Tag Archive | "colombia"

Colombia: FARC Releases Two Soldiers


President Santos at yesterday's press conference (photo: Javier Casella/AFP/Télam)

President Santos announced the suspension of the peace talks last week (photo: Javier Casella/AFP/Télam)

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) released yesterday the two soldiers they had captured on 9th November.

The soldiers, Paulo Rivera and Jonathan Díaz, were handed over to a commission formed by members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the governments of Cuba and Norway, the guarantors of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC.

The release was carried out in an undisclosed location in the district of Arauca. The soldiers were then taken by the Army to the capital Bogotá, where they will undergo medical check-ups and reunite with their families.

In a statement, the FARC said they will now “focus their efforts” on the release of General Rubén Darío Alzate and two other army staff who were kidnapped on 16th November. President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed the release of Alzate will take place on Saturday, and announced on Twitter that the military operations on the Pacific coast have been suspended in order to facilitate the release.

The FARC denounced military operations during the release of the two soldiers, and demanded the Army respects the Special Humanitarian Agreement in the upcoming release of Alzate. “During the release of the general [Alzate] we don’t want any risks of clashes due to [the Army] not following the protocols. Yesterday, when the Alfonso Castellanos Column of the Tenth Front was going to the place of release of the prisoners, an Army patrol appeared by surprise in the area, which forced them to avoid them and change the site chosen for the release,” said a statement by the guerrilla.

President Santos suspended the peace talks as information about the kidnapping of General Alzate became known. He affirmed that they would not resume until Alzate was freed. Last week, the FARC agreed to the release of the prisoners —including Alzate, the two army staff travelling with him, and the two soldiers captured on 9th November— after representatives from Cuba and Norway intervened in the conflict.

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The Indy’s Weekly Review – 21st November 2014


Coming up on this episode of The Indy’s Weekly Review:

We look back on a tense week in Colombia, after peace talks with the FARC were suspended following the kidnapping of an army general; we speak to human rights lawyer Marcos Filardi about proposed changes to Argentina’s seed law; and after the recent murder of Miss Honduras caused media furore, we question why some lives seem to matter more than others to the media.

All that, plus the main news headlines from Argentina and Latin America and an exclusive preview of the upcoming album by this week’s featured artist, Chaski Pum.

 

(Click on ‘Descargar’ to download)

Presented by: Kristie Robinson & Marc Rogers
Production: Celina Andreassi
Editing: Pablo Fisher

We will be looking to continually improve and add to this podcast, and we’d love to hear your feedback on it, as well as suggestions for any additional stories or content you’d like to hear in it in the future. Send us an email at info@argentinaindependent.com, or comment on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Colombia: FARC Agrees to Release General After Guarantors Intervene


The guarantors from Cuba and Norway announce that FARC will release captured soldiers (Photo via PazFARC-EP)

The guarantors from Cuba and Norway announce that FARC will release captured soldiers (Photo via PazFARC-EP)

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) have agreed to release a kidnapped Colombian army general, clearing the path for the resumption of peace talks with the government.

International guarantors in the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC announced last night that the guerrilla group would return Rubén Darío Alzate and two other army personnel who were kidnapped on Sunday in the district of Chocó.

The representatives from Norway and Cuba also said that the FARC had agreed to release two other soldiers that had been kidnapped on 9th November. The liberation process will be supervised by the mediating countries and the International Red Cross.

Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos said he would “guarantee” the safe return of the soldiers. “The government will collaborate to guarantee the safe return of these people to their home, which we hope will be in the shortest time possible,” read a statement from the president. “One they are free, the government’s peace delegation will return to Havana.

General Alzate is the highest-ranking army officer to have ever been kidnapped by the FARC, which blamed the government for not accepting a ceasefire proposal while the peace talks continued. The guerrilla group says it has agreed to stop the kidnapping of civilians but consider the capture of Alzate and other military personnel to be an act of war.

Peace talks between the FARC and government began in Havana in November 2012. So far, the two sides have reached an agreement on three of the five key issues to be addressed before a final peace accord can be signed.

The current round of negotiation involve discussions over the victims of Colombia’s internal conflict.

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Colombia: Government Suspends Peace Talks Over Kidnapping


President Santos at yesterday's press conference (photo: Javier Casella/AFP/Télam)

President Santos at yesterday’s press conference (photo: Javier Casella/AFP/Télam)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced yesterday the suspension of the peace talks with the FARC, after it became known that an Army General had been kidnapped, allegedly by members of the guerrilla.

According to a witness, General Rubén Darío Alzate boarded a boat down the Atrato river in the district of Chocó on Sunday afternoon, with another soldier, an army lawyer, and the boatman. They were inspecting works being carried out by the Army in the district. Despite warnings by the accompanying soldier regarding the heavy presence of guerrilla members in the area, Alzate —who was dressed in civilian clothing— gave the order to continue down to the village of Las Mercedes.

Once in Las Mercedes, General Alzate, the soldier, and the lawyer disembarked and were met by FARC members who allegedly kidnapped all three of them. The boatman was able to escape and alert the authorities.

