The Andes
Cauca

Massacres, assassinations continue in Colombia

Police killed at least eight people in Colombia’s southwestern city of Cali, amid national protests against President Iván Duque’s proposed reform of the tax code. Clashes between police and protesters also took place in Bogotá, Medellin and other cities. In response to the protest wave, Duque said he would revise his proposed reform, and that new taxes on sales of food and gasoline would be dropped. The protests come as political violence is escalating nearly across Colombia, but especially the southwest. Amid the violence, a locally-organized “Caravan for Peace” is making its way through the region, calling for a dialogue with armed actors and civil society to arrive at a new “Pact for Life & Peace,” addresing needs for security, land, and economic sustenance. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

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castillo

Peru: electoral upset portends polarization

Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru’s electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country’s elites, and has actually been assailed as a “mafia organization.” Castillo, in vivid contrast, is a former school-teacher and trade unionist of campesino background from the poor and rural Andean region of Cajamarca. His successful grassroots campaign is seen an upsurge from such forgotten parts of the country, in rejection of the Lima-based political class. (Photo of Pedro Castillo in Lima via Twitter)

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Apure

FARC ultra-dissidents in Venezuela clashes?

Some 3,000 Venezuelans fled across the border into Colombian territory to escape an outbreak of fighting between the military and an unnamed armed faction. Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino LĂłpez said that in an operation dubbed Bolivarian Shield, troops have arrested 32 people, destroyed six camps, and seized weapons. There have also been reports of two Venezuelan soldiers killed in the fighting. Padrino did not name the armed group targeted in the operation, only identifying a supposed commander by his nom de guerre “Nando.” But regional media reports indicate the targeted group is one of the “dissident” factions of the Colombian FARC rebels that have remained in arms despite a peace accord. Bogotá accuses Venezuela of providing shelter to FARC dissidents. It is hypothesized that the group targeted in Bolivarian Shield is a dissident faction refusing to accept the leadership favored by Caracas. (Map: SofĂ­a Jaimes Barreto via Caracas Chronicles)

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Yaku PĂ©rez

Ecuador: protests in wake of disputed elections

Hundreds of indigenous protesters rallied outside the offices of Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) in Quito to demand a recount of the presidential vote. Third-place finisher Yaku PĂ©rez of the indigenous-based Pachakutic party, eliminated from the run-off election to be held in April, led a week-long cross-country march of his supporters from Loja province in the south which repeatedly blocked traffic on the Pan-American Highway before arriving in the capital for the rally. He then led a delegation to the CNE office, carrying boxes with more than 16,000 statements purporting to show irregularities. At the demonstration, his supporters chanted, “Transparency yes, fraud no!” (Photo of Yaku PĂ©rez, on bicycle, via Wikipedia)

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yaku

Indigenous candidate upsets Ecuador elections

Ecuador is heading to a run-off presidential race in April after leftist candidate Andrés Arauzof the Union of Hope (UNES) coalition won a first-round victory, following years of economic austerity made more painful by the pandemic. However, in a surprise development, his rival leftist Yaku Pérez Guartambel of the indigenous-based Pachakutik party emerged neck-to-neck with conservative banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creating Opportunities (CREO) party. The vote is still too close to call which challenger Arauz will face in the April run-off. Pérez portrays UNES and CREO alike as parties of the right that have embraced an economic model based on resource extraction. (Photo: Revista Crisis)

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FARC

Colombia: ex-FARC leaders accused of war crimes

Eight former commanders of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Top commanders Rodrigo Londoño, Pablo Catatumbo and Pastor Alape are among the eight former leaders facing the accusations. They are held responsible for the kidnapping of thousands of people during Colombia’s internal armed conflict that spanned decades. Murder and torture are specific war crimes related to the treatment of hostages. The kidnappings funded FARC’s war against the state and were used to press for the release of imprisoned rebels. The hostages included soldiers and police officers, as well as politicians and other civilians. (Image via Colombia Reports)

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comunes

Colombia’s ex-FARC rebranded —again

Colombia’s former FARC rebels voted to no longer use the acronym of their now-defunct guerilla army as that of their new political party. The change in name was proposed by the FARC’s former military commander Rodrigo Londoño AKA “Timochenko,” ahead of the leftist party’s Second Extraordinary Assembly. It was approved by a majority vote of 250 participating delegates at the assembly, which was held via video link at several points around the country. Delegates agreed to change the party’s name to Comunes (Commons). The former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia originally re-branded in 2017 as the Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons. The full name and associated acronym were dropped to disassociate the party from the former guerilla army, which remains listed as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the US State Department, as well as from “dissident” guerilla factions that have remained in arms. The acronym dates to the founding of the guerilla army in 1964. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

