Month: December 2020
Hole Lotta Splash: Beat the Heat with Nature’s Swimming Pools
Photo: Steven McBrideAh, August in the South. Temps in the 90s, humidity off the charts, kids frying eggs on the sidewalk for the local news team…you need to cool down. You could beat the heat the old-fashioned way and fill up a plastic kiddie pool in your front yard, or you could set out for one of these pristine swimming holes scattered throughout the Southern Appalachians.BIG BEND SOUTH BRANCH OF THE POTOMAC, W.VA.Highlights: Solitude, tubing, family- friendlyDeep inside the wild Monongahela National Forest, the South Branch of the Potomac makes a drastic U-turn through the scenic Smoke Hole Canyon. Green forested gorge walls are interspersed with rocky cliffs on the outer edge of the “big bend” in this river, while a forested campground occupies the inside peninsula. The entire loop around the campground is a mile long, packed with small riffles and fun waves, perfect for running laps in a tube on a hot summer day. Tube for an hour, walk a few hundred yards across the peninsula, and start again. This is primitive tubing at its finest, so bring your own tube, and don’t expect heavy crowds, even on a summer weekend.Nearby: The 24-mile long North Rim Trail follows the western rim of Suck Hole canyon. It’s a primo mountain biking and hiking trail with rocky outcroppings and a cornucopia of long-range views.Closest Town: Petersburg, W.Va.Directions: Follow US Route 220 from Petersburg to the Upper Tract Bridge at County Route 2. Take a right at the bridge and follow County Route 2 for 10 miles into the campground.MEADOW RUN YOUGHIOGHENY, PA.Highlights: Natural water slide There are natural water slides, and then there’s the waterslide on Meadow Run inside Ohiopyle State Park. Just before Meadow Run meets the Youghiogheny, the creek funnels through an expansive stretch of bedrock, wearing down a smooth, narrow chute in the process. The slide-able section is at least 100 feet long with a couple of twists along the way. Go during high water, and it’s a fast-paced thrill ride that demands repeat performances. But remember the rules of friction. Even a smooth rock waterslide will wear your shorts thin after a while. Go like a local: wear denim.Nearby: Tackle a piece of the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The 6.3-mile section of the trail that traverses the center of Ohiopyle State Park is rocky, strenuous, but packed with views and creeks.Closest Town: Ohiopyle, Pa.Directions: The closest trailhead to the water slides is where State Road 2019 meets Highway 381.Watch video of what could be the Mid-Atlantic’s greatest natural waterslide.HUNGRY MOTHER LAKE HUNGRY MOTHER STATE PARK, VA.Highlights: Family-friendly, scenic The story of Hungry Mother’s name may be a bummer (a village raided, a boy lost, and a mother dying of starvation), but its present-day incarnation couldn’t be more uplifting. The calm waters of the 108-acre lake, which is surrounded by lush green slopes, have become a haven for flat-water canoeists and swimmers. The lake is a huge hit with families during the summer thanks to the man-made beach. If you’re looking for something a little more tranquil, rent a canoe from the park or hike the 5.7-mile Lake Loop trail to one of the more secluded coves recessed into the forested banks. Gas-powered boats aren’t allowed on Hungry Mother, so the deepest pockets of the lake are less crowded. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Hungry Mother State Park, Virginia’s first state park.Nearby: The 2,000-acre park has 12 miles of trail. Check out the 1.6-mile Molly’s Knob Trail (named after the hungry mother) that ascends to the park’s highest point at 3,270 feet.Closest Town: Marion, Va.Directions: Take exit 47 from I-81, then follow Route 11 for one mile toward Marion. Turn right on Route 16 north and go four miles to the park. FRIDLEY GAP HOLE FRIDLEY RUN, VA.Highlights: Solitude, tranquilityForget about cliff jumps and natural waterslides. At Fridley Gap, you’ll find something that’s even more rare: solitude and tranquility. The small plunge pool is situated at the base of a tiny cascade, all of which is surrounded by medium sized boulders and smaller rocks. The swimming hole isn’t going to make the cover of a magazine, but it’s cold, refreshing, and stuck in the middle of the Massanutten