miércoles, 26 de diciembre de 2012

Fewer cited killed in Colombia at Christmas

Police chief José Roberto León Riaño told RCN La Radio on 26 December that Christmas killings in Colombia dropped 30 per cent this year compared to the 47 counted as killed in 2011, apparently confirming the decline in crimes officials commented on earlier in December. In Bogotá, the mayor Gustavo Petro said there were three killings in the capital on Christmas Eve, down from 16 for the same day in 2011, the broadcaster Caracol reported. He said there were 65 reported homicides in Bogotá in December from 1 to midnight on 24 December, compared to 148 for the same period in 2011. Christmas was however marked by numerous people being burned by firecrackers or hurt in street fights; police reportedly intervened in more than 4,500 scuffles or fights on 24 December. In the northern city of Medellín, authorities counted about 1,000 fights on 24 and 25 December, mostly following drinking and street celebrations, Caracol television reported.

Colombian officials wary of weakened FARC, ELN

The Colombian defence ministry found in mid-December that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the guerrilla force that has battled the state for decades, now had fewer than 8,000 members, compared to about 20,000 some 12 years ago, El Espectador reported on 26 December. A ministry report found that the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) had fewer than 1,500, down from about 4,000 operatives in 2002; it attributed the fall to sustained military action. The report stated that in 2012 Colombia reduced FARC numbers by just under 18 per cent compared to 2011 and just under 22 per cent for the ELN. FARC spokesmen have on occasions insisted the state cannot defeat them and has been forced to initiate negotiations. Colombia's police chief José Roberto León Riaño separately told RCN Radio on 26 December that he feared the FARC were preparing a "terrorist wave" in 2013 and had not respected a unilateral two-month ceasefire purportedly begun on 20 November. Police he said observed that the FARC had in preceding weeks acquired "explosives, war material, most probably to prepare a terrorist wave when the ceasefire," for which he said police were also preparing. The army commander General Sergio Mantilla Sanmiguel concurred, speaking to RCN Radio on 24 December; he said "the FARC are arming...searching and storing" but also making explosives "to attack the population," El Espectador reported. This "is not a serious ceasefire" he said, observing that "they look like they will begin to launch indiscriminate attacks in January." Mantilla put at 1,500 the number of rebels of both armies arrested in 2012.

Fifteen or more killed around Mexico

In the northern district of Morelos near the US frontier, troops shot dead three suspected criminals early on 25 December after they were said to have come under gunfire, Proceso reported. They found arms and ammunition including grenades and a launcher from the Dodge estate car whence shots had reportedly been fired. In the north-western state of Sinaloa gunmen dressed in paramilitary-type uniforms searched houses in the district of El Platanar de los Ontineros on 24 December, looking for individuals written on their execution list; they found and shot dead nine, Proceso reported citing the local mayor's comments to the newspaper El Noroeste. According to Proceso the locality is next to what is termed locally a "Fear zone" (Zona de miedo) in the state, which includes the districts of La Cieneguilla, El Tiro, Zaragoza, Aguacaliente del Zapote and El Llano and where presumably criminals do as they please. Five decapitated bodies were found in a locality near the frontier of the western states of Jalisco and Michoacán on 24 December; four were identified as those of policemen of the district of Pihuamo in Jalisco reported as kidnapped on 23 December. The bodies found in the locality of Los Naranjos had been burned, Proceso reported. It also reported that a Federal policeman was found "executed" and burned outside the north-central city of San Luis Potosí on 25 December. He had been reported as last seen at a house party on 22 December. In the west-coast district of Zihuatanejo, people found a man hanging from a bridge early on 25 December, Proceso reported.

Over 50 killed in Honduras over Christmas

Over 50 people were reported killed in violent incidents across Honduras on Christmas Eve, while the capital's Escuela hospital received a steady stream of injuries from guns, knives and machetes, agencies and press reported citing police and hospital sources. A police spokesman told EFE agency that 30 were known to have died in acts of violence on 24 December and 11 in car accidents, while remaining deaths were to be investigated. Forty four people were admitted to the emergencies wing of the Escuela hospital in Tegucicalpa between Christmas Eve and midday on Christmas Day, El Heraldo reported on 26 December, observing that most were effectively drunk. Among them 28 had been injured by handguns and 16 by knives or machetes. La Prensa cited police as counting 52 violent deaths and 73 injuries across the country, though it was not immediately clear if this included part of Christmas Day. Of the victims of crimes, 24 died in San Pedro Sula and its environs, La Prensa reported on 25 December. One of these was the lawyer Juan Antonio Romero Rodríguez, shot in San Pedro on 24 September by two men who stopped his car. The website Proceso Digital observed this was the second killing of a lawyer in recent days, in a country where lawyers are frequently targetted for elimination. It reported the killing on 20 or 21 December of the lawyer José Ramon Logos and a client in the northern city of El Progreso, both shot as they left a courtroom.