Colombia’s next defence minister faces ‘a hell of a fight’ | Politics News

Bogota, Colombia – Ivan Velasquez first made a reputation for himself as a prosecutor in Medellin within the Nineteen Nineties, when he reportedly refused to simply accept a briefcase of cash from Pablo Escobar to drop investigations into the drug lord’s lifetime of luxurious in jail.

He gained prominence by investigating the ties between Colombian paramilitary forces, politicians and the enterprise group on the peak of the civil struggle. His work finally led to the conviction of greater than 60 politicians, together with the cousin of former President Alvaro Uribe. And he’s no stranger to non-public danger: Throughout a landmark probe into monetary ties between the enterprise group in Antioquia and paramilitary teams, 14 investigators in his workplace had been murdered.

On August 7, Velasquez will turn into defence minister within the administration of President-elect Gustavo Petro. He’ll take workplace amid a bunch of safety challenges: rising violence in rural areas with little or no state presence, report coca manufacturing, and felony armed teams who’ve grown in energy because the nation’s historic 2016 peace accord with rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Petro, who will turn into the primary leftist president in Colombia’s trendy historical past, vowed on the marketing campaign path to considerably reform police and navy forces. His appointment of Velasquez, who additionally labored as the highest United Nations official on the Worldwide Fee towards Impunity in Guatemala, sends a robust message that he intends to observe via.

The appointment has sparked harsh criticism from Petro’s critics, who view his previous as a insurgent fighter with deep suspicion. Velasquez “has taken a powerful place towards these of us within the navy”, Raul Musse Pencue, a retired profession soldier, instructed Al Jazeera. “We concern he’ll usher in a widespread persecution of navy personnel who’ve undergone investigations associated to their on a regular basis duties as troopers in service to their nation.”

CICIG
An activist in Guatemala Metropolis holding an indication that reads in Spanish ‘Thanks CICIG’ – the Spanish acronym for the Worldwide Fee In opposition to Impunity [File: Moises Castillo/AP]

Proper-wing Senator Paloma Valencia went additional, telling native media that the appointment “reveals a whole absence of democratic ensures … [and] places all of our lives at risk”.

However individuals who have labored intently with Velasquez in each Colombia and Guatemala paint a really totally different image: one among a soft-spoken and apolitical anti-corruption crusader who at all times retains a cool head, even throughout instances of utmost private hazard.

“He isn’t politically motivated,” Gregorio Oviedo, a prosecutor who labored alongside Velasquez in Medellin, instructed Al Jazeera. “His whole profession, he has advocated for human rights. He is aware of the right way to lead. He is aware of the right way to examine, and most significantly, he is aware of what it’s to dwell and work in areas of the nation most politicians solely examine from Bogota.”

Stephen McFarland, the previous US ambassador to Guatemala, additionally welcomed the appointment: “Uribe has accused him of getting a political agenda. So long as I’ve identified him, his solely agenda has been to construct a clear and impartial justice system.”

‘Highly effective message’

Velasquez’s work has made him many enemies. His workplace in Medellin was illegally bugged by Colombian intelligence and his safety workforce infiltrated. His private bodyguard on the time was a spy for the nation’s Administrative Division of Safety, which was dissolved in 2011 after a spate of instances of unlawful surveillance of journalists, human rights staff, politicians and judges went public.

He reportedly evaded a kidnapping try in Guatemala when authorities officers allegedly tried to deport him extrajudicially, and he has endured numerous demise threats towards each himself and his household in each nations.

Velasquez’s anti-corruption work in Guatemala led to profitable convictions towards ex-President Otto Perez Molina, his former vp, seven ministers, and dozens of politicians and businessmen. Velasquez was declared persona non grata by then-President Jimmy Morales in 2017 and exiled from the nation.

“He arrested high-level businessmen for monetary crimes – individuals from the richest households in Guatemala,” McFarland instructed Al Jazeera. “Individuals who earlier than Velasquez arrived thought they had been untouchable.”

Petro
Colombia’s President-elect Gustavo Petro just lately spoke to college students at Externado College in Bogota, Colombia [Fernando Vergara/AP]

Petro, who incessantly denounced corruption whereas he was on the marketing campaign path, “is sending a robust message that the times of impunity, when the federal government would possibly flip a blind eye to the excesses of public forces, are over”, Oviedo mentioned. “Civilian regulation can be revered.”

