Colombians Call on Duque's Gov't to Maintain Peace Process With ELN

The renewed uncertainty over the peace process between the Colombian government and the leftist ELN group comes after Thursday's car bomb attack on a police school that left 21 dead.

After the attack in Bogota that left 21 dead and 68 wounded, hundreds of Colombians are demanding that President Iván Duque not give up on the agreements for the cessation of violence with the National Liberation Army, or ELN, and insist on maintaining the dialogue table the leftist guerrilla group.

RELATED: Death Toll from Colombia Car Bomb Rises to 21: Police

Through Twitter, they used the hashtag #AdelantePorLaPaz (forward with peace) in which they expressed their desire for the end of the armed conflict in the South American country as well as lamenting the loss of lives in the attack.

"#AdelantePorLaPaz It is the only way to make Colombia a country where young people: cadets, peasants and students are not killed and silenced in the context of a conflict that the only thing that generates us is death and rupture of the social fabric," one user said in a tweet

"The government @IvanDuque believes that dialogue with the ELN, will not achieve peace, and instead wants to defeat it militarily. That was done 16 years ago with the Farc, and Uribe in eight years could not. Let's not wait for more four years of violence and death," another Colombian said through the social media website. 

The call for maintaining the peace process came shortly after the government of Ivan Duque officially accused the ELN of ordering the attack. The leftist group has yet to issue an official statement on the accusations, however, the group did issue a tweet from its official Twitter account rejecting reports of its responsibility yesterday on media outlets and by officials following the bombing.

The Colombian government and the ELN had initiated peace talks in February 2017 under a mandate by former President Juan Manuel Santos.

Those talks are currently in an evaluation phase. In a move that pushes peace talks further away, on Nov. 21 the Colombian government announced they won’t suspend the Interpol arrest order against Nicolas Rodriguez, known as Gabino, who was designated as the ELN's chief peace negotiator.

The county’s prolonged armed conflict has been ongoing since the 1960s. Between October 2017 and January 2018, the Colombian government and the ELN agreed on a bilateral ceasefire that lasted 101 days.

Since then, the militant organization ordered unilateral truces, in what they claimed was in an effort to prevent any impediment of the voting process during last year's elections.

Funded and sponsored by Catholic priests and rebels, ELN is currently the largest active guerrilla group in Colombia after the peace agreement and demoralization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

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Car Bomb Explodes in Colombia Police Barracks, 5 Dead

Images published on social media networks showed the remains of a burning vehicle in the parking lot of the training center for officers of the National Police.

A car bomb exploded at a police academy in Colombia's capital Bogota on Thursday, killing at least eight people and wounding about 10, authorities said.

The bomb went off in the General Santander Police School in the south of the capital, Mayor Enrique Penalosa told reporters.

The Defense Ministry put the death toll at eight. Authorities did not immediately say if the dead and wounded were police or civilians.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said he was returning to the capital from the west of the country, where he had been attending a meeting on security and had ordered security forces to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

"All Colombians reject terrorism and are united to confront it," he said on Twitter. There was no word on who might be behind the explosion.

Images on social media showed the remains of a vehicle in flames in the parking area of the police school, and emergency responders at the scene.

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UN Stresses Concern over Assassinations of Social Leaders in Colombia

The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, Alberto Brunori, has urged the Government of Ivan Duque to urgently take measures to halt the increasing number of assassinations of social leaders.

Brunori expressed concern over the rise of crimes against human rights defenders and land claimers in regions of Cauca department, southwestern Colombia.

In the first few days of 2019 there are many dead, most in Cauca, stressed the UN representative alluding to the killing of seven social leaders in the first week of the year.

The Italian political scientist hailed the Government's meeting last Friday in which the Plan of Timely Action was discussed. It envisions a strategy to counter social violence in Colombia. However, he stressed that urgent measures should be taken quickly to put up a system aimed at guaranteeing protection for social leaders.

According to the nation's Ombudsman Office, since the signing of the Peace Agreements two years ago, some 358 Colombian have been murdered for their political beliefs or for being linked to social demands.

