Earl Zook, 90, has hiked the A.T. in every state.His trail name was Bald Eagle, and when Earl Zook met other hikers, he’d tip his cap to show them why: he is bald as an egg. Then Zook would also pass out business cards soliciting donations to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the cause that spurred him to begin hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2010, at age 87, with no shred of prior hiking experience.“When you do something for somebody else, it makes you feel good right here,” says Zook, patting his 90-year-old heart. “This hike was not about me. This was a means to an end.”Zook drew inspiration for the project after volunteering through the Winchester Kiwanis Club at Camp Fantastic in Front Royal, Va., which runs a summer camp for young cancer patients. He found the campers’ resilience and enthusiasm for life infectious; the hiking bit just popped into his head. Before long he was buying boots and a backpack and studying trail maps.“He was so determined that this was something he really wanted to do,” says Tim Anderson, a neighbor of Zook and a veteran of a 1998 thru-hike.By the spring of 2010, the pair began day-hiking sections of the A.T. in Northern Virginia. That summer, they set off north from Harpers Ferry, W.Va. for a longer session. Zook, then 87, managed up to five miles per day.Zook decided to hike sections of the A.T. in each of the 14 states it crosses between Maine and Georgia. Over the next three years, he chipped away at it, sometimes with Anderson, sometimes with other hiking partners, step by step, a few miles a day, day after day after day. He’s not sure how many days. He didn’t keep track of his mileage. He just had a goal, and he worked until it was done.“You do what you have to do a day at a time,” says Zook, a retired salesman who is convinced that staying active and keeping busy are the keys to a long and healthy life.In 2011, Zook knocked out most of Virginia – his favorite section of the trail – plus North Carolina and Tennessee. In the spring of 2012, he hiked in Georgia, then spent the summer working through the northern states. By late September, he’d finished some hikes in Massachusetts, the last state on the list; on October 2, 2012, he celebrated his 90th birthday at Baxter State Park in Maine, home to Mt. Katahdin and the northern terminus of the A.T.Zook was surprised and delighted by the kindness of people he encountered. Among those he met was a cancer patient and a man who’d just lost his wife to cancer. He saw nine bears, beaver dams, wildflowers, and countless other things of beauty visible only from the trail.So far, Zook’s fundraising efforts have netted a little more than $7,000 in donations to the AICR. His fundraising goal is no less audacious than his decision to take up long-haul hiking deep into his 80s: $5 million, about one dollar for each step it’s estimated to complete the Appalachian Trail.“I hope that when I’m 90 years old, I can do what [Zook]’s been doing the last three years. He’s a tremendous inspiration,” says Anderson. “He exudes enthusiasm … He’s touched a lot of lives along the Appalachian Trail.”
Okay, you have chops. You can ride a bike and climb a mountain. You know things. But you don’t know what the South’s best professional guides know. You don’t know where the secret fields of blueberries are. Where to best anchor that waterfall rappel. Where to find an unlimited stash of backcountry singletrack. If you want the biggest adventures the Southern Appalachians have to offer, sometimes it’s best to go with a pro. Here are six of the best guided trips in the South.linville gorge link upFox Mountain Guides, N.C.foxmountainguides.com The GuideRon Funderburke, head guide for Fox, didn’t discover a love for climbing until studying abroad in France during college. He hooked up with climbing roommates and the rest is history. “I knew I wanted to work in climbing, and started down that path,” Funderburke says. The path eventually led him to Fox, where he leads multi-pitch trad climbs throughout the South and ice climbing in New England.The TripDrop into the 2,000-foot deep, 12-mile long Linville Gorge for a full eight-hour day packed with four miles of steep, rugged wilderness hiking between three big multi-pitch climbs and a grand total of 1,500 vertical feet of rock climbing.Funderburke takes clients to the Amphitheater, a dense area of rock inside the Wilderness boundaries of the gorge. “It’s remote, so it really feels like an adventure,” Funderburke says. “There’s fantastic rock climbing at Rumbling Bald, but you see people water skiing at Lake Lure. The only thing you hear or see on this trip, is the Linville River.” Climbers link up the routes The Mummy (5.5 in three pitches) and the Daddy (5.6 in five pitches) on the Mummy Buttress in the south end of the Amphitheater, then finish the day with the 5.4, six-pitch Prow. “Each time they top out on these climbs, they have to pull up and over a steep vertical wall 500 feet above ground with 2.5 miles of gorge below them,” Funderburke says. “It’s spectacular, and they get to feel that move three times in a single day.”Why Hire a Guide?Because time is money. Hiring a pro is a no brainer for climbing rock, but Funderburke and his colleagues earn their pay on this trip during the bushwhack to the bottom of the