Colombia: GM and hunger strikers agree to mediation

A group of former employees of GM Colmotores, the Colombian subsidiary of the Detroit-based General Motors Company (GM), announced on the morning of Aug. 24 that they had agreed to enter into mediation to resolve a dispute with the company. As part of the agreement, they were ending a liquids-only hunger strike that 12 workers started on Aug. 1 to pressure Colmotores to reinstate them and compensate them for injuries. They said that until the dispute was settled, they would continue an encampment in front of the US embassy in Bogotá which they have maintained for more than a year.

Colombia: fired GM workers go on hunger strike

As of Aug. 15 a total of 13 former employees of GM Colmotores, the Colombian subsidiary of the Detroit-based General Motors Company (GM), were continuing a liquids-only hunger strike they began on Aug. 1 to demand reinstatement and compensation for injuries they say they received on the job. According to the protesters, the company fired them after they received disabling injuries at the Colmotores factory, which employs about 1,800 workers just outside Bogotá. The company denies the workers' accusations.

Colombia: San José de Apartadó Peace Community under attack again

The San José de Apartadó Peace Community in Colombia's northern Urabá region, one of several citizen peace initiatives by local communities demanding their right not to take sides in the war, is once again under threat—seven years after a massacre that forced many residents to flee the village. Several outlying hamlets (veredas) continue to adhere to the Peace Community, and their leaders are now facing escalated harassment. On July 30 and 31, Germán Graciano, a Peace Community leader, received phone calls from men who identified themselves as members of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group. The callers demanded he agree to collaborate with them, or "purchase coffins for himself and his family."

Colombia: war, illegal mining encroach on indigenous communities

A landmine believed to have been placed by FARC guerillas exploded Aug. 15, killing an indigenous man and two workers who were repairing an power pylon that had been knocked down last week in an attack also attributed to the guerrillas in a rural area of Tumaco municipality of southwest Colombia's Nariño department. The indigenous man was a member of the Awá people who had been hired as a guide by the Central Naraño Electric company. Tumaco, a city of some 170,000, has been without electricity for five days due to attacks on pylons. (EFE, Aug. 15) One week earlier, Embera and other indigenous peoples up the Pacific coast in Chocó reported that their communities had come under aerial bombardment by army helicopters in the Alto Andágueda area. A statement from the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Chocó (OREWA) said some 360 families, comprising about 1,500 people, were forced to flee the villages of La Palma, Masura, Unipa and Santa Isabel. No casualties were reported, but the statement said the displaced families were "constantly menaced" by forced of the national army, FARC and ELN guerillas. (OREWA, Aug. 6)

Andean indigenous movements meet in Colombia

Construction of a "new paradigm" for a "sustainable civilization" to uphold the principle of "buen vivir" (good life) was one of the resolutions to emerge from the Third Congress of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI), held July 15-7 at Chinauta in Colombia's central Cundinamarca department. Presided over by CAOI's director Miguel Palacín Quispe of Peru, the meeting brought together leaders of four member organizations: the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), the Confederation of Kichwa Peoples of Ecuador (ECUARUNARI), Peru's National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining (CONACAMI) and Bolivia's National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ). The closing statement charged that "in the Andean Region and all the continent, States, whether openly neoliberal, 'alternative' or 'progressive,' persist in application of a neoliberal extractive model, that undermines the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, plunders the natural resources, and defiles Mother Earth..." (Servindi, Aug. 1; CONAMAQ, July 26)

Colombia: indigenous elder assassinated in Cauca

Lisandro Tenorio Troche, a traditional elder and healer of the Nasa indigenous people in Colombia's southwestern department of Cauca, was shot dead by two gunmen on a motorcycle Aug. 12 at vereda (hamlet) Pílamo in resguardo (indigenous reserve) López Adentro, Caloto municipality. Community leaders said they believe the assassins weref rom the FARC rebels, who had threatened Tenorio and his family in recent days. The Nasa communities have in recent weeks stepped up their campaign to demand that all armed actors—government troops, paramilitaries and guerillas alike—respect their constitutionally protected autonomy and refrain from operating on their lands.

Colombia: UN calls for dialogue with indigenous movement

The UN representative for indigenous rights, James Anaya, called on the Colombian government Aug. 9 to advance in dialogues with the indigenous movement in southwestern Cauca department that has been calling for the military to leave its territory. In a message commemorating the International Day of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Anaya highlighted "the rights of property and autonomy the indigenous peoples have over their own traditional territories," while stressing that the Colombian state needed to consult the indigenous movements before establishing military presence on their territories. Anaya emphasized that "the presence of the army should not contribute to putting the indigenous in danger."

Colombia: blows against narco-para network?

Erikson Vargas AKA "Sebastian"—purported leader of the Medellín-based crime syndicate Oficina de Envigado—was captured by Colombian National Police on Aug. 8. in Copacabana, a town just outside the country's second-largest city. Police said one of Sebastian's bodyguards was killed when police stormed his hideout. President Juan Manuel Santos praised the arrest as a "super-blow" against organized crime and promised a "gold medal to the police" for the capture. (Colombia Reports, BBC News, Aug. 8) That same day, Luis Fernando Jaramillo Arroyave AKA "Nano"—a top commander of Los Urabeños paramilitary group—was extradited to the US on drug trafficking charges. Nano, also said to have founded Los Paisas paramilitary group, was captured in Medellín in February 2011 and later sentenced nine months on charges of murder, drug trafficking and conspiracy. (Colombia Reports, Aug. 8)

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