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JFP News 8/27: State Department Recommends Aid Cutoff to Honduras
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 August 2009 - 6:19pm
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August 27, 2009
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1) State Department staff have recommended the ouster of Honduran President Zelaya be declared a "military coup," which could cut off as much as $150 million in U.S. funding, Reuters reports. An official said State Department staff had made the recommendation to Secretary of State Clinton, who has yet to make a decision on the matter although one was likely soon. Washington has suspended about $18 million aid to Honduras and this would be formally cut if the determination is made because of a U.S. law barring aid "to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree." The official said that $215 million in grant funding from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to Honduras would have to end should Clinton make the determination. About $76 million has already been disbursed and a second official said this implied the remaining roughly $139 million could not be given to Honduras. Diplomats said the US had held off making the formal determination to give diplomacy a chance to yield a negotiated compromise that might allow for Zelaya's return to power. Such efforts appear to have failed for now and so the US is taking steps to raise pressure on the de facto government. "The recommendation of the building is for her to sign it," said the first U.S. official.
2) Colombian lawmakers who serve on a congressional commission that deals with security and defense said they first learned about the new U.S. basing agreement through news media reports in July and then received only a smattering of details in briefings with Colombian military officials, the Washington Post reports. They questioned the secrecy around the agreement. Sens. Dodd and Leahy asked Secretary of State Clinton why they had not been consulted about the plan and wondered why the Obama administration was deepening its ties with a military they accuse of human rights abuses.
3) The image of Afghan politicians squabbling while U.S. soldiers are dying on the battlefield is reminiscent of the darkest days of the Iraq war, when political stagnation in Baghdad helped turn U.S. public opinion against the Bush administration's policy in the 2006 congressional election, writes Robert Reid for AP.
4) August is on track to be the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since U.S. operations began nearly eight years ago, McClatchy reports.
5) Pakistan's most senior finance official says of the planned assistance pledged by the US to Pakistan is likely to be wastefully spent on administrative costs, the Financial Times reports. Some Pakistani officials express concern that USAID, the US's foreign development arm, will establish a large infrastructure in the country and employ generously paid foreign experts.
6) The International Federation of Journalists complained that news people covering the war in Afghanistan are being monitored by the US military to see if they are sympathetic, AP reports.
7) Recent polling data again suggests that US foreign policies are so awful not because the American people are ignorant about other countries but because they have too little influence over those policies, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. The majority of Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan, but the Obama Administration is escalating the war.
8) The Central American Bank for Economic Integration said it is freezing credits to Honduras, AP reports.
9) Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, whom U.S. official accuse of ongoing involvement in drug trafficking, stands a strong chance of becoming the next vice president of Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. If Marshal Fahim did take office, a US official said, the US would probably consider imposing sanctions like refusing to issue him a travel visa.
10) Iran's supreme leader says he has seen no proof that opposition leaders blamed for the post-election unrest were agents of foreign powers, the BBC reports. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments contradict accusations which have frequently been made by hardliners.
11) Guatemala has the sixth-worst rate of chronic malnutrition in the world, the Atlantic reports. Nearly half the children are chronically malnourished, according to the World Food Program. In some regions of the country, malnutrition levels top 90 percent. the state collects little revenue, because it has one of the lowest tax rates in Latin America. That's great for the top 10 percent of the population, who control 50 percent of the country's wealth. But for everybody else, it's a disaster. Some argue that because of the role it played in creating Guatemala's current neo-colonial system, the U.S. should do more to help. In 1954, the U.S. supported the overthrow of Guatemala's democratically elected government on behalf of the United Fruit Company. The U.S. does give Guatemala some assistance, but unlike most its neighbors, the country failed to qualify for a Millenium Challenge grant, which is the biggest current U.S. development program.
12) Amid allegations of vote-buying by Colombian officials seeking a third term for President Uribe, a photographer of newspaper El Espectador was able to capture a conversation between former minister Andres Felipe Arias, who was present in the House, and Bernardo Moreno, the personal secretary of the President, says Colombia Reports. In the conversation Moreno said he "will have to resort to shady strategies for Uribe." [The article has the picture of the text message conversation on a cell phone - JFP.]
