Tag Archive | "colombia"

Colombia: FARC Addresses Victims at Havana Peace Talks


Representatives from the government and the FARC sign the second agreement in November 2013 (photo: EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa/Télam/dsl)

Representatives from Colombia’s government and FARC at peace talks in Havana in November (photo: EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa/Télam/dsl)

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reiterated yesterday their willingness to take responsibility towards the victims of the country’s conflict, proposing that a special fund be created for reparations for victims of the civil war. The statement comes as the most recent round of peace talks between the government and the left-wing guerrillas is underway in Havana, Cuba.

During the current stage, Colombians who have directly been affected by the conflict will give their testimonies and offer their thoughts to find ways that lead to the guarantee of their rights. This dialogue will allow the victims of human rights violations to be listened to without any discrimination, under the principles of protection and recognition. 

According to the country’s Centre for Historic Memory, during the country’s 50-year conflict, 220,000 have been killed and a further 25,000 disappeared, 5.7m displaced, and 27,000 kidnapped.

FARC spokesman, who goes by the name of Pablo Catatumbo, said that the government needed to move from “the current rhetoric to real and effective action” in terms of dealing with the thousands of victims, and guaranteed “maximum political willingness” on their part to make it happen.

Also on the agenda is the setting up of a historic commission on the conflict and its victims, which will enrich the discussion on different pending issues.

Previous rounds of talks, which began in November 2012, tackled the issues of rural development, political participation, and illegal drugs

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Venezuela-Colombia Border to Close at Night


Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, during the Cartagena summit

Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, during the Cartagena summit

Starting tonight, the 2,200km border between Colombia and Venezuela will shut between 10pm and 5am in a bilateral effort to combat smuggling.

The hope is to stem the flow of food and fuel products from Venezuela, where prices are much lower due to state subsidies of 40%. Venezuelan authorities estimate that 40m litres of petrol and 20,000 tonnes of food have been smuggled across the border into Colombia so far this year.

The smuggling has led to scarcities of products in the west of Venezuela, which was one of the grievances of groups that were involved in the anti-government protests earlier this year.

The inflow of cheap goods has also had an effect on Colombian producers who have found it hard to compete with the contraband products. Colombian authorities also say such illicit trade, which they estimate to be worth US$6bn a year, is one of the main sources of finance for mafia and illegal groups in the country.

The measure is one of many to be implemented as a result of a meeting in Cartagena between President Juan Manuel Santos and President Nicolás Maduro earlier this month. The leaders met to review the peace process between Colombia and FARC and also discuss trade between the neighbours. They also reviewed freight and passenger transport and the efficiency of their borders as well as creating a permanent working group, directed by both countries’ ministries of economy, to monitor the effects of the new measures and also evaluate the bilateral trade.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Colombia: Court Rules Former Guerrillas can Participate in Politics


Representatives from the government and the FARC sign the second agreement in November 2013 (photo: EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa/Télam/dsl)

Representatives from the government and FARC in Havana in November 2013 (photo: EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa/Télam/dsl)

With six votes in favour and three against, Colombia’s Constitutional Court has given the green light for former guerrillas to participate in politics in the country. The announcement comes on the same day that Juan Manuel Santos starts his second term as president.

The decision, which ratifies a 2012 vote in Congress, will only apply to former guerrillas who have participated in the country’s peace process, and excludes those who have been charged with crimes against humanity. This means that various members of FARC, the left-wing guerrilla group currently participating in peace talks with the country’s government in Havana, Cuba, will be barred from political life.

The issue of the political future of former guerrillas had been seen to be a sticking point in the country’s peace process, and it is hoped that now that it has been resolved, a long-lasting peace deal will eventually be possible.

The decision is also a victory for President Santos, whose first term was largely overshadowed by the peace talks with the insurgents, an issue he had made central from his very inauguration. It was four years ago today, during the ceremony that launched his first presidential term, that Santos said “the keys of peace are not at the bottom of the sea”, and two years later he announced that the government would sit down with the guerrillas in Cuba with the aim of putting an end to the country’s long-running civil war.

