Santos sees Colombia peace deal safe under hawkish successor
By JOSHUA GOODMAN and CHRISTINE ARMARIO
Tuesday, June 26
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — As Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos prepares to step down, he says he’s confident that his crowning achievement — the peace deal with leftist rebels that brought him a Nobel Peace Prize — will survive despite sharp criticism of it by the man now coming into office.
“The accord is bulletproofed,” Santos told The Associated Press in an interview Monday at the presidential palace that in six weeks he’ll hand over to incoming President Ivan Duque.
“Just the fact that Timochenko voted for the first time, as ex-commander of the FARC and now head of a political party, shows that the accord worked,” he said, referring to the former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who will be among former rebels sitting in Congress next month when Santos delivers his final address to the legislature.
He also noted that the country’s constitutional court has ruled it’s binding on the next three governments.
Santos, 66, won international praise for signing a peace agreement with leftist rebels to end five decades of conflict that left an estimated 260,000 dead and 7 million displaced.
However he’s not seen as a prophet at home, where he faces decidedly dismal approval ratings and sharp polarization over his pursuit of peace. A recent poll found just about 20 percent of Colombians approve of his performance.
Santos leaves Duque a string of challenges, among them a rise in criminal activity in areas vacated by the FARC that fueled a record boom in cocaine production last year, according to a White House report released Monday. He’ll also have to contend with a political and economic crisis in neighboring Venezuela that has led more than 1 million migrants to flee their homes for Colombia, putting added stress on the country’s already overburdened health and welfare services.
But by far the biggest challenge —and opportunity — is implementation of the 310-page peace accord. While some 7,000 fighters have already surrendered their weapons and are making the transition to civilian life, what Santos calls the “ambitious” portion of the 2016 accord — efforts to bring development to Colombia’s long-neglected countryside — is just getting under way and faces a budgetary as well as security constraints.
Many Colombians believe Santos offered far too generous terms for former guerrillas behind scores of atrocities. His successor, Duque, has vowed to “correct” the accord, starting with rolling back the rights of former rebel commanders to occupy seats in Congress even before they confess their crimes and provide reparations to victims.
This week, on his instructions, his party blocked passage of a law essential for special peace tribunals to start hearing testimony from former combatants, prompting a standoff with Santos and putting at risk the accord’s promise of justice for victims.
Santos said he’s never fixated on opinion polls, saying he’s following the example of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to do what’s right by his country even if it’s unpopular. Still, with time, he said he hoped with Colombians will remember him as someone who worked tirelessly to promote peace and modernize a country long beset by poverty, political violence and one of the world’s highest rates of inequality.
“This accord wasn’t made for the FARC, it was made for the local communities,” he said. “These are extensive areas of the country that were totally abandoned for more than 50 years and sooner or later the state had to arrive there.”
Duque worked for Santos two decades ago, first as an employee of his Good Government Foundation and then as an aide in the finance ministry whom he endorsed for a job at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. Santos described his successor as smart and someone with sound judgment.
He’s hopeful Duque’s reputation for pragmatism will prevail over calls from hardliners within his Democratic Center party to tear up the accord, and said he was heartened by Duque’s call on election night for unity, something that proved elusive during his presidency.
“If he manages to achieve that it will be very positive,” he said of Duque’s pledge to turn the page on years of bitter polarization. “The country needs it.”
But if Duque does try to change the accord, he’s likely to confront stiff political and legal obstacles that will leave him little room to maneuver, Santos said. They include a fragmented Congress, overwhelming international support for the deal and a ruling by the constitutional court that the accord is binding on the next three governments.
“I told the president-elect that if there are proposals that improve the accord and that can be reached by consensus then they are very welcome,” he said. “But what you can’t do is impose changes that alter the accord’s essence, among other reasons because it would require a constitutional reform.”
Once he leaves the presidency on Aug. 7, Santos said he looks forward to spending time in Bogota with his newborn granddaughter, his first. He also has an invitation to work with Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel laureate for economics, on issues of poverty reduction and plans to lecture internationally on his government’s efforts to promote peace and protect the environment from the effects of climate change.
Even though he’s vowed in retirement to stay out of Colombia’s rancorous political battles, he can’t resist one last piece of self-interested advice to Duque.
“If I were in the new president’s shoes, I’d focus on my other campaign promises,” Santos said. “The country has a lot of needs, a lot of challenges. He shouldn’t wear himself out on something that was already negotiated, that’s working and that everyone agrees is in the country’s best interests.”
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The Votes Are In For The Manatee Naming Opportunity! And Her Name Is
June 22, 2018
WHAT: On World Oceans Day, June 8, the Columbus Zoo announced a naming opportunity, presented by Kroger, for an orphaned manatee who arrived at the Zoo in April for rehabilitation. After tallying the votes submitted by the public through the Zoo’s website from June 8 to June 22, the results are in!
WHERE: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
WHY: Zoo staff enlisted the assistance of the public to help determine the perfect name for the female manatee, casting their vote for their favorite of four names carrying important significance to the state of Ohio as well as Ohio’s link to preserving and protecting aquatic ecosystems: Carmen, Scioto, Trillium, or Sloopy.
