The FARC has been holding negotiations with the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Cuba since November 2012, and without a bilateral ceasefire. The process, which includes a five-point agenda to put an end to the national armed conflict, has the international support of Norway, Cuba, Venezuela, and Chile. “FARC guerrillas attacked Army troops with rifles at a village in Río Grande, where unfortunately a soldier died. It is a shame that this happened during Holy Week,” Santiago Londoño, government secretary for Antioquia department, stated. The FARC, founded in 1964, is the oldest Latin American guerrilla group and the main insurgency in Colombian. In this regard, he added that the authorities would reinforce regional security and they would carry out search operations for guerrillas from the FARC’s 5th Front. A Colombian Soldier died in the municipality of Turbo, northwestern Colombia, during an attack that authorities attributed to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an insurgency organization currently holding peace talks with the Colombian government in Cuba, according to official sources. By Dialogo April 02, 2013 The death of a soldier is very sad for me, the death of a man who is fulfilling a service is very sad and senseless, this news upsets me a lot, my condolences to his family and friends, I can’t stand when someone dies this way, I know it is a job, but it still hurts and that makes me feel sad. In the previous note, I was happy about your success, although the deaths are regrettable, but there’s a difference in this, I don’t live in that country but have the intention to visit soon, I wish you the best.
“The capture of the terrorist Héctor dealt a major blow to Shining Path (SL). With this, we are consolidating the pacification of the Huallaga [Valley],” Gen. Vicente Romero, director of the Anti-Drug Directorate of the National Police (DIRANDRO) told reporters. Intelligence work and cooperation between the PNP and the Armed Forces led to the capture, said Diego Salazar Morales, principal researcher of the publication, Revista Andina de Estudios Políticos. Special Intelligence Brigade agents captured Héctor around 9:20 a.m. in the Las Lomas sector of the José Crespo y Castillo district in the province of Leoncio Prado, in the highland department of Huanuco, according to a joint statement from the Ministries of Defense and Interior. A member of the Public Prosecutor’s office also participated in the operation, authorities said. ‘Major blow’ to the Shining Path By Dialogo January 29, 2014 The capture of Héctor is part of an ongoing effort by Peruvian security forces to weaken the leadership of the SP. In February, 2012, Peruvian security forces captured SP leader Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, who is also known as “Artemio.” A team of National Police agents and Army soldiers captured Artemio in the Tocache province during “Operation Peru.” Security forces wounded Artemio during a fierce gun battle. Artemio, who was later convicted of terrorism, drug trafficking, and money laundering. He is serving a life sentence in prison. The capture of Artemio was a strong blow against the SP, security officials said. The recent arrest of Héctor, who had been leading the Shining Path after the capture of Artemio, further weakens the SP, according to Diego Salazar Morales, a researcher at the publication Andean Political Studies. “A group of 50 to 60 armed men are trying to save what remains of the Shining Path organization in the area,” Salazar Morales said. “The capture of Héctor slows reorganization.” The Shining Path rebel group split into two factions more than 20 years ago after security forces captured its founder and then-leader, Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, who is known as “Gonzalo”. The “Acuerdista” faction remained loyal to Gonzalo, and operated primarily in the Huallaga Valley region. The “Proseguir” faction has operated primarily in the region that includes the Valley of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM). Víctor Quispe Palomino, who is known as “José” and Jorge Quispe Palomino, who is also known as “Raúl”, lead the “Proseguir” faction. Both factions produce and traffic cocaine. The SP depends on this criminal enterprise to buy weapons and finance its terrorist activities, authorities said. Attacking the SP’s leadership Fighting the SP in the VRAEM Peruvian Army soldiers and National Police agents recently captured Alezander Dimas Fabián Huamán, a high-ranking leader of the Shining Path who is also known as “Héctor.” Agents of the Special Intelligence Brigade, which is comprised of members of the Armed Forces and the National Police of Peru (PNP), captured Héctor on Dec. 9, 2013 in the department of Huánuco. President Ollanta Humala announced the arrest at Army headquarters during a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of Ayacucho. Héctor led the rebel group’s operations in Huallaga Valley, one of the largest coca-growing valleys in Peru, authorities said. Drug traffickers cultivate coca on about 13,000 hectares valley, producing about 100 tons of cocaine a year, authorities said. Héctor is also suspected of killing several people who lived along the banks of the Huallaga River, which flows through several regions of the central jungle and is a transit area for drug trafficking organization. In recent years, the Proseguir faction of the SP has killed dozens of police agents and Army soldiers who were conducting security operations in the VRAEM, according to the report, “Situational Analysis of Drug Trafficking,” which was published by the American Police Community (AMERIPOL). Transnational criminal organizations from Peru, Colombia, and Mexico have sophisticated transit networks to send drug shipments from Peru to the United States, East Asia, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, and other Latin American countries. The SL once generated most of its income by collecting “fees” from drug trafficking organizations which operate in Peru. The SL now cultivates, processes, and traffics tons of cocaine every year, said Alain Zegarra Sun, a security analyst at Federico Villarreal National University. The SL supports its terrorist activities by cultivating and trafficking drugs, the security analyst said. “In other words, there is a symbiotic relationship between terrorism and drug trafficking as Shining Path (SL) has mutated into what the Brigadier General of the Peruvian Army, Leonardo Longa López, rightly called ‘terror narco-logging.’ Currently, the terrorist group survives on these two illicit activities: drug trafficking and illegal logging,” Zegarra Sun explained. While the captures of Héctor and Artemio are important blows against the SP, security forces in the VRAEM must remain vigilant, according to Zegarra Sun. Both SP factions adjust whenever their leaders are captured or killed, Zegarra Sun said. Even if security forces were to capture all of the top SP leaders in the VRAEM, other Shining Path operatives would move up in the group’s hierarchy to replace them, or, Colombian drug traffickres might move into the region, Salazar Morales said. “Efforts must be redoubled based on operational intelligence, which will have to be reinforced with a comprehensive strategy that also prioritizes the promotion of development on the basis of a concerted effort from all sectors of the State, the sphere of development, in order to win the hearts and minds of the people, isolating them from the guerrillas like separating fish from water,” Zerraga Sun said. Security forces will continue to root out drug trafficking in the VRAEM, said Carmen Masias, chief executive of the National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (Devida). “We will go into the VRAEM region whether or not the Shining Path is there,” Masias said. “The social cost must always be assessed, but we cannot wait for terrorism to end before we take any action.”
In recent weeks, vigilant Army units have been discovering and disabling FARC explosives on an almost daily basis. For example, on May 29, troops from the Army’s 4th Division discovered and disabled 10 IEDs in the Meta department. Authorities believe the devices were constructed by the FARC. The IEDs were constructed with pentolite, a highly explosive compound that includes TNT. It wasn’t long before soldiers found more explosives. On May 27, troops attached to the Army’s Task Force Apollo found a FARC minefield composed of six explosive devices in the department of Cauca. EXDE troops destroyed the explosives. Protecting the civilian population FARC land mines and IEDs have killed more than 10,000 Colombians since 1990 according to Colombia’s Presidential Program for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (PAICMA). The victims included about 4,000 civilians, including 1,000 children and young people. The explosives killed about 6,000 members of the military. Worldwide, only Afghanistan has more land mine victims than Colombia. The Colombian government is engaged with ongoing peace talks with the FARC. Despite the talks, deaths and injuries attributed to FARC land mines and IEDs have continued to occur. Among the recent deaths and injuries attributed to FARC explosives: • On May 29, two children were wounded after one of them picked up an improvised explosive device that had been placed at the gate of a school in the southwestern department of Putumayo. One of the children lost three fingers while the other suffered hearing loss. • On Feb. 25, an improvised bomb exploded in a supermarket in the city of Quid, capital of the department of Choco, killing five people and injuring many others. FARC terrorists were suspected for the blast, police said. Security forces arrested six alleged FARC members. • On January 16, an improvised explosive concealed in a motorcycle killed one person and injured 61 others in the city of Pradera, in the department of Valle Del Cauca. The motorcycle had been parked outside the mayor’s office and caused extensive damage to the building. A FARC group took responsibility for the bombing. Army forces later killed two FARC rebels and wounded and captured three others believed responsible for the bombing, according to press reports. • On Dec. 17, 2013, nine people were killed by an improvised bomb that exploded at a farmer’s market in the town of Inza in the department of Cauca. The dead included five soldiers, a police officer and three civilians, according to press reports. By Dialogo June 18, 2014 Soldiers find FARC explosives The Colombian Army is conducting an aggressive and effective campaign to locate and disable improvised explosive devices (IEDs), land mines and other weapons used by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to terrorize the civilian population, including women and children. IEDs and other explosives placed by the FARC have killed and injured at least 1,000 children and adolescents, and tens of thousands of civilians, according to government statistics. The weapons also kill livestock animals, such as cows and horses which step on landmines which FARC terrorists buried in fields and pastures. Since January 1, Colombian Army soldiers in the departments of Meta and Guaviare have located and neutralized more than 300 IEDs, 11 minefields, 2,000 kilos of handmade explosives and 14,000 detonators that were planted or produced by the Eastern Bloc of the FARC, according to an Army press release. The soldiers seized explosives and detonators that could have been used to produce 14,000 anti-personnel mines and other terrorist weapons, according to military authorities. Army forces have also neutralized hundreds of other landmines and IEDs in other parts of the country. The Army’s elite Explosives and Demolition unit (EXDE) performs most of the dangerous work of neutralizing IEDs and other explosives. FARC terrorists have made extensive use of landmines and other explosive devices during its fifty-year war against the Colombian government. FARC operative placed tens of thousands of mines to protect their bases and coca fields they controlled. When the terrorists left certain areas, they left land mines behind, with often deadly results. The Army is continuing to show its capabilities when it comes to finding and disabling IEDs and other explosives to protect the civilian population, livestock, and security forces, said Yadira Gálvez, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). “The Army has (repeatedly) demonstrated its ability to identify multiple types of explosives,” Gálvez said. “The IEDs are explosives that can have large and destructive impact. Clearly, the (civilian) population is affected the most because the FARC is confronting the state but also the population.” Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article Deadly FARC explosives
