The "Comandante Diego" Front of Colombia's second largest rebel group the ELN detonated explosives Jan. 1 at four crude-oil holding pools along the Caño Limon-Coveñas pipeline at Convención in the Norte de Santander department. A large blaze caused by the attacks created panic among the local population, who were forced to flee their homes, according to local media reports. Authorities are taking measures to prevent further environmental damage after the attacks, as well as reconstruct the damaged holding pools. The ELN has been coordinating with the FARC in attacks on Colombia’s oil production infrastructure for the past few months, declaring war against multinational oil companies operating in the country last November. (Colombia Reports, Jan. 2; Radio Caracol, Jan. 1)
News accounts revealed in December that the US-funded glyphosate spraying in Colombia has been indefinitely suspended after presumed FARC guerillas shot down two fumigation planes—killing one US pilot. One plane came down Sept. 27, killing the pilot, whose name was not revealed. Reports were unclear where this incident took place. The Los Angeles Times on Dec. 17 named the village of Tarra, which is in Norte de Santander, along the Venezuelan border; Bogotá's El Tiempo implied it was in the southern jungle department of Putumayo. A second crop-duster was brought down Oct. 5, apparently at a location in Caquetá—also in the southern jungle. This prompted the US embassy to halt the spraying, according to anonymous sources. Neither the embassy nor the State Department would confirm the report.
The Peruvian blogosphere is abuzz with rumors of an imminent coup d'etat against President Ollanta Humala, fomented by elements of the opposition APRA party. Humala has reportedly put off all travel abroad and is limiting his trips into the interior of the country, staying close to Lima for fear of a move against his government if he leaves the capital. The National Intelligence Directorate (DINI) has reportedly warned that elements of the National Police are discussing a strike over various greivances, actually aimed at causing an explosion of chaos and debilitating the government—following the model of the right-wing coup of Feb. 5, 1975, that brought Francisco Morales Bermúdez to power. Humala is said to have lost the confidence of the Armed Forces Joint Command, which is unhappy with his execution of the counter-insurgency program in Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE), where a remnant faction of the Sendero Luminoso guerillas remains active. (Raúl Weiner in La Mula, Dec. 23)
Arizona-based Southern Copper is set to restart work at its controversial $1 billion Tía María copper project in Arequipa, Peru, within the next 90 days, Mines and Energy Minister, Jorge Merino said following a public meeting with local residents Dec. 19. Merino told Andina news agency that receiving support from the local community is “a big step forward," adding that it shows how "dialogue and coordinated efforts from national, regional and local authorities can make mega-projects happen." Peru's government sees the Tia Maria project as critical to boosting investment in the mineral sector. "It will show we have made inroads to resolve conflicts that have delayed several mining projects in Peru over concerns by communities about their environmental impact," Merino said.
Forty-five family members of an Afro-Colombian man who was shot Dec. 16 in Medellin have been displaced from their homes following threats from illegal armed groups operating in their neighborhood. Víctor Adán Pacheco Palacios, the slain family patriarch, moved with his children and grandchildren to Medellín's poor and conflicted district of Comuna 13 two years ago from the Pacific coast department of Chocó, after being displaced from their homes by paramilitary violence. Medellín authorities suspect the shooting may have been retaliation for the refusal of Pacheco's sons to join an armed group operating in Comuna 13.
The Washington Post on Dec. 21 ran an in-depth report exposing CIA oversight of the Colombian government's campaign of targeted assassinations of guerilla leaders. Forces from the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have also provided assistance to the program. The US assistance has transformed the Colombian military's "less-than-accurate" 500-pound gravity bombs into precision-guided munitions (PGMs) or "smart bombs" by attaching a "$30,000 GPS guidance kit" to the gravity devices. The bombs have been used to kill around "two dozen rebel leaders," including Luis Edgar Devia Silva AKA Raúl Reyes. He was "considered to be the No. 2 in the seven-member FARC secretariat" and was killed in Ecuador—an operation that Ecuador's government strongly condemned as a violation of its sovereignty. The White House viewed it as an act of "self-defense" because Ecuador would not attack the FARC within its territory.
Indigenous campesinos in Colombia's Valle del Cauca department launched an occupation of the central square in Florida municipality Dec. 23 to protest a potable water project overseen by the privatized regional utility Acuavalle. The protesters charge that the project wll deliver water only to neighboring Candelaria municipality, violating Acuavalle's legal responsibility to provide their resguardo, Triunfo Cristal Paez, which lies within Florida. The Valle del Cauca Regional Indigenous Organization (ORIVAC) estabished an encampement in Florida's central square—in defiance of a curfew declared by municipal authorities in response to protests earlier this month. (El Pais, Cali, Dec. 23; El Pais, Dec. 4)
Bolivia is mobilizing police to the route across the Altiplano and Uyuni salt flats to be taken by the upcoming Dakar Rally Raid cross-country motor-race following a pledge by Aymara protesters to blockade it with their bodies. Adherents of dissident Aymara organization CONAMAQ say they will block the international road rally to press their demands that National Police troops that have been surrounding their La Paz office stand down. CONAMAQ followers along the route through Potosí and Oruro departments are organizing their communities for action. "We say that Dakar will only benefit the city, and not the indigenous peoples," said CONAMAQ leader Rafael Quispe. "The leaders of the 16 suyus [indigenous regions] have resolved to block the passage of Dakar."