paramilitaries

Bogotá stand-off amid renewed repression

Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, ordered to step down last month by Colombia's Prosecutor General Alejandro Ordóñez, won a reprieve Jan. 14, when Magistrate José Armenta of the Supreme Tribunal of Cundinamarca department ruled that the order should not be carried out until it has been established that it complied with the law. Petro, who is allowed to remain in office while the case is on appeal, responded to the ruling by saying "justice had won." But Ordóñez did not say that he would honor the court's ruling, and Petro told supporters in the Plaza de Bolívar just one week later that he believed he will be ordered to step down by the end of January. He suggested he would acquiesce, saying: "This is the final week; this story is over." (Caracol Radio, Jan. 23; BBC News, Jan. 15; El Tiempo, Jan. 14)

Colombia: Embera indigenous leaders assassinated

Rights groups warn that Embera Chamí indigenous leader Flaminio Onogama Gutiérrez is at risk following the killing of his two nephews in southwestern Colombia. On Jan. 1, Berlain Saigama Gutiérrez and Jhon Braulio Saigama, themselves leaders at the Embera Chamí community of La Esperanza, El Dovio municipality, Valle del Cauca, were found stabbed to death. The bodies were discovered with multiple wounds and signs of torture in different places from where they had been abducted on Dec. 30 and 31. The presumed paramilitary gunmen who seized them first demanded to know the whereabouts of Onogama Gutiérrez. (Amnesty International, Jan. 17) A sample letter to send to Colombian authorities demanding action in the case is online at I Save Lives.

Nigeria: Fulani nomads named in attack on village

At least 30 people were killed by gunmen said to be Hausa-Fulani herdsmen in a raid on Shonong village, in Bachit district of Nigeria's Plateau state Jan. 7. (See map.) Over 40 homes were reportedly burned by the attackers, and livestock stolen. Thousands have been killed in a spiral of violence in Plateau state in recent years, rooted in land disputes between semi-nomadic Muslim Fulani herdsmen and mainly Christian Berom farmers. Plateau lies in a belt of savanna where Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north meets the Christian-majority south. (BBC News, Leadership, Abuja, via AllAfrica, Jan. 7)

Colombia: photos link Uribe to narcos, paras

On Dec. 25, Bogotá-based online newspaper Las 2 Orillas ran photos scanned from old print editions of provincial daily El Meridiano de Córdoba that showed ex-president Álvaro Uribe Vélez posing with various figures linked to narco-trafficking and illegal paramilitaries. The shots, taken when Uribe was on the campaign trail in 2002, and earlier when he was governor of Antioquia, showed him with numerous figures later tainted by the "para-politics" scandal. One was Róger Taboada, first director of the scandal-plagued rural development bank FINAGRO, who stepped down following revelations he had approved a  loan to Luis Enrique "Micky" Ramírez, the reigning drug lord of Caquetá department. Uribe also appeared with family members of now-imprisoned paramilitary warlord Salvatore Mancuso

Medellín terror targets Afro-Colombian family

Forty-five family members of an Afro-Colombian man who was shot Dec. 16 in Medellin have been displaced from their homes following threats from illegal armed groups operating in their neighborhood. Víctor Adán Pacheco Palacios, the slain family patriarch, moved with his children and grandchildren to Medellín's poor and conflicted district of Comuna 13 two years ago from the Pacific coast department of Chocó, after being displaced from their homes by paramilitary violence. Medellín authorities suspect the shooting may have been retaliation for the refusal of Pacheco's sons to join an armed group operating in Comuna 13.

Colombia: intensified violence against labor leaders

The long campaign of violence against organized labor in Colombia intensified in 2013. According to preliminary figures from the National Labor School (ENS), 26 unionists were assassinated this year for defending the rights of workers, with another 13 surviving attempts on their lives, and 149 receiving threats. This constitutes a 15% jump over the number of unionists assassinated in 2012. In December alone, two leaders of the National Federation of Public Servants (FENASER) were killed in Norte de Santander department. The ENS also cited 13 cases of "arbitrary detention" of unionists by the police. The findings were released on Dec. 10, the 65th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights. (Comfia.info, Spain, Dec. 20; Rojo i Negro, Spain, Dec. 13)

Colombia: campesinos mobilize for land, water

Indigenous campesinos in Colombia's Valle del Cauca department launched an occupation of the central square in Florida municipality Dec. 23 to protest a potable water project overseen by the privatized regional utility Acuavalle. The protesters charge that the project wll deliver water only to neighboring Candelaria municipality, violating Acuavalle's legal responsibility to provide their resguardo, Triunfo Cristal Paez, which lies within Florida. The Valle del Cauca Regional Indigenous Organization (ORIVAC) estabished an encampement in Florida's central square—in defiance of a curfew declared by municipal authorities in response to protests earlier this month. (El Pais, Cali, Dec. 23; El Pais, Dec. 4)

Colombia: kingpin named in Trujillo Massacre

The Fiscalía, Colombia's public prosecutor, on Dec. 9 formally charged a notorious drug kingpin for masterminding several massacres between 1988 and 1994 in which hundreds of people were killed. The crimes, dubbed the Massacre of Trujillo after the town where they were committed in Valle del Cauca department, resulted in the deaths of up to 342 people. Among the victims were unionists, alleged guerrilla supporters, and a priest. Some of the victims were tortured and dismembered as a warning to rebel groups FARC and ELN, and their sympathizers. Diego Montoya AKA "Don Diego" is accused of conspiring with members of the army, police, regional politicians and paramilitary groups aligned to the infamous Cali Cartel. Several members of the security forces have also been charged for their alleged role in the killings.

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