BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Deputy chief of Colombian intelligence quits in wiretapping scandal: Captain Jorge Alberto Lagos, deputy director of Colombia's intelligence service, handed in his resignation on 22 February in the midst of a wiretapping scandal affecting politicians, judges and journalists. Felipe Muñoz, director of the state security agency, known as DAS, announced that the official had stepped down voluntarily as an “administrative measure”. The resignation came after Colombian state prosecutors searched DAS offices in Bogata in light of accusations of illegal wiretapping brought by Semana magazine.
[Revista Semanal, El Tiempo, Caracol Radio]
QUITO, Ecuador – Former Ecuadorean minister calls FARC “criminal organisation”: On 22 February, Gustavo Larrea, former Ecuadorean security minister, called the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) a “a criminal organisation and a guerrilla organisation, which sometimes resorts to terror.” Larrea also admitted that he had once met former FARC leader “Raul Reyes” but, for “security” reasons, the encounter had not been made public. Details of this hostage negotiation meeting were released only when Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, authorised its public announcement. He added that the Ecuadorean state had never called the FARC “terrorists”, nor had any other government prior to Correa's term of office.
[Ecuavisa, La Opinión, La Nación]
LIMA, Peru – Peru-Chile free trade agreement begins in March: On 22 February, Peru's Minister of Foreign Trade announced that the Free Trade Agreement between Peru and Chile would enter into force on 1 March, as published in Peru's legal gazette. The resolution, signed by Peruvian president, Alan García, and the Minister of Trade and Tourism, Mercedes Aráoz, stated that the complete text of the trade agreement would be published on the ministry's website.
[Diario oficial El Peruano, El Comercio]
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Rio Carnival dazzles president Lula and Brazilian crowds: Late into the night on 23 February, under the watchful eye of president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, Rio's samba schools ended the first day of their stunning competition, the centrepoint of Brazil's Carnival. The Brazilian leader, in his first visit to the Sambadrome since he took office in January 2003, said the parade was “marvellous”. Lula, dressed in white shirt and Panama hat and accompanied by his wife Marisa, was greeted at this year's world-famous carnival celebrations amid laughter and joy and without incident. The competition featured 12 samba schools, all vying for the championship title.