“This is more important than any combat victory or hundreds of kills,” said Colonel Rafael Ávila Salas, a member of the Army’s Inspection General who was visiting the room for the first time late in October. “This is our history.” “I want this place to be a permanent space for memory, one that shows Colombia the way forward so as not to repeat this 50-year tragedy… and one where society’s consensus revolves around peace,” Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said during the opening ceremony on October 8. The interactive exhibition, which honors Colombia’s fallen Soldiers and police officers, is named after an Army Sergeant who was killed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after being held captive for more than 14 years. It features an interactive timeline with videos, newsreels, and detailed information about incidents in which illegal armed groups violated the Geneva Conventions or the human rights of Soldiers. Constant threats “This is an opportunity to tell the world and the new generations about all the atrocities that the Public Force has also had to undergo during our internal conflict,” Sgt. Maj. Beltrán said standing in front of a screen with information about his capture in the Room of Memory and Dignity one morning in late October. “We are also victims.” By Dialogo November 20, 2015 The Armed Forces of Colombia are a good example for their Latin American counterparts when it comes to the fight against narco-terrorism. We have a lot to learn from this tough and expensive experience. On December 23, I’m going to get to know BogotÃ¡. I would like to visit the museum and need to know the address. I really liked the DiÃ¡logo website. And I give homage to all those military personnel who died in the campaign against the FARCs. They gave their lives to free Latin America from this cancer called communism, which is in cahoots with drug trafficking. The exhibition also tells the story of Sergeant Major Amaón Pantoja Flórez, who was captured by the FARC on August 3, 1998, in Miraflores in the department of Meta, following a 24-hour attack on an Army base. Colombia’s National Army recently inaugurated the Sergeant Libio José Martínez Estrada Room of Memory and Dignity at the Military Museum in Bogotá. Colombian Armed Forces freed Betancourt, Sgt. Maj. Pantoja, and 13 other hostages in July 2008 after infiltrating the illegal armed group. Soldiers tricked the FARC into placing all of the hostages aboard a helicopter so they could meet with one of their commanders, Alfonso Cano. But when the helicopter took off from a remote patch of jungle about 200 miles southeast of Bogotá, Armed Forces commandos subdued the two FARC operatives who had escorted the hostages onto the helicopter, which belonged to the Military. “It’s an abominable situation for any human being,” Sgt. Maj. Pantoja said shortly before visiting the Sergeant Libio José Martínez Estrada Room of Memory and Dignity in October. A dramatic rescue by the Colombian Armed Forces Sgt. Maj. Pantoja was a FARC prisoner for almost 10 years, during which time he was held alongside former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three American contractors who taught him English. He still recalls the powerlessness, constant humiliations, the weight of the 106-link chain around his neck, and being locked inside barbed wire enclosures in the jungle. The room depicts 22 events, including attacks on police stations, the use of minefields, and the numerous kidnappings of Troops like Sergeant Major Luis Alfonso Beltrán, who the FARC captured in the department of Caquetá in March 1998 after his Army unit clashed with more than 1,300 guerrillas over nine days. Along with nine other soldiers, Sgt. Maj. Beltrán, who was 28 years old at the time, surrendered once their food and ammo was depleted. A chain was placed around his neck and connected to a fellow captive, and he spent 14 years in the jungle, always attached to a comrade until the FARC released him in March 2012. Military personnel, the families of kidnapped victims, and a few civilians visit the exhibition daily, and it’s common for guides to lead groups of officers in full uniform. After capturing Sgt. Maj. Beltrán, FARC guerillas constantly threatened him throughout his captivity. At one point, he was denied food for 21 days after the terrorist group’s supply was destroyed by an Army strike. During that time, he kept what he called his “assault bag,” in which he carried a Bible, messages from his family, a toothbrush, a cup, and a pair of socks. This bag and the belongings of other kidnapped Soldiers and police officers are on display in the Room of Memory and Dignity.
