miércoles, 18 de julio de 2012

Gangs said eyeing El Salvador's crime truce

A former rebel fighter now mediating between El Salvador's government and violent Mara gangs said on 17 July that Maras from Honduras and Guatemala had contacted him to state their interest in replicating a four-month truce between El Salvador's Maras that has more than halved the murder rate there, Latin American papers and Dpa reported on 18 July. Raúl Mijango, now a writer, and the Catholic Church in El Salvador are mediating in a "pacification" process backed by the Organization of American States. This began with a truce agreed on last March between the Mara Salvatrucha and M-18 or Barrio 18, Central America's two main gangs with criminal operations and tentacles in the three states. Mijango told Dpa that Maras from Honduras and Guatemala had contacted him seeking advice on how to implement a similar truce. "They themselves will have to look for ways to replicate this process in Guatemala and Honduras, as I cannot become involved in the dynamics of other nations.The only thing I can tell you is that I know of the willingness of the gangs both in Guatemala and Honduras, to want to enter a process like this," he said.

Colombian police expel natives from army base

Colombian police expelled on 18 July natives who occupied on 17 July an army position outside Toribío, in the Cauca department, the scene of fighting between the state and communist guerrillas, which natives say is desecrating their ancestral lands, EFE reported. Police used tear gas to expel the occupants of the army telecomunications position on a hill named Cerro Berlín. Three natives were injured, one arrested and one reportedly disappeared, Carlos Andrés Alfonso a legal representative of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (Acín) told EFE, observing that the natives had been thrown off their own land. The Cauca's police chief Ricardo Alarcón said in the departmental capital Popayán that this was a "strategic position in operations against" the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Family flees Mexico, seeks US asylum

Twenty members of a family sought political asylum in the United States in late June after fleeing Villa Ahumada in northern Mexico, alleging their lives were threatened in a town dominated by their political rivals, a family member told EFE on 16 July. The Porras family left their businesses and belongings and fled Villa Ahumada under police escort on 19 June after a relative was murdered that day; they were taken accross the border into El Paso by officials of the Mexican prosecutor-general's office, César Porras told EFE. Porras said he thought his family was at threat for supporting the conservative National Action Party (PAN), when Villa Ahumada was "completely controlled" by members of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and organized crime. The PRI won Mexico's general elections on 1 July, amid continuing allegations of fraud. Porras said his father Rodolfo Porras González was assassinated at an unspecified date, while a brother Jaime was shot dead on 19 June while visiting their father's grave. The family fled immediately, leaving Jaime to be buried by a priest, he said. The family's lawyer Carlos Spector told EFE it could be four years before the United States decided whether or not to concede asylum and months before it would provide provisional residencies and work permits. Spector said more families were now fleeing to the United States for violence in Mexico, and he had 70 similar dossiers. César's uncle Héctor Armando Porras González told EFE that within hours of fleeing, the family's homes were ransacked by gangs. He said "About three years ago the situation began to break down in Villa Ahumada. Criminals are in charge of everything now, the police has been bought."

Natives throw Colombian troops off base

About 1,000 indigenous residents of Toribío in the southern Cauca department, angered by gunfights around them between the state and communist guerrillas and implementing an earlier threat to take charge of local security, forced soldiers to abandon a nearby position on 16-17 July, in keeping with a deadline they had setEuropa Press reported on 18 July. Members of the Nasa nation climbed the Cerro Berlín, a hill overlooking Toribío, and urged 200 troops to leave a position defending a communication installation; refusing, the soldiers were disarmed and pushed out amid reported arguments and scuffles. The soldiers did not use their arms, but FARC guerrillas nearby were reported to have shot in that direction without causing injuries. Natives then sealed and occupied the site; a sergent expelled in the incident said he felt "humiliated," Reuters reported. President Juan Manuel Santos denounced the "unacceptable events" he qualified as liable to prosecution; "everything has a limit," he said, and the state would not permit attacks on "those who defend us." Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said in turn that "the public force cannot and must not leave" Cauca and leave natives "at the mercy of guerrillas and drug traffickers." He claimed the FARC had "infiltrated" certain native organizations, without specifying. "Autonomy and respect for native rights are one thing, starting to break the law is quite another," he said. The governor of the regional Indigenous Council Héctor Fabio Vircué was cited as saying on 17 July that natives were not demanding an evacuation of the Cauca "but of our territories. The place where they put the base was sacred." Separately the governor of Cauca Themístocles Ortega described the situation as the result of the state's "slow and belated" response to Cauca's situation. He said "the Cauca is living today the state's historical abandonment," and urged reconciliation between natives and the state, Europa Press reported.