The Andes
ELN

US move against Cuba imperils Colombia peace

The United States government further complicated the future of peace in Colombia by adding Cuba to its list of countries that do not cooperate with counter-terrorist efforts. The State Department cited Havana’s failure to extradite leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s last active guerilla group. Colombia requested extradition of the ELN leaders after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a Bogotá police academy last year. Havana responded that the ELN leaders had been brought to Cuba for peace talks with the Colombian government, and that it was obliged to honor terms protecting them from arrest. Colombia’s government broke off the talks after the Bogotá blast; civil society groups in Colombia have since been urging both sides to return to the table. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
Paradita

Politicians exploit COVID-19 in Peru, Bolivia

Peru’s right-wing opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who had been jailed while corruption charges are pending against her, was released from pre-trial detention, ostensibly on fears she could be exposed to the coronavirus. Of course there has been no general discharge from Peru’s dangerously overcrowded prisons, and anti-corruption prosecutors are protesting her release as “illegitimate.” Ironically, Fujimori’s release comes just as the Peruvian government issued a decree authorizing mining operations to resume in the country. Bolivia has likewise ordered operations to resume at the country’s mines—while interim president Jeanine Añez, who came to power after Evo Morales was ousted last year, has invoked the pandemic to indefinitely postpone new elections. (Photo: Diaro Uno)

The Andes

Colombia: ELN ends COVID-19 ceasefire

Despite calls for an extension, Colombia’s ELN guerillas announced an end to their unilateral ceasefire, saying that continued government offensives demonstrate that President Ivan Duque is not interested in peace or combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was met with disappointment by civil society groups and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who in March had called for a “global ceasefire” in response to the pandemic. But the ELN said in its statement that “the Duque government had not responded in a reciprocal manner or listened to the proposals we made to advance the search for peace. On the contrary, we saw a government interested in taking advantage of the unilateral cessation, maintaining joint operations with the paramilitaries, to gain greater territorial control and continue with its plan to assassinate social leaders.” (Photo: Colombia Reports)

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riberalta-marcha

Protesters demand food across Bolivia

Ten days into a national “quarantine” declared in Bolivia, protesters are taking to the streets to demand food in working-class districts of cities across the country—in defiance of lockdown orders. Residents are calling for either flexibility in the lockdown, which has paralyzed the economy, or food distribution in their barrios. The interim government of Jeanine Áñez has pledged one-time payments of $60 for elders, the disabled, pregnant women and others with special needs. Her supporters on social media are portraying the protests as fomented by the ousted Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). (Photo via Los Tiempos, Cochabamba)

The Andes
Modelo prison riot

COVID-19 sparks prison massacre in Colombia

Inmates’ fears that prison authorities are not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks inside Colombia’s notoriously overcrowded and unhygienic prisons exploded into violence, with uprisings reported at facilities across the country. The Justice Ministry acknowledged “revolts at different penitentiary centers in the country,” including the prisons in Ibague, Jamundi and Combita, two prisons in Medellín and another two in the capital Bogotá. Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said 23 had been killed in suppressing a “massive and criminal escape attempt” at Bogotá’s La Modelo prison, one of the country’s largest and most overpopulated. Local residents reported hearing gunfire and explosions at the facility. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
cartel de los soles

Venezuela: does the ‘Cartel of the Suns’ exist?

In a rare move, the US Department of Justice issued an indictment against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, charging him and 14 officials with narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other crimes. The DoJ alleges that Maduro conspired with Colombia’s FARC guerrilla army prior to becoming the president, and continued to do after assuming power. The indictment charges that this nexus has congealed under the name “Cartel of the Suns,” and that Maduro continues to collude with dissident factions of the FARC that remain in arms despite the Colombian peace accords. Attorney General William Barr said the aim of the conspiracy is “to flood the United States with cocaine.” (Image: DoJ)