By Dialogo March 09, 2016 Diálogo: How many Troops are involved in the campaign? Diálogo: Has any particular base caught your attention during this campaign? Navy Commodore Tarapow: This year we are employing five ships for different tasks, four of which belong to the Argentine Navy and the fifth was leased through international competitive bidding. These are the Canal Beagle transport ship, the Puerto Deseado oceanographic vessel (operating under the Naval Hydrographic Service, conducting hydrographic and bathymetric tasks), the Suboficial Castillo dispatch ship (operating under the Southern Naval Area, conducting the Joint Naval Antarctic Patrol with Chile) and the Islas Malvinas dispatch ship, all of which belong to the Argentine Navy. As for the aircraft, we have two Hercules C-130, a Twin Otter, an MI17 helicopter, and a Bell 212 helicopter, all of which belong to our Air Force. More than 1,000 Military officials and scientists are participating in the Summer Antarctic Campaign 2015-2016, an annual mission to resupply the 13 Argentine research bases on the white continent and support their scientific programs. The effort is being led by Navy Commodore Marcelo Tarapow, Argentina’s Naval Antarctic Commander and Joint Antarctic Commander. Diálogo: What vehicles and materials are being used in the Summer Antarctic Campaign 2015-2016? Navy Commodore Marcelo Tarapow: Leading and conducting naval, land, and air operations to support personnel and supply the permanent Antarctic bases so that they can fulfill their summer or winter missions. We also need to deploy, sustain, and subsequently dismantle the transitional summer bases and science camps. We conduct surveys and repair Argentina’s Antarctic shelters and beacons. We also provide support for foreign programs, such as those from Bulgaria, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, and the Czech Republic. Diálogo: Argentina has 13 bases in Antarctica, including both permanent and temporary bases. Could you tell us a little about them? Navy Commodore Tarapow: I was able to appreciate the true potential that the Petrel Base has to be developed into a logistics hub in combination with Ushuaia. Built by the Argentine Navy in 1967, Petrel has a natural plateau where Navy aircraft have operated. Recent studies allowed for the development of a runway capable of handling Boeing commercial aircraft, as well as a pier. This base is now a joint operation with the other Armed Forces, and I hope that science will also find its place there. I have no doubt that we should pay special attention to the development of the Petrel base, as it holds great geostrategic value. Our future in Antarctica will depend, in large part, on the effort we focus on Petrel. Navy Commodore Tarapow: The triangular section between the 25th West and 74th West meridians and the 60th South parallel, reaching to the South Pole, delimits Argentine Antarctica. And different tasks – scientific, beaconing, mapping, meteorological, and glaciological, just to name a few – are the added value necessary for the consolidation of our rights. In addition, the Antarctic programs carried out by the different nations allow for a better understanding of the world in which we live. Knowledge of ocean currents, glaciology, meteorology, climate, biology, botany, and the thinning of the ozone layer, for example, is necessary not only for understanding Antarctica’s past and present but also to understand its balance and probable future. Navy Commodore Tarapow: The tasks include the logistical resupply of the six permanent bases that Argentina has in Antarctica, which operate all year round (Orcadas, San Martín, Carlini, Esperanza, Belgrano II and Marambio) and seven temporary bases, which are only used during the Antarctic summer months (Matienzo, Petrel, Brown, Primavera, Cámara, Decepción and Melchior). We are carrying a little more than 7,000 drums of Antarctic gas oil, JP1 fuel for aircraft, premium gasoline and oil, 800 cubic meters of Antarctic gas oil in bulk, 1,010 gas pipes, 215 cubic meters of refrigerated cargo, 168 cubic meters of dry goods, 90 cubic meters [of] antechamber, and about 2,073 cubic meters of general cargo, which includes building materials, paints, wood, clothing, cleaning supplies, medicines, vehicles, electronic equipment, and furniture. In addition, we will remove 2,554 cubic meters of waste of various types that is produced as a result of the work and accommodations on the white continent. Diálogo: When does this Summer Antarctic Campaign end? Diálogo: What tasks are currently being performed? Navy Commodore Tarapow: In total 1,000 people are participating, if we count the crews of the five ships, helicopters and aircraft that are being deployed in Antarctica and the personnel at the bases. The team of scientists and technicians includes around 400 people. On board the Golovnin, we are 90 in total. This ship carries the largest amount of the cargo being shipped to the Antarctic bases. Diálogo: What studies are conducted at the Argentine bases that are made possible by the Military’s support? Diálogo: What are the responsibilities of the Joint Antarctic Command? Navy Commodore Tarapow: The Orcadas Base, which is supported by the Argentine Navy, is the oldest permanent human settlement in all of Antarctica. Since Argentina took over on February 22, 1904, it has always been inhabited and waved our flag. Hence, that date has become National Antarctica Day for Argentina. We have families living at the Esperanza Base and a school operates there throughout the entire year. The first Antarctic