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 Tibú, 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 Cúcuta. 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 Tibú or Cúcuta, 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)

Mexico
guardianacional

Mexico: narco-dystopia amid Trump-AMLO schmooze

Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador met with Trump at the White House to inaugurate the new trade treaty that replaces NAFTA. Embarrassingly, the meeting was punctuated by horrific new outbursts of narco-violence in Mexico. And the country’s promised cannabis legalization—mandated by the high court and looked to as a de-escalation of the dystopian drug war—is stalled by a paralyzed Congress. (Photo: Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana)

The Andes
Colombia military

Colombia: court orders suspension of US military ops

In an unprecedented move, a Colombian judge gave President Ivan Duque 48 hours to suspend the participation of US troops in counternarcotics operations. The legal challenge was brought after 53 soldiers from the Pentagon’s Southern Command arrived as part of a “Security Force Assistance Brigade.” When opposition lawmakers protested that they had not been consulted, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo told Congress he didn’t need their permission. Left-opposition Sen. Ivan Cepeda responded by taking the matter to the Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal. The judge ruled that if Trujillo wants the US troops to continue their operations he must either receive permission from Congress or successfully appeal the ruling within 72 hours. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

Mexico
oaxaca

Mexico: comuneros massacred in Oaxaca

An attack by armed men on local comuneros in San Mateo del Mar, in Mexico’s southern Oaxaca state, left at least 15 dead, with several more wounded or reported as “disappeared.” The confrontation began when residents of the outlying community of Huazantlán del Río attempted to gather for a public meeting and were blocked by gunmen. Some of the slain were bludgeoned to death, and several appear to have been burned, mutilated or tortured. Huazantlán residents claim municipal police were backing up the gunmen in the attack, ostensibly because the gathering violated COVID-19 restrictions. Municipal authorities in turn accuse the Huazantlán residents of being involved in criminal gangs, and are calling on state authorities to investigate. (Image: FreeWorldMaps.net)

Southeast Asia
#JunkTerrorBilllNow

Philippines: protests against ‘anti-terror’ bill

Hundreds of protesters marched in Manila against “anti-terrorism” legislation that critics fear will give Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping powers to crush dissent. The bill, approved by Congress and expected to be signed by Duterte, would create a council of presidential appointees empowered to order warrantless arrests of those deemed to be “terrorists.” It also allows for weeks of detention without charge. The Philippine Department of Justice is to issue a formal review of the bill, and opponents are demanding that it recommend a veto. In a letter addressed to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, human rights group Karapatan said the Anti-Terrorism Bill “will inevitably and ultimately infringe on the people’s exercise of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.” (Photo: Bulatlat)

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

Greater Middle East
KSA

Saudi Arabia abolishes flogging, execution of minors

Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court announced that it has abolished flogging as a form of punishment, part of a series of reforms to advance human rights in the kingdom. Court-ordered floggings sometimes extended to hundreds of lashes, and the punishment could be imposed for offenses such as extramarital sex and breach of the peace. The ruling came along with a royal decree ending the death penalty for individuals convicted of crimes when they were minors. These reforms follow unprecedented international criticism that Saudi Arabia received in 2019 for its human rights record, which included 184 executions, 84 of which were for non-violent drug crimes. (Photo: Pixabay via Jurist)

The Andes
cartel de los soles

Venezuela: does the ‘Cartel of the Suns’ exist?

In a rare move, the US Department of Justice issued an indictment against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, charging him and 14 officials with narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other crimes. The DoJ alleges that Maduro conspired with Colombia’s FARC guerrilla army prior to becoming the president, and continued to do after assuming power. The indictment charges that this nexus has congealed under the name “Cartel of the Suns,” and that Maduro continues to collude with dissident factions of the FARC that remain in arms despite the Colombian peace accords. Attorney General William Barr said the aim of the conspiracy is “to flood the United States with cocaine.” (Image: DoJ)

The Andes
Chapare

Bolivia: regime targets Chapare for eradication

Bolivia’s National Council to Combat Illicit Drug Trafficking (CONALTID) has issued a new strategy paper calling for changes to the country’s General Coca Law that would allow eradication operations throughout the Chapare region in the eastern lowlands. The change would overturn a reform of the law made under Evo Morales that permitted coca cultivation for the legal domestic market throughout most of Chapare. The CONALTID strategy asserts that 91% of Chapare coca production is being diverted to the illicit market. In announcing the policy change, Defense Minister Fernando López issued a stern warning to the inhabitants of the Chapare: “We are not playing, we are ready for anything.” Chapare, a heartland of support for the ousted Morales, has been a de facto autonomous zone outside the control of La Paz since last year’s coup d’etat. (Photo: Página Siete)

Mexico
Mexico army

Mexico: drug war dystopia unabated

Mexican lawmakers are predicting legal cannabis by month’s end, and portraying it as a key to de-escalating the endemic narco-violence. But national headlines are full of nightmarish cartel violence—making all too clear how big the challenge will be. A cannabis industry in the hands of agribusiness, with the campesinos excluded and marginalized, is unlikely to bring peace to Mexico’s conflicted countryside. (Photo: La Opción de Chihuahua)

Mexico
Mexico police

Mexico: crisis, militarization on both borders

There were scenes of chaos in Mexico’s northern border towns in response to rulings in rapid succession by a US federal appeals court on the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forces migrants and refugees seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while their claims are reviewed. Asylum-seekers who had been camped out for weeks in Matamoros, Ciudad Juárez, Nogales and Tijuana immediately amassed at the border crossings as the policy was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the crossings were closed, and hours later, the Ninth Circuit granted an emergency stay on the injunction, as requested by the administration. The gathered migrants were dispersed by Mexican security forces. Mexico has meanwhile deployed its new National Guard force to the southern border with Guatemala, to halt the flow of migrants though its territory, under pressure from the White House. (Photo: Mexico News Daily)

Mexico

Butterfly conservationist disappears in Mexico

The State Human Rights Commission in Mexico’s west-central state of Michoacán is exhorting authorities to intensify their search for a campesino ecologist and advocate for protection of the world-famous monarch butterfly habitat, who has “disappeared.” Homero Gómez González went missing one day after he posted a video of himself on Twitter standing amid a swarm of butterflies at their wintering grounds in the Michoacán highlands. He has long served as administrator of Ejido El Rosario, an agrarian community of the Mazahua indigenous people in Ocampo municipality, which overlaps with the UNESCO-recognized Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve. The Michoacán prosecutor’s office says that 53 police officers from the municipalities of Ocampo and Angangueo have been detained in relation to the disappearance. Family members say Gómez González told authorities that he had received threats from local organized crime networks. (Photo: La Voz de Michoacán)