Tag Archive | "FARC"

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.

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Colombia: FARC, ELN Begin Unilateral Ceasefire for Elections


The FARC peace delegation (photo courtesy of FARC-EP)

The FARC peace delegation (photo courtesy of FARC-EP)

Colombia’s two main guerrilla groups, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP) and National Liberation Army (ELN), began a unilateral ceasefire today in preparation for Sunday’s presidential elections.

The ceasefire, which was announced on Sunday in a joint press release, came into effect at midnight and will last until the end of Wednesday 28th May.

“The insurgency does not believe in the electoral regime,” read the statement. “We think, like millions of our compatriots, that the corruption, clientelism, fraud, and all kinds of underhand tactics make the results illegitimate.”

However, the guerrilla organisations said that the “national clamour” for calm during the voting period warranted action.

On Friday, negotiators representing the government and FARC in peace talks in Havana announced that they had reached a preliminary agreement on combatting drug trafficking in Colombia, the third of five key issues that make up the framework of the peace talks. The agreement covers the substitution of crops where illicit plants are currently cultivated, programmes to tackle addiction and consumption, and tackling the illegal commercial drugs trade.

The next round of talks is currently set for 2nd June, in which the highly sensitive issue of the victims of the internal conflict, which has lasted more than five decades.

However, the future of the peace talks would become uncertain if President Santos is defeated in Sunday’s election, with rival candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga saying he would suspend the dialogue and demand that the FARC end all action as a condition to a peace accord.

The last opinion poll published before the close of campaigning showed Zuluaga with a narrow lead over Santos, though indicating that a second round run-off would be required.

 

 

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Colombia: Mud-Slinging Intensifies as Elections Approach


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

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

The two leading candidates in the presidential election race have been tarnished by corruption scandals in the weeks before the 25th May vote. Judicial proceedings have begun after key campaign advisers for both incumbent Juan Manuel Santos and opposition candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga resigned last week amid allegations of bribery and spying, respectively.

Santos’ chief campaign strategist, Venezuelan Juan José Rendón, was first to resign after local media reported that he had received US$12m from four drug cartel leaders to broker a surrender with the government. Rendón, who is based in the US, denies receiving any money, though admitted that intermediaries of the cartel leaders had made contact about a deal to hand themselves in that was not followed up on. Rendón says the allegations were orchestrated by the Venezuelan government, which last year put out a request to Interpol for his capture on accusations of rape.

Ex-president Álvaro Uribe, a former ally of Santos who now supports Zuluaga, added to the scandal by claiming that some US$2m of the illegal funds were used in Santos’ 2010 election campaign. Uribe was called by the Public Prosecutor’s Office to testify and present proof of the accusations today, but did not attend, claiming that he did not have sufficient “legal guarantees”. He has been summoned again for tomorrow. Santos rejected the accusations today, saying that “Uribe did not go to the prosecutor’s office because he can’t prove them.” He added that the recent scandal was an attempt to derail the peace talks with guerrilla group, FARC.

Meanwhile, an investigation is also underway into alleged spying by a member of Zuluaga’s team, Andrés Sepúlveda, who is accused to hacking into e-mails of the government’s negotiating team at the peace talks with the FARC in Havana. The revelations led to the resignation of Zuluaga’s campaign ‘spiritual adviser’ Luis Alfonso Hoyos, who allegedly approached a local news channel RCN with Sepúlveda offering information about supposed threats by guerrillas against Zuluaga supporters. Hoyos denies any wrongdoing, and said he resigned to protect Zuluaga’s campaign.

With the election under three weeks away, Santos currently leads opinion polls, though indications are that a second round run-off will be required.

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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: 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: 7th February 2014


FARC guerrillas during the Caguan peace talks

FARC guerrillas during the Caguan peace talks

Study Reveals Toll of Colombian Armed Conflict: Colombia’s armed conflict has left a toll of over six million victims, according to a report released yesterday. The Victim’s Attention and Reparations Unit noted 6,073,453 Colombians have suffered from displacement, terrorist acts, threats, sexual violence, forced disappearance, murder, antipersonnel mines, loss of material goods, kidnapping, torture, or children and adolescents forced to join armed groups. The results were based on two years of research, gathered according to the 2011 Law of Victims and Land Restitution, which aimed to collate the numbers of internally displaced peoples and also increased the spectrum of crimes to be taken into account. The aim of the study is also to support compensation of the victims, for which Col $54.9bn (US$27m) has been set aside by the government. So far, over 350,000 people have received compensation, making Colombia the first country in the world to compensate victims of an armed conflict that has not yet ended. The country has been suffering from an internal conflict since 1964 when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) took up arms to demand land reforms against the governing elite.

Brazilian Protests over Public Transport Fare Hikes: Over 2,000 people took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro yesterday in protest of the latest increase in public transport fares, which bring the price to R$3 from R$2.75. The manifestation, which started peacefully, turned violent after the crowd entered the city’s central station and police fired tear gas to disperse protesters. Dozens were arrested and several wounded, including Santiago Andrade, a television cameraman who was filming the events. Santiago remains in a critical condition in hospital after being struck in the head by an unknown object. Yesterday’s was the latest in a series of recent protests against hikes in the costs of public services, such as transportation, which many are tying to escalating costs of Brazil hosting the World Cup.