Argentines were also born there. “Every year, there are Argentines living in Antarctica who await our arrival,” said Commodore Tarapow in an email interview with Dialógo from aboard the polar vessel Vasily Golovnin. “They trust that (we) will bring them supplies and replacements. That is a trust we can never betray.” Navy Commodore Tarapow: On the bases, programs are conducted in accordance with the geographical characteristics and associated ecosystems. There are projects studying different types of flying birds and penguins, sea lions, seals, elephant seals, whales, fish, algae, lichens, plankton and phytoplankton. There are also studies into the changes in human behavior and physiology in high-insolation conditions, circadian cycles, changing conditions, and duration of days with light and polar nights. Also important is the research into meteorology, the upper atmosphere, the ozone, ionization, glaciology, and the environment. Argentina has a rich background and tradition in most of these fields of study. Diálogo: How does the Antarctic Campaign benefit Argentina and other countries? Navy Commodore Tarapow: The campaign will end on March 26th with the arrival of Canal Beagle transport ship at its home port in Buenos Aires, where it will unload all the material and garbage removed from Antarctica.
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo December 15, 2017 A new contingent of Salvadoran military personnel is scheduled to join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA, in French) in December. As such, El Salvador shows its commitment to the United Nation’s (UN) peacekeeping, security, and stabilization efforts in the region. “This deployment will not replace the air unit. To the contrary, it increases our presence in that part of the world,” Colonel Jorge Alberto Miranda, chief of the 3rd Operations Group of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of El Salvador, said to Diálogo. “This will be an airport ground services unit made up of 70 soldiers. Our presence in Mali will grow to 160 personnel.” The mission of the new contingent, made up of men and women, is to improve and maintain operational conditions at one of Mali’s airports. The unit also has search and rescue and firefighting duties in the terminal area. Service members brought the technology and equipment needed to manage the airport. These duties come in addition to day and night patrols on the ground and in the air; maintenance of transportation and communication equipment; training and education; and other duties the Salvadoran service members perform from the moment they deploy. El Salvador has been part of MINUSMA since May 2015, operating independently with the Torogoz (El Salvador’s national bird) Armed Helicopter Unit (AHU), which consists of 90 military personnel under the UN mandate. The newly deployed AHU trained in El Salvador with personnel who manage Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero and Galdámez International Airport in the department of La Paz and already received praise from the UN. “To expand the unit’s training and capacities, El Salvador received support from the Global Peace Operations Initiative [GPOI],” Col. Miranda said. “Likewise, it received support from U.S. Southern Command to complete all required training and certifications our personnel needed to participate in peacekeeping missions.” GPOI is a U.S. Department of State funded program, executed in coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense, to build partner nation capacity to conduct UN Peacekeeping Operations. GPOI also heavily assisted the deployment of the Torogoz unit, with pre-deployment training, base operations sustainment equipment, in-mission training, and helicopter spare parts. Challenges met “El Salvador rose to the challenge of meeting the very high standards that UN requires to deploy, both in material resources and competencies the personnel in the contingent must meet,” Col. Miranda said. “Communication was another challenge. Spanish is widely used in the world, but it’s unknown in the places we’ve been to. We were able to overcome that by learning and practicing English. “The logistics’ matter in our deployments to Mali was also an important issue for the Armed Forces of El Salvador. They have to prepare all the cargo, place it in containers, load it onto ships, ship it, and receive it in Africa,” Col. Miranda said. “The deployed military personnel meet the training requirements to carry out their duties in the assigned area, with competencies in human rights and first aid,” added Salvadoran Air Force Captain Alfredo Alexander García, head of the 6th Information Systems Department and MINUSMA member. Operational readiness Peacekeeping operations help military institutions keep up with ongoing training. “Each deployment shows the level of operational readiness of its armed forces, which are able to operate abroad wherever the UN needs them,” Col. Miranda said. “Teamwork is also key for operational readiness because we are a coordinated structure. If one part of the contingent doesn’t work, operations can come to a standstill,” Capt. García added. The efficiency of missions rests on mutual trust and the high degree of training and professionalism the military and police contingents execute in their duties. The Armed Forces of El Salvador plans to send the fourth rotation of its Torogoz helicopter unit to Mali 2018. “As officers and members of the Armed Forces, we are morally committed to boost the reputation of our nation and our glorious Armed Forces at all times,” Capt. García concluded.
