Protest against police brutality in Colombia in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Futbolero.)
Today in Latin America

Massacre in Colombia Ahead of Anti-Government Protests Monday

September 21, 2020 By Staff

TODAY IN LATIN AMERICA

COLOMBIA: At least five people were massacred Sunday afternoon in the Cauca department in southern Colombia. The victims, including at least one minor, were gunned down while at a cock-fighting ring in the municipality of Buenos Aires. The massacre is the 60th so far this year. The Cauca department has been one of the most violent regions in the country with nine massacres since January. Various armed groups have been fighting for control of the territory left abandoned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after the 2016 peace agreement with the Colombian government. 

The constant violence has become a rallying call for anti-government protests convened for today across Colombia. General Óscar Atehortúa of the National Police stated on Saturday that the police would accompany today’s protest without firearms after security forces themselves massacred 13 people during 48 hours of protests earlier this month in the capital of Bogotá. Police were filmed shooting indiscriminately into crowds of protestors after rioters burned police stations. Protest organizers are calling for a restructuring of the police and the resignation of Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo.

Headlines from the western hemisphere

SOUTHERN CONE

REGIONAL: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded a three-day tour of four South American countries on Sunday. Pompeo visited Colombia, Guyana, Brazil, and Suriname to discuss investment and trade. Also high on the top diplomat’s agenda was solidifying support for a “democratic transition” in Venezuela. In Colombia, Pompeo announced another $348 million in aid for displaced Venezuelans. Pompeo also visited Suriname and Guayana, where one of the largest oil reserves in the world has recently been discovered. China and the United States are currently attempting to expand their influence in the region in an attempt to secure the oil supply. Pompeo bashed Chinese investments as “crony capitalism” while the two small nations consider joining China’s Belt and Road initiative.

ANDES

VENEZUELA: At least nineteen people were killed in fighting Saturday between the Venezuelan National Guard and FARC dissidents in the border state of Apure. Local news confirmed the death of four army soldiers in an operation meant to capture alias “Ferley González”, one of the commanders of the FARC’s 10th front. According to the Colombian government, FARC rebels that abandoned the 2016 peace agreement have been rearming and using Venezuela as a base of operations.

CARIBBEAN

PUERTO RICO: President Donald Trump announced $13 billion in disaster aid to Puerto Rico to repair and improve the island’s electrical grid, after long opposing financial assistance for rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Sunday marked three years since the hurricane made landfall. Since the storm, Trump has called the island “one of the most corrupt places on earth,” considered selling the island, and claimed that any additional aid would be wasted. Now positioning himself as an ally of the island ahead of this year’s U.S. presidential elections, Trump said that he is “the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico” during a White House press conference. Both Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden are looking to court the thousands of Puerto Rican voters eligible to vote in Florida.

BARBADOS: The island nation is moving to remove Queen Elizabeth as the country’s head of state. Having gained independence in 1966, the former British colony has maintained ties with the British monarchy. Governor General Sandra Mason said that “the time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” during a speech on behalf of Prime Minister Mia Mottley. Mason called for Barbados to become a republic by November 2021, when the nation celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence. The proposal to become a republic has been presented by previous administrations, but with recent frustrations around the government’s delay to remove colonial era statues, and the prevalence of the Black Lives Matter movement across the globe, the push for becoming a republic is growing stronger. A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said that the issue “is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.”

CENTRAL AMERICA

NICARAGUA: President Daniel Ortega along with First Lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo proposed a change in law that would allow those who are convicted of “hate crimes” to receive a life sentence, which they say is designed to address those who perpetrate violence against women and children. A campaign organized by Ortega supporters is tasked with getting signatures for a letter in favor of the reform addressed to the country’s Supreme Court and National Assembly. The current maximum punishment in Nicaragua is 30 years. Opposition members raised concerns that the amendment will be used as “a new tool of intimidation and oppression” and questioned the law’s intended purpose. Ortega did not include femicide in his interpretation of “hate crimes.”

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: About 1,500 members of a opposition group installed a protest tent encampment in downtown Mexico City over the weekend, demanding the resignation of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The protesters, part of the National Anti-AMLO Front (FRENAAA), criticized the government over a variety of issues, including the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed over 73,000 people in Mexico. Many protesters displayed the Virgin of Guadalupe and other Catholic imagery, while one group led a prayer for the prohibition of abortion. López Obrador acknowledged the protests on Sunday, promising that freedom of expression will be respected and saying, “I would feel frustrated if the conservatives weren’t protesting.”

MEXICO: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Saturday that his government has designated 20 billion Mexican pesos (nearly $950 million) to produce and disseminate a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as it becomes available. He also said that Mexico is involved in the development of a vaccine and will be one of the first countries to have access to it.

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