1) U.S. moves toward formal cut off of aid to Honduras
Reuters, Thu Aug 27, 2009 3:23pm EDT
Washington - U.S. State Department staff have recommended that the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya be declared a "military coup," a U.S. official said on Thursday, a step that could cut off as much as $150 million in U.S. funding to the impoverished Central American nation.
The official, who spoke on condition he not be named, said State Department staff had made such a recommendation to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has yet to make a decision on the matter although one was likely soon.
Washington has already suspended about $18 million aid to Honduras following the June 28 coup and this would be formally cut if the determination is made because of a U.S. law barring aid "to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree."
The official said that $215 million in grant funding from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation to Honduras would also have to end should Clinton make the determination that a military coup took place.
About $76 million of that money has already been disbursed and a second U.S. official said this implied that the remaining roughly $139 million could not be given to Honduras should the determination be made.
Diplomats said that the United States had held off making the formal determination to give diplomacy a chance to yield a negotiated compromise that might allow for Zelaya's return to power.
Such efforts, however, appear to have failed for now and so the United States is taking steps - including its decision on Tuesday to cease issuing some visas at its embassy in Tegucigalpa - to raise pressure on the de facto government.
"The recommendation of the building is for her to sign it," said the first U.S. official said of the 'military coup" determination, saying this was a response to the de facto government's refusal to accept a compromise that would allow Zelaya to return to power ahead of November elections.
2) U.S.-Colombia Deal Prompts Questions
Lack of Debate, Dubious Motives Cited
Juan Forero and Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, Thursday, August 27, 2009
U.S. and Colombian officials say a new agreement to deploy U.S. aircraft and service members to this base is little more than the formalization of a string of loose military accords that go as far back as 1952. But the deal, which would allow American forces access to as many as seven bases, has prompted concern among South American presidents and an outcry from neighboring Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez warns of an impending U.S. invasion.
On Friday, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is expected to defend the plan at a regional summit in Argentina, arguing that it assists in the battle against the drug trade and has no offensive purpose. But even in Colombia, which accuses Chávez of meddling in its internal affairs, lawmakers are questioning whether the plan is legal and whether it could escalate the country's 45-year-old conflict, among other issues.
But Colombian lawmakers who serve on a congressional commission that deals with security and defense said that they first learned about the agreement through news media reports in July and that they then received only a smattering of details in closed-door briefings with Colombian military officials. An Interior Ministry document justifying the plan speaks of a "changing nature of transnational threats" and the need for "joint exercises" with the Americans.
"Those are terms that are very ambiguous and broad," Sen. Juan Manuel Galán said. "Without seeing the text, it's hard to understand exactly what was agreed upon." Sen. Cecilia López said the plan should have been debated in Congress. "Why is there so much secrecy?" she asked.
In Washington, Sens. Christopher J. Dodd and Patrick J. Leahy, senior Democrats who help shape policy on Latin America, asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a letter why they had not been consulted about the plan and wondered why the Obama administration was deepening its ties with a military they accuse of human rights abuses.
American officials say access to this installation in Puerto Salgar and the Apiay air base in southern Meta state puts U.S. military hardware closer to the historical heart of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the guerrilla group. "If you ask me if the missions will take advantage of this accord in the future to incorporate the FARC in the target zones, the response is yes, no doubt at all," Ambassador William R. Brownfield said last week in an interview with El Tiempo, the national newspaper.
That explanation has done little to ease concern in the region, particularly in Venezuela and Ecuador, where a Colombian airstrike last year on a rebel camp triggered a diplomatic spat with that country's president, Rafael Correa. In an interview, Ecuador's minister of internal and external security, Miguel Carvajal, said his government is suspicious of Washington's motives. "We believe this goes much further than the conflict against narco-trafficking and the guerrillas," he said.
Carvajal also said his government was wary because the Americans operating out of Manta had revealed little to Ecuador about their missions. "They gave us the information they wanted to give us," he said.
3) Divisiveness Adds To Pessimism In Afghanistan
Robert H. Reid, Associated Press, Thursday, August 27, 2009
The year began with President Obama promising a new beginning for an old war - long ignored and under-resourced by the Bush administration as the spotlight fell on the conflict in Iraq.
