Southern Cone
Italy

Calabrian connection in Brazil narco busts

Brazilian police arrested a man accused as a leader of the notorious First Capital Command drug gang, who was named as a top contact in South America of southern Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta crime network. “Andre do Rap,” detained in Sao Paolo in an operation that included US DEA agents, is said to have overseen massive cocaine exports to Europe via Italy’s southern region of Calabria. In July, police arrested two Italian nationals at a luxury seaside apartment in Sao Paulo, who were also said to be ‘Ndrangheta operatives. A month earlier, accused top ‘Ndrangheta figure Rocco Morabito escaped from a prison in Uruguay—angering Rome, which had been awaiting his extradition. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

The Caribbean
Esequibo

Venezuela revives claim to Guyana territory

Venezuelan prosecutors finally announced charges against opposition leader Juan Guaidó for “high treason”—but not for colluding with foreign powers to overthrow the government. No, Guaidó is to face charges for his apparent intent to renounce Venezuela’s claim to a disputed stretch of territory that has been controlled by neighboring Guyana since the end of colonial rule. The Esequibo region covers 159.000 square kilometers—nearly two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory. The old territorial claim languished for generations—until  2015, when ExxonMobil announced discovery of a big offshore deposit in waters off the Esequibo coast. This came just as Venezuela was sliding into crisis, providing President Nicolás Maduro with a nationalist rallying cry. (Map via El Tiempo Latino)

The Amazon

Bolsonaro to The Hague?

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro failed to attend the summit of leaders of seven South American countries with Amazon Basin territory to address the devastating fires now consuming the rainforest. Duque claimed a medical emergency, and was represented by his foreign minister at the meeting in Colombia’s Amazonian city of Leticia. Just before the Leticia summit opened, a group of international attorneys specializing in human rights and environmental law announced that they will file a complaint against Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity and the environment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The attorneys, including the former French ambassador for human rights François Zimeray, will seek to have Bolsonaro indicted for his failure to respond to the fires in a timely manner. (Photo via Mongabay)

The Andes

Ex-FARC commander calls for return to arms

Top FARC leaders Iván Marquez and Jesús Santrich appeared in a YouTube video, alongside some 20 other veteran fighters, all in battle fatigues, to announce they are returning to guerilla insurgency and will launch “a new stage of armed struggle.” Reading the manifesto, Marquez charged that “the state has betrayed the Havana Accords,” the 2016 peace deal under which the FARC laid down arms. “We announce to the world that the second Marquetalia has begun,” he said, referring to the village where the FARC was founded in 1964. He said they would seek to join forces both with the FARC “dissidents” who have remained in arms despite the peace deal, as well as the rival National Liberation Army (ELN). (Photo via La Vanguardia)

The Andes

US ‘committed’ to ‘dismantle’ Colombia’s ELN

The United States government is “committed” to “dismantle” Colombia’s remaining significant guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said. The US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina made the comment after he and six other federal prosecutors met with President Ivan Duque on a visit to Bogotá to discuss cooperation “to fight narco-terrorism.” Terwilliger said the Colombian government “counts on the full support of the United States Department of Justice in the common cause to destabilize, decimate and ultimately dismantle the ELN.” The guerilla group has been active since 1964 and is currently believed to have 4,000 fighters. The ELN was engaged in peace talks with Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but the talks were suspended by Duque when he took office a year ago. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes

Indigenous target in Colombia human rights crisis

The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the government to effectively protect the lives and physical and cultural integrity of the Nasa indigenous people amid a wave of assassinations in their territory in the southern department of Cauca. The statement noted attacks on members of the Nasa Indigenous Guard over the past 24 hours, in which two were killed—Gersain Yatacué in the community of Toribio and Enrique Güejia in the community of Tacueyo. These brought to 36 the members of the Nasa people killed so far this year, according to Alberto Brunori, the UN human rights officer for Colombia, who said there is now an “alarming situation” in Cauca. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

The Andes

Colombia: Duque expelled from rights march

Protesters expelled Colombia’s President Ivan Duque from one of many marches held throughout the country to protest the ongoing killing of human rights defenders and community leaders. Tens of thousands took part in the mass event organized by Defendamos la Paz, a civil organization that defends the country’s peace process that is opposed by Duque’s far-right party. Duque and his vice president attempted to join the march in Cartagena, but upon arriving at its gathering point in the city’s central plaza, they were chased off by angry protesters chanting “Assassin! Assassin!” (Photo: Contagio Radio)

The Andes

Who is behind Venezuela aid caravan?

