Tag Archive | "colombia"

Latin America News Roundup: 10th April 2014

Wounded policemen in Curuguaty are taken to Asunción (Agencia IPP Paraguay/Télam/cl)

Policemen wounded in Curuguaty are taken to Asunción (Agencia IPP Paraguay/Télam/cl)

Paraguay: Home Arrest Denied for Hunger-Striking Campesinos: A Paraguayan court has rejected the request of home arrest for five campesinos who have been on hunger strike for 55 days. The campesinos are part of a group of 12 accused of having participated in the Curuguaty Massacre, which took place in June 2012 in north-east Paraguay, and started their hunger strike in a bid to get justice, after having been in held on remand for over 18 months without a trial date. The deaths occurred after a heavy-handed police operation, – involving 300 officers – to evict 50 campesinos who had occupied a public terrain turned violent, ending in 17 deaths. The accused are currently being held in a military hospital in the capital Asunción, and their defence, as well as the head doctor at the hospital, had recommended they be moved for health motives. But the court ruled that their vital signs were all within the “normal range” and that they were lucid, and so the request for a revision of the proceedings was without merit.

The investigation into the massacre has been questioned as not being independent, as only campesinos have been indicted for the 17 deaths, which include 11 campesinos and six police officers. Human rights activists have also highlighted that three of the 11 campesinos killed had wounds that indicated they had been killed execution-style, after already being wounded. The prosecution is basing its case on an investigation that the police force itself carried out into the massacre, after an independent inquiry was shut down by the government.

Latin America: World’s Highest Murder Rate: According to the UN’s annual homicide report, published today, Latin America is the region with the world’s highest murder rates, accounting for 36% of all global killings. Honduras is the country with the highest murder rate in the world, totalling 7,172 in 2013, or 90.4 for 100,000 inhabitants. In the Central American nation, one in every 280 men aged between 30 and 44 and one in every 360 aged between 15 and 29 were murder victims last year. Venezuela ranked second, with 53.7 for 100,000 inhabitants. It is also the only country in South America where murder rates has increased year-on-year during the past 20 years. Belize (44.7 per 100,000), El Salvador (41.2), and Guatemala (39.9) occupy the following spots, meaning the five countries with the highest homicide rate all come from Latin America. The majority of the killings happened in urban areas, and most of those killed were men, although when the murders happened in a family context, that is reversed, with most victims being women. Over half the victims were under 30. The countries with the lowest murder rates in the region were Chile (3.1) and Cuba (4.2), although globally the leading countries were European – there were no murders in Monaco or Liechtenstein during 2013.

Argentina’s homicide rate was noted as 5.5 in the report, although that was based on information from 2010, as national crime statistics have not been published since 2009. However, there is general consensus that the rate is among the lower in the region, based on information from Buenos Aires province, where a third of the country’s population live, which put the 2013 rate for the region at an estimated 9.7.

Colombian Land Rights Activist Killed: Land rights activist Jesús Quinto was killed yesterday as he stepped outside of his home in the Caribbean town of Turbo in north-east Colombia. Quinto was the leader of a group fighting for the return of land which had been lost during Colombia’s five-decade long internal conflict, which has seen more than 5m people displaced as a result of fighting. According to the country’s ombudsman, Jorge Otálora, the targeted killing seems to be the work of two hitmen, who took advantage of the fact that Quinto stepped outside without his government-provided bodyguard. Fellow activists have said that Quinto had previously complained that agents had failed to show up to protect him. Carmen Palencia, another land rights activist, alleged to AFP that the people now occupying the land were paying for such assassinations, highlighting that 70 people have been killed in similar circumstances since 2005. Quinto’s murder coincided with Colombia’s National Day of Memory and Solidarity with Victims, commemorating those who have been killed in the country’s long-running internal conflict.