Human rights organizations believe the figure is higher, tagging it at over 400, including nearly 100 former fighters of the former guerrilla Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces- People's Army.

On Saturday, Colombia's Attorney General, Nestor Martinez, admitted for the first time there is a pattern of systematic killings of social leaders.

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Alarming Figures on Sexually Abused Children in Colombia

Bogota, Jan 4 (Prensa Latina) Child sexual abuse in Colombia has risen alarmingly in 2018 compared to the previous year, the National Institute of Legal Medicine reported.

Over 21,500 cases of sexually abused children were registered between January and November last year, up from the 20,663 in all 2017.

Colombian Legal Medicine revealed that 9,896 of the victims were 10 to 14 years old and 6,015 between five and nine.

To the dramatic picture of children abused in Colombia adds the aberration that the victimizers in half of the raped children cases were relatives (parents, stepfathers, uncles, cousins and grandparents).

During the final week of the year in Colombia, the rape and murder of two minors, a seven-year-old boy from Caldas and a 12-year-old girl from Meta, both territories in the country's Andean region, caused consternation.

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Venezuela Slams Pompeo, Duque Over Fake Claim US Helped Colombia Achieve Independence

Duque and Pompeo met for about 40 minutes at the Guest House in Cartagena, Colombia where they discussed interventionist efforts into Venezuela. 

The Venezuelan government condemned Thursday the position of Colombian President Ivan Duque, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, "whose governments intend to subjugate and violate the sovereignty and self-determination of the Venezuelan people."

RELATED: US: Mike Pompeo Starts Interventionist Latin American Tour

"It is a historical aberration the subordination of the current government of Colombia to U.S. interests, to the point of attempting to twist the heroic Bolivarian feat and instead thanking the United States for its supposed collaboration with the Colombian independence forces 200 years ago," Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday.

Duque and Pompeo met for about 40 minutes at the Guest House in Cartagena, Colombia, where the Colombian president expressed his gratitude for the assistance provided by the U.S. government for the "emancipation of Colombia," stating that "the support of the founding fathers of the United States was crucial to achieve our independence."

In the statement, the Venezuelan government indicated that "the anti-Venezuelan rhetoric that the Colombian president and the U.S. secretary have shown, clearly intends to distract the public attention from the resounding failure of the US anti-drug policy in Colombia, as well as the lamentable state of the peace process and the irrepressible violence in the neighboring country."

Colombia has seen a rise in paramilitary violence over the past few years following the peace agreement between the Colombian government of Juan Santos and the former leftist guerrilla FARC. The power vacuum created by the demonization of the FARC has led to more paramilitary violence that has claimed the lives of hundreds of social leaders in the country as well as the lives of former FARC militants.

Social movement and human rights organizations have repeatedly accused both the Santos and Duque governments of failing to curb the power of paramilitaries in the country and also dragging their feet on the total implementation of the peace process which includes protections for social leaders and former militants.

Far-right Duque himself has connections to paramilitary groups, and his mentor former President Alvaro Uribe has also been implicated in several cases that involve right-wing paramilitary violence.

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Maduro: Colombia to Blame for Electricity Failure in Venezuela

The Venezuelan leader said during an event that the western states of Venezuela are facing an electricity crisis because of Colombian groups. 

Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan president, accused a Colombian group of the attacks against Venezuelan electric system in the western border state of Zulia.

RELATED: UPDATE: 4.9-Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Northern Venezuela

"The electric war in Zulia has been ruthless. That comes from Colombia, groups trained in Colombia to attack the electrical system, but the people of Zulia are clear," the Venezuelan president said Wednesday.

Maduro said that his government has responded to the threats and are maintaining the electric service.

"There are groups trained in Colombia to attack the electrical system (...) They are terrorist attacks (...), a guerrilla war, terrorist, against the system," Maduro said during a ceremony celebrating the state's completion of new homes for citizens..