The US scored a propaganda coup against besieged Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro last week, sending planeloads of "humanitarian aid" to Colombia, where it was dispatched in a "caravan" toward the border. The aid was welcomed by the US-backed pretender to the presidency, Juan Guaidó, but rejected by Maduro, who thundered that Venezuelans are "not beggars." Maduro was put in the no-win situation of either having to turn away aid at a time of deprivation or accept assistance sent by a government that does not recognize him but recognizes his opposition. He opted for the prior, mobilizing troops to the border and blocking the three lanes of the international bridge between the two countries with a fuel tanker and shipping containers. The caravan is currently stalled at Cúcuta, the nearest city on the Colombia side. While the affair has occasioned much media bloviation either against Maduro for blocking the caravan or against Trump for politicizing aid, there has been an alarming paucity of information about who actually organized the caravan… (Photo: El Tiempo)

The Andes

Colombia sliding deeper into internal war

Under pressure to address the ongoing wave of targeted assassinations in Colombia, President Iván Duque for the first time spoke before the National Commission to Guarantee Security, formed by the previous government to address continuing violence in the country—which has only worsened since he took office last year. Duque said 4,000 people are now under the government's protection program for threatened citizens. But his office implied that the narco trade is entirely behind the growing violence. Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez told the meeting: "This great problem is derived from the 200,000 hectares of illicit crops that we have in Colombia." However, it is clear that the narco economy is but part of a greater nexus of forces that fuel the relentless terror—all related to protecting rural land empires and intimidating the peasantry. (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes

Colombia: UN concern over political assassinations

Gilberto Valencia, a young Afro-Colombian cultural worker, became 2019's first casualty of political violence in Colombia, when a gunman opened fire on a New Years party he was attending in his village in Cauca region. As the death toll from around the country mounted over the following weeks, the UN Mission to Colombia  warned President Iván Duque that he must address "the issue of the assassinations of social leaders and human rights defenders." Colombia's official rights watchdog, the Defensoría del Pueblo, acknowledges that there was an assassination on average every two days in the country last year—a total of 172, and a rise of more than 35% over 2017.  (Photo via Caracol Radio)

The Andes

Colombian state guilty in ‘false positives’ case

In an unprecedented ruling, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) found the Colombian state responsible for several extrajudicial executions carried out under the practice of "false positives"—random civilians claimed as guerillas killed in action. The six cases examined took place in the departments of Arauca, Santander and Casanare between 1992 and 1997. Although individual soldiers had been sentenced by the Colombian courts in some of these cases, the Costa Rica-based IACHR ordered the Colombian government to carry out further investigations and prosecutions, provide reparations to the families of the victims, and commit to a "public act of acknowledgement" of responsibility. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

The Andes

ELN peace process halted after Bogotá blast

Colombia's President Iván Duque declared the peace process with the National Liberation Army (ELN) indefinitely suspended following a bomb blast at a National Police academy in Bogotá that left more than 20 dead and some 70 wounded. Calling the ELN a "criminal machine of kidnapping and assassination," Duque said that arrest orders against the group's top leaders, suspended for the talks, would now be carried out. He also called on Cuba, where members of the ELN command are now based, to have them arrested. The ELN took responsibility for the attack in a communique, calling it an act of "legitimate defense" that was "legal under the laws of war." The statement asserted: "The National Police School of Cadets is a military installation; there officials receive instruction and training later put to use in combat, conducting military operations, actively participating in the counter-insurgency war and bringing methods of war for use against social protest." (Photo: Colombia Reports)