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Latin America News Roundup: 27th March 2014

Peruvian, Bolivian and Chilean territories before the 1879-83 War of the Pacific (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Peruvian, Bolivian, and Chilean territories before the 1879-83 War of the Pacific (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Landlocked Bolivia Creates ‘Sea Ambassador’: In a press conference yesterday, President Evo Morales announced the creation of a new, itinerant diplomatic position to follow the landlocked country’s maritime claim and Chile, and also changed his country’s ambassador to Chile. Magdalena Cajías, an historian and former minister of education, will take up the position in Santiago, while the president has still not confirmed who will be taking up the position of roving ambassador. The neighbouring countries have not had full diplomatic relations since 1976, when Bolivia tried to regain access to the Pacific which it lost in 1879 during the War of the Pacific, which changed the borders of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, seeing Chile annex Bolivia’s coast and part of the south of Peru.

The announcement came on the same day Chile and Peru finalised new maritime borders after 27th January’s ruling in the Hague demarcated the Pacific ocean frontier.

Tension Between El Salvador and Honduras over Isla Conejo: El Salvador’s president, Mauricio Funes, yesterday sent a letter to his Honduran counterpart, Juan Orlando Hernández, demanding that Honduras “immediately vacate” Isla Conejo. The spat comes after Honduras’ recent construction of a heliport on the tiny, uninhabited island, which preceded last week’s visit to the island by Hernández. Funes said that his neighbour’s behaviour has “gravely affected the countries’ bi-lateral relations”, to which Hernández replied that the island is Honduran and that Funes’ protest was “impertinent”. Funes also sent a note to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, lamenting Honduras’ provocation. The International Court of Justice marked the maritime border between the Central American nations in 2004, but Isla Conejo, which sits just metres off the Honduran coast, was not specifically named as it sits well within the country’s maritime borders. El Salvador’s claim on the island, which lies in a strategic location, stems from the country’s occupation of the island until 1983, when the country’s army abandoned the islet during the El Salvadorian civil war.

Colombia: FARC will not give up Police Killers: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced yesterday that they would not hand over those responsible for the death of two police officers earlier this month. Germán Méndez and Edílmer Muñoz were captured by the FARC on 15th March in the south-western department of Nariño and beaten to death, something Juan Manuel Santos’ government has deemed a “war crime”. The Colombian government and the UN went on to ask that FARC give up those responsible as a sign of their commitment to the on-going peace talks. In yesterday’s communication, FARC’s leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, known as ‘Timochenko’, responded by saying that those responsible will face “guerrilla justice”, and went on to say “Let’s sign a ceasefire, Santos, and make peace possible.”

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Latin America News Roundup: 25th March 2014

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

President Nicolás Maduro (photo courtesy of Venezuelan government)

Venezuela Arrests Three Generals Accused of Plotting Military Coup: President Nicolas Maduro announced today that three generals of the country’s air force had been arrested on suspicion of plotting a coup. Maduro said the three had been detained after being reported by other members of the armed forces, and claimed that they had “direct links with sectors of the opposition, and were saying that this week would be decisive.” Maduro made the announcement at the welcome meeting of the UNASUR summit taking place in Caracas today and tomorrow in an effort to bring an end to weeks of violent protests that have left at least 34 dead and many more injured. “We hope that with your visit we can arrive at conclusions to help us restore peace in Venezuela,” said Maduro. Meanwhile, the country’s top public prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Díaz, said that over 60 investigations into human rights violations during the protests were underway, with at least 15 officials arrested so far. “There have been [police] abuses, and they are being investigated,” said Díaz in a television interview this weekend.

Colombia – HRW Report Exposes Deaths and Disappearance in Buenaventura: “Scores of people” have been disappeared by former paramilitary groups in the port city of Buenaventura, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. The report, entitled ‘The Crisis in Buenaventura: Disappearances, Dismemberment, and Displacement in Colombia’s Main Pacific Port‘, said that more than 150 people reported missing between 2010 and 2013 are presumed to have been abducted and ‘disappeared’, noting that the actual figure is likely to be “significantly higher”. Based on a series of interviews with officials and residents, the report describes how victims are often dismembered alive, with their body parts dumped in the bay on buried in hidden graves. Since 2009, an estimated 60,000 people have also been forcibly displaced by the violence in the city, perpetrated mainly by two rival gangs, ‘La Empresa’ and ‘Los Urabeños’. Both are successors to far right paramilitary groups, which formed in the 1990s to combat the country’s guerrilla movements but were later demobilised as terrorist organisations. After the report was released at the end of last week, the government announced it would send another 700 army and marine troops to Buenaventura as part of the government’s plan to militarise the city and reduce crime.