Abuses by police and navy forces have come below rising scrutiny in recent times, as official investigations have revealed disturbing particulars of rights abuses, together with the “false positives” scandal through which greater than 6,400 civilians had been killed by safety forces, who falsely claimed the victims had been enemy combatants.

Velasquez has expressed assist for Petro’s plan to position police, who at the moment report back to navy command as a part of the defence ministry, below civilian management. The reform was advisable by the UN final yr after an investigation into police violence throughout nationwide protests, the place dozens had been killed in a crackdown by safety forces.

Petro has additionally promised to reimplement elements of the 2016 peace deal that had been delayed or dismantled by the outgoing administration of Ivan Duque. As a part of his efforts to implement “complete peace”, Petro has provided to barter new disarmament talks with rebels who weren’t a part of the FARC peace deal. However this plan additionally entails dialogue with teams such because the Gulf Clan, which has grown more and more aggressive, shutting down giant parts of the nation by pressure and killing dozens of law enforcement officials.

Will they be prepared to barter with an ex-guerilla president and a prosecutor who has focused them for many years? Oviedo isn’t sure, however he notes that Velasquez “has the dedication, the power, and the expertise to take the primary steps in direction of actual justice in Colombia. However he’s in for a hell of a battle.”

US defence chief says militaries should be civilian controlled | Military News

US President Joe Biden’s defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, talking at an Americas-wide defence convention in Brazil, the place navy loyalty to the structure has turn into a central challenge forward of the October 2 presidential election, mentioned militaries ought to be underneath civilian management.

Austin, a retired US Military common, made the feedback on Tuesday, from Brazil’s capital, Brasilia.

“Credible deterrence calls for navy and safety forces which can be prepared, succesful, and underneath agency civilian management,” Austin mentioned, including: “The extra we deepen our democracies, the extra we deepen our safety.”

Austin’s remarks got here simply two days after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro formally launched his re-election bid by saying: “The military is on our aspect.”

The proper-wing populist has publicly solid doubt on the validity of Brazil’s electoral system. Some opinion polls present him down virtually 20 share factors in opposition to his most important presidential opponent, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Staff’ Celebration.

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s authorities consists of former and present navy officers [Carla Carniel/Reuters]

Austin is predicted to carry bilateral talks with Brazil’s delegation on Wednesday.

Austin is in Brazil collaborating within the fifteenth Convention of Protection Ministers of the Americas (CDMA).

The US Division of Protection mentioned that through the go to, Austin will “help affirming the function of the navy in a democratic society, together with respect for civilian authorities, democratic processes, and human rights”, based on a press launch revealed Friday.

“To the venue as a complete, he’s going to convey a really sturdy and clear message on the necessity for militaries to respect democracies,” a senior US defence official informed Reuters, talking on situation of anonymity.

The manoeuvres have unnerved Brazil watchers in Washington, DC, together with in Congress.

“[Austin] ought to merely clarify that the navy ought to keep out of the election and permit any disputes concerning the election to be resolved by constitutional means,” US Consultant Tom Malinowski, a Democrat and a member of the Home International Affairs Committee, informed Reuters.

“And he ought to remind his counterparts that US legislation restricts our cooperation with overseas militaries that take part in something that may resemble a coup.”

Navy leaders have repeatedly mentioned Brazil’s armed forces will respect any results of the election.

Some navy officers have made headlines, nevertheless, by echoing Bolsonaro’s feedback about potential weaknesses in Brazil’s voting system.

Bolsonaro has sought to characterise the upcoming race as a battle between good and evil, echoing his 2018 marketing campaign that introduced him as an outsider crusading to revive legislation, order and conservative values to a wayward nation. He joined the centrist Liberal Celebration in November after failing to discovered his personal occasion.

Bolsonaro has based mostly a lot of his political profession on nostalgia for Brazil’s 1964-1985 navy dictatorship, disparaging Congress and the courts whereas filling his authorities with present and former officers from the armed forces.

Thomas Shannon, a former US ambassador to Brazil, mentioned Brazilians have been in search of indicators about how their navy would possibly act if Bolsonaro refuses to just accept defeat on the poll field.

“Secretary Austin … is strolling right into a political tempest by which Brazilians are attempting to measure the extent of institutional help for a possible effort to undo the outcomes of the elections,” Shannon informed Reuters.

