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 In the face of rapidly expanding protests across the country, President Iván Duque requested that the draft bill be withdrawn from Congress.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)

Southern Cone
paraguay

March revolution in Paraguay?

Paraguay is witnessing an explosion of mass protest over government mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. With hospitals overwhelmed and infections soaring, teachers refused orders for a mandatory return to classes. The following day, nurses, doctors, patients and their families demonstrated outside the main hospital in the capital Asunción to protest the lack of vaccines, protective equipment and basic medications. Finally, widespread protests escalated to clashes with the riot police, leaving one demonstrator dead and several injured. President Mario Abdo Benítez of the conservative Colorado Party offered dialogue and forced the resignation of several cabinet members, including the health minister. But protesters continue to mobilize, demanding the resignation of Abdo himself and his entire government, under the slogan !Que se vayan todos! (Throw them all out!) (Photo via Twitter)

The Andes
Yaku PĂ©rez

Ecuador: protests in wake of disputed elections

Hundreds of indigenous protesters rallied outside the offices of Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) in Quito to demand a recount of the presidential vote. Third-place finisher Yaku PĂ©rez of the indigenous-based Pachakutic party, eliminated from the run-off election to be held in April, led a week-long cross-country march of his supporters from Loja province in the south which repeatedly blocked traffic on the Pan-American Highway before arriving in the capital for the rally. He then led a delegation to the CNE office, carrying boxes with more than 16,000 statements purporting to show irregularities. At the demonstration, his supporters chanted, “Transparency yes, fraud no!” (Photo of Yaku PĂ©rez, on bicycle, via Wikipedia)

The Caribbean
Haitians in Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic to build wall on Haitian border

The Dominican Republic’s President Luis Abinador announced that work will begin this year on a wall along the country’s 376-kilometer border with Haiti. “Within two years we want to end the serious problems of illegal immigration, drug-trafficking and the transport of stolen vehicles that we’ve suffered from for two years,” said Abinader. Weeks earlier, Abinader and his Haitian counterpart Jovenel Moise signed an agreement that included a commitment to take measures against “the wave of illegal migration” and to “reinforce border security and vigilance.” Two years ago, Dominican authorities started erecting a section of fence along the border at El Carrizal, sparking angry protests by Haitian immigrants living in the area. (Photo: Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores via Change.org)

Afghanistan
Badakhshan

Did China plan ‘false flag’ attacks in Afghanistan?

India’s Hindustan Times reports that Afghanistan has busted a conclave of 10 Chinese espionage agents that was supposedly “operating a terror cell” in Kabul. Citing unnamed diplomats and security officials, the account claims the spies were in contact with the Haqqani Network, now the inner core of the Taliban insurgency, and were gathering information on the activities of Uighur militants in Badakhshan province. Badakhshan includes Afghanistan’s eastern “panhandle” that extends to the border with China’s Xinjiang region, and has been named before as a stronghold of Uighur militancy. The account states: “One view within the Afghan security establishment is that the detainees were creating a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) module in Afghanistan to entrap ETIM operatives in Afghanistan.” ETIM is the supposed Uighur network blamed by Chinese authorities for sporadic armed attacks within the People’s Republic over the past generation, although there is skepticism that it actually exists in any organized sense. (Map via Afghan War Blog)

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
peru protester

Peru: after deadly repression, protesters win a round

Following an outburst of angry protest across the country, Peru’s third president in less than a week was sworn in, with a coalition cabinet aimed at bringing the country back from the brink of chaos. The crisis was set off by the impeachment of President MartĂ­n Vizcarra, who had been investigating corruption by the hard-right Fujimorista bloc in Congress—and whose removal was assailed as a “legislative coup.” The new interim president, former Congressional leader Manuel Merino, was perceived as a pawn of the hard right; demonstrators flooded the streets of Lima and other cities after his inauguration. In two days of repression by the National Police, two young protesters were killed, more than 200 injured, and two more listed as “disappeared.” Merino and his cabinet stepped down, leaving the country without a president for nearly 24 hours before Congress finally agreed to approve a replacement. This is Francisco Rafael Sagasti, a first-term congressman representing Lima. Although Sagasti is from the center-right Partido Morado, his installation is being seen as a victory for the protesters. He took office with an homage to the slain demonstrators, praising them for having “marched to defend democracy. (Photo: Revista Ojozurdo)

North Africa
western sahara

Polisario declares end to Western Sahara truce

The Polisario Front has declared the 1991 Western Sahara ceasefire defunct after Morocco launched a military operation within the UN-patrolled buffer strip through the disputed territory. At issue is a road linking the territory to Mauritania, which passes through the buffer zone just before the border. Polisario considers the road illegal, claiming it was built in violation of the 1991 truce. What are variously called protesters or Polisario-linked militia have been blocking the road at Guerguera, within the buffer zone. Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces say they are seeking to secure the flow of goods and people along the road; Polisario contends the road is being used to smuggle drugs and contraband. Polisario’s armed wing, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army, claims to have launched attacks on Moroccan forces. It is unclear if the renewed conflict has yet claimed any lives. (Photo: MINURSO via Yabiladi)

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)

Mexico
Oscar Eyraud Adams

Water protector slain in Baja California

Oscar Eyraud Adams, a community activist in the Mexican border town of Tecate, Baja California, was assassinated in an attack on his home by what local accounts described as an “armed commando.” The following day, his brother-in-law was gunned down in a convenience store along the Tecate-Ensenada highway. Adams had been a prominent advocate for the Kumiai (also rendered Kumeyaay) indigenous people in their struggle for irrigation concessions for their remote communities in outlying rural areas of Tecate and Ensenada municipalities, which have been denied by the National Water Commission (ConAgua). Friends and supporters of Adams are blaming the assassinations on the “narco-state” and demanding that authorities investigate them as political crimes. (Photo: @AguaParaTodxsMX)

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)