By Dialogo February 08, 2012 On February 6, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos thanked Venezuela for the arrest of the paramilitary leaders alias “Martín Llanos” and alias “Caballo” [Horse]. Santos said that the arrests were very significant because these individuals “were the only paramilitary leaders who did not want to submit to the Judicial and Peace process.” The bulk of the paramilitary organization United Self-defense Units of Colombia, which committed thousands of crimes against the civilian population and are still under investigation, demobilized between 2003 and 2006 in a peace process promoted by former president Álvaro Uribe’s administration (2002-2010). As part of this process, they were granted procedural benefits in exchange for truthful information about their acts and reparation for their victims. “Martín Llanos (Héctor Buitrago Parada) played a leading role in one of the bloodiest wars of the Eastern Plains [neighboring Venezuela] and left hundreds, I would say thousands, of victims; he made pacts with the FARC to divide up the drug trade between them,” the president added. Santos stated that drug trafficking has spread in recent years “to several countries of the continent, from Venezuela to Bolivia.” He recalled that 11 arrest warrants were pending for “Martín Llanos,” on charges including aggravated homicide, forced disappearance, kidnapping for purposes of extortion, torture, narcotics trafficking, and terrorism. Together with “Martín Llanos,” his brother Nelson Orlando Buitrago Parada, alias “Caballo,” was also arrested. The Buitrago brothers were arrested in Venezuela on February 4, by agents of the National Anti-drug Office (ONA). Both were being sought through Interpol on “charges of homicide, kidnapping, illicit drug trafficking, and criminal conspiracy,” and will be turned over “immediately” to Colombian authorities, Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami explained to the press.
The UK’s Pensions Regulator (TPR) has told pension scheme trustees to “negotiate robustly” with sponsoring employers if they are not giving sufficient financial support to their retirement funds.In the regulator’s annual funding statement, released yesterday, it told trustees not to agree to scheme valuations if they felt the outcome would disadvantage the scheme.It referred to “recent corporate failures” as it laid out detailed guidance for pension funds to ensure employers fulfilled their obligations.In particular, the regulator cited “the risk of long recovery plans while payments to shareholders are excessive relative to deficit repair contributions”. This echoed similar statements made by TPR in last year’s annual funding statement, but this year it went further to draw trustees’ attention to “other forms of covenant leakage” such as loans between different parts of a business, transfers of assets, and even high senior executive pay in the case of small schemes.“We believe that employers with weak covenants should normally retain cash within the company to fund sustainable growth and address their pension deficit rather than paying it out to shareholders,” the regulator said.In addition, TPR said its “proactive casework” had increased by 90% year-on-year as part of its aim to be “clearer, quicker and tougher” on scheme funding.Joe Dabrowski, head of governance and investment at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, said: “This is especially relevant given that it will be 2019-20, at the earliest, before we see any of the legislative changes proposed in the government’s recent white paper.“However, it is important that as the regulator increases its activity it remains proportionate and practical in the use of its powers.”‘Robust’ discussions over Carillion’s pensions Robin Ellison gives evidence at the Carillion inquiryDuring a parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of Carillion earlier this year, politicians pressed the former chair of the company’s pension schemes over the nature of protracted discussions about scheme valuations and funding.Robin Ellison said the trustee board had pushed the construction and engineering contractor as hard as it could.“We did our best with the information at our disposal,” he said, adding that it was a balancing act between getting as much money for the pension scheme as possible without driving the sponsor out of business. “I don’t think there is anything more we could have done to pursue higher contributions.”Ellison maintained that the trustees “did not just roll over and get our tummies tickled when the company paused contributions”.In a letter to the inquiry, TPR chief executive Lesley Titcomb said the regulator had “robustly supported the trustees during negotiations about scheme funding” and made clear to the trustees and employer that it would use enforcement powers if agreement was not reached. The regulator did not take any formal enforcement action until after Carillion collapsed, but argued that the threat of action had persuaded the company to agree to higher contributions.Brexit impactAs well as employer contributions, the regulator also emphasised the importance of factoring in Brexit to future funding and strategy discussions. It said trustees and employers should have “open and collaborative discussions” about the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on the economy and on relevant business sectors.Sponsors could hold back cash from their schemes to protect against Brexit uncertainty, TPR said, but trustees should ensure shareholders were “also sharing the burden proportionately”.Matthew Arends, partner at Aon Hewitt, said the regulator’s statements indicated that it would place more emphasis on planning for future triennial valuations rather than just the closest one.His colleague Lynda Whitney added: “Trustees and employers need to consider prudence levels in 2018 valuations in anticipation of future changes.”TPR’s full annual funding statement is available here .
Despite wide scale opposition, including from teachers, the Republican majority Florida legislature has approved a bill to arm the state’s public-school teachers.During the recent Florida legislative session the Florida House voted 65-47, with firm opposition from Democratic legislators, joining the Senate to allow teachers to carry guns on school campuses. The genesis to apply this controversial measure to Florida schools was the tragic shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland February 2018. Those proposing and voting for the measure argued arming teachers would serve to prevent similar incidents in state schools.Several Republican senators and representatives argued that if teachers were armed the Parkland tragedy would have been averted. “The gun man would have been gunned down before engaging in his mass killing,” argued one legislator. “It allows the good guy to stop the bad, and the bad guy will never know when the good guy is going to be there to shoot back, argued Republican Representative Chuck Brannan from Macclenny, Florida.Politicians are blind“These politicians are so blind,” said former Parkland student Debbie Moore. “What we and students across the state and the nation have been seeking since the tragedy of Valentine’s Day last year is to ban guns, or at least make it more difficult for people to have access to guns. What they have done is to make a way to have more guns in schools. What sense does this make?”Students from Marjory Stoneman and other schools made their opposition to the bill known as it travelled through the Legislature. Students held protests outside the Capitol in an effort to prevent legislators approving the arming of teachers. They argued in vain that arming teachers could create undue risks at schools and could results in accidental shootings. According to the bill which will now advance to Governor Ron DeSantis to be signed into law, before a teacher is approved to be armed with a gun, he/she would be required to undergo 144 hours of training and must pass a psychological evaluation.School districts to decideHowever, to the reassurance of teachers like Phyllis McKaye of Miami, despite the new law before teachers in respective school districts can be armed this must be approved by the relevant school board.“I have never heard anything so ridiculous as passing a law to arm teachers,” said McKaye. “I would leave the profession before I touch a gun at any school. The arms I bear when I enter the school campus is chalk for the chalk board. I would never arm myself with a gun around so many students. No school board could every be irresponsible so as to approve arming its teachers.”Broward teacher Lenworth Byfield said. “This law will only make schools a very dangerous place. Now teachers will be the first target of crazed gunmen. The gunmen entering a school will know we are armed and try to shoot us first,. A resulting shoot out would place more students in danger. People choose to become teachers to teach not to be armed vigilantes”The school boards in South Florida are opposed to the policy, and from all indications from opinions raised during the debate over the bill they are not likely to approve arming their teachers any time soon.