UN Expresses Concern about Assassinations of Leaders in Colombia

Guillermo Fernandez, joint representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that the number of assassinations of social leaders in Colombia is high and continues to increase.

When presenting a report on the situation of social leaders in the country, Fernandez said that 115 human rights activists were assassinated in 2018 and so far this year, 76 reports have made and 26 assassinations have been confirmed.

The document, which was presented in La Guajira, in northeastern Colombia, pointed out that 24 departments are affected by political violence, and the highest incidence is reported in Antioquia, Cauca and Norte de Santander.

According to the report, local media also reported an increase in threats and attacks on journalists in 2018.

'Until November 2, 2018, three homicides, 200 threats and 477 aggressions against the media had been reported, seriously affecting the exercise of the freedom of speech,' the document added.

In that regard, Fernandez called on the Colombian Government to strengthen the guarantees for human rights advocates and social leaders.

Regarding the presence of the State in the territories, the UN office said that 'it has been noted that on occasions, the States is only present through the Army, so it has to carry out tasks that are not appropriate of its institutional responsibility'.

The main reasons why Colombian leaders are assassinated, according to the study, are supporting the Peace Agreement, denouncing criminal actions or favoring the replacement of illegal crops.

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Third win in a row for Cuba

On the third day of the competition, Cuba won a third time in a row, beating Colombia 31:24. Colombians now have one win out of three games. At the end of the first half, the Colombians had a chance to catch the rivals when they reduce the difference to 10:12.

At the 37 minute the the score was even 16:15 in favour of Cuba but exactly here islanders scored four times and decided the outcome of the match.

The man of the match from Colombia was Wiliiam Romero Diaz, the scorer og 6 goals. As for goalkeeper of Cuba Magnol Suares, he saved 15 shots and became the best for the second time.

On day four, June 12, Cuba plays against Azerbaijan and Colombia against India.

William Romero Diaz, Colombia: I’m satisfied with my game today, the coach didn’t let me play a lot in the previous game, so I proved that I am able to do good for the team, however I’m not satisfied with the team play. I hope that we’ll be able to show that Columbia truly has a great team and very good players of handball.

Magnol Suares Fiss, Cuba: This game was the best for us. The teams game was very good in defence and attack, we were really concentrated for this game.

Cuba beat China 30-24 on day 2

Cuba earned a shock 30-24 win over Group A top seeds China on the second day of the International Handball Federation (IHF) Emerging Nations Championship in Georgia.

China started with impressive intensity but a 19th-minute breakaway goal from Omar Toledano turned the momentum and by halftime Cuba led by three.

China fought back but were hampered again when Zhaopeng Li – who made the score 18-18 with his seventh goal of the game – was given a suspension that allowed Cuba to retake the lead with an extra man.

Although the Central Americans were set back by a red card for Adonys Jesus Garcia, they earned an impressive win, thanks in no small part to goalkeeper Magnol Suarez Fiss, who made three penalty saves.

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Bulgaria maintained their 100 per cent record with a 38-35 victory over the United States.

It looked as if wild cards the United States would be overwhelmed when Bulgaria, top seeds in Group B, raced into a commanding lead with seven goals without reply.

But the Americans slowly closed the gap and by halftime they led 17-16.

The favourites reasserted their dominance, though, and with Kristian Vasilev scoring 11 of their goals, they eventually took victory.

Hosts Georgia also made it two from two as they inflicted another heavy defeat on Malta, 39-13.

The home players filled their boots against a weak Maltese side – Giorgi Arvelodi Dikhaminjia scored eight, Giorgi Tskhovrebadze six and Nikoloz Kalandadze six.

South American champions Colombia got their first win on the board with a 35-30 victory over Azerbaijan.

They roared into a 6-1 advantage after seven minutes but Azerbaijan rallied and trailed 17-15 at the interval.

In an ill-tempered match which saw four red cards handed out – two for either side – Azerbaijan took the lead in the second half but were stopped from pulling too far ahead due to good saves by keeper Julian Alberto Villa Arango.

Powered by the goals of Sebastian Restrepo, Colombia regained control late on to earn their first Emerging Nations Championship victory.

Britain also earned their first win in Tbilisi, beating India 38-28.

After a tight first half, which Britain shaded 16-13, the European side took full control in the second 30 minutes as Sebastian Edgar scored an impressive 14 goals.

The final game of the day between Nigeria and Ireland was an entertaining affair which ended in the tournament's first draw – 31-31.

