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CrisisWatch Database

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Colombia

  |  1 Jul 2016

Improved

Govt and FARC 23 June signed agreement on “end of conflict” and referendum mechanism for population’s approval of final deal, constituting final step of peace process. Agreement spells out functioning of ceasefire and cessation of hostilities; process for arms abandonment; security guarantees and preparation of “reincorporation” for FARC guerrillas; 23 cantonment sites and eight smaller sites where FARC will assemble forces; and adoption of Constitutional Court’s ruling on mechanism for referendum on final peace deal. Outstanding issues include agreement on FARC “reincorporation” to civilian life and transformation into a political movement, and monitoring and implementation mechanisms for all commitments. Kidnappings by National Liberation Army (ELN) persisted amid continued disagreement with govt over issue, stalling opening of formal talks. Úsuga Clan, or Gulf Cartel, country’s largest criminal group, suffered series of setbacks with two commanders killed 7 and 11 June in military operations.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jul 2016

Unchanged

Standoff between govt and opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance continued amid worsening humanitarian and economic situation. National Electoral Council (CNE) 7 June invalidated almost one third of signatures presented by MUD in May in support of presidential recall referendum; some 1.3mn signatures remained, almost seven times number required to trigger next step of process. In further attempt to reduce number of valid signatures, CNE 8 June passed resolution allowing signatories to exclude themselves from list, amid reports of public employees being pressured to sign exclusion form. Ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) 13 June filed petition with Supreme Court (TSJ) asking for investigation into alleged fraud in signature collection process, in apparent bid to halt process altogether. Small number (300) of fingerprinting machines, many in remote locations, available for petition signatories to personally “validate” signatures 20-24 June meant most unable to do so. Tensions on the streets continued to rise with daily protests over food shortages and incidents of looting, including protests 13-14 June in eastern coastal city of Cumaná in which scores of businesses looted, three reportedly killed and over 400 arrested before order was restored. Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council 23 June held meeting to debate applicability of Inter-American Democratic Charter following late-May publication by OAS head Luis Almagro of 132-page report on deteriorating situation in Venezuela, though no decision was taken. However, Venezuela’s attempt to prevent debate was defeated. Earlier OAS Permanent Council 7 June, and General Assembly 15 June, reiterated support for UNASUR dialogue process launched late-May, but stressed it must be inclusive and effective; and emphasised need for Venezuela to observe “fair and timely implementation of constitutional mechanisms”, with fifteen countries joining even more forceful call to respond to Venezuela’s humanitarian and political crisis.

Colombia

  |  1 Jun 2016

Unchanged
President Santos 11 May said govt hoped to reach peace deal with FARC in “very near future”, as difficult issues including arms abandonment continue to delay signing . Govt and FARC 13 May agreed on legal mechanisms to protect future peace deal; govt stated that if plebiscite vote favours peace deal, it will be defined as a special international agreement according to Geneva conventions and be temporarily included as part of constitution. Govt and FARC 15 May announced agreement for rebels to release all fighters aged fifteen years and younger from camps. Issue of kidnapping still stalling start of formal negotiations with ELN as govt stated it will not negotiate as long as group continues to kidnap and/or retain hostages; ELN said it rejected any such preconditions. ELN 28 May released three journalists, one Spanish and two Colombians, kidnapped 21 and 23 May respectively. Govt 6 May authorised use of military force against neo-paramilitary groups created or strengthened after 2003-2006 paramilitary demobilisation, creating new category of “organised armed group” comprising Úsuga Clan, Pelusos and Puntilleros.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jun 2016

Deteriorated Risk Alert
Standoff between govt and opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance over attempted presidential recall referendum intensified, amid worsening economic and humanitarian crisis and increasing international concern over deteriorating situation and possible spread of violent protests over food and other basic goods. President Maduro 16 May decreed a wide-ranging State of Exception and Economic Emergency suspending constitutional guarantees for initial period of 60 days in order to combat what he called attempt by opposition and foreign allies to overthrow govt. Decree empowers president to do anything he considers necessary to combat alleged threat and suspends certain constitutional prerogatives of opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance-dominated National Assembly (AN), including control of govt spending and right to censure ministers. Powers of armed forces and other civilian bodies loyal to ruling party also expanded. Though decree acknowledges constitutional requirement for parliamentary approval, govt-run Supreme Court (TSJ) had already ruled late-Jan that AN rejection of such decrees is not binding. AN 17 May rejected decree and MUD leaders called it unconstitutional. Former MUD presidential candidate and Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles mid-May called on Venezuelans not to obey it, told Maduro to “bring out the tanks” if he intended to enforce it and warned army to choose between allegiance to Maduro or constitution. Public anger over lack of food and other basic goods grew, with increased incidents of looting including wholesale market looted 11 May in Maracay 100km west of Caracas. Electoral authority (CNE) continued to delay and obstruct recall referendum process. MUD 2 May reportedly delivered 1.85 million signatures, ten times number required to trigger second signature drive for 20% of electorate needed to force referendum; though votes should have been ratified within five days according to regulations, CNE said process would take a month because of added stages including submission of fingerprints for forensic examination. Special presidential commission has also been permitted to challenge signatures at each stage. Amid growing international concern, Organization of American States (OAS) Sec Gen Luis Almagro 31 May invoked Inter-American Democratic Charter; Permanent Council meeting called for 1 June to hear his report and debate deteriorating situation in Venezuela. Govt and opposition 28 May met with group of mediators, comprising three former presidents, led by former Spanish President Zapatero and sponsored by Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), in Dominican Republic, for first discussion on how to de-escalate crisis; face to face talks between govt and opposition did not occur and no next steps were established.

Venezuela

  |  2 May 2016

Unchanged
Opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance 27 April began collecting signatures to trigger recall referendum against President Maduro; almost 200,000 are required for electoral authority (CNE) to authorise main signature drive, which in turn must gather almost 4 million. Responding to MUD’s plan for constitutional amendment to reduce presidential term by two years, pro-govt constitutional lawyer Hermann Escarrá said Maduro could use same means to cut parliament’s term to six months. Supreme Court (TSJ) 11 April declared 29 March amnesty law unconstitutional; UNHCHR 12 April expressed disappointment over govt’s move to block law; FM Delcy Rodríguez accused UNHCHR of “undermining Venezuelan law” to “please opposition”. Maduro 12 April set up “truth commission” focused on violence associated with Feb-March 2013 street protests; commission composed of members of govt and its allies, with four seats reportedly reserved for opposition. Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Sec Gen Ernesto Samper 12 April announced former leaders of Dominican Republic, Panama and Spain will accompany commission, which he said offered Venezuelans chance to find “sincere path to dialogue”. MUD rejected proposal, saying they had learned about it through the media; FM 17 April attacked Organization of American States (OAS) Sec Gen Luis Almagro and Spanish leader for demanding release of political prisoners. Maduro 26 April cut working week to just two half days for most public employees amid severe power shortages, which have prompted angry demonstrations in many cities.

Colombia

  |  2 May 2016

Unchanged

FARC and govt negotiating teams 14 April indicated progress has been made on issue of “abandoning arms”. Following failure to meet self-imposed 23 March deadline for signing final peace deal, FARC 10 April stated agreement could be signed in next round of talks, but govt 19 April said it would be “some months”. National Liberation Army (ELN) mid-April reported peace talks with govt will begin in May and first round will be held in Ecuador, following 30 March joint govt/ELN announcement of opening of formal peace talks. Neoparamilitary group Clan Úsuga/Urabeños 31 March-1 April carried out “armed stoppage” in north west, prohibiting all transportation and forcing all businesses to close under threat of violence; during the stoppage the Urabeños killed four, attacked military and towns, burned vehicles, blocked roads and carried out propaganda-focused actions, affecting at least 36 municipalities. Govt 11 April said Urabeños is purely criminal, rejected any possibility of negotiations with group.