The peace talks dominated the election campaign, and for many the vote was a referendum on Santos and his policy of peace.

Dozens of international invitees will attend today’s ceremony, including presidents from around Latin America, King Felipe VI of Spain, and the president of the European Union, among others.

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Colombia: Seven Killed in Mining Accident


Timbiquí is located in south-east Colombia

Timbiquí is located in south-east Colombia

At least seven people were killed and another two are missing after a mine collapsed in Cauca, south-east Colombia yesterday. Dozens more were injured in the accident which took place in an open pit gold mine that seemed to have been working illegally.

The accident occurred when tonnes of rock and mud came loose, falling on top of the victims. Some 200 rescue workers and members of the armed forces are working in the rescue operation.

The mine, located in Timbiquí and known as El Pital, had been exploited by locals for more than 40 years. Local man Leader Solís said that many families in the area make their living through mining activities and that it is a trade that has been passed down from generation to generation. “It is totally artisan. People work in an old-fashioned way, with picks and shovels,” he said.

Germán Callejas, director of Risk Management for Cauca region, has said that the mine will be closed down. However, the Timbiquí government secretary, Nicolás Venté, explained that the mine, along with others in the municipality, has already been closed on numerous occasions, but locals return and open them up again, and “people live off this, so they go back inside”. He added that numerous people had already died in El Pital and the other mines in the region, although never had so many been killed in one accident.

The authorities are investigating what caused the mine to collapse, after reports by locals that an explosion was heard.

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Colombia: Most Wanted Drug Lord Arrested in Spain


Spanish police have arrested Colombian drug lord Hernán Alonso Villa, nicknamed ‘El Ratón’, in a joint operation between the two countries.

Prior to his arrest, El Ratón was one of Colombia’s most wanted criminals, head of the military wing of the Oficina de Envigado – a notorious criminal gang that grew out of the Medellín drug cartel led by the late Pablo Escobar.

The gang, which is made up of more than 200 people, mostly drug traffickers and hitmen, has been linked to around 400 murders. It is one of the main cartels behind the import of cocaine into the US, Spain, and the Netherlands.

El Ratón was stopped en route to one of his safe houses in Spain’s Alicante carrying €40,000. He has been transferred to Madrid whilst he awaits extradition to Colombia where he will face 400 counts of murder, as well as charges related to drug smuggling, extortion, and people trafficking.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Ecuador Signs Free Trade Agreement with European Union


Ecuador's bananas are excluded from the deal

Ecuador’s bananas are excluded from the deal

After four years of negotiations, Ecuador has joined the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union, Colombia, and Peru. The accord means that Ecuadorian exports will enter the EU without duties, providing the Andean nation with a new market of 500m inhabitants.

Ecuador’s foreign trade minister, Francisco Rivadeneira, called the agreement “ambitious”.

He said: “After nearly four years of work, today we finally closed a balanced accord with the European Union, which maximises opportunities, minimises costs, respects the country’s development model, and protects our sensitive sectors.”

President Rafael Correa announced on Monday that an agreement could be signed this week, underscoring that the country had negotiated “higher thresholds” than its neighbours, and adding that the most difficult negotiations had been over agricultural produce. Bananas, one of the country’s biggest exports, are excluded from the deal.

The latest deal means Ecuador now enjoys free trade with 28 more nations, adding to the country’s previous agreements with China, India, Russia, and most of its South American neighbours.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Colombia: FARC and Government Prepare for New Round of Talks


Representatives from the government and the FARC sign the second agreement in November 2013 (photo: EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa/Télam/dsl)

Representatives from the government and the FARC sign the second agreement in November 2013 (photo: EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa/Télam/dsl)

The Colombian government and the FARC are holding meetings in Havana, Cuba, ahead of the next round of peace talks. The meetings, which began yesterday and were continuing today, seek to address formal issues regarding the participation of representatives of victims of the conflict in the talks.

