The Andes
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)

The Amazon
facebook

Facebook enables deforestation in Brazilian Amazon

Criminal networks in Brazil are illegally selling and deforesting protected lands—even within an indigenous reserve—and posting the plots for sale on Facebook, according to an investigation by the BBC. In a documentary, “Selling the Amazon,” BBC Brasil went undercover to reveal how illegal land-grabbers are moving in on public land in the Amazon—clearing rainforest and selling plots to ranchers at highly inflated prices. The documentary showed plots of these cleared lands being openly advertized on Facebook. Contacted by BBC, Facebook said it was “ready to work with the authorities” to investigate the matter, but would not take independent action to halt the land-trading on its platform. (Photo via Mongabay)

The Andes
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)

The Andes
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)

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 reference to Havana’s hosting of peace delegations from Colombian guerilla groups in their efforts to broker an accord with Bogotá 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’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)

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, 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)

The Andes
Minga

Colombia: indigenous ‘minga’ marches on Bogotá

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 Bogotá. 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 Iván 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
Belalcázar

Monumental controversy hits Colombia

Local indigenous people toppled the statue of conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in Popayán, capital of Colombia’s southwestern Cauca department. The statue came down 84 years after local authorities had erected it atop Morro de Tulcán, 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 Iván 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 Bogotá

Colombia’s capital Bogotá has seen nightly protests since the slaying of a law student at the hands of police. Video footage showed Javier Ordoñez, 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 Iván 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—but refused to call them “massacres.” Visiting Pasto, capital of Nariño 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—collective homicides.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)