The Andes
COB cabildo

Bolivia: general strike to protest postponed elections

A thousands-strong march through the Bolivian highland city of El Alto was followed by a cabildo, or mass meeting, in which unions and popular organizations agreed to immediately begin an “indefinite” general strike, demanding that new elections be held on schedule. The country’s first elections since the ouster of president Evo Morales last year were slated for Sept. 6, but the government of interim president Jeanine Añez has postponed them to Oct. 18, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The cabildo was called by the Bolivian Workers Central (COB), the country’s main trade union bloc, and included representation from campesino organizations and El Alto’s powerful alliance of working-class neighborhood organizations. COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi affirmed: “If we join together as miners, campesinos, the middle class and El Alto, we can be dynamite.” (Photo: ERBOL via Opinión)

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Totumito

Colombia: massacre sparks mass displacement

A massacre that left eight campesinos dead in northeast Colombia’s Catatumbo region spurred the forced displacement of some 450 people, local authorities report. The massacre at Totumito vereda (hamlet) in Tibú, a rural municipality on the border with Venezuela, took place amid a territorial dispute between the ELN guerrillas and Los Rastrojos, a paramilitary network that largely controls the nearby border city of Cúcuta. According to the Catatumbo Campesino Association (ASCAMCAT), the Rastrojos carried out the attack after the ELN planted a banner with their logo in the vereda. More than 100 families have fled to the municipal centers of Tibú or Cúcuta, fearing another attack. Control of drug-trafficking routes over the Venezuelan border is said to be at issue in the conflict. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

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huila

Colombia: campesinos massacred in Huila

A band of armed men in trucks and on motorcycles invaded two veredas (hamlets) in the rural zone of Algeciras municipality, in Colombia’s central-south department of Huila, terrorizing local residents. The armed men entered homes, menacing the families at gunpoint, before identifying one family they had apparently marked for death. Four family members were killed, and two more wounded, including an eight-year-old boy. The gunmen fled before they could be identified. However, both “dissident” elements of the FARC guerillas who remain in arms in defiance of the peace deal and right-wing paramilitary groups are active in the area. Ex-FARC combatants are being especially targetted by the paramilitaries. (Photo via El Tiempo)

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Colombia military

Colombia: court orders suspension of US military ops

In an unprecedented move, a Colombian judge gave President Ivan Duque 48 hours to suspend the participation of US troops in counternarcotics operations. The legal challenge was brought after 53 soldiers from the Pentagon’s Southern Command arrived as part of a “Security Force Assistance Brigade.” When opposition lawmakers protested that they had not been consulted, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo told Congress he didn’t need their permission. Left-opposition Sen. Ivan Cepeda responded by taking the matter to the Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal. The judge ruled that if Trujillo wants the US troops to continue their operations he must either receive permission from Congress or successfully appeal the ruling within 72 hours. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

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Hugo Blanco

Peru: ‘disinfo’ campaign against Hugo Blanco

Supporters of longtime Peruvian social leader Hugo Blanco are protesting what they call a disinformation campaign launched by the military and political right in response to release of a documentary film about his life. The documentary, Hugo Blanco, Río Profundo, produced by filmmaker Malena Martínez, won last year’s National Competition for Feature Film Distribution Projects, sponsored by Peru’s Ministry of Culture. This has prompted a group of current and former generals and admirals of the armed forces to issue a joint statement accusing the Culture Ministry of helping to disseminate a film that glorifies “extreme terrorist violence.” The statement falsely implies that Blanco had been involved in the Shining Path movement—which had actually threatened his life for his refusal to support it.