"Anyone who dares invade Venezuela, to touch our sacred territory, will be received by the people with a rifle in hand and will receive an armed force ready to fight and defend our beloved homeland," stressed President Maduro while asking the Venezuelan people to defend the sovereignty and independence of the country.

The western states of Venezuela, particularly Zulia, Tachira, Merida, Trujillo, and Barinas have suffered from long periods of blackouts.

The relationship between Colombia and Venezuela has been affected after Maduro accused the former of supporting the United States in its interventionist policies against Venezuela.

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Cuba and Colombia Winners in the Sports Survey of Prensa Latina

Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarría, Colombian Caterine Ibargüen, and boxing team Domadores de Cuba rose today as the winners of the 55th edition of the Prensa Latina Poll.

In a bitter sting for the award, Echevarría reached 36 votes and exceeded by seven the great star of world soccer, the Argentine Lionel Messi.

The 20-year-old jumper conquered this season the title of indoor orb in Birmingham, England; the Ostrava World Challenge; and the International Meetings of Bad Langensalza and Guadalajara.

Also, the leader of the ranking of the world dominated the stop of the League of the Diamond of Stockholm and reached silver in the one of Rome, in addition to prevailing in the appointment of Karlsruhe and to take the silver medal in the International Meeting of Metz, France.

Among the achievements of the season stands out the impressive record of 8.83 meters which, despite having been in favor of wind (+2.1 - legal up to + 2.0-), showed the world the real possibilities of breaking the world record of the specialty of 8.95, held by the American Mike Powell since 1991.

Olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro-2016, Ibargüen dominated the survey this year with 59 votes and reached five laureates, after those obtained in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Thus, the South American athlete surpassed in the historical ranking the legendary Cuban runner Ana Fidelia Quirot (1989, 1991, 1995, 1997) and won the eleventh prize for her country in the category of Best athlete if we count both sexes, and the seventh among females.

This season, the representative of the coffee nation won triple and long jump titles in the Continental Cup, the Diamond League and the Central American and Caribbean Games of Barranquilla-2018.

Catherine left for the books the most outstanding mark of the year, 14.96 meters that equaled the best sixth jump of her career and was the longest since that allowed her to savor the Olympic glory in Rio de Janeiro-2016.

But his merit lies not only in having destroyed his favorite triple specialty, but also in extending hegemony to length, a modality in which he had already ventured into the past without great results.

In that test he faced the cream of the planet, including Olympic and world champions, and in addition to raising his personal level to 6.93, he dominated most of the jousts where he competed.

Due to the excellent performance obtained this season, Ibargüen was exalted with the condition of Athlete of the Year of the International Association of Athletics Federations, for the first time in his career.

The traditional survey began in 1964 with the election of the best athlete in Latin America and the Caribbean, and from 1980 it was decided to include the Best Team of the Year.

In 1988, the men's and women's awards began separately.

A total of 116 media outlets from 25 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia issued their criteria in the Prensa Latina Sports Survey, which closed its 55th edition today.

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Colombia: 13 Wounded During Barranquilla Nightclub Explosion

The explosion of an artifact thrown at a nightclub in Barranquilla injured 13 people just two days after President Ivan Duque held a high-level security meeting. 

On Sunday, an explosion taking place in a nightclub in the city of Barranquilla, Colombia, left 13 people wounded.

RELATED: Students Reach Deal with Colombia Gov’t, Yet to Call Off Strike

The victims were football fans gathered at the club to celebrate the eighth victory of their team, Junior de Barranquilla.

At around 8 pm, an artifact was thrown at the establishment and exploded. The impact wounded 13 people, three of whom are in a critical situation.

 “From the thirteen wounded, three had to be rushed off to a better clinic...where they had to undergo a surgical procedure in order to stabilize them,” the local police commander, Jair Alfonso Baquero said.

Baquero also informed that the police is looking into the event to try to identify the responsible parties.

The attack came just 48 hours after President Ivan Duque held a security council meeting. At this meeting, Duque expressed concern over the strengthening of “criminal groups” in the department and their illegal activities.

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