The young calf was rescued, along with her mother, on February 8, 2018 off the coast of Florida. When rescuers discovered them, they found that the calf was showing signs of cold stress and her mother was negatively buoyant. Unfortunately, just two days after their rescue, the calf’s mother succumbed to her serious injuries, leaving the female calf an orphan. The calf began to build up her strength while in the care of a team of experts at SeaWorld Orlando. Once she had stabilized, she and a young male calf named Heavy Falcon, who had also been rescued as an orphan, were transferred to the Columbus Zoo in April to continue their rehabilitation journeys before their eventual releases to Florida waters.
Now that she and Heavy Falcon have acclimated to their new temporary home in Ohio, their animal care team has gotten to know them better. Since the two young manatees spend so much time swimming together, they can be hard to tell apart. One way to determine which manatee is which is by looking at their tails – Heavy Falcon has a notch in his tail while the young female does not.
While Heavy Falcon received his name as a nod to the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch that took place on February 6, 2018—the same day he was rescued—Zoo staff welcomed the public’s votes so the female manatee could receive the name that best suits her. The Columbus Zoo animal care team notes that she is more shy and cautious than some of the other manatees and that they especially love her sweet demeanor.
The female calf is the 29th manatee to be rehabilitated at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium since the Zoo’s involvement in the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) began in 2001.
As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium serves as a second-stage rehabilitation facility that provides a temporary home for manatees until they are ready for release back to the wild.
The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at www.wildtracks.org. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was the first program partner outside of the state of Florida and is one of only two facilities outside of Florida to care for manatees.
The threatened Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality, including exposure to red tide, cold stress, disease, boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium supports field conservation projects for three of four living species of manatees through its Conservation Fund. Providing grants to researchers on three continents (North America, South America and Africa), the Zoo contributes to rescue and rehabilitation in Florida, environmental education focused on the Amazonian manatee in Colombia, and critical population surveys for the least-known manatee species: the West African manatee.
About Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact, annually contributing more than $4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.
Adventures in Mansfield
Mansfield adventures deliver heart-pounding thrills
From rolling waters to going airborne, this Northeast Ohio spot offers unforgettable adventures
MANSFIELD, Ohio – As the summer continues to heat up, there are still plenty of opportunities to make 2018 an unforgettable summer packed with adventure. Mansfield and Richland County, Ohio offer an array of activities that allow thrill-seekers to catch an adrenaline rush, nature-lovers to connect with the great outdoors and families to create lasting memories.
Tucked in the woods of Richland County, the overnight summer camp that dreams are made of combining action, adventure and even a touch of winter-time fun. Ohio Dreams offers kids aged seven to 17 a week unplugged from technology with activities tailored to their interests.
Ohio Dreams hosts Slip ‘N Fly Fest, August 17-19, a three-day camping celebration of sports and music with access to the facility’s world-class skate parks, along with MTB and BMX courses. Slip ‘N Fly Fest also includes unlimited rides on Ohio Dream’s world-famous Slip ‘N Fly, the only experience of its kind on the planet. The classic summer staple of the slip and slide is pumped full of steroids as riders soar along its super slick ramp and are then launched at top speeds into a pool.
Ohio Dreams also offers Action Sports Camps where expert coaches give campers weeklong training in BMX racing, BMX freestyle, scooters, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing and much more. Beginners gain a strong foundation and love for the sport, while seasoned daredevils learn new tricks and improve their skills. Even in a scorching Ohio summer, without the benefit of snow, Ohio Dreams has perfected training and teaching the art of snowboarding and skiing. Coaches teach balance and aerial awareness using trampolines. Then, students try out their tricks on ultra-slick water ramps. Those with varied interests can freestyle their experience and design an activity schedule that allows them to train in multiple sports.
Tree Frog Canopy Tours allows the whole family to spend time together online, without the distraction of an internet connection. With more than 4,000 feet of ziplines draped through the beautiful forests of the Mohican valley, Tree Frog hosts 2.5-hour long adventures complete with ziplines, sky bridges and rappels.
Guests can soar through the scenic landscape 120 feet above ground, at speeds averaging 45 miles per hour. Tree Frog’s innovative dual cable system is the only zipline tour in Ohio with the technology for a faster, smoother ride.
For a more relaxed experience, nature-lovers can paddle along the Clear Fork River, flowing through Mohican State Park. One of the finest canoeing and kayaking rivers in Ohio, it offers a perfect oasis on a hot summer day. The park also boasts boating, fishing, hunting and camping.
A destination unlike any other, Mansfield and Richland County, Ohio offers unusual travel adventures and experiences, such as spending the night in a haunted former state prison where Hollywood blockbuster movies are shot, world-class motorsports, skiing, hiking, biking, golf, and loads of other outdoor adventures attract families and visitors of all ages. Complete visitor information and free visitor guides are available at DestinationMansfield.com.
Pathetic Trump says polls ‘should be illegal’ as his approval rating plummets
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Russians funneling Millions thru the NRA to the Republican Party for Elections is Clear and Simple TREASON!