Mexico: Further Violence in Michoacán: The decapitated heads of four indigenous Purépecha men have been found in the troubled south-western state of Michoacán. The victims have been identified as Bulmaro Herrera Rincón, who was 55, brothers Alejandro and Noé Álvarez González, aged 22 and 24 respectively, and another man only identified as ‘Juan’. All four went missing in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and were last seen driving together in a truck from the town of La Palma to the Cocucho indigenous community. The discovery comes on the same day authorities found a further 25 bodies in two common graves, all said to be victims of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel. Authorities are said to have been given a tip off from a cartel insider, which led them to excavate the sites.

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Latin America News Roundup: 4th February 2014


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

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

Colombia – Spying Scandal Hits FARC Peace Talks: Revelations have emerged that military intelligence agents may have illegally tapped the phones of government negotiators engaged in peace talks with the guerrilla group FARC. Weekly magazine Semana yesterday published a report based on a 15-month investigation into the alleged spying, which it says began in September 2012, two months before peace negotiations began in Havana. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos today ordered a full investigation into the allegations, saying that “dark forces” were looking to sabotage the peace talks with FARC. “It is unacceptable from any point of view that this type of intelligence is undertaken against ordinary citizens, political opposition, and much less against state officials,” said Santos.

Paraguay – Farmers Demand Investigation into Activist’s Murder: Members of the National Farming Federation (FNC) protested today outside the Ministry of Interior and Public Prosecutor’s Office to demand an investigation into the killing of farmer Nery Benítez in the San Pedro district on Sunday. Benítez was shot 12 times in the rural community of Luz Bella, in what the FNC says was payback for his participation in local protests against the chemical spraying of soy fields in the area. A day before his death, Benítez was part of a group of around 80 protesters that clashed with police over an operation to clear more land in the area to make way for soy cultivation. In a statement on its website today, the FNC said: “the murder has all the characteristics of a revenge attack, because Nery Benítez actively participated in the resistance and after the police repression was responsible for getting the injured to hospital.”

Peru – Hundreds of Dead Dolphins Found: More than 400 dead dolphins were found washed up along Peru’s northern coastline in the month of January, compared to around 800 in the whole of 2012. Autopsies are being carried out to determine the cause of these mass deaths, though so far there are no conclusive answers. Early studies by the Peruvian Sea Institue (Imarpe) suggested that the animals were not poisoned by anything used by fishermen, though it is awaiting the results of further tests. Imarpe also noted that dolphins and other marine mammals are frequently drowned after getting caught in fishing nets. Animal conservation group Mundo Azul, meanwhile, says the practice of killing dolphins for human consumption or to use as bait to hunt sharks in Peru is a major problem, despite being outlawed since 1996. The group estimates that around 15,000 dolphins are killed in this manner in Peru every year.

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Latin America News Roundup: 24th January 2014


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

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia: The Cundimarca Administrative Tribunal temporarily suspended yesterday the dismissal of Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro. In two separate rulings, the court upheld demands by ordinary citizens who contended that the dismissal affects their right to exercise political control and to elect and be elected. Both rulings seek to delay the mayor’s suspension so that a referendum can be held to decide his fate. One of the rulings states that “if the legal effects of the administrative disciplinary action against the Mayor of Bogotá are not temporarily suspended, there will be no opportunity to hold the recall referendum scheduled to take place on 2nd March 2014, which would flagrantly limit the exercise of the fundamental right to political control by electors.” Petro had said on a recent protest that he expected to be formally removed from office by 30th January. The Inspector General’s office, which ordered Petro’s dismissal, will appeal the rulings. However, it is expected that the delays in the appeal process will extend long enough for the referendum to be held.

Brazil: Thousands of people are expected to demonstrate against the World Cup in several cities across the country tomorrow. The rallies have been organised by various anti-World Cup organisations and promoted through social networking sites by Anonymous. Over 40,000 people have confirmed, via social networks, their attendance to the events in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, whilst around 10,000 would join in smaller cities like Belo Horizonte and Brasilia. The protests will focus on the massive increase of the budget for the World Cup preparations, which is 285% larger than originally announced, on the corruption that has allegedly plagued the process, and on the need for a national budget restructuring that prioritises health and education.

Colombia: The FARC admitted their involvement in a bomb explosion which left one person dead and over 25 injured almost ten days ago. The bomb went off in the western town of La Pradera on 16th January, and at the time the guerrilla group condemned the attack. Today, however, they released a statement in which they indicated: “We’ve been looking into who was responsible for this event for a few days (…) and reached the conclusion that indeed it was ordered by the leadership of one of the units that make up the Mobile Block Arturo Ruiz of the FARC-EP, a situation that deserves our open reproach and the application of the appropriate disciplinary correctives.” They also stated that it was never their intention to target or hurt civilians. President Juan Manuel Santos, who is currently attending the Economic World Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said: “We condemn terrorist attacks, of course. It is not within the rules, but at least I value that [the FARC] have recognised it was them who carried out the attack.”

