Thursday, October 31, 2019

Colombian response to indigenous killings insufficient say leaders (Oct. 31, 2019)

Colombia’s government has launched a military offensive -- 2,500 troops -- to hunt down the gunmen responsible for the massacre of five indigenous leaders in the south-western province of Cauca. An indigenous leader was killed, along with four unarmed indigenous guard members on Tuesday in Tacueyó, when assailants threw grenades and opened fire on a convoy of armoured SUVs carrying the indigenous leaders. Six more people were wounded in the aftermath, when attackers opened fire on an ambulance that arrived on the scene. (Onlookers captured part of the attack on video, Pulzo)

The government blamed dissident factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). An initial investigation suggested that the massacre came in response to the capture of three Farc dissidents by local indigenous guardsmen. President Iván Duque travelled to the region yesterday, with his defense and interior ministers, to condemn the massacre and oversee operations to root out armed groups.

But the gesture was deemed insufficient, activist criticize government inaction in the midst of persistent violence and threats against social leaders since the FARC peace deal in 2016. According to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman, 486 activists and human rights defenders have been murdered since January 2016. The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (or Onic), said that 121 indigenous people have been murdered since Duque took office in August last year.

The Onic called for a national demonstration asking the government for guarantees of safety and condemning the massacre. Leaders say they are being exterminated in their own territories and that their reports of threats from armed groups have been unanswered. (Caracol) Social leaders called for development policies to help shield the region from the drug trafficking that makes it a conflict point. (El Tiempo)

The armed guard are community leaders who mete out justice in their territories, they follow a pacifist philosophy and are unarmed.

Note: In a brief yesterday I incorrectly said authorities blamed "a small armed group (known as GAO)." The Colombian military term GAO stands for Organized Armed Groups. They are not necessarily small -- in fact the ELN is categorized as such -- and they are covered under the laws governing armed conflict (international humanitarian law), as opposed to smaller groups which are covered under human rights law. (Gracias Juan!)

More Colombia
  • Three years after the FARC peace deal was signed, the peace process is unravelling -- a victim of defunding and derailing of key provisions by the Duque administration, reports Foreign Affairs. The killing of human rights activists is the most egregious failure, but failure to fund development projects for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, as well as coca substitution programs has also taken a significant toll.
  • Semana reports in-depth how a group of military officers planned the extrajudicial execution of a demobilized FARC fighter, Dimar Torres.
  • Families will receive the remains of 72 victims of the 2002 Bojayá massacre, in which FARC combatants killed over 100 people in a church. (El País)
  • Alternative candidates pulled off surprise victories in Colombia’s local elections (see yesterday's briefs), but governing won’t be easy, writes Will Freeman in Americas Quarterly.
News Briefs

  • The United States has detained more children trying to cross the nation’s southwest border on their own over the last year than during any other period on record. The numbers surpass those of the Obama administration's unaccompanied minor crisis, reports the New York Times. American immigration authorities apprehended 76,020 minors, most of them from Central America, traveling without their parents in the fiscal year that ended in September — 52 percent more than during the last fiscal year. Mexican authorities, under pressure from the U.S. to stem migration, detained about 40,500 underage migrants traveling north without their parents in the same period — pushing the total number of these children taken into custody in the region to more than 115,000.
  • "U.S. efforts to pull the economic rug out from under Maduro are leading to a number of contradictions and complex situations," write David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas in the latest Venezuela Weekly. Though there have been reports that scarcities diminished and that the economy is increasingly dollarized, these scenarios are distant from the average person's reality, they warn.
  • Note: yesterday I said there have been 4.5 million Venezuelan refugees in recent years. This is incorrect, as many of the people who have left the country are not technically refugees. I should have said that 4.5 million Venezuelans have left their country, a number which includes refugees and migrants. (UNHCR)
  • The vast majority of false information shared on WhatsApp in Brazil during the presidential election favored the far-right winner, Jair Bolsonaro, a Guardian analysis of data suggests.
  • At least two people have died and six others were injured in clashes between supporters and opponents of Bolivian President Evo Morales following his disputed election victory earlier this month, the government said yesterday. (AFP)
  • Powerful Russian state-owned companies fear losing contracts in Bolivia if there is a change in government. So much so, that Rosatom, which runs all civic and military nuclear facilities in Russia, decided to support Morales' reelection bid with electoral specialists and covert spin doctors -- according to an investigation by The Project. (The report is from before the elections that were held last Sunday.)
  • Haitians on both sides of the country's political crisis believe the U.S. could be key to finding a resolution: President Jovenel Moïse wants material support, while his opponents just want the U.S. to stop backing him tacitly by abstaining from criticism, reports the Miami Herald. But the Trump administration appears to have little interest in getting involved in Haiti.
  • Chile's abrupt withdrawal from hosting two major upcoming international conferences has left the U.N. scrambling to organize the next round of climate negotiations and upended plans for an expected meeting between the U.S. and Chinese presidents. (New York Times, see yesterday's briefs) He made the decision after 17 days of protests, in which at least 23 people died, and which make hosting untenable, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The protests "are driven by deep-rooted disillusionment over inequality that has left millions of citizens frozen out of Chile’s economic rise," reports the Guardian, which interviews seven protesters.
  • In a bid for transparency, the Mexican government released a detailed report on the botched Oct. 17 operation to capture a Sinaloa cartel leader, Ovidio Guzmán López. Included is a video of how soldiers forced Guzmán to telephone his brothers and call off a rescue attempt by cartel gunmen. Instead fighting intensified. (Guardian, Washington Post)
  • There are calls to boycott "blood avocados" in response to cartel extortion of Mexican producers. But if avocados become unproductive, cartels will simply diversify, while farmers will be ruined. A more productive response to combat cartels would be to focus on U.S. gun control and ending the war on immigration that has fueled human smuggling, argues Adrienne Matei in the Guardian.
  • Mexico is one of the countries where the killers of journalists enjoy the most impunity, according to a ranking published Tuesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists. (EFE)
  • Brazil's tourism institute lobbied the national indigenous affairs agency to grant reservation land to a private luxury hotel project this year, reports The Intercept Brasil.

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

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