This Week in Conflict in the Americas… November 25th- December 1st, 2011.

  • The UN regional economic body, ECLAC, announced on Wednesday that poverty in Latin America is at its lowest level in 20 years. Among the countries that saw the largest drops in poverty are Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Columbia, with poverty increasing only in Honduras and Mexico.
  • On Wednesday, seventeen bodies were found burned in two pickup trucks in Sinaloa, Mexico, in what is suspected to be an attack by a drug cartel. On Thursday twenty-six bound and gagged bodies were found in abandoned vehicles in Guadalajara, in what is described as a similar attack. On Friday, a Mexican human rights lawyer filed the biggest civil lawsuit ever presented to the ICC demanding a probe for those responsible for systematic human rights abuses and crimes against humanity during the Mexican Drug War. The Mexican government threatened legal action against those who reported them to the ICC on Monday, calling the accusations “absurd”, “unfounded” and “slander”. On Tuesday, US police found one of the most sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnels to date linking warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego.
  • Security forces in Trinidad and Tobago reportedly uncovered a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, National Security Minister Brigadier, Attorney General and Foreign Affairs and Information Minister in response to the government’s call for a State of Emergency. More than ten people were detained in police custody.
  • Police in Peru fired tear gas to break up protests at Newmont Mining Corp’s proposed gold mine on Friday. Protesters fear the mine will hurt nearby water supplies. By Wednesday, Newmont announced it was halting construction, after days of protests that injured at least 10 people.
  • President Santos of Colombia announced on Thursday that the country was nearing the final phase of nearly 50 years of war and that his government would be willing to sit down and talk peace if rebels were serious. The killing of FARC rebel leader Alfonso Cano earlier this month is said to have struck a major blow to the rebels, though most analysts believe the rebel army will continue to draw support from landless peasants. On Saturday, FARC killed four of its longest held captives in an apparent clash between soldiers and guerrillas during a failed rescue attempt. One of Colombia’s most wanted drug lord, Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco was captured in Venezuela on Monday.
  • Occupy Los Angeles protesters in the USA are refusing to leave after the city’s mayor told them they must move by Monday because they were violating health and safety laws and damaging lawns, in the latest Occupy movement forced to evacuate.  The Sunday midnight deadline was missed, while police surrounded the camp for six hours, eventually withdrawing without evictions. However, by Wednesday, police moved to evict the protesters, with an estimated 200 arrests made. Police in Philadelphia forced the eviction of Occupy protesters on Wednesday as well, with some 50 arrests, while using bulldozers to dismantle the camp. Meanwhile, thousands camped out without government eviction across the country in hopes of finding bargains during Black Friday sales, amid numerous violent incidents including fights, shootings, riots and a pepper spray attack. In a flawed logic, the most senior US military figure warned that the number of threats facing the US and its allies had increased over the last decade, justifying the necessity of strong armed forces to “fight back”, instead of seeing the increasing military presence as responsible for the growing threats against the country. The US Senate voted on Tuesday to keep a controversial provision of the National Defense Authorization Act to let the military detain terrorism suspects on US soil and hold them indefinitely without trial.
  • The first shipment of gold bullion reserves was repatriated from overseas banks into Venezuela’s central bank after President Chavez ordered the gold be brought home to protect it from global economic turbulence. The gold had been held abroad since the late 1980s as backing for loans requested from the IMF from previous governments.
  • Canada has declared that the Kyoto Protocol is a thing of the past, and reportedly will be pulling out of the treaty, making the formal announcement sometime next month. Given that the country won the first, second and third place Fossil of the Day Award (an award given to the country that has done the most to disrupt and undermine negotiations) at the Cancun 2010 climate talks; it’s not an overly surprising move.  The Conservative government declined to confirm media reports, though it has already walked away from its obligations years ago.
  • People in Guyana took to the polls on Monday in a vote thought likely to continue to reflect the nation’s racial divide.  The PPP/C, backed mainly by the Indo-Guyanese community, is hoping to secure a fifth straight victory. On Wednesday, the main opposition claimed that the vote had been rigged in favor of the ruling party. Officials urged calm on Thursday as tensions were raised over the delay in announcing the results, which the electoral commission says need to be double-checked.
  •  On Wednesday, Honduras voted to deploy their army to fight encroaching Mexican drug cartels in an effort to curb violence in the country. Honduras has the highest rate of homicides in the world per capita, with 82 murders per 100,000 people last year; or about 20 people killed every day.

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