Planet Watch
BLM

UN: end systemic racism in law enforcement

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged states to dismantle systematic racism against African and African-descendent peoples, in a report focusing on law enforcement around the world. The report features an analysis of 190 deaths at the hands of law enforcement, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the United States, as well as cases in the United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Colombia. “The status quo is untenable,” Bachelet said. “Systemic racism needs a systemic response… We need a transformative approach that tackles the interconnected areas that drive racism, and lead to repeated, wholly avoidable, tragedies like the death of George Floyd.” (Photo: The Village Sun)

The Andes
FANB

FARC ‘dissidents’ bring insurgency to Venezuela

So-called “dissident” FARC factions that have refused to accept the Colombian peace accords and taken refuge across the border in Venezuela now appear to be waging a local insurgency against the Nicolás Maduro regime. A group calling itself the Martin Villa 10th Front announced last month that it had captured eight Venezuelan soldiers during a battle in Apure state, near the Colombian border. Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Armed Forces later announced that the soldiers had been freed in a rescue operation. But independent media in Venezuela report that the eight were actually released under terms of a deal negotiated in Cuba. The deal was said to have been brokered with the help of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a second Colombia guerilla group which remains in arms and whose leadership is based in Havana. (Photo of captive soliders being released via FANB)

The Andes
false positives

Colombia: ex-prez apologizes for ‘false positives’

Colombia’s ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing an end to the country’s long internal war, publicly apologized for his role in the practice of “false positives“—extrajudicial executions by the armed forces, in which the victims were reported as guerillas slain in combat. The apology came in testimony before Colombia’s Truth Commission, created under the peace process that Santos himself initiated. Santos admitted that most of the “false positives” took place when he served as defense minister under the hardline president Álvaro Uribe, and that he initially turned a blind eye to the practice. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

The Andes
paro

Colombia: Duque unleashes army on protesters

Colombian President Iván Duque announced the deployment of military forces to put down the protests that have been rocking the country since a national strike was called a month ago. Speaking from violence-torn Cali as some 1,400 soldiers arrived in the city, he said army troops would focus on “nerve centers where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism.” An additional 7,000 troops were sent to break up roadblocks in the local department of Valle del Cauca. “Islands of anarchy cannot exist,” Duque declared. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

The Andes
paro

Colombia: gunmen fire on indigenous protesters

Colombian President Iván Duque flew to Cali in the middle of the night after street clashes in the southwestern city left several indigenous protesters injured. Amid a national strikesparked by Duque’s proposed burdensome tax reform, some 5,000 indigenous activists from the nearby administrative department of Cauca had been holding a “Minga,” or protest gathering, on the outskirts of Cali, when unknown gunmen in civilian dress arrived in a pickup truck and opened fire. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reported that at least 10 activists were wounded, and that the gunmen were intermingled and cooperating with uniformed police. Bogotá has also seen days of street fighting, while an ongoing street festival, with music and dancing, is being maintained by strike supporters in Medellín—despite police repression that has led to hundreds of detentions. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

The Andes
duque

UN expresses alarm over Colombia repression

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at a new outburst of police violence against protesters in the Colombian city of Cali. This violence comes after more than a week of protests that have resulted in 14 deaths across Colombia. The protests began in response to a proposed tax reform law aimed at shoring up the country’s finances following a year of COVID-19 stagnation. Among the proposed reforms are deeply unpopular sales taxes on food and utilities, as well as cutbacks in social services. In the face of rapidly expanding protests across the country, President Iván Duque requested that the draft bill be withdrawn from Congress. But he also called the protesters “vandals and terrorists,” and has threatened to mobilize army troops in the cities. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

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)

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 López 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: Sofía 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)