Authorities in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, last week began demolishing a notorious district near the city center locally known as "the Bronx"—but seemingly no plans were made for the displaced residents. The "urban renewal project" was announced in May, following a series of drug raids on the district, which Mayor Enrique Peñalosa characterized an "independent republic of crime"—rife with gangs, prostitution and addiction. Peñalosa was personally on hand as the clearance commenced Aug. 10, and 66 dwelling demolished by heavy machinery. Since then, however, downtown merchants have been protesting that the evicted Bronx inhabitants have been camping on the streets of the central business district. Some 400 began camping in a drainage canal along downtown's 6th Street, but were forced to flee Aug. 17 when the canal was suddenly flooded by heavy rain. At least one woman was injured by a car as she fled the inundation. Colombia's rights ombudsman, the Defensor del Pueblo, criticized the lack of planning in the clearance operation. (ColPrensa, El Espectador, Aug. 18; Colombia.com, Aug. 17; UPI, Aug. 11; BBC News, Aug. 10; Miami Herald, May 31)
Lawyers for 13 anti-slavery activists on trial in Mauritania said they have been tortured in detention. The activists, on trial for "rebellion and use of violence," were arrested last month after angry protests in a poor district of the capital Nouakchott slum community that faces forcible relocation as part of an urban clearance plan ahead of an Arab League summit to be hosted in the city. "One by one, the 13 spoke out against the forms of torture they had been subjected to in custody," said attorney Brahim Ould Ebetty, representing the members of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (ARI). The riots started when security forces stormed dwellings occupied for decades by members of the Haratin ethnic group, many of them former slaves. Authorities accused the ARI members of instigating the riots. The detained are now being held at an unknown location.
More than 20 land rights activists have been killed in Brazil so far this year, with most deaths linked to conflicts over logging and agribusiness—ongoing terror amid the Olympics spectacle. According to data from Brazil's Pastoral Land Commision (CPT), 23 activists have been killed in 2016 for trying to protect forests from illegal logging and the expansion of cattle ranches and soy plantations. Fifty land rights campaigners were killed in Brazil last year, up from 29 in 2014, according to the UK-based advocacy group Global Witness. Released as the Olympic Games opened in Rio de Janeiro, the figures indicate a crackdown on land rights campaigners in South America's biggest country, with indigenous people particularly affected. "For many visitors to the Rio Olympics, Brazil is synonymous with its vast, plentiful rainforests and traditional ways of life," said Global Witness campaigner Billy Kyte in a statement. "Yet the people who are trying to protect those things are being killed off at an unprecedented rate."
President Petro Poroshenko on Aug. 11 put Ukraine's armed forces on high alert and "full combat readiness" near the lines of control with Russian-annexed Crimea and the separatist region of Donbas. Russia meanwhile announced it has deployed long-range S-400 missile systems in Crimea. Russian state TV has broadcast footage of men confessing to a plot to carry out terror attacks on the annexed peninsula. The accused saboteurs tell interrogators they were acting on orders from Kiev. Said Russia's President Vladimir Putin: "Our special forces prevented terrorist attacks organized by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry—the situation is pretty disturbing." Responded Poroshenko: "These fantasies are just a pretext for another portion of military threats against Ukraine." (Kyiv Post, NYT, Al Jazeera, BBC News)
A national march to oppose "femicide"—under the slogan Ni Una Menos or "Not One Less"—brought tens of thousands to the streets of Lima on Aug. 13. Peru's new president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski spoke at the start of the march, pledging: "We will promote a culture that does not tolerate violence." The march comes as a response to past rulings in cases of violence against women perpetrated by their partners. According to the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, there are 54 reported cases of women killed ay the hands of their spouse or partner so far this year. Such attacks constitute a leading cause of mortality among women in Peru. There have been 118 cases of attempted killings of that nature this year. In 2015, there were 95 such killings, and 198 attempted cases.
A new spill on Peru's northern trans-Andean oil pipeline has contaminated a rainforest community—the fourth rupture from the 40-year-old pipeline this year. Villagers from the indigenous community of Uchichiangos noticed the new leak early on Aug. 10, according to a representative of the province of Condorcanqui, Amazonas region. Some 90 local residents have been affected, with 12 homes damaged by oil, and 15 hectares of yucca and other crops fouled. Parastatal PetroPerú, which runs the pipeline, has acknowledged the spill in a statement, vaguely blaming it on "third parties."
Native Americans, ranchers and farmers on Aug. 10 launched a blockade of a highway in North Dakota to bar crews of contractor Energy Transfer Partners from reaching the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Some 250 Lakota Indians and their allies are still maintaining the blockade, despite several arrests. The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, also known as the Bakken Pipeline, will extend from North Dakota to a market hub near Patoka, Ill., outside Chicago. The US Army Corps Engineers issued formal approval of the pipeline on July 26. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have started a protest camp to block its construction, where the Cannonball and Missouri rivers meet. Standing Rock Sioux chairman Dave Archambault III is among those arrested by North Dakota state troopers and Morton County deputies. At 1,172 miles, the Dakota Access Pipeline is only seven miles shorter than the proposed length of the stalled Keystone Pipeline. (TruthOut, Censored News, Aug. 13; Native News Online, Mother Jones, Aug. 12)
US special operations troops are for the first time directly supporting local forces battling ISIS in their key Libyan stronghold of Sirte, the Washington Post reported Aug. 9. US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post the commandos are working from a joint operations center on the outskirts of the city. (AFP, Aug. 10) However, the head of Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) made clear that he rejects the introduction of foreign troops in the country. "We do not need foreign troops on Libyan soil," Fayez al-Sarraj said in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera daily. (Middle East Eye, Aug. 10) The US-backed militias in Sirte now say they have seized control of the city's Ouagadougou convention center that had served as ISIS headquarters. (BBC News, Aug. 10)