“The doctrine is a historical and revolutionary event that will provide more operational tools to commanders at all levels; it reinforces our counterinsurgency capabilities,” Gen. Mejía told Diálogo. “Damascus is the necessary and timely process of doctrinal revision, update, and prioritization for the Colombian Army, [with] a new vocabulary to achieve higher interoperability levels, because Colombia lacked a military doctrine with the necessary international standards to combat potential external threats.” The new international status strengthens the Military Forces of Colombia. Commanders know that their units will take part in valuable training and acquire important skills. “Being in NATO is a recognition of the level of our institution’s capabilities, conditions, and commitments, which we reached over many years of conflict,” General Carlos Eduardo Bueno Vargas, commander of the Colombian Air Force, told Diálogo. “Air forces from several countries want to conduct exercises with us. We know how to do things, and they want to know how we do it.” Becoming a partner To be a NATO global partner meant the Colombian military had to take on a myriad tasks in the process of updating, aligning, and building the joint doctrine of the military. Changes in organizational structures were necessary to improve internal procedures. Standards used to classify and label material and equipment also needed revisions, as did advanced training and educational programs for officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers. The forces participated in exchange programs about doctrinal knowledge, military training, and education in the best centers of excellence and military training of the U.S. and Germany, among others. Since 2015, about 130 Colombian military members traveled to several countries to take part in conferences, workshops, seminars, and training exercises on transparency, resiliency, and leadership. Colombia plans to modernize the military educational and training system with an academic program tailored to offer their skills and allow for interaction with other armed forces. The objective is also to engage in science and technology to improve administration, risk management procedures, and logistics support protocols. Colombia also works on modernizing cyberdefense capabilities. “There are new threats against security and international stability, such as terrorism, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and its derivative issues, and corruption—challenges we learned to confront,” Gen. Mejía said. “The experience of our armed forces, that particular DNA, stands out in the eyes of the world and is part of the knowledge we will exchange with NATO.” Higher interoperability levels Joining the organization fell in line with the country’s new post-conflict reality. Colombian Army General Alberto José Mejía Ferrero, commander of the Military Forces of Colombia, led the design of the Damascus doctrine, on par with the need for more modern and competitive forces. Without the Damascus doctrine, a stronger relationship with NATO wouldn’t have been possible. By Yolima Dussán/Diálogo August 08, 2018 On May 31, 2018, Colombia became the first Latin American country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and gain global partnership status like that of Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium, where the organization is headquartered, and signed a partnership agreement. “We are global partners, not members. This condition only allows the country to participate in training operations, not in military operations,” President Santos said upon signing the agreement. “It means we’ll participate in modernization protocols to standardize processes, which will grant the Armed Forces access to a wide variety of NATO training in areas in which Colombia should improve.” Scope of the agreement The agreement formalizes the close relationship between Colombia and NATO. The Colombian forces will have access to exchanges and forums on issues such as cyberdefense, the importance of women in peace and security, and demining. “I welcome the opportunity to learn from Colombia’s very exclusive knowledge of explosives,” Stoltenberg said. “This knowledge can be applied in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.” Lessons on countering corruption and best practices against it are also on the agenda. Since 2013, the Military Forces of Colombia carry out a program that considers transparency, anti-bribery, and ethics as fundamental for transformation. NATO has an integrity building program in line with the policies of transparency the country strives for. The program will pave the way for the adoption of transparency norms to strengthen procedures such as military sales—the internal mechanisms also obey standardization and international supervision.
