lunes, 31 de marzo de 2014

Drought sweeps across Colombia

Drought withered large sectors of the Colombian countryside in March, provoking fires in the north and killing off thousands of animals in central regions, as Colombians were given a picture of near-calamitous conditions in several departments. Radio Santa Fe reported on 30 March ongoing operations against a fire of "unusual proportions" in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta park in Magdalena, which it stated had been burning for 12 days. Authorities attributed it to farmers starting "controlled" fires to clear the ground, especially in the locality of Jolonura. On 28 March, the broadcaster cited the Agriculture Minister Luis Felipe Henao Cardona as asking Colombians to use water responsibly for the extent of the drought. The departments he cited as suffering from drought were Boyacá, Casanare, Chocó, Córdoba, Guajira, Magdalena and Santander. The Minister said 25 districts in the country were facing water shortages, and nine only had contingency plans. Reports of preceding weeks focused on an intense drought in Casanare that had killed thousands of animals, both wild and domestic. While some officials asked media not to "speculate" on whether or not oil companies working in Casanare had helped dry water supplies, the state prosecution service (Fiscalía) had sent investigators to check on water use on estates and other installations there. In a report on reactions to the drought in Casanare, El Espectador cited specialists as saying that investigators would need 30 years of data to ascertain who was really responsible for the gravity of the drought there. The Governor of Casanare Marco Tulio Ruiz was cited as reminding visiting state investigators that the Government had allowed oil firms to be active in 97 per cent of Casanare. "It is all our faults, because we all destroy the environment in one form or another. Rice farmers, oil firms, palm oil cultivators, everyone...," he said on 28 March. Mr Henao in turn urged Colombians to use water sparingly, adding that no amount of infrastructure could make up for wasting water and ruining its sources. "You ask most people where water comes from and people reply, from the tap. This liquid comes from...sources that must be preserved," to maintain their flow, Radio Santa Fe cited him as saying.

Guerrillas kill two in Colombia, Army shoots FARC captain

The communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) killed a soldier and an indigenous woman, and injured five soldiers in separate incidents, Radio Santa Fe reported on 30 and 31 March. An ambush against marines attributed to the Daniel Aldana Mobile Column killed a soldier and injured five more including an officer in the district of Mosquera in Nariño, Radio Santa Fe reported, citing a Navy communiqué. The indigenous woman was apparently killed by accident, blown up by an explosive device placed on the edge of the district of El Carmen de Atrato in Chocó, Radio Santa Fe reported on 31 March. The broadcaster separately reported on 30 March that the Army shot dead a FARC commander in undated fighting in the district of Baraya in Huila. The victim was identified as the guerrilla dubbed Fabián, third in command of the FARC's Front 17 and its chief financial officer. FARC financing involves extortion and drug trafficking, though the FARC deny they are involved in trafficking. Fabián was reportedly 31 years old and had joined the FARC in 2002.

Over 20 shot, found dead around Mexico

Six people found shot dead in the south-central Mexican state of Oaxaca, five dismembered bodies found in the western state of Guerrero and an anti-crime militiaman found dead in Michoacán were among 20 or more of crime's recent victims around Mexico. On 29 March, authorities found six bodies in the district of San Miguel Soyaltepec in Oaxaca, near the frontier of the state of Veracruz; investigators provisionally identified three of them as from Veracruz and suspected the killings to be related to the 27 March police action that killed ten suspected gangsters there. Proceso cited the six as among 12 people shot or found dead around Oaxaca between 28 and 30 March. In the north-western state of Sinaloa, four suspected criminals were killed and four soldiers injured in a gun battle on 29 March in the district of Navolato, Proceso reported. Shooting began on the road as the suspects sought to drive away when a patrol ordered them to stop, then around a farmhouse to which the suspects fled after their car swerved off the road. On 28 March, authorities found five dismembered bodies in plastic bags left by the road in Ajuchtitlan del Progreso in Guerrero, and provisionally identified the bodies as those of five family members reported as kidnapped on 26 March, Proceso reported. A note was found by the remains accusing the dead of being kidnappers. Proceso cited other violent deaths as those of: a Federal policeman and a civilian killed in shooting on 28 March in Ecatepec, a member of the anti-crime militia of Taretán in Michoacán, shot on 30 March in the district of Uruapan and the brother of the mayor of San Agustín Loxicha in Oaxaca, shot on 30 March.

Mexico Police hold 12 kidnappers, "thugs" said operating in capital

Mexican Federal Police detained 12 suspected kidnappers sought also for murders, in undated raids in the state of Morelos south of the capital, Milenio newspaper reported on 31 March. The suspects were thought to constitute a gang engaged in kidnappings, drug trafficking and murders in the districts of Cuernavaca and Jiutepec, the Morelos state judiciary declared. Two of the detained were identified as heads of the gang, which was not named. It was not immediately clear if the arrests were related to those of four extortionists detained in Morelos on 27 March. The daily reported the same day that "ten or so" gangs of thugs were thought to be working in Mexico City and the neighbouring state of Estado de México, suspected of serving businesses using them to beat striking workers or of extorting money independently. The capital's prosecution service (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Distrito Federal) was for some time compiling information on the groups. It observed that their activities included forcing businesses without deals with unions to sign collective contracts on behalf of its workers with the gang as "union;" they were effectively extortion rackets parading as labour groups. The groups consisted variously of relatives of their leaders and ruffians hired in the capital's outlying districts or in Estado de Mexico. While some seemed linked to larger drug cartels, one gang leader was cited as claiming to enjoy political backing. Milenio cited the leader of the Chiquiticos gang as saying he had the "support" of Cristina Díaz head of the National Confederation of Popular Organizations (CNOP), affiliated to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.