crag. “You’re crawling down lots of boulders, falling over trees and briars. It’s easy to be skeptical and start second guessing yourself,” Funderburke says.cascading dolly sods wildernessShenandoah Mountain Guides, W.Va.teamlinkinc.com The GuideAndy Nichols, owner and lead guide of Shenandoah Mountain Guides, grew up next to Shenandoah National Park exploring the backcountry from an early age. “When there are no stop lights, no McDonalds in your county, all you have to do is hike, canoe, and ski,” he says. After an extended stint in the Navy as an officer and then a corporate career, Nichols decided it was time to pursue his passion, and founded Shenandoah Mountain Guides, 20 years ago. He’s helped set the standard for guiding in the Southern Appalachians in the process.The TripNichols puts you at the top of Red Creek inside the 17,371-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness, a unique high-elevation plateau known for its Canadian-esque bogs, then leads you down the belly of the river for two days of rappelling down waterfalls, jumping from ledges, and swimming in deep pools. “This is as good as it gets,” Nichols says. “If there was ever a trademark activity for the Southern Appalachians, cascading would be it.” The two-day trip is only six miles long, but it takes time because the terrain is so treacherous. You camp by the river and take a side trip to cliff-top views, and have plenty of time to explore the coal seams behind the waterfalls. Nichols likes to run the trip in August, when the water is low and the river is more navigable and the blueberries are in abundance in the Sods.Why hire a guide?Because it’s cheaper than a rescue. Nichols and his team are all EMTs who perform search and rescue for the park service. “We see so many people who think they have the skills wind up in bad situations. People make really simple mistakes,” Nichols says. “If you’re with us, we don’t dial 911. We are 911.”canyoneering in the green river gamelandsPura Vida Adventures, N.C.pvadventures.com The GuideJoe Moerschbacher could be the most educated guide in the business. The Louisiana-native got his degree in Wilderness Leadership from Brevard College, then a master’s in Adventure Recreation from Ohio University, then proceeded to stack on guide certifications on top of his formal degrees, most notably the American Canyon Guide Association certification, which makes him one of the few legit ACGA guides in the Eastern U.S. He started guiding professionaly 10 years ago and hasn’t looked back since, founding Pura Vida Adventures and developing some of the most stout canyoneering trips offered east of the Rockies. “I don’t know how I got into this,” Moerschbacher says. “I just didn’t want to work a day in my life, so guiding seemed like a smart path.”The TripPura Vida Adventures pioneered canyoneering in North Carolina, and running clients through the belly of Big Bradley Canyon in the Green River Gamelands has become Moerschbacher’s signature trip. It’s a full eight-hour day of wet waterfall rappels and boulder hopping. The trip starts with a 45-foot rappel to the top of Big Bradley Falls, then a 70-foot rappel down the edge of the waterfall into the canyon floor. After a lifeline traverse beneath the waterfall, you’re set for hours of boulder hopping and swimming with two more smaller rappels mixed in for good measure. Exit the canyon via a 20-foot rock climb to cap off the day.“This is a true canyoneering trip,” Moerschbacher says. “It’s full contact and takes fitness and some technical skill. We start each Big Bradley Adventure with a rappel skills clinic to make sure everyone has the skills they need.”Why Hire a Guide?Because guides spend their free time looking for cooler places to guide you. Moerschbacher spent several years developing the Big Bradley Adventure and knows the ins and outs of the gorge. Even more important, he’s constantly searching for the “next great canyon” for his clients. “We’re on the verge of something great. I’m developing a couple of canyoneering trips that will blow Big Bradley away.”climbing south peak seneca rocksSeneca Rocks Climbing School, W.Va.climbseneca.comThe GuideHead guide Massey Teel has been leading clients up Seneca for seven years. In the process, he’s worked his way to the top of the field, attaining the Rock Guide certification from the American Mountain Guide Association, the highest level of rock climbing certification a guide can get. “It’s not easy to make a living as a rock climbing guide,” Teel says. “But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I worked a lot of low paying guide and instructor jobs to get to the point where climbing is a legitimate profession for me.”The TripSeneca Rocks is a fin of Tuscarora quartzite rising 300 feet from a ridgeline in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia. The rocks form a knife-edge ridge with 360 degrees of climbing over hundreds of high quality routes, making it one of the premier climbing destinations in the East. The multi-pitch routes are steep, but not always difficult; Seneca is known for its diversity of quality climbs, from 5.2 to the stratosphere. Even more impressive, the South Peak of Seneca is a true technical summit, which means you can only reach the top via technical rock climbing. “It’s the tallest technical summit in the