trail system, some of the best hiking in the George Washington National Forest. The pool is typically six feet deep and three times as wide, with crystal clear water that would probably be a hot spot for trout if you weren’t splashing around. The fastest hike to the swimming hole is to pick up Fridley Gap trail from the parking area at the end of Airey Lane. In less than a mile, you’ll find yourself at the swimming hole. But you’d be remiss if you didn’t take the time to explore the trail system that branches off of Massanutten South Trail while you’re in the area.Nearby: Make a loop out of the Massanutten South Trail and the Fridley Gap Trail for 3,000 feet of elevation gain. You’ll traverse the Third and Fourth Mountains and cross more wild creeks.Closest Town: Shenandoah, Va.Directions: From Shenandoah take Route 602 for four miles and turn on Runckles Gap Road. Drive two miles to Cub Run Road. Drive 1.5 miles on this gravel forest road to Fridley Gap Trailhead.ROSE RIVER FALLS SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, VA.Highlight: Scenery, bushwhack potential The 67-foot Rose River Falls drops in two tiers as it makes its way off the ridgeline below Skyline Drive. The falls can be just a trickle late in the summer, with a small stream of water carving through a narrow crack in the rock wall. But go after a rain and the water spills over the rocky ledge via a suite of streams, all of which meet in the blue-green pool at the bottom of the rock wall. The pool is only a couple of feet deep, so forget about jumping. But the multi-layered waterfall, rock ledge, and lush foliage give the entire scene a rain-forest vibe. It can be a popular destination, but if it gets too crowded, start bushwhacking upstream. The going is slow and the vegetation is thick, but you’ll find big pools in total seclusion.Nearby: Biking the 60-mile Skyline Drive is a legitimate way to work up a sweat before cooling off in this swimming hole tucked inside a mini rain forest. If you’re in the park after a rain, check out the impressive Lewis Falls, accessed from the Big Meadows Area.Closest Town: Syria, Va.Directions: Park at Fishers Gap Overlook on Skyline Drive at mile 49.4. Take the Rose River Loop Trail counter-clockwise for the quickest trip to the falls. Complete the four-mile loop and you’ll take in Dark Hollow Falls as well.BAD BRANCH FALLS PINE MOUNTAIN, KY.Highlight: SceneryThe wild Bad Branch River drops dramatically off the southern face of Pine Mountain, a 110-mile ridgeline that helps define the southeastern edge of Kentucky. The river makes its most dramatic statement as it plummets 60 feet over a sheer wall of sandstone. The waterfall created by that drop, Bad Branch Falls, is the centerpiece of the Bad Branch Falls State Nature Preserve, and it’s a welcome sight to anyone who’s been hiking along the rugged Pine Mountain in Eastern Kentucky. Massive boulders and tall hemlocks dominate the floor of the gorge at the base of the waterfall. There isn’t much of a pool for swimming at the bottom of the falls, but if you’re careful, you can maneuver your way beneath the dramatic waterfall and get soaked while hugging the cliff face. After hiking the rugged nature preserve, it’s bound to be one of the most refreshing showers you’ll ever take.Nearby: Hike a piece of the completed Highlands Section of the Pine Mountain Trail, a long trail in the making that will eventually stretch the full 110 miles of Pine Mountain, connecting Breaks Interstate Park with Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. Check out the High Rock Loop, from the nature preserve, to reach the highest point on the mountain.Nearest Town: Whitesburg, Ky.Directions: From Whitesburg, follow 119 south for eight miles. Turn left on KY 932 and go east for two miles to the gravel parking area.LAKE WINFIELD SCOTT COOPERS CREEK, GA.Highlights: Family-friendly, scenicYou might feel like you’re back at summer camp when you first take a dip in this 18-acre lake at the headwaters of Cooper’s Creek in North Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. The calm, cool waters are surrounded by mountains with a steep, forested shoreline, offering a remote scene straight out of your favorite childhood memories. The Appalachian Trail is close, and two connector trails begin at the lake. There’s a small beach with a designated