Colombia: FARC assassinate indigenous leader

Charging a "Plan of Extermination" by all actors in Colombia's armed conflict, traditional indigenous authorities in southwest Cauca region on Jan. 22 protested the "assassination" two days earlier of Nasa indigenous leader Rafael Mauricio Girón Ulchur at the village of Jámbalo. The statement said Girón had been ambushed while riding his motorcycle, and that the gunmen were FARC guerillas who fled into the bush after the slaying. The statement charged that he had been targeted for advocating a "Plan of Life" based on indigenous territorial rights, self-determination and protection of natural resources as an alternative to the peace plan being worked out by FARC and government negotiators in Havana, Cuba. It noted that the assassination came the same day that the FARC officially declared an end to the unilateral ceasefire instated for the Havana talks. (ACIN, Jan. 22)

Colombia: FARC ends unilateral ceasefire

Colombia's FARC rebels on Jan. 20 announced the immediate end of a two-month unilateral ceasefire and renewed their call for a bilateral truce to hold peace talks with the government "in a tranquil environment." The FARC had offered to extend the truce if the Colombian government signed a bilateral ceasefire, but President Juan Manuel Santos rejected that idea from the start. Speaking to press in Havana, the leader of the FARC's negotiating team, "Ivan Márquez," said that "with pain in our hearts we must admit that we return to the time of military warfare that nobody wants." Santos responded at a public event in Padilla, a village in southwestern Cauca department hard hit by fighting: "The armed forces, like our army, air force, navy and police, know exactly what to do come tomorrow."

Colombia: ICC 'false positive' probe advances

On Nov. 15, the International Criminal Court (ICC) gave Colombia a clear warning that the Court expects accountability at the senior level for serious crimes that fall under its jurisdiction, or else it may pursue a formal investigation. The warning came in the first interim examination report ever issued by the Court's Prosecutor Office. Colombia joined the ICC in November 2002 and is one of only eight countries formally under ICC examination. The others are Honduras, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Georgia, Guinea, North Korea and Mali.

Colombia: indigenous peace proposal advanced

An open letter from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) Nov. 22 outlined an "Indigenous and Popular Peace Proposal" that they are demanding be taken up at the talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels now underway in Havana. The proposal stresses issues not on the agenda at Havana, including the territorial autonomy and traditional authority of Colombia's indigenous peoples. Indigenous leaders will convene a meeting next month to advance the proposal and press demands for openinig the peace process to popular participation. The meeting will be held at the village of La María de Piendamó, Cauca department, which has been declared a "territory of peace and dialogue."

FARC factionalizing amid peace talks?

With representatives from the Colombian government and FARC rebels currently engaged in "phase two" of the peace talks in Oslo, conservative politicians in Colombia warn of evidence that factions of the guerrilla army in the country's south are not willing to participate in the peace process. "We urge the government and the guerrillas to say if the Southern Mobile Bloc and the Teofilo Forero Mobile Column are in the peace process, because they are still recruiting and trafficking drugs," said Sen. Carlos Ramiro Chavarro. Conservative Party president Efrain Cepeda. "The dialogue needs to be with 100% of the guerrillas to be legitimate." The agenda of "phase two" of the negotiations focuses on five overlapping points: agrarian reform, guarantees of political participation, ending the armed conflict, drug trafficking, and the rights of victims.

Colombia apologizes for Amazon genocide

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on Oct. 12—recognized in Latin America as Día de La Raza—issued an official apology to indigenous communities in the Amazon for deaths and destruction caused by the rubber boom beginning a century ago. From 1912 to 1929 the Peruvian firm Casa Arana, led by rubber baron Julio César Arana with British backing, exploited rubber near La Chorrera in what is now Colombia's Amazonas department. Up 100,000 people were killed and communities devastated in the operations, with indigenous rainforest dwellers forced into slave labor and slain or displaced if they resisted. The situation was brought to the world's attention following an investigation by British diplomat Roger Casement, who had previously documented similar atrocities in the Belgian Congo.

'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: no ceasefire during peace talks

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos rejected a proposal Sept. 6 by the FARC rebels for a bilateral ceasefire during talks set to begin in Norway next month, aimed at bringing an end to the country's long civil war. In an address at Tolemaida military base outside Bogotá, Santos pledged that the counter-insurgency campaign would continue across "every centimeter" of the country. "I have asked that military operations be intensified, that there will be no ceasefire of any kind," Santos said. "We won't cede anything at all until we reach the final agreement. That should be very clear."

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