East,” Teel says. “There are other pinnacles that demand rock climbing, but nothing of this quality.” Teel likes to lead clients on a full day of trad climbing, linking easy to moderate routes up the South Peak depending on the client’s ability. The approach climb is brutal, as you carry gear and goods up a series of trails and rock steps to the first pitch. You follow Teel up a pitch, cleaning the trad gear as you go, rest on a thin ledge with views of the farming valley below, and repeat for five pitches until you top out. “You’re on top of a skinny ridge with 360-degree views and no-one around,” Teel says. “You’re not going to see the Girl Scouts hiking up there.”Why Hire a Guide?Because guides teach. Seneca Rocks Climbing School is a full-service teaching facility with programs designed to impart lasting wisdom to would-be climbers. A climb with Teel is an opportunity to learn. He gets a bigger kick out of teaching someone how to place trad gear in a cranny than he does leading you to the top of a mountain.to douthat and backShenandoah Mountain Touring, Virginiamountaintouring.com The GuideChris Scott, owner of Shenandoah Mountain Touring, grew up outside of D.C. riding bikes in Virginia and West Virginia. “We had such an enlightening national forest experience out here, but no one was taking advantage of it,” Scott says, discussing his decision to start Shenandoah Mountain Touring and the Shenandoah Mountain 100 fifteen years ago. “The signage was horrible and the trails were in bad shape. We wanted to share it with people. We created the Shenandoah 100 because it was the most amazing trail you could ride in a single day.” And he created the guide service to keep that stoke going year round.The TripPicture three days riding roughly 150 miles of singletrack over eight mountains deep in the George Washington National Forest backcountry, traveling from Stokesville to Douthat State Park and back to Stokesville. Bikers get to pedal a choice piece of the legendary Shenandoah Mountain Trail, climb to views from Elliott’s Knob, and roll along the Chimney Hollow Trail, a ridgeline path in the Crawford Mountain Roadless Area that’s more fun than Mr. Toads Wild Ride. You need to be fit to pedal with a pack over 50 miles a day, but Scott calls it a “customizable Western Spirit style tour.” A shuttle van runs you from the end of the trail each day to the digs at Douthat State Park, and if you’re not up for the challenge one day, you can opt out. Even better, the whole thing is catered and includes Scott’s famous home-baked bread. Plus, Scott and his crew put in 300 hours clearing those trails before the season starts in May, so the singletrack is pristine, an anomaly for backcountry trails in the Southern Appalachians.Why hire a guide?Because they think of everything so all you have to think about is riding. Shenandoah Mountain Touring runs the support you need to keep your pack weight minimal. Do this sort of thing without the van and the cooks, and you’re looking at hauling 30+ pounds over 150 miles.big day on the bike in pisgahBike Farm, N.C.thebikefarmpisgah.com The GuideCashion Smith is a former Camp Carolina kid turned medical equipment salesman turned mountain bike guide. The Bike Farm is new, but Smith’s knowledge of Pisgah is extensive, and his passion for getting people stoked on biking is contagious. Smith and partner Eva Surls spent several months road tripping all over the West and Canada with the Santa Cruz bike team, an eye-opening trip that prompted the creation of the Bike Farm in Brevard, N.C. “We had these pros and their friends showing us around their favorite areas—it was priceless to get to chase these guys around and not follow a map,” Smith says. “That’s one of the things we want to offer with the Bike Farm. Local knowledge.”The TripPisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest is literally a maze of singletrack and forest roads that have become ground zero for adventurous mountain biking in the South. The trails are remote and littered with roots, rocks and blowdowns. The climbs are frequent, long, and often frustratingly technical. The gravel road connectors are plenty. But the payoff is big with sinuous singletrack, bomber descents, and big views. The Bike Farm’s big ride will take you on a 30+ mile day that hits big-name trails like Squirrel Gap, Laurel Mountain, and Pilot Mountain (think half-track on the side of a slope, followed by boulder-hopping downhills). “It’s tons of technical trail, a few fire roads, and a big finish with a dive into a swimming hole,” Smith says. Then of course, you have the obligatory trip to Oskar Blues in downtown Brevard. If one day isn’t enough carnage for you, tack on a second day for an adventurous ride on the entire Black Mountain Trail, which will likely inspire every single emotion you can have on a bicycle, from hate to love, as you oscillate between hike-a-bike sections and big, sweeping downhills.Why Hire a Guide?Because the guide knows the line. Riding Pisgah with The Bike Farm is like riding with a local on his backyard trails. Smith and Surls know which direction to hit the trails, which lines to take down the mountain, when to hit the brakes, and when to let it out. “There are benefits to following someone who’s a local with intimate trail knowledge. It’s a different ride,” Smith says.