Venezuela

  |  1 Apr 2016

Unchanged
Opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance 7 March unveiled plan for “peaceful, democratic” removal of President Maduro: will seek recall referendum against Maduro, while simultaneously approving constitutional amendment to cut presidential term from six to four years. MUD began campaign of street demonstrations 12 March, with address from National Assembly President Henry Ramos, in bid to force Maduro to resign. MUD added if all attempts fail it would trigger process for electing constituent assembly to rewrite 1999 constitution. Economic and social crisis continued to worsen, with increased shortages of food, medicines and acute shortages of power and water. Electricity Minister Gen Luis Motta Domínguez 12 March blamed El Niño phenomenon for possible collapse of country’s power supply by end-April. Amid escalating violent crime, two dozen illegal miners reportedly killed in Tumeremo, Bolívar state 5 March, allegedly over control of recently discovered gold deposit. Police and prosecutors 14 March discovered victims’ remains as state governor and other prominent regime figures attempted to discredit story; authorities attributed massacre to fugitive crime boss “El Topo”, but President Maduro blamed paramilitaries allegedly linked to opposition. Court 11 March sentenced editor of independent newspaper El Correo del Caroní to four years’ jail for allegedly defaming wealthy businessman linked to Bolívar state governor accused of corruption. Provincial paper El Carabobeño closed 17 March when supply of newsprint ran out. Opposition-controlled National Assembly 29 March passed political amnesty law but President Maduro reiterated he would not sign it.

Colombia

  |  1 Apr 2016

Improved Resolution Opportunity

Govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) 30 March announced opening of formal peace talks; six agenda points will be discussed in negotiating tables with “sessions” in five countries: Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. ELN 20 and 23 March released two hostages, one allegedly after payment of ransom. ELN had continued to carry out violent attacks during month, mostly in NE, with some nine armed forces members killed and two kidnapped; seven guerrillas reportedly killed 14 March in western department Chocó as govt continued retaliatory military operations. Govt and FARC failed to meet self-imposed 23 March deadline to sign a final accord or a bilateral ceasefire as differences emerged between negotiators over document drafted by technical sub-committee, specifically concerning arms abandonment. Social organisations 14 March expressed concern over killing of 29 members of political left across country early-March; victims reportedly include community leaders, land claimants and members of peasant movements. President of left-wing Patriotic Union (UP) party Aída Avella tied killings to potential spoilers of FARC peace process, others, such as analyst Ariel Avila, alleged killings carried out by new paramilitary groups.

Venezuela

  |  1 Mar 2016

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Major confrontation threatened to exacerbate crisis as govt continues to act in defiance of National Assembly’s (NA) prerogatives, arguing acts of legislature are subject to approval by govt-controlled Supreme Court (TSJ). Opposition majority reject govt interpretation, reiterated intention to remove TSJ justices whose late-Dec appointment it regards as unconstitutional. TSJ 12 Feb ruled National Assembly’s 22 Jan rejection of President Maduro’s mid-Jan economic emergency decree – which gave president sweeping powers to evade congressional oversight – had no legal weight and that decree remained in force. Compounding crisis, ministers and other govt officials summoned to appear before parliament have failed to show up to hearings. Opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance began examining constitutional options for Maduro’s removal: former MUD presidential candidate and leader of Justice First (PJ) party Henrique Capriles 11 Feb announced preference to activate both recall referendum and constitutional amendment simultaneously, given near-certainty govt would seek to block referendum move. Assembly 17 Feb passed second reading of amnesty law for political prisoners and those in exile subjected to judicial harassment for their political views. Govt prosecutors 15 Feb demanded sixteen-year sentence for Caracas mayor and opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, accused of plotting to overthrow govt. Maduro early-Feb told rally of supporters he was “in rebellion” against opposition plans to pass law granting property rights to beneficiaries of govt housing schemes. Maduro 17 Feb announced series of long-awaited economic measures, including substantial increase in price of petrol and reform of exchange controls including currency devaluation. Humanitarian crisis persisted as Pharmaceutical Federation early-Feb reported 80% of medicines now unobtainable and country owes US$6bn to overseas suppliers; Health Minister Luisana Mela attributed shortages to “irrational use of medicines”. Medical associations and NGOs report country may be facing several hundred thousand Zika cases; govt reports only 5,000.

Colombia

  |  1 Mar 2016

Resolution Opportunity Unchanged

National Liberation Army (ELN) 14-17 Feb carried out some 35 attacks, prompting increased attacks by armed forces. President Santos 8 Feb stated ELN can either support peace or face intensified military response. Govt 18 Feb suspended further visits to Colombia by FARC negotiators, stating they violated terms of travel to country from talks in Cuba including ban on contact with civilians, after FARC negotiators met with local community in town of Conejo, reportedly to provide updates on progress of peace talks. FARC 10 Feb said it would no longer recruit children. U.S. President Obama 4 Feb announced new 2017 “Peace Colombia” aid package to support country while it seeks to consolidate peace with FARC. Negotiators in Havana scheduled to resume talks 2 March to address pending issues on termination of conflict, ahead of 23 March deadline for final agreement. Police 29 Feb arrested former President Uribe’s son Santiago in Medellín on charges of murder and conspiracy; accused of setting up “Twelve Apostles” paramilitary group in 1990s, Santiago denied any involvement with group.

Venezuela

  |  1 Feb 2016

Unchanged

New opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance-dominated National Assembly (AN) sworn in 5 Jan amid protests and tight security. Leader of Democratic Action Henry Ramos Allup elected to chair parliament for twelve months; Julio Borges of Justice First (PJ) named head of MUD’s parliamentary fraction. Supreme Court (TSJ) 4 Jan ruled four MPs representing Amazonas state, including three MUD MPs, could not be sworn in due to legal challenge over alleged vote-buying, mounted late-Dec by ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV). MUD’s lawyers said injunction unenforceable; swearing-in of the three MUD MPs went ahead 6 Jan. In response, TSJ declared all AN’s decisions null and void until move reversed; former parliamentary chairman and PSUV VP Diosdado Cabello argued TSJ could assume legislative functions. Organization of American States (OAS) Sec Gen Luis Almagro 12 Jan published open letter criticising use of TSJ to curb parliament. In face of looming constitutional clash, Ramos and newly-appointed VP Aristóbulo Isturiz reached agreement 13 Jan with three MPs, who agreed to not take seats pending resolution of case. President Maduro 10 Jan presented “state of the union” address to parliament following 7 Jan cabinet reshuffle in which Isturiz replaced VP Jorge Arreaza, and two ministers with close ties to Cabello were removed, including his brother, industry minister José David Cabello. Maduro 15 Jan issued economic emergency decree, giving president broad powers to evade budget scrutiny, seize private sector assets and amend regulations; AN rejected decree 22 Jan. Economic crisis continued to worsen: Venezuelan crude oil reached lowest value in twelve years mid-Jan at US$24 a barrel; central bank released economic figures for first time in two years, revealing 7.1% drop in GDP annual inflation rate by Sept of over 140%.

Colombia

  |  1 Feb 2016

Unchanged

Peace talks between govt and FARC resumed 12 Jan; parties 22 Jan agreed on creation of “executive commission” to make decisions over final drafting of pending agreements in attempt to speed up last stage of negotiations. FARC 13 Jan publicly expressed doubt over possibility of meeting 23 March deadline for final agreement. Govt and FARC 19 Jan issued joint statement on creation of three-party mechanism for verification of disarmament and bilateral ceasefire; would include govt, FARC and UN political mission made up of observers from Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) member states. UNSC 26 Jan unanimously accepted govt and FARC formal request for creation of political mission; mission would be unarmed and have one-year mandate. ELN violence continued despite late-Dec statement by top ELN commander Nicolas Bautista, alias Gabino, that peace agenda with govt had been finalised: clashes with security forces reported 10 Jan in Catatumbo, two soldiers killed.

