Colombia: indigenous to open dialogue with FARC

Indigenous leaders in Colombia's Cauca department last month exchanged letters with FARC commander Rodrigo Londono AKA "Timochenko" AKA "Timoleón Jiménez" to discuss a face-to-face dialogue over guerilla aggression against native peoples. "Timochenko" wrote to indigenous leaders on May 13, appealing to them "to reach understandings that will allow us satisfactorily to advance towards our mutual goals of peace and social justice." He denied recent accusations by native leaders that  the FARC is complicit in the "genocide of the indigenous" of Cauca, and broached a personal meeting. The indigenous leaders reponded on May 16 with an open letter accepting the invitation to direct dialogue, but adding: "However, our communities want to see the dialogue does represent changes to our conditions; that you stop killing, accusing and dividing us." The letter protested the FARC's accusation that the indigenous leadership are a "counterinsurgency force."

Samantha Power signals Syria intervention?

The usual frustrating mess. The ascendance of Samantha Power, longtime advocate of "humanitarian intervention," as Obama's new UN ambassador (replacing Susan Rice, named for National Security Advisor), is applauded by Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (NBC)—and, we may be certain, opposed by both the anti-war left and the paleocon right. Google results reveal that the paleocons have beat the lefties to the punch. A Fox News report picked up by World Net Daily taunts: "'Nazi' Problem for Obama's UN pick?"...

Brazil: indigenous protester killed in land dispute

Osiel Gabriel, an indigenous Terena, was killed on May 30 when Brazilian federal police violently removed a group of Terena protesters who had been occupying the Buriti estate in Sidrolandia, in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, since May 15. At least three indigenous people and one police agent were treated at a local hospital with light injuries; eight protesters were arrested. The occupiers reportedly fought back with wooden clubs and bows and arrows and set some of the estate's buildings on fire. The authorities claimed police agents only used rubber bullet and tear gas; according to state police superintendent Edgar Paulo Marcon, the protesters fired on the agents.

'Sunni cleansing' in Syria?

Syrian elite troops are backing up an offensive apparently led by Hezbollah against rebels in the strategic town of Qusayr, as the UN Human Rights Council debates a resolution condemning the assault. Russia meanwhile protests a European Union decision to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels, and says it will respond by supplying Damascus with S-300 air-defense missiles. This, in turn, is decried as a "threat" by Israel, which warns it could launch air-strikes to destroy any deployed missiles. "The situation is beginning to show worrying signs of destabilizing the region as a whole," said UN rights chief Navi Pillay. 

Guatemala: thousands protest reversal of dictator's conviction

Thousands of Guatemalans marched in Guatemala City on May 24 to protest a decision four days earlier by the Constitutional Court (CC) overturning the historic May 10 conviction of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) for genocide against the Ixil Mayans in El Quiché department. Organizers said 6,000 people participated in the march, which passed by the offices of the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF)—whose leaders had called for the reversal of the ex-dictator's conviction—and ended with a sit-in outside the Constitutional Court. Protesters denounced the judges as "promoters of impunity."

Latin America: 7 ex-rulers remain jailed or on trial

The death of former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) on May 17 brings to seven the number of Latin American and Caribbean de facto heads of state who are now in prison or facing criminal charges for their acts while in power. All but one were charged in the last decade.

Guatemala: Ríos Montt is convicted —who's next?

On May 10 a three-judge panel of the High Risk Cases Court in Guatemala City convicted former dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983) of ordering, supervising and permitting the killing of 1,771 people from the Ixil Mayan group—about 5.5% of the total Ixil population—in El Quiché department during his 17 months of de facto rule. The killings occurred during the most violent phase of a 36-year civil war in which some 200,000 people died, mostly civilians killed by the military, with covert assistance from the US. Ríos Montt was given a prison sentence of 80 years and was escorted from the court directly to the Matamoros prison. He said would appeal and called the proceedings an international farce. The court acquitted co-defendant José Rodríguez, Ríos Montt's former intelligence chief.

Guatemala: will the Ríos Montt trial continue?

The status of the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) remained uncertain as of May 3, with observers disagreeing on the impact of four rulings by the Constitutional Court (CC) that day. The trial--in which Ríos Montt and former intelligence chief Gen. José Rodríguez face charges of causing the deaths of 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayan civilians in the central department of Quiché during Ríos Montt's dictatorship—started on March 19 but was suddenly suspended on April 18 after an appeals court appeared to reinstate the presiding judge from an earlier phase of the case. The trial resumed on April 30, but on May 2 the three trial judges decided to recess until May 7 to allow the defense to prepare.

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