This contest is over.Rules and Regulations: Package must be redeemed within 1 year of winning date. Entries must be received by mail or through the www.blueridgeoutdoors.com contest sign-up page by 12:00 Midnight EST on May 15, 2015. One entry per person. One winner per household. Sweepstakes open only to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 years of age or older. Void wherever prohibited by law. Families and employees of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and participating sponsors are not eligible. No liability is assumed for lost, late, incomplete, inaccurate, non-delivered or misdirected mail, or misdirected e-mail, garbled, mistranscribed, faulty or incomplete telephone transmissions, for technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connection, or failed, incomplete or delayed computer transmission or any human error which may occur in the receipt of processing of the entries in this Sweepstakes. By entering the sweepstakes, entrants agree that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine reserve the right to contact entrants multiple times with special information and offers. Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine reserves the right, at their sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes. Winners agree that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and participating sponsors, their subsidiaries, affiliates, agents and promotion agencies shall not be liable for injuries or losses of any kind resulting from acceptance of or use of prizes. No substitutions or redemption of cash, or transfer of prize permitted. Any taxes associated with winning any of the prizes detailed below will be paid by the winner. Winners agree to allow sponsors to use their name and pictures for purposes of promotion. Sponsors reserve the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value. All Federal, State and local laws and regulations apply. Selection of winner will be chosen at random at the Blue Ridge Outdoors office on or before May 15th, 6:00 PM EST 2015. Winners will be contacted by the information they provided in the contest sign-up field and have 7 days to claim their prize before another winner will be picked. Odds of winning will be determined by the total number of eligible entries received.
Recently, when Congress proposed HR 621, a bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of public lands, we rallied against it. Outdoor enthusiasts who had never posted anything political on social media spoke out against the public land heist. After we successfully killed the bill, many of you promised to stop political chatter and return to adventure posts.Please reconsider.As tempting as it might be to hide in the forest for the next four years, if we want to protect our rivers and mountains, then occasionally our kayaks, bikes, and rods may need to take a backseat to our activism. Nature as we know it is on the chopping block. Public lands are at risk. We face expanding oil and gas drilling in National Parks, weakening of air pollution standards, and fewer clean water safeguards.The peril extends to the continued existence of the Environmental Protection Agency thanks to H.R. 861. The bill consists of one chilling sentence: “The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”For those of us who take refuge in the outdoors, without public lands, we have no place to go. If clean water safeguards no longer protect us, contaminants like lead or flame-retardant chemicals could seep into our drinking water. Air pollution could decimate the tourism that small mountain towns depend on. Without the EPA, regulators at every level could face widespread confusion over how to implement environmental laws.We must act if we want to pass along a healthy world to the little rippers we’re raising. You paddle difficult rapids, ride technical trails, and catch prized fish – you are already strong. Now it’s time to cultivate our courage.An anonymous source at the E.P.A. said, “Know that there are literally thousands of public servants that will do everything we can to mitigate the damage.” Anticipating that the branch of the Department of Justice that enforces environmental laws will be downsized, lawyers are organizing across the country to bring lawsuits on behalf of citizens injured by corporations violating environmental laws.We must turn our anguish into action to support those willing to risk their livelihoods. Each small thing we do multiplies in unknown ways, from inspiring others to act, to nudging our representatives to take bold steps.The freedom to use public lands, breathe clean air, and drink clean water brings us great joy and also carries a responsibility. Our love for the outdoors requires our active participation in politics.To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ask not what the mountains can do for you, but what you can do for the mountains.What Can You Do?Build on the success of public outcry to HR 621. Be relentless in contacting representatives and encouraging them to oppose laws negatively affecting the outdoors.Write editorials and letters to local newspapers. Consider attending the Climate March on D.C. on April 29 or other rallies in your neck of the woods. Use your economic power to reward corporate behaviors that align with your values—and punish those that do not. For example, boycott the products and services of those companies that seek to exploit weakened environmental regulations.A great example of our buying power is the decision of the Outdoor Retailer show to leave Utah due to the state’s withdrawal of support for Bear Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. The show director for Outdoor Retailer, Marisa Nicholson said, “We are in lockstep with the outdoor community and working on finding a new home.” The trade show brings about 40,000 visitors and $45 million to the host city and is looking to partner with a state that values public lands and believes in conserving the outdoors for the next generation, in line with the values of consumers of outdoor gear. Show us the money. When legislation stripping us of environmental protections promises to bolster the economy, we must demand transparency. Politicians claim that if the cost of doing business is lowered, then the working class will benefit. Too often, promises of employing more people or paying higher wages go unfulfilled. Instead, corporations continue to increase their profit margins at the expense of nature and the working class. Stay engaged on social media, which can help movements gather strength and people find their voices. As executive orders and other policies are being passed at a lightning-fast pace, we must all work together to stay informed and mobilized.