swimming area complete with a dock to round out your summer camp memories. The crowds are minimal, but there’s a half-mile trail that hugs the lake if you’re looking for more solitude.Nearby: Hike the Slaughter Creek Trail for 2.7 miles from the lake to its junction with the Appalachian Trail. You can combine a piece of the A.T. with Jarrad Gap Trail for an eight-mile loop that begins and ends at the lake.Closest Town: Blairsville, Ga.Directions: From Blairsville, take US 19/129 south for 10 miles. Turn west on Highway 180 for seven miles, to the recreation area.CATHEDRAL FALLS LINVILLE RIVER, NC.Highlights: Scenery, rock jump, solitudeMany kayakers consider the class V Cathedral Falls the highlight of their wilderness paddle down the unpredictable Linville River. Upstream of the falls, the entire river narrows to half its size as it cuts a path through the rock walls of the Cathedral Gorge. The river opens again after the final drop, a 15-footer surrounded by steep rock walls. That’s where one of the most perfect swimming holes lies. The falls may be a blast for kayakers after a heavy rain, but visit in late summer during low water, and it’s an ideal spot for a lazy day of swimming. The pool is deep, the scenery is outstanding, and there are a number of rock jumps ranging in heights. There are even smooth, broad rocks for sunning. And you’re deep in the belly of one of the wildest, most remote gorges in the South, so don’t expect crowds.Nearby: You’ve got several miles of hiking along Spence Ridge Trail and the Linville Gorge Trail just to access Cathedral Falls and get back to your car. If that’s not enough, keep going south on the Linville Gorge Trail, which follows the river into the most remote stretch of the gorge, accessing countless more swimming holes in the process.Closest Town: Linville, N.C.Directions: From Linville, take Highway 181 south for three miles to FS 210 (Gingercake Road). Stay to the left when the road forks and follow the gravel road to the Spence Ridge Trailhead parking.BLUE HOLE MILL CREEK, TN.Highlights: Scenery, cliff jumpBlue Hole is the biggest and deepest swimming hole in a series of cascades and pools on Mill Creek. The small stream makes its way down Holston Mountain to Stony Creek in Cherokee National Forest. The water cuts through a small rock gorge, dropping 70 feet over a series of four distinct drops, all within a few feet of each other. The deepest pool comes after the third drop, where the creek falls 15 feet into a round, carved out pool that sits on a plateau before dropping one last time. “Blue Hole” could be the most common name for Southern swimming holes, but this one earns its moniker, as the water is clear blue. The pool is deep in the center, and there’s a popular cliff jump, but be sure to scout ledges beneath the surface first. Try to time it after a rain and the swimming hole will be filled to the brim, spilling over that last drop. Blue Hole may have the best swimming, but check out the upper two falls as well.Nearby: Check out Laurel Fork Falls via a 2.5-mile spur trail off the Appalachian Trail that goes deep into the Pond Mountain Wilderness Area.Closest Town: Elizabethton, Tenn.Directions: Take Route 91 east from Elizabethton for 10 miles. Turn left on Panhandle Road and park at the pulloff one mile in. Take Blue Hole Falls Trail for a couple hundred yards to the gorge.OCONALUFTEE RIVER CHEROKEE, NC.Highlights: Tubing, family friendlyThe Oconaluftee River begins as a mountainside spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but by the time it reaches the town of Cherokee, it’s a broad, pristine playground ripe with trout, swimming holes, and tubing. Check out the two-mile trip that begins at the Big Cove Bridge on the tail end of the Raven Fork River and ends just before reaching the town of Cherokee. You’ll float under the Blue Ridge Parkway, bump through small rapids, and have access to The Beach, a local hangout with a sandy river bottom and rope swing. This stretch of river is banked by Great Smoky Mountains National Park on one side and the Cherokee Reservation on the other, so development is minimal. Tubers have even been known to see elk drinking from the river. If you’re looking to test your extreme tubing skills, ask Cherokee Rapids to take you to the class II chute on the Raven Fork just above the typical put-in.Nearby: