International roundup

By Redaccion
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Martinelli has been holed up in the embassy for more than a month since Panama moved to arrest him after his appeals ran out on his money laundering conviction and then askes Nicaragua for political asylum, which they did.

The 72-year-old former leader maintains that his prosecution was politically motivated as he sought to run for a second term in office.

Panama has refused to grant Nicaragua permission to move Martinelli to Nicaragua. 

So Martinelli has stayed in the political mix using social media to advance his agenda.

Panama’s Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement that it had sent Nicaragua a “vigorous” protest and called on Nicaragua to closely monitor Martinelli’s behavior.

Panama’s electoral authorities ruled Martinelli ineligible to participate in the May 5 presidential election following his conviction and sentencing. 

He previously governed Panama from 2009 to 2014.

Since being ruled out of the race, Martinelli has worked to promote his running mate José Raúl Mulino, who is now atop the ticket.

Last week, Martinelli wrote on the social platform X that “they disqualified me politically as a candidate, but the more they pursue me … the more it fires up the people and they will help J.R. Mulino win and level (the competition).”

Martinelli, a populist who oversaw a period of big infrastructure projects, including construction of the capital’s first subway line, is the first former president convicted of a crime in Panama.

Last year, the U.S. government barred Martinelli and his immediate family from entering that country, based on what it called his involvement in “significant” corruption. 

Colombia’s largest criminal group said Tuesday it has accepted President Gustavo Petro’s offer to start peace negotiations, but the next steps in any talks were not immediately clear.

The Gaitanista Self Defense Forces of Colombia, called the “Gulf Clan” by Colombia’s government,  has been described by analysts as a threat to Petro’s ongoing efforts to broker peace deals with the nation’s remaining rebel groups.

Petro on Monday night said he was willing to start peace negotiations with the group if it “dares” to leave drug trafficking, stops taxing local businesses and stops profiting from the transit of migrants heading to the United States.

The group responded on Tuesday with a statement on X saying it accepted the president’s invitation to start negotiations but denied being involved in the smuggling of migrants.

The Gulf Clan was founded by former members of right-wing paramilitary groups that demobilized in the early 2000s. 

It has been described as an apolitical group that increasingly controls communities where it administers justice, taxes local businesses and employs youth.

The group has an estimated 9,000 fighters and earns more than $4 billion per year from its illicit activities, which makes it Colombia’s wealthiest armed group, according to a report published Tuesday by the International Crisis Group.

“The armed groups who are in negotiations (with the government) today are under military pressure not from the state but from the Gulf Clan,” Elizabeth Dickinson, the report’s author, told The Associated Press. “So hovering over all of the ongoing negotiation processes is this threat that laying down arms…translates into handing over illicit economies, territories and communities” to the group.

Dickinson said that starting negotiations with the Gulf Clan would be essential for the government’s efforts to pacify rural areas of Colombia.

But talks with the Gulf Clan have been hampered by legislation that limits the government’s ability to negotiate with criminal groups that are not believed to have ideological motivations.

Colombia’s “total peace” law, created during the early days of the Petro administration, designated the Gulf Clan as a criminal group instead of an insurgent group.

While a 2023 ruling by Colombia’s constitutional court says the government can initiate talks with criminal groups, it is not allowed to offer them concrete terms under which they can disarm.

Instead, the Gulf Clan would have to negotiate its disarmament with Colombia’s attorney general.

On Monday, Petro said he had asked the attorney general to come up with terms under which the members of the Gulf Clan could collectively lay down their weapons.