Peru – Dozens of Tourists Detained for “Orgy” in Cusco Historial Site: Around 60 tourists were arrested in the early hours of yesterday morning for taking part in a “wild party” in the Sacsayhuamán archaeological park, just outside of Cusco. Upon raiding the party, which was allegedly set to last two days, local police found several of the tourists engaged in sexual relations inside the buildings and in the surrounding forest. Marijuana, cocaine paste, three cans of spray paint, and large quantities of alcohol were confiscated, while 21 pieces of Incan ceramics were discovered in the basement of one of the buildings. According to the Cusco Culture Directorate, the four houses where the party was being held were constructed without authorisation on a historial site, and will be demolished. The incident comes days after the Peruvian government warned visitors against stripping at the Machu Picchu ruins after a series of arrests for nudity at the site in recent months.

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Latin America News Roundup: 21st March 2014

President Michelle Bachelet (Photo: AFP/Martín Bernetti/Télam/cf)

President Michelle Bachelet (Photo: AFP/Martín Bernetti/Télam/cf)

Chile – New Government Moves Ahead With Gay Marriage Proposal: The new government of Michelle Bachelet will begin the process to legalise same sex marriage, according to Justice Minister José Antonio Gómez. “We are going to open a broad debate, with the aim of eventually establishing a new law,” said Gómez. “[President Bachelet] has made it clear that we are going to end discrimination in Chile.” The Chilean Congress is currently debating a new Life Partnership Agreement (AVP), which will regulate same sex civil unions and complement the planned changes to the Civic Code to legalise same sex marriage. Bachelet urged the Chamber of Deputies to vote on the AVP bill, which has already been approved in the Senate, as soon as possible.

Brazil – Federal Troops Sent Into Rio Slums After Violence: President Dilma Rousseff today agreed to send federal troops to Rio de Janeiro after a wave of attacks on the Pacificiation Police Units (UPP) operating in the city’s slums. Several UPP posts were attacked on Thursday night, with local media reporting three officers and one civilian injured and facilities destroyed by fire. After the attack, the power supply to the Maguinhos neighbourhood was disrupted, while schools were closed on Friday due to the threat of violence. Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral, who today met with Rousseff to request federal support, blamed drugs gangs for the violence: “It is clear that criminals want to weaken our policy of pacification and take back territories which were in criminal hands.”

The violence comes amid renewed question marks over police brutality in Rio after a woman died earlier this week after being dragged under a police car for around 300m on a busy street. Claudia da Silva Ferreira, a mother of four, had been injured in a shootout between police and alleged gangs in the Morro da Congonha slum and was taken to hospital in the boot of the police car, falling out after it opened on the way. President Rousseff said the death had “shocked the nation” and offered condolences to her family and friends. Three policemen have been arrested.

Colombia – Authorities Battle Huge Forest Fire: Authorities continue to battle a wildfire that has already destroyed over 3,000 hectare of jungle in the department of Chocó, in northwest Colombia. Although the fire began 11 days ago, the National Unit for Disaster Management (UNGRD) only began coordinated action involving local and national firefighters and the armed forces yesterday, as the flames threatened to spread into the neighbouring department of Antioquia. Víctor Manuel Gómez Cortez, mayor of the town of Unguía located near the blaze, said the area affected could take 30 years to recover. As of this morning, the Colombian Air Force had dropped over 66,000 litres of water, with the UNGRD saying that two of the four main centres of the fire had been brought under control. Though a full investigation will be carried out to establish the causes of the fire, the UNGRD said there was a “high possibility” that it was caused intentionally.