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Colombia: FARC Leader Jesus Santrich Freed at Top Court's Order

Colombian President Ivan Duque, meanwhile, said he supported the efforts of the Attorney General to keep Santrich in prison.

Colombia's Prosecutor office announced Thursday the release of Jesus Santrich, less than a day after the country's Supreme Court ordered his release, the latest development in a legal saga concerning his detention and possible extradition to the United States.

RELATED: Supreme Court of Colombia Orders Release of Jesus Santrich

From prison, Santrich went to the headquarters of the People's Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia (FARC). They will give a press conference soon from the headquarters.

After that, he will go to the Colombian Congress to take his position as an elected lawmaker.

Seuxis Paucias Hernandez, better known as 'Jesus Santrich', a former guerilla leader was arrested in Bogota April 9, 2018, following an extradition request from the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) for alleged drug trafficking.

This crime, according to U.S. authorities was committed after he, as part of the now-disarmed FARC, and President Juan Manuel Santos signed the nation's peace deal Nov. 24, 2016, which would be in violation of the accords, which state that such crimes would be dealt as part of the special tribunal JEP only if they were committed before the signing of the agreements.

Ante el montaje infame del Estado en su intención de hacer trizas la paz, se impuso la justicia y la verdad. Celebramos con regocijo la libertad de nuestro camarada Jesús Santrich. Seguimos luchando por la paz de Colombia!

Before the infamous assembly of the State in its intention to destroy peace, justice and truth were imposed. We celebrate with joy the freedom of our comrade Jesus Santrich. We continue fighting for the peace of Colombia!

Santrich and his party have maintained that no such crime was committed after the 2016 agreement and that the FARC leader has congressional immunity and could not be prosecuted under by normal courts. 

The JEP had already come out against Santrich's arrest and called for his release. 

The top court blamed the Colombian prosecutor's office's incompetence for unfounded arrest and for overlooking Santrich's congressional immunity. 

The high court said that the ex-leader of the FARC has immunity in spite of not having taken office as a congressman and that he can keep his seat in Congress until his extradition process to the United States is resolved.

Referring to the illegal nature of Santrich's detention, FARC has issued several statements asserting that the peace accord, as well as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, have been the “subject of multiple attacks meant to undermine their character, limit their scope and ignore their capacities” by the Colombian government.

Since the signing of the agreements in 2016, former FARC members have been facing persecution by right-wing elements and hitmen all over Colombia and being killed at alarming rates despite having laid down their arms in search of peace.

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Minga Agreement Upheld, Pension Reforms Struck From Duque Plan; FARC Deal Sent to High Court

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court was forwarded to the high court to rule on the legality.

Late Thursday, Colombia’s House of Representatives finally approved the National Development Plan (PND) 2018-2022 which targets education, employment, environment, safety, equity and entrepreneurship in the Latin American country.

RELATED: Colombia: Police Gun Down Ex-FARC Guerrilla, Community Enraged

Several important amendments were made to the PND prior to eventual approval of the controversial plan during its subsequent tumultuous vote. The Congress eliminated 51 articles of the bill or 15% of the total 349 articles. 

Chamber representative Oscar Dario Perez disclosed that there were 4,043 proposals, 3,411 changes to the articles and 167 amendments to the plan before the 349 agreed articles were submitted in the project process.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court, which was created as part of a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members, was forwarded to the high court to rule on the legality of a Senate vote on the matter of making changes to the agreement.

"There was no qualified majority to sink the objections ... so we are in the hands of the Constitutional Court and we are confident that everything will go well for the country," Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez posted to her Twitter account.

Notably, the articles related to the problematic and widely rejected pension reforms were discarded; and a paragraph was added that compels the government to honor agreements, reached with the Indigenous Minga, regarding hundreds of millions of dollars designated for investment across several sectors.

Director of the National Planning Department, Gloria Alonso, assured that with the approval of the PND "the national government will fulfill the commitments with the Indigenous peoples, just as it has been done with the Campesinos."

Perez, of the ruling party Democratic Center, added that "this plan is not miraculous but it is a route in the right direction to meet the needs of the community."

The original initiative was presented by President Ivan Duque, last February.

"A final text that is immensely better than what came (to the House) has been released," Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla remarked and admitted that the "contributions" and criticism of the parties allowed to improve the project.

President of the House of Representatives, Alejandro Carlos Chacon, commented, to reporters, that the revised plan was "well thought out."

