martes, 25 de febrero de 2014

Death toll rises in weeks of Venezuelan protests

The death toll from intermittent protests in Venezuela that began in early February and intensified on 12 February stood at 13 or 14 by 25 February. Government opponents were meanwhile contrasting the hundreds of reported arrests and use of force on demonstrators with President Nicolás Maduro's calls for internal peace talks. Over 500 were being held and 150 people injured in the protests, Reuters agency reported on 25 February. A march was apparently planned for 25 February and Agence France-Presse reported "hundreds" of students advancing toward the Cuban embassy in Caracas early that day; Cuba is a firm ally of the Maduro government. On 24 February Mr Maduro invited elected opposition officials to attend the meeting of a state council the next day, making contacts possible, but the invitation was later rejected by a leading opponent, the Governor of the state of Miranda Henrique Capriles. He said he was not going to go and "whitewash" the President amid a repressive atmosphere, El Universal reported. "The Government is provoking the political crisis, because it believes it can resolve the economic crises with bullets," Mr Capriles told a press conference. The Presidential palace he said, "is not the setting for calling for peace...you want to call on sectors to discuss peace from the headquarters of repression? Who can believe this is sincere?" The United States separately ordered three Venezuelan diplomats expelled on 25 February, retaliating for the earlier expulsion of three US diplomats from Caracas, the broadcaster Globovisión reported. Media were expecting President Maduro to name a new ambassador to the US that day, in spite of tensions and his allegations that the US was encouraging unrest in Venezuela.

Colombia detains FARC "assassins," FARC impose "totalitarian" regime in districts

Colombian forces detained six purported members of the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) suspected to have taken part in a failed 2012 attack on a politician and to be planning high-profile killings, media reported on 25 February. Police and Army agents caught the six in a joint operation in the localities of El Hobo and La Plata in south-western Colombia, EFE agency reported, citing declarations made on 24 February by the Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón. He attributed to the detained a failed bid to kill the former minister Fernando Londoño Hoyos in May 2012, in an attack in a busy part of Bogotá that killed two. The Colombian daily La Nación described the six as in an "elite" unit of "urban guerrillas" trained to kill prominent targets. Mr Pinzón identified the brother of one detainee as the guerrilla dubbed Andrés Tabares, planner of the failed 2012 attack whom troops shot dead in mid-December 2013 in Santander de Quilichao in the western department of Valle de Cauca. Separately, the review Semana reported on 24 February that the FARC were distributing leaflets to people in parts of the southern department of Putumayo, "with 46 points that replace the Police Code." The pamphlets apparently regulated - illegally - the day-to-day activities, personal and property rights and movements of people living in areas controlled by guerrillas. The review cited two groups - the Clandestine Communist Party (Partido comunista clandestino) and the Bolivarian Movement - as helping the FARC formulate and impose their rules on the local population. The pamphlets' provisions included imposing curfews on young people and expelling locals with relatives in the Armed Forces. Semana described the initiative as indicating the FARC's "intimidation capabilities and intention to establish a totalitarian regime" in the lower Putumayo, likely as a trial run for the "political order" they would later seek in Colombia, if peace talks in Havana with the present Government prosper.