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.”

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 envoy meets Taliban foreign minister, raises women’s rights | Taliban News

US particular envoy on Afghanistan stresses worldwide opposition to Taliban’s remedy of ladies and ladies.

The US particular envoy on Afghanistan has met the Taliban’s performing international minister within the Qatari capital Doha and pressured worldwide opposition to the group’s increasing curbs on girls and ladies.

“Ladies should be again at school, girls free to maneuver & work w/o restrictions for progress to normalised relations,” US Particular Consultant on Afghanistan Thomas West wrote on Twitter on Saturday after assembly Amir Khan Mutaqi.

Since returning to energy final August, the Taliban has imposed a slew of restrictions on civil society, many centered on reining within the rights of ladies and ladies, which are paying homage to their final rule within the Nineteen Nineties.

Ladies’ faculties are but to open, greater than eight months because the Taliban got here to energy. The group has insisted that it needs ladies to get again to high school, however justified the delay on causes starting from infrastructure to lack of sources because of the financial disaster.

When the Taliban took energy in August, the armed group promised to uphold the rights of women and girls. However its actions since have anxious the worldwide neighborhood.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s supreme chief ordered girls to cowl up absolutely in public, together with their faces, ideally with the normal burqa.

 

Throughout the previous few months, Taliban leaders, significantly from the Ministry of Propagation of Advantage and the Prevention of Vice, have introduced many new restrictions, at the same time as criticism and worldwide strain mounts towards them.

In December, the ministry, which changed the Afghan Ministry of Ladies Affairs, imposed restrictions on girls from travelling additional than 72km (45 miles) with no shut male family member.

This restriction was additional expanded to incorporate travelling overseas, and a number of other solo girls travellers have been reportedly stopped from boarding flights. Related bans have been additionally launched in a number of healthcare centres throughout the nation, forbidding girls to entry healthcare with no mahram (male chaperone).

In January, a gaggle of 36 UN human rights consultants mentioned that Taliban leaders in Afghanistan are institutionalising large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence towards girls and ladies.

A shock U-turn in March, wherein the group shuttered ladies’ excessive faculties on the morning they have been resulting from open, drew the ire of the worldwide neighborhood and prompted the US to cancel deliberate conferences on easing the nation’s monetary disaster.

A Ministry of Training discover mentioned on March 23 that faculties for women could be closed till a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic regulation and Afghan tradition, in response to Bakhtar Information Company, a authorities information company.

Financial stabilisation

West additionally mentioned that the 2 mentioned financial stabilisation in Afghanistan and issues about assaults on civilians.

The nation is teetering on the verge of financial catastrophe after the West froze Afghanistan’s belongings held overseas and reduce off help.

“Dialogue will proceed in assist of Afghan folks and our nationwide pursuits,” West, the US envoy, mentioned in his submit.

The nation has been reeling from a humanitarian disaster with greater than half of the inhabitants dealing with starvation. The Taliban has struggled to revive the aid-dependent financial system, which is in freefall resulting from sanctions and exclusion from worldwide monetary establishments.

In December, the Biden administration issued what it referred to as “broad authorisations” to make sure that the United Nations, American authorities companies and help teams can present humanitarian aid to Afghanistan with out operating foul of sanctions towards the Taliban.

Late PM Benazir Bhutto’s son is Pakistan’s new foreign minister | Politics News

At 33, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, scion of Pakistan’s most influential political dynasty, is among the world’s youngest international ministers.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appointed Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, son of assassinated former Premier Benazir Bhutto, as international minister, giving his coalition ally a senior function in repairing frayed ties with the US and different Western international locations.

On Wednesday, President Arif Alvi took the oath from the Oxford-educated Bhutto-Zardari, extensively thought-about a forward-looking, liberal politician and the scion of the nation’s main political dynasty.

His mom Benazir was assassinated at an election marketing campaign rally in 2007, and his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – additionally a former international minister and later prime minister – was hanged by a army dictator in 1979.

Benazir’s killer has never been caught, and a United Nations inquiry discovered that Pakistani authorities had failed to guard her or correctly examine her demise.

At simply 33, Bhutto-Zardari turns into one of many world’s youngest international ministers however inherits a diplomatic bag of points that began effectively earlier than he was born, together with relations with archrival India.

Bhutto-Zardari, chief of Pakistan Peoples Get together, stated in a Twitter submit he was “honoured” and humbled to take the oath as international minister.

He and his celebration “will play our half in restoring democracy, passing electoral reforms, preventing for a fairer financial system and advocating Pakistan’s case on the world stage,” he wrote.

Bhutto-Zardari grew to become a celebration chief at 19 whereas a scholar at Oxford, following his mom’s assassination.

With greater than half of Pakistan’s inhabitants aged 22 or beneath, Bhutto’s social media savvy can also be a success with the younger, though he’s ceaselessly mocked for a poor command of Urdu, the nationwide language.

Political commentators have blended opinions on Bhutto’s talents – or how lengthy he can keep good relations with Premier Sharif of the rival Pakistan Muslim League-N celebration.

“I consider he’s an un-tested missile,” analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi informed the AFP information company.

“It’s too early for a younger MP like Bilawal Bhutto … and it will likely be tough for him to deal with points Pakistan faces, with critical challenges on exterior fronts.”

Fellow analyst Farzana Bari disagreed.

“I believe Bilawal is clever sufficient to carry the fort,” she informed AFP, including he was “extra progressive” than the leaders of different political events.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to media.
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to media after parliament took up a no-confidence movement moved by opposition legislators in March in a bid to take away PM Imran Khan [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

First international mission to Riyadh

Bhutto-Zardari’s first international mission will likely be accompanying Sharif on Thursday to Saudi Arabia, a key commerce companion and common supply of reduction for Pakistan’s struggling economy.

Sharif announced a 41-member cabinet after he took over from eliminated premier Imran Khan earlier this month.

Khan has alleged that the US backed a conspiracy to topple him simply because he refused Washington’s recommendation to not go to Russia in February, a cost Washington denies.

Pakistan’s international workplace, army and civil management additionally rejected Khan’s allegations.

The journey to longtime ally Riyadh beginning on Thursday is Sharif’s first worldwide go to as prime minister.

A press release from Sharif’s workplace stated he would have talks with Saudi leaders “with explicit give attention to advancing financial, commerce and funding ties and creation of higher alternatives for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia”.

The 2 sides will even talk about a spread of regional and worldwide problems with mutual curiosity.

Sharif is more likely to search monetary help from Saudi Arabia to assist construct the nation’s international reserves, which have fallen to $10.8bn, hardly sufficient to pay for 2 months of imports.

Sharif’s newly appointed finance minister, Miftah Ismail, has stated Pakistan faces widening fiscal and present account deficits, falling international trade reserves and excessive inflation.