“We have come with a concrete proposal regarding the way to allow for the presence of the victims in the Havana talks. What we want to discuss is the timing, the procedure, and the date in which this will begin to occur,” said Humberto de la Calle, chief negotiator for the Colombian government. “The central message to the victims is: participate, we’re willing to hear you and to have you here, at the talks,” he added.

Both delegations were meeting separately in the morning, and were expected to hold a joint meeting in the afternoon to finish discussing these points.

Andrés París, representative for the FARC, said that “everything is the same way it was yesterday [Tuesday], nothing will be made public today [Wednesday].”

Some of the complexities lie on the fact that there are different groups of victims left by 50 years of civil war: those who are victims of the guerrilla, of paramilitary groups, and of the Colombian state itself.

The Colombian government and the FARC began the peace talks in Havana, with Cuba and Norway as guarantors, in November 2012. They have so far tackled the issues of land reform (May 2013), political participation (November 2012), and illicit drugs (May 2014).

The remaining subjects are the most sensitive, according to the negotiators themselves: right of the victims, disarmament of the rebels, and the implementation of the peace deal.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Colombia: Santos Wins Second Term in Presidential Run-Off


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

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

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has been re-elected for a second term after winning yesterday’s presidential run-off. With 99.9% of the votes counted, Santos was ahead with 50.9% of the votes, compared to his opponent Oscar Iván Zuluanga’s 45%.

The vote was seen to be a referendum on the peace talks with left-wing guerrilla group FARC. The government-backed negotiations, which began in November 2012, aim to bring Colombia’s five decade-long civil war to an end.

“Colombians with very different options, including many who don’t sympathise with my government, mobilised for the cause, the cause of peace,” said Santos during his celebratory speech. “They came forward knowing that history has its moments, and this is a time for peace, a time to end this long and bloody conflict.”

He called on FARC and the ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla movement, to listen to the message of the Colombian people and end the armed conflict.

Although the peace talks dominated both candidates’ campaigns, polls prior to yesterday’s run-off indicated that Colombians are more worried about unemployment, crime, improving health services, and the quality of education. This was reflected in the turnout, which was up 10% from the first round, but still only around half of Colombians voted yesterday.

During his second four-year term, Santos will have to tackle these issues as well as keeping his campaign promise of finalising the negotiations with FARC, and also move forward with peace talks with the ELN. As any agreement with the guerrillas will have to be approved in a referendum, so Santos also faces the challenge of having an eventual accord be signed off by Colombians, 73% of whom do not want FARC to be able to participate in politics, and 83% of whom believe the rebels must be sent to jail.

The government also faces a difficult time in the legislature, with a strong opposition headed by former president Álvaro Uribe, who is against the peace talks and will likely attempt to block an eventual agreement.

The new government will also face further issues in terms of poverty as the country has been growing at a rate of 4%, but a third of the population of 47m lives in poverty.

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Colombia: Campaigns Close Ahead of Presidential Run-Off


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

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is running for re-election (Photo: Facebook official account)

Election campaigns officially ended in Colombia yesterday, a week before Sunday’s presidential run-off, which sees incumbent Juan Manuel Santos, up for re-election, face right-wing opposition candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga.

The race looks to be a tight one, with three of the five polls putting Santos as victor, whilst two give the next presidential term to Zuluaga. The first round saw the opposition candidate, backed by former president Álvaro Uribe, beat the incumbent, winning with 29.3% of the votes, to Santos’ 25.7%. However, in the first round, absenteeism hit 60%, and both candidates used yesterday’s final acts to encourage people to get out and vote. 

Tonight the pair will face off in their final televised debate before Sunday’s elections.

