lunes, 10 de diciembre de 2012

Gang "terrorises" Mexican town, 16 killed

Sixteen or 17 people were shot dead in the town of Guadalupe y Calvo in the northern state of Chihuahua during 7-9 December, apparently by gangsters intermittently patrolling the town unchecked, Proceso reported. The gunmen, described as possible members of a gang associated with the Sinaloa drug cartel, turned the town into a "war zone" when they arrived late on 7 December, Proceso reported citing witnesses. The killings continued after army and police reinforcements were reported to have mobilized in response; five of the victims were killed on the afternoon of 8 December or later. Proceso cited residents as saying on 8 December that they remained mostly at home, while the gunmen circulated around "the streets in absolute calm, dressed in military gear and in super-equipped and armoured" estate vehicles. "They have everything," a resident said; the website observed that residents found out "on the news" that troops were acting to retake control of the area. Separately a "young man" and possible criminal was found dead on 8 December half-naked and apparently after being "tortured," in the district of Carichí in the state of Chihuahua, Proceso reported. A note was left by his body that this was "for killing women and children, which you don't do," signed by La Línea. This was presumably the gang of gunmen of the same name active in Chihuahua in recent years, though there was no immediate confirmation.

Rebel shot dead in Colombia, gang suspects held

Colombian forces shot dead on 8 December a commander of the National Liberation Army (ELN) dubbed Duber in the northern department of Antióquia, the broadcaster Caracol reported. He was described as a veteran bomb-maker and number three in the command hierarchy of the Capitán Mauricio unit of the ELN, Colombia's second largest rebel force after the FARC. The broadcaster also reported the arrest in the same department of a member of one of the country's main drug gangs called Los Urabeños; the suspect identified as Jorge Luis Cordero Márquez or 400, was detained in the district of Yarumal at an unspecified date. Police announced on 7 December the arrests of two other members of Los Urabeños, detained on an estate in the district of Ayapel in the northern department of Córdoba, El Espectador reported. The two, respectively dubbed in the criminal underworld Boca de Perro and Montiel, were sought for suspected crimes including criminal conspiracy and attempted murder in the former's case and illegally making and carrying arms for Montiel. Early on 10 December, five people were shot dead in a shopping centre or store in the district of Villavicencio, south-east of the capital Bogotá. Six were injured in the attack and the gunmen fled, Caracol reported.

Colombian rebels said to have broken ceasefire pledge

They had promised not to attack for two months from 20 November while talking peace with the Colombian state, but this pledge by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was apparently broken by a deadly mortar or explosives attack on 8 December, which the army attributed to the FARC. An army colonel said members of the FARC's Sixth Front were suspected to have thrown explosives at houses in a rural zone of the district of Caloto in the Cauca department, killing a man and injuring three women, the daily El Espectador reported. One of the injured was a 16-year-old girl. "We don't know where the ceasefire is because look what happened here," El Tiempo cited a relative of the victims as saying. The daily cited the head of the army's anti-terrorist Apollo Task force General Jorge Humberto Jerez Cuellar as saying that troops were two kilometres from the site of the incident, meaning this could not have been a defensive action. Another army spokesman was reported as saying that there had been no recent clashes in this area. Jerez was cited by the same daily as saying on 20 November that the FARC broke their ceasefire pledge hours after declaring it. They apparently failed in their bid to draw soldiers onto a minefield that day. On 9 December, the FARC publicly urged the Colombian Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno to start a "verbal ceasefire" and stop his alleged hostility to ongoing peace conversations in Havana. "We urge the Defence Minister to at least end his verbal hostility, which is incessantly firing at the peace process," the rebel and FARC negotiator dubbed Iván Márquez stated in Havana, reading out a communiqué. The statement added that peace depended not just on negotiators but on the "involvement of the national country" and the "common people," El Espectador reported.

Venezuela's ailing leader envisages succession

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez Frías handed over responsibilities to his vice-president, foreign minister and possible successor as head of the socialist regime Nicolás Maduro Moros, hours before travelling to Cuba on 10 December for surgery against a resurgent cancer first diagnosed in 2011. Speaking on Venezuelan television late on 8 December, he said "With God''s favour we will come out victorious and go forward," indicating that his cancer had recurred in February 2012 and been cured. He said surgery was deemed necessary now as he was in pain and admitted there were "risks" involved, but he reminded Venezuelans "this revolution does not depend on just one man" and had a "collective leadership," Venezuela's state news agency reported. Maduro was now acting president in keeping with constitutional provisions for the head of state's "temporary absence." This could only be until 10 January 2013 when Chávez was to be sworn in for his new presidential term, jurist José Peña Solís told the Venezuelan daily El Nacional. He contemplated a situation of particular political gravity if he did not return to his duties by then for death or physical incapacity. The constitutional jurist Pedro Afonso separately told El Nacional that this would effectively reactivate the electoral machinery. The constitution he said, required the parliamentary speaker - to be chosen with a new parliamentary presidium on 5 January - to take over the executive branch on 10 January and call general elections within 30 days of doing so.