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Latin America News Roundup: 23rd January 2014


The FARC peace delegation (photo courtesy of FARC-EP)

The FARC peace delegation (photo courtesy of FARC-EP)

Colombia: As part of the ongoing peace negotiations, the FARC have proposed the implementation of a series of policies aimed at regulating coca, marijuana, and poppy crops. The proposal highlights the nutritional, medicinal, therapeutic, artisanal, industrial, and cultural uses of these crops, and argues that their small and large-scale exploitation could become “part of the country’s agricultural activity and generate jobs and income.” According to the guerrilla group, the policies should be implemented by the Colombian state “with direct participation of producers, farmers, indigenous, and African-Colombian communities.” The proposal was submitted as part of the third round of peace talks held between the FARC and the government in Havanna, Cuba, which dealt with the issue of drugs and drug trafficking and which ended today.

Venezuela: The Venezuelan government announced yesterday a new foreign exchange system. The new, two-tiered system will offer different exchange rates -an official, fixed one and a variable one. The first category will apply the so-called ‘Cadivi rate’ of Bs. 6.30 (Venezuelan bolivars) per US dollar, and will be sold to “priority sectors”, including students, pensioners, diplomats, and for purchases of food, manufactures, medicines, etc. The variable ‘Sicad rate’ of Bs. 11.30 will be sold to the tourism industry, for overseas and online purchases, and family remittances. Economy Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres said that “over 80% of the goods and services the country requires will receive foreign currency approved by the Central Bank of Venezuela, at the preferential rate of Bs. 6.30 per US dollar,” and that the new measures will increase the amount of dollars available to priority sectors. “This year we will have even more foreign currency between the Sicad and Cadivi, which will guarantee US$42bn [available] for 2014.”

Mexico: The government of Mexico City began implementing yesterday a new safety operation called ‘Mexico City Shield’. The operation has deployed 1,300 police agents to guard the access points to the city, by land and by sea. They have been tasked with monitoring “suspicious-looking vehicles” 24 hours a day. Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa, mayor of Mexico City, said that the operation aims to cooperate with the federal government in its efforts to guarantee public safety after the increase in violence in the state of Michoacán. He stated, however, that there are no gangs operating in Mexico City, and the operation “is just an alert.”

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Latin America News Roundup: 15th January 2014


Family and friends mourn one of the victims (photo: AFP/Alfredo Estrella/Télam/aa)

Family and friends mourn one of the victims (photo: AFP/Alfredo Estrella/Télam/aa)

Mexico: At least two people have died in clashes between the army and militias, known as ‘Autodefensas’, in the state of Michoacán. The Mexican army moved yesterday into the districts of Apatzingán, Uruapan, and Múgica, in Tierra Caliente, Michoacán, in order to take over safety operations from the hands of local police forces and civilian militias. Whilst officials sources have confirmed two civilian casualties  in the town of Altúnez, a spokesman for the militias claims that at least four people have been killed by the army, including a four-year old girl, and 11 wounded. The army incursion came after an agreement between the government of the state of Michoacán and the national government which seeks to disband the militias that have been operating in the state since 2012. Militia members in some areas have said, however, that they will not disarm until the leaders of the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel have been arrested. “We’re defending our families, our people. The government hasn’t worried about [our] safety for 12 years,” said militia spokesman Estanislao Beltrán. “Yesterday, the army came in, disarmed us, and because of this the people went out to the roads to stop the army and demand the guns be handed back to the militias because they were defending us.”

Puerto Rico: After two days of strikes, teachers celebrated a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court which temporarily suspends a the application of Law 160 which would reform the island’s retirement system. “If we want the law to be repealed, we have to intensify our struggle, we must turn the outrage of teachers and the country into an organised struggle,” said Eva Ayala of the EDUCAMOS union. Due to the strike, only 12% of teachers and 0.09% of students attended school yesterday. With the reform, teachers beginning their careers from 31st August 2014 will have to wait until they are 62 years old to retire, as opposed to the current 55, if they have completed 30 years of service. Teachers claim that the new law will also have an impact on pensions, which will decrease by almost 20%. Law 160 was passed on 24th December, and it was based on a requirement by credit rating agency Moody’s in order for Puerto Rico to overcome the deficit of its retirement system and avoid having its debt rating downgraded.

Colombia: The FARC have announced the end of their month-long unilateral ceasefire, which was declared on 15th December to coincide with the holiday period. During the period, the guerrilla organisation assured they complied with the terms of the ceasefire. “We can affirm that the few war situations in which our units were involved during the month of the ceasefire were on legitimate self-defence due to the constant persecution and outrageous siege that troops and police units carried out,” said the FARC in a written statement read today in Havana. The government of the department of Antioquia, however, denied this claim, saying that the FARC violated the ceasefire on five occasions. A third party, the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, stated that there was a 95% level of compliance with their laying down of arms. This is the second unilateral ceasefire the FARC have declared since the beginning of the peace talks with the Colombian government.

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