Wednesday, March 1, 2017

FARC begins disarmament process (March 1, 2017)

Colombia's FARC rebels say they will begin laying down arms later today, as stipulated in the November peace agreement, reports the BBC. Nearly 7,000 fighters have gathered in 26 concentration areas, and will now register their weapons with U.N. monitors and reveal hidden stashes of explosives. Full disarmament must be completed by May 30. But logistical delays have set back the calendar: 30 percent of arms were to be handed over today, instead only 320 fighters will disarm by the end of the day.

The first step will be registration of weapons, followed by their handover to U.N. monitors, explains El Tiempo. The armaments will eventually be deposited in containers at the 26 sites, reports El País.

The FARC is reportedly concerned that the Colombian government is not holding up its part of the deal, according to TeleSUR. Group leadership is concerned over protection of demobilized fighters in the camps, and lack of basic services in the concentration areas.

Failure to adequately implement these zones, perhaps the easiest part of the government's peace-process commitments "is now breeding doubts it can fulfill the more than 700 pledges it made to transform Colombia and facilitate the FARC’s transition into an unarmed political movement," reports the Christian Science Monitor

Related note: In la Silla Vacía Rodrigo Uprimny explores the complex issue of "command responsibility" in the peace accords, and argues it is of critical importance as an incorrect resolution could jeopardize the peace implementation and legitimacy. The question refers to whether military commanders are held responsible for human rights violations carried out by subalterns. Uprimny argues that Colombia should follow international jurisprudence, which generally requires that the commander have knowledge of atrocities committed by subalterns, effective command over them, and fail to take reasonable and necessary measures to stop and prevent such actions. 

(See Dec. 15's briefs for Human Rights Watch's view on the issue, which criticizes the last minute exception for army officers under the peace deal, which could jeopardize the prosecutions of 14 army generals under investigation for the so-called "false positives" cases in which the military lured civilians to remote areas, then killed them and presented them as guerrillas, to inflate body counts.)

News Briefs
  • A growing list of paramilitary leaders and drug traffickers leaving jail is raising fears that they will add to an already volatile situation in Colombia, reports InSight Crime.
  • Water scarcity in Latin America is pushing political instability in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, according to the Guardian. The disputes over water shortages are part of a broader debate over responsibility and how to ensure access.
  • Indigenous groups in Nicaragua are facing increasing violence as their lands are encroached by settlers seeking to exploit their land, reports the Guardian.
  • Nicaragua's Human Rights Commission, called on the government for firmer control over religious sects in the country after a young woman in an isolated part of the country was killed in an exorcism ritual led by a man who said he was an evangelical pastor, reports the BBC.
  • Crime has imposed an informal sunset curfew on Caraqueños, along with a host of other adaptations including multiple locks, walls, electric fences and other elements of "architecture of fear," reports the Guardian.
  • The boll weevil -- a cotton attacking beetle that affects growers in Mexico and the U.S. -- is an example of the many issues requiring cross-border cooperation between the two countries, and "embodies, in microcosm, many of the essential qualities of the broader relationship between the two countries: an alliance bordering on codependence despite economic, political and cultural differences," according to the New York Times.
  • Mexico's Veracruz state has become a harrowing example of the challenges facing the country in general. At least 2,750 people are believed to have disappeared, the former governor is wanted for embezzlement on numerous counts and at least 17 journalists have been killed since 2010. Though a new opposition party governor has promised to clean up, he faces bankruptcy. "... strong international support will be crucial to bolster initiatives aimed at finding the bodies of the disappeared, investigating past crimes, and transforming the state’s police force and prosecution service," argues a new Crisis Group report.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took office with an approval rating of 54 percent. Two thirds into his six-year mandate, his ratings have plummeted down to 17 percent, and many Mexicans believe he has failed in meeting his promises to address concerns over violence and the economy. The Los Angeles Times tracks Peña Nieto's increasingly dismal approval ratings, noting the significant events that turned the public against him: the Ayotzinapa students abduction, Casa Blanca scandal, "El Chapo's escape," Trump's visit to Mexico, and this years "Gasolinazo."
  • Mexico's Federal Telecommunications Institute found that Grupo Televisa SAB is dominant in pay television services, which means the country's largest cable tv operator could be subject to possible regulatory measures, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Guardian long-read by William Atkins focuses on life and death along the Mexico-U.S. border. "Most of those who attempt to climb the wall into the US will be arrested and sent back. If they survive, they will keep trying."
  • The Miami Herald has a feature on a home and school for abandoned and abused girls in Honduras, and a documentary about how they use poetry to work through emotional scars.
  • Burger King has been buying animal feed from plantations created by burning out areas of the Amazon in Brazil and Bolivia, according to a new report by Mighty Earth cited in the Guardian. Unlike competitors, like McDonalds, Burger King does not rule out buying products produced on deforested land.

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