For a second consecutive day Dec. 10, thousands of protesters continued to occupy Plaza Bolívar, the central square in Bogotá, to oppose the removal of the Colombian capital's populist mayor, Gustavo Petro. A left-wing populist and former guerilla fighter, Petro was ordered to step down by Colombia's Prosecutor General Alejandro Ordoñez—officially over irregularities in a reform of the city’s garbage collection system. Under the decision, Petro is barred from holding public office for 15 years. But Petro told his supporters in the plaza, "I am still mayor," and assailed Ordoñez's decision as a "coup against democracy." Protesters pledge to remain in the plaza until the decision is overturned, with banners reading "Respect my vote," and accusing the conservative Ordoñez of being a "golpista" (coup-plotter.)
Ecuador's government ordered closed the environmentalist Fundación Pachamama Dec. 4, with the Interior Ministry saying it was "affecting the public peace." The Environment Ministry issued its own statement accusing of the organization of "interference in public policy." Plainclothes police were sent to seal off the group's offices in the morning. The action stemmed from the previous week's protests at the XI Round for selling oil leases in the Ecuadroan Amazon. President Rafael Correa accused Pachamama and another group, Yasunidos, of attacking the Chilean ambassador, Juan Pablo Lira. Pachamama denies the allegations, saying its members were not even present at the protest in front of the Hydrocarbons Ministry. Fundación Pachamama plans to appeal the government's decision.
Libya's ongoing internal chaos briefly made world news Dec. 5 as a US national, a teacher at the Benghazi International School named Ronald Smith, was shot to death under circumstances that are still unclear. Whoever was behind it, it will be a headache for Obama, whose opponents are still milking the "Benghazigate" scandal. (CNN, Dec. 5) Other than when a US citizen dies, the world media take little note the near-daily violence in the city. On the same day Smith was killed, a member of Libya's Special Forces and a young cadet were gunned down in Benghazi. And the head of the Presidential Guards of the city, Anwar al-Dous, lost a leg when an explosive device detonated under his car. (Libya Herald, Dec. 5) Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou, speaking to reporters at a Franco-African summit in Paris, responded by implying that Libya could be next for intervention: "Our fear is that Libya falls into the hands of Salafist terrorists and that the state becomes like Somalia... Sadly, we're seeing that the terrorists are there and that armed Salafist militia are in Benghazi, with people being killed almost every day. We must stabilize Libya." (Reuters, Dec. 6)
Yemen's ongoing internal war briefly made world news Dec. 5 as a suicide bomber and gunmen wearing army uniforms attacked the defense ministry building in the capital, Sanaa, killing 52 people. One attacker drove a car packed with explosives into the gate of the ministry's compound, then gunmen in another vehicle sped in and opened fire on soldiers and medical staff working at a hospital within the compound. Seven foreign doctors and nurses—from Germany, India, Veitnam and the Philippines—are among the dead. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but authorities of course suspect al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The attack came as Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser is on a visit to Washington. (Reuters, BBC News, Dec. 5)
Lebanon's government has ordered the coastal city of Tripoli placed under army control amid growing sectarian clashes. The move was announced after a 15-year-old boy was among four killed Dec. 3. It marks the first time since the end of the country's civil war in 1990 that the military has been ordered to take full control of a city. The new violence broke out when Alawite residents of the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood began flying Syrian flags to demonstrate their support for Bashar Assad, and Sunni residents of nearby Bab el-Tebbaneh raised the flag of Syria's rebel coalition. The four killed were Alawites, persumably slain by Sunni gunmen, and sparking Alawite protest marches. (Al Jazeera, Dec. 3; AFP, Dec. 1)
A new massacre is reported from Ciudad Juárez, again raising fears of a return to the wave of deadly gangland violence that convulsed the Mexican border city for much of the past decade. Eight members of a single family—including two four-year-old girls and a six-year-old boy—were killed in their home Nov. 17 in the colonia (neighborhood) of Morelos Zaragoza. The bodies of the children were found on their beds, with multiple stab wounds, as were those of two young women. The two men were on armchairs, handcuffed and gagged. A two-month-old baby, known to have lived in the house, was not found among the dead. The family had been planning an event for their Jehova's Witnesses congregation when the attack took place. (Pulso, IOL, Proceso, Nov. 17)