You’re in the Smokies, so hiking trails stretch in every direction. Check out the Smokemont Loop Trail for a six-mile loop hike through a historic community that thrived before the park was established.Closest Town: Cherokee, N.C.Directions: Cherokee Rapids (cherokeerapids.com) is located off of Highway 441 in Saunooke Village.RED BUTT FALLS TUCKASEGEE RIVER, NC.Highlights: Slide, solitude Inside the wild Panthertown Valley, in North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest, the upper Tuckasegee River is xanadu for wilderness swimmers. There are five distinct waterfalls within a mile stretch of the Tuck as it cruises through rock ledges between 4,000-foot mountains, and countless swimming holes. The most alluring of them all has to be Red Butt Falls, a broad, sloping natural waterslide tucked between rhododendron and granite outcroppings. The grade of the slide is deceptively mellow, but make no mistake, you will gain speed as you slide 50+ feet down the granite slab into the pool waiting below. And heed the name of the falls: your best bet is to wear cut-off jean shorts for protection. Crowds are minimal thanks to Panthertown’s remote location, and auxiliary adventure is abundant. After sliding, take the time to hike, swim, and rock hop upstream to the other four falls on this stretch of the Tuck.Nearby: Panthertown has an extensive trail network and primo backcountry campsites. You could spend a week in this valley moving from one swimming hole to the next. For a short, but rewarding trek, summit the granite dome of Big Green Mountain, via Big Green Trail, for expansive views.Closest Town: Cashiers, N.C.Directions: The most direct route to Red Butt Falls begins at the Cold Mountain Trailhead via the Devil’s Elbow Trail. To get there, take US 64 east from Cashiers for 13 miles. Then follow NC 281 north for .8 miles, then turn left on Cold Mountain Road for 5.9 miles to the trailhead.Watch a video detailing the swimming holes, trails, and cliffs inside the “Yosemite of the East.”RILEY MOORE FALLS CHUAGA RIVER, SC.Highlight: Natural beach, family- friendlyRiley Moore Falls may only be 12 feet high, but it spans the entire width of the Chuaga River in Sumter National Forest. During high water, the falls can be as broad as 50 feet wide. The falling water is merely a backdrop to the main attraction, which is the expansive plunge pool that builds at the base of the river-wide ledge and comes complete with its own natural sandy beach. The short hike and gradual entry into the pool from the beach make this one of the rare backcountry swimming holes that’s family friendly. At one time, the falls were home to a grist mill, but the only remnants you’ll see from this era are anchor bolts at the top of the falls. As always, be careful exploring the rocks on top of the falls.Nearby: Pick up the Chattooga River Trail near the Georgia/South Carolina border for an 18-mile hike along the South’s premiere Wild and Scenic river.Closest Town: Westminster, S.C.Directions: From Westminster, take US 76 west for 7.5 miles, then right on Cobbs Bridge Road. Go 1.6 miles, then left on the gravel Spy Rock Road. Go 1.8 miles to the pull-off next to FS 748-C and park on the side of the road. Hike .3 miles along FS 748-C, then take Riley Moore Falls Trail .7 miles to the falls.
Locals Only: Coming to a town near you
The road warriors of Native Eyewear’s Locals Only Project have been stopping by idyllic mountain towns across the country in search of their next perfect town. On their short list of best mountain towns are Charlottesville, Va., Asheville, N.C., and Boone, N.C. These Southern towns face tough competition from classic destinations like Moab, Utah and Bend, Oregon. Hopefully the outdoor communities in Virginia and North Carolina can rise to the challenge when the Locals Only Tour rolls through their towns in the coming weeks. The tour is tentatively slated to pass through Asheville on March 29-30, Boone on March 31, and Charlottesville from April 1-3.In the meantime, another town has joined the competition. Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom wasn’t on their original list of destinations, but locals reached out to Native Eyewear and let them know that it should have been. Now, the Native crew along with Native athlete Jeff Lenosky are heading to the area on March 28 to check it out.
