Tag Archives: Venezuela

Colombian drug lord Daniel Barrera captured in Venezuela

One of Colombia’s most powerful drug barons has been captured in neighboring Venezuela. Colombian president Juan Manual Santos reported that Daniel Barrera, also known as El Loco and Crazy Barrera, was arrested in San Cristobal, Venezuela, 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the Colombian border, on Tuesday 18th September. Barrera, who had alliances with both FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and paramilitary groups, has been involved in drug trafficking in Colombia for over 20 years; he has been described as one of Colombia’s most wanted drug lords, and the boss of Eastern Colombia’s drug trade. Barrera had previously gone to extreme lengths to avoid capture, including having plastic surgery and burning his fingertips with acid.

President Juan Manuel Santos reported Barrera's capture (Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos by Connect2GDNet)

Barrera’s capture was the result of collaboration between U.S., British, Venezuelan and Colombian authorities, with the U.S. offering a $5 million award for information leading to his arrest. Barrera’s is the third detention of a Colombian drug baron this year, a reminder of Colombia’s progress in the past decade: in 2010,  the U.S. State Department declared that security conditions in the country had improved significantly. Tourist numbers have increased greatly in the past few years, from 0.5 million in 2003 to 1.4 million in 2010.

Colombia: in the footsteps of Simón Bolívar

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco, or simply Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), was born into a wealthy Venezuelan family. At age 14, he entered the military academy, and then spent several years in Europe before returning to Venezuela in 1807. In 1810, the Congress of United Provinces of New Granada gave him command of an independence army. Bolívar soon earned himself the nickname “El Libertador” (the Liberator). For the next decade and half, he led battle from Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar) in Venezuela to Ayacucho, Peru. During these years he faced a temporary exile and various assassination attempts.

A statue ot Bolívar in Washington, USA (Simon Bolivar by cliff1066)

The first Congress of Gran Colombia (1821), uniting Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, was held in Villa del Rosario, near Cucutá in Colombia; Bolívar was elected President. Gran Colombia, however, was doomed to failure. Once the common enemy–the Spanish–was vanquished, petty regional rivalries surfaced almost immediately which tore the young nation apart. Disheartened by Gran Colombia’s demise, Bolívar journeyed down the Río Magdalena, making his way to his native Caracas. By the time he reached Santa Marta, he was weak. He was given refuge at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, where he died of tuberculosis. His body was laid out for public viewing in Santa Marta’s Casa de la Aduana, and then buried in the Cathedral. In 1839 his body was transferred to his native Caracas.

Santa Marta Cathedral by J. Stephen Conn

Besides many plazas being named for Bolívar, Colombia has other sites honoring him: Quinta Bolívar in BogotáCasa de Bolívar in Bucaramanga and Museo Bolivariano-Casa de Bolivar in Soledad, near Barranquilla.  Today, Bolívar’s philosophies continue to be influential in the Bolivariano countries (so-called for those he liberated: Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia) and elsewhere in Latin America.

Bolívar's death bed (Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino by kmuller00)

Latin American News Briefs: Murder Mysteries, Marsupials, and Maradona

Compiled by Jen O’Riordan and Libby Zay.

Every Friday, Viva Travel Guides combs the presses to round up the most relevant and recent Latin America news stories. Here are the Latin American news stories our office talked about during the week of July 24th to July 29th. For more up-to-the minute news, follow us on Twitter!

Cristina Calcieta’s mystery has been solved. Photo courtesy AFP.

34 Years Later, Argentine Students Crack Murder Mystery

[ARGENTINA] The families of a young couple who disappeared in 1976 can finally lay the remains of their loved ones to rest after their bodies were identified by a group of students and community members in the small town of Melincue. The students linked the timing of the couple’s disappearance with a discovery of two brutalized bodies a rural farmer had made in 1976, and DNA tests proved their suspicions. Under the Argentine military dictatorship that ruled at the time, tens of thousands of suspected left-wing activists were murdered or disappeared. [AP]

Other South American Countries Attempt to Diffuse Venezuela/Columbia Feud

[COLOMBIA / VENEZUELA] After Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez severed ties with Colombia last Thursday, South American foreign ministers failed to bring the two countries back together at a meeting in Quito, Ecuador Thursday. Brazil President Lula da Silva plans to speak with Chavez on August 6th. Venezuela and Colombia have a long history of mixed feeling toward each other, and on Thursday Colombia accused Venezuela of harboring around 1,500 leftist guerrillas and closed the consulate. [Colombia Reports / Reuters]

Troops Kill Mexican Drug Kingpin

[MEXICO] Soldiers gunned down Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a leader of the Sinaloa cartel during a raid of his hideout in the western city of Guadalajara. In an attempted to escape, Coronel fired on soldiers as helicopters hovered overhead. One soldier was killed and another wounded. “The scope of [his] influence and operations penetrate throughout the United States, Mexico, and several other European, Central American, and South American countries,” said the FBI in a statement. [AP]

A marsupial. Photo courtesy www.animalspix.com.

