Colombia: riot police attack student protesters

In a dawn raid on Oct. 8, the Colombian National Police special Mobile Anti-disturbance Squad (ESMAD) stormed the Technological University of Chocó in the departmental capital of Quibdó, using tear gas to evict students had had been occupying the campus. Several students were injured, and one, Edwin Córdoba, is in critical condition at the city's hospital. Organizers say 12 students were arrested and two have been "disappeared." Students are continuing to demonstrate in front the university. 

'El Loco' Barrera, Colombia's most wanted, busted in Venezuela

Authorities from four countries cooperated in a months-long operation that led to the arrest Sept. 18 of Daniel Barrera AKA "El Loco"—dubbed the "last of the great capos" by Colombia's President Manuel Santos—on a street in San Cristóbal, a town in Venezuela's western Táchira state. Barrera was apprehended while making a call from a phone booth, allegedly after one of his relatives had given up his location. The arrest followed four months of cooperation between Colombia's National Police, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the UK's MI6 and Venezuela's National Anti-Drug Office (ONA). According to Colombia's defense minister, Juan Carlos Pinzón, the kingpin had been in Venezuela for the past eight months and was running his business while moving between several towns near the Colombian border.

Colombia: army general gets 25 years for para collaboration

A retired Colombian army general accused by prosecutors of forming a "macabre alliance" with illegal paramilitary groups was sentenced to 25 years in prison Aug. 24 in connection with the 1997 murder of a peasant leader. The sentencing of former general Rito Alejo del Río Rojas brings closure to a case that has long languished in the Colombian justice system and focuses renewed attention on the collaboration between top military officers and paramilitaries affiliated with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Colombia's ex-security chief pleads guilty to para collaboration

Colombia's Prosecutor General said Aug. 28 that judicial authorities are weighing whether to request that the US extradite back a former top-ranking army and National Police officer who one week earlier was arraigned before a federal court in Virginia. Gen. Mauricio Santoyo, security chief to Colombia's then-president Álvaro Uribe from 2002-2006, pleaded guilty to collaborating with the outlawed AUC paramilitary network, while pleading not guilty to drug trafficking charges. Santoyo is accused of providing the AUC with intelligence from wiretaps and other sources about suspected guerilla collaborators.The AUC, officially demobilized in 2006, is considered a terrorist organization by the US. Support of terrorist organizations holds a maximum penalty of 30 years. Santoyo, who arranged his surrender to the DEA in Bogotá in June, will be sentenced in November. He still faces no charges in Colombia.

Colombia: paramilitaries issue death threats in Barrancabermeja

A reconstituted paramilitary group, "Los Rastrojos Urban Commandos," made a series of death threats the week of Aug. 13 against members of four human rights organizations and one union in Barrancabermeja in the northern Colombian department of Santander. The first threats came in a manila envelope found on Aug. 14 at the home of human rights activist Himad Choser. The envelope contained a 9 mm bullet and a pamphlet by "Los Rastrojos" declaring Choser an enemy because he had been "denouncing and attacking our economic structure, based on drug trafficking in the region." The pamphlet described Choser as "at the service of the FARC," the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The pamphlet also named four organizations and the National Union of Food Industry Workers (SINALTRAINAL) as collaborators with Choser.

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: 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.

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