Venezuela

  |  4 Jan 2016

Unchanged

Parliamentary elections held 6 Dec; opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) won 112 of 167 seats, giving party two-thirds “super-majority”, control of National Assembly (AN) for first time in fifteen years. Ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) won only seven of 24 states. President Maduro same day admitted defeat, attributed loss to “economic war” he claims is being waged against him by opposition and foreign allies. Govt later claimed fraud and vote-buying by opposition: PSUV campaign chief Jorge Rodríguez 16 Dec broadcast alleged recording of official of opposition-led Amazonas state govt admitting vote-buying. Maduro 15 Dec vowed not to allow “electoral coup” and repeated threat to take to streets to resist decisions by new parliament. Supreme Court 31 Dec suspended inauguration of three MUD MPs following legal challenge from ruling PSUV; suspension removes MUD’s “super-majority”; opposition same day called move “judicial coup”. Outgoing AN 23 Dec appointed thirteen Supreme Court (TSJ) justices, with aim to prevent opposition gaining control of TSJ; 15 Dec installed “National Communal Parliament” in legislative chamber formerly occupied by Senate. Body appears to be parallel legislature; opposition downplayed move as “show”. MUD said new AN to begin work 5 Jan, first tasks including amnesty for political prisoners, and “social” legislation. Nephews of First Lady Cilia Flores, accused in Nov of drug trafficking by U.S. authorities, 17 Dec pleaded not guilty in U.S. federal court to charges of attempt to smuggle cocaine to U.S. through Haiti and Honduras. Reuters 15 Dec reported head of National Guard, Gen. Néstor Reverol and another general would be indicted on charges of drug trafficking; no official confirmation.

Colombia

  |  4 Jan 2016

Unchanged

Progress continued in govt-FARC peace talks: agreement on “victims” announced 15 Dec outlining several victim-centred mechanisms tasked with “finding truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition in context of conflict”. Agreement confirms those responsible for most serious crimes would be prosecuted under special jurisdiction; amnesty law to be passed for political and other connected crimes. Truth commission, special mechanism to search for disappeared and set of undetermined reparations measures will complement transitional justice institutions. Human Rights Watch 22 Dec issued statement strongly criticising agreement. Further negotiations will address two outstanding issues: end of conflict measures (DDR), and verification, implementation and ratification of peace agreement. President Santos 16 Dec pushed back bilateral ceasefire date, originally planned to begin same day, after “end of conflict” agenda points not resolved. Govt negotiator Jorge Enrique Mora 1 Dec rejected FARC proposal for special areas “Terrepaz” where insurgents can formally give up their arms. Choice of mechanism to confirm peace agreement remains contentious: Congress 14 Dec approved govt-supported bill for plebiscite on ratification of peace, as FARC reiterated need for constituent assembly. National Liberation Army (ELN) top commander Antonio García 9 Dec signalled willingness to fully commit to peace during interview amid ongoing exploratory ELN talks with govt; Ombudsman’s office 7 Dec warned of increased ELN violence in Pacific region.

Colombia

  |  4 Jan 2016

Unchanged

Progress continued in govt-FARC peace talks: agreement on “victims” announced 15 Dec outlining several victim-centred mechanisms tasked with “finding truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition in context of conflict”. Agreement confirms those responsible for most serious crimes would be prosecuted under special jurisdiction; amnesty law to be passed for political and other connected crimes. Truth commission, special mechanism to search for disappeared and set of undetermined reparations measures will complement transitional justice institutions. Human Rights Watch 22 Dec issued statement strongly criticising agreement. Further negotiations will address two outstanding issues: end of conflict measures (DDR), and verification, implementation and ratification of peace agreement. President Santos 16 Dec pushed back bilateral ceasefire date, originally planned to begin same day, after “end of conflict” agenda points not resolved. Govt negotiator Jorge Enrique Mora 1 Dec rejected FARC proposal for special areas “Terrepaz” where insurgents can formally give up their arms. Choice of mechanism to confirm peace agreement remains contentious: Congress 14 Dec approved govt-supported bill for plebiscite on ratification of peace, as FARC reiterated need for constituent assembly. National Liberation Army (ELN) top commander Antonio García 9 Dec signalled willingness to fully commit to peace during interview amid ongoing exploratory ELN talks with govt; Ombudsman’s office 7 Dec warned of increased ELN violence in Pacific region.

Venezuela

  |  1 Dec 2015

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Political tensions and violence increased ahead of 6 Dec parliamentary elections: local opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance political leader Luis Manuel Díaz murdered 25 Nov during campaign event, one of several campaign incidents involving firearms and activists allegedly from President Maduro’s ruling PSUV. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori accused govt of attempting to murder her, alleging sabotage of plane she had been traveling in. Two nephews of First Lady Cilia Flores arrested in Haiti 10 Nov on drug-trafficking charges for allegedly attempting to export 800kgs of cocaine to U.S.; National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello 16 Nov claimed U.S. had “kidnapped” the two, citing intention to “damage the parliamentary election campaign and the revolution”. Case appeared to contribute to damaging govt campaign ahead of elections: latest mid-Nov poll showed 30-point lead for MUD. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro outlined concerns over unfair election conditions in 10 Nov letter to head of electoral authority (CNE), noting govt’s use of state resources for campaigning, ban and imprisonment of opposition political leaders, MUD’s lack of access to media and state of emergency in constituencies along Colombian border; govt dismissed accusations. UNASUR election “accompaniment” mission formally constituted 18 Nov in Caracas, amid continued doubts expressed by Brazil’s and Chile’s election authorities, which declined to take part.

Colombia

  |  1 Dec 2015

Unchanged

Following landmark agreements on transitional justice and bilateral efforts to find disappeared victims of conflict, govt 22 Nov approved legal pardons for 30 FARC guerrillas as part of “measures of confidence”; also offered to study 106 additional cases of FARC members with health problems to provide care. FARC 25 Nov agreed to proposal for uninterrupted negotiations under lockdown in order to accelerate speed of peace process. FARC negotiators 10 Nov expressed commitment to bilateral ceasefire, promised to stop recruiting fighters and purchase of arms. President Santos 18 Nov received support from UNSC permanent members for UN monitoring and verification mission for ceasefire. 11 Nov poll showed improved public perception of peace process, with 69% supporting negotiations, up from 60% in Aug, and 53% optimistic about success, up from 39%. Congress 18 Nov approved govt initiative to hold plebiscite on final text of peace agreement; FARC 10 Nov noted preference for referendum, which requires points of eventual agreement to be approved individually. Senate legislators 3 Nov rejected law guaranteeing FARC’s political participation post-conflict; FARC negotiators expressed discomfort despite Santos’ assurances to “revive” law. Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez expressed support for proposed review of pardons and amnesties granted to M-19 guerrilla fighters involved in 1985 Palace of Justice siege, raising uncertainty about long-term validity of any agreement negotiated in Havana. Former Presidents Andres Pastrana and Alvaro Uribe publicly accused FARC of maintaining links to transnational crime organisations and drug trade, citing 4 Nov report by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Armed forces 2 Nov carried out first-ever bombing raid against New Illegal Armed Group (NIAG), killing twelve members of Los Urabeños (aka Clan Usuga) in Choco province.