The site is adjacent to the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca, which is home to most of the sports venues. However, the force “will also serve in the Deodoro arenas and the areas around the Maracanã Stadium and Copacabana,” Secretary Miki said. “We are bringing our experience from the other major events, but we do not have an Olympic experience. Therefore, we are updating our procedures based on the experiences of countries that have hosted the Games and other major sporting events recently. In addition to the World Cup, which was held here and where we served, we had representatives in London, at the Pan American Games in Toronto, and I myself went to the World Championships in Athletics in China.” “We will not handle security on the streets, but inside the premises,” Secretary Miki stated, adding that all the equipment purchased will be part of the country’s Olympic legacy. “The entryway metal detectors, for example, will be provided to prisons after the end of the event. The precision weapons and personal protective equipment, such as shields, helmets, and vests, will be turned over to the National Force itself.” Security officials are making the final adjustments through Olympic test events, the first of which was held in February for a diving competition. On April 16th-24th, the National Force will participate in a gymnastics test event. Finally, on May 17th-21st, the National Force will arrive for the Paralympic track and field test event and will remain in the city until the end of the Games. All of its officers will stay at the Vila Carioca, a new development built through the “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (“My Home, My Life”) program, which funds affordable public housing. The development is being provided by the federal government to host National Force members during Rio 2016. Authorities will turn the facility over to the public after the Olympics, which will take place from August 5th through August 21st. The National Force’s work is integrated with other agencies. The Federal Highway Police, for example, is responsible for the safety of the athletes and delegations during transportation from one site to another. The Military Police, Civil Police, Fire Department, and the Armed Forces, among others, also have assignments. Final adjustments Brazil’s National Public Security Force, which is made up of more than 15,000 of the best police officers and firefighters from every state, was established in 2004 as a security measure for the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. During the 2016 Olympic Games, the National Force will be responsible for public safety inside the Games’ venues. Since the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio, the National Force has been deployed for several major events, such as the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, World Youth Day in 2013, the Confederations Cup in 2013, and the World Cup in 2014. “We have been growing as we go,” National Public Security Secretary Regina Miki De Luca explained. “We are going into the Olympics with standard operating procedures. We already know automatically what to do.” Currently, the National Force is conducting 43 operations in 15 states. It handles everything from providing reinforcements to the Federal Police in border areas to protecting populations on indigenous lands, as well as supporting homicide investigations and the occupation of conflict areas, such as Morro Santo Amaro, in Catete, in Rio de Janeiro’s South Zone. About 6,000 of the officers assigned to those operations will continue to conduct their daily activities during the Games, while the other 9,613 will provide security for the event. The comments are very important given the dynamics of the new times. We should all collaborate to fight these scourges that are flogging our society By Dialogo March 24, 2016 With 9,613 of its men and women in action during the event, this special force will handle the protection of athletes and officials, as well as the audience members in attendance, coordinating everything from security checks at the gates, on-site inspections, the safety of the medals, and providing first responders and bomb squads. In the event of a terrorist threat, for example, the first response will come from the National Force, but if a terrorist attack occurs, authorities will deploy the Army and the Federal Police. Security forces cooperate
By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo April 25, 2019 The U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) inducted military leaders from Argentina and Jamaica to the International Hall of Fame (IHOF) at the Lewis and Clark Center, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, April 4, 2019. Argentine Army General Bari del Valle Sosa, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, and Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) Lieutenant General Rocky R. Meade, chief of Defence Staff, will have their portraits displayed alongside 280 inductees from 75 partner nations worldwide. Indian Army General Bipin Rawat, chief of the Army Staff, was also inducted. “CGSC is an institution committed to the creation and training of future leaders,” said Gen. Sosa during his speech. “[CGSC] is a unique place for the exchange of ideas, visions, experiences, and different cultures.” “When we come here as mid-level officers, there is no vision this would ever happen; we come here to do our best,” said Lt. Gen. Meade. “CGSC gave me a tremendous experience and the recognition is a great honor.” CGSC, created in 1881, offers post-graduate education to U.S. and international military officers and members of interagency organizations. CGSC established IHOF in 1973 to provide a prestigious and visible means of recognition for international graduates who through military merit have attained one of the highest positions of in their armed forces or who have held an equivalent position of rank of responsibility in a multinational military organization, according to the IHOF criteria for induction. Gen. Sosa and Lt. Gen. Meade received a certificate of honor from the Military Order of the World Wars, a U.S. Veteran Service Organization created for U.S. officers to promote patriotism and good citizenship. In addition, the CGSC Foundation gave the inductees, an eagle statue and a Life Constituent Certificate for their outstanding military service. In order to be nominated, an officer must graduate from CGSC and hold a high-ranking military position in their country. CGSC counts approximately 8,000 international graduates; 15 are heads of their countries’ military forces or of their government. “International Hall of Fame inductees represent the absolute pinnacle of professional achievement as senior uniform leaders. Their