July 27, 2007 [LINK / comment]

More polarization in Colombia

For different reasons, the likelihood that either the left-wing rebels or the right-wing militias in Colombia might cooperate with government peace talks has lessened over the past few days. This polarization threatens to undermine the progress achieved by President Uribe. On the left, the FARC and ELN rebels have been accused by Human Rights Watch of widespread reckless use of land mines, which killed or injured over a thousand people last year. Among the people of Colombia, FARC has lost its credibility as a fighter for social justice, since it turned into a drug-running protection racket during the 1990s. See Washington Post. On the right, the warlords of the "United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia" who provide security to wealthy plantation owners refuse to cooperate with the prosecution of massacres in which many of their members have been complicit. CNN.com.

Uribe is very popular for his strong stance against narco-terrorism and political violence in general, but if he can't maintain the momentum he built up during his first term in office (2002-2006), he may lose clout. That would be a big setback for U.S. diplomacy in Latin America, where most governments are on less than friendly terms with Washington.

Brazilian official axed

In Brazil, minister of defense Waldir Pires was dismissed by President da Silva on the grounds that he failed in his duty to fix the sorry state of the country's air traffic control system. Over 200 people died in a plane crash in Sao Paulo last week. See BBC.