Venezuela

  |  2 Nov 2015

Unchanged

Govt 5 Oct announced decision to bring forward appointment of thirteen Supreme Court justices whose terms do not expire until late 2016: observers cite attempt to avoid their appointment by opposition-dominated National Assembly, in apparent sign govt fears losing its parliamentary majority in 6 Dec legislative elections. President Maduro 6 Oct warned “revolution [would] change its nature” if govt loses elections. Opposition leaders refused to sign election pact proposed by ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) 15 Oct under which all parties agree to abide by legislative election results; pact endorsed by National Electoral Council (CNE) and signed by ruling parties and allies. Opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance proposed its own text, emphasising need for international election observation and ban on use of state resources for campaigns. Secretary General of Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) 5 Oct announced 50-member delegation would “accompany” election process; Brazil’s electoral authority 20 Oct withdrew from observation mission, citing failure of negotiations with CNE over terms to allow “objective, impartial and broad” observation of elections. Tense pre-election climate compounded by 15 Oct return and immediate arrest for alleged corruption of former opposition presidential candidate Manuel Rosales after six years in exile; Rosales called on supporters to protest arrest by voting in 6 Dec elections. Editor of independent daily El Nacional 13 Oct said he would remain outside country after he was ordered to be taken to court by force in connection with libel case brought by National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello in April.

Colombia

  |  2 Nov 2015

Unchanged
Govt-FARC peace talks progressed further, as parties 18 Oct struck deal to address plight of tens of thousands of victims of enforced disappearances: parties committed to immediately implementing humanitarian measures for search, location and dignified handover of disappeared; deal calls for establishment of high level search unit once final peace agreement has been signed. Deal followed “mini-crisis” in Havana triggered by differing interpretations over last month’s transitional justice agreement; parties 9 Oct agreed to recall group of lawyers who drafted initial agreement to iron out differences. Former President Andrés Pastrana 15 Oct resigned from high-level peace advisory commission established March 2015 by President Santos over disagreement with transitional justice agreement. FARC 6 Oct began publishing its “minimal proposals” for “end of the conflict” agenda point. Santos 29 Oct announced he will “immediately” ask UN for mandate to deploy mission-supported verification of bilateral ceasefire to enter into force possibly as soon as Dec. High level business representatives 19 October met Santos to express both support and concerns over peace process. Eastern Warfront of the National Liberation Army (ELN) 27 Oct acknowledged responsibility for 26 Oct attack in Güicán (Boyacá) that killed at least twelve members of security forces; announced intention to liberate two captured soldiers “in the next days”. Santos ordered intensified military offensive against ELN, casting doubt over hopes formal peace talks would be announced soon. Attorney general 6 Oct called on Supreme Court to initiate proceedings against former President Álvaro Uribe for alleged involvement in 1997 El Aro massacre. Special forces 1 Oct killed leader of dissident faction of Popular Liberation Army (EPL) “Megateo”. Attorney general 20 October confirmed identification of three women disappeared during the 1985 Palace of Justice siege. Local elections held 25 Oct; Santos noted elections day had been “most peaceful and less violent in decades”.

 

Venezuela

  |  1 Oct 2015

Unchanged

Opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance leader Leopoldo López, in military prison for over eighteen months, sentenced 10 Sept to fourteen years’ jail for allegedly instigating violence early 2014 when he led “La Salida” movement which mounted protests demanding President Maduro’s resignation or removal by constitutional means. President of electoral authority (CNE) Tibisay Lucena 17 Sept announced several multilateral bodies would be invited to “accompany” 6 Dec elections, including Mercosur, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA) and UNASUR – all seen as aligned with Maduro govt. Lucena reiterated rejection of observers from Organization of American States (OAS) or EU. Tensions with Colombia over border closure continued (see Colombia/Venezuela). Govt continued to frame border closure and suspension of constitutional guarantees as essential to halt smuggling of vital goods across border and resolve shortages, denied closure causing economic damage; main employers’ federation 15 Sept put daily losses at some $3mn. MUD leaders reiterated allegations that restrictive border measures were govt attempt to affect outcome of 6 Dec elections, noted suspension of constitutional guarantees would be used to restrict opposition campaign and harass candidates; said govt trying to rally supporters by inciting nationalist sentiment.

Colombia

  |  1 Oct 2015

Improved Resolution Opportunity

Govt and FARC 23 Sept reached breakthrough agreement on transitional justice, establishing special “Jurisdiction for Peace” to try those deemed responsible for most serious and representative crimes committed during conflict. President Santos and FARC leader Timochenko same day agreed final peace agreement will be signed within six months. 41st round of FARC-govt negotiations ended 17 Sept with progress on “end of the conflict” issues, including first visit to Havana of UNSG and UNASUR representatives to discuss options for monitoring and verifying future bilateral ceasefire and disarmament. FARC lead negotiator Iván Márquez 17 Sept said guerrillas ready to start discussing transition to legal political movement. Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo 15 Sept sent to Congress constitutional reform project for implementation of future peace agreement; creates Legislative Commission for Peace proportionally drawn from current Congress to accelerate formulation of necessary laws and constitutional reforms, and gives president temporary decree powers to implement final accords. Critics include former President Uribe and FARC, which warned unilateral attempts to design implementation mechanism could jeopardise peace. Chief Commander of National Liberation Army (ELN) Gabino 9 Sept said exploratory talks with govt nearly complete amid continuing ELN violence; including early-Sept forced displacement of over 200 members of indigenous Embera communities in Carmen de Atrato, Chocó. President Santos 22 Sept launched new counter-drug strategy, emphasising voluntary coca crop substitution and social investment. Army commander General Alberto José Mejía 25 Sept announced complete revision of military doctrine. Tensions with Venezuela over border closure continued (see Colombia/Venezuela).

 

Colombia

  |  1 Sep 2015

Unchanged

40th round of FARC-govt negotiations ended 30 Aug amid optimism. Sub-Commission on gender 24-25 Aug received representatives from ten women’s organisations; joint humanitarian demining pilot in Briceño, Antioquia department resumed 31 Aug. FARC 20 Aug extended month-long unilateral ceasefire indefinitely. 39th round had ended 2 Aug with seventeen new FARC members switching with counterparts to join talks, including several commanders of regional fronts. New legal advisory teams named by both parties joined talks to support discussions on transitional justice. UNSG Ban 13 Aug appointed former head of UN mission in Guatemala Jean Arnault as his delegate to Sub-Commission on End of Conflict Issues. President Santos 12 Aug suggested creation of “mini-congress” consisting of lawmakers from both chambers and FARC members to implement future peace accords; guerrillas 26 Aug rejected proposal as “unilateral”. FARC 24 Aug admitted its Daniel Aldana mobile column responsible for 3 Aug murder of Afro Colombian leader in Tumaco (Nariño). ELN commander Gabino 24 Aug confirmed progress in exploratory talks with govt but said no date has been set for start of formal negotiations. Press rumours 16 Aug suggested security forces had killed Megateo, regional leader of dissident faction of Popular Liberation Army (EPL). “We are Defenders” right group released report 19 Aug showing 105% increase in violence against human rights defenders in first semester of 2015 compared to same period last year. Tensions with Venezuela spiked amid serious border crisis (see Colombia/Venezuela).

Venezuela

  |  1 Sep 2015

Unchanged

Amid worsening economic crisis and scarcity of basic goods, incidents of looting reported early Aug in Bolívar and Zulia states. President Maduro and Bolívar state governor early Aug alleged U.S. agents and opposition provoked 31 July supermarket looting in San Félix, in which one person died and dozens were arrested. Four food trucks looted and town hall sacked 4 Aug in Sinamaica, Zulia state. Former opposition mayor of San Cristóbal Daniel Ceballos given house arrest on “medical grounds” 12 Aug while former defence minister Gen. Raul Isaías Baduel and anti-govt protester Deivis Oliveros released from jail 13 Aug, all three banned from speaking in public or talking to press. Polls released in Aug suggest substantial opposition lead ahead of Dec parliamentary elections. Maduro 18 Aug used his TV program to present video in which self-confessed murderer accused senior opposition leaders and foreign adversaries of providing money and “paramilitary training” for campaign of violence. Tensions with Colombia spiked amid serious border crisis (see Colombia/Venezuela); opposition MUD alliance said alleged incident, in which three Venezuelan soldiers were killed by alleged “paramilitaries”, was pretext for govt to declare nationwide state of emergency in response to possible opposition victory in Dec elections.