respective efforts furthered the readiness of their militaries, the security of their nations, and the stability of our world,” said U.S. Army Brigadier General Troy Galloway, provost of the Army University and deputy commandant of CGSC, at the opening ceremony. “I am extremely proud of the bonds formed here and the lasting partnerships established between our nations. The leaders that we have inducted today represent the finest traditions of CGSC.” A distinguished career in the Argentine Army Gen. Sosa is the third Argentine officer to receive this military honor. He began his military career as an infantry second lieutenant from the Army’s National Military College in El Palomar, Buenos Aires in 1978. In 1995, he joined CGSC’s Officers Course, becoming the first 1995 graduate to be inducted. He served in numerous assignments during his military career, including as executive officer to the Army Chief of Staff, deputy director of the Sargento Cabral Noncommissioned Officer Academy, and deputy commander of the U.S. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, among others. Gen. Sosa was appointed chief of Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces on January 18, 2016. “I deeply value this international climate as an engine to foster knowledge, bonds, and professional expertise. “It is here where we have our best tool for command in view of the new challenges of our times,” said Gen. Sosa. “I will be forever grateful to CGSC, its instructors, and the Class of 1995.” Gen. Galloway recognized Gen. Sosa’s cooperative and mutually beneficial efforts with the United States. “Gen. Sosa’s leadership demonstrates that Argentina is a strong and reliable partner in maintaining peace and security in the Western Hemisphere.” Military prestige for Jamaica Lt. Gen. Meade joined JDF in 1984, and graduated from CGSC’s Class of 2003. He is the second Jamaican officer to be inducted to IHOF. By the time he was appointed chief of Defence Staff, in December 2016, he had implemented a number of military initiatives for JDF, including the Jamaican Military Museum, the Flight Safety Program, the JDF Language Lab, and the JDF Technical Training Institute. Since then, he enhanced JDF’s personnel, resources, and infrastructure, including the Jamaica National Service Corps, the Jamaican Regiment, the Jamaica National Reserve, and the Maritime, Air and Cyber Command. “My experiences during the almost one year at CGSC were instrumental and enabled me to more effectively develop and lead a strategic force for Jamaica,” said Lt. Gen. Meade. “The thesis that I wrote when I was here, I am implementing it now in the transformation of the force.” “Lt. Gen. Meade’s leadership is indispensable to the modernization of JDF,” said Gen. Galloway. “Jamaica lays proud claim to being the first country to participate in the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program, which now includes 81 participant nations. [JDF] proudly continues its partnership with the District of Columbia National Guard.” Before the ceremony’s conclusion, Gen. Sosa and Lt. Gen. Meade, joined by their families and CGSC’s leadership, saw their portraits revealed at IHOF. “Each [of you] has distinguished yourself in service to your home nation and by rising to the highest position of uniformed leadership in your respective militaries,” concluded Gen. Galloway.
By Maria Pinel / Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs January 22, 2020 When a disaster strikes, many factors can come into play as different agencies and organizations try to respond. From emergency first responders, nongovernmental organizations to military and public forces, everyone wants to lend a helping hand.However, those components may not always have the right capabilities, or simply may not have the right information to know what capabilities to employ, making training scenarios very important. They enhance interoperability and facilitate communication between multiple responders, in order to prepare participants for potential future contingency scenarios.Joint Task Force Bravo’s (JTF-Bravo) service members and Panamanian forces joined for an emergency response and humanitarian assistance exercise in the Darién Province, Panama, December 3-10 to hone expeditionary and readiness capabilities during a combined, joint exercise called Mercury. Amid dense jungle and remote field conditions, more than 100 U.S. participants worked alongside their Panamanian hosts to respond to a simulated flooding disaster following a hurricane — a wholly believable scenario for the region.The goal of the low-cost exercise was simple: allow participants to learn together as they practiced the exercise deployment and operation of U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Situational Assessment Team (S-SAT) — SOUTHCOM’s eyes and ears, as the first team on the ground to reach a country that was affected by a disaster. The S-SAT is a multi-capacity machine that can rapidly move to an affected area to determine the situation on-the-ground during a disaster or crisis.“We have the capacity to arrive in an affected area rapidly, and we can gather information to assess damages by land or through satellite images to develop a course of action that can help mitigate what has happened,” said U.S. Army Captain Juan Ariel Torres, JTF-Bravo engineer and exercise participant. “We coordinate with other U.S. Army and partner nations’ engineers to bring the necessary capabilities to respond efficiently.”Panamanian Air and Naval Services Major Emerito Villareal, coordinates air movements with U.S. counterparts at the Panama Pacífico Airport, Panama, December 4, 2019. (Photo: Technical Sergeant Daniel Owen / Joint Task Force Bravo)The S-SAT’s ranks include engineers, logisticians, communications specialists, intelligence analysts, medical personnel, and other components who all analyze and assess the situation in an affected area to advise senior leadership and decision makers on the correct response to a crisis. They say what is needed and what is not by working with the host nation, determining what capabilities are readily available.For Exercise Mercury, the S-SAT worked alongside various Panamanian agencies, just as they would in a real-world event. One of these agencies, SINAPROC, is the Panamanian equivalent to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.