Colombian Senate to Final Debate on Transitional Justice

Bogota, March 13 (Prensa Latina) Colombian senators resume today the analysis of the legislative project that will give life to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), considered the backbone of the agreement between the government and FARC-EP insurgents.

After spiny discussions and other setbacks such as the absence of congressmen, the final debate of this rule will take place in the Senate plenary meeting, one of the most controversial of the package planned to implement the agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC) -EP).

Under the JEP salons and courts will be constituted with the objective of investigating, judging and punishing those responsible for the long conflict with premises such as zero impunity for crimes against humanity but benefits of pardons and amnesties in cases of political and related crimes.

Likewise, the treatment of the military and other agents of the State is contemplated in a special chapter within the project.

Last Saturday President Juan Manuel Santos assured that this is one of the most important decisions that the Capitol will take throughout its history and requested support from representatives of all parties to approve the creation of the JEP.

In the Congress of the Republic we must vote for the model of transitional justice (to move from war to a scenario of relaxation), of special justice, so that we can consolidate peace; I call on the senators to be present, stressed the president.

Meanwhile, the president of the highest legislative body, Mauricio Lizcano, commented that not to approve the JEP would be equal to leave unpunished all the serious crimes that occurred in the context of the confrontation and prevent the victims from knowing the truth.

The agreement reached in Havana and initialed in this capital on November 24 includes a comprehensive system to clarify the truth, to apply justice, to repair the damages caused to the victims of the conflict (totaling almost 8 million) and to give them guarantees of non-repetition.

Some 7,000 FARC-EP guerrillas are concentrated in 19 zones and seven points (smaller than the first ones) of 14 departments where they will leave the armament in their possession.

The validation of the JEP and the application of the amnesty law, previously sanctioned, are two of the demands of the guerrilla, the largest in the country.

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Venezuelans Honor Chávez's Legacy

Venezuelans continue to show their attachment to the legacy of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, with activities in his honor that will extend until March 15.

The commemorative activities for the fourth anniversary of the death of the heir to the legacy of the Liberator Simon Bolivar in the Mountain Barracks, located in the parish January 23 of Caracas will continue today.

From 11:00 a.m. local time, attendees will be able to witness the forum Social Compensation of the Latin American Armed Forces, with the participation of Roger Blandino Nerio, Fernando Morales, and Ñilda Díaz.

Other activities will take place in this museum where the remains of Chavez rest, especially in the room Arañero (street vendor), where children can participate in the activities Painting the Commander, Knowing the Arañero and Our Mural of the Arañero.

In this scenario of pilgrimage, Venezuelans and foreigners can tour the facilities of the barracks and see the different rooms of the museum, as well as the exhibition Chávez: un soldado hecho pueblo, which will be open from 09:00 to 16:00 local time.

Last night Caracas mayor Jorge Rodríguez during his weekly program 'Política en el diván' (Politics on the couch) said that President Hugo Chávez appeared in the history of Venezuela and the world to 'transform it forever.'

He stressed that Hugo Chávez observes and guides the revolutionaries and the entire Venezuelan people from the top of the mountain barracks 'before the arbitrary actions of imperialism.'

The memory transcends the Venezuelan borders and these days his name and figure is a source of remembrance in the world, and as noted by the Australian journalist Julian Assange, Chavez had the most important role for the construction of a multipolar world, which people do not forget.

'Chavez played the most important role on the global stage with his untiring efforts to continue advancing regional integration and cooperation and building a multipolar world,' Assange said in a letter sent Monday to the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity, which is meeting in Caracas.

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After Teachers, Now Workers March Against Macri in Argentina

This unified protest is a preview for an upcoming national general strike to protest the Macri government.

As workers take to the streets and teachers strike for the second day in a row Tuesday, the Argentine government is set to deal with another national union strike, as the country's largest trade union has vowed to call for a large protest if President Mauricio Macri's administration fails to resolve outstanding labor disputes.