Colombia

  |  3 Aug 2015

Improved

Peace process re-emerged from deepest crisis yet with new temporary, unilateral FARC ceasefire starting 20 July; govt responded 25 July suspending bombardments on guerrilla camps. Came after 12 July joint announcement to accelerate confidence building measures and speed up talks by shifting work to parallel working groups; also agreed to invite representatives from UNSG and UNASUR presidency to join technical discussions on bilateral ceasefire and FARC disarmament. Compliance with commitments to be reviewed after four months, when President Santos will decide if talks continue. In another positive step, FARC 19 July released army lieutenant Cristian Moscoso, held since 7 July. Joint humanitarian demining program temporarily suspended following 15 July accident killing military deminer. Santos 6 July announced new military commanders: Alberto Mejía (army), Carlos Bueno (air force) and Leonardo Santamaría (navy). Talks with ELN continue to move slowly: Commander Gabino’s 4 July message stating group ready to negotiate disarmament failed to generate positive public dynamic amid accusations ELN was behind two small bomb attacks 2 July in Bogotá; in reaction, authorities detained thirteen social leaders alleged to be members of ELN urban cell, triggering accusations of criminalising social movements. UNODC 2 July reported 44% increase in coca cultivation in 2014, and 52% hike in potential cocaine production. Attorney general’s office 27 July began exhumation work at Medellín rubbish dump thought to be one the world’s largest mass graves. Former paramilitary leader El Alemán released 30 July after completing maximum eight year prison term stipulated under 2005 Justice and Peace law.

Venezuela

  |  3 Aug 2015

Unchanged

Ahead of elections scheduled for 6 Dec comptroller general’s office mid-July banned prospective opposition alliance MUD parliamentary candidates Maria Corina Machado, Enzo Scarano and Daniel Ceballos from holding public office for one year. Administrative decision based on alleged irregularities in their respective declarations of assets but widely seen as bid to block popular MUD figures from competing. Economic crisis worsened, with black market dollar surpassing Bs.600, 100 times official rate; with supplies of imported wheat running out, bread shortage taking hold; supermarkets looted 31 July in Ciudad Guayana, one person reported killed. Govt mid-July moved against heavily armed criminal gangs in Caracas and some rural areas: some 200 police and National Guard 13 July stormed Caracas stronghold known as Cota 905, killing fifteen and detaining 100. Relations between govt and neighbouring Guyana worsened over Essequibo territorial dispute; Guyanese authorities 14 July rejected longstanding UN “good offices” mechanism, seeking to take matter to International Court in The Hague.

Colombia

  |  1 Jul 2015

Unchanged

Govt and FARC negotiators 4 June reached first partial agreement on transitional justice, defines “Commission for the clarification of truth, co-existence and non-repetition” as independent, impartial and extrajudicial mechanism; negotiations to continue 3 July amid growing expectations that a separate agreement on reparations could be announced soon. Increase in violence that followed 22 May collapse of FARC’s unilateral ceasefire continued, representing worst escalation in years; clashes and spike in guerrilla attacks on oil and energy infrastructure caused significant environmental damage and large humanitarian impact, including mass displacements, power cuts and mobility restrictions; South and SW regions most affected. Killing of two police in Nariño 12 June sparked outrage. Security forces reportedly “neutralised” 278 guerrilla members between 21 May and 17 June. Post-conflict Minister Óscar Naranjo reportedly stepped down 17 June over frustrations with job. New Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas took office 22 June, swapping positions with Juan Carlos Pinzón who will take over as ambassador to U.S. Army 14 June confirmed death of Marcos, highest ranking ELN leader killed in combat in recent years. Peace commissioner Sergio Jaramillo 11 June repeated govt remains open to talks with ELN if guerrillas accept disarming after agreement is reached. ELN 29 June took responsibility for 22 June attack on Black Hawk helicopter in Teorama (Norte de Santander) which killed at least four soldiers. Attorney general 23 June summoned four retired generals, including a former army commander, to respond to allegations of involvement in extrajudicial executions.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jul 2015

Unchanged

National Electoral Council 22 June announced congressional elections to be held 6 Dec. Jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López ended month-long hunger strike next day; demands had included establishment of election date. Jailed opposition mayor Daniel Ceballos ended hunger strike 11 June for health reasons. Plight of political prisoners drew international condemnation and visits by foreign politicians including in June former Spanish PM and delegation of Brazilian senators urging their release and free elections; govt dismissed them as enemies of Venezuela, prevented them visiting political prisoners. Economic crisis continued to deepen: govt 11 June reportedly withdrew another $1.5bn from fund with IMF. Relations with Guyana and Colombia worsened after President Maduro 27 May issued decrees setting up offshore defence zones in disputed areas. U.S. Asst Sec State Thomas Shannon and President of National Assembly Diosdado Cabello met in Haiti 13 June for meeting apparently aimed at reducing bilateral tensions.

Colombia

  |  1 Jun 2015

Deteriorated

37th round of negotiations between govt and FARC continued amid most serious crisis yet triggered by 22 May suspension of FARC’s five-month-old unilateral ceasefire. Suspension followed 21 May govt air raid in Guapi (Cauca) that left at least 26 guerrillas dead, including one former member of FARC’s negotiating team; attack also displaced some 400 inhabitants. Violence accelerated with military operations in Antioquia and Chocó; leader of 18th FARC front killed in latter. FARC bombing 24 May in Tumaco (Nariño) left one police officer dead, two wounded. Guarantor countries Cuba and Norway 27 May called on parties to continue negotiations on remaining agenda items, including definitive bilateral ceasefire. Delegations informed 29 May about progress in implementing joint humanitarian demining pilot in Briceño (Antioquia). Earlier, in sign of continued commitment to peace process, President Santos 20 May named FM María Ángela Holguin and well-connected businessman Gonzalo Restrepo to negotiating team. Long-expected position swap between Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón and Colombian ambassador to U.S. Juan Carlos Villegas officially announced 19 May. Govt peace commissioner Sergio Jaramillo 13 May confirmed Santos consulted U.S. about Simón Trinidad, high ranking FARC leader serving 60-year sentence in U.S., joining talks. Santos 11 May confirmed he authorised late-April meeting in Havana between ELN leader Gabino and FARC leader Timochenko. ELN Central Command 17 May rejected responsibility for landmine incident in Convención (Norte de Santander), offered localised ELN ceasefire to facilitate enquiry. National Drug Council 14 May endorsed Health Ministry recommendation to suspend controversial aerial coca spraying program.

Venezuela

  |  1 Jun 2015

Unchanged

Foreign reserves at lowest level since 2003 as scarcity of basic goods, including medicines, continued to rise. With organised crime thriving, some 2,000 police and National Guard (GNB) troops deployed 14 May to take back Maracay district from criminals; official reports claim three criminals killed in six-hour battle, 200 arrested; unofficial reports claimed at least ten deaths. Opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance 17 May held primary elections in 37 of country’s 81 electoral districts to determine unity candidates for parliamentary elections planned for late 2015; over half a million voted, with Primero Justicia winning most votes. Electoral authority’s (CNE) decision not to use manual voting logs in election raised concerns it might do same in parliamentary elections, making it hard to detect fake votes. Court 13 May banned 22 media owners and editors from leaving country pending trial for defamation after National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello filed libel suit 21 April against media reports alleging U.S. prosecutors were investigating him for ties to drug gangs. Wall Street Journal 18 May reported U.S. prosecutors and drug enforcement officers pursuing trafficking cases against several high-ranking Venezuelans, including Cabello.