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sillazo

Bolivia: Evo Morales warns of new coup

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales, back in his country from exile in Argentina after October’s elections returned his Movement to Socialism (MAS) to power, warned of the ongoing danger of a new coup d’etat and asked his followers to debate how to best defend new President Luis Arce and the “process of change.” The comments came at a meeting of the MAS in Chapare region, Morales’ traditional heartland of support. Recalling his own ouster in November 2019, Morales said: “The issue of the coup is still compelling; it is an ideological, programmatic struggle; it is a cultural, social, communal and, of course, an electoral struggle.” Invoking divided loyalties in the military, he added: “I am also convinced that in the Armed Forces there are not only those who respect and admire the MAS, but there are also anti-imperialist soldiers.” However, he added that “they are not many,” and others have “submitted to the North American empire.” (Photo: Los Tiempos de Cochabamba via Twitter)

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paramilitaries

UN rights chief warns of heightened violence in Colombia

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged state authorities in Colombia to respond to heightened violence with concrete action and stronger protection. According to the UN Human Rights Office, 375 killings have been recorded in Colombia thus far in 2020. Of these killings, 255 people were slain in 66 massacres, and 120 human rights defenders have also been killed. What is more, since Colombia’s peace agreement was signed in November 2016, a total of 244 demobilized FARC fighters have been slain. The killings continue to be committed “by non-state armed groups, criminal groups and other armed elements,” moslty in remote areas of Colombia, and particularly targeting “peasants, indigenous and Afro-Colombian people.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

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Parra Cubillos

Ecologist assassinated in Colombian national park

Javier Francisco Parra Cubillos, environmental director of Cormacarena, the government body responsible for managing La Macarena national park on the eastern slopes of the Colombian Andes, died in a local hospital after receiving multiple gunshot wounds from a pair of presumed sicarios (hired assassins) who fired on him from a motorbike. The remote area of fragile cloud-forest has long been the scene of armed conflict and coca cultivation, and has recently seen a surge in illegal logging. Parra Cubillos won national attention in 2017, when he accompanied Colombia’s then-president Juan Manuel Santos on a visit to a scenic site within the park, Caño Cristales (Cyrstal Canyon), to raise awareness about the need to preserve the zone. The government has offered a reward of 40 million pesos (about $11,500) for information leading the apprehension of the assailants. (Photo: Cormacarena via Semana)

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Ica

Farmworker protests paralyze southern Peru

Hundreds of striking farmworkers are blocking the Panamerican highway through southern Peru, demanding revocation of a decree extending an anti-labor agricultural reform law that was supposed to sunset this year. The protests have prompted the central government to send a dialogue team from Lima to Ica region, but the farmworkers have refused dismantle the roadblocks, insisting on a face-to-face meeting with Agriculture Minister Federico Tenorio. At issue is the Law for Agrarian Promotion—dubbed the Chlimper Law for its author, José Chlimper, who served as agriculture minister under the authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s. (Photo via Expreso)

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peru protester

Peru: after deadly repression, protesters win a round

Following an outburst of angry protest across the country, Peru’s third president in less than a week was sworn in, with a coalition cabinet aimed at bringing the country back from the brink of chaos. The crisis was set off by the impeachment of President MartĂ­n Vizcarra, who had been investigating corruption by the hard-right Fujimorista bloc in Congress—and whose removal was assailed as a “legislative coup.” The new interim president, former Congressional leader Manuel Merino, was perceived as a pawn of the hard right; demonstrators flooded the streets of Lima and other cities after his inauguration. In two days of repression by the National Police, two young protesters were killed, more than 200 injured, and two more listed as “disappeared.” Merino and his cabinet stepped down, leaving the country without a president for nearly 24 hours before Congress finally agreed to approve a replacement. This is Francisco Rafael Sagasti, a first-term congressman representing Lima. Although Sagasti is from the center-right Partido Morado, his installation is being seen as a victory for the protesters. He took office with an homage to the slain demonstrators, praising them for having “marched to defend democracy. (Photo: Revista Ojozurdo)