Former US officers, together with Shannon, cautioned that Brazil doesn’t reply effectively to threats, and that any messaging needs to be centered on the US-Brazil partnership “versus saying: ‘Don’t do that and don’t do this.’”

“But it surely needs to be [a message] that makes clear that the US-Brazil military-to-military partnership will depend on a typical dedication to democratic values and follow,” Shannon mentioned.

The US Division of State just lately affirmed its confidence in Brazil’s electoral system, a uncommon step throughout a heated, polarising marketing campaign.

“We don’t need to get in the course of Brazil’s elections, in any respect. However we need to make sure that the actual fact [is known] that we imagine Brazil’s electoral system is credible and able to managing a free and honest election,” the senior US defence official mentioned.

Q&A: Indonesia’s defence minister on security in the Asia-Pacific | Military News

Singapore – As defence chiefs from across the Asia-Pacific collect in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue, a lot of the main focus has been on rising tensions between the USA and China.

The three-day safety summit organised by the London-based Worldwide Institute for Strategic Research is taken into account a very powerful defence-related convention within the area. This 12 months, greater than a dozen defence chiefs from around the globe, together with the US, China, and extra, are attending.

After a two-year hiatus, the occasion has returned and attracted high-profile visitors, together with the Indonesian defence chief and former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.

The previous lieutenant normal met with Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington throughout the Shangri-La Dialogue, sharing his ideas on the conflict in Ukraine, and modernising Indonesia’s navy arsenal.

Al Jazeera: In your speech on the Shangri-La Dialogue, you spoke concerning the “Asian means”. The place does Indonesia match into that concept?

Subianto: That’s our tradition that we at all times attempt to resolve issues with negotiations, with interactions, with engagement, and we carry on participating, we carry on discussing till we come to an amicable, mutually helpful resolution. That’s the Asian means.

And it’s the Indonesian means. We name it musyawarah mufakat (dialogue to succeed in an answer) and we name it gotong royong (working collectively). We search for widespread pursuits; if we at all times discuss concerning the variations, we’d not even meet.

Al Jazeera: An enormous focus throughout this summit has been on US-China tensions. What do you see as Indonesia’s function in coping with these tensions?

Subianto: We’re in the true and precise place that we respect and we’re pleasant, and we’re good mates. We’ve good cooperation with each powers — I’ve mentioned that many occasions. The US has helped us many occasions, in our important moments. However China has additionally helped us. China has additionally defended us and China is now a really shut companion with Indonesia. And really, China has at all times been the main civilization in Asia. A lot of our sultans, kings, our princes in these days, they’d marry princesses from China. We’ve a whole bunch of years of relationship.

So it’s pure. So, you requested me, what’s our place, nearly as good mates we attempt to be, possibly a very good widespread bridge. If not, then we preserve the nice relationships.

And we’re satisfied that each powers could have clever management. I’m optimistic on that entrance, many individuals, in fact, understandably are involved, and sure there are risks. However I consider the chief of China can be clever, and the chief of the US additionally. They’re nice powers. The world will count on them to present us good management.

Al Jazeera: What about a few of the facets of Indonesia-China relationships, the place there are variations of opinions… for instance the South China Sea. How do you navigate these challenges?

Subianto: As I mentioned with good relations, good communication with direct contacts, we are able to come to an amicable understanding that’s mutually helpful.

Al Jazeera: The US Secretary of Protection, earlier within the speech talked about Indonesia, particularly the naval train referred to as Garuda Defend…

Subianto: Garuda Defend has been occurring for 14-15 years, however we now have additionally workout routines with different nations. We additionally plan to have workout routines with China.

Al Jazeera: The US Secretary talked concerning the scenario in Ukraine, and also you talked about in your speech, you mentioned it’s a very unhappy scenario. Do you may have the rest to say on that?

Subianto: Traditionally, geopolitically, there are at all times two variations to a narrative. Indonesia, as you understand we voted with the various western nations in opposing the invasion of Ukraine — that’s our place on the invasion.

However as soon as once more, I wish to say that Russia has been an excellent buddy to Indonesia all these years. We’ve good relations with Russia, they helped us additionally once we had been having difficulties and as I discussed, a buddy in want is a buddy certainly. Always remember mates who helped you. That’s our place.

We are saying all the nice powers have to be revered, and their issues have to be revered.

