Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Violence Continues in Colombia Despite Peace Talks

Colombian military air raids killed at least 20 guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) over the weekend, in the largest single blow military against the insurgents since peace talks began in October.

The attacks were carried out on three guerrilla camps in the provinces of Narino, Meta and Cauca and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to continue pursuing the guerrillas militarily even after the FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The FARC have been accused several times of breaking their own ceasefire, most recently on Monday when Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon suggested the guerrillas may be behind bomb attacks carried out on a Bogota police station over the weekend.

Also on Monday, the guerrillas were accused of being behind violence that has displaced 400 indigenous Embera people in western Colombia, as the war continues around the country.

On the same day as the raids, President Juan Manuel Santos declared a deadline for reaching an agreement on talks, saying they would not continue after November 2013. InSight Crime speculates that Santos may be thinking about the 2014 presidential elections and wants to give his re-relection campaign time to repair any damage from failed negotiations.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), confirmed it is in preliminary discussions over joining the peace process, but called for a bilateral ceasefire before full negotiations begin.

News Briefs
  • The Wall Street Journal looks at Brazil’s increasing participation in the region’s “drug war,” which has recently seen it adopt “a controversial U.S. tactic: reaching across borders to stop cocaine at the source.” Bloggings by Boz takes exception with one of the article’s claims, saying “we should distinguish between the war on drugs (where the goal is reducing drug trafficking) and the fight against violent and organized crime (where the goal is reducing criminal influence and violence).”
  • A new report shows 149 people have died at the hands of the Honduran police in the last 23 months. The rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, who presented the report, used it to attack the ruling from the Constitutional Branch of the Honduran Supreme Court that reforms aimed at cleaning up the country’s police force were unconstitutional. Over the weekend, President Porfirio Lobo called the court an “enemy of Honduras,” in a speech that the Honduras Culture and Politics blog believes is designed to intimidate the full court into overturning the decision. 
  • The Miami Herald reports on the ruling of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in a drug case, which that found that the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act could not be used for prosecuting drug smugglers arrested within the 12-mile territorial waters of foreign countries such as Colombia, Panama, Guatemala and Honduras. The ruling could have a serious impact on US maritime interdictions in the region, according to InSight Crime.
  • A Colombian senator is sponsoring an attempt to organize a referendum to recall the country’s congress and hold new elections, Colombia Reports, reports. Senator Camilo Romero wants to utilize a section of the Colombian constitution that states ‘’the people have the power to revoke, at any time, lawmakers of their constitutional term,” and force the country’s politicians to stand down because it has “committed wrong and arbitrary acts,” highlighting the approval of a controversial justice reform.
  • Two Mexican men have been charged with killing a US Coast Guard after a collision with a suspected smuggler's vessel about 180 miles (290km) north-west of the US-Mexico border, the BBC reports.
  • Al Jazeera features a video of their investigation into a psychiatric hospital in Guatemala City, which reveals evidence of sexual and physical abuse by staff.
  • The Miami Herald looks at a recently captured “narco-sub” in Colombia, which, it says can carry eight tons of cocaine and would be “virtually undetectable.”
  • The Council on Hemispheric Affairs looks at Uruguay’s legalization of abortion, pushed through by President Mujica. The article concludes that despite the bill’s flaws, “President Mujica’s adamant support for abortion decriminalization stands alone as a grand statement to the Uruguayan people, and places a greater value on women’s rights than on religious complaints.”
  • The IPS continues its examination of Cuban feminism with an interview with Midiam Lobaina, who “describes herself as a “Christian militant” who takes a feminist reading of the Bible to workshops and religious services around Cuba, to discuss gender equality and a culture of peace.”
  • Bolivian president, Evo Morales, has confirmed Bolivia’s willingness to join the Mercosur as a full member when the trade block meets in Brasilia later this week, Merco Press reports.