As part of a new emphasis, Obama ordered 21,000 troops to Afghanistan and replaced the top U.S. commander with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who unveiled a strategy shifting the focus from killing insurgents to protecting Afghan civilians, a mind-set that helped turn the tide of the Iraq conflict.
At the same time, the administration promised to build up the capabilities of the Afghan government, accelerate the training of Afghan soldiers and police and help the Afghan leadership combat corruption and the flourishing drug trade, which helps finance the insurgency.
Months later, the U.S. effort appears to be faltering.
Hopes that the Afghan presidential election would produce a leader with a strong national mandate have been cast into doubt by allegations of widespread fraud in the Aug. 20 balloting.
At the worst, the controversy may trigger street riots and splinter the country along ethnic lines.
The image of Afghan politicians squabbling in Kabul at a time when American and other international soldiers are dying on the battlefield is grimly reminiscent of the darkest days of the Iraq war, when political stagnation in Baghdad helped turn U.S. public opinion against the Bush administration's policy in the 2006 congressional election.
4) US Deaths in Afghanistan Headed for Another Record
Nancy A. Youssef and Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers, Aug. 26, 2009
Washington - With the deaths of four U.S. soldiers Tuesday, the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan now has lost more troops this year than in all of 2008, and August is on track to be the deadliest month for American troops there since U.S. operations began nearly eight years ago.
The numbers reflect the rising pace of combat in Afghanistan and come at a difficult time, just as Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is considering asking for more U.S. troops even as opinion polls show that a majority of Americans think the war in Afghanistan isn't worth the cost.
In July, 45 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan, the highest monthly toll this year. So far in August, 40 Americans have died, many in the south, and Pentagon officials say privately that with nearly a week left in the month, they expect August to exceed July's number. Americans make up the majority of the 63 coalition troops killed so far this month; 75 coalition soldiers died in July.
In 2008, total coalition deaths were 294, 155 of whom were Americans; the 2009 total through Tuesday was 295, of whom 172 were Americans. There are currently 63,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Members of Congress are expressing concerns about U.S. progress in a country known as the graveyard of empires.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a proponent of sending more troops to Afghanistan on Sunday called the trends in Afghanistan "very alarming and disturbing" on ABC News, while Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a member on the Foreign Relations Committee, told his home state's Appleton Post-Crescent newspaper that he wants a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
"I think it is time we ought to start discussing a flexible timetable when people in America and Afghanistan and around the world can see where we intend and when we intend to bring our troops out," Feingold said, according to the paper.
Interviews with Afghans show that they are fed up as well. Many say they don't want help from the U.S., the Taliban or their central government; they just want to be left alone.
5) US Aid To Pakistan 'Depleted By Admin Costs'
Farhan Bokhari and James Lamont, Financial Times, August 26 2009
Half of the planned assistance pledged by the US to Pakistan is likely to be wastefully spent on administrative costs, Islamabad's most senior finance official has said. Shaukat Tarin, Pakistan's finance minister, has urged the US to channel its assistance through Pakistani agencies instead to save on high intermediation costs incurred by US counterparts.
His comments come as Pakistan struggles to secure funds from international donors who want to know more about where it will be spent. At an international donors meeting in Turkey this week, Pakistan failed to cement earlier pledges of $5.7bn in aid in spite of an appeal by the United Nations not to ignore Pakistan's plight.
Pakistan has become one of the largest recipients of US aid as Washington seeks to help stabilise the country threatened by a Taliban insurgency. US President Barack Obama plans to raise economic assistance to about $1.5bn a year, or $7.5bn over the next five years.
"Whatever aid [the US is] giving must have full impact on the ground which is why they should route as much of this aid through our agencies than their own agencies," Mr Tarin said in an interview with the Financial Times. "Frankly, we only receive almost 50-55 per cent of the aid, 40-45 per cent becomes expenses [because of intermediation costs by the US]."
Some Pakistani officials express concern that USAID, the US's foreign development arm, will establish a large infrastructure in the country and employ generously paid foreign experts. They are concerned that higher personnel and administrative bills will inflate the cost of development projects.