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Latin America News Roundup: 20th March 2014

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Former Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia – Santos Signs Off Petro’s Dismissal: Despite the ruling by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH) earlier this week, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos signed off yesterday the dismissal of Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro. At the same time, he appointed Labour Minister Rafael Pardo, as caretaker mayor. Santos’ signature was the final step needed to complete the process started last December by the country’s Inspector General, Alejandro Ordóñez, who removed the mayor and banned him from running for public office for 15 years. In explaining his decision, president Santos said that “the Colombian government understands the importance and has defended the Inter-American Human Rights System. It considers, however, that the role of that system is complementary and alternative, so it must only operate in case of failure of the internal system.” The FARC have criticised Santos’ decision, saying it affects the ongoing peace process, as “it seriously affects the trust and the certainty over what is being approved,” specifically referring to the possibility of political participation of the guerrilla group. Petro called his dismissal a “coup” and, speaking to his followers at a protest in Plaza Bolívar, said that “the fact that Juan Manuel Santos ignored the people’s vote, shows his inability to make peace.”

Uruguay to Take Guantanamo Detainees: President José ‘Pepe’ Mujica confirmed today that his country will take five Guantanamo detainees as refugees, on request by US president Barack Obama. Mujica explained his decision by saying: “There are 120 guys that have been locked up for the last 13 years. They haven’t seen a judge, they haven’t seen a prosecutor, and the president of the United States wants to get rid of that problem. The Senate is asking him 60 things so he asked a bunch of countries whether they could offer refuge to some of them and I said yes.” Mujica remembered the many years he spent in jail during the country’s military dictatorship, and said he agreed to the request “because I spent a lot of years in prison and I’m sick of what they talk about: this is human rights.” He also confirmed that the refugees will be able to bring their families along, work, and establish themselves in Uruguay. The US government informed that they are “in talks with various countries in the region” regarding the closure of Guantanamo.

Venezuela – Opposition Mayors Detained and Jailed: Daniel Ceballos, mayor of San Cristóbal, was arrested for “promoting violence”, whilst Vicencio Scarano, mayor of San Diego, was sentenced to ten months and 15 days in prison for contempt, both in relation to the recent protests that have rocked the country. The Minister of Internal Relations, Justice, and Peace, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, upon informing of Ceballos’ arrest, said that “this action by the court and the Public Ministry is going to contribute greatly to bringing peace to the city of San Cristóbal (…). It is an act of justice before a mayor that not only stopped following the rules imposed by the law and the constitution, but he also supported all the irrational violence that was unleashed on San Cristóbal.” Ceballos aides, in turn, denounced that the mayor had been arrested in Caracas “as he was having a meeting with his lawyers in a hotel in the east of Caracas when six men who claimed to be from Sebin (Bolivarian Intelligence Service) came in, beat him up, and took him away” without presenting an arrest warrant.

Scarano was sentenced after being accused of not following a decision by the country’s Supreme Court from 12th March, whereby mayors were responsible for “avoiding the placement of obstacles on public roads which may prevent, hinder, or alter the free circulation of people and vehicles” in their towns, and for removing those obstacles if they had been placed.

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Latin America News Roundup: 19th March 2014

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Gustavo Petro, Bogotá’s troubled mayor (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia: Human Rights Commission Rules in Favour of Petro: The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) has given public support for Gustavo Petro, the mayor of Bogotá saying that the elected official’s “political rights” must be guaranteed. Petro was removed from office in December by Colombia’s attorney general, and banned from public office for 15 years due to alleged mismanagement of the capital’s rubbish collection system. Thousands took to the streets in response to Petro’s deposal, which he called a ‘coup’. In an 11-page decision published late yesterday, the CIDH calls on the Colombian state to suspend his removal, and let him continue in his role as mayor of the country’s capital, until a full investigation into the accusations can be completed. After yesterday’s decision, Colombia’s attorney general met with President Juan Manuel Santos today to argue against the CIDH’s recommendations. Petro’s future is now in the hands of President Santos, who is expected to make a decision on his possible restitution in the coming days.

