The Caribbean
havana

US returns Cuba to ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ list

The US Department of State has once again designated Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism. In 2015, the Obama administration removed Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which currently includes North Korea, Iran and Syria. In a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department accused Cuba of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.” Ironically, this is¬†a refence to Havana’s hosting of peace delegations from Colombian guerilla groups in their efforts to broker an accord with Bogot√° over the past six years. (Photo: Falkanpost/Pixabay)

The Andes
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‚Äôs 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)

The Andes
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, Ca√Īo 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)

The Andes
Minga

Colombia: indigenous ‘minga’ marches on Bogot√°

Some 10,000 participated in a cross-country march and motorcade through Colombia’s southern Andes, dubbed the “Minga for Life, Territory, Democracy and Peace,” culminating in a mass demonstration in Bogot√°. Called by Nasa and Guambiano indigenous leaders in the southern department of Cauca, the Minga (a traditional Andean word for “collective labor”) was joined by Afro-Colombian and mestizo campesino communities in its 10-day trek to the capital. Chief among the marchers’ grievances is the ongoing wave of assassinations of social leaders by illegal armed groups operating on indigenous lands. They charge that their communities have been betrayed by President Iv√°n Duque’s failure to fully implement terms of the peace accords with the demobilized FARC guerillas. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
jorge 40

Colombia: paramilitary boss returns to face justice

Rodrigo Tovar AKA “Jorge 40,” one of Colombia’s most wanted paramilitary leaders, was flown back to his home country after 12 years in US prisons for drug trafficking. Once an official in his hometown of Valledupar, Tovar became commander of the feared “Bloque Norte” of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary network. Revelations upon his demobilization in 2006 triggered the so-called “parapolitics” scandal, with his testimony implicating top government figures in the officially illegal armed networks. But Tovar stopped cooperatingwith Colombian justice after his brother was assassinated in 2009, a year after his extraditionto the US. He now faces multiple charges of war crimes and human rights violations in Colombia, most notoriously the 2000 massacre of 60 civilians at the village of El Saldado. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

The Andes
Belalc√°zar

Monumental controversy hits Colombia

Local indigenous people toppled the statue of conquistador Sebasti√°n de Belalc√°zar in Popay√°n, capital of Colombia’s southwestern Cauca department. The statue came down 84 years after local authorities had erected it atop Morro de Tulc√°n, a hill that had been a sacred site for the Misak indigenous people. The Movement of Indigenous Authorities of the Southwest¬†issued a statement saying the move to overturn the monument was taken following a decision by traditional elders of the Misak community. Many Colombians have celebrated the toppling of the statue, calling it “historic.” Left-opposition senator Gustavo Petro said, “The monuments to the conquistadors and slaveholders are an insult to the people of Colombia, its indigenous and its Black ethnicity.” Supporters of right-wing President Iv√°n Duque, however, are appalled. Misak leaders report¬†an increase in threats and harassment from National Police troops since the statue was brought down. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

The Andes
bogota riots

Colombia: anti-police protests rock Bogot√°

Colombia’s capital Bogot√° has seen nightly protests since the¬†slaying of a law student at the hands of police. Video footage showed Javier Ordo√Īez, an attorney and father of two, being repeatedly shocked with a stun-gun before being taken to a police station, after he was stopped for public drinking in violation of COVID-19 containment measures. He died in a hospital later that night. Protests erupted after his death, with hundreds gathering outside the station where he had been held, and police responded with tear-gas and flash-bang grenades. At least seven have been killed and 80 arrested since then, as protests have spread throughout the city. The Defense Ministry says 53 police stations and posts have been attacked, with 17 incinerated. The military as well as elite National Police anti-riot force ESMAD have been mobilized to put down the protests. (Photo via¬†Colombia Reports)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: Duque denies ongoing massacres

Amid the relentless and escalating wave of massacres and assassinations in Colombia, President Iv√°n Duque is adopting openly euphemistic terminology in an attempt to downplay the crisis. This week he acknowledged that massacres at various points around the country over the past days had left more than 30 dead‚ÄĒbut refused to call them “massacres.” Visiting Pasto, capital of Nari√Īo department which has been the scene of several recent attacks, he said: “Many people have said, ‘the massacres are returning, the massacres are returning’; first we have to use the precise name‚ÄĒcollective homicides.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes
samaniego

Students massacred in Colombian village

Eight young people at a social gathering were killed in Colombia’s southern Nari√Īo department when unknown gunmen barged in and opened fire. The victims, between the ages of 17 and 25, were university students who had returned to the village of Samaniego due to the pandemic. They were enjoying a small party at a family farm on the edge of the village when the attack took place.¬†One woman and one minor were among the dead. Nari√Īo Gov. Jhon Rojas did not name any group as responsible for the attack, but noted presence in the area of ELN guerillas, “dissident” FARC factions that have remained in arms despite the peace accord, and right-wing paramilitaries. Rojas called on national authorities to “return tranquility to the region” by fulfilling terms of the 2016 peace accords, which President Ivan Duque has opposed. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
Abelardo Liz

Colombia: indigenous journalist slain by army

An indigenous journalist was among two killed when army troops were called in to evict a land occupation in Colombia’s southern Cauca region. The lands of three haciendas had been under occupation for months by Nasa indigenous campesinos at El Guan√°bano, Corinto municipality, as part of a land reclamation campaign dubbed “Liberaci√≥n de la Madre Tierra.” The National Police riot squad¬†was first mobilized to clear them, burning their huts and destroying crops. When the occupiers fought back, the army was sent in, and troops opened fire. Abelardo Liz, who was covering the confrontation for Naci√≥n Nasa community radio station, was shot in the abdomen, and died while being rushed to the hospital in Corinto. (Photo via RSF)

The Andes
Totumito

Colombia: massacre sparks mass displacement

A massacre that left eight campesinos dead in northeast Colombia’s Catatumbo region spurred the forced displacement of some 450 people, local authorities report. The massacre at Totumito vereda (hamlet) in Tib√ļ, a rural municipality on the border with Venezuela, took place amid a territorial dispute between the ELN guerrillas and Los Rastrojos, a¬†paramilitary network that largely controls the nearby border city of C√ļcuta. According to the Catatumbo Campesino Association (ASCAMCAT), the Rastrojos carried out the attack after the ELN planted a banner with their logo in the vereda. More than¬†100 families have fled to the municipal centers of Tib√ļ or C√ļcuta, fearing another attack. Control of drug-trafficking routes over the Venezuelan border is said to be at issue in the conflict. (Photo via¬†Colombia Reports)

The Andes
huila

Colombia: campesinos massacred in Huila

A band of armed men in trucks and on motorcycles invaded two veredas (hamlets) in the rural zone of Algeciras municipality, in Colombia’s central-south department of Huila, terrorizing local residents. The armed men entered homes, menacing the families at gunpoint, before identifying one family they had apparently marked for death. Four family members were killed, and two more wounded, including an eight-year-old boy. The gunmen fled before they could be identified. However, both “dissident” elements of the FARC guerillas who remain¬†in arms in defiance of the peace deal and right-wing paramilitary groups are active in the area. Ex-FARC combatants are being especially targetted by the paramilitaries. (Photo via El Tiempo)