6) Screening Of War Reporters Stirs Complaint
Associated Press, August 27, 2009
Brussels - The International Federation of Journalists complained yesterday that news people covering the war in Afghanistan are being monitored by the US military to see if they are sympathetic to the American cause.
The federation said journalists seeking to travel under the protection of US armed forces in Afghanistan may be screened first by an American public relations firm to see whether their coverage portrays the military in a positive light.
"This profiling of journalists further compromises the independence of media," Aidan White, general secretary of the Brussels-based federation, said in a statement. "It strips away any pretense that the army is interested in helping journalists to work freely," the federation statement said.
The complaint followed the publication Aug. 24 of an article in the Stars and Stripes, an independent daily covering the US military, reporting that embedded journalists were being screened by The Rendon Group, a Washington-based public relations company.
A US military spokeswoman in Kabul said the Rendon reports were used only to ascertain what a journalist's specific interests might be. "What is important to note is that we do not deny access to journalists wishing to cover operations in Afghanistan based on the tenor of their reporting," said Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker.
American affiliates of the international journalists federation joined in protesting the screening. The International Federation of Journalists represents more than 600,000 journalists in 123 countries.
7) We Don't Want to Rule the World
The US public largely opposes America's foreign wars and economic meddling. They need a voice in US foreign policy
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Thursday 27 August 2009 16.00 BST
Americans are famous for not paying much attention to the rest of the world, and it is often said that foreign wars are the way that we learn geography. But most often it is not the people who have little direct experience outside their own country that are the problem, but rather the experts.
The latest polling data is making this clear once again, as a majority of Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan, but the Obama administration is escalating the war, and his military commanders may ask for even more troops than the increase to 68,000 that the adminstration is planning by the end of this year.
This gap between the average American and the foreign policy elite has been around since the Vietnam war and long before. The gap is also large between Democratic voters, three-quarters of whom oppose the war in Afghanistan, and the politicians and thinktanks that represent them in the political arena. A few decades ago there was a real voting base of cold war liberals - people who were progressive on social and economic issues but rightwing on foreign policy. That base has largely disappeared. Yet amazingly, the foreign policy establishment - including most of the media - has managed to maintain this political tendency as a very influential force.
The gap between the public and the foreign policy elite is not due to the ignorance of the masses, as the elite would have it, but primarily to a different set of interests and values. Very few foreign policy decision-makers - just a handful of members of Congress, for example - have sons or daughters who actually fight in the wars that they decide are "wars of necessity". The tax burden for these wars is more affordable for most foreign policy experts than it is for an American with median earnings. And perhaps most importantly, the average American doesn't have the same interest in trying to have the US rule the world.
In 2006, when television newscasts were showing regular footage of Iraqis killed and maimed by explosions, Americans were horrified, and opposition to the war increased substantially. It is only by keeping the ugly reality of our foreign occupations away from the public that our government can even get enough support to keep funding them.
Conversely, where there are independent citizens' organisations that can exert influence, some of the crimes involved in US foreign policy can be successfully challenged. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union waged a five-year battle that led to attorney general Eric Holder's decision this week to appoint a special prosecutor to look into some of the instances of torture and abuse of prisoners by the CIA.
But the powerful and rigid institutional arrangements of our foreign policy establishment, the sloth and weakness among the intelligentsia, as well as the corruption from the interests of military contractors, makes it an uphill battle for common sense to prevail.
It is not that the American people are so backward and ignorant, or bellicose. Rather the main problem is that the public has so little input into foreign policy decisions. That is what must change if we are to get away from the prospect of never-ending wars and conflicts, and from a foreign policy that continues to be one of the greatest obstacles to social and economic progress in the world.
8) Central American bank freezes Honduras loans
Associated Press, Wednesday, August 26, 2009 11:59 PM
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Central America's development bank says it is freezing credits to Honduras following the June 28 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Local media say the decision could affect infrastructure projects like planned highways in the impoverished Central American nation.
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration said in a statement Wednesday that the freeze is provisional, while the banks' governors weigh whether to suspend financing. The bank has provided about $971 million in financing for Honduras over the last five years.
