Two imprisoned leaders of the Sendero Luminoso guerilla movement were released from military prison to house arrest by authorities in Peru, sparking outrage and debate in the country's media. Osmán Morote, once considered the number-two man in the organization, was arrested by anti-terrorist police in Lima in 1988. He completed his 25-year term in 2013, but remained in detention as new charges were brought against him. He was now accused of having directed from prison the 1992 car-bomb attack on Tarata Street in Lima that left 23 dead. This year, additional charges were brought against him, concerning the 1984 massacre of 120 peasants at the village of Soras, Ayacucho. Also ordered released was Margot Liendo, who was arrested in 1988 along with Morote, and also faces outstanding charges in the Tarata Street attack. The transfers from the detention facility at Callao Naval Base were ordered by the National Penal Chamber of Peru. Both Morote and Liendo were required to pay a bond of 10,000 soles ($3,100), and will be guarded at their homes in the Lima area by National Police agents. Morote and Liendo have both declared a hunger strike in protest of the police presence and house arrest order, saying they should have absolute freedom after serving their 25-year terms. But President Martín Vizcarra called upon the judges to reverse their decision, and keep Morote and Liendo behind bars while the new charges are pending against them. (El País, Peru21, April 20; InfoBae, April 27)
All economic activities were suspended for several days in Peru's southern city of Moquegua as residents launched a civil strike to protest a planned large hike in water prices. The protests were relaxed April 19, when the central government sent a representative to meet with local and community leaders. The government initially proposed that the National Superintendancy of Sanitation Services (SURNASS) suspend for a year implementation of its March decree hiking water prices by 20% in arid Moquegua region. But protesters demanded that the decree be overturned entirely. Finally, the Technical Organism for Administration of Sanitation Services (OTASS), agreed to invest more money in Moquegua's infrastructure, heading off the need for the price hike. Authorities warned that the region's water system is at the brink of "collapse." (El Comercio, April 20; La República, Andina, April 19)
In Episode Eight of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the bitter historical irony: In April of 1937, the aerial bombardment of the Spanish town of Guernica by the Nazi Luftwaffe shocked the world. Today, what happened there is a near-daily occurrence in Syria (as well as Yemen and elsewhere around the world), and we are so inured to it that the "anti-war" people are actually on the side of the authors of aerial terror. During the Spanish Civil War, the left heroically opposed Generalissimo Francisco Franco's drive to establish a fascist dictatorship with the aid of German military intervention. Today, it cravenly abets Bashar Assad's drive to re-establish his fascist dictatorship with the aid of Russian military intervention. Even as Russia scrambles to block any investigation into the Douma chemical attack and other war crimes in Syria, "leftists" shamefully echo Russian propaganda denying any responsibility by Assad. Weinberg again urges that any legitimate anti-war position must begin with opposition to the genocidal regime of Bashar Assad, and with solidarity for the Syrian Revolution. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
The UN Security Council on April 27 extended the mandate of the peacekeeping force for Western Sahara (MINURSO) through the end of October 2018, while calling for Morocco and the Polisario Front to finally negotiate an end to the decades‑old conflict. Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco, while the Polisario Front seeks independence for the territory. The territory has since the 1975-1991 war that followed its independence from Spain been divided by a series of sand berms and a "buffer zone." These separate the territory's Morocco-occupied west and a Polisario-controlled eastern strip. The Security Council called for the Polisario Front to immediately withdrawal from the buffer strip around the area of Guerguerat, to refrain from any destabilizing actions. It also expressed concern over Polisario's planned relocation of administrative functions form Tindouf, across the border in Algeria, to Bir Lahlou within Western Sahara, (ReliefWeb, April 27)
Tens of thousands from across Nicaragua marched on the capital Managua April 28, including large delegations of campesinos from the countryside, in a "pilgrimage for peace" called by Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes following days of angry protests and repression that left some 40 dead. The Catholic Church agreed to mediate a dialogue between the government and opposition over the planned reform of the social security system that set off the protests 10 days earlier. But the "pilgrimage" struck a political tone, with marchers calling for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega.
In an April 6 decision being hailed as "historic," Colombia's Supreme Court of Jutsice ruled in favor of a group of 25 young people and children who brought suit against the state to demand it take measures to assure their right to inherit a healthy environment. They asserted that their future food security and access to water is threatened by continued deforestation in the Amazon and other ecological degradation. In its ruling, the court also noted Colombia's responsibilities on a global level to halt deforestation, as carbon dioxide releases from forest loss contribute to the greenhouse effect. The youth in the case were represented by lawyers from Colombia's Environmental Justice Network (Red por la Justicia Ambiental). (El Tiempo, April 8; Contagio Radio, April 6)
A state of emergency has been declared in Barrancabermeja, the oil hub on Colombia's Río Magdalena, following a rupture on a pipeline delivering crude to the city's refinery from wells in the municipality's rural area. The March 2 spill at the Lizama 158 well, run by parastatal Ecopetrol, contaminated local waterways that flow into the Magdalena, and which local campesino communities depend on. The affected area includes habitat for jaguars (listed as "near threatened" by the International Union for the Conservation of Natuire) and manatees ("vulnerable"). March 26 saw a protest outside the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in Bogotá, demanding acountability in the disaster. Óscar Sampayo, Barrancabermeja organizer for the Fracking-Free Colombia Alliance, called it a "catastrophe of unequaled magnitude" in a long history of oil spills in the area, and said the impacts could last 30 years. The Fiscalía General, Colombia's attorney general, has opened an investigation to determine if there is criminal liability in the spill.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on March 27 issued a statement calling on the government of Colombia to "take urgent measures" to protect social leaders and human rights defenders in response to the wave of assassinations over recent months. The statement asserted that 22 rights defenders had been killed in Colombia in the first two months of the year, and over 100 more threatened with death. The assassinations come in an atmosphere of violence across much of the country's rural areas, with some 2,500 displaced in recent months. Just three days after the IACHR statement, on Good Friday, community leader and local rights advocate Belisario Benavides Ordóñez was slain by unknown gunmen on motorcycles as she was leaving her home accompanied by her two young children in the town of Rosas, Cauca department. Benavides was a leader of the Rosas Victims' Table, made up of local residents displaced by political violence over the past generation and now demanding restitution for lost lands and property. In a second case that same day, a community leader in Cauca's village of Corinto, Héctor Janer Latín, was slain in a road ambush while riding his motorcycle to an outlying hamlet. These attacks spurred renewed calls from the National Confederation of Communal Action (CNAC) for a response from the government and IACHR. (El Tiempo, April 2; El Colombiano, March 27)