GALLERY: Mass Teachers Strike in Argentina

Tuesday's union march, organized by the General Confederation of Labor, known as CGT, boasts the support of social movements, leftists political parties, doctors, teachers, transportation unions, universities and other organizations that have expressed their discontent with the Macri administration and its economic policies, as well as the soaring 40 percent inflation rate.

"This is the beginning of the struggle plan so they respect the commitments made," said Carlos Acuña, one of the leaders of the CGT. "There are tests on the table, there is no more time for dialogue, they have to comply, it's the only way this situation can be reversed."

The march is a prelude to a strike the CGT is expected to schedule for the end of March or the beginning of April to ramp up pressure on the government if authorities do not fulfill unions' demands for better working conditions.

The announcement of the impending national strike comes as Argentine teachers entered the second day of a 48-hour national strike that postponed the scheduled beginning of the classes in the country in order to demand better working conditions and salary increases. About 50,000 people attended the protest on its first day.

Macri's chief of staff, Marcos Peña, said that the government "shouldn't be afraid or feel threatened" by the mobilization and called on labor leaders to restart dialogue with the administration.

RELATED: Argentine Soccer Players Strike Over Pay Disputes

"We are not going to anticipate (a strike), the unions also have the right to strike, but we do make a call that we could sit at a table," said Peña.

Peña blamed the CGT for failing to reach an agreement on wages and labor security, saying it has "an enormously fragmented representation."

Several politicians and political parties in opposition to Macri announced they would join the protest and demand that the labor union announce a national strike. 

"We are going for the national strike to break the Macri and his governors' austerity," said the leader of the Labor Party, Nestor Pitrola.

Labor issues were in the spotlight throughout Macri's first year in office, as hundreds of thousands of public and private sector workers lost their jobs, prompting fears of rising levels of poverty in the South American country.

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Polls Divided on Winner in Ecuador's Presidential Runoff Vote

Since returning to democracy, the race for the presidency in Ecuador has been traditionally resolved in a second round.

The first polls after the first round of Ecuador's presidential election show a division between the leftist front-runner Lenin Moreno and the conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso, as two polling organizations place one or the other as the likely winner.

RELATED: 'In 2nd Round, We Will Defeat Them Again': President Correa

According to a survey conducted by the Center for Social Research, known as CIS, ruling Alianza Pais party candidate Moreno holds a significant advantage over Lasso in the second round scenario and was projected in the poll to win with 59 percent of valid votes over 41 percent for his rival.

The survey was conducted in the wake of the Feb. 19 election — from Feb. 22 to 24 — through 2,500 interviews nationwide, and is likely the first of many polls before the April 2 runoff. 

On the other hand, according to the polling company Cedatos, if the election were today Lasso would win 52.1 percent of the valid votes over Moreno's 47.9 percent.

According to the firm, 81 percent of Ecuadoreans have already decided who to vote for, while 19 percent still don't know. The poll was conducted between Thursday and Friday with 2,861 people from 23 cities and has a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

RELATED: Backing ‘Ecuadorean Trump,’ Breitbart Spreads Fake News

With 99.93 percent of the counted votes, the National Electoral Council announced front-runner Moreno led the presidential race with 39.36 percent of the vote of more than 13 million voters. In second place is the right-winger Lasso, who trailed more than 10 percent behind with 28.09 percent.

Although he fell short of the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a second round, Moreno received the highest percentage of the vote in the first round than any other president in Ecuador in past 40 years, with the exception of President Rafael Correa.

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Brazil Corrupt Foreign Minister Resigns Over 'Health Problems'

Jose Serra was found to have received US$7.2 million in a corruption scheme revealed by a recent investigation.

Brazil's Foreign Minister Jose Serra, known for inviting Chevron back into the country, resigned from his post Wednesday, citing health reasons.

RELATED: How the Pro-Coup US Is Undermining Brazil's Democracy

Serra said in a letter to President Michel Temer that he leaves "with sadness, but aware of my health problems that prevent me from keeping up with the pace of international travel required by my role as foreign minister."