The ballot is seen to be a referendum on peace talks with left-wing guerrilla group FARC, which could end Colombia’s five decade-long conflict. During a second term, Santos aims to bring peace to Colombia, continuing the peace talks with FARC, which began last year in Havanna, Cuba. Zuluaga, who had initially run on a platform of ending the talks with FARC, has changed his stance since the first round, and now says that under his mandate peace would continue to be negotiated, but under the condition that FARC offer a ceasefire.

On Saturday, FARC announced a ceasefire for the elections, which would last from 9th to 30th June. The group undertook a similar ceasefire during the first round of the elections. The announcement came on the same day that the government and FARC made a joint announcement to “recognise their mutual responsibilities” to victims of the civil war. The announcement is seen to be a landmark, and likely to boost Santos’ campaign, as it is the first time both sides have officially not only recognised victims, but also both sides’ debt to them.

Although the peace talks have dominated both candidates’ campaigns, the polls indicate that Colombians are more worried about unemployment, crime, improving health services, and the quality of education. The country has been growing at a rate of 4%, but a third of the population of 47m lives in poverty.

 

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Colombia: Santos and Zuluaga to Compete in Presidential Run-Off


Óscar Iván Zuluaga won the first round of presidential elections (photo via Wikipedia)

Óscar Iván Zuluaga won the first round of presidential elections (photo via Wikipedia)

President Juan Manuel Santos and opposition candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga will face off in a presidential run-off on 15th June, after neither was able to win outright in yesterday’s election.

With over 99% of votes counted, Zuluaga is the declared victor with 29.25%, ahead of Santos with 25.69%. The two will now seek to capture the votes from the other three candidates in the election.

Marta Lucía Ramírez of the right-wing Partido Conservador received 15.52% of the vote, while Clara López of the leftist Polo Democrático Alternativo gained 15.23%. Last of the candidates was former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa, representing the left-leaning Alianza Verde, who gathered 8.28%.

A defining feature of the election was the low turnout, with the absentee rate reaching 60%, the highest level for 20 years. Meanwhile the number of blank votes also came in at a historic high of 5.99%. Local analyst attribute the voter apathy to a series of scandals that dominated the final weeks of campaigning.

‘Referendum’ on Peace

Many are calling the second round a referendum on the peace talks with the FARC, a pillar of Santos’ first term and re-election campaign. The incumbent leader reaffirmed yesterday his pledge to complete the peace talks if voted in for another four years. “In three weeks Colombians will have two options: they can pick between those who want an end to the war, and those who prefer and endless war.”

However, Zuluaga, of the conservative Centro Democrático led by former president Álvaro Uribe, has rejected the current format of dialogue with the guerrilla group, and if victorious has promised to suspend talks immediately until the FARC cease operations unilaterally.

“A president cannot be manipulated by the FARC,” said Zuluaga in a triumphant speech last night. “I guarantee that I will work every day for peace, but only one that benefits the Colombian people.”

Alliances

Both Santos and Zuluaga used their speeches yesterday to call on the losing candidates to become their allies for the second round. Ramírez and López, who together captured over 30% of the votes cast, could have a significant impact on the run off, but so far neither have revealed if they will publicly support one of the campaigns.

“The future of Colombia will depend heavily on us, and we will decide which campaign will have our support,” said the conservative leader Ramírez, who was a defence minister in the Uribe administration.

Meanwhile, López, who achieved a strong result for the political left and beat Santos to second place in the capital, said she would meet with party officials this week to determine how to proceed. López has previously said she would continue to peace talks initiated by Santos.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Follow us on Twitter
Visit us on Facebook
View us on YouTube

In the week that Estela de Carlotto, president of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, found her grandson, ending a 36-year search, we revisit Vicky Gashe's 2010 article on the human rights organisation.

    Directory Pick

Magdalena's Party in Palermo

Magdalena’s Party has daily 2 x 1 Happy Hour specials til midnight, and the "best onda".
Sign up to The Indy newsletter