Español Guerilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN) confirmed on Tuesday, February 10, that it had kidnapped the mayor of a western Colombian town to hold a “trial” for corruption charges. According to ELN sources, Fredy Palacios, mayor of Alto Baudó, Chocó department, “stole money from the municipal budget.”
The ELN claimed to have received several complaints from locals over the mismanagement of public funds and inaction from government authorities. It then decided to capture Palacios to hold him “accountable for the municipal administration.”
Rebels captured Palacios on December 16, 2014, after intercepting the boat he was traveling on together with 11 adults and five children.
According to a press statement, Mayor Palacios “campaigned among the communities, promising to invest in healthcare and education, but once in office he did the same as the rest of the government officials in the state, which is stealing the money from the municipal budget.”
The rebel group stated that Palacios would be released “once the trial has ended and he commits to returning what he stole.”
Dismar Calimeño, Chocó department secretary, cited a lack of cooperation from federal authorities, who have not become involved in the case or made known any plans for Palacios’s rescue.
“In Chocó, many mayors have been threatened. Before Palacios’s kidnapping, we asked [ruling party] National Unity to protect the leaders in the Chocó department. They sent a colonel who has not satisfied community needs,” said Calimeño.
In December, President Juan Manuel Santos demanded Palacios’s release and called on rebels to put an end to the kidnappings “if they want to engage in a peace process.”
The Colombian government and the ELN are holding “exploratory dialogues” in order to establish a similar peace process currently ongoing with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest guerrilla organization in the country.
EspañolPeru will temporarily shut down its national intelligence agency for the next six months amid allegations of illegal spying, Prime Minister Ana Jara announced on Monday, February 9. The move comes three weeks after a local television program claimed President Ollanta Humala used the National Intelligence Office (DINI) to spy on his vice president, Marisol Espinoza, and political opponents. While the agency is closed, it will undergo changes to its organizational structure. The intelligence activities of the Armed Forces and the Foreign and Interior Ministries will remain operational, according to the prime minister. As a result of the illegal surveillance allegations, the head of the DINI, Víctor Gómez Rodríguez, was removed from his position and replaced by Javier Briceño. Jara said she will send a bill to the Congress in the coming days to formalize the agency shut down for the next 180 days. Authorities aim to modernize the operations of the agency and continue their work on "national security, drug-trafficking, and terrorism" issues. The decision to shut down the agency followed a meeting at the Government Palace, which included 15 representatives of the opposition. The two largest opposition parties, however, Popular Force and the Peruvian Aprista Party, did not attend the meeting and demanded the resignation of the prime minister. Prior to the announcement, President Humala also called on Congress to pass a bill that would regulate private intelligence companies. Jorge del Castillo, an Aprista official, criticized Humala's decision, and said the president ignored proposals from the opposition because he "doesn't believe in a democratic dialogue." Sources: Reuters, Diario Correo, La República.