This Administration flirting with the idea of sending People of Color, and People who post negative things about Trump back to their Ancestral Homes! I see Ireland in My Future!
Trump continues by his words and actions to demonstrate that he is a Russian agent as he continues to attack NATO and our allies while supporting the agenda and policies of Russia and refusing to attack or say anything against Putin or Russia.
Poor Working People of Kentucky Unite, Mitch McConnell just took away Your Children’s Health Care! Republican Priority!
Why are 7 Senators in Russia behind closed doors? ON 4th of July? Republicans are no longer Republicans. They are Russian Pigs
Why are 7 GOP Senators in a closed meeting in Russia on the day the Senate reported that Russia interfered in our election?
Opinion: An AMLO Presidency and the Future of Mexican-U.S. Migration Policy
By Rachel Schmidtke
As Mexico begins the process of transition to a new administration, there is considerable doubt about the true nature of the new president, Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he is commonly known.
AMLO won Sunday’s election with an extraordinary 53 percent of the vote, giving him a clear mandate. Throughout his career, he has taken strong stances on topics like corruption, on what he calls “the mafia in power,” and on poverty and inequality. As a result, he is a figure that inspires hope or fear, dividing Mexicans neatly down the middle.
In the United States, AMLO has drawn a similar reaction, with many worrying about the future of the bilateral relationship. Of particular concern is the future of cooperation on migration. It is a topic that will likely lead to some tensions between the Trump administration and the new government, who will likely re-evaluate its alignment with the United States on topics regarding Central American migration and Mexican emigration to the United States.
Given the controversial nature of the issue and its importance for President Trump, the future of the Mexico and U.S. relationship might just depend on how willing each leader is to work on migration.
AMLO’s platform has focused on combatting corruption and working on poverty reduction, prioritizing his attention to the development of Mexico’s poorer areas. He is calling for drastic reforms to improve conditions for poorer Mexicans, such as increased social spending.
In line with this, his migration agenda wants to tackle the root causes of migration, like economic deprivation, and largely focuses on keeping Mexicans in Mexico. He states, “People want to live where their families, their customs, their traditions and their culture are from. If people want to emigrate, let it be by choice not necessity.”
For Mexicans in the United States, AMLO has proposed a 5-Step Plan to provide support abroad. The plan will turn the 50 Mexican consulates in the United States into “advocates” for the defense of Mexican migrants.
Placing Mexicans residing in the United States at the forefront of his migration policies is a smart move. Historically they have played a vital role in defending migrant rights, and in providing services and support to Mexicans abroad. Mexico has 50 consulates in the United States, covering almost all of the national territory. AMLO wants to improve and increase their capacity to engage more fully with this migrant population
The migration crisis from Central America is also an area ripe for disagreement between Trump and AMLO. Current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is mostly aligned with U.S. interests, militarizing Mexico’s southern border to stem migratory flows from Central America. Mexico is the first line of defense to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from reaching the United States, so the United States poured hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund Mexico’s Southern Border Program. Furthermore as Mexican migration flows decrease, Central American migration will continue grow in importance.
AMLO has strongly condemned the separation of Central American families, calling the practice racist and inhumane. He has spoken of his desire to treat migration as a human right. AMLO’s nominee for secretary of the interior, Olga Sanchez Cordero, said they would craft a migration policy that respects and upholds the human rights of Central American migrants.
AMLO himself has stated, “We criticize Trump, but we (Mexico) do the same thing with the Central American migrants.”
Obrador himself is from the state of Tabasco on Mexico’s southern border, where the majority of migrants cross through to either settle in Mexico, or begin the perilous journey across Mexico to the United States.
It is no secret that President Trump has projected strong rhetoric against Mexico and Mexicans. AMLO has also spoken out on multiple occasions against the president, even publishing a book called “Listen Up, Trump,” in which he stated the president was xenophobic and Nazi-like in his rhetoric about Mexicans. He has also come out against funding a border wall and advocated for Mexico to move away from taking a deferential stance to U.S. interests. AMLO has pushed for Mexico to take a stronger leadership stance with less reliance on the United States.
Yet, criticism of Trump may not result in conflict. In his book and in a few speeches, AMLO speaks about the importance of a robust U.S./Mexico relationship. He has stated he will have patience with Trump and seeks a relationship based on mutual respect. It is difficult to guarantee diplomatic rhetoric from the U.S. president, but his tweet to the Mexican president-elect was congratulatory and respectful, and subsequent phone call to discuss trade and immigration opens up a window of opportunity for future discussions.
If the mutual respect AMLO seeks does not occur, the relationship could be one of cold shoulders and an increasingly “Mexico First” attitude, that will focus less on foreign policy and bilateral cooperation, and more on Mexicans in Mexico and the Mexican diaspora in the United States.
There is no denying that a bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico is vitally important to both sides; but there are many opportunities for it to hit the rocks. Migration might just be the issue that tilts the balance one way or the other.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rachel Schmidtke the program associate for migration at the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.