paramilitaries

Sixth teacher assassinated this year in Colombia

A sixth teacher has been reported murdered in Colombia this year on Sept. 2, highlighting continuing challenges for President Juan Manuel Santos’s promise to make Colombians "the most educated in Latin America." Joaquin Gómez Muñoz was murdered by a masked assassin at his home in the southern department of Cauca. He was the sixth teacher to be killed this year, according to FECODE, Colombia's teachers union. Gómez, 54, was born and raised in Cauca. He worked as a math teacher at the school of the Huella indigenous reserve, and was also a community leader a member of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC). This was the second murder of a teacher at Huella in less than six months. Epifanio Latin Ñuscue was tortured to death on March 3. Ñuscue had been previously threatened by FARC guerillas that operate in the region for "defending the autonomy [of] the indigenous government," the community said in a statement. Physical security for educators was one of the main issues in last month's country-wide teachers' strike last month. (Colombia Reports, Sept. 2)

Nigeria: Amnesty implicates military in war crimes

Amnesty International has released gruesome video footage, along with images and testimonies the group provide fresh evidence of war crimes, including extrajudicial executions, being carried out in northeastern Nigeria as the fight by the military against Boko Haram and other armed groups intensifies. The footage, obtained from numerous sources during a recent trip to Borno state, includes horrific images of detainees having their throats slit one-by-one and dumped in mass graves by men who appear to be members of the Nigerian military and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a state-sponsored militia. Several of the armed captors are wearing uniforms emblazoned with the words “Borno State Operation Flush." Said Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty: "What does it say when members of the military carry out such unspeakable acts and capture the images on film? These are not the images we expect from a government which sees itself as having a leadership role in Africa."

Colombia to get truth commission

In the ongoing peace talks in Havana, Colombia's government and the FARC rebels agreed June 7 to set up a truth commission that addresses the deaths of thousands of people in five decades of the country's conflict. Both sides pledged to take responsibility for victims, a break with the longtime practice of blaming each other. The FARC also announced a ceasefire from June 9 to 30, to allow the presidential run-off elections to move ahead. The group had previously declared a week-long ceasefire around the period covering the first round of elections on May 25, in which the hardline Oscar Ivan Zuluaga won more votes than other candidates, but fell far short of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off. Zuluaga criticized the truth commission agreement, insisting that the FARC to admit to being the main culprit of the violence of the past generations. "The FARC rebels are the primary victimizers in Colombia, with all the murders and terrorism they have committed in all these years of massacres," he said at a campaign stop in Huila.

Subcommander Marcos 'ceases to exist'

A new communique from Subcommander Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) (online at Enlace Zapatista, and in translation at Roar Magazine) states that he is stepping down as the public voice of the indigenous Maya rebel army in Mexico's Chiapas state. It says he is to be replaced by a "Subcommander Galeano," named for the nom de guerre of José Luis Solís López, the Zapatista adherent killed on May 2 in a confrontation with a rival campesino group. "I declare that the one known as Insurgent Subcommander Marcos ceases to exist," the statement reads. "The Zapatista National Liberation Army will no longer speak through my voice." The text cites changes in the rebel movement since it announced its existence to the world in a brief armed uprising launched on New Years Day 1994, the exact moment that NAFTA took effect:

Michoacán: ex-vigilantes register weapons

Mexico's government on May 10 started to swear in members of the "community police" vigilante network in Michoacán state for a new rural police force, which is supposed to bring the self-defense militias under state control. An initial 240 "community police" members gathered for the ceremony in the village of Tepacaltepec, a stronghold of the movement, where they received new blue uniforms and registered their rifles, or turned them in for state-issued AR-15s. The ceremony was overseen by the federal pointman for Michoacán, Alfredo Castillo, who waxed florid for the occassion: "Those who 15 months ago said 'Enough' and decided to confront those who did them harm—because of them today we have the State Rural Force that carries the same conviction of justice, of courage, valor, bravery needed to protect those, who we love the most, our families."

Mexico: six arrested in killing of EZLN supporter

State police arrested six indigenous Mexicans on May 17 in connection with the killing on May 2 of an activist in La Realidad, a village in the official municipality of Las Margaritas in the southeastern state of Chiapas. La Realidad is one of a number of indigenous communities that supporters of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) have considered autonomous municipalities since December 1994. The victim, José Luis Solís López ("Galeano"), taught at a "little school" (escuelita) that since last year has provided international activists with an introduction to the Zapatistas' experiment with autonomous communities. Another 15 EZLN supporters were wounded in the May 2 violence, and a school and a clinic were destroyed.

Ukraine: Blackwater versus Cossacks?

That's about the most depressing headline we could imagine, but there might be something to it. Blackwater in Ukraine? That's the claim in German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, citing unnamed sources in the BND, Germany's intelligence agency. Actually, the company is now called Academi in the latest name-change game to stay ahead of bad press, and it is said to have 400 "mercenaries" in Ukraine. The Russian official press, e.g. Russia Today, jumps on the claims with glee, saying the mercenaries are "taking part in the Ukrainian military operation against anti-government protesters in southeastern regions of the country." (Note that the armed separatists are referred to as "protesters" by the same RT that played up the role of militias in the Maidan protests.) The claims have also been seized upon by the foreign press that is sympathetic to Russia (TeleSur) and the "alternative" press in the West (World Socialist Website, Indymedia). Acedmi in a press release denies everything, and also states that it "has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater or with the former owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince." But later in the press release, it states: "Erik Prince sold the company (which he had renamed 'Xe') in 2010 and retained the rights to the 'Blackwater' name. The new management of ACADEMI has made tremendous efforts to build a responsible, transparent company ethos..." So, it actually is the same company, under new management. Back on March 13, RT also aired claims that "mercenaries" were backing up the Maidan protesters—based on an interview with Yanukovich's ex-intelligence chief, Aleksandr Yakimenko, not exactly the most objective source. 

May Day mining disaster in Colombia

An unknown number of miners—perhaps as many as 40—were buried alive as an illegal gold mine collapsed late on the night of April 30 at El Palmar, in Colombia's southern department of Cauca. Local campesinos spent May Day volunteering with Santander de Quilichao municipal brigades in a desperate effort to unearth the victims—none of whom are believed to survive. Thus far, only three bodies have been recovered, according to local Red Cross workers. Local residents said the "owners" of the mine were able to escape, but it is still unlcear exactly who they are.

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