Thursday, April 28, 2022

Colombian general confesses in false positives case (April 28, 2022)

A Colombian military general and 10 others acknowledged that they had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. They spoke yesterday before families of victims in the country’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a long-awaited testimony in the "false positives" scandal. The general, nine other military officials and a civilian admitted to orchestrating the killings of at least 120 civilians and trying to pass them off as rebel combatants, part of a military policy aimed at inflating combat kills. 

The "false positives," which were used to bolster the country’s argument that it was winning the war, have become one of the most emblematic human rights violations of the country’s traumatic internal conflict, reports the New York Times. The killings confessed to yesterday are just a small fraction of those murdered under the false positives policy between 2002 and 2008. In all, the court said in a recent investigative report that the military is responsible for killing 6,402 civilians and claiming they were rebels.

Yesterday's testimony marks the first time that officials have admitted to committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in a tribunal established through a peace agreement, reports the Washington Post. Under the terms of the special court, those admitting to committing crimes will not receive prison sentences but instead will be given so-called restorative sanctions, like house arrest or hard labor. Facing their victims in the hearings is part of the process.

Victims' families called for the accused to share information about who orchestrated the scheme, but the hearing did not answer the question of who was ultimately responsible for the policy carried out under the former President Álvaro Uribe.

The advances of the special tribunal, including in other cases, demonstrate persistent patterns in crimes committed by military forces, such as reporting civilian deaths as combat kills, covering up evidence of wrongdoing, and collaborating with paramilitary groups, reports La Silla Vacía.

More Colombia
  • A Colombian judge has rejected a request by the attorney general's office to halt an investigation into former President Alvaro Uribe, who is being investigated in a case involving allegations that he established and ran a paramilitary group of his own. (Deutsche Welle)
  • The Urabeños are losing their grip on power in Colombia, reports InSight Crime.
News Briefs

  • Dear readers: I always do appreciate your spontaneous comments and feedback. I wanted to ask you to take a brief survey about the Briefing, in order to better understand how it's useful to you and in hopes of, perhaps, finding ways to improve the product so that it better meets your needs.
Regional Relations
  • While many analysts have (somewhat gleefully) hailed a new Cold War, this time starring the U.S. and China as superpowers, from a "Latin American viewpoint, such a new era of confrontation must be avoided," writes Juan Gabriel Tokatlian in Americas Quarterly. The original Cold War exacerbated many negative trends in the region and created many new problems: "Latin America today—severely affected by social instability, political polarization, economic deterioration, and diplomatic fragmentation—does not want to be a battleground for a new Cold War."
El Salvador
  • Human rights groups have denounced that El Salvador's ongoing state of emergency violates fundamental freedoms and opens the door to potentially thousands of arbitrary detentions. But most Salvadorans are willing to tolerate a measure of autocracy in the context of wearying gang violence, according to the New York Times. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Mexico’s government proposed a dramatic overhaul of the nation’s electoral system and the agency that oversees it. The reform would create a federal elections board chosen by voters, potentially politicizing what has been an independent body. The proposal would also reduce the size of Congress -- the lower chamber would go from 500 deputies to 300, while the Senate would have 96 seats rather than 128. (Associated Press, Excelsior)
  • Huge fluctuations in Twitter’s follower numbers after Elon Musk negotiated a $44 billion takeover deal of the social media giant played out in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro gained over 101,000 followers between Monday and Wednesday. Members of the Bolsonaro family gained 200,000 followers in the same time period. (Estadao)

  • During a “Free Speech” event yesterday, Bolsonaro suggested a possible suspension of the 2022 elections if there is “something abnormal.” He also spoke about a “secret room” of the TSE, where, without evidence, he insinuated electoral officials fabricate results. (Correio Brazilense)

  • Brazilian Defense Minister General Paulo Nogueira disputed statements by Supreme Court Judge Luis Roberto Barroso who said the military was being encouraged to discredit the country's voting system. (Reuters)

  • The U.N. human rights committee said that corruption proceedings against former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva that led to his imprisonment and prevented him from running for the top job in 2018 violated due process. (Reuters)

  • Earth saw more than 97,500 square miles of tree cover vanish last year. In addition to forest fires, logging and insect infestations, the relentless expansion of agriculture fueled the disappearance of critical tropical forests in Brazil and elsewhere at a rate of 10 soccer fields a minute, according to a new satellite-based survey by the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch. (Washington Post)

  • Lula da Silva is not planning on appointing an all-powerful economic minister, along the lines of the current head of the portfolio, reports Bloomberg.

  • Brazil's lower house approved a measure that makes permanent the Auxilio Brasil monthly welfare program for families in poverty situations, months ahead of the country's October presidential election. The proposal must now be approved by the Senate within two weeks, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine officials say they seek to attract some $10 billion in private investment to help it jump start exports of liquefied natural gas, as the country battles a deep and costly energy deficit, reports Reuters.
  • Peruvian police said they had evicted an indigenous community whose protest camp in a huge open pit owned by Las Bambas copper mine forced MMG to halt operations. Peru's government had declared a state of emergency in the area earlier yesterday, meaning a suspension of civil liberties such as the right to assembly and protest. (Reuters)
  • The U.S. Coast Guard stopped a total of 84 people from Cuba migrating by sea off the Bahamas and the Florida Keys last week. South Florida is in the midst of a surge in maritime migration from both Cuba and Haiti, notes the Miami Herald.

  • Mexico detained almost 6,000 foreign migrants in a four-day span, the country's National Migration Institute (INM) said on Monday. (Reuters)

  • According to official data from the Panama government shared with the Guardian, more than 13,000 people illegally crossed from Colombia into Panama via the Darién Gap in the first three months of 2022: nearly triple the number during the same period last year. About 133,000 people made the journey in 2021 – the highest on record for any year by far.
I will be off for a week, starting tomorrow. The Briefing will be in the very capable hands of Jordi Amaral and Arianna Kohan. See you soon!

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