The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague on April 21 ruled that Colombia must end its "interference" in parts of the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua, and bring under control fishing and other activities in the zone. This culminates a long conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia. In two rulings in 2007 and 2012, the ICJ recognized the sovereignty of Colombia in the islands constituting the Archipelago of San Andrés. However, the rulings also recognized the jurisdiction of Nicaragua in the surrounding waters. Colombia continued its activities in those waters, prompting Nicaragua to file a new complaint with the Court in 2013. Colombia argued that its actions were necessary to fight drug trafficking and secure environmental protection of the waters. In its new ruling, the ICJ found that these waters are within the exclusive economic zone of Nicaragua, and the "intervention" of another state is contrary to international law.
A new assassination of a campesino leader is reported from the self-declared "peace community" of San José de Apartadó, in Colombia's conflicted northern Urabá region. On Dec. 17, Uber Velásquez was slain by unknown assailants in the vereda (hamlet) of La Balsa, one of those adhering to the "peace community" which for more than 20 years has refused all cooperation with armed actors in Colombia's conflict—and whose leaders have been repeatedly targeted for death. Velásquez had recently been involved in a citizen oversight committee monitoring a road improvement project in the area, and had reported delays that could point to corruption.
Rural communities in Colombia's northeastern Arauca department held anti-war protests amid inter-factional guerilla violence that has been terrorizing the region. Demanding attention from the government and international human rights organizations, some 1,200 marched in the hamlet of Puerto Jordan on Jan. 4, and another 500 in nearby Botalón, both in Tame municipality. Mayerly Briceño, an organizer of the protests in Tame, told El Espectador: "The state has no presence here, absolutely none; they only come here to protect the oil companies, to safeguard the petroleum. This is not about them coming to militarize... More zones are leaving behind fear and taking to the streets to demand peace. It is the only thing we can do as a people, to demand that peace comes to our territory."
The UN human rights office says a "profound change" is needed in how Colombia's National Police force, run by the Defense Ministry, handles protests, after concluding that law enforcement agents were responsible for at least 28 deaths during anti-government demonstrations earlier this year. A Dec. 15 report by the UN body's Colombia representative said the response to the widespread protests, which began in April, involved "unnecessary or disproportionate force." Aside from murder, police forces were accused of arbitrary detentions and sexual violence against civilians. The unrest began in reaction to a tax reform bill—that was later ditched—but was fuelled by anger over broader economic and social inequalities. Amnesty International recently reported that the number of eye injuries (more than 100) sustained by protesters was an "indication of intentionality" by the police force.
The US State Department announced Nov. 30 that Colombia's disbanded FARC guerilla army has been removed from the list of "Foreign Terrorist Organizations." The FARC was one of the first groups to be designated under the list, one year after it was established under a 1996 amendment to the Immigration & Nationality Act instated by that year's Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act. The official statement on the de-listing of the FARC acknowledged that it "no longer exists as a unified organization." In fact, the de-listing came on the fifth anniversary of the peace agreement under which the FARC agreed to demobilize.
Colombia's most wanted fugitive, the notorious paramilitary commander Dairo Antonio Úsuga AKA "Otoniel," was arrested by security forces following a years-long manhunt, the government announced Oct. 23. The chief of the outlawed Gaitanista Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) was apprehended in a joint operation by the army and National Police in Necocli, a municipality of Urabá region on the Caribbean coast. The raid on Necocli involved hundreds of troops and some 20 helicopters. The US government considers the AGC Colombia's largest drug trafficking organization, and offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Otoniel in 2017, eight years after he was indicted by a federal court in New York. It is unclear if the Colombian government intends to extradite.
The Darién Gap, a dangerous jungle route used by a growing number of migrants trying to reach the United States from South America, has become even deadlier, according to Panama's Forensic Sciences Institute. It has reported over 50 migrant deaths to date in 2021, although the figure is believed to be far higher. Towns on the Colombian side of the border are swelling with migrants waiting to cross the Gap—mostly Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans, but some from as far afield as Afghanistan and Burkina Faso. Colombian authorities say 67,000 migrants have passed through the border zone so far this year, more than 15 times the number in 2020. Former paramilitaries operating in the area are now preying on the migrants, who face rape, armed violence and extortion. (TNH)
An apparent squad of mercenaries, arriving in nine brand-new Nissan Patrol vehicles, staged a night raid on the home of Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse in the upscale Port-au-Prince suburb of of Pèlerin in the wee hours of July 7, and shot him dead. His wife, Martine, was also gravely wounded. The seemingly professional hit job followed weeks of rapidly rising violence in Haiti. On June 29, three gunmen on motorcycles killed at least 15 people in the Delmas 32 area of Port-au-Prince. Shortly later, gunmen believed to be from the same group carried out the targeted assassinations of prominent women's rights activist Marie Antoinette "Netty" Duclaire and Radio Télé Vision 2000 journalist Diego Charles, who were together at Charles' home in the Christ-Roi neighborhood.