Expressing "outrage" at the escalation of violence in Syria, and particularly Aleppo, the UN General Assembly on Dec. 9 adopted a resolution demanding an immediate and complete end to all attacks on civilians, as well as a lifting of all sieges on cities and towns. The Canada-sponsored resolution was adopted by a vote of 122 in favor, 13 against and 36 abstentions. The text also expressed grave concern at the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country and demanded "rapid, safe, sustained, unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access throughout the country for UN...and all humanitarian actors."
Peru's newly appointed defense minister, Jorge Nieto Montesinos, announced that he will focus on wiping out remnant Shining Path guerilla rebels who continue to operate in the Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro Valley (VRAEM), the country's main coca-producing region. Nieto, formerly culture minister, was named defense minister in a reshuffling of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski‘s four-month-old cabinet. The VREAM is considered by the UN to be the world's most prolific coca cultivation zone, accounting for a third of Peru's annual production. It is also the country's last significant guerilla stronghold. The integrated counter-narcotics and counterinsurgency effort in the VREAM was dealt a setback in October, when Lt. Wilmer Delgado, commander of an army outpost in the valley, was arrested on charges of collaborating with traffickers and receiving payments of allowing drug flights to operate in the area. (Peru Reports, Dec. 7; La República, Dec. 5; La República, Oct. 23)
A federal judge in Florida ruled Nov. 29 that victims of right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia may sue banana giant Chiquita Brands under US jurisdiction. Judge Kenneth Marra rejected Chiquita's argument that the case should be heard in Colombia rather than the United States, clearing the way for the ground-breaking suit to advance toward trial. The company no longer has assets in Colombia, so any damages awarded by that country's courts would be unenforceable. "Our clients chose to litigate in the United States because it is the only forum where they can litigate safely and where they can be sure that Chiquita will pay," said attorney Marco Simons of Earth Rights International (ERI).
The United Nations warned Dec. 7 that Colombia’s peace process faces "major challenges," urging the government and FARC rebels to "act swiftly" to demobilize and disarm the guerillas within the set time frame. In a press release, the UN Mission in Colombia called for immediate "administrative, technical and logistical preparations for the implementation" of the demobilization process. This comes as FARC leaders have broached suspending the process in response to the delay in judicial review of the legal framework for demobilization. The Constitutional Court is set to rule Dec. 12 on the validity of the "fast-track" legislative process for the package of laws and amendments to the peace deal that was approved lby Colombia's congress ate last month. These include an Amnesty Law that would grant immunity to FARC fighters who are only accused of "rebellion," and not more serious crimes.
Rule of law seems to have completely broken down in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, with the back-country really run by competing murderous narco-gangs. On Nov. 25, a Mixed Operations force of army and state police troops discovered over 30 bodies buried in mass graves in the municipality of Zitlala, in the rugged highlands where hidden canyons produce copious crops of opium and cannabis. The remains—including 32 corpses and nine severed heads—were found in a series of 20 hidden graves. Several men were detained, and cars and weapons seized. Such finds have become alarmingly common in Mexico in recent years, and are dubbed "narco-fosas" (narco-graves).
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered a letter (PDF) to US president-elect Donald Trump Dec. 7 signed by several US mayors warning of the potential economic losses Trump could cause if he repeals Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA allows undocumented young immigrants to remain in the US if they arrived before they turned 16 and are currently working, pursuing higher education or serving in the military. The letter, which was signed by the mayors of New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco among others, warned that repealing DACA could result in a loss of $9.9 billion in tax revenue over four years and $433.4 billion in US gross domestic product over 10 years. Emanuel wrote:
We aren't sure how much method to place in Donald Trump's madness. Right on the heels of the outrage over his diplomatically incorrect telephone conversation with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen comes word that he's appointed Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as the next US ambassador to China—news that will apparently be welcome in Beijing. The New York Times says that Branstad describes China's exceptionally authoritarian President Xi Jinping as an "old friend." Reuters tells us Branstad said he's had a "30-year friendship" with Xi, and added: "The president-elect understands my unique relationship to China." A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson reciprocated the warmth, calling Branstad an "old friend" of China.
A group of UN human rights experts called on the Chinese government Dec. 6 to investigate the disappearance of a prominent human rights lawyer. Jiang Tianyong has been missing since Nov. 21, after he visited the family of another human rights lawyer who has been detained since a "crackdown" on political dissidents last summer. UN experts are concerned that Jiang has been detained, possibly while traveling on a train bound for Beijing following his visit with the detained lawyer's family in Changsha. In February 2011 Jiang was detained for two months by Chinese authorities, during which he claims to have been beaten and tortured. Human rights activists claim that the crackdown in China is part of a larger effort to silence political dissidents. Jiang rose to prominence for his involvement in high profile cases, defending human rights activists, legal activists, HIV/AIDS sufferers, Tibetan protesters and other vulnerable groups.