Colombia braces for inauguration violence

From Canada Free Press, Aug. 7 (links, annotation and emphasis added by WW4 REPORT):

With world attention trained on Israel and Hezbollah, the situation is tense in Bogota, Colombia, today as President Alvaro Uribe prepares for his inauguration for a second four-year term.

Armed soldiers on armored vehicles patrol downtown streets. Helicopters hover over the nervous city.

Military and police have been placed on Red Alert and some ordinary Colombians were hesitant about venturing out to work.

“It gives you a queasy feeling to see armed military across the street from the apartment building where you live, particularly when you remember what went on here this week,” factory worker Pedro Alvarez told in a telephone interview last night.

Rebels were blamed for detonating two car bombs that exploded last week in Bogota [one civilian dead, 15 soldiers injured, Reuters, July 31] and Cali [four police and the driver dead, 16 others injured, DPA, Aug. 5] in a series of attacks on government soldiers.

Rebels met Alvaro Uribe’s first inauguration as president in 2002 with a direct mortar attack on the governing palace.

Unabashedly Conservative, Uribe has something in common with U.S. President George W. Bush: hostility of enemies at the thought of “four more years”.

Uribe had barbarians at is gate. Bush, whose enemies say “stole” the election has been demonized by the media ever since replacing Democrat Bill Clinton at the White House.

And the comparisons between both presidents don’t stop there.

During his second term, the much-maligned Bush has been blamed for everything, including the weather.

“There is a curse of the second term: You have a lot of hubris, the arrogance of power, a move to a more personalized rule,” said Michael Shifter, a senior fellow with Inter-American Dialogue of the May 2006 re-election of President Alvaro Uribe. “The history of second terms across the region has not been encouraging.”

While there were no chads to dispute in Uribe’s second return to power, detractors accuse him of ramming through Colombia’s legislature a constitutional change to allow him a second term.

While Washington’s closest ally in Latin American is being sworn in today, a plethora of left-wing presidents have taken power in neighbouring countries, not the least of whom is sworn George Bush enemy Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Uribe, whose administration has seen a sharp reduction in violence and crime, is in hot pursuit of the leftist guerrillas, who marred his first inauguration,

The death toll is at 32 as inauguration ceremonies get underway. Eight Colombians, most of them police and soldiers were killed in attacks by left-wing rebels on Friday.

Five police officers and a civilian died in a car bomb explosion in the city of Cali and two soldiers were gunned down while searching for explosives in the southwestern province of Tolima, where the guerrillas maintain a strong presence.

The car bomb went off in front of a police station. The civilian who died was seated in the car that exploded. Police report that it appeared he had been “used” by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) in the bombing.

Colombia’s ongoing insurgency dates back to four decades, and intensifies during elections and inaugurations.

In an era where terrorists are asking to be delisted from international terrorist lists, FARC has recently asked the European Union to be taken off its official list of terrorist organizations.

Meanwhile, some 30,000 soldiers and police patrol the streets in Bogota, while soldiers armed with assault rifles and armored vehicle stand guard at checkpoints across the capital city.

Dozens of presidents and foreign dignitaries are expected to attend today’s ceremony with the U.S. delegation being led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

But as in other countries, it’s often the little people who suffer most in political clashes.

Twenty-one civilians who lived in a poor neighbourhood near the palace were killed during President Uribe’s inauguration in May of 2002.

In a country where reprisals and vendettas take their toll, Colombia’s nonprofit Association of Relatives of the Disappeared Detained recorded some 7,300 cases of “forced disappearances” between 1997 and 2004.

As factory worker Alvarez told canadafreepress, “There’s a sense of unease over our city and there will be until the inauguration ceremony is over.”

“There may be some similarities in the hostile resistance to both President Bush and President Uribe,” said Alvarez. “But America inaugurations are marked by fireworks in the sky, while in Colombia they’re marked by car bombs on the streets.”

While we applaud Canada Free Press for on-the-scene coverage from Colombia, this report seems slanted for Uribe. It notes attacks on the security forces but not far more widespread attacks on civilians by the security forces. (The “disappeared” are mentioned, but no blame is assigned.) Worse still, we had to correct the spelling of the country in question, which they rendered “Columbia.” It’s not British Columbia, you rubes!

And by the way, maybe the weather is Bush’s fault!

See our last post on Colombia.