“It is the FARC, we already know that, who are responsible for this kidnapping,” said President Santos in a press conference on Sunday. “A totally unacceptable kidnapping. We have information that gives us the certainty that it was the FARC.”

The president continued: “Tomorrow [for today], peace negotiators were travelling to a new round of peace talks in Havana. I will tell the negotiators not to travel, and that this negotiation is suspended until this is cleared up and these people are freed.”

President Santos also requested an explanation from the Army authorities regarding “a series of circumstances that need to be cleared up. Why was General Alzate in civilian clothing. Why did he tell his escorts not to go with him. Why he did not heed the boatman’s warning to not keep going down the river.”

He also made comments about these issues on his Twitter account, saying: “Defense Ministry and Commander General: I want you to explain why BG Alzate broke all the security protocols and was in civilian clothing in a red zone.”

General Alzate is the highest-ranking army officer ever kidnapped by the FARC. As part of the peace process, the FARC had announced an end to hostage-taking.

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Colombia: Man Arrested over Venezuelan Politician’s Death


Robert Serra casting his vote in 2010, when he became the youngest member of the National Assembly (photo courtesy of Robert Serra's official facebook page)

Robert Serra casting his vote in 2010, when he became the youngest member of the National Assembly (photo courtesy of Robert Serra’s official facebook page)

Colombian officers have arrested Leiva Padilla in connection with last month’s murder of Venezuelan legislator Robert Serra and his partner María Herrera.

Padilla, aka ‘El Colombia’, was detained in a shopping centre in Cartagena by agents working for the Colombian National Investigation Authority, Dijín. A warrant had been emitted by Interpol for his arrest.

The couple were stabbed to death in their Caracas apartment on 1st October in a planned attack that Venezuelan officials have said involved a group of six “paramilitaries directed from Colombia”.

Padilla, who is thought to have been the mastermind behind the murders, is the 11th person to be arrested in connection with the murders, and Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has accused two police officials of being involved.

Serra, a 27-year-old criminal lawyer, was the youngest member of Venezuela’s National Assembly. A prominent lawmaker with close ties to President Nicolás Maduro, he was widely known as a pro-Chávez youth leader, and also for his strong statements in the assembly. He was elected in 2010.

In 2012 Serra’s bodyguard, Alexis Barreto, was killed. His body was found in a hill in the capital Caracas, and it was confirmed to have been a targeted assassination, as neither the money he was carrying nor his gun were taken.

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Colombia: Man Found Clinging to Icebox in Pacific


The municipality of Guapi is in south-west Colombia

The municipality of Guapi is in south-west Colombia

A Colombian fisherman has been rescued after two days floating alone in the Pacific Ocean, clinging to an icebox. Solano Salazar was found by a Colombian navy ship which was in the area, 35km south-west of the country’s coast.

The 47-year-old had gone out fishing with a companion last week, setting out from the Guapi area, but two days later the boat capsized in bad weather. He then spent two days sent drifting in the open sea.

“I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t think of anything else,” he said after the rescue.

Captain Andrés Mejia, commander of Colombia’s Pacific coast guard, confirmed that Salazar had been taken to Malaga hospital after being given first aid on the ship, saying that Salazar was suffering from dehydration.

Salazar’s companion has not been found.

 

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Colombia: Farmers Sue BP in UK High Court


BP_LogoA group of Colombian subsistence farmers are suing British oil giant BP for environmental damages in a case that began today in the UK High Court, in London.

The 109 farmers are seeking £18m (US$29m) in compensation from BP, claiming that negligence in the construction of a pipeline in the 1990s led to a big impact on the local water supply and caused serious damage to land, crops, and livestock.

One of the farmers in London to testify in the trial told The Guardian that: “Our water supply has been damaged by sedimentation since the pipeline was laid, and I have lost cattle. I can no longer keep pigs or chickens because there is not enough water for them. The reason why we have travelled so far is because we have hope and faith that the high court in London will deliver justice to us.”

A lawyer for the farmers, Alex Layton, told the court that BP had “blamed everyone else while not accepting its responsibilities,” reports AFP.

BP defends itself against the allegations, saying it took “significant steps” to engage with local communities and pay fair compensation for any impact. Last month, the company was found guilty of gross negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

This landmark trial is the first to feature a UK oil company in a UK court for alleged environmental damages caused to private land overseas. If the ruling goes in favour of the farmers it could open the path to other claims.

The trial is expected to last around eight months.

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Colombia: Mining Companies Forced to Return Land to Indigenous Owners


An Embera Katío community village in Colombia (Photo via Wikipedia)

An Embera Katío community village in Colombia (Photo via Wikipedia)

A High Court in Medellín has ordered mining companies to cease operations in a 50,000 hectare reserve, and return the land to the indigenous families that originally lived there.

The unprecedented ruling is the first of its kind to recognise the territorial rights of more than 1,400 families in the Embera Katío community, who live in the country’s northwestern Chocó department.

According to the court order the National Mining Agency, with support from the military, must expel those not from the community from carrying out mining activities in the area. The ruling also suspends existing mining concessions held by 11 companies, and demands that the state provide the indigenous community with social services and a plan of protection.

