Monday, October 15, 2012

Dutch Guerrilla to Join FARC Peace Team

The FARC rebels have controversially named a Dutch rebel to sit on their negotiating team, delaying the start of peace talks due to begin this week in Oslo.

Both sides were due to arrive in Norway over the weekend, in order to hold meetings before parallel press conference on Wednesday. Their arrival has been delayed by several factors, including heavy rains in Colombia which stopped some of the rebels making the journey, El Espectador reports.

The last-minute addition to the rebel team of Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch citizen who is fighting with the guerrillas, has also created problems. The government has questioned her inclusion because she is not a Colombian citizen, while the rebels have argued that they can freely pick the members of their team, according to El Espectador. One issue is that the authorities have not had time to review her legal situation and suspend any arrest warrants against her.

The government team is due to arrive Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Nijmeijer has climbed the ranks of the guerrilla group since joining in 2002 at the age of 24. She first came to Colombia as part of her university degree, then returned and went into to the jungle to join the guerrilla group. In 2007, the Colombian authorities released a document which they said was her personal diary, in which she questioned the ideology of the rebel movement and complained about its sexism and unfairness.

"I don't know where this project is going. How will it be when we come to power? The girlfriends of the commanders in Ferrari Testa Rossas, with breast implants, eating caviar? It seems like it," said one extract.

Media reports said that rebel boss Raul Reyes wanted to have her executed, but that Nijmeijer’s relationship with the cousin of Mono Jojoy prevented him from acting (both leaders are now dead). In 2010, there were reports that Nijmeijer had been killed in the security forces’ bombing of Mono Jojoy's camp. She is wanted in the US in connection with the kidnapping of three US contractors in 2003.

El Espectador says Nijmeijer was picked for the team by rebel leader Ivan Marquez, who is heading the FARC’s delegation, and suggests that Marquez could be trying to sabotage the process. Former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who oversaw failed peace talks more than a decade ago, told the AP that he is concerned the FARC rebels may be divided over peace talks with the government. He said that the absence of heavyweight leaders Joaquin Gomez and Fabian Ramirez from the team could suggest internal conflicts.


The question we have to ask is: Is the FARC monolithically united behind this process? I don’t have that very clear. Let’s hope it is.”
Smaller rebel group the ELN may also be joining peace talks, as Colombia Reports reports.

News Briefs

  • In Rio de Janeiro some 1,500 members of the security forces, supported by tanks and helicopters, invaded the adjacent favelas of Manguinhos, Jacarezinho, Mandela and Varginha, as part of the city’s plan to retrieve key neighborhoods from the control of drug traffickers and militia groups. It took them only 10 minutes to breach roadblocks set up by the criminals, EFE reports, while residents stayed inside their houses. The neighborhoods are important drug distribution points controlled by the Comando Vermelho gang. O Globo reports that Jacarezinho and Manguinhos were the biggest “cracolandias” or crack cocaine consumption zones, in the city, and that many of the users have been moved to government shelters. Some 110 users were rounded up by the security forces in Jacarezinho alone, says Veja. However, according to the AP, many of the area’s drug users have simply moved to nearby neighborhoods, where they are “verbally abusing” passers by.
  • The US has suspended all joint anti-drug operations in Honduras due to concern over abuses by the Honduran security forces, including the shooting down of two suspected drug planes, reports the NYT. The report says that a series of incidents, including a fatal shooting involving DEA agents, have turned the cooperation, “often promoted as a model of international teamwork, into a case study of what can go wrong when the tactics of war are used to fight a crime problem that goes well beyond drugs.”
  • The east Honduran province of Olancho was the site of the massacre of eight young men near a soccer pitch, EFE reportsLa Tribuna reports that none of the victims had a criminal record.
  • The US Border Patrol has shot dead a 16-year-old Mexican boy who they say was throwing rocks in Nogales, Sonora state, which borders on Arizona, reports the LA Times. The mayor of Nogales called the incident “deplorable,” and said the boy had been hit by seven bullets, reports the AP.
  • Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding the resignation of Haitian President Michel Martelly, accusing him of corruption and failing to cut poverty, reports the BBC. Meanwhile, in New York, the UN Security Council voted to extend the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in Haiti for an eighth year, although it declared that strengthening the country’s police should be a top priority for the government so it could take care of its own security, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Relatives of Fidel Castro told the media that the former Cuban leader was in good health, amid rumors of his death, reports the Miami Herald. Castro’s son Alex said that his father was in good health, and Fidel’s sister Juanita denied that she had plans to travel back to Cuba from her Florida home. The revolutionary leader was last seen in public in March.
  • Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White has held a march to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of founder Laura Pollan, reports the AP.
  • IPS looks at a gender equality law in Brazil, which mandates that 30 percent of all political candidates must be women and which came into play for the first time in the recent local elections.
  • Mary Anastasia O’Grady at the WSJ criticizes Obama’s record in the Americas, saying that he is the “new best friend” of the “Latin left,” while treating allies like Colombia with “disdain.”
  • Bolivia is planning to issue its first global bonds in more than a century, reports the WSJ. It notes that President Evo Morales has been courting investors who were scared off by 2006 nationalizations.
  • Members of the Uruguayan rugby team who were stranded in the Andes by a plane crash in 1972, and forced to eat the flesh of their dead teammates to stay alive, have marked the 30th anniversary of the tragedy by playing a rugby game against members of the Chilean team that they were traveling to play when the crash happened, reports the Guardian.