“The exercise has been very successful,” said Ariel Martínez, provincial director of SINAPROC in Darién. “The most important thing we have seen is that a real delivery of aid has been accomplished and seeing how quickly they have been able to get to distant communities that are difficult for us to reach because of lack of equipment to mobilize to these remote areas. We have worked with [other agencies such as] SENAFRONT [Panamanian National Border Service], SENAN [Panamanian Air and Naval Service] and JTF-Bravo to see how resources are channeled to bring the right response to the people in need. If we work together it’s easier to be able to respond.”The training scenario involved a flood in Darién, affecting several adjacent communities where personnel and necessary supplies can only be carried rapidly by air, based on historical data of what a disaster might look like in the region.The remote communities included Alto Limón, El Real Jacque, La Olla, La Palma, La Unión, Metetí, Nazareth, Punusa, Tres Bocas, and Nicanor, where the S-SAT team deployed to assess and enhance Panamanian capabilities. At the same time, the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment (1-228th) transported humanitarian assistance cargo in conjunction with the exercise scenario being executed. This exercise built on work the 1-228th had done with SENAFRONT earlier in 2019.The 1-228th played an integral and crucial role in the success of the exercise by coordinating flight movements throughout the mission, working with SENAN and facilitating transportation of cargo to SENAFRONT outposts, as they would be called upon to do in a real world event where Panama would request assistance from SOUTHCOM.“There has been a lot of integration between us, SENAN, and SENAFRONT,” said U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Elliott, 1-228th commander. “We have a number of folks that are key integrators in our operations cell that work with our forces on a daily basis to ensure the right cargo gets on the right flight to the right location. It´s keeping us ready to respond to any humanitarian assistance or real-world disaster relief event.”Panama is a highly valued regional security partner to the United States and the only country in the Americas with a humanitarian assistance hub due to its proximity to disaster prone areas, making it a perfect location for the execution of Mercury.
By Dialogo April 01, 2020 The United States announced a $15 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Nicolás Maduro on drug-trafficking charges, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 26.Pompeo announced the reward as the Justice Department unveiled charges against Maduro, indicting him and top members of his regime for “narco-terrorism.”“The Venezuelan people deserve a transparent, responsible, representative government that serves the needs of the people — and that does not betray the trust of the people by condoning or employing public officials that engage in illicit narcotics trafficking,” Pompeo said in a statement.Attorney General Bill Barr said Maduro was a narco-terrorist and the leader of a cocaine trafficking group called The Cartel of the Suns that involved senior politicians and members of the Venezuelan military and judiciary, including the country’s chief justice.(Dept. of Justice)Other charges include money laundering, weapons trafficking, corruption and a slew of other criminal charges. Barr said the regime — in conjunction with the Colombian narcotrafficking group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) — has shipped out 200 to 250 tons of cocaine under the protection of the Venezuelan government.Federal authorities say this illicit operation began in the mid-2000s as a means to help the Colombian rebel group, considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States, while the regime enriched themselves with cocaine-tainted bribes.“For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities,” Barr said. “Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the regime — a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of power.”Other members indicted include Diosdado Cabello, head of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly; Vladimir Padrino, the country’s Defense minister; Hugo Armando Carvajal, the former military intelligence head; and Maikel Moreno, chief justice of Venezuela’s Supreme Court. A $10 million reward has been offered for the arrest of Cabello.In 2019, Colombian officials alleged that the Maduro regime was also involved with the Colombian leftist guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish). U.S. officials have also said that Venezuela is harboring and working with the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.Maduro’s indictment marks the second time that the U.S. government has brought criminal charges against a foreign head of state. The last time was in 1989, when federal prosecutors indicted Panamanian President Manuel Noriega on drug-trafficking charges. U.S. military forces seized him later that year.The U.S. and a host of other countries and international bodies have recognized Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the country’s legitimate leader.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York The Long Island Power Authority appointed a new chief operating officer to fill the vacancy left when his predecessor resigned after a wave of criticism over the utility’s response to Superstorm Sandy.LIPA board members Thursday voted in utility veteran John D. McMahon, the former CEO of Orange & Rockland Utilities, Inc, a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc. Most recently, he’s been working as an industry consultant.“John is coming to LIPA at a critical time in its history and we are excited about the expertise he brings to the organization,” said Larry Waldman, chairman of LIPA’s board.LIPA, which hasn’t had a CEO since Kevin Law left in 2010 to head up the Long Island Association, is currently transitioning its contracted utility operations from National Grid to a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group.Mike Hervey, the former COO who filled in as CEO after Law’s departure, resigned last fall once LIPA restored power to most of its 1.1 million customers—90 percent of which were blacked out by Sandy, some for weeks.Mike Taunton, LIPA’s Chief Financial Officer, was the acting COO for the past six months.