In February, Duque put forward a new plan, "Pact for Colombia, Pact for Equity," which he stated aims to remove 1.5 million Colombians from extreme poverty in four years, improvement of 600,000 homes for the most vulnerable and achieve 60 percent coverage of higher education.

One of the initiative’s key goals is "that nearly 300,000 small producers enter the scheme of Agriculture by Contract." The development plan also challenges micro, small, medium and large companies to transform society by creating of quality jobs.

The PND will now be sent to the Senate plenary for review before the May 7 deadline.

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Washington uses Colombia for ‘cheap spectacles’ against Caracas – Venezuelan FM

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of using the tensions on the border with Colombia to stage a publicity stunt as part of a smear campaign against Caracas.

The US and Colombia turned the beleaguered Colombian border town of Cucuta into a “regular stage for their most decadent and cheap spectacles,” Arreaza tweeted on Sunday in response to Pompeo’s visit in the area.

The consequences of the criminal blockade imposed by his [Pompeo] government on Venezuela are too grave to count. It has created death, suffering and need.

Earlier, Venezuelan migrants living in camps on the Colombian side of the border rioted over food rations and clashed with local police. Towns on the Venezuelan side also saw clashes between law enforcement and protesters.

The unrest was exacerbated by the opposition’s attempts to drive trucks filled with US-sponsored aid into Venezuela. The authorities refused to let them pass, denouncing the move as a “PR stunt,” and citing suspicions that Washington might use the trucks to smuggle in weapons.

As tensions mounted, US officials and some in the Western media accused the Venezuelan government of setting one of the trucks on fire during a dramatic confrontation at a border bridge with Colombia, but footage from the scene and additional reporting revealed that the truck was in fact set on fire by opposition activists.

Nevertheless, during his stay in Cucuta, Mike Pompeo met with a group of Venezuelan migrants and once again urged Caracas to accept the US-sent “humanitarian aid.”

Venezuela for its part stated that it will only accept aid sponsored by the UN and global relief organizations like the Red Cross, which Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro struck a deal with earlier this week.

On Sunday, Pompeo further blasted Maduro from Colombia, saying the US “will continue to utilize every economic and political means at our disposal to help the Venezuelan people.” He mentioned economic sanctions and visa revocations for Venezuelan officials among the means to pressure the government into succumbing to the opposition.

Washington openly backed opposition leader Juan Guaido when he declared himself ‘interim president’ of Venezuela in January. The US slapped Caracas with a number of economic restrictions and urged others to follow suit. US President Donald Trump refused to rule out military intervention should the other methods to oust Maduro fail.

Maduro, meanwhile, vowed to continue to defend the nation’s sovereignty against any foreign attack. He has repeatedly slammed the US for plotting to launch a coup to topple him. That aside, officials in Caracas also accused Washington of having a hand in the country’s recent major blackouts.

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Colombians March Grows As More Activists Join Cauca Protests

Campesino and Indigenous organizations from five departments join the 5,000 activist in Cauca demanding the implementation of Peace Accords.

Now in its 17th day, Colombia’s Indigenous and Campesino National March For Life is growing in numbers and momentum.

RELATED:  Colombia: Indigenous Protest Enters 6th Day in Cauca

The march, organized by National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), is gaining support as other land and human rights organizations from the departments of Cauca, Nariño, Antioquia, Choco and Putumayo demand the full implementation of the country’s 2016 Peace Accords signed between the government at the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares) reports that the Indigenous Unit of the Awa People (UNIPA), the Ingas Indigenous of Putumayo, and Kamentza communities from Nariño are all joining the march that has shut down major highways south of Cali and affected traffic and transportation as far south as the border with Ecuador.

The activists are demanding that the Peace Accords signed in Havana, Cuba be fully implemented. This includes the protection of the Campesino and Indigenous social movement leaders whose lives are continually threatened by paramilitary groups and hired gunmen for their land.

"More than 420 Awa Indigenous people have been killed in recent years, more than 800 displaced between 2016 and 2019 and 64 have been threatened,” UNIPA said in a statement. “Our children suffer from malnutrition and our young people are threatened by armed groups present in the area," the Awa communique read.

Between November 2016 and 2018 over 420 activists were murdered, according to the Colombian government. The Colombian army said on Tuesday night it had found a total of four bodies that day in Buenaventura where the march is taking place.

The groups are also collectively demanding an additional US$1.46 million from the Colombian Congress that is currently debating the National Development Plan, according to El Tiempo. ONIC and CRIC say that the extra money would go to CRIC and land rights organizations in the Huila and Risaralda departments.

| "Solicitamos respeto al tratamiento de Autoridades Indígenas y la Jurisdicción Especial Indígena.": Soraya Gutiérrez - Coalición Colombia-Europa. .