The Andes
Chapare

Bolivia: regime targets Chapare for eradication

Bolivia’s National Council to Combat Illicit Drug Trafficking (CONALTID) has issued a new strategy paper calling for changes to the country’s General Coca Law that would allow eradication operations throughout the Chapare region in the eastern lowlands. The change would overturn a reform of the law made under Evo Morales that permitted coca cultivation for the legal domestic market throughout most of Chapare. The CONALTID strategy asserts that 91% of Chapare coca production is being diverted to the illicit market. In announcing the policy change, Defense Minister Fernando López issued a stern warning to the inhabitants of the Chapare: “We are not playing, we are ready for anything.” Chapare, a heartland of support for the ousted Morales, has been a de facto autonomous zone outside the control of La Paz since last year’s coup d’etat. (Photo: Página Siete)

The Andes
Chumbivilcas

Peru: campesino ecological defenders acquitted

Following a trial lasting years, a criminal court in Peru’s Cuzco region finally absolved 10 campesinos from Chumbivilcas province of charges related to a 2011 protest against the ANABI mineral project, which they say threatens the headwaters of the Rio Yahuarmayo. The defendants—nine men and one woman—are followers of the Tupac Amaru Agrarian Federation of Cuzco (FARTAC). They had been charged with “disturbance,” “deprivation of liberty,” “aggravated property damage,” and other offenses typically used against protesters in Peru. If convicted, they could have faced up to 30 years in prison. The ANABI gold and copper mine is in neighboring Apurímac region, but the minerals are transported through Chumbivilcas on unimproved roads, raising dust that contaminates local lands and waters. (Photo: Wayka)

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Medellin march

Colombia: protests met with repression —again

The protest wave in Colombia was revived with a national mobilization—to be again met with repression from the security forces. Protest organizers explicitly rejected violence, but police and gangs of masked men sabotaged efforts by municipal authorities to maintain the peace in the country’s two biggest cities. In both Bogotá and Medellín, the progressive mayors who defeated President Ivan Duque‘s far-right Democratic Center party in local elections last year had adopted protocols to prevent attacks on peaceful protesters by the feared National Police riot squad, ESMAD. Yet in both cities, clashes erupted, with several injured and scores arrested. In a repeat of a strategy also seen in last November’s protests, police raided the homes of two Bogotá activists the night before the mobilization. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

The Andes
false positives

Colombia: ex-army chief called to trial over killings

The former commander of Colombia’s armed forces, retired general Mario Montoya, has been summoned to appear before a trial to take place under the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) concerning the grisly practice of “false positives”—the killing of thousands of non-combatants in the guise of military operations against the guerillas. Under terms of the JEP, Montoya will receive leniency if he confesses the full truth. However, if he is caught lying or trying to conceal even a portion of the truth, he may be expelled from the transitional justice court and could face a 40-year prison term. Montoya has always maintained his innocence in the “false positives” scandal, but the JEP judicial authorities say this is contradicted by evidence and the testimony of 11 of his former subordinates. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: UN protests slaying of rights activists

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the killings of human rights defenders in Colombia last year. The statement said the commission is “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019.” The commission asserted that there were between 107 and 120 killings of rights activists in Colombia over the course of the year. It called on the “Colombian Government to make a strenuous effort to prevent attacks on people defending fundamental rights, to investigate each and every case and to prosecute those responsible for these violations, including instigating or aiding and abetting violations.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes
Chapare

Bolivia: regime threatens autonomous Chapare

The new Bolivian regime’s Government Minister Arturo Murillo is threatening a military invasion of the eastern lowland region of Chapare, heartland of support for ousted president Evo Morales, which has become a de facto autonmous zone outside the control of La Paz. Murillo implied to reporters that planned new elections will not proceed until control over Chapare has been re-established. In the aftermath of the November coup, the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba, the cocalero alliance once led by Morales, mobilized to resist the new regime. The region was cut off by cocalero roadblocks, and several National Police statons burned. The roadblocks have since been relaxed, but large areas of the province are without any police presence and effectively independent. (Photo: Ollie Vargas via Twitter)