Bolivian National Police on Aug. 18 used batons and tear-gas to break up a road blockade launched a week earlier by Guaraní indigenous residents—and then raided the homes of several people thought to be organizers of the action. At least 10 people were detained on the highway and in the subsequent raids at Yateirenda community, Cabezas municipality, Santa Cruz department.Community leaders accused the police of "disproportionate" force in the raids, terrorizing women, children and elders. and filed a complaint with the Bolivian Permanent Assembly of Human Rights (APDHB). Local Guaraní from Takovo Mora Original Communitarian Territory (TCO) began blocking the Santa Cruz-Camiri highway to demand the right to "prior consultation" on the development of wells at the Chaco gas-fields, run by the parastatal YPFB. The company maintains that the four wells in question are all on private lands and therefore not subject to prior consultation with the TCO. The TCO, in turn, maintains that the wells are within its traditional territory and will impact their lands. (Eju!, Aug. 18; FM Bolivia, Aug. 14; Entorno Inteligente, Aug. 11)
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, a leading activist in Mexico's violence-torn state of Guerrero and a vocal advocate for the families of the 43 students who went missing there in September 2014, was himself found dead on Aug. 10. His body was discovered riddled with bullets and slumped over the wheel of the taxi he owned in the pueblo of Xaltianguis, just outside Acapulco. He had led search parties after the disappearance of the students, who are now believed to have been turned over to a murderous narco-gang after being detained by police. Only one body of this missing students has yet been found. As it became increasingly clear the students had been killed, he helped organize a group called The Other Disappeared—mostly women, who meet every Sunday to search the hills for the remains of their loved ones. Since the group began work, it has unearthed 129 bodies, which were handed over to the authorities for identification. As he began to organize around the issue, Jiménez Blanco said some 300 families came forward saying they also had missing relatives. He said in a BBC interview earlier this year: "We have been saying from the start that this area is a cemetery."
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz issued a statement Aug. 24 expressing concern about ongoing violence against protesters by security forces in Ecuador, and called for a "just and impartial" investigation. The statement made special note of "accusations of violence against indigenous women" who participated in peaceful demonstrations. (InfoBae, Aug. 25) Repression is reported from Quito and several rural areas affected by the strike, with homes raided and residents reportedly beaten by soliders and police in Saraguro, in southern Loja province. Among those beaten in the Amazonian province of Zamora Chinchipe was the prefect, Salvador Quishpe. (The Guardian, Aug. 19) Indigenous leader Nina Pacari called on Tauli-Corpuz to visit Ecuador to witness the "state strategies of social control and repression" in response to the national strike called this month by indigenous and labor leaders. By government figures, 126 have been detained since the strike began with 64 still held on "preventative detention" orders. Pacari says the number detained is actually 142. President Rafael Correa accuses to protesters of seeking to destabilize him in a "soft coup." (EFE, Aug. 25)
Colombia's FARC guerillas may be working under the table with their supposed bitter enemies in the ultra-right paramilitary groups. E-mails released by authorities on Aug. 5 reportedly reveal that the FARC and Los Urabeños paramilitary have been collaborating to traffic drugs and weapons. In one of the undated e-mails, a FARC fighter known as "Ruben Manteco" wrote to "Pastor Alape"—one of the FARC's top commanders and a representative in Havana for peace talks with the Colombian government. The message refers to a gift offered the FARC by "Otoniel," the notorious Urabeño warlord. According to the e-mail exchange, Otoniel sent $170,000 as a good-will gesture to prove his reliability as a business partner. Alape instructed Manteco to accept the gift, adding that he should pursue negotiations on arms deals once confidence in the partnership was established. Another e-mail exchange discusses plans for FARC-Urabeño collaboration in drug trafficking. In that exchange, "Roman Ruiz," a FARC commander killed in an army offensive earlier this year, suggests to Alape that the guerillas raise the price on cocaine exports. Other e-mails indicate the FARC has been providing security to the Urabeños during their drug operations while also helping to broker deals.
Aug. 21 marked the two-year anniversary of the chemical weapon attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, found by international investigations to have been the work of the Bashar Assad regime. The Syrian diaspora around the world held protests and vigils marking the event. The vigil in New York's Times Square for a second year drew some 200, wearing matching t-shirts reading "CHEMICAL MASSACRE IN SYRIA: WE WILL NEVER FORGET." Amid Syrian flags (the pre-Assad version used by the rebel forces), protesters laid white-shrouded effigies representing the dead, and as the sun set lit rows of small candles numbering 1,400—the estimated number killed in the attack. Chants—led by children, prominently including a girl of perhaps 10 years—included "BASHAR ASSAD, YOU WILL SEE; SYRIA, SYRIA WILL BE FREE"; 'BASHAR, ISIS, THEY'RE THE SAME; ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THE NAME"; and "SYRIA, SYRIA, DON'T YOU CRY; WE WILL NEVER LET YOU DIE." (WW4R on the scene)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has declared a "quasi-state of war" after convening an emergency meeting of his military leaders, with the Korean People's Army (KPA) "ready to launch surprise operations," the Nort'’s official KCNA agency reported Aug. 21. There are ominous reports that the KPA is preparing a missile strike on the South. Preparations at missile launch sites near Pyongyang were reportedly detencted by South Korean and US military monitors. The escalation comes following an exchange of artillery fire across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Aug. 20. Tensions have been rising since an Aug. 4 incident that saw two South Korean soldiers severely wounded by a mine explosion along the DMZ, with Seoul and the UN Command claiming North Korea troops intentionally placed the mine on a path known to be used by South Korean patrols. In response, South Korea has renewed anti-DPRK propaganda broadcasts along the DMZ. Media reports in the West are not emphasizing that the esclation also comes amid the joint US-South Korea "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" military exercise. The annual exercise, which runs from Aug. 17-28, involves 30,000 US troops and 50,000 South Korean. According to a statement from the Combined Forces Command (CFC) in South Korea, UFG is "a routine and defense-oriented exercise designed to enhance CFC readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula." The exercise was briefly suspended following the artillery exchange, but has now been resumed. (NK News, NK News, Business Insider, Aug. 21; Asia Times, Aug. 20)
Georgia's Foreign Ministry on Aug. 20 protested a violation of the country's airspace by a Russian military helicopter near the border with the contested South Ossetia enclave. The incursion came as Russia is carrying out military exercises in the border zone, and is accused by Georgia of having unilaterally moved border markers last month. On July 10, Russian troops reportedly placed new demarcation signposts along the de facto boundary between Russian-controlled South Ossetia, which was separated from Georgia in the 2008 war, and Tbilisi-controlled territory. Critically, the newly seized territory includes a kilometer-long section of the Baku-Supsa pipeline, which brings oil from Azerbaijan to BP's Supsa terminal in Georgia. Russia is among a handful of countries that have recognized the "independence" of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Both of the breakaway regions rely heavily on military and financial aid from Russia, which does not allow European Union monitors to access either enclave. (InterFax, Aug. 20; RFE/RL, Aug. 19; BBC News, Aug. 10)
Libya's internationally-recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni on Aug. 19 called for international air-strikes against ISIS and other jihadist factions that have seized territory in the country. Al-Thinni said he wants his own ground forces to direct strikes "from an Arab coalition—either nations on their own or in clusters—to eliminate these groups." He also reiterated his call for the UN arms embargo on Libya, in place since the 2011 revolution, to be lifted. Libya is now split between al-Thinni's government in the east and a rival Islamist-led government that controls the capital, Tripoli. (AP, Aug. 20)