When you live in a city with one of the most robust craft beer scenes in the country, it’s easy to get complacent. A new brewery opened up a couple of weeks ago and my wife wanted to go, but I didn’t. Because it was on the other side of town. Roughly 2.7 miles away.“It’s just so far,” I said. “Think about the traffic at this hour. And we could just walk to Wicked Weed. Or Burial. Or Catawba…” Why try new things when there are so many great things that you know you already love right in front of your face, right? Can I get an “amen”? Of course, I’m wrong. Forget the fact that women are usually right and men are usually wrong when they’re squaring off in an argument like this (listen to your lady; that mustache does make you look like a pervert). I was wrong because it’s a great big beer world out there, getting bigger every day, and if you sit back and stop seeking out new boozy experiences that test your taste receptors, you’re gonna miss a whole lot of incredible beer. Look at it this way: there haven’t always been 5,000 craft breweries in this country. For a long time, there were only a dozen or so decent beers out there in the wild. And, if history is any indication, this craft beer boom won’t last forever. There will come a time when you drive into a random small town, with a population of 878, and there aren’t two brewpubs occupying dueling ends of main street. It’s a scary thought, I know, but it’s true. We’re living in the time of Peak Beer right now. It’s never going to be this good again. We owe it to ourselves to drink as much of it as we can. Forget about your liver and diabetes and your kid’s baseball game, the beer is practically vanishing beneath our noses. Carpe the day. Carpe the hell out of it. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself now when I see a new beer on the shelf that I’m not quite sure about. Should I get the new beer? Or should I play it safe and go with the pale ale I always get? It’s a question that plagues my every trip to the store, but now, because of Peak Beer, and an ever-growing sense of mortality in general, I’m getting frisky and risky and opting for the new beer. This week, it paid off. I picked up a six pack of this IPA from Currahee Brewing, out of tiny Franklin, deep in the mountains of North Cackalacky. I didn’t know what to expect, but I liked the can and the name, so I bought it. And the beer is, as the kids say, “sick.” It’s creamy in a way that most IPAs are not, and it has some of that classic, West Coast style bitterness that you don’t find too much of anymore. Everyone’s going for fruit juice with their IPAs these days, but this thing has as much pine as it does citrus. The old school take is refreshing, but I also dig that creamy mouthfeel—makes me wonder if they added wheat or oats to the malt bill. Anyway, needless to say, I carped the hell out of that six pack.
