Peru's President Ollanta Humala on Dec. 9 announced the capture of the new commander of the remnant Sendero Luminoso column in the Upper Huallaga Valley—one of two remaining pockets of coca-producing jungle where the scattered Maoist guerilla movement is still keeping alive a local insurgency. The commander was named as Alexander Fabián Huamán AKA "Héctor"—said to have assumed leadership of the guerillas' "Huallaga Regional Committee" after the capture last year of "Comrade Artemio," the last "historic" Sendero leader (that is, dating back to the insurgency's heyday 20 years ago). Gen. Víctor Romero Fernández, commander of the National Police Anti-Drug Directorate (DIRANDRO), called the arrest a "hard blow" against the guerillas, and predicted that "Sendero Luminoso is disappearing in this zone." (InfoBAE, Andina, Dec. 9)
Followers of Bolivian Aymara organization CONAMAQ blocked the highway between La Paz and Oruro for four hours Dec. 19, demanding that their office in La Paz be returned to them—and not be turned over to rivals within the organization that they say are being manipulated by the ruling party. The dispute began nine days earlier, when CONAMAQ's national gathering in La Paz, dubbed the Jach'a Tantachawi (Grand Assembly), broke down into a physical confrontation for control of the office. The following day, Dec. 11, National Police riot troops sealed off the office, barring access to the dissident faction that had been in control of it, "organic CONAMAQ." Adherents of this faction, led by Félix Becerra, began a round-the-clock vigil outside the office, camping on the sidewalk opposite a phalanx of police. On Dec. 13, a fight erupted when the vigilers were set upon by followers of the rival faction, led by Hilarión Mamani. That night, five "organic" leaders began a hunger strike to demand the office be restored to them. On Dec. 18, they lifted their fast, and decided to take direct action. One of the strikers, Walberto Barahona of Qhara Qhara Suyu, Chuquisaca department, said: "It is better to mobilize, because if we wait sitting we will die of hunger."
Colombia's oldest rebel group FARC has undergone significant changes concerning military strategy since entering the ongoing peace talks with the government, according to a new report. The report by think tank Fundación Paz y Reconciliación which was partly released in national newspaper El Espectador on Dec. 17 revealed how the rebel organization changed their military strategies, adapting to the rhythm of this year's peace talks. "In September and October when the negotiations were in a crisis due to a lack of progress concerning the point of political participation, [the FARC] launched a minor offensive, attacking the oil and energy infrastructure that left Tumaco 20 days without power. This shows that the operational capacity of the FARC is not that decimated," the report was quoted in El Espectador.
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.
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)
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.
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.)
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.