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday a state budget agreement that includes property tax relief for homeowners linked to local government efficiency and an increase of 5-percent in education spending, plus statewide universal pre-K and reforms to Common Core implementation.The budget deal, which reportedly comes out to about $140 billion, still requires approval from the state Legislature. The state began printing budget bills late Friday night and all appropriation bills were printed on time, Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters Saturday afternoon.The budget agreement sets the stage for lawmakers to vote on the bills next week.“Getting the agreements…and bills produced was a great accomplishment,” Cuomo said.The governor’s office released several “highlights” from the agreement Saturday morning. At the top of the list was a $1.5 billion plan for property tax relief aimed at increasing government efficiency at the local level and rewarding jurisdictions that stay within the property tax cap and provide a roadmap to savings of 1-percent of their tax levy per year for three years. Homeowners would receive a 2-percent property tax rebate in the form of a check if their local government stays within the tax cap.State leaders agreed to budget $1.1 billion for school aid, which amounts to a 5-percent increase from the previous year. Of that, $340 million would go toward implementing full-day pre-K across the state, the bulk of which—$300 million—would be set aside for New York City.If passed, the budget would put into law several reforms to the controversial implementation of Common Core, including banning standardized “bubble tests” for young children, with the goal of focusing more on teaching rather than over-testing, Cuomo’s office said.Charters schools, which Cuomo called “a complex, controversial issue” that wasn’t in his original budget proposal, would see a three-year incremental increase in tuition funding per student over three years, starting with $250 the first year.An ethics reform package also inserted into the agreement includes proposals for new anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws, the governor’s office said. It also includes a limited test of public financing of state elections, beginning with the 2014 Comptroller’s race, and the establishment of a new independent enforcement counsel at the Board of Elections, among other reforms.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York [dropcap]A[/dropcap]cross the spectrum critics and viewers agree we’re watching the Golden Age of Television. This year was no exception. The uncompromising cable shows have raised the bar so high that the main networks had no choice but to compete. Of course, there have been hits and misses—and everybody has some series they can’t live without that others think is crap—but quality beats mediocrity every time you turn on your HDTV. The trouble is that even if you use your DVR from now to eternity, you’ll never catch up with all the great stuff that’s available. You’ll just have to let it go, tune out and move on. What follows is a very biased and extremely jaundiced list of the highs and lows of 2014, with a sneak peak at the year ahead, from us here at the Press.Spencer Rumsey:As a Long Islander I felt duty-bound to embrace Showtime’s The Affair because it takes place on the East End in a place called Montauk without the traffic. But in the end (pun intended) I just didn’t care about the adulterous pair: the school teacher-turned-author and the mourning mother-turned-waitress. (Neither did fellow Squawkler Jaime Franchi; Read Her Kneecapping Of The Series Here.) The New Yorker’s great TV critic Emily Nussbaum nailed this pretentious show to the wall when she likened it to “listening to a couple bickering about whose idea it was to go to Queens for Korean food.” Likewise, she pointed out that the more interesting people on the show who should have been screwing around, let alone with each other, were the ones being screwed over. Enough already.Dominic West and Ruth Wilson are in shallow waters in “The Affair.” (Showtime/Facebook)On the other hand, Showtime turned this season of Homeland into must-see TV. Sure, I knew the writers were torturing me with their tortuous plot twists, their manipulative portrayal of the medically messed up Islamabad CIA chief Carrie Mathison, and those murderous mishaps and unbelievable betrayals, but I sat glued to the screen anyway. And to think this season took place in Pakistan where real news and horror happens practically around the clock deepened the veneer of realism. All season I worried about Agent Peter Quinn, Carrie’s one-man army who’d gone rogue. This skilled sniper shot her once, would he do it again? Not even if she stood brazenly in his crosshairs! In fact, he’d rather take himself out. Now that’s putting honor before duty. What a guy!Some watchers soured on the final season of Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom on HBO, but not me. I couldn’t get enough of Jane Fonda as a wonderfully powerful woman knocking heads with the media assholes who have dumbed-down our democracy. I enjoyed how fast every Sorkin character talks—even their dialogues are mile-a-minute monologues—they always have so much to say. Such wonderful chemistry was always cooking with the characters played by Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer, Olivia Munn and Thomas Sadoski, Alison Pill and John Gallagher, Jr. And having Sam Waterston as the wise old man of the Fourth Estate and Dev Patel as the Internet polymath were great touches, too. I never quite bought into Sorkin’s White House fantasy, The West Wing, probably because I was out living the East Village night life when it ruled prime time, but I felt right at home watching Newsroom, with Sorkin’s focus on the men and women behind the news, rather than the celebrity froth and conservative baloney on the air that takes up way too much of our time.Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” (Photo credit: HBO)I love watching Game of Thrones but I doubt I’d feel as strongly if I had read any of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the books this engrossing series is based on. But I’ll have to save that for another day. Season 4 ended with more “Stark choices,” so to speak. Arya Stark finally let that big psychopath with the scarred face and scarred heart known as The Hound get his just desserts. What happens to her in Season 5 remains to be seen until the premiere this spring. I just hope she hasn’t lost her Peter Pan-like good points. It’s a tough world, this harsh land she resides in. Up north Jon Snow had his hands full, and I’m worried about those ice creatures gathering steam. Talk about a zombie army! They make all the other crap going on in Westeros look like so much piffle—and the poor men of the Night’s Watch are too little too late, as far as I can tell. Way down south in this imaginary-but-vivid world, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen, my favorite woman on the show (all hail, Khaleesi!), has had to lock up her dragons, and kick out the one guy in her inner circle I most identified with, the love-struck exile Jorah Mormont, who admitted he’d betrayed her. Yeah, he done her wrong so he had to pay. Talk about tough love. Back in King’s Landing, that hornets’ nest of poisonous ambition, the incest angle is heating up as Cersei Lannister has declared her so-called love for her twin brother, the one-handed Jaime Lannister. Their tryst is a real turnoff, at least in my mind, because he is no longer as smarmy as she is since he did his dwarf brother, Tyrion Lannister, a solid after all. And let the record show that if there’s ever news that the actor who portrays him, Peter Dinklage, is leaving the series for whatever reason, that’s it for me: Game over. Meanwhile maybe I will get around to reading those George R.R. Martin books someday.My biggest disappointment in 2014 is House of Cards, the over-hyped, mean-spirited, scorched-earth Netflix series that ripped off the BBC version based on the House of Lords, which I’ve been told by people I trust is so much better television that there’s no contest. At this point, I am almost willing to pay someone to tell me what happens to Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood in Season 3 because life is too short. Just let me know how the cynical-Congressman-turned-opportunistic-Vice President-(emphasis on vice)-now-POTUS meets his well-deserved end, and I can go back to worrying about the 114th Congress, which promises to be really scary because those bad politicians aren’t actors.Rashed Mian:Claire Danes as CIA Islamabad Station Chief Carrie Mathison in Showtimes’ “Homeland.” (Photo credit: Facebook/Homeland)This maddening season of Homeland began with great promise: Carrie receives faulty intelligence detailing the whereabouts of a homicidal terrorist, and, without visual confirmation, goes ahead and approves a drone strike inside Pakistan. An entire family celebrating a wedding is slaughtered in the strike, and when the dust settles Hassan Haqqani is unaccounted for. All hail the Drone Queen (It’s even written on a cake!). There we have it, a storyline that appears to borrow from real-life events (See: US drone strikes kills civilians in wedding procession). But the writers go ahead and find a way to screw it all up by latching onto a survivor of the drone strike—Haqqani’s nephew Aayan. Instead of letting the kid go off to college and peacefully mourn the loss of his entire family, the CIA sees this as an opportunity to turn him into an asset. That’s when the season begins to unravel. We’re taken on an agonizing journey that culminates in Carrie (pretending to be a journalist) taking Aayan’s virginity and bedding him over the course of multiple nights inside a CIA safe house in an effort to gain his trust. It’s hard to get our heads around how a show with an A-list roster of writers takes such an unimaginative route. Alas, they weren’t done! They send Peter Quinn, a seasoned assassin contemplating retirement following a recent bender, to question Carrie’s strategy, as if he’s some moral authority. Carrie intentionally has the safe house raided and Aayan is left to journey alone to a rural region of Pakistan where he’s reunited with his murderous uncle. Carrie is pleased. Her plan works. She found Haqqani. Suddenly, Aayan’s brain is blown to pieces. Haqqani, aware of a drone hovering above, produces former CIA Director Saul Berenson, who has been taken hostage. At this point, many fans have already jumped ship, largely due to Carrie’s creepy seduction of the college student. But the season is saved by—who else?—Manny Patinkin (Saul Berenson), who gives a mesmerizing performance during his captivity and again when he has to be convinced by Carrie not to put a bullet in his brain after a failed escape. Haqqani’s siege of the American embassy in Islamabad with the help of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, is dramatic enough, but it feels like it was lifted from the script of Fox’s 24. (Remember when terrorists infiltrated the White House in Season 7?) To be fair, the season did rebound, but it squandered an opportunity early on to explore the ramifications of a failed missile strike.Keri Russell and Matthew Rys play undercover KGB spies in FX’s “The Americans.” (Photo credit: The Americans/Facebook)If you’re yearning for a new show to devour in 2015, look no further then FX’s drama The Americans. The series follows a KGB spy couple—Elizabeth and Philip Jennings—who have two kids and ostensibly live a ho-hum life in suburban Washington, D.C., during the Cold War. Just to up the ante, the series’ creators made sure that an obsessed FBI agent lives next door. The show succeeds in turning the Jennings into likable characters despite their mission to gain useful intelligence that they can covertly relay to “The Center” and satisfy their KGB bosses, thereby undermining the United States’ effort. Did I mention they’re also murderers? Still, it’s hard not to root for the Jennings. Take, for example, last season, when another spy couple and their daughter are killed inside a hotel room, leading Jennings to fear the worse: Their family might be next. The drama somehow plays second fiddle to the Jennings’ relationship, which when the series begins is tenuous at best. The KGB forced Elizabeth and Philip to marry and then sent them off to create the all-American family. They grow fonder for each other as the series goes on, and we witness a burgeoning romance. Maybe it’s their fear that any day could be their last that spurs them on, but their affection toward each other feels genuine. Their bond grows tighter despite Philip’s marrying a woman who works inside the FBI’s Washington office. It’s only when Martha boasts to Elizabeth (pretending to be Philip’s sister) about their mind-blowing trysts that Elizabeth can’t help but succumb to jealousy. At home, she insists that Philip take her like he does Martha, but their innocent attempt at roleplaying doesn’t manifest perhaps the way she imagined. Philip, she realizes, is not a doting father and husband when he’s with Martha, but the dangerous spy that he was groomed from a young age to be. But this is more than a story about a KGB couple’s path to unbridled love. Their decisions have real-life implications—for