domingo, 7 de abril de 2013

Colombian soldiers, guerrillas killed in fighting

Three Colombian soldiers died and three were injured on 6 or 7 April in gun battles with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the southern department of Caquetá. Fighting was said continuing in the district of Milán on 7 April with guerrillas of fronts 15 and 49 of the FARC's Southern Block, RCN La Radio reported. The broadcaster Caracol described Milán is one of the districts of southern Colombian with the highest concentration of FARC fighters. In northern Colombia the army shot dead four FARC fighters including a local commander, during anti-drugs operations on 7 April near Panama's frontier, Europa Press reported, citing El Tiempo. The casualties included the deputy-head of Front 57 - James or el Chacal - and a veteran telecommunications operator dubbed Verónica; troops and police also detained two suspected guerrillas in the operations in the Darién section of the Chocó department, and confiscated arms, ammunition and equipment. The army considers Front 57 to be mainly engaged in arms and drug trafficking for the FARC, the agency reported. The FARC separately named in a communiqué four new members of their team negotiating a possible peace with Colombian representatives in Cuba. These were the head of the Western Block Jorge Torres Victoria or Pablo Catatumbo, and three guerrillas named or dubbed Freddy González, Lucas Carvajal and Victoria Sandino Palmera. They were allowed to fly out of Colombia with a suspension on 6 April of army operations in the southern Cauca department and perhaps elsewhere. Colombian media earlier named another possible addition to the FARC team, namely the head of the Southern Block - a guerrilla dubbed Fabián Ramírez - though this was yet to be confirmed, Europa Press reported on 6 April.

Coroners see murders halved in a year in El Salvador

State coroners counted 545 homicides in El Salvador in the first three months of 2013, 49.9 per cent fewer than the 1,078 registered for the same period in 2012. This was another figure corroborating government officials' assertions that the truce and disarmament process the state has begun with street gangs has considerably reduced crime. The figure given by the Institute of Legal Medicine (IML) was lower than those of the police, its head José Miguel Fortín Magaña said, adding that this was likely for uncertainties in identifying certain body remains, El Salvador's El Mundo reported on 5 April. An IML report indicated that the San Salvador department had the most murders in the first quarter of 2013 with 151, followed by La Paz on the Pacific coast with 49, while firearms caused 343 or 62.9 per cent of the deaths. Almost 70 per cent of victims were in the 15-39 age group, coroners found. The coroners' report indicated that the most violent month in the two periods was January 2012 with 413 killings, followed by February 2012 with 402; the gangs' ceasefire began in March 2012, giving a figure of 263 killings for that months. On 5 April one of the mediators in the truce, the army Bishop Fabio Colindres urged the gangs to stop their extortion activities and maintain their pledge to abandon crime. He was speaking at an event to include the district of San Vicente north of the capital among several municipalities declared as free of violent crime. A day before a spokesman for one of the main gangs MS (Mara Salvatrucha) said "conditions need be generated" to allow the gangs to consider ending extortion, which is a financing mechanism, El Mundo reported. The Security and Justice Ministry reportedly observed a 17 per cent fall over 2012-13 in extortions, described as modest compared to killings. There were 216 complaints to police about extortion in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 262 in the same period in 2012, the daily cited the Ministry as stating. This apparently excluded extortions that went unreported.