Friday, March 10, 2017

Colombia's ongoing territorial challenges (March 10, 2017)

InSight Crime investigations show criminalized guerrilla factions are appearing all across Colombia, calling into question authorities' assurances that the battle occupy former FARC territories is already won. "... The government looks more like the losing player in some areas, as heavily armed groups fight openly in strategic turf..." 

InSight points to areas of particular concern where FARC dissident factions have gone rogue, which tend to be prize areas for illicit drug and mining revenues, notes the report. "But state forces are often on the sidelines of this battle over FARC turf. A prominent case is the Pacific town of Tumaco, Nariño, where former guerrillas are consolidating into rival drug trafficking structures and driving up the murder rate. The violence in one sector became so extreme that the local community called for state authorities to intervene a few months ago. But it was ultimately the FARC who, in the middle of the bilateral ceasefire with the government, were obliged to step in and assassinate one of their most prominent dissidents, according to certain sources." In other cases, troop movement towards FARC demobilization zones has left certain localities more vulnerable than ever.
The International Red Cross said that thousands of people across Colombia are still falling victim to rape, killings and torture, though the organization believes the FARC peace deal is working. The IRC pointed to other rebel groups still in activity and remaining challenges such as landmines and urban violence, reports the BBC.

A report in Silla Vacía on one community in Chocó that where over 170 families have been displaced by clashes between the ELN and Autodefensas Gaitanistas for example. It's the fourth forced displacement from violence this year in the department.

A small scale licensing process for medical marijuana in Colombia represents a possible opportunity for families who spent years producing the drug illicitly under the FARC and shows what a regional shift away from war on drugs might look like, reports the New York Times. Efforts to move peasants to licit productions hit up against obstacles such as less income, said some Colombian authorities. Legal drugs could become an important economic tool, says health minister Alejandro Gaviria.

News Briefs
  • Guatemalan human rights officials say the girls killed in a fire this weekend in a home for abused children may have been locked in, preventing their escape. The death toll from the blaze in the institution near Guatemala City is up to 35, reports the New York Times. The attorney general's office has assigned 16 prosecutors to investigate the case. The country's human rights prosecutor said yesterday that many younger residents fled after suffering abuse at the hands of older residents, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The U.S. Department of Justice has declined to make public the names of Ecuadorian officials implicated in the Odebrecht corruption case, citing the ongoing investigation. The DOJ was responding to U.S. Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's request to disclose the information -- a politically charged move in light of Ecuador's upcoming second-round presidential elections, notes the Miami Herald. In December Odebrecht pleaded guilty in U.S. courts to paying almost $800 million in bribes in order to secure contracts in Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Ecuador's current president, Rafael Correa, has accused U.S. authorities of skewing information to impact the elections.
  • Most migrants in the U.S. illegally have overstayed valid visas -- up to 66 percent, according to new data from the Center for Migration Studies. This "would make Trump's border wall — the centerpiece of his immigration enforcement policy — a monumental waste of money," argues Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald. The CMS report demonstrates "virtually all of Trump's claims about illegal immigration are based on falsehoods," he writes. "His planned border wall would only be a useless — and very expensive — monument to xenophobic demagoguery."
  • Use of "disappeared" in the context of migrants gone missing trying to cross the border could be controversial, considering the term's loaded Latin American history. But a new report from Tucson-based "Derechos Humanos" argues that the term is applicable, and that migrants state violence in the form of U.S. border enforcement policies and practices, reports NACLA.
  • Bolivia announced a "people's" conference on migration issues, reports TeleSUR.
  • NAFTA renegotiations likely won't get underway until late this year -- a timetable that threatens to overlap with an election year in Mexico, and could make negotiations even more fraught, reports Bloomberg. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • EFE has an interesting mini-profile of Mexican lawmaker Delfina Gomez of AMLO's Morena party, who is running for governor of Mexico state.
  • Studies show that gender-related violence is linked to prevalence of youth criminality, reports InSight Crime in a piece focused on how violence against women fosters more crime.
  • Workers at one of Peru's top copper mines halted production today as part of an indefinite strike, reports Reuters. The owners of Cerro Verde plan to use non-unionized workers to mitigate the effects of the strike.
  • A nice piece by Jacqueline Charles, the Miami Herald's Haiti correspondent, remembering former President René Préval, who died last week. "When Préval unexpectedly died Friday at the age of 74, the two-term president left a legacy of better roads and greater political stability. He was not a showman, and his quiet demeanor irked diplomats and — at times — Haitians. But for me, no memory is stronger than his quiet focus in the hours after the worst disaster to strike Haiti in modern times." (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Brazilian Supreme Court judge Luís Roberto Barroso said last month he'd favor legalizing marijuana as a way of easing pressure on the country's penitentiary system, reports O Globo
  • Brazil's government is freeing up access to workers' compulsory savings plans as a way of providing an economic stimulus without adding to government spending, reports Bloomberg.
  • Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly has started gathering data and publishing the country's inflation rate, amid official government silence on the issue of the soaring price increases, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine inflation is stubborn, and will likely reach over 20 percent this year, despite official efforts to tame the perennial problem, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the meantime the country's urban poverty rate rose to 32.9 percent in the third quarter of 2016 affecting 13 million people due to the precarious labor market and lack of long-term development policies, according to a new report by the Universidad Católica Argentina, reports EFE.

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