"To me, it was a source of pride to be part of his team,” wrote Serra. “I will honor my mandate as a senator in Congress, working to approve projects that seek the recovery of Brazil's economy, social development and democratic consolidation."

He gave no details on his health but said doctors told him recovery would take four months.

The Brazilian top diplomat received US$7.2 million in Swiss bank accounts in the mass corruption scandal with state-owned Petrobras known as “Operation Car Wash,” according to Odebrecht, also investigated for bribery.

The money received by Serra was used to finance his presidential campaign in 2010, when he lost to Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached last year in what many considered a parliamentary coup.

According to documents leaked by WikiLeaks, Serra met with the U.S. government during the Olympics, even before he was selected by Temer, who was also implicated in the corruption scandal.

Serra was seen as a U.S. State Department darling when he ran for president, described in cables as having “little patience for — and little in common with — the antics of the ‘resource caudillos’ (Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez) that now lead South America's anti-Washington Left." To add to this, Serra was seen in Washington as having the best shot against President Dilma Rousseff who “might well function as a positive interlocutor for the United States,” if his qualities are “managed carefully.”

He came to political prominence as health minister during Fernando Henrique Cardoso's presidency from 1994 to 2002, when he defied the international pharmaceuticals industry and allowed generic copies of brand-name drugs to be made in Brazil without the permission of the company that owns the patent.

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International Artists to Liven Up Caracas Carnival 2017

Caracas, Feb 22 (Prensa Latina) The mayor of the Libertador municipality of this capital, Jorge Rodríguez, revealed that the International Carnival Caracas 2017 will conclude with concerts of important artists on Monday and Tuesday, at Los Próceres Avenue.

We will count on the special performance of the members of Corazón Llanero, and international singers such as Tito Rojas, Jorge Celedón, Jerry Rivera and Bonny Cepeda, assured the also leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, during the program La Hora de la Salsa, led by President Nicolás Maduro.

Rodríguez said that Caracas schools have already started carnival parties with the production of typical masks, an activity developed until February 24 in the House of First Letters, under the auspices of the government of the Capital District.

Precisely next Friday, he noted, the Carnival Scream is expected with a parade of costumes and floats made by schools, between the Panteón and Bolivar squares.

That same day, in the Catia Theater will be chosen the godmother and the senior adult godfather, a contest in which people of the elderly of the 22 parishes are presented, and that will be the preamble for the beginning of the Salsa Festival with a concert of the Antaños de San José, he reported.

As detailed, on Saturday 25, at the Bolivar Theater, there will be a festival on the carnival of El Callao, in which the attending public can enjoy gastronomy and handicrafts from that area of the Bolivar state; And the queen of Carnival 2017 will also be chosen.

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Ecuador's Left-Wing Party Wins Big in Elections Across the Country

Despite securing a majority in the National Assembly, Ecuador's Alianza Pais party fell short of avoiding a presidential runoff by less than 0.7 percent.

While electoral authorities have not yet finalized the results of Ecuador's presidential race despite a "clear trend" toward the election going to a runoff, the governing left-wing Alianza Pais party has won the most votes across the ballots for president and representatives in the National Assembly and Andean Parliament.

RELATED: Lenin Moreno Continues the Fight for the Citizens' Revolution

Front-runner Lenin Moreno led the presidential race with 39.33 percent of the vote of more than 13 million voters. The second place candidate, former banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing CREO party, trailed more than 10 percent behind with 28.19 percent.

Although electoral authorities have said Ecuadoreans must wait for 100 percent of the votes to be counted in order to officially confirm whether or not the election will go to a runoff vote, National Electoral Council or CNE chief Juan Pablo Pozo said Tuesday that the preliminary results demonstrated an irreversible trend toward going to a second round. 

Although he fell short of the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a second round, Moreno received the highest percentage of the vote in the first round than any other president in Ecuador in past 40 years, with the exception of President Rafael Correa, who won the election in the first round with more than 50 percent of the votes in 2009 and 2013. The runoff vote will take place on April 2. 