By Dialogo June 10, 2009 Bogotá, June 8 (EFE) – FARC have a plan to attack 11 councilors in Bogota, as reported today by city councilor Darío Fernando Cepeda, who wanted to make sure the public knew about the letter sent over the weekend by the District attorney’s office to the mayor of Bogota, Samuel Moreno Rojas, warning him of the alleged plan. According to the website of the newspaper El Tiempo, Bogota, Cepeda said, “the letter is authentic, with the right letterhead and we are just waiting to be officially notified of the threats by the mayor, the Army or the Police and to strengthen our security measures.” According to this version, the threatened councilors belong to the party called “Cambio Radical“, allied to the Colombian President Álvaro Uribe. The alleged plans to attack the lives of elected officials were discovered on a computer that authorities seized in the operation that led to the arrest of “The Black Antonio” of FARC. Bernardo Mosquera Machado, head of a commando group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was captured last February in the region of Sumapaz, the central department of Cundinamarca, of which Bogota is the capital. The councilmen threatened are Carlos Fernando Galan, son of the assassinated presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento, Philip Rivers, Dario Fernando Cepeda, Fernando Lopez, Julio Cesar Acosta, Clara Sandoval, Orlando Castañeda, Nelly Patricia Mosquera, Maria Angelica Tovar, Carlos Castro and Henry Orlando Ferreira. According to Cepeda, the letter also mentions the names of two elected officials of a neighborhood of Bogota, whose identities are unknown at this time. On the situation, the president of the Bogota, Soledad Tamayo, said that she had written to the Office and the Colombian Army asking to “investigate the matter”, but so far there was no response. “We are expecting a response to take every security measure,” said Tamayo. The so called ” Black Antonio”, captured in an operation of the Colombian Army, is responsible for the abductions in the center of the country. He also controlled the drug trafficking business in this part of the country through the commando group “Antonio Nariño”. Among his crimes are the kidnappings of a Christian church leader and the Japanese Chikao Muramatsu, who died in captivity. Earlier this month, the Director of the National Federation of Councilors of Colombia, Fabio Estrada, stated that at least 2,000 councilors work under death threats from guerrilla groups, emerging gangs and common criminals.
By Dialogo June 08, 2010 The Organization of American States (OAS) opened its fortieth ordinary general assembly in Lima, in the presence of thirty-three foreign ministers or representatives of its member states, come together to debate regional arms control and Honduras’s return to the organization. The general assembly was inaugurated by Peruvian president Alan García and OAS secretary-general José Miguel Insulza, the latter of whom expressed his gratitude for “the member states’ trust” in having re-elected him for another five years starting in 2010. Brazilian foreign minister Celson Amorim was one of the most prominent absentees, despite the fact that the OAS organizers had said that he would be present in Lima. The OAS secretary-general advocated in a speech for Honduras’s return to the Western Hemisphere community, maintaining that this “would make it possible to better address the human-rights situation in that country.” “Honduras continues to be suspended, and we continue to work for its restoration,” he noted, emphasizing that for many countries in the region, Honduras’s return is conditional on ousted president Manuel Zelaya’s return to his country, as a citizen and without legal problems, from his current exile in the Dominican Republic. Despite this, Insulza highlighted the fact that the Americas “are on their way to establishing themselves as one of the world’s two democratic regions.” With regard to arms control, which will be addressed as part of the assembly’s central theme, “Peace, Security, and Cooperation in the Americas,” Insulza recalled that “the Americas are the world’s first region free of nuclear arms.” The high-ranking official welcomed the Peruvian initiative to promote the topic of disarmament and emphasized that concern about “military spending is a significant part of the OAS’s agenda.” “For this reason there exist trust-building and security measures, complete registers of arms purchases, and annual reports,” among other measures, Insulza said, with García and the region’s foreign ministers in the audience. Despite the existence of arms-control treaties, Insulza lamented that only three countries have ratified them, for which reason he said that he “would like those agreements to be ratified by all countries and would like them to issue reports on their arms acquisitions every year.” President García defended his proposal to rein in military spending and urged greater transparency in a region “where poverty continues to demand greater investment, and arms turn into junk.” “If we are the most peaceful region in the world, for what purpose have we bought more arms? It’s a senseless race to see enemies where there aren’t any. We will continue plowing the sea until the people demand from their governments that they put an end to this race,” García commented. The ceremony concluded with a reception for the participating delegations, hosted by the Peruvian government. The general assembly will have its first plenary session at the ministerial level Monday, with another ministerial session Tuesday. The meeting was held under tight security, with 4,000 police personnel, according to the Peruvian interior minister, to prevent terrorist attacks. In addition, more than 500 journalists were accredited to cover the general assembly.
By Dialogo June 08, 2010 The Colombian army has found 775 anti-personnel mines that the FARC guerrilla group was apparently going to plant on the roads leading to the town of Vistahermosa, in the department of Meta in central Colombia, a military report indicated Monday. According to the report, the explosive devices were found in the hamlet of Palmeras, in a rural district of Vistahermosa, and were to be used to “affect the freedom of the upcoming presidential elections on 20 June.” The report added that the mines belonged to the ‘Isaías Pardo’ squadron of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which “intended to engage in a major terrorist escalation, planting the explosive devices on roads and access routes” leading to Vistahermosa.