Ancestors of Australian Marsupials Arrived from the Americas

[GERMANY] According to genetic research from Germany, well known Australian species such as kangaroos, possums, koalas and wombats share a common ancestor that must have traveled to the region from the Americas. “I think this is pretty strong evidence now for the hypothesis of a single migration [to Australia] and a common ancestor,” said Juergen Schmitz, of the University of Muenster research team. The DNA analysis unfortunately does not tell us when this migration to Australia occurred, but researchers speculate that it may have taken place some 30-40 million years ago. [Discovery News]

Catalan Bullfight Ban Raises Debate in Latin America

[LATIN AMERICA] After Catalonia, Spain banned bullfighting last Wednesday, many bullfighting enthusiasts and animal rights groups throughout Latin America are having heated debates about the support. The tradition of bullfighting dates back to Spanish colonization in countries like Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Mexico, which is home to the world’s largest bullring. Michel Lagravere, father of Franco-Mexican child bullfighting star Michelito, said the Catalan parliament vote was “more anti-Spanish than anti-bullfight.” [Montreal Gazette]

Diego Maradona’s Tenure Ends as Argentina’s Coach

[ARGENTINA] Diego Maradona confirmed the end of his time as Argentina’s coach on Wednesday. Maradona accused Julio Grondona, president of the Argentinian Football Association, of lying to him and Carlos Bilardo, the national team’s general manager, of betraying him. Although many are blaming Maradona for Argentina’s loss in the World Cup, Maradona pointed out: “Not since 1990 has Argentina made it past the quarter finals.” [guardian.co.uk]

The Finnish paper mill. Photo courtesy www.elrevolucionario.org.

Argentina and Uruguay Reach Agreement on Pollution Monitoring

[ARGENTINA / URUGUAY] An agreement has finally been reached in the 7-year dispute between Argentina and Uruguay regarding pollution of the shared Uruguay River. The controversy began when Argentina raised concerns about contamination of the river from a Finnish paper mill on the Uruguayan side. The agreement was signed at the presidential palace and calls for a joint-scientific committee to monitor and identify pollution from all farming, industrial and urban centers that spill their waste into the Uruguay River and its tributaries. Argentina hopes the agreement will please environmentalists who have been blocking a bridge linking Gualeguaychu to Fray Bentos in Uruguay for the past three years. The UPM mill was built there seven years ago despite Argentina’s objections that it would pollute the river. [Global Times]

UNESCO Takes Galapagos Islands Off the Threatened List

[ECUADOR] After a 14-5 vote, the United Nations has voted to remove the Galapagos Islands from its list of endangered sites. The committee believes Ecuador has made significant progress in protecting and preserving the Islands. The Galapagos Islands had been on the list since 2007 after threatened by tourism, over-fishing and the introduction of invasive species. The Galapagos Islands has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. [Voice of America]

United States Closes Consulate in Ciudad Juarez

[U.S. / MEXICO] The United States announced closure of its consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico indefinitely. A U.S. official said the consulate was closed due to a “credible threat.” Last year, more than 2,600 people were killed in drug-related violence in the city. In March, the consulate closed for several days after a U.S. employee, her husband, and the husband of another staff member were killed. [BBC]

Watch a news report on the situation in Arizona. Video courtesy MSNBC.

Illegal Immigrants Prepare to Leave Arizona as New Law Takes Effect

[U.S. / MEXICO] A controversial immigration law, which could see an influx of deportees returning to Mexico, took effect in Arizona yesterday. Shelters across the border in Mexico are gathering supplies and preparing for a 20-25% increase in occupancy in the coming months. However, some say that many illegal immigrants will simply move from Arizona to another American state rather than return to Mexico. Mexico already extended its annual voluntary repatriation program in anticipation of the Arizona law, beginning the initiative earlier than usual in June. Other Mexican states such as Guanajuato and Chihuahua have also announced employment programs for possible returnees. [ABC News]

Chilean President Rejects Calls to Pardon Officials

[CHILE] In a televised address to the nation last Sunday, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera stated the sweeping pardons requested by the Catholic Church for military prisoners would not be granted under his government. The 60 military prisoners were convicted of humans rights abuses during the ear now known as the “Dirty War.” The majority of the prisoners live in a comfortable, well-equipped prison build especially from them. Standing up to the Catholic Church was a bold move, however, recent scandal and sexual abuse claims against Chilean priests have tarnished the Church’s reputation in recent years. Despite the rejection, the Church reacted positively saying that at least now the issue of overcrowding and conditions in Argentina’s prisons had been put on the national agenda. [NY Times]

Cuban Hunger Striker Departs Hospital

[CUBA] Guillerrno Farinas, an opposition activist who went on a 134-day hunger strike, has departed the hospital after three weeks of treatment. The 48-year-old psychologist and journalist began accepting food and water on July 8 after an agreement was reached between the Catholic Church and President Raul Castro to release 52 political prisoners. Twenty prisoners have so far been flown in exile to Spain with their families. [AP]