Colombia

  |  30 Apr 2015

Deteriorated

36th round of Govt-FARC negotiations began 28 April amid high political tensions following 14 April FARC ambush in Buenes Aires, Cauca region, which killed eleven soldiers and wounded twenty; two FARC members also killed. President Santos 15 April declared attack violation of group’s Dec 2014 unilateral ceasefire, announced resumption of airstrikes days after renewal of March decision to temporarily suspend bombings. FARC 16 April said incident was “legitimate reaction” to continued counter-insurgent operation. Attack had no discernible immediate impact on ongoing negotiations: 35th cycle concluded as planned 20 April, with FARC reporting significant progress on detailed protocol for implementation of early-March joint humanitarian demining initiative. However attack raised risks of new military escalation and triggered political backlash. In 17 April speech, Santos suggested being open to calls to impose deadline on peace process, widely perceived to be stalling. FARC 20 April weakened conditions for abstaining from violence, from not being attacked, to not being “permanently harassed” by military, tried to argue “offensive actions” can be part of its “legitimate defence”. Santos administration 14 April substantially modified its proposal on controversial military justice reform to appease criticism from human rights groups who argued original proposal could lead to impunity for serious international crimes. Interior Minister Cristo 21 April denied plans to seek referendum on peace process in Oct local elections. ELN leader Gabino 24 April said during interview 80% of future negotiation agenda has been agreed on, but doubts about swift opening of formal negotiations persist. Health minister 27 April recommended suspending controversial aerial spraying of coca crops; fumigations continue, pending final presidential decision.

Venezuela

  |  30 Apr 2015

Unchanged

On eve of 10-11 April Summit of the Americas, group of 25 former-Ibero-American heads of state, led by former Spanish PM Aznar, 9 April issued statement deploring deepening social, economic and political crisis in Venezuela, called for restoration of democracy, human rights and rule of law. Resolutions in similar vein from Chilean and Colombian senates mid-April; Brazilian President Roussef critical of Maduro during 9 April interview. Spanish lawmakers 14 April called on Venezuela to release jailed opposition leaders. Maduro 10 April claimed some 13 million signatures collected in support of revocation of U.S. President Obama’s 9 March executive decree imposing sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials and declaring Venezuela “exceptional threat” to U.S. national security; rights groups allege many signatures obtained under duress. Criticism from opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) intensified after National Electoral Council 15 April announced redistribution of parliamentary seats based on population estimates, effectively stripping seats from opposition-dominated districts.

Colombia

  |  1 Apr 2015

Improved

33rd round of talks between govt and FARC ended 7 March with agreement on joint humanitarian demining scheme; implementation initially to focus on Meta and Antioquia. President Santos 10 March ordered 30-day suspension of bombardments on guerrilla camps; move helped bolster FARC’s unilateral ceasefire amid ongoing counter-insurgency operations, including 9 March killing of José David Suárez alias Becerro, leader of 57th Front. Five high-ranking members of armed forces 5 March joined “technical sub-commission” tasked with preparing bilateral ceasefire, FARC disarmament. 34th cycle of govt-FARC negotiations ended 27 March with discussion focused on transitional justice. In nod to FARC, Santos 6 March denied extradition to U.S. of paramilitary leader Julián Bolívar, citing his collaboration with truth telling, reconciliation, justice; also suspended extradition of Manuel Pérez Martínez alias El Cura, brother of FARC negotiating team member Fabían Ramírez. In response to recent spate of attacks, Santos 10 March announced intensified operations against ELN; group blamed, inter alia, for 12 March bomb attack on police in Bogotá that left seven wounded. ELN 16 March accused govt of violating confidentiality rules governing ongoing exploratory talks; in positive gesture, liberated four kidnapped geologists 10 March. Two leading figures from Conservative Party, Andrés Pastrana and Marta Lucía Ramírez, accepted Santos’ invitation to join newly created Peace Advisory Commission early March. Constitutional Court president Jorge Pretelt 4 March temporarily vacated position amid growing scandal involving allegations he had requested money in return for influencing court decision; also alleged to own land that is part of restitution claim by victims of paramilitary displacement. Santos 24 March proposed wide-ranging judicial reform in light of scandal.

Venezuela

  |  1 Apr 2015

Unchanged

U.S. President Obama 9 March signed executive decree declaring Venezuela “exceptional threat” to U.S. national security; announced sanctions against seven officials including senior military officers. President Maduro same day appointed one of seven, director of National Intelligence Service (Sebin) Maj. Gen. Gustavo González López, interior minister; launched “anti-imperialist” campaign, including extensive military exercises; and demanded revocation of Obama’s decree, which he claimed is prelude to invasion. UNASUR 14 March issued statement requesting derogation of U.S. decree, describing it as “threat of interference against sovereignty”. National Assembly 16 March passed law enabling Maduro to legislate by decree until 31 Dec, purportedly to defend country against foreign intervention. Former Spanish PM Gonzales announced he will advise Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma during their prosecutions.

Colombia

  |  2 Mar 2015

Unchanged

33rd cycle of govt-FARC negotiations began 25 Feb. Previous round of talks saw first meeting of joint “technical sub-commission” on “the end of the conflict” 4 Feb. Negotiators 10 Feb received delayed final report of Historical Commission on the Conflicts and its Victims: no consensus on origins or causes of conflict, but FARC praised 800-page report for ending “official distortion” of history. FARC 12 Feb announced minimum recruitment age raised from fifteen to seventeen, 16 Feb said thirteen current under-fifteen members would be released soon. Former president Gaviria 16 Feb suggested transitional justice model covering FARC members, state forces and “non-combatant sectors” including politicians and businessmen. Proposal received broad political support, but also triggered concerns over impunity for serious crimes. President Santos 19 Feb said some 13,000 judicial processes underway could be covered by transitional justice scheme. U.S. 20 Feb announced appointment of Bernard Aronson, former U.S. Asst Sec State for Inter-American Affairs, as special envoy to talks. Prospects for new talks with ELN suffered setback with 24 Feb confirmation of kidnapping of four employees of geology contracting firm. ELN 11 Feb released Dutch kidnapping victim, 1 March released mayor of Alto Baudó, who they had kidnapped over corruption allegations. Supreme Court 27 Feb convicted former head of secret police DAS, María del Pilar Hurtado, for her role in illegal wiretapping operations during Uribe govt. Clashes during protests in Cauca dept left 44 indigenous and twelve police injured to date.

Venezuela

  |  2 Mar 2015

Deteriorated

Govt 12 Feb said it had thwarted U.S.-backed opposition plot to overthrow President Maduro: some 40 air force members accused of involvement, several arrested. Maduro accused entire opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) leadership of knowing of plot, claimed Primero Justicia party coordinator Julio Borges selected coup bombing targets; accused Caracas mayor and MUD faction leader Antonio Ledezma of playing key role. Ledezma arrested 19 Feb by intelligence agents; U.S., Colombia and Chile expressed concern, human rights bodies and NGOs criticised arrest. MUD said it fears govt may be seeking to create conditions in which it can outlaw opposition parties. Govt also alleged that Borges and Ledezma planned murder of opposition Voluntad Popular party leader Leopoldo López, confined to military prison for past year following accusations he planned violent demonstrations to overthrow Maduro. MUD faction leaders López, Ledezma and former legislator Maria Corina Machado 12 Feb published manifesto calling for “transitional govt”. Fourteen-year-old boy killed 24 Feb during anti-govt student demonstration in San Cristobal, Táchira: President Maduro promised full investigation, policeman arrested and charged with murder. Five other students killed during Feb in Táchira, Mérida and Caracas, some allegedly shot after participating in protests. Month also saw relations further worsening with U.S., with implementation of sanctions against Venezuelan officials, and with Spain.

