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November 12, 2012

Pets, Pinky and Dry Excrement - Colombian gangs and their silly aliases

Los Rastrojos is one of Colombia’s most feared criminal gangs and their top leader was recently arrested as he held a “Mafioso summit” at his farm, authorities said.

The man’s name is José Leonardo Hortúa Blandón, but he’s better known as Mascotas or Pets. Police also arrested the gang’s number-two man Picante or Hot, as in spicy. He had assumed the leadership position after his predecessor Pinky, sometimes spelled Pinkhy, had been arrested.

Colombia’s criminals and guerrillas are fond of absurd monikers. Among some of the most memorable are Gordolindo (Fat beauty), Vasodeleche (Glass of Milk) and Mierda Seca (Dry Excrement). Dry Excrement, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, earned his name due to his chronic halitosis, according to Semana Magazine.

The excellent periodical has a list of some of the more ridiculous monikers here.

November 08, 2012

The US elections as seen from south of the Rio Grande

I spent election day on Colombian naval base on the Pacific. Military men are pretty circumspect when it comes to politics, but everyone said it wouldn't have mattered who won the vote, because US-Colombia relations are so institutionalized and far-reaching that they're immune to politics. I'm not sure that's completely true, but thought it was an interesting sentiment.

My colleagues Mimi Whitefield and Tim Johnson take a deeper look at the Latin American reaction to the US vote in today's Miami Herald.  

MEXICO CITY -- There’s agreement across the region that Latin America wasn’t a priority during the first term of President Barack Obama but analysts say there are issues that might raise the profile of Latin America and the Caribbean during the president’s second term. Among them: trade, potential political change in the region, the potent voting bloc U.S. Hispanics have become, immigration, changing U.S. attitudes toward drug policy and security. But, in general, regional expectations for meaningful change in U.S. Latin American and Caribbean policy during Obama’s second term were muted. The campaigns of both Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney “proved that Latin America is not a priority for the United States,’’ said Simon Pachano, a political science professor at the Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences in Ecuador. “Latin America existed when they were looking for Hispanic votes, but it wasn’t present in their foreign policy proposals.”

Read the full story here.


November 05, 2012

Colombia's FARC find new line of work: refining crude

Colombia’s FARC guerrillas have always had a yen for business. Along with extortion, kidnapping and drug running, they’ve made inroads into mining and logging, according to authorities.

Now there appears to be a new line of work.  

Last week, the army said it broke up a FARC-run oil refinery in Nariño. The clandestine operation was being used by the Daniel Aldana faction of the guerrillas to refine crude stolen from the Trans-Andean Oil Pipeline, which is also a frequent target of guerrilla attacks.

 According to the statement, the army recovered 600 gallons of gasoline.

It’s worth remembering that the FARC and the government will be gathering in Havana Nov. 15 to begin peace talks in earnest. Among the issues that will have to be dealt with: demands that the FARC give up the drug trade.

 Leaded or regular?

 Here’s the full release:

 Localizan refinería ilegal de las Farc

Bogotá, dos de noviembre de 2012. En el marco de las operaciones realizadas por soldados del Ejército en contra de las organizaciones ilícitas de minería ilegal, en las últimas horas se logró neutralizar una refinería clandestina en el departamento de Nariño.

La acción militar fue desarrollada por los hombres de la Brigada Móvil No. 32, quienes lograron ubicar y destruir una refinería ilegal utilizada por terroristas de la cuadrilla ‘Daniel Aldana’ de las Farc, para el hurto y procesamiento de crudo del oleoducto Transandino.

Los hechos se registraron en el municipio de Tumaco, en  el Kilómetro 80, lugar donde los efectivos localizaron una refinería artesanal, más de 600 galones de petróleo y una piscina.

El material incautado fue puesto a disposición de las autoridades competentes.


jim wyss

Inside South America is written by Jim Wyss, the South America bureau chief for the Miami Herald and McClatchy Newspapers.

Feel free to send a story suggestion. Read Jim's stories at MiamiHerald.com.

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