themselves and their children. And as we discover in the Season 2 finale, the KGB’s plan for the Jennings was more protracted than even they believed. The KBG, they learn, intends to turn American-born children of spies into a new generation of agents. And the Jennings’ daughter Paige is a top candidate. Now that’s drama.Stephen Colbert ended his run as a conservative version of himself on “The Colbert Report” on Dec. 18. (Photo credit: Colbert Report/Facebook)Last week America bid ado to Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report, and possibly shed a few tears along the way. Colbert is not really going anywhere: He’ll be taking over for David Letterman on The Late Show on CBS, albeit as the real Stephen Colbert, not the self-aggrandizing conservative blowhard character he played on Comedy Central for nine-plus years, and before that as a correspondent on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Still, he’ll be missed in that format. But thanks to the emergence of British-born satirist John Oliver, and Stewart’s continued success, Americans thirsty for late-night political comedy will still get their fix—and perhaps more than they asked for. Oliver, who recently completed the first season on HBO of his Sunday evening show Last Week Tonight, has demonstrated a remarkable ability to profess outrage about hot-button political issues, and use his new-found stardom to spur his audience, and millions of others on the Internet, into action. The new crop of talent on the venerable CBS and NBC late night shows is worth paying close attention to. Jimmy Fallon, who is 10 months into The Tonight Show, has injected much-needed life and stability into a much-coveted late-night institution. It’ll be interesting watching how Colbert adjusts—and for that matter, how viewers adjust to him. He rarely deviated from character during the Colbert Report, so it’ll be fun getting to know the real Stephen Colbert.Jaime Franchi:Lena Dunham and her stellar castmates in “Girls.” (Photo credit: HBO/Facebook)Lena Dunham hit her stride in 2014 with her show Girls. The characters grew deeper, though definitely not mature (thank God). What sets Dunham’s writing apart is her willingness to commit to a flinchingly honest look at the self-absorption that exemplifies life in your twenties. This is important – not only for entertainment’s sake – but from an anthropological point of view. We are living in an era of unprecedented narcissism when our cameras and pens point almost exclusively selfward. Dunham’s Girls pinpoints and documents that exact Gen Y Zeitgeist. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, sometimes excruciating. I watch it and remember the complete asshole I was in my twenties, as the characters Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna undoubtedly are. Unlike how Candace Bushnell’s Sex and The City inspired women to attempt to squeeze ourselves into the caricatures of a Carrie or a Samantha or a Miranda or a Charlotte, the Girls girls don’t try to represent something bigger than the tiny demographic that they are, singular characters with conflicts, neuroses and faults; characters who don’t love and support one another as part of a fictional apparatus, but who alternate between loving their friends and lying to them, from manipulating and sabotaging them, and feeling jealous as they grow, in what seems from here to be real time, in fits and starts and regressions. Dunham gives each character room to breathe, to not find the lesson, and to be ugly. In that exploration, truth peeks out. To me, the portrait she is drawing is breathtaking in its honesty.Sons of Anarchy was my binge-watching accomplishment of 2014. Lured by the promise of the chiseled torso of British actor Charlie Hunnam’s Jax Teller and the Hamlet-on-motorcycle premise, I tuned in. My initial delight at the captivating portrayal of Gemma Teller by the amazing Katey Sagal (who’s ex-onscreen husband Ed O‘Neill made his own amazing late career comeback in Modern Family) soured soon enough when the glorified violence and convoluted plot points drowned out the considerable acting talent. The body count on SOA had to have added up to the high hundreds by the time the show wound its way down as groups so creatively named as “The Chinese” and “The Blacks” waged battle after battle in their war for control of the gun trade in Charming, a California town so unbelievably small that its tax base can afford to employ about two cops, both of whom are on the take, despite violent A-Team-like shoot-outs and a mounting blood bath that no one outside poor little Charming seems to notice — except for one federal agent, also on the take. Or something. At some point the series grew so outlandish that I could only stand to watch it out of the corner of my eye while my husband saw it through to the end. I’ll give props to the strong female characters -– from Jax’s wife Tara to his ex-girlfriend Wendy (The Sopranos’ Drea de Matteo) to Gemma, who were mostly criminals as well, but who were not played as victims. At the end, I think the writers tried to paint a religious picture with Jax as a Jesus-figure with allusions to bread and wine, but abs aside, I think it was a mighty stretch. I was happy to see this show end.“House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey as the cunning Frank Underwood returns for a third season. (Photo courtesy: Netflix Facebook page)Contrary to what my esteemed colleague Spencer Rumsey thinks, I ate up the second season of House of Cards with a spoon, savoring every wicked turn that Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood and his equally vile wife Claire (played by Robin Wright) took. It might just be a testament to Spacey’s acting, but I was captivated by every shot that featured his manipulative ascendancy to the Oval Office -– even the typewritten letter my other esteemed colleague Rashed Mian cannot get past. For a show about the inner workings of a male-dominated inner-circle of power inside the Washington Beltway, this show also displayed strong and multifaceted female characters, from Mrs. Underwood to journalist Kate Mara’s Zoe Barnes to Jackie Sharp, played by Molly Parker. Each woman portrayed a depth of character that elevated them from roles as being either stark bitches or simple props. Each character possessed a complex backstory, unique motivation and her own ambition. Even if that drive led to some ugly ends, it was a thrill to watch. I can’t wait to see what happens next (and not just because Spencer has promised to pay me).