A threat to the Colombian peace talks emerged this month, as some FARC units unilaterally attacked government forces and declared their non-compliance with the ceasefire—in repudiation of the guerilla army's high command. On July 8, a unit of the FARC's 55th Front attacked troops of the army' 2nd Mobile Brigade in the vereda (hamlet) of Candilejas, Uribe municipality, Meta department. An uncertain number of casualties on the guerillas' side was reported. The government's chief peace negotiator, Humberto De la Calle, said the attack was "an error on the part of the FARC," and that the guerillas' chief negotiator Iván Márquez had taken responsibility for it. (El Colombiano, July 12; El Tiempo, El Espectador, July 11)
Amid moves toward peace in Colombia, the goad of the war—the country's lucrative cocaine trade—clearly remains robust. In an international operation announced June 30, Colombian police joined with US and Italian authorities to confiscate a whopping 11 tons of cocaine in refrigerated containers ostensibly shipping tropical fruits to Europe. The stuff was mostly seized in Colombia, but was bound for the US and Europe. Of the 33 arrested in the operation, 22 were popped in Colombia and the rest in Italy. (El Tiempo, June 30)
Shi'ite militiamen who fought alongside the Iraqi army in the battle for Fallujah are believed to have seized some 900 civilian men and boys and killed nearly 50. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the civilians were detained June 1 during the battle to oust ISIS from the Sunni-majority city. They were among some 8,000 who fled the outlying village of Saqlawiyah as troops moved in on the city. Fighters from Kataaib Hezbollah, one of several Shi'ite militias involved in the siege, reportedly tortured many detainees. Al-Hussein also warned Iraq could see a return to full scale sectarian violence after the July 3 Baghdad attack. (BBC News, The Independent, July 5)
Under the plan now being formalized for demobilization of Colombia's FARC guerillas, special zones are to be established for fighters to "concentrate" and then be integrated into civilian life. There are respectively being called Encampments and Veredal Zones of Transition and Normalization—a reference to veredas, as unincorporated hamlets are known in Colombia. There are to be eight Encampments: at Fonseca, Guajira department; Vigía del Fuerte, Antioquia; Riosucio, Chocó; Tierra Alta, Córdoba; Corinto, Cauca; San Vicente, Caquetá; Losada and Macarena, Meta; and Puerto Colombia, Guainia. There are to be 23 Veredal Zones in 12 departments: Cesar, Norte de Santander, Antioquia, Tolima, Cauca, Nariño, Putumayo, Caquetá, Arauca, Meta, Vichada, and Guaviare. The Defense Ministry says it will guarantee the security of nearby localities. But the plan is still meeting with some opposition from regional leaders. the governor of Tolima, Óscar Barreto Quiroga, states that he will oppose the location of any concentration zones in his department. (Colombiano, Kronista.co, June 25; El Colombiano, El Tiempo, El Tiempo, El Tiempo, El Pais, El Heraldo, June 24)
Colombia's Constitutional Court on June 11 overturned a government decree from 2012 that would allow mining in nine areas of the country, together making up 20% of the national territory—a collective area approximately the size of Minnesota. The designated "Strategic Mining Areas" were decalred by the National Mining Agency in decrees 180241 and 0045 of February and June 2012, respectively, affecting lands in some 20 departments, from the Pacific coast to the interior Amazon. The challenge was brought by the NGO Tierra Digna on behalf of several indigenous and campesino groups within these areas, who said to the decrees violated their right to prior consultation. The ruling virtually ends the government's declared ambition to make mining the “motor” of the Colombian economy. (El Tiempo, June 13; Colombia Reports, June 12; El Espectador, June 11)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on June 7 urged the Iraqi government to "take immediate measures to ensure that" those fleeing the ISIS-held city of Fallujah are "treated in strict accordance with international human rights and international humanitarian laws." Zeid cited "credible reports" that fleeing residents have suffered physical abuse at the hands of "armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi security forces." These groups have reportedly been separating migrants by gender, detaining men for "security checks," which largely amount to physical abuse for the sake of forced confessions. Zeid ended his remarks stating that while the Iraqi government has a legitimate interests in making vetting migrants to ensure that they do not impose security risks, such vetting should take place through the appropriate laws and in a "transparent manner."
The White House has announced a partial lifting of sanctions on Burma in recognition of progress in its democratic transition. Restrictions are to be dropped on state-owned banks and businesses, although some 100 companies and individuals linked to the armed forces will remain iced. This relaxation comes at the request of longtime democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, who although barred from holding the presidency is effectively the country’s leader following November's elections. But human rights concerns remain—especially around the fate of the Rohingya Muslims, persecuted and made stateless by the military junta that has now (mostly) surrendered power. And the multiple ethnic insurgencies in Burma's opium-producing northern mountains, while receiving less world media attention lately, continue to vex the country.
Mayor Rosa Pérez Pérez of Chenalhó, Chiapas, stepped down May 26—after days of violence in the indigenous Maya municipality that even turned deadly. Pérez finally resigned after two state lawmakers from her Mexican Ecologist Green Party (PVEM) were taken captive by opponents at a meeting called to negotiate an end to the dispute at the offices of the Catholic diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The lawmakers were forcibly removed from the premises by masked men who invaded the meeting and drove them to Chenalhó, where they were held to demand Pérez's resignation. By then, some 250 residents of outlying hamlets had fled inter-factional violence and taken refuge in government offices in Chenalhó's municipal center. A 56-year-old man was killed in fighting at the hamlet of Puebla. Violence has continued even after the resignation, with a 14-year-old girl shot in Puebla, where several homes were put to the torch. Opponents charged Pérez with diverting funds for development projects to her personal account, and say she represents the traditional ruling families of Chenalhó, who for the past generation have terrorized opposition with paramilitary groups to maintain power. The PVEM, now the ruling party in Chiapas, is assailed by critics as a "satellite party" of Mexico's ruling machine, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).