sábado, 22 de marzo de 2014

Government opponents and supporters marching in Venezuela

Opponents and supporters of Venezuela's socialist government were to march in the capital and other cities on 22 March, with opponents announcing their march as a peaceful act of protest for freedom and against the arrests of several opposition politicians. Opposition protesters were to start at five points in the capital and converge before the offices of the Organization of American States, the broadcaster Globovisión reported. Pro-government students were also marching that day, in particular to denounce attacks against universities and specifically a recent, destructive attack on the campus of the Armed Forces University in the western city of San Cristóbal. It was not yet clear how many people were participating in the marches, but media were beginning to show pictures of large crowds in cities like Maracaibo. President Nicolás Maduro said a day earlier that the student march was "justified" for the damage done to the San Cristóbal campus, but qualified opposition protests as "vandalism." He asked "is this a protest," referring to damage done to the San Cristóbal campus? "This is fascism and vandalism, we have to repudiate it in the street and work, work, work so the revolution is eternal," El Nacional cited him as saying in Caracas. He accused "fascist destroyers" of burning 5,000 trees throughout the protests that began in early February. Separately, the newspaper El Universal published on 22 March an interactive map of the 29 confirmed victims of the protests, with names and places of death; El Nacional cited Reuters agency as putting the death toll so far at 33.

President signs dismissal of Bogotá mayor, "lied" says mayor

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón confirmed on 19 March the dismissal of the capital's leftist mayor Gustavo Petro, ending months of legal and political resistance by the mayor and supporters to his dismissal last December by the Inspector-General of Colombia. The Inspectorate dismissed him for irregularities in his reforms to the capital's trash collection system. Mr Petro's ultimate recourse against the decision was to turn to the Inter-American Rights Commission, which urged the Colombian Government to suspend the dismissal. But President Santos ignored its recommendation, which was not binding but usually followed, in a move interpreted by some domestic papers as a positive gesture to right-wing voters ahead of the 25 May presidential elections. Mr Santos declared the dismissal had been legal and "transparent," and appointed the Work Minister Rafael Pardo Rueda on 19 March as Bogotá's acting mayor, RTVE reported, citing agencies. The mayor's supporters, the Progresistas, were within days to discuss presenting the President with a choice of three leftist candidates to become acting mayor before elections for the office scheduled in June, the broadcaster Caracol reported on 21 March. This was presumably to complete the mayor's term in office as an elected official. The review Semana cited Petro's farewell speech on 19 March, given to supporters on the balcony of the mayoral palace in downtown Bogotá. He said Santos lied when he earlier promised him to respect the Commission's recommendations on the case, adding this was the first time a Colombian President was ignoring its recommendations. "Not even Uribe dared ignore" these, he said, referring to the conservative Senator-elect and former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who has no sympathies for Petro. He was separately cited as saying that Mr Santos no longer had moral authority to sign a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), if he was unable to defend democracy. On 20 or 21 March, he was cited as telling a gathering of Progresistas in Bogotá that Mr Santos was "the prisoner of the country's clientelist mafias, which is why took this dictatorial decision, because he has no autonomy or freedom to defend democracy," Cartagena's El Universal reported, citing Colprensa. Reports also quoted him as calling the state inspectorate a "fascist office," in a reference to Inspector-General Alejandro Ordoñez's reputed sympathies for the former president Uribe.

Twelve reported murdered in El Salvador in a day

Twelve or 13 were murdered across El Salvador on 20 March mostly in suspected criminal vendettas, and as the Ministry of Justice suggested the daily crime rate was rising on a more permanent basis. The Ministry gave the figure of nine murders a day now, in contrast with the six or seven a day that had characterised most of 2012 and some months of 2013, when the country's Mara gangs were engaged in and respected a ceasefire they began in March 2012. Police counted 145 murders across the country "in the month of March," and 625 in the "first three months of" 2014, presumably from 1 January to 19 or 20 March, El Mundo reported on 20 March, observing that the latter figure was 135 more than for the same period in 2013. El Salvador's President-elect Salvador Sánchez Cerén declared on 19 March that his government would not "negotiate" the continuation of any ceasefire between the country's criminal gangs, and make security operations and preventive programs the bases of its fight against crime, elsalvador.com reported on 20 March. While the outgoing government of Mauricio Funes has denied involvement in the ceasefire, critics have long accused it of a range of conducts from paying money to the gangs, to acting as ceasefire facilitators to allowing them privileges or mild treatment in return for reducing violence. The president-elect appeared to be taking a more emphatic distance with the ceasefire, perhaps in part in response to half the country having voted on 9 March for the conservative opposition, which promised strong-arm tactics against crime if elected to the presidency. The website observed that Mr Sánchez's proclamation as President required the prior resolution of several complaints about election fraud lodged by the opposition, by the Supreme Court's constitutional affairs chamber.

Colombia shoots, captures guerrillas, troops sent to crime-ridden port

The Colombian Army killed four guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)'s Fifth Front, including a veteran field captain linked to hundreds of killings, after bombing a FARC camp in the north-central department of Antioquia, El Espectador reported on 21 March. One of the dead was identified as the fighter dubbed Johnny 5to, described as a 24-year veteran and currently head of the Fifth Front's finances, which meant running the FARC's extortions in parts of Antioquia. He was sought for his presumed role in guerrilla actions in the north-western Chocó department and in Antioquia in the past decade, which killed hundreds civilians and troops, El Espectador observed. The guerrilla camp was located in the village locality of Jardín in Dabeiba. On 18 March, Police captured four presumed members of the other guerrilla force, ELN, in the district of Cáceres in Antioquia, El Colombiano reported. The Police chief of Antioquia said the fighters were caught in the zone where ELN guerrillas attacked troops protecting coca eradication teams last February. Separately, more than 2 400 troops and police were engaged in an extensive operation to beat crime in the port district of Buenaventura, including 700 troops and anti-terrorism agents arriving there on 21 March, the Cali paper El País reported on 22 March. The daily observed the Government began to boost its forces in Buenaventura 40 days before in response to a surge in gang activities. It cited the Minister of Defence Juan Carlos Pinzón as saying that troops and police had so far detained 150 suspects of whom 90 were identified as members of the two main criminal gangs, the Urabeños and the Empresa. He said "232 other persons" were detained; few details were given but these may have been for offences excluding organised crime activity. The office of the Ombudsman in Buenaventura stated that 49 people had been murdered in the district "this year," without giving specific dates, five more "than the same period" in 2013.