By By Charles Pope, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs November 25, 2018 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein concluded a two-day visit to Colombia on November 15, 2018, reinforcing bonds with one of the United States’ closest allies in Latin America and pledging to accelerate joint training activities with an air force he called the “gold standard” in the region. The visit was Goldfein’s first as the U.S. Air Force’s highest-ranking officer to a country that has worked closely with the United States on an assortment of regional and security concerns for decades. At the same time, Goldfein’s visit took place amid heightened regional concerns that underscored the importance of maintaining the longstanding ties the countries share. “Colombia is the gold standard when it comes to securing a country and forging a positive way forward,” Goldfein said during an address to a collection of senior leaders, junior officers, and non-commissioned officers, noting that the Colombian Air Force participated in the last U.S. Air Force Red Flag exercise. As he did throughout the two-day visit in Bogota, Goldfein praised the Colombian military – and specifically its air force – for its high performance and partnership. “As our national defense strategy states, we cannot win without coalition partners. Colombia has been, and will continue to be, a capable and willing partner of the United States,” Goldfein said. In addition to policy discussions that ranged from strategies for Colombia’s ongoing actions to defeat narcoterrorism, security implications triggered by political turmoil in neighboring Venezuela, and Colombia’s potential for training pilots from other countries in light attack, there was pomp and ceremonies that captured the two countries’ relationship. In a ceremony at the Memorial Heroes Caídos en Combate, or Fallen Heroes Memorial, Goldfein laid a wreath to honor Colombian troops lost in battle. Later in the day, during a gathering of senior leaders from both air forces, Colombia’s highest-ranking air force officer, Gen. Carlos Eduardo Bueno, told Goldfein, “The United States and the United States Air Force will always be considered our principle strategic ally.” Before departing for Washington, Goldfein also bestowed the Legion of Merit to Bueno. In presenting the award, which is one the highest honors the military confers, Goldfein said it reflected Bueno’s leadership in transforming the air force into “an island of excellence.” “The benchmark for the Colombian Air Force at all times is the United States Air Force; the United States Air Force, for us, is the reference,” Bueno said in an interview November 15th. “We have been studying with the United States Air Force, training with the United States Air Force and to have the presence of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force for the first time in history for an official visit is very important.” While only two full days, Goldfein’s visit was a whirlwind of public events as well as private discussions with Colombia’s military leadership. It included an hour-long session with Gen. Alberto Mejia, who is Colombia’s parallel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Like Bueno, Mejia highlighted a strong and productive history of cooperation between the two nations. “You are part of everything we do and we are proud of that,” Mejia told Goldfein. “That kind of partnership is making an incredible difference.” He thanked Goldfein and the United States for working closely on both establishing and executing interoperability. Demonstrating that capacity is important now that Colombia has been designated a NATO global partner. Mejia also thanked Goldfein for Colombia’s participation in the last Red Flag exercise. But Mejia also noted a collection of difficult issues that could test the relationship. Among the challenges are the continuing threats to Colombia’s stability from narcotrafficking as well as ongoing problems in Venezuela that have triggered a flow of immigrants to Colombia. Goldfein’s trip was the most recent example of senior U.S. officials visiting Colombia this year. In addition to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley as well as U.S. Navy Admiral Kurt Tidd, head of U.S. Southern Command, visited the country. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also came to Colombia when he served. For the United States, the interest is both strategic and longstanding. In 1822, for example, the United States became one of the first countries to recognize the republic of Colombia and to establish a resident diplomatic mission in the country. More recently, Mack McLarty, who served as chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton, and John Negroponte, who served in a variety of security and diplomatic positions for former President George W. Bush, including U.N. ambassador, wrote in an op-ed for the Miami Herald about U.S. relations with Colombia. “As we address an ongoing political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Colombia represents a stable, democratic neighbor to the west,” they wrote.
