jueves, 23 de mayo de 2013

Colombian army shoots FARC guerrillas, FARC "fine" mine victims

Colombian troops shot dead two presumed fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in undated operations in northern Colombia reported in media on 23 May. Members of the Army's 16th Mobile Brigade responded to shooting from the guerrillas, identified as members of the FARC's Rio Sucío financial company, in the district of Puerto Libertador in the Córdoba department, Colombia's Vanguardia reported. Colombian media separately reported on 23 May that the FARC were said to be charging relatives of Colombians who have stepped on their landmines, for costs incurred. Peasants apparently reported this to the police in the southern department of Putumayo, Radio Santa Fe reported, citing the Diario de Huila. The head of the Second Police Region Brigadier-General Ómar Rubiano Castro told that daily that "beside the fact that they die and the injuries they provoke to their physical integrity, the FARC have the impudence to charge peasants" the "production cost" of anti-personnel mines they have stepped on. The fines were reported to range from 500,000 to 800,000 Colombian pesos, roughly the equivalent of between 260 and 430 USD. The general said the FARC had argued that in such cases peasants were inadvertantly detonating mines intended for soldiers and policemen, though he added the FARC placed mines on pathways used by the rural population. General Rubiano said that regardless of harm done to victims "their relatives have to pay the FARC a sum for the cost of installation and parts of the explosive artefacts, placed to protect" their drug plantations from state forces engaged in checks and eradication actions.

Armed locals infuriated by army arrests in western Mexico

While locals in the Tierra Caliente zone of the state of Michoacán in western Mexico have welcomed the arrival of federal forces to impose order in the crime-ridden state, tensions emerged on 22 May as self-defence groups or the "community police" of local residents fiercely resisted initial bids to disarm or disband them. Media reported that the arrest of four members of the self-defence group outside the district of Buenavista Tomatlán that day provoked a veritable little revolt, with hundreds marching out with machetes and sticks to block the road between Buenavista and nearbly Apatzingán. Here a standoff between the crowd and federal troops led to heckling and to 28 soldiers and a general being detained for hours until the four were released, Agence France-Presse and the daily Milenio reported on 23 May. In spite of the shouting and evident anger among locals, Milenio's correspondent observed that a measure of cordiality was restored when the soldiers were allowed to move later in the afternoon. The self-defence groups - which have emerged in other parts of Mexico - were a reaction in this part of Michoacán to the depredations and extortions of the cartel Caballeros templarios. France-Presse cited the Mexican interior minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong as saying on 22 May that with the army present people no longer had a reason to bear arms, and the army would detain those found armed without good reason. The local population clearly was not satisfied with such words; AFP cited an unnamed member of one local self-defence group as saying that locals expected the army to finish off the Caballeros templarios for good, and locals would even show them where these were "hiding." In another local district, Coalcomán, a "community policeman" told AFP that people had most recently formed the community police there as they were tired of paying extortion money to the templarios, and would remain on guard "until we see results." La Jornada reported on 23 May that army spies would be working in 11 districts of Michoacán in tandem with the deployment of troops; their objectives would be to help find and detain gang chiefs and check the veracity of reports of gangsters' deaths.

Colombia and Costa Rica sign trade treaty ahead of summit

Colombia and Costa Rica signed a free-trade treaty on 22 May paving the way for trade between them worth an annual 400 million USD, and considered a prelude to Costa Rica's entry into the Pacific Alliance free-trade block, Caracol radio reported. The document was signed in Cali by presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Costa Rica's Laura Chinchilla and would benefit sectors like pharmaceuticals and beauty products, pesticides and dairy products, Caracol reported. Colombia was hosting on 23 May the Seventh Summit of the Pacific Alliance that presently includes Colombia, Chile, Peru and Mexico. Heads of states who arrived in Cali on 22 May included the presidents of Guatemala - a candidate for entry - Chile and Mexico, while the prime ministers of Canada and Spain were expected on 23 May. Some 400 businessmen and representatives of industries from 14 countries were also expected, Cali's El País reported on 22 May.

Guerrillas launch deadly attack in northern Colombia

Guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) killed 10 Colombian soldiers and kidnapped one in an ambush on 22 May in the Norte de Santander department in northern Colombia. Eleven soldiers were also injured, five of them seriously, in the explosives and gunfire attack on troops in the district of Chitagá, Europa Press reported. The head of the Army's Second Division General Juan Pablo Amaya attributed the attack to an ELN column led by the guerrilla dubbed Arturo, active he said in the departments of Arauca, Norte de Santander and Boyacá. The Colombian President ordered the army to pursue and "punish" the culprits, Europa Press reported. A day before the ELN freed a female hostage they had kidnapped in August 2012, handing her to Red Cross officials in the north of the Arauca department in north-eastern Colombia, Caracol radio reported. The guerrillas reportedly did not explain why they kidnapped and held the woman for almost a year. The broadcaster observed in a separate report on 22 May that the deadly ambush and hostage liberation could be moves by the ELN to pressure the Government of President Juan Manuel Santos into initiating talks with the ELN, like those undertaken with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Caracol cited a message from the ELN's paramount leader, Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista or Gabino, calling "absurd and contradictory" the President's silence on the prospect of talks with the ELN. The guerrilla group Gabino wrote, was "ready and its spokesmen have been named," Caracol radio reported. Gabino observed also that Government and FARC envoys had yet to "harmonise" their positions after months of talks in Havana.