“This is the first time in this country and the world that an indigenous community under threat of being wiped out physically and culturally… achieves legal recognition of its fundamental territorial rights,” said the Unit for Land Restitution (URT), which presented the case on behalf of the tribe.

“All the evils of the world combined to affect the community in this area,” added URT director Ricardo Sabogal. “They were displaced by violence and then illegal mining forced them from their lands. Thanks to this sentence, they will be able to return.

“Any mining activity will now have to be done according to the law – any companies that come will have to first consult with the community so that they can participate in decisions that affect their territory,” concluded Sabogal.

UN Award

The court ruling comes in the same week as the UNDP awarded its Equator Initiative Prize to the Association of Indigenous Leaders in Yaigojé Apaporis (ACIYA), a group of 21 communities in Colombian fighting to conserve and studying the National Park in which they live.

According to the award, which recognises achievements in sustainable development, the association has “succeeded in protecting a substantial area of forest and put natural resource management in the hands of resident indigenous communities.”

The Yaigojé Apaporis covers an area of 1,500km2 of mainly Amazonian forest in the country’s southwest.

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Colombia: Former President Uribe Questioned over Paramilitary Ties


Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe (Photo/Wikipedia)

Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe (Photo/Wikipedia)

Yesterday, Colombia’s Senate began its debate on the link between former president Alvaro Uribe and right-wing paramilitary groups.

In a 90-minute speech, Senator Iván Cepeda outlined the case against Uribe, now a senator, and presented documents and testimony by former paramilitaries.

Cepeda said: “Alvaro Uribe has made all types of decisions that, in one way or another, have favoured people linked to the paramilitary and drug trafficking. He handed over licences for hangars, planes, and runways to people linked to drug trafficking. He has legalised security companies linked to or run by paramilitaries. He has defended a referendum that at the time sought to eliminate extraditions for the Medellín cartel and drug-trafficking organisations.”

However, Uribe stormed out of the chamber calling it a “moral lynching”, promoted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the “media servant of terrorism”. After walking across Plaza Bolivar to present evidence to the Supreme Court accusing Cepada of slander, he returned to defend his record.

The former president dismissed the accusations – many involve his family and date from the start of his political career in Medellín when the city was dominated by Pablo Escobar’s cocaine cartel – as being politically motivated, and dodged many of the questions that were raised.

As he was president between 2002-2010 Uribe can only be investigated by the Commission of Accusation of the Chamber.

As president, Uribe beefed up security forces and intensified military offensives against the FARC, helping to dramatically reduce what was then one of the world’s highest murder and kidnapping rates. He also extradited more than 1,000 suspected drug traffickers to the US, earning him a reputation as Washington’s staunchest ally in the region. However, his policies and support of paramilitary groups have also linked him to massive human rights abuses. The investigation is seen to be an important step in the country’s search for reconciliation after decades of bitter fighting.

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Venezuela: Video Shows Opposition Activists Planning Attacks


A still from video allegedly showing student activists Lorent Saleh (left) and Gabriel Valles plotting an attack in Venezuela.

A still from video allegedly showing student activists Lorent Saleh (left) and Gabriel Valles plotting an attack in Venezuela.

A video aired on state-channel VTV earlier this week appears to show two Venezuelan opposition student activists, who were recently deported from Colombia, planning an attack in their own country.

The video seems to show the two men – Lorent Enrique Gómez Saleh and Gabriel Valles Sguerzi – talking in a video chat to an unknown third person about “taking” a bridge and “warming up” the state of Táchira, which is on the border with Colombia and was the scene of violent protests earlier this year.

Saleh also says that a group is preparing specialist military training in Bogotá – including the use of firearms, explosives, and self-defence – in order to be ready “after the elections”, allegedly in reference to municipal elections held in Táchira in December 2013.

In the video, Saleh says they need to “deactivate” and “burn” distilleries and nightclubs in the city of San Cristóbal, in Táchira, before targeting the National Election Commission (CNE). He adds that they need the “diplomatic front” of Operación Libertad, an organisation set up by Saleh to oppose President Nicolás Maduro’s administration and fight for democracy and human rights.

Deported

The video release comes 12 days after Saleh and Valles were deported from Colombia on 4th September for breaking the terms of their stay in the country and publicly holding political activities.

They were immediately picked up and detained by authorities in Venezuela, as they were wanted for violating a conditional release order to present themselves at local courts every 21 days while awaiting trial for participating in “violent protests” in 2010.

Venezuela’s Public Ministry later confirmed that Saleh was facing seven charges, including disrupting public order and divulging false information.

On the weekend, before the video release, Saleh released an audio file form prison saying he was being held for political reasons only, claiming he and Valles are simply human rights activists.

Uribe

The mention by Salah in the video of a person named “Uribe” has sparked allegations that he was being supported by former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, currently a senator.

Uribe, an outspoken critic of the Maduro government, had stated that the deportation of the two activists was a “national shame”.

However, he has not yet commented on allegations by the Venezuelan government that he is the man named in the video and that he is supporting efforts by the opposition in Venezuela to destabilise the country through violence.

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