Al Jazeera: You have got made it your precedence to modernise Indonesia’s defence capabilities, how is that going?

Subianto: It’s going effectively, in fact, the whole lot wants what I name an incubation interval, we are able to’t go to the grocery store and purchase defence tools. I’d say it’s going effectively, in fact, I’m fairly impatient, I want it may go quicker, possibly if I’ve a magic wand.

Al Jazeera: Following your speech, you had been requested concerning the area and also you mentioned every nation could make their very own selections. Something additional to say on that?

Subianto: Mainly that’s the precise of each nation to evaluate their very own safety wants. So I can not inform the Australians or the British what they need to do. I additionally don’t need them to inform us what to do. We respect one another.

Al Jazeera: Can I ask on your views on the scenario in Myanmar?

Subianto: I feel Indonesia’s place could be very clearly don’t acknowledge the regime in Myanmar

Al Jazeera: Let’s take a look at a home problem in Indonesia. There may be dialogue concerning the plan to create new provinces and a few worldwide human rights teams have raised issues about safety implications and the affect on human rights.

Subianto: There’s at all times this, I’d say double requirements or triple commonplace, something nations like Indonesia do. They at all times attempt to emphasise the opportunity of human rights abuses. I feel our wants, we now have huge areas and that has been in dialogue and planning for a few years.

Al Jazeera: Indonesia’s international coverage has lengthy been guided by the phrase ‘free and lively’. Do you see Indonesia as having a management function amongst nations that take a impartial stance?

Subianto: Management isn’t one thing that we are able to award to ourselves. I feel the perfect type of statecraft in my view is to get your personal home so as. If we care for our personal home in good order, folks will look to us.

Al Jazeera: Talking of management, your plans for 2024 — Are you planning to run for the presidency?

If I’m wanted, if there may be robust assist for me, then I’ve to place myself on the service of my folks and my nation.

US defence secretary chides China over ‘provocative’ behaviour | Politics News

Lloyd Austin tells key safety summit that Beijing’s army actions round Taiwan threaten stability.

United States Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has reiterated that the US will stand by its allies and companions within the Asia Pacific as he accused China of “provocative and destabilising” army exercise round Taiwan, and an more and more “coercive and aggressive” strategy to its wide-ranging maritime claims within the Asia Pacific.

In a virtually hour-long deal with to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Austin pressured that the US was dedicated to the “rules-based worldwide order” and would work in partnership to keep up peace and stability within the area.

He mentioned that the US coverage over Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its personal, remained the identical.

“Our coverage hasn’t modified,” he informed delegates on the safety discussion board. “However sadly it doesn’t appear to be the identical for the PRC [People’s Republic of China].

“The PRC strikes threaten to undermine peace and stability. That isn’t only a US curiosity, it’s a matter of worldwide concern.”

Austin’s feedback got here a day after he had his first face-to-face talks together with his Chinese language counterpart Wei Fenghe, through which Wei reiterated China’s willingness to go to warfare to stop Taiwan from turning into impartial.

Beijing has elevated its army actions across the island lately, frequently sending sorties into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, together with 30 planes on the finish of Might.

Austin additionally reiterated concern about Beijing’s more and more assertive strategy within the East China Sea and South China Sea — areas the place he mentioned Beijing was being extra “coercive and aggressive” in its willpower to push ahead its maritime claims.

He pressured that the US would preserve its “lively presence” throughout the Asia Pacific.

“We are going to fly, sail and function wherever worldwide legislation permits, and we are going to do that alongside our companions.”

“Let me be clear, we don’t search confrontation or battle,” he added.

“We don’t search a brand new Chilly Struggle, an Asian NATO or a area break up into hostile blocs… [but] we are going to defend our pursuits with out flinching.”

Biden tells ‘friend’ Kishida US is committed to Japan’s defence | International Trade News

US president’s two-day go to will culminate within the formal launch of an financial plan for deeper engagement in Asia.

President Joe Biden assured his “good pal” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan on Monday that the US is totally dedicated to Japan’s defence, amid simmering stress with China and the ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The cornerstone of Biden’s two-day go to, which incorporates conferences with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, within the “Quad” group, would be the launch of an Indo-Pacific Financial Framework, a broad plan offering an financial pillar for US engagement with Asia.