Chile: Government Withdraws Controversial ‘Monsanto Law’: In an historic U-turn, Michelle Bachelet’s new administration has withdrawn the a controversial seed patent law, known colloquially as ‘Monsanto Law’ from congress, citing concerns over small- and medium-sized farmers. Critics argue that the new legislation is biased toward large companies that have the capacity to patent new strains of seed and charge small scale farmers for their use, at the same time placing the country’s agricultural sovereignty at risk. The sale of domestically grown genetically modified foods within Chile is prohibited, but GMOs can be grown and exported for sale outside of the country, and the market is worth some US$200m. Proponents of the law fear its withdrawal could cause problems with the free trade agreement signed between Chile and the US. The law was originally presented to congress in January 2009, under Bachelet’s first term as president. As well as the ‘Monsanto Law’, Chile’s new governing Nueva Mayoría coalition have agreed to remove a series of proposed laws sent to congress by former president Sebastián Piñera, including some of the oldest ones.

Venezuelan Opposition to Take Panama’s Seat at OAS Meeting: This Friday, María Corina Machado, a deputy from Venezuela’s opposition, will take Panama’s seat at Organisation of American States’ (OAS) Permanent Council meeting in Washington. Arturo Vallarino, Panama’s ambassador to the OAS, admitted that many other member states have opposed his country’s invitation to Machado, but justified it saying that his country considered it to be “important that the OAS listen not only to the voice of the president of Venezuela through his ambassador, but also the voice of the groups who are protesting”, highlighting that the second point on the agenda was the “current situation and dialogue in Venezuela”.  Those opposed to Machado’s presence argue that the government of Venezuela is democratically elected and it is unprecedented that an opposition politician be invited to discuss a member state’s internal affairs in what is essentially an international forum, pointing out that the OAS has already discussed the issue and that Unasur is now sending a delegation to Venezuela. Within Venezuela, the invitation of Machado is also seen to be provocative, with tensions still high in the country since protests began on 12th February. The death toll from the unrest now stands at 33.

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Latin America News Roundup: 18th March 2014

Peru's president Ollanta Humala with first lady Nadine (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Peru’s president Ollanta Humala with first lady Nadine Heredia (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Peru’s Cabinet Survives Confidence Vote: After a brief debate, Peru’s congress voted in favour of the country’s Cabinet, with 66 votes in favour, 53 against and nine abstentions. The vote came after days of crisis in the country’s political bodies, after a previous confidence vote in René Cornejo’s cabinet on Friday saw 73 members of congress abstain. But just hours before the vote in yesterday’s extraordinary session, Perú Posible and the PCC-APP alliance announced their support for the cabinet, ending the deadlock. Cornejo was sworn in as the country’s prime minister on 24th February, the fifth head of the cabinet since President Ollanta Humala took office in 2011. Many of Friday’s abstentions were seen as a protest agasint the cabinet changes, which were seen to reflect meddling from powerful First Lady Nadine Heredia, a leading adviser to her husband and a co-founder of the ruling Gana Peru party. Vice president Marisol Espinoza said that with the vote of confidence for the new prime minister’s cabinet, “democracy fundamentally won”.

Costa Rica: Government Candidate Still in Presidential Race: A week and a half after pulling out of the second round of presidential elections, PLN candidate Johnny Araya, has declared that he is still in the presidential race. The candidate, running for the party that is currently in power, met with his future cabinet last night and then appeared before the cameras to say: “I will respect the popular wish. There is no need to interpret what I have previously said, but know that I never stepped down from being a presidential candidate.” The second round is due to take place on 6th April, and will see Araya, who is the mayor of the capital San José, face leftist PAC’s Luis Guillermo Solís, who obtained 31% of the vote in the first round to Araya’s 29.5%.

