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.
With Colombia's Congress voting to approve the revised peace accord with the FARC rebels, the country is on a countdown to the full demobilization of the guerilla army. Both houses voted unanimously—75-0 in the Senate Nov. 30, and 130-0 in the Chamber of Deputies the following day. house ratified the pact a day after it was endorsed by the Senate, despite objections from the opposition. The agreement was approved in the lower house by 130-0, a day after the Senate ratified it 75-0. Lawmakers from Alvaro Uribe's hard-right opposition bloc walked out of both houses in protest before the votes were taken. President Juan Manuel Santos said that Dec. 1 is "D-Day," with the pact to be instituted immediately.
During the Asia-Pacific Cooperation Forum (APEC) summit in Lima, protesters took to the streets to oppose the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal—just as it appears to be on the rocks with the election of Donald Trump. But as the summit closed, China's President Xi Jinping and his Peruvian counterpart Pedro Pablo Kuczynski signed a series of bilateral agreements to advance "free trade" between the two countries and cooperation in the mineral and resource sectors. Xi especially plugged the Chinese-backed mega-project to build a transcontinental railway through the Amazon basin, and praised Peru for its ground-breaking 2010 free trade agreement with China. "Peru was the first Latin American country to sign a comprehensive free trade agreement with China. It's leading the region on cooperation with China," Xi said through an interpreter in a speech before Peru's Congress.
President Juan Manuel Santos announced Nov. 22 that he has developed a plan of action to address the ongoing wave of assassinations of social leaders across Colombia, calling it a necessity to secure the new peace deal with the FARC rebels. "This uncertainty is increasing the risks, and therefore the urgency of taking decisions," he said, although he failed to delineate specific actions. (El Tiempo, Nov. 22) The announcement comes as the Marcha Patriótica activist network has threatened a "National Civic Strike" if the wave of "citizen extermination" does not cease. By the group's count, the year 2016 has seen the assassination of 70 of its own leaders, with hundreds more threatened or surviving attempts on their lives. (Colombia Informa, Nov, 24)
For a second time in the space of a month, planned peace talks between the Colombian government and ELN guerillas in Quito broke down on the very eve of convening Nov. 22. An initial round of talks was suspended in late October, with Bogotá claiming the ELN did not meet the condition to release ex-congressman Odín Sánchez, being held by the guerillas in his native Chocó region. The Quito talks were set to open a second time when the ELN released a statement accusing the army of putting Sánchez's life at risk by increasing operations in Chocó. Government negotiators did travel to Quito for the talks, to be brokered by Monseñor Darío de Jesús Monsalve, the former archbishop of Cali. With the dialogue stalled, fighting continues on the ground. On Nov. 13, presumed ELN fighters blew up a section of the Trans-Andean Pipeline in Nariño region, spilling oil into the Río Guiza. (AFP, Nov. 26; El Tiempo, Nov. 25; El Espectador, Nov. 21; Contagio Radio, Nov. 17; Colombia Reports, Nov. 14; Colombia Reports, Nov. 3)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono AKA "Timochenko" signed a new peace agreement Nov. 24 to replace the one signed in September but turned down by voters in a national plebiscite. Santos and Timochenko signed the 310-page agreement in a ceremony at the Colon Theater in Bogotá, a short distance from the government palace. Attended by some 800, the ceremony was austere compared the one celebrated in Cartagena in September, at which there were over 2,000 guests, including 14 heads of state, and an aerobatic show by the Colombian air force. However, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon sent a statement this time around, expressing his "hopes that Colombians will come together at this time to move the peace process forward."