Andean Theater

FARC demobilization advances —amid dissent

FARC rebels on Aug. 22 announced formation of a Monitoring and Verification Team to oversee demobilization of their fighters under Colombia's peace process. With an office in Bogotá, it is to be administrated by a tri-partite commission formed by the FARC, the Colombian government and the United Nations. (TeleSur, Aug. 22) But former president Alvaro Uribe, now leader of the right-wing opposition, continues to harshly criticize the peace process. In an Aug. 18 address at Sergio Arboleda University in Bogotá, he noted the chaos in neighboring Venezuela and warned that the FARC would bring "castro-chavismso" to Colombia if allowed to participate in the political process. (PanAm Post, Aug. 23)

Colombia: illegal mining the 'new coca'?

An unprecedented ruling of Colombia's Constitutional Court last year protecting alpine wetlands or páramos from mining operations is apparently going unenforced. Coal-mining continues in the Páramo de Pisba, a supposed protected area in Boyacá department, according to Anastasio Cruz of the Network of Rural Waterworks (Red de Acueductos Rurales), who said that the mining operations over the past 12 years have left over 20 local sources dry. The operations are carried out by companies operating on the margins of the law, which he said are also seeking to re-activate an old iron mine in the area. Cruz made his statement to the press ahead of a National Meeting of Páramo Defenders held in Tasco, Boyacá, last moth. (Contagio Radio, Aug. 5)

Colombia: terror targets indigenous leaders

Village leaders report that a total of 18 indigenous campesinos in the north of Colombia's Cauca department have been killed this year, in a presumed paramilitary campaign of intimidation. In one case last month, a pregnant woman was among three slain when they were stopped on the road between the towns of Caloto and Santander de Quilichao. She was headed with her family on motorbikes to a local hospital when they were ambushed by gunmen and left dead on the road. Paramilitaries have left pamphlets in local villages warning them to drop their campaigns for restitution of usurped lands. (RCN, Aug. 23; Contagio Radio, July 22; Extra, Cauca, July 15))

Peasant strikes mobilize again in Colombia

Colombia's government on Aug. 22 sent a delegation to the Pacific coastal department of Chocó, six days into a massive civil strike (paro) that has paralyzed the marginal region, with roads blocked and businesses shuttered. Aug. 18 saw street clashes in regional capital Quibdó as the feared ESMAD anti-riot force was unleashed on protesters. Demands had been bulding for weeks over potable water, electricity and other basic infrastructure for poor peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. On July 20, social leaders announced their refusal to celebrate Colombia's Indpendence Day, instead holding a 40,000-strong protest march in Quibdó under the slogan: "We change the cry of independence into a cry of protest for our abandonment by the state." (NTN24, Aug. 23; Contagio Radio, El Colombiano, Bogotá, Aug. 22; Prensa Rural, Aug. 20; El Espectador, Bogotá, July 20)

Bolivia unveils 'anti-imperialist' military school

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Aug. 17 dedicated a new international military academy, which will seek to counter the influence of the US and Pentagon in the developing world. The new academy is based in the city of Santa Cruz in Bolivia's east, and named after the country's former president Juan José Torres. Courses are to include "Theory of Imperialism," "Geopolitics of Natural Resources," and "Bolivian Social Structures."  Said Morales at the inauguration of the new base: "If the empire teaches domination of the world from its military schools, we will learn from this school to free ourselves from imperial oppression. We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements, and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies."

Bogotá: controversy over urban clearance

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)

Peru: tens of thousands march against femicide

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.

Coca cultivation down in Peru, soars in Colombia

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) this week released its latest figures on coca cultivation in the Andean nations—to the pride of Peru but chagrin of Colombia. Most dramatic was the bad news from Bogotá. The new Colombia Coca Survey (PDF), jointly produced by UNODC and the country's government, shows a nearly 40% increase in coca crop area—from 69,000 hectares in 2014 to 96,000 in 2015. This is twice the 48,000 figure for 2013. Coca leaf reached its highest price in Colombia in 10 years, shooting up 39.5% to $1.02 per kilogram (3,000 pesos). Bo Mathiasen, the UNODC representative in Colombia, told reporters the country is now cultivating more coca than Peru and Bolivia combined. (InfoBae, July 9; UNODC, July 8)