- Top Colombian drug lord captured in Venezuela
- Japan cabinet approves plan to exit nuclear energy
- Japan declares U.S. Osprey safe, to fly in Japan by October
Posted: 18 Sep 2012 09:14 PM PDT
BOGOTA (Reuters) - One of Colombia's most wanted drug traffickers was captured in neighbouring Venezuela on Tuesday with the help of Caracas as well as British and U.S. intelligence agencies, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.
Authorities in Colombia, one of the world's top cocaine producers, had been closing in on Daniel Barrera - known as "Crazy Barrera" - in recent weeks, arresting 36 members of his gang and seizing five tonnes of the drug and 21 aircraft.
"Crazy Barrera has been perhaps the most wanted kingpin in recent times," Santos said. "He has dedicated 20 years to doing bad things to Colombia and the world, all types of crime, perverse alliances with paramilitaries, with the FARC (rebel group)."
In a televised speech, Colombia's president said Barrera was captured in the Venezuelan city of San Cristobal, about 15 miles (24 kms) from the Colombian border. Santos said the operation was directed from Washington by a Colombian police general.
The government says Barrera's smuggling ring was capable of sending 10 tonnes of cocaine a month to Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, the most powerful organized crime gang in the Americas.
He had a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States and $2.7 million from the Colombian government.
Santos thanked U.S. and British intelligence agencies as well as Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's government for their help. He did not give any more details about the operation.
Chavez's government summoned reporters to a news conference early on Wednesday but also issued a brief statement hailing the operation as further proof of Venezuela's "indomitable will" in the fight against drug trafficking.
"(Venezuela) ratifies its determination to continue with a sovereign policy in this battle, whose results can be seen by the international community," the Foreign Ministry said.
The Venezuelan government's statement did not mention the involvement of U.S., British or Colombian agents, saying Barrera was captured by Venezuelan forces led by the Interior Ministry's National Anti-Drugs Office.
The participation of foreign counter-narcotics agents would be something of a surprise, although far from impossible, given Chavez's frequent verbal attacks on the role of Western "imperialist" governments in Latin America.
He expelled U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials from Venezuela in 2005 after accusing them of spying, but says that his government has greatly increased its number of arrests of traffickers and its seizures of drugs since then.
Santos has forged a friendship with the socialist leader since Colombia's president took power in 2010. He has touted previous arrests of other Colombian traffickers in Venezuela as proof that he and Chavez's ideologically opposed governments are united against organized crime.
Santos risks the ire of his Venezuelan counterpart on Wednesday, however, when he is due to meet Henrique Capriles, Chavez's election rival ahead of Venezuela's October 7 election, in Bogota.
Santos' economic policies have won Colombia investment grade status from the three leading rating agencies but the achievements have been tarnished by a recent increase in violence by leftist rebels, including attacks on oil companies.
Drug-funded criminal gangs composed of members of former right-wing paramilitary groups and old cartels have also become a big security threat for the nation of 46 million people.
While bloodshed from Colombia's long guerrilla and drug wars has dropped since a U.S.-backed offensive began more than a decade ago, bombings, murders and combat continue, mainly in border areas.
The decline in violence has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment, mainly in oil and mining, which has let the country boost crude and coal output to historic highs. (Additional reporting by Monica Garcia and Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota and Daniel Wallis in Caracas; Editing by Bill Trott)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 18 Sep 2012 09:10 PM PDT
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's cabinet has approved a new energy plan to cut the country's reliance on nuclear power in the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster, but dropped a reference to meet a nuclear- free target by the 2030s, ministers said on Wednesday.
Since the plan was announced on Friday, Japan's powerful industry lobbies have urged the government rethink the nuclear-free commitment, arguing it could damage the economy and would mean spending more on pricey fuel imports.
Trade Minister Yukio Edano, who also oversees the energy portfolio, said the cabinet had approved the new energy plan.
"But whether we can become nuclear free by the 2030s is not something to be achieved only with a decision by policy makers. It also depends on the will of (electricity) users, technological innovation and the environment for energy internationally in the next decade or two," he said.
In abandoning atomic power, Japan aims to triple the share of renewable power to 30 percent of its energy mix by the 2030s, but will remain a top importer of oil, coal and gas for the foreseeable future.
Finance Minister Jun Azumi told a separate news conference that there needed to be flexibility in the policy to avoid putting a burden on the public in a country where nuclear supplied 30 percent of electricity before Fukushima.
All but two of Japan's nuclear 50 reactors are idled for safety checks after an earthquake and tsunami in March 2 011 devastated the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Under the new energy plan, there should be strict implementation of a 40-year lifetime for reactors. It also said existing reactors shut after Fukushima should be restarted only if a new nuclear regulator confirms their safety and there should be no construction of new reactors.
The newly established Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) will decide whether reactors currently under construction are safe enough to start commercial operations, Edano said.
Asked if newly built reactors could run beyond the 2030s, Edano said a decision on this would be decided later.
Reactors currently under construction include the 1,373-megawatt Shimane No.3 unit of Chugoku Electric Power Co's and the 1,383-megawatt Ohma unit of Electric Power Development Co's. (Reporting by Risa Maeda and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Ed Davies)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 18 Sep 2012 08:58 PM PDT
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has given the controversial MV-22 Osprey aircraft the green light to fly over the country from next month after tests found the American hybrid plane safe despite a number of crashes.
The United States had been seeking to deploy the tilt-rotor aircraft -- which takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane -- to the southern Japanese island of Okinawa despite strong public opposition largely on safety grounds after it crashed twice earlier this year.
Final results of crash investigations have confirmed that the helicopter-plane is safe and the United States will begin deployment at some point in October, Japanese Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto said on Wednesday.
"We have confirmed that the two accidents were caused by human factors and not by the aircrafts' systemic problems or by technical problems," he said, addressing reporters together with Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba.
"We have confirmed the safety for the Osprey to operate, and on the premise that there will be maximum consideration provided for the public, we have decided to allow the United States to start operating the Osprey."
The Pentagon welcomed Tokyo's decision as a sign of the strength of the U.S.-Japanese partnership.
"It is a testament to the strength and maturity of our alliance, which remains the cornerstone for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region," spokesman George Little said in a statement.
The Osprey crash in Morocco in April killed two U.S. Marines, while the one in Florida in June left five injured. Thirty people, including 26 Marines, were killed in test flights or training accidents from 1991 through 2000 during the aircraft's development.
The first 12 MV-22s arrived by ship on July 23 at Iwakuni, the only U.S. Marine Corps station on the main Japanese islands. The Defense Department ultimately plans to base them at Futenma, a Marine Corps Air Station on Okinawa. They were grounded for the time of the investigation.
The Osprey is key to a U.S. force realignment in the Asia-Pacific region that has become a centrepiece of President Barack Obama's foreign policy since January.
"With twice the speed, three times the payload, and four times the range, the Osprey will make a major contribution in upgrading the capabilities of the alliance," Little said.
The aircraft is built by Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing Co. It will replace the 40-year-old CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters.
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Additional reporting by David Alexander in Beijing; Writing by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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