By VOA News February 26, 2019 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is looking for ways to get humanitarian assistance into Venezuela, after troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro repelled aid trucks in clashes at the borders with Brazil and Colombia. In an interview on CNN Sunday, February 24, the top U.S. diplomat did not suggest how the U.S. might carry out the aid mission in the face of armed opposition. He said, however, that the U.S. would consider imposing more sanctions against the Venezuelan government to increase pressure on Maduro to quit in favor of the country’s interim president, Juan Guaidó, the president of the National Assembly. Guaidó is considered by the U.S. and dozens of other countries as the legitimate leader in Caracas. Pompeo called Maduro a tyrant, saying, “I’m confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered.” Maduro has blocked the aid effort spearheaded by the U.S., saying it is a pretext for an armed U.S. invasion. On Saturday, February 23, Maduro supporters fired bullets at those attempting to get aid trucks into Venezuela, while Venezuelan border troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Foro Penal [Criminal Forum], a group that tracks violence in Venezuela, reported four deaths at the Brazilian border with Venezuela on Saturday. It said the victims were shot by pro-government militia members. A spokesman for the group, Alfred Romero, posted a video on Twitter saying more than two dozen other people were wounded in the violence. At one border point, aid trucks caught fire, leading the crowd to rush to save the boxes of food and medical supplies. A U.S. State Department official traveling with the Brazilian aid convoy told VOA that the trucks crossed the border into Venezuela, but were not allowed through the military checkpoint there, and did not unload their cargo. Afterward, Guaidó pressed the case for new foreign assistance to oust Maduro. “Today’s events force me to make a decision: to pose to the international community in a formal way that we must have all options open to achieve the liberation of this country that is fighting and will continue to fight,” he said on Twitter. The European Union, also supporting Guaidó, condemned Maduro’s actions to repel the trucks with the humanitarian aid. “We repudiate the use of irregular armed groups to intimidate civilians and lawmakers who have mobilized to distribute assistance,” Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, said on behalf of the 28-member bloc of countries. Sunday, Pompeo deplored the fact that the Venezuelan military, despite a small number of defections to the opposition, has mostly remained loyal to Maduro. “We hope the military will take that role back in protecting their citizens from these tragedies. If that happens, I think good things will happen,” he said. “We’re aimed at a singular mission — ensuring the Venezuelan people get the democracy they so richly deserve and the Cubans and the Russians who have been driving this country into the ground for years and years and years no longer hold sway,” he said. Colombian officials said more than 60 Venezuelan soldiers defected Saturday. Venezuelan Army Major Hugo Parra announced his defection, telling VOA Noticias he recognizes Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela. Guaidó tweeted his praise of the soldiers’ actions. “They aren’t deserters,” he said. “They’ve decided to put themselves on the side of the people and the constitution.” Maduro announced in a speech to his supporters Saturday that he is cutting off diplomatic ties with Colombia. Colombia President Ivan Duque has been making public appearances with Guaidó as they work to transport aid across Venezuelan borders. Maduro said Colombian ambassadors and consuls have 24 hours to leave Venezuela. Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holms Trujillo released a statement in response, saying, “Colombia holds the usurper Maduro responsible for any aggression or violation of the rights of Colombian officials in Venezuela.” Maduro also said he would defend Venezuela’s independence with his life. He called Guaidó a puppet of the White House. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his support for Guaidó. “The people of Venezuela stand at the threshold of history, ready to reclaim their country and their future. God Bless the people of Venezuela!” Trump said. The people of Venezuela stand at the threshold of history, ready to reclaim their country – and their future.
Benefits abound for Bar members Legal research, telcommunications and office products, oh my! The Florida Bar Member Benefits program provides discounts on these items and more to all Bar members. The Bar began offering discounts to members in the mid-1980s on rental cars and magazine subscriptions, but quickly expanded its services to include discounts on most of the things attorneys use in their daily practice. The Member Benefits Committee, chaired by Board of Governors member James Lupino, reviews and evaluates existing benefit programs for Bar members, and makes recommendations to the board on changes or additions to the benefits program. The 18-member panel meets formally at all major Bar meetings and stays in contact through various subcommittee meetings throughout the year. “I think it’s important that the members know and understand that the Bar works very hard to try and get members the best benefits possible in as many areas as we can, whether it’s for health insurance, life insurance or malpractice insurance, to discounts with rental cars,” said Lupino. In the past year, the Bar has added new benefits and expanded existing services to assist members. The credit card program through MBNA has expanded to offer certificates of deposit and money market accounts as part of the package deal for members. Lexis-Nexis, the Bar’s computerized legal research provider, has begun offering Ramp Up, a discounted