Colombia: Bodies Found in Search for Missing Police: Colombian authorities have found two bodies which they believe to be those of the two policemen who disappeared at the weekend in the Nariño region, in an area under the influence of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The mayor of Tumanaco, in the country’s south-west, said that local farmers had found the bodies close the town and that preliminary studies indicated they belonged to Germán Méndez Pabón and Edilmer Muñoz Ortiz. It is believed that they were intercepted by the FARC, but so far this hypothesis has not been proven, and that officials from the Prosecution Investigation Body are heading to the area to carry out a full investigation. On 14th February two other police officers were shot dead in the departments of Cauca and Nariño. Authorities have blamed FARC for both killings.

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Latin America News Roundup: 17th March 2014

Catatumbo protesters (photo courtesy of Agencia Púlsar)

Protesters during last year’s National Agrarian Strike (photo courtesy of Agencia Púlsar)

Thousands of Colombian Campesinos March in Bogotá: An estimated 20,000 campesinos are protesting in Colombia’s capital to demand that the government of Juan Manuel Santos carry out agrarian reforms, and comply with the agreements signed in Tunja to end last year’s National Agrarian Strike. The nationwide strike lasted for nearly a month from 19th August to 12th September, and left eight people dead and at least 400 wounded. It involved all sectors of society who were tired of the government’s support for policies that “go against the needs of the huge majority of the people”. The strikers had multiple demands, among them, social claims for the rural population, and the implementation of measures and actions in face of the agricultural crisis. Today’s march comes at the end of the three-day National Agrarian Summit, which brought together campesinos, indigenous communities, afro-Colombians, and other rural sectors to continue in the process of unification.

Mexican Cartel Member Arrested for Organ Trafficking: The nephew of one of the leaders of the Caballeros Templarios cartel has been arrested in the west of Mexico, accused of killing minors and extracting and selling their organs. Manuel Plancarte Gaspar, who is also a member of the criminal organisation, was arrested in a stolen car, and is being investigated “for the death of minors, whose organs he extracted to sell,” according to a police statement. It is not yet known if the Michoacán-based cartel was involved in the organ trafficking. Enrique “Kike” Plancarte, Gaspar’s uncle, has become one of the leaders of the cartel since the death of its founder, Nazario Moreno, on 9th March in a police operation.

Record Deportations of Hondurans from US: The director of Honduras’ the Returned Migrant Centre (CAMR), Valdette Williams, said yesterday that deportations of Hondurans from the US has increased more than 200% in the past three years. Over the past year 39,000 Hondurans have been repatriated, the Central American state’s nationals making up almost a tenth of the total 369,000 people who were expelled. Under the administrations of Barack Obama, some two million people have been sent back to their countries, the vast majority of them Latin Americans, and the numbers show no signs of abating. “The trend will continue and deported migrants will keep arriving, although it is ever-harder to get into the United States from Mexico,” conceded Williams, referring to the wall that runs along an increasing stretch of the border.

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Latin America News Roundup: 14th March 2014

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
(Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombia: Dozens of New Members of Congress Tied to Paramilitaries: Colombia’s Peace and Reconciliation Foundation has reported that 70 of the candidates elected in Sunday’s legislative elections had been questioned for ties to paramilitaries or other criminal organisations. Thirty-three were elected to the Senate and 37 to the Chamber of Representatives. Before Sunday’s elections, the NGO had highlighted ties of 131 of the 2,324 candidates to such organisations, and the fact that over half of them were elected led to a “bleak” panorama. According to their investigation, the party with the most questionable members of Congress was President Juan Manuel de Santos’ Partido de la U, with 18, followed by Conservatives and Liberals, with 13 each. Most of those elected came from northern provinces, which historically have the most ties to the paramilitaries.

Honduras: Justice of Peace and Lawyer Killed: Two legal representatives were killed in separate attacks today in Honduras. Justice of the peace Lenin Castañeda was shot dead outside his home in the Caribbean city of Tocoa, while lawyer José Nicolás Bernárdez died after motorcyclists fired on his car in San Pedro Sula. Police sources have confirmed that Castañeda was the son of Adolfo Castañeda, the founder of the MUCA, a campesino movement. So far no motive has been given for either attack. These latest murders brings the number of legal professionals killed since 2010 to 75, according to the country’s Human Rights Commission. Each day, an average of 14 people are killed in the Central American country, and with a rate of 169 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants San Pedro Sula was last year declared the most violent city in the world for a second year in a row.