"We are already in campaign uniform, ready to work," Moreno said Tuesday.

Ecuadoreans also voted Sunday in a pioneering referendum on tax havens asking whether voters agreed with a proposal to ban elected officials and public servants from holding wealth in offshore tax havens. With 92.8 percent of the referendum votes counted, the "Yes" vote led with 54.98 percent over 45.02 percent for the "No" side.

Moreno and his ally President Rafael Correa both campaigned for a "Yes" vote, while Lasso — tied to an offshore account revealed in the Panama Papers — supported the "No."

IN DEPTH: Ecuador Votes in Key Election

For members of the National Assembly, according to CNE partial results, Moreno's Alianza Pais and allied groups are set to win an absolute majority with 79 of the 137 seats. 

Electoral authorities said Monday that Ecuadoreans should expect to wait three days for the results to be finalized to confirm whether or not the presidential election will go to a second round between the two front-runners. Despite calls for calm, the delay has sparked discontent among the opposition, with leaders whipping up indignation and calling for destabilizing protests. 

While vote counting unfolded after Sunday's vote, Moreno reiterated his commitment to the social and political project of the Correa government over the past 10 years, known as the Citizen's Revolution, which achieved gains such as cutting extreme poverty nearly in half, lowering inequality and expanding social spending.

“We will continue to serve the people, to continue our process, and to build our revolution," Moreno said during a televised press conference shortly after the polls closed. "But as the respectful citizens that we are, we will await the final results to see what's next."

National Electoral Council officials and international observers have confirmed that the election was fair and transparent.

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Spain's Podemos Snubs Argentina's Macri over Rights Abuses

Spanish lawmakers criticized the visit of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and the human right violations of his government.

Left parties in the Spanish Congress criticized Wednesday the presence of Argentine President Mauricio Macri, with one lawmaker greeting him with a shirt demanding the release of Milagro Sala, an Indigenous activist and lawmaker who was dubbed the first "political prisoner" of Macri's administration when she was arrested after a protest in January 2016.

RELATED: Macri Rejects UN's Call to Release Political Prisoner Sala

Macri also received a letter from the left-wing party Podemos party requesting the release of the activist, who has been in jail for more than a year. After his address to Congress, none of the Podemos lawmakers applauded.

In a second rejection to Macri’s visit, the same party announced its members will not participate in the state dinner that the Spanish king will offer on Wednesday in honor of the Argentine president, his wife Juliana Awada and his team. All parties in Congress are often invited for celebrations as part of official visits by presidents or heads of state.

Upon his arrival, President Macri also shook the hand of lawmaker Irene Montero, a spokesperson for Podemos, who wore a white t-shirt with a drawing of Sala and in black letters the phrase "Free Milagro."

Irene Moreno received Macri in the Spanish Congress with a t-shirt that asks "Freedom for Milagro Sala."

Montero called Macri "an offshore agent," referring to his use of tax havens revealed through the Panama Papers leak last year that identified Macri as one of a dozen global power players with assets in offshore companies.

"It’s not necessary to do those acts of honoring a president of the type of Macri," said Montero during a press conference Tuesday. She also accused him of being "responsible for human rights violations".

RELATED: Milagro Sala Trial: ‘I Apologize for Being Black and an Indian'

Meanwhile, Lawmaker Anton Gomez-Reino blasted the visit, saying that the Congress "is not a chamber of commerce in the service of the Popular Party of (Primer Minister Mariano) Rajoy and President Macri. Congress is not a platform for his friends’ businesses."

Iñigo Errejon, also from Podemos, said he was troubled by the fact that Macri called the parliamentary coup in Brazil against former President Dilma Rousseff “a political change.”

Meanwhile, back in Argentina various workers’ organizations called a massive protest in the capital city of Buenos Aires to protest the Macri government. The movements have also suggested that the may set up an encampment in the center of the capital city to continue the protest against also said they could set up a camp under the emblematic obelisk monument in the center of the city.

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