A group of local residents and environmentalist activists blocked the road to a forest area in the Cerattepeli region of Turkey's Black Sea province of Artvin to block preparation of a mining project. A team of officials from the national Forestry Ministry officials from entering the area to demarcate the lease area. Ministry officials attempted to enter the area from a different path, after their first attempt was stopped by the activists' road block July 2. The activist group is calling itself "300 Cerattepeli" in reference to the legend of 300 Spartans who stood their ground against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. (Doğan News Agency, July 2) The 24HourGold website indicates the Cerattepeli (also rendered Cerattepe) project si being developed by Canada-based Teck Resources. 24HourGold also indicates leases in the area similarly awaiting development by UK-based KEFI Minerals and US-based Alacer Gold Corp.
At least 500 people have been arrested and the majority sentenced to flogging in Shiraz, southern Iran, for failing to observe the daytime fast during the holy month of Ramadan, authorities announced July 1. At least two sites in the city serving food during daylight hours were shut down by the paramilitary Bassij force. Another 2,699 individuals received verbal warnings and 261 others were given written notices by the Bassij patrols. Anyone in Iran caught eating or drinking in public during daytime in Ramadan may receive 74 lashes in addition to a prison term of up to two months, judicial authorities have threatened. Special patrols are stationed on streets and in public parks to enforce the edict. Public floggings have soared in Iran in recent months, with the actual number of floggings said to be much higher than officially announced. (NCRI, July 1)
Mexico's drug cartels appear to have declared open season on any candidate for public office who will not toe their line in the run-up to June's midterm elections. On May 14, mayoral candidate Enrique Hernández Salcedo was shot to death by gunmen who fired from a passing truck as he was making a speech in the town of Yurécuaro, Michoacán. Three spectators were injured. Hernández was a leader of the town's "self-defense force," which took up arms to break the grip of the Knights Templar drug cartel in the region. He was running with the left-opposition Morena party.
Maya indigenous peasants in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas are marching cross-country to oppose violence by the local narco gangs and the corruption of local authorities that protect them. The "pilgrimage" left the rural town of Simojovel some 15,000 strong at the end of March, and is now arriving at the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez, some 240 kilometers away through rugged country. The pilgrimage was organized by the Catholic pacifist group Pueblo Creyente (Faithful People) with the support of the local diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas in response to a wave of narco-violence in Simojovel.
Burundi authorities arrested several military generals May 15 after an unsuccessful coup attempt and said the suspects will face a military court for mutiny charges. Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare [who fought alongside Hutu rebels in the 1993-2005 civil war] announced the coup on May 13. President Pierre Nkurunziza was in Tanzania at the time the coup was announced but is believed to be back in his country. In Bujumbura, troops supporting the president and those supporting Niyombare fought on the streets for two days after the declared coup. Following the announcement, the airport in Bujumbura and the land borders were closed, but the streets reportedly calmed by May 15.
Mali's government is boasting a deal with Tuareg leaders signed May 15 in the capital Bamako that grants autonomous powers to the northern homeland of Azawad. But the "Algiers Accord"—named for Algeria-brokered negotiations—was not signed by the main rebel factions. Two leaders of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) signed, but not the body as a whole. The pro-Bamako militia known as the Tuareg Self-Defense Group of Imghad and Allies (GATIA) also signed. But the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and allied High Council for the Unity of Azawad boycotted the ceremony. Also absent were the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), Coordination for the People of Azawad (CPA), and Coordination of Movements and Fronts of Patriotic Resistance (CM-SAF).
Authorities in Colombia are carrying out their biggest manhunt since the campaign that brought down the legendary Pablo Escobar in 1993. Dario Antonio Usuga AKA "Otoniel" is leader of the Urabeños, a blood-drenched paramilitary network which is said to control much of the cocaine trade in Colombia's northern region of Urabá. The hunt, dubbed the "Siege of Urabá," has mobilized over 2,000 soldiers and National Police troops to the jungles and peasant villages of the northern region. Under a new reward just announced by President Juan Manuel Santos, Otoniel now has a $580,000 price on his head, while his associates "El Galivan," "Nicolas" and "Guagua" each have a price of nearly $200,000.
Colombians made history March 8, as tens of thousands took to the streets in cities and towns nationwide—joined by Colombian ex-pats and immigrants in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere—to show their support for peace talks between the government and FARC guerillas. The "March for Life" was organized by Bogotá’s ex-mayor Antanas Mockus and was embraced by President Juan Manuel Santos, who joined the march in the capital. Since then, there have been some encouraging signs that the country’s multi-decade armed conflict is really coming to an end. (EuroNews, March 9;AP, Colombia Reports, March 8)