Commentary on the Boston attacks is making for some strange permutations. Voices on the left are seeking to play down jihadist involvement in the Chechen struggle—or to portray it as the result of US intrigues, with the obvious analogy to Afghanistan and al-Qaeda itself. Michael Moore's website sports a piece by FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley entitled "Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons," calling out figures such as Richard Perle for backing an "American Committee for Peace in Chechnya" as a lobby for the armed struggle against Russia—the name later "sanitized" to the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus.
On April 16, when Brazil commemorates Indigenous Peoples Day, some 700 indigenous representatives occupied the lower-house Chamber of Deupites in a final effort to stop attempts to change the law concerning their territorial rights. They pledged to maintain their protests until the National Congress drops Constitutional Amendment Proposal 215 (PEC 215), now making its way through the lower house, which would transfer the power to demarcate indigenous lands from the executive to the legislative branch. Indigenous leaders call the move a stratagem by Brazil's powerful Rural Lobby, which includes many politicians who own ranches on indigenous land. Police used tasers in an attempt to stop the occupation.
In a landmark ruling April 18, India's Supreme Court today rejected an appeal to allow Vedanta Resources to mine the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa state. The court decreed that those most affected by the proposed mine should have a decisive say in whether it goes ahead, recognizing the rights of the Dongria Kondh indigenous people. The decision found that the traditional land rights of the local residents must be "protected and preserved." The project is now suspended until a traditional community assembly, or gram sabha, of the impacted villages can be held to assess the project.
As the Friends of Syria summit opened in Istanbul April 20, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced plans to provide $100 million in new "non-lethal" aid to the Syrian opposition—and the Syrian National Coalition demanded actual weapons, threatening to break off talks with the international group if they are not forthcoming. The Coalition also called for drone strikes on the Syrian army's missile sites, and the imposition of no-fly zones. The "non-lethal" package is to include body armor, night-vision goggles, vehicles and other aid with military applications. Kerry nonetheless said the aid "underscores the United States' firm support for a political solution to the crisis in Syria and for the opposition's advancement of an inclusive, tolerant vision for a post-Assad Syria." The new package brings total US aid to the Syrian opposition to $250 million since the fighting began.
With Boston under "lockdown" and a manhunt underway, leaders of the Chechen insurgency issued a statement April 19 casting doubt on police claims that the two suspects in the Marathon bombing—young brothers of Chechen origin—carried out the attacks. The official media arm of the Chechen mujahedeen, the Kavkaz Center, published a blog post that suggested a frame-up as part of a "PR campaign" to discredit the insurgency. The statement mocked the "lightning speed" at which the two suspects were identified, and called the investigation "completely muddled." From a translation by NBC News: "The news that the brothers attacked police officers, carjacked a man and did an array of other things, instead of going into hiding, looks strange at the very least." The statement argued that the younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was "very far from your typical 'Islamic terrorist.' He named career and money as his main credo. What's more, he just logged onto his Russian social networking site a few hours ago." Indeed, an overview of the young man's Twitter and other social media posts on AtlanticWire notes that he listed his "personal priority" as "career and money"—but his "worldview" as "Islam." He also made some ominously foreshadowing tweets, including "I will die young."
Polemic billboards springing up around Colombia, sponsored by former vice president and potential 2014 presidential candidate, Francisco Santos, ask viewers to guess who killed more cops, deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar or FARC leader Ivan Marquez. One billboard in Medellín recently was bombarded with tomatoes by an angry group of citizens. Despite a pending order from the National Electoral Council to take the billboards down, Santos said he had no intention of doing so. "Don't come to me and say that we are using the pain of the victims," he said. "No, I know and I have worked with the victims," referring to his work for the Pais Libre foundation that defends the rights of kidnapping victims and their families.
The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) on April 16 ratified its 2012 decision to remove Colombia from its human rights "black list." This is the first time in over a decade that Colombia has not been included in Chapter IV of the annual report, which lists countries in need of special human rights attention. Commenting on the new report, Colombia’s ambassador for the Organization of American States (OAS), Andres González stated that the task is far from over. "We need to persevere in an immense effort to protect vulnerable populations such as the indigenous, Afro-Colombians and women and children stricken by conflict," said Gonzalez. The only Latin American countries blacklisted in the new report are Cuba, Honduras and Venezuela. (Colombia Reports, April 17)
The US Department of Justice on April 15 accused Guinea-Bissau's top military official, Gen. Antonio Indjai, of plotting a cocaine-for-weapons deal with Colombia's FARC rebels, according to court documents seen by Reuters. The indictment, filed in district court in Manhattan, charges Indjai on four counts: "narco-terrorism conspiracy"; conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; cocaine importation conspiracy; and conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles. The supposed deal came to light after Guinea-Bissau's former navy chief and six henchmen were arrested on the high seas by US forces.