You Can Go Home Again, But You Won’t Recognize It
I travel back to my hometown quite a bit because my kids love to visit their grandparents — there are no rules at Grandma’s house. Chocolate cake for breakfast? No problem. Chocolate cake for breakfast while watching Star Wars and riding a brand new bike around the living room? Why not.So yeah, I go home a lot. But I spend most of my time there trying to get my kids (all hopped up on high fructose corn syrup) to settle down and stop trying to give the cat a bath. I don’t get out much when I’m home.But this week, I went home solo for work and managed to hit the town sans children. What I discovered is that the sleepy, farm community I grew up in is it is no longer a sleepy, farm community. Instead of farms, there are high end gated communities, and instead of the quiet downtown square that was famous for its sheer volume of antique stores, there was a bustling town with Irish pubs, yoga studios, and FroYo. When I was a kid, we hung out in the knife. That was exciting as things got.Hell, now, my hometown even has a brewery. It’s out there on the edge of town, somewhere near the new climbing wall. WTF? Oh, and don’t get me started on the town’s booming greenway system. It makes the half-ass greenway system in my current town look shameful.The brewery I’m talking about is Red Hare, a small brewery that was actually the first in the state to start canning. I got to try their Long Day Lager for the first time at one of those Irish pubs, while listening to the dude next to me try to impress the bartender by telling her over and over about how much meat he smokes on weekends. Brisket, ribs, tenderloin, pork butt…you name it.The beer is sweeter than most lagers (especially those mass-produced lagers I was drinking when I grew up in this town), with an intriguing citrus zest that comes on at the end of the sip. It’s still light and crisp, the way lagers should be, but there’s an undeniably malty underbelly holding everything together. Red Hare isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with this beer, but it’s good, and it comes in at a way sessionable 4.9%, which I appreciate. And did I mention it’s made in my hometown? How cool is that?
Exploring the Palmetto Backcountry
I started to understand the true meaning of the Palmetto Backcountry as I made my way through a tunnel of trees along the back roads of McCormick, SC, one of the 5 counties in the Old 96 District of South Carolina. I have traveled South Carolina my entire life, but definitely not anywhere like this.As I turned off of SC State Highway 7 toward Hickory Knob State Resort Park, I passed a beautiful 18-hole championship golf course, which I followed up to the office where I parked my car, ready to begin a 2.3-mile hike along Beaver Run Trail. This hiking and biking trail runs along the shoreline, and offered some nice views of Lake Thurmond as I hiked up to the resort’s skeet shooting range. I had never shot skeet before this trip, but when you’re in the Palmetto Backcountry and the district that is home to the National Wild Turkey Federation Museum, skeet shooting seems only natural. After hitting my first 7 out of 10 shots and feeling like a real Annie Oakley, I missed my last 10, but was still awarded some shotgun shells and a clay pigeon.Next, I made the short drive to Earth Connection Outfitters to rent a stand up paddle board. My adventure began at Hickory Knob where I enjoyed a refreshing paddle in and out of the coves of Lake Thurmond. The remote location was great for a first time paddler like myself, where I didn’t have to worry about wakes from nearby boats. It was also a great, relaxing way to unwind from the day’s activities.After having worked up quite an appetite, I decided to check out a few local restaurants, starting with dinner at The Mill House and Good Times Brewing in nearby Greenwood, SC. I ordered Pauley’s Preferred pizza, which was hand-tossed, and topped with fresh vegetables and homemade red sauce, one of their six homemade options. The pizza was baked in a brick oven, which gave the crust and vegetables the perfect crispy finish. Good Times Brewing, one of the 4 microbrew pubs in the district, offered 10 different locally made brews on tap, and what goes better with pizza than beer?After a full day of adventures, I headed back to Hickory Knob Lodge for a good night’s rest. The next day, I was hungry…again, so I decided to check out the Sunday brunch at the Carriage House Restaurant at Inn on the Square in Greenwood, and it definitely did not disappoint. In the south, brunch is a meal that combines breakfast and lunch, but here, brunch is an entire ballroom full of perfectly cut fruit, southern soul food, fresh seafood, sauces, dips, desserts, and everything in between. The variety and quality of the food, accompanied by a live blues band, was the cherry on top of a great weekend in the district.As much as I would have liked to explore all of the other activities, restaurants, and historic sites that the district has to offer, it just gives me an excuse to come back. Cheers to new adventures in Old 96.