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ELN

US move against Cuba imperils Colombia peace

The United States government further complicated the future of peace in Colombia by adding Cuba to its list of countries that do not cooperate with counter-terrorist efforts. The State Department cited Havana’s failure to extradite leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s last active guerilla group. Colombia requested extradition of the ELN leaders after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a Bogotá police academy last year. Havana responded that the ELN leaders had been brought to Cuba for peace talks with the Colombian government, and that it was obliged to honor terms protecting them from arrest. Colombia’s government broke off the talks after the Bogotá blast; civil society groups in Colombia have since been urging both sides to return to the table. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

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Paradita

Politicians exploit COVID-19 in Peru, Bolivia

Peru’s right-wing opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who had been jailed while corruption charges are pending against her, was released from pre-trial detention, ostensibly on fears she could be exposed to the coronavirus. Of course there has been no general discharge from Peru’s dangerously overcrowded prisons, and anti-corruption prosecutors are protesting her release as “illegitimate.” Ironically, Fujimori’s release comes just as the Peruvian government issued a decree authorizing mining operations to resume in the country. Bolivia has likewise ordered operations to resume at the country’s mines—while interim president Jeanine Añez, who came to power after Evo Morales was ousted last year, has invoked the pandemic to indefinitely postpone new elections. (Photo: Diaro Uno)

The Andes

Colombia: ELN ends COVID-19 ceasefire

Despite calls for an extension, Colombia’s ELN guerillas announced an end to their unilateral ceasefire, saying that continued government offensives demonstrate that President Ivan Duque is not interested in peace or combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was met with disappointment by civil society groups and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who in March had called for a “global ceasefire” in response to the pandemic. But the ELN said in its statement that “the Duque government had not responded in a reciprocal manner or listened to the proposals we made to advance the search for peace. On the contrary, we saw a government interested in taking advantage of the unilateral cessation, maintaining joint operations with the paramilitaries, to gain greater territorial control and continue with its plan to assassinate social leaders.” (Photo: Colombia Reports)

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riberalta-marcha

Protesters demand food across Bolivia

Ten days into a national “quarantine” declared in Bolivia, protesters are taking to the streets to demand food in working-class districts of cities across the country—in defiance of lockdown orders. Residents are calling for either flexibility in the lockdown, which has paralyzed the economy, or food distribution in their barrios. The interim government of Jeanine Áñez has pledged one-time payments of $60 for elders, the disabled, pregnant women and others with special needs. Her supporters on social media are portraying the protests as fomented by the ousted Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). (Photo via Los Tiempos, Cochabamba)

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Modelo prison riot

COVID-19 sparks prison massacre in Colombia

Inmates’ fears that prison authorities are not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks inside Colombia’s notoriously overcrowded and unhygienic prisons exploded into violence, with uprisings reported at facilities across the country. The Justice Ministry acknowledged “revolts at different penitentiary centers in the country,” including the prisons in Ibague, Jamundi and Combita, two prisons in Medellín and another two in the capital Bogotá. Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said 23 had been killed in suppressing a “massive and criminal escape attempt” at Bogotá’s La Modelo prison, one of the country’s largest and most overpopulated. Local residents reported hearing gunfire and explosions at the facility. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

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cartel de los soles

Venezuela: does the ‘Cartel of the Suns’ exist?

In a rare move, the US Department of Justice issued an indictment against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, charging him and 14 officials with narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other crimes. The DoJ alleges that Maduro conspired with Colombia’s FARC guerrilla army prior to becoming the president, and continued to do after assuming power. The indictment charges that this nexus has congealed under the name “Cartel of the Suns,” and that Maduro continues to collude with dissident factions of the FARC that remain in arms despite the Colombian peace accords. Attorney General William Barr said the aim of the conspiracy is “to flood the United States with cocaine.” (Image: DoJ)

The Andes
Chapare

Bolivia: regime targets Chapare for eradication

Bolivia’s National Council to Combat Illicit Drug Trafficking (CONALTID) has issued a new strategy paper calling for changes to the country’s General Coca Law that would allow eradication operations throughout the Chapare region in the eastern lowlands. The change would overturn a reform of the law made under Evo Morales that permitted coca cultivation for the legal domestic market throughout most of Chapare. The CONALTID strategy asserts that 91% of Chapare coca production is being diverted to the illicit market. In announcing the policy change, Defense Minister Fernando López issued a stern warning to the inhabitants of the Chapare: “We are not playing, we are ready for anything.” Chapare, a heartland of support for the ousted Morales, has been a de facto autonomous zone outside the control of La Paz since last year’s coup d’etat. (Photo: Página Siete)