Many other multilateral agencies and foreign governments have put Honduras aid projects on hold, in the face of the interim government's refusal to reinstate Zelaya.
9) Alleged Drug Ties Of Top Afghan Official Worry U.S.
James Risen and Mark Landler, New York Times, August 27, 2009
Washington - It was a heated debate during the Bush administration: What to do about evidence that Afghanistan's powerful defense minister was involved in drug trafficking? Officials from the time say they needed him to help run the troubled country. So the answer, in the end: look the other way.
Today that debate will be even more fraught for a new administration, for the former defense minister, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, stands a strong chance of becoming the next vice president of Afghanistan.
Now, the problem of how to grapple with Marshal Fahim adds to the complexity of managing an uneasy relationship with Karzai. Partial election results show Karzai leading other contenders, but allegations of fraud threaten to add to the credibility problems facing a second Karzai-led government.
If Marshal Fahim did take office, the administration official said, the United States would probably consider imposing sanctions like refusing to issue him a travel visa - something it does with other foreign officials suspected of corruption - though the official cautioned that the subject had not come up in internal deliberations.
The United States could take harsher steps, like going after the marshal's finances, but this would be a remarkable move, given the deep American involvement in Afghanistan and the importance of its relationship with the Karzai government, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.
And Marshal Fahim is not the only Afghan official forcing such a tricky calculation. This summer President Obama called for an investigation of a warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is accused of involvement in the killings of thousands of Taliban prisoners of war early in the conflict. That demand fell on deaf ears: Karzai recently allowed General Dostum to return from exile, reinstating him to his government position. The general, in turn, has endorsed Karzai and campaigned for him.
10) Iranian protesters 'not agents'
BBC, Thursday, 27 August 2009 06:42 UK
Iran's supreme leader says he has seen no proof that opposition leaders blamed for the post-election unrest were agents of foreign powers. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments contradict accusations which have frequently been made by hardliners.
A number of senior opposition figures are currently on trial in Tehran accused of conspiring with foreign powers to organise unrest.
But the ayatollah appears to be trying to reduce tensions, say correspondents. "I do not accuse the leaders of the recent incidents to be subordinate to the foreigners, like the United States and Britain, since this issue has not been proven for me," said Ayatollah Khamenei, in a statement read out on Iranian television.
11) Hungry in Guatemala
In a country plagued by chronic malnutrition, government solutions keep coming up short. The real problem: poverty and income inequality.
Samuel Loewenberg, The Atlantic, August 26, 2009
At the G8 meeting in Italy last month, the world's richest countries agreed to devote $20 billion to food security and agricultural development. President Barack Obama declared that the "purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it's no longer needed, to help people become self-sufficient, provide for their families and lift their standards of living." The initiative was primarily spurred by concerns about the effects on struggling populations of global warming and the economic downturn. But it is also perhaps a reflection of Obama's stated intent to put a greater emphasis on what his administration calls "smart power" - diplomacy and development, as opposed to primarily defense - in his approach to foreign policy.
Here's an unlikely candidate to be the poster child for the new program: Guatemala. The Central American nation has the sixth-worst rate of chronic malnutrition in the world, despite being what might be described as a relatively well-off lower-middle class country. Indeed, the situation there bears little resemblance to the well-worn picture of skeletal children in African refugee camps. Measured by average GDP, Guatemala is doing fine economically. But that fact hides dramatic income inequality: while wealthy citizens live luxuriously in sequestered Guatemala City neighborhoods, the poor are barely noticed, living like feudal peasants in the countryside. Nearly half the children in this country of 13 million are chronically malnourished, according to the World Food Program.
One reason the country's elite seem blind to the massive hunger problem is that those affected show few physical symptoms. Guatemala's chronically malnourished infants do eat, but their diet is low quality and carb-heavy, mostly tortillas and pasta. So the children look short rather than wasted. Beans have become too expensive for daily consumption, and farmers have to sell off their vegetables and eggs rather than serving them to their kids. While children don't go hungry, their nutritional deficits take a devastating toll-hindering brain development, among other disabling effects.
