Andean Theater

UN: 'major challenges' for FARC demobilization

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.

Colombia: FARC peace agreement takes effect

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. 

APEC summit: Peru moves closer to China

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. 

Colombia: action pledged on slaying of social leaders

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)

Colombia: talks with ELN stalled over hostage

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 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)

Colombia: new peace deal with FARC signed

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."

Lima: indigenous squatter camp burns

A fire swept through the Cantagallo shanty-town, just across the Río Rímac from downtown Lima, on Nov. 4, leaving some 2,000 residents of the informal settlement facing an uncertain future. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and a child badly injured in the blaze, which authorities say started near a leather workshop that used flammable chemicals. The settlement was established by Shipibo-Konibo indigenous migrants from Ucayali in in Peruvian Amazon in 2001. Lima's conservative Mayor Luis Castañeda is proposing to relocate the community to the Barrios Altos area east of downtown. But community leaders say they will refuse to move, and intend to rebuild where they are.

Peru: stand-off continues at Las Bambas mine

The mammoth Chinese-owned copper mine at Las Bambas, in Peru's Apurímac region, was prepared to halt operations as protesters blocked roads last month, but the blockades were relaxed after Vice President Martin Vizcarra flew in from Lima to meet with local leaders Oct. 22. Vizcarra pledged a review of community grievances over environmental impacts and recompense to localities for use of roads. Two days earlier, the body of Quintino Cereceda, a protester killed by police Oct. 14, was buried at his community of Choqquecca, signaling a de-escalation of the stand-off. Residents had pledged not to bury the body or turn it over to authorities until President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski came to meet with them. The Interior Ministry acknowledged that Cereceda had been killed by National Police fire.

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