Thursday, June 8, 2017

Colombian community at mercy of armed groups - HRW report (June 8, 2017)

Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities are caught in the crossfire of two armed groups competing for control over stretches of Colombia’s San Juan river. The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and the paramilitary successor group Gaitanist Self-defenses of Colombia (AGC) are committing serious abuses against the local communities, according to a new Human Rights Watch report released yesterday.

"Human Rights Watch has documented evidence of responsibility by both groups for a range of abuses against scores of victims in the Litoral de San Juan municipality and in rural areas of the Buenaventura district. The abuses include killings, child recruitment, planting landmines, and threats, and have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people in recent years. Armed groups have also limited families’ ability to work on the river and in the neighboring hills. Human Rights Watch research suggests that such abuses in Litoral de San Juan are illustrative of abuses in other municipalities in the province. The Colombian government is obliged to provide adequate shelter to those who flee, but its efforts to do so have fallen short."

"The research suggests that both the AGC and the ELN terrorize villagers to keep them from cooperating with government authorities, as well as to extract information on the activities of community leaders. Such abuses contribute to villagers’ flight from the area or to curtailing their ability to fish and grow crops."

"Human Rights Watch also documented that government assistance to displaced families is lacking. Under Colombian law, authorities must guarantee victims of displacement decent shelter and food. Yet scores of displaced people from Litoral de San Juan live in deplorable conditions."

(See yesterday's briefs on the resolution of a three week civil strike demanding better government services in Buenaventura.)

News Briefs
  • Colombia's demobilized FARC fighters have handed over 30 percent of their weapons to U.N. monitors, reports the BBC. Another third will be handed over next week, and the remained in two weeks. Farc rebels have until 20 June to hand over all their weapons - a deadline that was extended from an original date of 30 May. (See May 30's briefs.)
  • Women are increasingly crossing borders to escape violence and poverty, a global trend known as the "feminization of migration," reports the Guardian. Latin America is the region with the most homicides of women, and women are increasingly attempting to flee. In Mexico, one in four undocumented migrants apprehended by border control agents last year were female, compared to only one in seven detainees in 2011. One in three Central American women interviewed by the UN refugee agency (UNHRC) on Mexico’s southern border at the end of last year were fleeing gender violence. But in practise it's hard for these women to qualify for asylum.
  • A new report by Brazilian human rights NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of the year in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016, reports Greenpeace's Energydesk. CPT's director linked the increase in violence to political instability. (See yesterday's post, for example.) The data comes as Brazilian indigenous communities are facing an increasingly difficult struggle against deforestation as lawmakers cut National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) funding and propose drastic changes to its functioning, reports ReutersAfter years of declines, the rate of deforestation shot up by 29 percent last year compared to 2015. And the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told Energydesk that there is a close correlation between the government’s moves to cut the agency and the increase in violence.  "There is increased violence because the offices of Funai at the state levels are not functioning anymore. Funai is the only government agency trusted by Indigenous people. People look up to Funai to protect them. Now there is no body trying to protect them."
  • Defending the environment is an increasingly lethal occupation around the world, but especially in Latin America, notes Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker. Fifty activists were killed in 2015 in Brazil, and 122 in the entire region. "Lack of effective rule of law, and widespread police and judicial corruption in Brazil, Honduras, and Mexico, make it easy for those determined to turn a profit at any cost to order and carry out killings—and to get away with it."
  • Brazil's top electoral court agreed to extend a trial that could potentially oust President Michel Temer. The case, which looks at whether the winning 2014 presidential ticket benefited from illegal campaign donations will continue through tomorrow or longer, reports the Wall Street Journal. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Venezuela's attempts to secure cash are increasingly desperate, and the government is turning to hugely discounted bonds sold through an off-market Chinese brokerage. (See yesterday's briefs.) "That is the kind of financing typically available to people with trembling hands trying to negotiate through bulletproof glass," according to the Washington Post, which says the government's borrowing habits now seem like those of a company going out of business.
  • Tire manufacturer Pirelli is the latest international company to suspend operations in Venezuela -- citing lack of raw materials, reports the BBC.
  • Venezuela's protests have spread to Miami, where exiles opposed to the government have taken to shaming Chavistas living a comfortable existence in the capitalist heartland, reports the New York Times.
  • The U.S. is seeking the extradition of the former vice-president of Guatemala, Roxana Baldetti on charges of conspiring to traffic cocaine. She would have to first face trial in Guatemala, where she is charged with money laundering and illicit enrichment, reports the BBC.
  • Relatively new affirmative action policies in Brazil are running into trouble in a country where where 43% of citizens identify as mixed-race, and 30% of those who think of themselves as white have black ancestors. Black activists say people are taking advantage of policies that weren't aimed at them, reports the Guardian. "... Affirmative action, as a strategy for racial equality, has proven an uneasy fit for Brazil, resolving certain racial dilemmas by creating entirely new ones."
  • How to fund that peskily expensive border wall? Solar panels of course, which the U.S. president believes would have the added benefit of making the structure beautiful, according to the Guardian.

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