The country's stark income inequality means that rural areas suffer from a lack of basic infrastructure. Clean water and electricity are almost nonexistent in many villages. Education, too, is scarce. Less than 40 percent of indigenous women in Guatemala are literate, compared with an overall rate of 85 percent for Latin America. Worst hit by the chronic hunger are the country's Mayans and other indigenous peoples-most of them rural farmers-who make up about half of the population. In some regions of the country, malnutrition levels top 90 percent, among the very highest rates in the world.
The government's anti-hunger efforts so far have primarily focused on providing food supplements to stunted infants. But while this treats the symptoms, it doesn't address the underlying problems of poverty and income inequality.
Juan Aguilar, director of the government's food security and nutrition agency, says that in order to really make a difference, the country needs to invest in improving basic village conditions. Recognizing this, the government recently began a pilot infrastructure program in one of the country's most-afflicted Eastern provinces. It's a good start. But the program's effectiveness and ability to expand are hampered by a paltry budget. Despite a fairly robust economy, the state collects little revenue, because it has one of the lowest tax rates in Latin America. That's great for the top 10 percent of the population, who control 50 percent of the country's wealth. But for everybody else, it's a disaster.
Some argue that because of the role it played in creating Guatemala's current neo-colonial system, the U.S. should do more to help. In 1954, the U.S. supported the overthrow of Guatemala's democratically elected government on behalf of the United Fruit Company, and then, during the ensuing 30-year civil war, backed the right-wing military. By the time the war ended in 1996, 200,000 people had been killed or "disappeared."
But America's foreign aid establishment is stretched thin: the U.S. Agency for International Development has only 2,300 employees-fewer than a third of what it had in 1990. And for the 84 countries in which it works, the agency has only five engineers and twenty-three education officers. The U.S. does give Guatemala some assistance, but unlike most its neighbors, the country failed to qualify for a Millenium Challenge grant, which is the biggest current U.S. development program. It was rejected because of its high level of corruption, poor law enforcement, and low degree of government effort in supporting the poor.
Guatemala will need to get its own house in order if it wants to save its children. As seems clear, however, that's not likely to happen any time soon. Wayne Nilsestuen, the head of USAID's Guatemala office, put it perhaps the most starkly: in the end it comes down to this, "There's not enough money for the state to perform its functions."
12) House postpones referendum vote until Tuesday
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 23:07
After two days of debating, Colombia's House of Representatives Wednesday was still not able to vote on the referendum on President Alvaro Uribe's possibility to seek a third term in 2010. The impediments of coalition lawmakers blocked the actual vote and the session was postponed until Tuesday.
House President Edgar Gomez Roman suspended the second session just before midnight Wednesday after the House had spent the previous seven and a half hours dismissing the impediments of mostly coalition lawmakers who massively claimed to be impeded by a preliminary Supreme Court investigation into their possibly illegal approval of the five million votes that were gathered to demand the referendum.
The bill was expected to be voted on Monday, but was held back when 106 of the 166 Representatives said to be impeded. Only ten of these impediments could be dealt with in the first session and even after the second session some 40 impediments were still to be voted on.
While the lawmakers were dismissing their own impediments, high government and coalition party officials continued lobbying Representatives whose vote was still insecure.
A photographer of newspaper El Espectador was able to capture a conversation between former minister Andres Felipe Arias, who was present in the House, and Bernardo Moreno, the personal secretary of the President. In the conversation Moreno said he "will have to resort to shady strategies for Uribe."
Moreno is suspected of involvement in the bribery of two convicted Congressmen to secure the 2006 re-election of Uribe.
The referendum bill is surrounded by scandals and the opposition accuses the coalition of fraud, unconstitutional actions and bribery.
The gathering of votes calling for the referendum violated financial regulation, which led to a criminal complaint by an opposition lawmaker after his colleagues approved the referendum. Because of the initial formulation the referendum would allow Uribe to run for re-election, but not until 2014. The text was altered by the Senate to allow Uribe to be re-elected in 2010.
Presidential candidate for the Liberal Party, Rafael Pardo, accuses Senators of having been able to enrich themselves with government funds after their approval and another presidential candidate, German Vargas Lleras of Cambio Radical, said government institutions have offered well-paid positions to Representatives if they approved the bill.
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