Honduras Says That Military Agreements with the U.S. “Remain Firm”
By Dialogo July 22, 2009 Tegucigalpa, July 20 (EFE).- Military relations and security protocols between Honduras and the United States “remain firm,” the Undersecretary of Defense of the Central American country, Gabo Jalil, told EFE today. The official of the new administration headed by Roberto Micheletti, following the coup d’état against ousted president Manuel Zelaya on June 28, indicated that “Honduras is going to respect these relationships with the United States.” As a result of Zelaya’s overthrow, some popular sectors that are demanding Zelaya’s return to power have begun to call on the United States to suspend military aid to Honduras and withdraw its military personnel stationed on the local base of Palmerola, about seventy-five kilometers north of Tegucigalpa. Asked about this issue, Jalil responded that “the military relations and protocols with the United States remain in place” and that so far, “no information has been received” regarding a possible suspension or withdrawal. Honduras and the United States maintain a military agreement dating from 1954, by which multiple cooperation and security programs involving the two countries have been established. The Palmerola Base was built by U.S. military personnel at the beginning of the 1980s as part of the U.S. security strategy in the region during the Cold War. The overthrow of Zelaya, dispatched by the military to Costa Rica, has given rise to a series of protests by sectors demanding his return, which Micheletti’s administration has made conditional on his agreement to stand trial for multiple crimes of which he is accused by the Attorney General’s Office. Zelaya took office on 27 January 2006 for a four-year term.
Salvadoran Museum Exhibits Moon Rock Brought Back by Apollo XVII
By Dialogo July 28, 2009 San Salvador, July 26 (EFE).- Starting today, the Museum of Anthropology of El Salvador is exhibiting a fragment of moon rock brought back by the crew of Apollo XVII, the last lunar mission carried out by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in December 1972. The exhibition, commemorating the fortieth anniversary of man’s arrival on the moon in this Central American country, is accompanied by posters and scale models that tell the story of the Apollo missions. The director of the Museum, Gregorio Bello-Suazo, told EFE that the fragment is “a jewel” that will serve as a message, especially for children and young people, that “it’s possible to reach big objectives” in daily life. The fragment, which was donated to the country by former U.S. president Richard Nixon in March 1973, was part of the rock called “Sample 70017” that the president distributed among several countries and all the U.S. states, according to a document from the United States embassy in San Salvador. Jorge Colorado, a member of the Salvadoran Astronomy Association (ASTRO), said in a private opening ceremony on Saturday that the fragment is the “most ancient” material of the universe accessible to Salvadorans, given that it is believed to have been formed more than 3.6 billion years ago. “It is much older than the ancient rocks that started to form Central America,” Colorado said, while highlighting the fact that the fragment, which is no more than three centimeters in size, is “a geological summary of the whole moon.” The small fragment is exhibited in a crystal sphere attached to a plaque, which also holds a Salvadoran flag that traveled to the satellite on board Apollo XVII, along with flags from other countries. The private opening ceremony was attended by retired NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski, who gave a summary of his activities in various missions to outer space. The astronaut, who was born in Arkansas (U.S.) in 1961, presented a video of a space walk that he took outside the international space station in 2007 and in which he made repairs to a solar panel. The fragment of moon rock will remain on exhibit for a month, and according to Bello-Suazo, the possibility of setting up a gallery to make the exhibition on the Apollo missions permanent is under consideration.