program for new lawyers, as well as broader general services. The most notable recent benefits package addition is car insurance provider Geico, which has contracted with the Bar to provide special discounts to members, including 24-hour sales, policy and claims service. “I think our Bar is as aggressive as any other bar in terms of trying to get benefits for our members. We have, in trying to get new and different benefits, found that we’re probably more aggressive than most, if not all, bars in trying to get vendors to provide us with special rates,” said Lupino. “I think we do as good of a job, if not better, than other bars.” At present, the committee is producing a pamphlet outlining the benefits available to Bar members in order to increase their awareness of what’s available. “We hope to have that out this spring to send to all members, with the cost being paid for by the vendors,” Lupino said. “It’s in the works right now.” The following is a listing of current member benefits: Benefits abound for Bar members December 15, 2000 Regular News
PM&D to offer technology training July 15, 2002 Regular News Rick Georges, a computer guru and member of the Practice Management and Development Section executive council, was showing other council members his latest gadget.It was a wristwatch personal digital assistant, which could exchange information with a personal computer or regular PDA using standard infrared beam technology. Look, Ma, miniaturization and no wires.If that kind of computer wizardry makes you feel hopeless and helpless in the digital world, then the PMD Section hopes to reach you this year.Building on a successful year of adding new members and filling out its executive council, the section in the next year wants to reach Bar members with technology training for all levels of ability, from novice to expert.“In the past year, what we’ve worked on most was recruiting members and leaders,” said outgoing Chair Andrew Dogali at the council’s gathering during the Bar’s June Annual Meeting. “We will today have the first full slate of executive council members in years. There’s no longer a worry there aren’t people who are going to commit energy to this section.”Incoming Chair B. Lee Elam said he wants to tap that energy to provide computer training for Bar members in the coming year, regardless of their comfort level or expertise.“What I’m hoping to do this year is push at multiple levels of computer training,” said Elam, who added he’s relatively inexperienced himself. “Many lawyers are reluctant to admit they don’t know much and they don’t want to go to advance classes. We need to figure out some way to have these various levels of training, perhaps on the same day. That’s what we’re here for, to serve the Florida lawyer.”The council worked on two upcoming CLE programs. One, tentatively set for November, will focus on a broad range of practice management issues, from stress management to accounting to recruiting. The second, planned for the spring, will focus on technology matters. PM&D to offer technology training
Board stakes out legislative positions Board stakes out legislative positions Senior Editor The Florida Bar has adopted four basic legislative positions for the 2002-04 legislative biennium.Legislation Committee Chair Jesse Diner told the Board of Governors at its August 16 meeting that under Bar policies all legislative positions are automatically sunsetted every two years, consistent with the legislative biennium.He said the committee had reviewed those prior positions and recommended four as new positions for 2002-04. The board unanimously agreed.The four positions are:• Opposing any constitutional amendment that would alter the Supreme Court’s authority to regulate the practice of law.• Supporting the state paying Bar annual fees and CLE expenses for its lawyers.• Supporting continuation of the Civil Legal Justice Act, with adequate funding for legal aid agencies providing services to the poor.• Opposing the Federal Trade Commission’s interpretation that provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act apply to lawyers. Diner noted the New York State Bar Association has sued the FTC over its interpretation that some lawyers are “financial institutions” who must provide privacy notices to clients. The ABA and state bars have argued that lawyer ethical codes provide much more stringent protections than the federal law.The board also reauthorized a dozen positions taken by the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee over the past two years. Those range from opposing the elimination of the husband-wife privilege in capital felony cases to supporting changing state laws to conform with the Federal Evidence Code relating to certifications and declarations. (See notice, page 3.)Legislatively, Diner said the Bar faces uncertainty. He noted although lawyers and the legal system were under attack in recent years, last year the Bar and lawmakers worked together to approve the Civil Legal Justice Act. That marked the first time state funds have gone for noncriminal legal aid programs.“Our honeymoon may or may not be over with the legislature. We’re going to have to work very, very hard,” Diner said.He urged board members and Bar members to participate in the Bar’s key contact program, which has lawyers working with their local legislators to educate them about the legal system.Steve Metz, chief legislative counsel, said the fall elections will add uncertainty to the next legislative session, but, “In terms of a crystal ball for the next session, I think our issues are all going to be on the table again,” he said.President Tod Aronovitz urged board and Bar to get involved in legislative activities. “We, the lawyers of Florida, are in trial right now, and we’re in trial with the House and Senate,” he said. “This is the year that Jesse and Steve need our support.” September 15, 2002 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News