Wednesday, September 4, 2019

FARC dissidents cause tension between Colombia and Venezuela (Sept. 4, 2019)

The call to arms by a FARC dissident group seems unlikely to post an immediate threat to the Colombian state, but has fed into mounting tensions between Colombia and Venezuela. 

Last week several former FARC commanders called for a return to arms against the Colombian government, citing unmet peace agreement commitments. The video was believed to have been filmed near the Venezuelan border, and Colombia's government has accused Venezuela's of harboring Colombian guerrilla groups. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro had previously said that the dissident leaders would be welcome in Venezuela. (See last Thursday's post.)

"It is important to emphasize that Colombia is not facing the rebirth of a new guerrilla movement, as these criminals claim," writes Colombian President Iván Duque in the Washington Post. "This is a gang that has been emboldened, sheltered and supported in Venezuela by the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro."

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, considered the country's legitimate leader by a swathe of the international community, said he authorized the use of satellites to help locate guerrilla groups that may have crossed into Venezuela. Guaidó said the move is part of a collaboration between Venezuela's opposition and Colombian officials to collect intelligence on guerrilla camps. He didn't give further details and it's not clear how the opposition could implement such a plan. (Al JazeeraAFP)

Yesterday Maduro ordered the armed forces to be on alert for a potential attack by Colombia’s government and announced military exercises on the border, reports Reuters. He accused Duque of mounting false evidence regarding Venezuela's alleged harboring of guerrillas, reports AFP. The dramatic rhetoric is actually fairly usual between the two countries.  Colombian authorities have repeatedly denied planning to attack Venezuela.

Despite the new call to arms, and widespread discontent with how the peace treaty promises have (not) been implemented, most former FARC fighters seem unlikely to return to war, reports the Associated Press. About 13,018 ex-guerrillas are in the reincorporation process -- about a quarter of them live in 24 reintegration camps, according to think tank Ideas para la Paz. The rest live outside, where they went to rejoin with family or search for work. About eight percent are unaccounted for, though that does not mean they have joined dissident ranks. (ReutersLa Silla Vacía visited five demobilization camps last week, and said that most former guerrillas are unhappy with broken promises, but remain more interested in joining civilian society than taking up arms.

A group of opposition political parties, headed by former FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, rejected the new call to arms and called for renewed support of the peace deal, on Monday. (Semana)

Analysts say that the fragmented landscape of dissident guerrilla groups are unlikely to unite under a common front. Nonetheless, infighting among armed groups could further destabilize the fragile peace process, warns Matthew Charles in World Politics Review. And while many of the groups are engaged in drug trafficking, he cautions against discounting their political complaints entirely, as Duque has done. (Semana delves deeper into the various dissident factions, their leadership, and how they might collaborate or not.)

Dissident FARC groups and ELN guerrillas have made considerable territorial expansions throughout Colombia during President Ivan Duque‘s first year in office, according a new report from Fundación Paz y Reconciliación. (Colombia Reports)

  • A mayoral candidate in Colombia's troubled Cauca province was killed Monday, along with five other people in an attack government officials attributed to a dissident FARC group. A vehicle carrying Karina Garcia, a Liberal Party candidate, Garcia's mother, three local activists and a candidate for the municipal council, was shot at while it traversed a highway in the mountainous region, before being set on fire, reports Reuters. (See also Semana.)
  • Last week Colombian troops killed nine FARC dissidents in an air raid authorized by Duque after Márquez's declaration. The dead include a rebel known by his alias, Gildardo Cucho who Márquez sought to recruit, according to Colombian authorities. (Al Jazeera)
News Briefs

  • Hurricane Dorian left the Bahamas yesterday afternoon, after lashing the country for nearly three days. At least seven people were killed by the slow-moving storm, but more deaths are expected as relief enters affected areas. Nearly 75 percent of homes in Gran Bahamas Island are underwater, and Abaco Island is largely destroyed. Relief officials spoke of utter ruin and an imminent humanitarian crisis. Thousands of residents of Grand Bahama and Abaco islands are without shelter, stranded by flooding and are likely to suffer shortages of food, water and medicine that will worsen without quick action by the international community, according to coordinated messages from the United Nations, Bahamian officials and the U.S. State Department. (GuardianWashington PostGuardianAssociated Press)
  • The New York Times lists aid organizations working in the Bahamas for those seeking to donate.
  • A shocking video of security guards whipping a black teenager caught stealing chocolate bars from a São Paulo supermarket has sparked outrage in Brazil, where say it demonstrates deeply engrained racism and slave era legacies in the national psyche. (Guardian)
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will miss an international summit on fires affecting the Amazon rainforest -- to be held in Bogotá on Friday -- because he will be preparing for a surgery. (BBC)
  • Fourteen indigenous groups and four riverside reserves living in the Brazilian Amazon's Xingu river basin have put aside long-running local conflicts to unite against Bolsonaro's environmental policies. (Independent)
  • Bolsonaro is refusing to give additional land to indigenous tribes who say they've been pushed off their traditional territories. (Al Jazeera)
  • Tackling corruption and impunity remains a priority for Mexico's government, said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during his first state of the union address on Sunday. “Nothing has damaged Mexico more than the dishonesty of its rulers — and this is the main cause of the economic and social inequality, and of the insecurity and violence, that we suffer,” he said. (Associated Press)
The Wall
  • The U.S. Defense Department approved  $3.6 billion to build U.S. President Donald Trump's pet project: a controversial border wall with Mexico. (Deutsche Welle)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...


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