Colombia Confirms Death Of Rebel Commander
By Dialogo February 26, 2010 Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva confirmed the death of a leftist rebel commander who authorities said headed up the guerrillas’ drug-trafficking activities in the southern part of the country. Angel Gabriel Lozada, alias “Edgar Tovar” – commander of the 48th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group – was killed on Jan. 20 but it was not until Wednesday that he was identified through DNA tests. He had once been chief of security for the FARC’s No. 2, Raul Reyes, who was killed on March 1, 2008 in a Colombian military airstrike on a clandestine rebel camp in Ecuadorian territory. Silva told a press conference in Bogota that Lozada was the FARC’s head of drug trafficking and said he had died in clashes with army troops in a rural area outside Puerto Asis, a city in the southern province of Putumayo. Another eight rebels were also killed by army soldiers in the fighting, which erupted after the bombardment of guerrilla camps. Silva said the slain commander was also the person “who controlled drug-trafficking activities for the FARC” in southern Colombia. “He also operated in Ecuador,” Silva said, adding that “he was a dangerous person” because in addition to cocaine trafficking he provided arms and explosives to other FARC fronts. Last week, the Colombian police released documents indicating that Lozada invested $15,000 in the pyramid scheme headed by David Murcia Guzman, who was extradited to the United States earlier this year to face money-laundering charges. The documents were seized by Colombian authorities at one of the rebel camps. The FARC, founded in 1964, is now thought to have around 8,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of this Andean nation. President Alvaro Uribe’s administration has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions of dollars in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.
Panama, U.S. Sign Security Agreement
By Dialogo June 21, 2010 The United States and Panama signed a security agreement to reduce and prevent the crime in Darien province, bordering with Colombia. The agreement called the “Darien Initiative” was signed by Panamanian Economy and Finance Minister Alberto Vallarino and U.S. ambassadress to Panama Barbara Stephenson. Vallarino said he was optimistic about the achievements on implementing the agreement, which is mainly centered on the cooperation of the local authorities in order to create “safer communities,” to face the external threats against the civilians. According to Vallarino, the Darien is a vulnerable zone for illegal actions such as weapons trafficking, smuggling and drug trafficking. “The cooperation will be centered on creating better life conditions for the people, mainly for the younger,” added Stephenson. “The goal is to protect vulnerable young people and change their lives with scholarships and create safer communities.” Darien is considered the zone of higher risk for its proximity to Colombia, where there has been armed conflicts since more than 40 years before, including, guerilla, paramilitaries and drug traffickers.
Ecuador Judges that Conditions for Normalizing Relationship with Colombia Have Been Met
Ecuador judges that its requirements for fully normalizing diplomatic relations with Colombia have been met, although the naming of ambassadors has not yet been determined, both countries’ foreign ministers announced following a meeting in Quito. “With this, we have to make it absolutely clear that the requirements that were part of the sensitive issues have been taken care of,” the Ecuadorean foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, said at a press conference with his Colombian counterpart, María Angela Holguín. Nevertheless, the Colombian minister indicated that a date for naming ambassadors has not been determined at present. “I’m personally not going to put a date on it; we have a very positive relationship, there’s an ongoing dialogue, we’re working in cooperation with one another, and the defense ministers have been working very well on security,” Holguín indicated. Following the meeting, the Colombian defense ministry confirmed in Bogotá that a fifteen-year-old Ecuadorean girl died in an attack against the FARC guerrilla group near the border Monday. The military affirmed that a total of sixteen rebels were killed in the action. The meeting aimed to discuss the so-called sensitive issues for the complete normalization of relations and included defense ministers Javier Ponce (Ecuador) and Rodrigo Rivera (Colombia). By Dialogo November 22, 2010
Paraguayan Parlasur Legislators Uneasy About Argentine Nuclear Plan
By Dialogo March 31, 2011 Paraguayan Parlasur legislators have expressed their concern about an Argentine plan to install a nuclear plant in the border province of Formosa, near the Paraguayan capital, according to a declaration made public on 29 March. If the plan comes to fruition in the border area, “it will constitute a serious threat to public health and to the surrounding ecosystem, due to the risks entailed in an energy source with these characteristics,” according to the declaration. The group of legislators expressed concern about the nuclear plants already in existence in both Argentina and Brazil, two in each of those neighboring countries. They recalled that some countries, such as Venezuela, have suspended nuclear-plant construction projects, and others have taken very old plants, which would not be able to withstand failures or accidents, out of service. At the same time, at the opening of an international meeting on renewable energy, Paraguayan Environment Secretary Oscar Rivas reminded his audience of the tragedy experienced by Japan in relation to its nuclear plants and recalled the risks of atomic energy, still not overcome. Parlasur is the deliberative body of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay).