El Dorado. The name inspired European explorers and treasure seekers for centuries, and the story grew to encompass a shining city of gold abundant with precious metals and gems. It inspired Western literature in such works as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Voltaire’s Candide as well as a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. It even holds a special place in the English language as a metaphor for some wonderful, perhaps unattainable thing just like Shangri La or the Fountain of Youth. But, was there really an El Dorado? The answer: Yes, though the truth might surprise you. A Figure on a Raft Of the 55,000 artifacts in the Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum, in Bogotá, Colombia, one stands out as the major piece. Created sometime between the years 600 and 1600, it’s a 7.5” by 4” artistic offering of a log boat with figures surrounding one taller figure. Who does that shining gold artifact’s tall figure represent? El Dorado: “The Gilded One.”
According to news reports over the weekend, a number of U.S. Secret Service agents brought prostitutes to a hotel in Cartagena the day before President Obama was due to arrive. (1) The activity came at the tail end of Secret Service efforts to prepare security in the area of Columbia for Obama’s visit. According to a Reuter’s report, the activity would not have been discovered if it weren’t for the fact that one agent refused the demands of hotel staff to pay extra for the room since he had had a guest stay with him overnight. The disagreement attracted diplomatic attention, and ultimately the activities of all of the Secret Service agents came to light. All agents that were in the scandal were immediately relieved of duty pending investigation, and a new Secret Service crew was flown in to replace them. While such a scandal – one that overshadowed Obama’s entire trip to Columbia – is bad enough, Representative Darrel Issa, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight Panel made an excellent point when he told Reuters: “In this particular case, the president may not have been in danger but that’s to beg the whole question of … what happens if somebody, six months ago, six years ago, became the victim of their own misconduct and is now being blackmailed?” (2) The concern is a very serious one, because intelligence agencies around the world have used such “honey trap” technique for many years, quite successfully. Particularly in a case like this one, where many of the Secret Service agents are married. If the Secret Service – the elite agency in charge of protecting the President of the United States – was ever compromised by such a foreign intelligence effort, it would spell disaster for the security of the [...]
The alleged member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Alexander Beltran Herrera, has been extradited from Columbia to the United States to face terrorism-related charges, including taking three American citizens hostage after their plane crash-landed in a remote region of Columbia in 2003. FARC is Columbia’s largest guerrilla army, which was established in 1964 as a military wing of the Columbian Communist Party and seeks to overthrow the Columbian government through means of violence, intimidation and corruption. Whilst the guerrilla organisation is described as a terrorist group by the Columbian government, as well as by the United States, the European Union, Chile, Canada and New Zealand, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua and Venezuela, do not classify FARC as being associated with terrorism. In 2008, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez referred to FARC as being a “real army” and called on the Columbian government to recognise the group as a “belligerent force”, stating that this would then force them to stop acts of terrorism and kidnappings (1).