“The US-Japan alliance has lengthy been the cornerstone of peace and prosperity within the Indo-Pacific, and the US stays totally dedicated to Japan’s defence,” Biden mentioned firstly of talks with Kishida on the Akasaka Palace in central Tokyo.

Biden was greeted with a navy honour guard that performed the anthems of each international locations beneath a brilliant blue sky.

Earlier, he met Emperor Naruhito, speaking briefly on the palace entrance earlier than being ushered inside. The White Home mentioned Biden provided greetings on behalf of the American individuals, highlighting the energy of the US-Japan relationship anchored by deep people-to-people ties.

The 2 nations are anticipated to debate Japan’s plans to increase its navy capabilities and attain in response to China’s rising would possibly.

The allies are additionally anticipated to reconfirm their shut ties within the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, agreeing that unilateral adjustments to the established order by pressure are unacceptable.

Worries are rising in Asia about an more and more assertive China, notably in gentle of its shut ties to Russia, and stress particularly has been rising over self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

North Korea and regional points may also be on the agenda, with Biden afterward Monday scheduled to fulfill households of Japanese who had been kidnapped years in the past to coach spies in North Korea.

However the centrepiece of the day might be Biden’s launch of the Indo-Pacific Financial Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a programme to bind international locations extra carefully by frequent requirements in areas together with supply-chain resilience, clear power, infrastructure and digital commerce.

America has lacked an financial pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump withdrew from a multinational Trans-Pacific commerce settlement, leaving the sector open to China to increase its affect.

However the IPEF is unlikely to incorporate binding commitments, and Asian international locations and commerce consultants have given a decidedly lukewarm response to a programme restricted by Biden’s reluctance to threat American jobs by providing the elevated market entry the area craves.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due in Japan for the Quad talks, with Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, additionally anticipated.

Biden arrived in Japan late on Sunday from South Korea and can depart on Tuesday for the US.

Spain detects Pegasus spyware on PM, defence minister’s phones | Cybercrime News

Authorities say the telephones of the 2 prime officers had been tapped in an ‘illicit and exterior intervention’ final yr.

Spanish authorities have mentioned that the cell phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Minister of Defence Margarita Robles had been tapped utilizing Pegasus spyware in an “illicit and exterior” intervention.

“It isn’t a supposition, they’re info of huge gravity,” the minister of the presidency, Felix Bolanos, mentioned, confirming the information on Monday.

“We’re completely sure that it was an exterior assault … as a result of in Spain, in a democracy like ours, all such interventions are carried out by official our bodies and with judicial authorisation,” he mentioned.

“On this case, neither of the 2 circumstances prevailed, which is why that we now have not doubt that it was an exterior intervention. We wish the justice ministry to analyze,” Bolanos added.

He didn’t say whether or not the Spanish authorities had any indication but the place the assault originated from or whether or not one other nation was behind it.

Bolanos mentioned that Sanchez’s cellphone had been tapped in Might 2021 and Robles’ in June of the identical yr.

A woman checks the website of Israel-made Pegasus spyware
A lady checks the web site of Israel-made Pegasus adware at an workplace within the Cypriot capital Nicosia [File: Mario Goldman/AFP]

“A decided quantity of information” was extracted from each telephones, he added. “There isn’t a proof that there was different tapping after these dates.”

Pegasus adware silently infiltrates cell phones to extract knowledge or activate a digicam or microphone to spy on their homeowners.

The Israel-based NSO Group, which owns Pegasus, claims the software program is just offered to authorities businesses to focus on criminals and terrorists, with the inexperienced mild of Israeli authorities.

Violating privateness

The corporate has been criticised by world rights teams for violating customers’ privateness all over the world and it faces lawsuits from main tech corporations akin to Apple and Microsoft.

Monday’s announcement adopted intense stress on Spain’s leftist coalition authorities to elucidate itself after Canada’s digital rights group Citizen Lab mentioned greater than 60 folks linked to the Catalan separatist motion had been targets of Pegasus adware.

After the allegations of spying on members of the Catalan separatist motion, the minority authorities’s key ally in parliament, Catalonia’s leftist pro-independence social gathering ERC mentioned it will not help the federal government till Madrid takes measures to revive confidence.

The European Union’s knowledge safety watchdog has referred to as for a ban on Pegasus over allegations it has been abused by shopper governments to spy on rights activists, journalists and politicians.