By Dialogo August 18, 2010 Paraguay’s contribution to Haiti after the 12 January 2010 earthquake consisted of food, blankets, search-and-rescue teams, and a medical contingent with surgeons and specialists. The country also contributed to the effort with nearly thirty men to provide security at food-distribution points in Haiti as part of the permanent international contingent of the UN stabilization force, MINUSTAH. Soon, the number of Paraguayans in MINUSTAH is going to increase substantially. In order to talk about this topic and other humanitarian-aid initiatives offered by Paraguay to other countries, Diálogo spoke with Brig. Gen. Carlos Alberto Bordón, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Paraguayan Armed Forces, during the 2d Annual South American Defense Chiefs (SOUTHDEC) Conference, held in Lima, Peru, on 3 and 4 August. Diálogo: Can you comment for us on Paraguay’s participation in the humanitarian-aid efforts in Haiti? General Bordón: We’re right now preparing people to go to Haiti at the end of the month (August). We’re preparing a multi-role engineering unit, and we could be sending it there possibly at the beginning of September. Diálogo: Would this be to replace the troops who are already there, or in addition to them? General Bordón: In principle, it’s in addition to them. Afterward, we’ll consider whether anyone is going to leave. It’ll be more than a hundred men, doing reconstruction work, demolition, all those kinds of things. Diálogo: Gen. Douglas Fraser commented during the conference about the importance of exercises among different countries. What is your opinion in this regard? General Bordón: I think that it’s a way of training our people, getting to know one another, and then on that basis, looking for the way to alleviate the difficulties that can appear in the situation of a disaster of some kind or an event that affects one of the nations. Diálogo: And how do you see the participation of the armed forces along these humanitarian-aid lines? Do you believe that it’s necessary to create a force specifically for this, or not? General Bordón: I believe that each country has to have a unit that is dedicated to this, I don’t mean one hundred percent, but that builds up its capabilities and that trains at certain times of the year and carries out joint exercises with other countries, yes. But having something permanent isn’t something we would be part of, because it’s very expensive and would also take us away from our normal mission. Diálogo: How is Paraguay confronting the growing presence of drug traffickers and terrorists? General Bordón: We’re not doing a lot, I’ll be honest with you, because we have a bit of a problem in Paraguay also, which is the EPP (Paraguayan Popular Army). We – the military as an institution, at least – are already taking a look at their possible association with drug traffickers, and we don’t have any actions prepared along these lines yet, but we are intensifying our work on intelligence issues, connecting the dots, because we don’t want to end up in the situation of other countries. Diálogo: And the EPP is even in contact with Brazilian drug traffickers, true? General Bordón: Yes, yes. Diálogo: So, are the two countries already exchanging information? General Bordón: Yes, in fact we are, but we’re not engaging in operational actions. But we do have intelligence elements, and I know this for a fact, because I always have a hand in activities of this kind. We’re studying all possible data and the connections there might be at the appropriate time. Diálogo: In other words, it’s something for the future? General Bordón: Exactly. The near future. Near and in accordance with the conditions we’re given, because what’s our problem? Our problem is the legal framework. We’re not in a position to operate autonomously. Diálogo: Like the police? General Bordón: Exactly. And suddenly, we see that the police aren’t doing their job. For this reason, countries like El Salvador and Brazil have been authorizing their armed forces to have this kind of power. I’m familiar with a law that gives the Brazilian army the authority to deploy its units against terrorist or criminal activities, especially along the borders. Diálogo: Do you believe that this might be an option for Paraguay in the future, if this problem grows? General Bordón: Yes, it’s an option. We would have to see how it would work, but it’s definitely an option.
By Dialogo April 01, 2011 The Mercado Comun del Sur, or Mercosur, celebrated its 20th year of existence in South America on March 26, 2011. Hosted by Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, and attended by Bolivian Vice-president Álvaro García Linera, the trade bloc’s anniversary celebration took place in the indigenous community of Jaguati, about 500 kilometers northeast of Asuncion, Paraguay. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay are member nations of Mercosur, the fourth largest trading bloc in the world. Associated nations include Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Mercosur reported that it has increased business among its members from $4.5 million in 1991 to $45 million in 2010.