Chile’s New Government Apologises to Mapuche: Francisco Huenchumilla, the newly appointed governor of Chile’s Araucanía region, today apologised to the Mapuche population for removal of their land and admitted that the country had a pending debt to the indigenous community, promising public policies that would help alleviate poverty. Around 600,000 Mapuche live in the region, and are currently in conflict with forestry companies, demanding their land back from what they say was illegal usurpation. Huenchumilla has said that he will meet with all sides that have been affected by the violence, as “everybody should be given a voice”. The region has seen clashes since the 90s between the Mapuche and farmers and businessmen who have been exploiting land the Mapuche consider to be ancestrally theirs.

Regional Environment Summit Closes in Mexico: The 19th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, considered the most important environmental meeting in the region, ended today in Los Cabos, Mexico. Climate change, chemicals and waste management, and biodiversity conservation were the top items of the agenda, and the summit aimed to strengthen regional cooperation in addressing these issues. Conservation was high on the agenda as the region is home to 34% of the world’s plant species, 30% of mammals, 41% of birds, 50% of amphibians, 35% of reptiles, and 31% of fish. The event was organised by the Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), gathered together ministers and high-level officials from 31 countries, as well as representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), and civil society.

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Latin America News Roundup: 10th March 2014

El Salvadorian presidential candidate Salvador Sánchez-Cerén (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

El Salvadorian presidential candidate Salvador Sánchez Cerén (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

El Salvador Presidential run-off too Close to Call:  With 100% of the votes counted, neither candidate has been declared the winner of yesterday’s presidential election run-off in El Salvador. Preliminary counts indicate that current vice president Salvador Sánchez Cerén from the governing left-wing FMLN party received 50.11% of the votes, whilst conservative Norman Quijano from the Nationalist Republican Alliance, ARENA, took 49.89%. However, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has asked that neither candidate declare themselves the winner as the difference is so close that it is within the margin of error, and so they must wait for the results of the final count, which will likely come in on Wednesday or Thursday. The winner will take power on 1st June and will govern the country for the next five years.

Colombia Legislative Elections: With a turnout of just 35-40%, yesterday’s legislative elections in Colombia have dramatically re-drawn the country’s political map. President Juan Manuel Santos’ Partido de la U lost its majority in the senate, winning just 21 of the 102 seats, and 37 of the 166 seats in the house of representatives. Overall, the party is still the most powerful, although it will have to continue working in coalition with allies to keep governing the country when the new congress takes power in July. Former president Alvaro Uribe won a seat in the country’s senate, the first time a former leader has run for a seat in the country’s congress, and his newly-formed party Centro Democrático managed to win 19 seats in the senate and 18 in the house of representatives, on a platform that went against the on-going peace talks with FARC. The new congress will sit for a period of four years, and will play a decisive role in the implementation of the peace accords, which aim to put an end to the armed conflict, which has blighted the country for 50 years. The results come just over two months before the country sees presidential elections, which are set to take place on 25th May, and will see Santos run for re-election.

Mexico Caballeros Templarios Leader Killed: Mexican authorities have confirmed they have killed Nazario Moreno, leader of the Caballeros Templarios cartel, in a violent operation involving police and soliders in Tumbiscatío, Michoacán. Forty-three year old Moreno, known as ‘El Más Loco’, or the ‘Most Crazy’, was originally declared dead in December 2010 by former president Felipe Calderón’s government, but a body was never found and intelligence showed that he was still actively involved in the cartel’s operations. The Caballeros Templarios are known for their brutality and use of religious imagery, and run much of the methamphetamine production and trafficking in the west of Mexico. The news comes days after militia in the state of Michoacán agreed to a “gradual demobilisation” due to the presence of federal security forces. Militias were formed in Michoacán as a way to protect the population from the criminal activities of drug cartels.

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