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)

North Africa
tripoli

Libya: Tripoli protests met with repression

At least six protesters were abducted and several others wounded when armed men fired into the crowd to disperse a demonstration in the Libyan capital. The gunmen, who used truck-mounted heavy machine-guns as well as small arms, apparently belonged to a militia under the informal command of the Interior Ministry. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord suspended Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga while an investigation is underway. Protests have continued to fill Tripoli’s Martyrs¬†Square, and have spread to other cities controlled by the GNA, including Misrata and al-Zawyia. Demonstrators are denouncing official corruption and calling for the provision of essential services such as electricity. They are also demanding an end to impunity for lawless militias and a transition to full democracy. (Photo:¬†Libya Observer)

Mexico
ocosingo

Mexico: Zapatista community attacked in Chiapas

A communal coffee warehouse in one of the rebel Zapatista base communities in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas was burned down in an attack by a rival campesino group that operates a paramilitary force in the area. The New Dawn of the Rainbow Commercial Center, maintained by small coffee cultivators loyal to the Zapatista rebel movement, was attacked by followers of the Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO), according to a statement from the National Indigenous Congress. In response to the attack, a group of prominent Mexican cultural and intellectual figures, including popular singer Julieta Venegas, issued a¬†statement, protesting: “This new aggression is part of the intensification of the war of attrition in the state of Chiapas, characterized by an increase in violence by paramilitary groups and organized crime.” (Photo via EspoirChiapas)

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)

North Africa
Libya Refinery

Russian mercenaries occupy Libyan oil terminals

Libya’s eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, his long siege of Tripoli broken by the city’s defenders in June, continues to hold the country’s principal oil terminals, and has established effective control over the Petroleum Facilities Guard. The UN this week brokered a ceasefire between Haftar and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, seeking to re-open exports from the terminals. Haftar agreed to the ceasefire after the US threatened sanctions against him. Russia, in turn, is apparently backing Haftar, sending arms and mercenaries to help his forces secure the terminals. Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group is especially said to be present at Es-Sider terminal, outside the port city of Ras Lanuf. (Photo via¬†Libyan Express)

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)

Southern Cone
quilombo

Military Police evict land occupation in Brazil

Brazilian Military Police completed the eviction of a long-standing land occupation called Quilombo Campo Grande in Minas Gerais state, after a struggle of almost three days. Police brought in armored vehicles and fired tear-gas to clear the community from the land, before moving in to destroy homes and crops. Also demolished was the Eduardo Galeano Popular School, where children, youth and adults studied together. The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), whose followers established the squatter community on the abandoned lands of a bankrupt sugar mill 22 years ago, protested that the mass eviction leaves some 450 families homeless in the midst of a pandemic. (Photo: MST via Brasil de Fato)

Central America
Cubilguitz

Maya villagers attacked by gunmen in Guatemala

Q’eqchi Maya campesinos in Guatemala’s central Alta Verapaz department were attacked by a group of unknown gunmen who violently evicted them from their homes before setting them to the torch. At least 40 families lost their homes in the attack at the hamlet of Balbatzul, in Cob√°n municipality. President Alejandro Giammattei said National Civil Police troops have taken control of the hamlet, and the Fiscal√≠a has opened an investigation. Some of the targetted homes were on occupied lands of a large farm, Finca Cubilguitz, which appears to have been at issue in the conflict. Local campesinos moved onto the lands last year, but leadership of the occupation has been contested between followers of the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) and ex-guerilla commander C√©sar Montes. (Photo: CUC)

The Andes
Abelardo Liz

Colombia: indigenous journalist slain by army

An indigenous journalist was among two killed when army troops were called in to evict a land occupation in Colombia’s southern Cauca region. The lands of three haciendas had been under occupation for months by Nasa indigenous campesinos at El Guan√°bano, Corinto municipality, as part of a land reclamation campaign dubbed “Liberaci√≥n de la Madre Tierra.” The National Police riot squad¬†was first mobilized to clear them, burning their huts and destroying crops. When the occupiers fought back, the army was sent in, and troops opened fire. Abelardo Liz, who was covering the confrontation for Naci√≥n Nasa community radio station, was shot in the abdomen, and died while being rushed to the hospital in Corinto. (Photo via RSF)

Europe
Minsk protest

Net silence as Belarus explodes into protest

Long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko cut off internet across most of Belarus as the country explodes into angry protests in the wake of contested presidential elections. Riot police are unleashing harsh repression, using rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and water hoses against demonstrators. One person has been reported killed and many more wounded, including several police officers. According to preliminary results, Lukashenko won an unlikely 80% of the vote, with the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya taking only 10%. Tikhanovskaya was a surprise replacement for her husband Sergei, a popular blogger who was arrested after he attempted to launch his candidacy. She held large rallies in Minsk and other cities, riding a groundswell of discontent with Lukashenko. (Photo: Meduza)

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
huila

Colombia: campesinos massacred in Huila

A band of armed men in trucks and on motorcycles invaded two veredas (hamlets) in the rural zone of Algeciras municipality, in Colombia’s central-south department of Huila, terrorizing local residents. The armed men entered homes, menacing the families at gunpoint, before identifying one family they had apparently marked for death. Four family members were killed, and two more wounded, including an eight-year-old boy. The gunmen fled before they could be identified. However, both “dissident” elements of the FARC guerillas who remain¬†in arms in defiance of the peace deal and right-wing paramilitary groups are active in the area. Ex-FARC combatants are being especially targetted by the paramilitaries. (Photo via El Tiempo)