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 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 neighborhood on the top of the civil conflict. His work in the end 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 neighborhood in Antioquia and paramilitary teams, 14 investigators in his workplace have been murdered.

On August 7, Velasquez will turn out to be 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, document coca manufacturing, and legal 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 out to be the primary leftist president in Colombia’s fashionable historical past, vowed on the marketing campaign path to considerably reform police and army forces. His appointment of Velasquez, who additionally labored as the highest United Nations official on the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, sends a strong message that he intends to comply with by means of.

The appointment has sparked harsh criticism from Petro’s critics, who view his previous as a rebel fighter with deep suspicion. Velasquez “has taken a robust place towards these of us within the army”, Raul Musse Pencue, a retired profession soldier, informed Al Jazeera. “We concern he’ll usher in a widespread persecution of army 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 Towards Impunity [File: Moises Castillo/AP]

Proper-wing Senator Paloma Valencia went additional, telling native media that the appointment “exhibits a whole absence of democratic ensures … [and] places all of our lives at risk”.

However individuals who have labored carefully with Velasquez in each Colombia and Guatemala paint a really totally different image: one in every of a soft-spoken and apolitical anti-corruption crusader who at all times retains a cool head, even throughout occasions of maximum private hazard.

“He isn’t politically motivated,” Gregorio Oviedo, a prosecutor who labored alongside Velasquez in Medellin, informed Al Jazeera. “His total profession, he has advocated for human rights. He is aware of the way to lead. He is aware of the way to examine, and most significantly, he is aware of what it’s to reside 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 recognized him, his solely agenda has been to construct a clear and unbiased 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 staff 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 circumstances of unlawful surveillance of journalists, human rights employees, 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 loss of life threats towards each himself and his household in each international locations.

Velasquez’s anti-corruption work in Guatemala led to profitable convictions towards ex-President Otto Perez Molina, his former vice chairman, 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 – folks from the richest households in Guatemala,” McFarland informed Al Jazeera. “Individuals who earlier than Velasquez arrived thought they have been untouchable.”

Petro
Colombia’s President-elect Gustavo Petro lately spoke to college students at Externado College in Bogota, Colombia [Fernando Vergara/AP]

Petro, who often denounced corruption whereas he was on the marketing campaign path, “is sending a strong 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 stated. “Civilian legislation will probably be revered.”

Abuses by police and army 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 by which greater than 6,400 civilians were killed by security forces, who falsely claimed the victims have been enemy combatants.

Velasquez has expressed help for Petro’s plan to position police, who at the moment report back to army command as a part of the defence ministry, below civilian management. The reform was really helpful by the UN final 12 months after an investigation into police violence throughout nationwide protests, the place dozens were killed in a crackdown by security forces.

Petro has additionally promised to reimplement points of the 2016 peace deal that have been delayed or dismantled by the outgoing administration of Ivan Duque. As a part of his efforts to implement “whole peace”, Petro has supplied to negotiate 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 keen 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 willpower, 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 struggle.”

Bangladesh’s garment sector faces energy, demand crises | Business and Economy News

The world’s second-largest garment exporter is experiencing a slowdown that can threaten the nation’s financial restoration.

Bangladesh’s garment business, the world’s No. 2 exporter after China, is dealing with a double whammy from slowing international demand and an power disaster at residence that’s threatening to thwart the nation’s pandemic restoration.

Plummy Fashions Ltd., a provider to PVH Corp., the mum or dad firm of vogue model Tommy Hilfiger, and Inditex SA’s Zara, noticed new orders in July drop 20% from a 12 months earlier, its Managing Director Fazlul Hoque stated.

“Retailers in each European and US markets are both deferring the shipments of completed merchandise or delaying orders, he stated in an interview. “As inflation is hovering in our export locations, it has a severe impression on us.”

Waning orders are a danger to the financial system, the place the garment business makes up greater than 10% of gross home product and employs 4.4 million individuals. It couldn’t be occurring at a worse time for Bangladesh as authorities are resorting to productivity-killing power cuts to protect gas reserves amid a region-wide power disaster, brought on partly by the struggle in Ukraine.

“Uninterrupted power provide is the important thing to delivering merchandise in time,” Hoque stated. “We’re dealing with a mixture of a number of issues at residence and overseas.

3-Hour Outages

Because the power disaster struck, the price of doing enterprise has surged. Customary Group Ltd., one of many main exporters that provides to Hole Inc. and H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB relies on turbines for at the least three hours a day to energy up its dyeing and washing models within the manufacturing hub of Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka.

“The price of electrical energy from turbines is thrice what we get from the nationwide grid as a result of diesel is dear,” Atiqur Rahman, chairman of Customary, stated in a separate interview. “We are able to’t hold our dyeing and washing models shut as a result of energy outage. If we do, all of the materials will go to waste.”

Add to that’s the euro’s weak spot towards the greenback that’s eroding the attraction of Bangladesh’s exports, that are priced in {dollars}.

“Clothes is a discretionary merchandise,” stated Charlie Robertson, international chief economist at Renaissance Capital. “In case your power invoice in Europe is capturing up, then individuals have to chop again on discretionary spending and garments will likely be a type of areas,” he stated.

Regional Contagion

Concern within the South Asian nation’s garment business is harking back to canceled orders within the early days of the pandemic. Clothes exports fell to a five-year low of $27.95 billion within the fiscal 12 months to June 2020, earlier than staging a restoration. The nation noticed garment exports climb to a report $42.6 billion within the 12 months ended June, accounting for 82% of complete exports.

Exporters additionally see ominous indicators from Walmart Inc.’s full-year revenue forecast minimize and its pledge to cut back clothes costs.

And there’s a regional contagion impact from Sri Lanka, stated Robertson, pointing to Pakistan’s exports getting “a lot cheaper” due to its foreign money’s weak spot. “That provides to strain on Bangladesh and key export markets like Europe will likely be shopping for much less textiles” as gross sales progress takes successful.

Bangladesh has sought a loan from the Worldwide Financial Fund, the newest South Asian nation to ask for help as costlier oil eats into the area’s greenback stockpiles.

Overseas alternate reserves in Bangladesh slipped to $39.79 billion as of July 13 from $45.33 billion a 12 months earlier. That’s sufficient to cowl roughly 4 months of imports, barely larger than the IMF’s beneficial three-month cowl. The nation’s commerce deficit widened to a report $33.3 billion within the fiscal 12 months ended June.

“We’ve simply recovered from the Covid pandemic after which got here the struggle,” stated Customary Group’s Rahman. “We’re simply unwitting victims.”