21 killed in Bogotá bombing (Jan. 18, 2019)
A car bomb in Colombia killed at least 21 people and wounded 68 more. The explosive, detonated outside a Bogotá police academy with students from around the region, raised the specter of past violence in Colombia. It has been more than a decade since a police or military installation in the capital has suffered a major bombing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which reminded Bogotá residents of bombings carried out by guerrillas and drug cartels in past decades.
But authorities say the ELN, the country's largest remaining guerrilla force, was behind the bomb. The group has been gaining strength since the 2016 peace deal, particularly in the territory along the Venezuelan border. The attack was carried out by a 57-year-old man with ELN links driving a car carrying 80 kg of pentolite, a powerful explosive used in the past by Colombia's rebel guerrilla groups, said Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez. (Semana and Tiempo)
Authorities discarded earlier hypothesis linking the FARC or Venezuela to the attack, reports Semana.
President Ivan Duque described the attack as a "crazy terrorist act" and declared three days of national mourning. He favored a narrative of unity and institutionality. He avoided mano dura prescriptions promoted by some in his party, including his political mentor, former president Álvaro Uribe , notes La Silla Vacía.
The attack will likely put an end to negotiations between the government and the ELN, which have already been jeopardized by the guerrilla group's ongoing attacks, reports El Universal. (The Los Angeles Times discusses recent attacks and the group's evolution since 2016.)
(New York Times, El País, Guardian, BBC, Miami Herald
More from Colombia
Attacks against social activists remain a pressing security concern in Colombia -- already this year seven have been killed, and the government promised to improve protections. (Nuevo Siglo and El Universal)
Threats and violence against journalists in Colombia have also increased since the peace deal -- particularly since last year's presidential election, reports Al Jazeera.
Colombian authorities dismantled a Bogotá temporary shelter for Venezuelan migrants, despite the ongoing flow of refugees from the neighboring country. Jan. 15 had always been set as the camp's closure date, and Colombian authorities are responding to backlash against Venezuelan migration, reports Reuters.
Colombia has been remarkably open to the incoming flow, partly because of a history of Venezuela accepting Colombian refugees, reports Foreign Policy.
Venezuelan authorities say 12 officials with the country’s intelligence agency (Sebin) will be tried for their role in the brief detention of National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó last weekend, reports the Associated Press.
Guaidó has been portrayed as the new hope of Venezuela's fractured opposition this week, but he's just the latest iteration of long standing divisions among those who hope to oust President Nicolás Maduro writes Fulton Armstrong. In an Aula Blog post he warns that the Voluntad Popular party's strategy leans heavily on eventual military support to oust the government, but it's not clear that the Armed Forces will go along. "... Unhappiness with Maduro does not translate into support for the opposition ... Despite deep corruption in the officer corps, moreover, most officers probably see themselves as nationalists and might chafe at the idea of the OAS or regional governments trying to be the kingmakers." (See Monday's post, Wednesday's briefs and yesterday's.)
Venezuela will receive the 2,000 Cuban doctors who left Brazil after the new government criticized a long-standing program aimed at providing health care to isolated and poor communities, reports Reuters. (See Nov. 15's post.)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's first couple of weeks in office have been marked by missteps and communication gaffes. But the lack of a cohesive plan is raising questions over whether he'll be able to deliver on promises of sweeping change he made during last year's campaign, reports the Associated Press. (Last week Reuters also reported on internal contradictions in the new administration, see Jan. 10's post.)
Bolsonaro's tough stance against crime and in favor of police use of lethal force has sparked "preoccupation" for human rights in the country, Human Rights Watch Americas chief Jose Miguel Vivanco told AFP.
There are mounting concerns over indigenous inmates in Brazil's notoriously bad penal system -- Reuters reports they "can face unduly long sentences due to no linguistic and legal aid."
Gisele Bündchen used facts to rebut the Brazilian agricultural minister's allegations that the supermodel is a "bad Brazilian" because of her environmental activism. "An immeasurable heritage threatened by illegal deforestation and the squatting of public lands. These, yes, are the ‘bad Brazilians,'" she wrote in a letter published in Brazilian media. (Guardian, and see yesterday's briefs.)
Nicaraguan foreign minister Denis Moncada canceled a trip to Mexico yesterday, in which officials were supposed to discuss Mexico's offer to mediate in Nicaragua's ongoing political crisis. (La Prensa and Confidencial)
AMLO promised protect and respect the human rights of Central American migrants traveling through the country in caravans on their way to the U.S. (EFE)
A group of U.S. lawmakers called on President Donald Trump to apply the same standards to Guatemala as to Venezuela, pointing to Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales' efforts to oust the U.N. backed anti-graft commission and refusal to obey Constitutional Court decisions. (El Periódico)
Guatemala's electoral tribunal will announce general elections scheduled for later this year. This will suspend cancelation proceedings against six political parties for illicit financing, reports El Periódico.
Peru's lawmakers launched an investigation into a defunct Odebrecht-led consortium that reportedly did business over a decade ago with a company owned by President Martín Vizcarra. Vizcarra has made battling corruption a hallmark of his administration, and denies ever having done business with the scandal-plagued Brazilian construction firm. (Reuters)
The ten-year-old U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement was the first trade deal to include detailed protections for the environment and for labor. But Peru's illegal logging industry -- and the Peruvian government which seeks to enable it -- continues despite the provisions, writes Richard Conniff in a New York Times op-ed.
A Paraguayan lawmaker proposed allowing young men to carry out reforestation projects, among other civil service alternatives to military conscription. (EFE)
Argentina's football fans are the country's latest cultural export, like tango before, writes Martín Caparrós in a New York Times Español op-ed lamenting how fanaticism is ruining love of the sport.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...Latin America Daily Briefing