CRIC announces a press conference for Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Since the march began some three weeks ago the Colombian military has attacked demonstrators several times. On March 19 the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) and the National Army opened fire on protesters in La Augustina, south of Cali injuring at least three people, according to CRIC.

The organization says security forces have fired tear gas, grenades, bullets and short and long range weapons at the march participants.

"To date, more 35 criminal reports have been made, including against the detainment of 13 marchers,” said CRIC in a communique. At least 10 Indigenous community members have been murdered by the state forces that have injured another 15.

Colombian President Ivan Duque who currently trying to amend and weaken the accord through a legislative process, has said he won’t meet with the more representatives of the now more than 5,000 marchers until they reopen the highway.

CRIC leader Aida Quilcue responded Monday saying, "We have been clear. If you tell us when the president will arrive, we’ll consider opening the road."​​​​​​​

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Colombia's Teachers Begin 48-Hours National Strike Against Duque's Neoliberal Reforms

The "Occupy Bogota" demonstration demands that the Colombian educational project be reviewed.

The Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Fecode) announced Tuesday a two-day strike to protest for a constitutional reform which guarantees adequate public funding for infrastructure, transportation, and feeding. This measure is accompanied by “Occupy Bogota” (La Gran Toma), a massive march called for Wednesday which demands improvements in the teachers' working conditions.

RELATED: Indigenous Protesters Injured: Police Ambush Peaceful Protest

Fecode seeks the fulfillment of the agreements signed with the National government in December 2018, which were aimed at improving the Colombian teachers' working conditions by providing salary bonuses and improving teacher evaluations. They also demand timely compliance with health contracts for teachers and their families.

"We require a greater political will from the National government to find timely solutions in the negotiation process," Fecode said in a statement and added that "the delay will aggravate the already critical problems within the country's public education system."

| against the policies of President in

The teachers' mobilization also rejects the National Development Plan proposed by President Ivan Duque administration because it harms the future of the public system.

In this regard, Carlos Eduardo Vasco, a physicist who coordinated the 'Mission of Sages' formed in 1994, criticized Duque's Plan for lacking consistent objectives on scientific education.

Source: TeleSUR

"Where are the main goals of the old Mission of Science, Education and Development?," Vasco asked and added "where are the funding guarantees for the December agreements, which [President Duque administration] reached with college students, professors and rectors?"

Today's mobilization is the second strike that Fecode carries out so far this year. On Feb. 14, the Colombian teachers staged another national strike demanding improvements to the provision of health services for teachers and their families.

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Warning About False Flag Operations Against Venezuela

Colombia is preparing further false flag operations with plans to blame Venezuela, Socialist Leader Freddy Berna said.

Together with Venezuela’s opposition, the United States government is planning a new false flag operation along the Colombian border, socialist leader and protector of the Venezuelan state of Tachira, Freddy Bernal, said Sunday.

RELATED: Who Is US Intelligence Official Advising Guaido on His 'Regional Tour'

"I have direct information from officers of the Colombian National Police that other attacks are coming along the Colombian-Venezuelan border and they are trying to twist the false flag by saying that Venezuela is going to attack Colombia," Bernal said during a televised interview with HOY.

The socialist leader told journalist Jose Vicente that the false flag operation will be bringing troops to the border for military exercises like those prevented from entering Venezuela over the last weeks.

Mercenaries and defectors from the Bolivarian army will be receiving training and equipment in preparation for the alleged attack, similar to the one executed Feb. 23 when ex-militants and members of the opposition attempted to transfer U.S.’”humanitarian aid” to Venezuela from Colombia.

Bernal said, "They are already arming and are going attack our Venezuelan military and our political leaders here on Venezuela's side of the border, of course.

"I want to warn the international community that a mode of war is being prepared against Venezuela aimed at causing internal chaos through the incursion of paramilitaries, mercenaries and some traitors," he said.

Bernal warned that the danger has not passed, “We can not be naive and we must be alert, "he emphasized.”

During the interview, Bernal reiterated the denouncements made by Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, and Ambassador of Venezuela to the U.N. Samuel Moncada in which they warned of the creation of a so-called “army of liberation” by the Venezuelan right-wing opposition.

Bernal’s appointment as a protector of Táchira by President Maduro year ago made him head of the security staff at the state’s border region with Colombia given that it is an unstable border area due to smuggling and drug trafficking.

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