Andean Theater

Peru: deadly clash as narco-flight intercepted

Agents of Peru's National Police force intercepted a small plane loaded with 300 kilos of cocaine paste in Oxapampa province, Pasco region, on Nov. 24, mortally wounding the pilot, a Bolivian national. Authorities said the agents, attached to the elite Tactical Anti-drug Operations Directorate (DIRANDRO), were staking out a clandestine airstrip they had discovered when the Bolivian-registered plane landed there. Three Peruvian crewmen were taken into custody, but the pilot was apparently shot in the stomach when he resisted. He was evacuated by helicopter to the nearest town, Ciudad Constitución, where he died in the hospital. The cocaine paste is believed to have been locally produced, and bound for Bolivia.

Bolivia: activists disrupt Human Rights Day confab

A group of Bolivian activists, led by human rights campaigner Olga Flores, disrupted the proceedings at the Central Bank auditorium in La Paz Dec. 10, where official commemorations were underway for International Human Rights Day. Protesters shouted out demands that Sacha Llorenti step down as Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, accusing him of having ordered repression of indigenous protesters at the town of Chaparina when he was interior minister in September 2011. The protesters at Chaparina were holding a cross-country march in defense of the TIPNIS, a national park and indigenous reserve that the government of President Evo Morales sought to build a highway through. "This act is a farse," Flores said at the ceremony. "In Bolivia, human rights are not respected." Teresa Zubieta, president of La Paz section of the official Permanent Assembly of Human Rigths, who had been presiding at the event, responded by accusing Flores of being in league with the Movimiento Sin Miedo, a right-wing opposition group. (Erbol, Eju!, Dec. 11; ANF, Dec. 10)

Colombia: kingpin named in Trujillo Massacre

The Fiscalía, Colombia's public prosecutor, on Dec. 9 formally charged a notorious drug kingpin for masterminding several massacres between 1988 and 1994 in which hundreds of people were killed. The crimes, dubbed the Massacre of Trujillo after the town where they were committed in Valle del Cauca department, resulted in the deaths of up to 342 people. Among the victims were unionists, alleged guerrilla supporters, and a priest. Some of the victims were tortured and dismembered as a warning to rebel groups FARC and ELN, and their sympathizers. Diego Montoya AKA "Don Diego" is accused of conspiring with members of the army, police, regional politicians and paramilitary groups aligned to the infamous Cali Cartel. Several members of the security forces have also been charged for their alleged role in the killings.

Protesters occupy Bogotá over municipal 'coup'

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.)

Colombia: violent eviction at Cúcuta squatter camp

Some 100 troops from ESMAD, the feared Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron of the Colombian National Police force, were mobilized Nov. 21 to the corregimiento (unincorporated village) of Urimaco, in the outlying rural zone of Cúcuta, capital of Norte de Santander department, to evict an encampment of campesinos who had been displaced from their homes by political violence in the region. At least 50 makeshift dwellings and small farm plots were destroyed in the operation, carried out at the behest of Cúcuta municipal authorities. Local attorney Germán Urbina says he intends to bring suit against the authorities, charging the eviction was carried out in violation of an April order from Colombia's Constitutional Court mandating that new housing must be provided for the squatters before they could be expelled.

Colombia: threatened indigenous group leader slain

Two gunmen described as sicarios (hired assassins) killed Juan Álvaro Pai, a traditional governor of the Awá indigenous people, in an incursion into the resguardo (reserve) Inda Guacaray, in Colombia's southern Nariño department, Nov. 30. The gunmen arrived in the resguardo on a motorcycle, immediately made for Pai's home, and upon finding him fired six bullets into his body. Víctor Gallo, mayor of local Tumaco municipality, demanded that the Fiscalía (public prosecutor) and National Police open an urgent investigation, protesting the atmosphere of "impunity" that allows aggression against the Awá. In early July, Awá held a public demonstration, blocking the Pan-American Highway for a week, to protest the violence directed against their communities by various armed actors in Colombia's civil war. 

Bolivia: repression against dictatorship survivors

Elements of the Special Operations Tactical Unit (UTOP), Bolivia's elite anti-riot force, used tear-gas Nov. 19 against survivors of the country's military dictatorship who protested in front of the Government Palace in La Paz to demand indemnification for torture they suffered in the 1970s. "Here they repressed us just as in the time of the dictatorship," said the group's leader, Victoria López. The survivors had maintained a vigil outside the Justice Ministry for over a year, but decided to move to the Government Palace, on the city's central Plaza Murillo, after receiving no response. Communications Minister Amanda Dávila told the press that the protesters were not on the registered list of victims who are entitled to restitution. The government is recognizing a list compiled by the Association of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of the Dictatorships (ASOFAM), which the protesters charge is incomplete. (Erbol, Nov. 19) Survivors of the military dictatorships have long pressed the government of President Evo Morales on a full accounting for the abuses of the "dirty war" era.

Colombia: Cauca campesino leader assassinated

Sergio Úlcue Perdomo, a campesino leader representing veredas (hamlets) in the municipality of Caloto, in Colombia's southwestern Cauca department, was killed by unknown gunmen in civilian clothes who invaded his family's shelter in vereda Marañón on Nov. 17. Family members, including children, looked on as he was slain. The family has been living in the improvised shelter since November 2011, when they were forced by paramilitary threats to abandon their traditional lands and home in vereda El Pedregal. In 2009, Úlcue Perdomo led an effort to document rights abuses by the Colombian army and allied paramilitaries at the veredas of El Pedregal and El Vergel, bringing a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) on behalf of some 175 families. The CIDH issued a "Precuationary Measure," MC-97-10, calling on the Colombian government to guarantee the safety of the threatened families. (Corporación Justicia y Dignidad via Rebelión, Nov. 19)

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