Colombia

  |  2 Feb 2015

Unchanged

As FARC continued to maintain unilateral ceasefire, in force since 20 Dec, intensity of conflict has dropped significantly, though opposition alleges FARC continues extortion in stronghold regions. Despite apparent (but not officially acknowledged) reduction of counter-insurgency operations, FARC repeatedly claimed ongoing military attacks threaten ceasefire. President Santos 5 Jan called for ending “disconnection” between Havana talks and violent dynamics in Colombia; 14 Jan ordered negotiators to start discussions on bilateral ceasefire as soon as possible. Parties in Havana 18 Jan agreed next negotiation cycle, due to begin 2 Feb, to focus on mandate and methodology of joint technical sub-commission assigned with proposing ways of ending conflict. Efforts to open parallel peace talks with ELN progressing slowly. ELN 7 Jan reaffirmed willingness to engage in new negotiations and announced that guerrillas would consider disarming in case of successful talks; also made public nomination of group’s possibly most powerful figure Pablo to Central Command (Coce). Coce member Antonio García 16 Jan said parties remain divided over details, but had reached broad agreement on six point agenda. Santos caused stir 26 Jan when not “ruling out” that demobilised FARC members could join a future rural police force; right-wing opposition strongly rejects this option.

Venezuela

  |  2 Feb 2015

Unchanged

Economic crisis continued to worsen, with growing anger over shortages of basic goods; govt continues to blame private sector, however polls show majority blame President Maduro. During two-week trip to China, Russia and Middle East Maduro apparently failed to obtain fresh loans to bridge fiscal gap or secure action by OPEC partners to reverse falling oil prices, despite his claim to have obtained $20bn commitments from China. Signs of greater unity within opposition MUD coalition, overcoming disagreements over whether to take to streets demanding Maduro’s resignation; factions agreed to mobilise protests while avoiding violence. Thousands marched through Caracas 24 Jan in opposition-led protest. Catholic bishops’ conference issued “pastoral exhortation” demanding govt change course and calling for freeing of political prisoners, respect for human rights, transparent institutions; govt dismissed exhortation as party-political document. Authorities 23 Jan prevented former presidents of Colombia and Chile from visiting detained opposition leader Leopoldo López; their respective govts supported visit and demanded respect, Colombia said it hoped for López’s prompt release. Leamsy Salazar, security official close to national assembly president Diosdado Cabello, arrived in U.S. 26 Jan allegedly to give evidence that Cabello and other high ranking Venezuelan officials are involved in drug trafficking.

Venezuela

  |  5 Jan 2015

Deteriorated
President Maduro’s govt made key appointments with simple majority vote, violating legal and constitutional requirements designed to ensure that nominees are impartial, and installing govt allies in judiciary and other branches of state. Govt 22 Dec appointed new attorney general, ombudsman and comptroller; 28 Dec appointed 16 new judges to Supreme Court, again by simple majority vote. Supreme Court 27 Dec appointed three new members of electoral commission, retaining 4:1 govt majority. Opposition MUD alliance abstained in all appointments in protest. With price of oil continuing to fall, country seen as at risk of defaulting; central bank end-Dec reported economy in recession, inflation at 63.6% in twelve months to Nov. U.S. President Obama 18 Dec approved sanctions against Venezuelan officials guilty of rights violations during early 2014 opposition protests, including cancellation of visas, freezing of assets; condemned by President Maduro, however announcement by U.S. and Cu-ba that countries would restore relations caused Maduro to moderate temporarily anti-U.S. rhetoric. European Parliament 18 Dec approved resolution condemning political persecution in Venezuela, demanding release of opposition protesters.

Colombia

  |  5 Jan 2015

Improved

FARC 17 Dec declared unilateral ceasefire entering into force 20 Dec, to be indefinite unless military attacks guerrilla forces; requested national and international monitors to verify ceasefire, including ICRC, UNASUR, Community of Latin American States and civil society umbrella group Broad Front for Peace. Govt welcomed ceasefire but rejected third party verification, said security forces would continue operations; FARC 31 Dec warned that “provocative movements” of state troops could jeopardise ceasefire. Hours before truce entered into force FARC killed five soldiers and captured one in ambush in Cauca department; kidnapped soldier unilaterally released 26 Dec in another “step in the right direction”, according to President Santos. Following temporary suspension triggered by kidnapping of General Alzate, talks in Havana between govt and FARC reinitiated 10 Dec with short-term aim of de-escalating conflict and establishing permanent mechanism to solve future crises. Fifth and last group of conflict victims 16 Dec gave inputs on transitional justice; round ended with commitment to victims’ rights. FARC 18 Dec recognised responsibility for emblematic Bojayá massacre in 2002 and promised reparations. FARC 28 Dec confirmed that Secretariat member and Southern Block commander Joaquín Gómez had joined negotiating team. Santos early Dec called for flexibility to accommodate drug trafficking in connection to political crimes; opposed by Inspector General and opposition. Peace talks with ELN appear remote after ELN commanders 2 Dec referred to continuing “deep differences” with govt, but expectations building again following 29 Dec ELN statement promising “special announcement” for 7 Jan.

Venezuela

  |  1 Dec 2014

Unchanged

Support for President Maduro continues to fall amid severe economic disruption threatened by falling international oil prices, critical shortages of food, medicines and other vital goods. Maduro 28 Nov announced cuts in public spending. Left-wing faction of ruling PSUV, Socialist Tide, in open dissent from official line, may form new party. Relations with Brazil and Colombia worsened. Brazil demanded explanations over Venezuela’s former FM signing agreement with its Landless Movement and allegedly recruiting Brazilians for political propaganda in Venezuela. Tensions with Colombia over allegations that murdered PSUV legislator Robert Serra was killed by Colombian paramilitaries in a counter-revolutionary plot. Colombian ambassador claimed leader of “El Colombia” gang who allegedly killed Serra was Venezuelan with no paramilitary links. Venezuela early Nov appeared before UN Committee Against Torture, facing allegations of torture during public disturbances earlier this year. Club de Madrid 25 Nov demanded immediate release of Leopoldo Lopez and other opposition leaders in prison, asked for restoration of rule of law.

Colombia

  |  1 Dec 2014

Deteriorated

FARC 30 Nov liberated army General Alzate, army lawyer and corporal, whose kidnapping had prompted President Santos to suspend peace talks 16 Nov; despite release of the three, impact of temporary suspension of talks on peace process uncertain. FARC 25 Nov also released two soldiers, captured in Arauca 9 Nov. FARC considered captured military personnel prisoners of war, govt insisted they were victims of kidnapping. FARC’s commander in chief “Timochenko” 24 Nov slammed suspension for “destroying confidence” in peace process. Tensions high after FARC 5 Nov killed two guards of indigenous Nasa community in Cauca; indigenous court 9 Nov sentenced five FARC members to up to 60 years’ imprisonment. Trial criticised by UN; FARC stated regret for guards’ deaths but regard trial as biased. FARC 30 Oct admitted their actions have adversely affected civilian population, but saying they did not target civilians or commit war crimes. Transport paralysed in Chocó after ELN 25 Nov initiated “armed strike” in region.

Venezuela

  |  1 Nov 2014

Deteriorated

MP for ruling PSUV party Robert Serra and assistant murdered 1 Oct; President Maduro accused national opposition parties then group of Colombian paramilitaries of killing Serra; media reported criminal gang perpetrators; several arrested. Police and pro-govt “colectivos” militia Shield of the Revolution clashed in Caracas 8 Oct after detectives from judicial police (CICPC) raided building run by militia; 5militiamen killed; former policeman and leader of “5 th of March” colectivo José Odreman shot dead. Interior Justice Minister Rodriguez Torres, accused by collectives of ordering Odreman’s assassination, dismissed 24 Oct; colectivos subsequently called for National Assembly president’s dismissal, threatened regime. Maduro 28 Oct announced creation of Presidential Commission for transformation of police,additional measures to transform armed forces. Economy further deteriorated with rapid fall in oil prices raising possibility of default on country’s external debt. Process of appointing Supreme Court judges and electoral authority board members moved forward with formation of nominations committees 30 Sept, 14 Oct, complaints they are dominated by members of ruling PSUV.

