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 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
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
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
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 Bogot√° 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 Bogot√° blast; civil society groups in Colombia have since been urging both sides to return to the table. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

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)

The Andes

Ex-FARC commander calls for return to arms

Top FARC leaders Iv√°n Marquez and Jes√ļs Santrich appeared in a YouTube video, alongside some 20 other veteran fighters, all in battle fatigues, to announce they are returning to guerilla insurgency and will launch “a new stage of armed struggle.” Reading the manifesto, Marquez charged that “the state has betrayed the Havana Accords,” the 2016 peace deal under which the FARC laid down arms. “We announce to the world that the second Marquetalia has begun,” he said, referring to the village where the FARC was founded in 1964.¬†He said they would seek to join forces both with the FARC “dissidents” who have remained in arms despite the peace deal, as well as the rival National Liberation Army (ELN). (Photo via La Vanguardia)

The Andes

US ‘committed’ to ‘dismantle’ Colombia’s ELN

The United States government is “committed” to “dismantle” Colombia’s remaining significant guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said. The US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina made the comment after he and six other federal prosecutors met with President Ivan Duque on a visit to Bogot√° to discuss cooperation “to fight narco-terrorism.” Terwilliger said the Colombian government “counts on the full support of the United States Department of Justice in the common cause to destabilize, decimate and ultimately dismantle the ELN.”¬†The guerilla group has been active since 1964 and is currently believed to have 4,000 fighters. The ELN was engaged in peace talks with Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but the talks were suspended by Duque when he took office a year ago. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia sliding deeper into internal war

Under pressure to address the ongoing wave of targeted assassinations in Colombia, President Iván Duque for the first time spoke before the National Commission to Guarantee Security, formed by the previous government to address continuing violence in the country—which has only worsened since he took office last year. Duque said 4,000 people are now under the government's protection program for threatened citizens. But his office implied that the narco trade is entirely behind the growing violence. Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez told the meeting: "This great problem is derived from the 200,000 hectares of illicit crops that we have in Colombia." However, it is clear that the narco economy is but part of a greater nexus of forces that fuel the relentless terror—all related to protecting rural land empires and intimidating the peasantry. (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes

Colombia: UN concern over political assassinations

Gilberto Valencia, a young Afro-Colombian cultural worker, became 2019's first casualty of political violence in Colombia, when a gunman opened fire on a New Years party he was attending in his village in Cauca region. As the death toll from around the country mounted over the following weeks, the UN Mission to Colombia  warned President Iván Duque that he must address "the issue of the assassinations of social leaders and human rights defenders." Colombia's official rights watchdog, the Defensoría del Pueblo, acknowledges that there was an assassination on average every two days in the country last year—a total of 172, and a rise of more than 35% over 2017.  (Photo via Caracol Radio)

The Andes

ELN peace process halted after Bogot√° blast

Colombia's President Iván Duque declared the peace process with the National Liberation Army (ELN) indefinitely suspended following a bomb blast at a National Police academy in Bogotá that left more than 20 dead and some 70 wounded. Calling the ELN a "criminal machine of kidnapping and assassination," Duque said that arrest orders against the group's top leaders, suspended for the talks, would now be carried out. He also called on Cuba, where members of the ELN command are now based, to have them arrested. The ELN took responsibility for the attack in a communique, calling it an act of "legitimate defense" that was "legal under the laws of war." The statement asserted: "The National Police School of Cadets is a military installation; there officials receive instruction and training later put to use in combat, conducting military operations, actively participating in the counter-insurgency war and bringing methods of war for use against social protest." (Photo: Colombia Reports)