forces and the U.S. military.

Considering Maliki’s party is two seats behind Allawi’s for plurality in the parliament and the likely driver’s seat to form the next government, this looks suspicious and the story reinforces those suspicions.  Although, one would presume that even if the four in question are stripped of their seats that four others from Allawi’s list would get to replace them (but I do not know what the rules are in this regard).  Regardless, having electoral victors investigated this soon after election results are announced is problematic, especially when the Prime Minister has said things like the following:

Maliki alluded to the cases in his televised refusal Friday to accept a loss in the March 7 parliamentary elections, saying of unnamed rival candidates: "What would happen if some of them are in prison now on terror accusations and they participated in the elections and might win?"

Indeed, the story casts a very negative light on the situation, and one that does not speak well of the health of Iraqi democratic development, although it is noted that the arrest warrants were issued before the elections, for whatever that may (or may not) be worth.

More later, one would suspect.

h/t:  Jim Henley via a comment.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

Shrouded Moon

An alternative shot:

Shrouded Moon II

365.86 (2/27/10).

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