Colombia

  |  1 Nov 2014

Unchanged

Further negotiations on transitional justice and preliminaries on bilateral ceasefire opened 24 Oct; FARC 26 Oct proposed creation of “national census of victims” of armed conflict. Prior, FARC had reshuffled its delegation; newcomers include secretariat members Pastor Alape and Carlos Antonio Lozada. ELN 21 Oct released kidnapped local politician from Norte de Santander with message to govt to expedite talks after ELN commander Pablito 15 Oct said exploratory talks made little progress. ELN’s Central Command 20 Oct suggested negotiations would be held separately from FARC-govt talks. Ex-high commissioner for peace Frank Pearl withdrawn from Havana to focus on bringing ELN into process. Tensions between President Santos and ex-President Uribe continued: Uribe accused of hypocrisy over opposition to current negotiations after journalist 4 Oct published article documenting Uribe administration’s attempts to establish negotiations with FARC and ELN. Inspector General Ordóñez 23 Oct called for broad dialogue on peace process between govt, FARC and Uribe’s supporters. Santos agreed with Ordóñez’s three minimum conditions for viable peace: that FARC dissolves as criminal organisation after signing peace treaty, accepts its responsibility for numerous crimes, it attends to rights of victims. National Peace Council 8 Oct held first session since disbanded in 2002, composed of representatives from civil society organisations, indigenous peoples, Catholic Church, govt.

Ecuador

  |  1 Oct 2014

Unchanged

Thousands rallied for and against President Correa mid-Sept in Quito, after a protest called by largest trade unions federation; at least 15 police wounded, several protesters arrested, of whom 53 remain detained. President Correa 23 Sept forced to reshuffle cabinet due to unexpected resignation of minister of defence.

Venezuela

  |  1 Oct 2014

Unchanged

President Maduro 2 Sept reshuffled cabinet: FM Elias Jaua, prominent figure on hard left, moved to ministry of communes and appointed “VP for development of territorial socialism” in push toward “communal state”. Economic reformer Rafael Ramírez removed from posts as energy minister, chairman of state oil corporation and VP for economic affairs; removal suggests Ramirez’s economic reform programe shelved. Economic deterioration continued; reported scarcity of basic goods; Venezuelan debt downgraded to CCC+ following slump in bond prices. Jesús “Chúo” Torrealba appointed as opposition MUD Exec Sec following 30 July resignation of Ramón Guillermo amid internal divisions; Torrealba 24 Sept said MUD open to dialogue with govt, but that opposition would intensify “social activism” including national march 4 Oct.

Colombia

  |  1 Oct 2014

Unchanged

29th round of govt-FARC negotiations began 23 Sept; parties 24 Sept published full texts of 3 outline agreements reached thus far in “measure of transparency”. Previous cycle ended 10 Sept; FARC 9 Sept presented proposals on transitional justice. FARC 2 Sept announced creation of “Guerrilla Normalisation Command” to “study the army’s return to its constitutional role” following late Aug govt creation of “Transition Command” to oversee the guerrilla’s disarmament. FARC 20 Sept assumed responsibility for 16 Sept attack on police convoy in Córdoba which left 7 police dead, rejected allegations attack carried out in alliance with Urabeños armed group. Senator Clara Rojas, kidnapped by FARC in 2002 for 6 years, 8 Sept resigned seat in Congressional peace commission in protest at statement appearing on FARC website questioning whether she should be considered a FARC victim. Some 120 Colombian and transnational companies 8 Sept launched large reconciliation campaign “Soy CaPAZ”, first major public statement in favour of peace process from private sector. Left-wing senator Iván Cepeda 17 Sept accused former president Uribe of collusion with paramilitaries and drug traffickers; accusation caused major political upheaval, string of counter accusations and law suits. Govt’s chief negotiator 27 Sept said his communications had been wiretapped illegally. Paramilitary groups Aguilas Negras and Los Rastrojos throughout month issued “hit list” threatening over 150 political leaders, activists and journalists.

Colombia

  |  1 Sep 2014

Unchanged

President Santos sworn in for 2nd term 7 Aug; promised successful conclusion of peace negotiations in near future but also warned FARC his patience with continued attacks on civilian infrastructure not “indefinite”. 27th cycle of Cuba-based govt-FARC peace negotiations ended 22 Aug with significant progress in transitional justice discussions. Joint statement called first of five meetings between conflict victims and negotiators 16 Aug “watershed moment”; success helped to reduce tensions over composition of victims’ delegation. Clarification Commission on the Conflict and its Victims 21 Aug began working on academic report examining causes and effects of conflict. Sub-commission of military and civilian experts travelled to Havana 22 Aug to start consultations on the “End of the Conflict”, last substantive agenda item. Commission member Gen Javier Flórez 25 Aug resigned from Joint Chiefs of Staff to work full time on peace process. Constitutional Court 6 Aug upheld for second time Legal Framework for Peace, main legal base for current talks. “We are Defenders” activist group 18 Aug reported decrease in murders of human rights activists in first quarter of 2014 to 30 killed, but increase in number of attacks. President Santos 25 Aug called for investigations into “criminal ring” after detained presidential campaign advisor for opposition claimed in 23 Aug interview he received orders to spy, inter alia, on politicians and peace talks. Prosecutor 28 Aug announced 32 local politicians arrested for alleged ties to right-wing paramilitary groups. Authorities 26 Aug released “Popeye”, former head of Medellin cartel hitmen and right hand of Pablo Escobar, from prison, after having served 22 of a 30-year sentence.

Venezuela

  |  1 Sep 2014

Unchanged

Tensions remained within ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) following late-July endorsement of President Maduro as party chairman; some dissident factions expressed intention to demand “respect for the legacy of Chávez”. Opposition Democratic Unity alliance (MUD) also divided following July resignation of Ramón Guillermo Aveledo as executive sec; successor will be chosen in Sept; radicals pressing ahead with plan for “citizens’ congress” in Oct despite scepticism among moderates. Economic decline continued: reported leak from central bank suggested GDP shrunk by 4% to 5.5% in first half of 2014; annual inflation remains above 70%. Introduction of rationing cards with biometric system for access to basic staples announced; health sector in crisis according to National Medicine Academy. President Maduro 1 Aug met Colombian counterpart at Cartagena summit, discussed smuggling; govt 11 Aug unilaterally announced closure of borders between 2 countries from 10pm until 5am; communities around major crossing points staged protests.

Ecuador

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

Attorney General Galo Chiriboga 9 July highlighted ongoing security crisis in northern provinces bordering Colombia during meeting with security agencies, reported homicide rates far exceeding national average in San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas province, and Putumayo, Sucumbíos province.

Colombia

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

Govt and FARC 17 July reached agreement on mechanisms for victims’ participation in transitional justice discussions; Cuba-based peace talks will resume 12 Aug, with first victims’ delegation expected in Havana 16 Aug. Three regional forums held 4-18 July prepared inputs amid heated debate over the alleged underrepresentation of FARC victims. National Liberation Army (ELN) 4 July celebrated 50th anniversary with string of attacks and three-day “armed strike” in north-eastern stronghold regions. President Santos 29 July warned intensifying guerrilla offensive could lead to rupture of talks; Southern Putumayo department particularly hit, with repeated FARC attacks on oil and transport trucks causing significant environmental damage. Police 20 July detained leader of FARC’s 30th Front in Cauca Valley. Dissident group of demobilised EPL guerrillas asked in 25 July open letter to join current peace process. Jailed AUC leader “Macaco” 25 July called for revision of transitional justice rules amid growing concerns over approaching liberations of paramilitaries having served 8-year maximum prison sentences ordered under special legislation. President Santos 20 July inaugurated newly elected Congress likely to play crucial role in implementing future peace agreements.

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