So-called "dissident" FARC factions that have refused to accept the Colombian peace accords and taken refuge across the border in Venezuela now appear to be waging a local insurgency against the Nicolás Maduro regime. A group calling itself the Martin Villa 10th Front announced in early May that it had captured eight Venezuelan soldiers on April 23 during a battle in Apure state, near the Colombian border. On May 31, Venezuela's National Bolivarian Armed Forces announced that the soldiers had been freed in a rescue operation. But the independent Caracas Chronicles reports that the eight were actually released under terms of a deal negotiated in Cuba. The deal was said to have been brokered with the help of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a second Colombian guerilla group which remains in arms and whose leadership is based in Havana.
Colombia's ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing an end to the country's long internal war, publicly apologized June 11 for his role in the practice of "false positives"—extrajudicial executions by the armed forces, in which the victims were reported as guerillas slain in combat. The apology came in testimony before Colombia's Truth Commission, created under the peace process that Santos himself initiated. Santos admitted that most of the "false positives" took place when he served as defense minister under the hardline president Álvaro Uribe, and that he initially turned a blind eye to the practice.
Colombian President Iván Duque on May 28 announced the deployment of military forces to put down the protests that have been rocking the country since a national strike was called a month ago. Speaking from violence-torn Cali as some 1,400 soldiers arrived in the city, he said army troops would focus on "nerve centers where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism." An additional 7,000 troops were sent to break up roadblocks in the local department of Valle del Cauca. "Islands of anarchy cannot exist," Duque declared.
Colombian President Iván Duque flew to Cali in the middle of the night after street clashes in the southwestern city left several indigenous protesters injured May 9. Amid a national strike sparked by Duque's proposed burdensome tax reform, some 5,000 indigenous activists from the nearby administrative department of Cauca had been holding a "Minga," or protest gathering, on the outskirts of Cali, when unknown gunmen in civilian dress arrived in a pickup truck and opened fire. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reported that at least 10 activists were wounded, and that the gunmen were intermingled and cooperating with uniformed police. It remains unclear if they were plainclothes agents or vigilantes.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed alarm May 4 at overnight police violence against protesters in the Colombian city of Cali. This violence comes after more than a week of protests that have resulted in 14 deaths across Colombia. The protests began on April 28 in response to a proposed tax reform law aimed at shoring up the country's finances following a year of COVID-19 stagnation. Among the proposed reforms are deeply unpopular sales taxes on food and utilities, as well as cutbacks in social services. In the face of rapidly expanding protests across the country, President Iván Duque requested that the draft bill be withdrawn from Congress on May 2.
Police killed at least eight people in Colombia's southwestern city of Cali, amid national protests against President Iván Duque's proposed reform of the tax code, local human rights defenders said April 30. The city's independent Francisco Isaías Cifuentes Human Rights Network (REDDHFIC) put the number dead at 14. Clashes between police and protesters also took place in Bogotá, Medellin and other cities on May 1. In response to the protest wave, Duque said he would revise his proposed "Sustainable Solidarity Law," and that the new taxes on sales of food and gasoline would be dropped. (Reuters, BBC Mundo, Colombia Reports, May 1; InfoBae, April 30; BBC Mundo, April 29)
Some 3,000 Venezuelans have fled across the border into Colombian territory to escape an outbreak of fighting between the military and an unnamed armed faction. The fighting broke out March 21 in the sprawling rural municipality of Paez, in Venezuela's western Apure state, along the Colombian border. Colombian authorities in the border town of Arauquita, Arauca department, have hurriedly erected makeshift shelters for the refugees. Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino López said that in an operation dubbed Bolivarian Shield, troops have arrested 32 people, destroyed six camps, and seized weapons. There have also been reports of two Venezuelan soldiers killed in the fighting.
Criminal networks in Brazil are illegally selling and deforesting protected lands—even within an indigenous reserve—and posting the plots for sale on Facebook, according to an investigation by the BBC. In documentary broadcast Feb. 26, "Selling the Amazon," BBC Brasil went undercover to show how illegal land-grabbers are moving in on public land in the Amazon—clearing rainforest and selling plots to ranchers at highly inflated prices. The documentary showed plots of these cleared lands being openly advertized on Facebook. When contacted by the BBC, Facebook said that it was "ready to work with the local authorities" to investigate the matter, but would not take independent action to halt the land-trading on its platform. While some ads were pulled, others remain on Facebook. One plot up for sale was located within the Uru Eu Wau Wau Indigenous Reserve in Brazil's Rondônia state—a titled territory where invaders and conflict have been a growing problem. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has largely gutted and defunded the nation's environmental regulatory, protection and enforcement agencies. (Mongabay)