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    Eight Arrested in Bogota Shopping Mall Bombing

    Official press conference announcing the Saturday’s arrest of the alleged bombers of the Centro Andino mall in Bogota

    The City Paper Bogota reports four men and four women were detained in the Centro Andino shopping mall bombing in Bogota on June 17 bombing in which three women were killed and nine injured.

    The arrested in the town of El Espinal, Tolima, are ndividuals affiliated with a new urban militia group known as Movimiento Revolutionario del Pueblo (MRP), or People’s Revolutionary Movement according to  Gen. Jorge Nieto, Director of Colombia’s National Police.

    More:

    “The state is capable of triumph over terrorism,” remarked Colombian Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martínez Saturday night during a press conference in Bogotá.

    On June 17, a hand made bomb exploded in a public bathroom on the second level of the mall located in Bogota’s Zona Rosa district.

    Nestor, accompanied by Nieto, and Bogotá’s chief of security Daniel Mejía, confirmed the capture of four men and four women, who will face on Sunday charges that include theft, homicide, kidnapping, and terrorism.

    General Nieto said the suspects have alleged involvement in 14 other attacks since 2015, including in Pereira.

    Applying good police work, intelligence officials used eyewitness testimonies and examined security camera footage from inside the shopping center in order to identify the suspects. The bomb that exploded at 5:10pm on the day before Father’s Day claimed the lives of Ana María Gutiérrez, 41, Lady Paola Jaimes, 31, and French citizen, Julie Huynh, age 23.

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    More Venezuelans Flee to Colombia As Situation Worsens

    BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) Six men and women rise from worn, flattened mattresses as the first hint of dawn stretches over a Colombian neighborhood known as “Little Mene Grande,” named after the warm, Venezuelan city where so many recent arrivals are from.

    The women do their makeup in front of a mirror hanging from the security bars inside a window. One wraps her 4-month-old daughter in a fuzzy yellow blanket. The men don jackets and baseball caps.

    Bogota is cold compared to their Venezuelan hometown and their day will be long. The task: Sell 54 mangos at less than a dollar each in hopes of sending a sliver of what they earn to relatives struggling even more back home.

    In this June 9, 2017 photo, Venezuelans Jesus Barrios and Wilson Bernadette park their cart at a busy intersection to sell mangoes, in Bogota, Colombia. Fernando Vergara / AP

    “I never imagined living like this,” says Genensis Montilla, 26, a nurse and single mother who left her three children with their grandmother.

    While Venezuela plunges further into political and economic ruin, the flight of its citizens is accelerating, reaching levels unseen in its history. Experts believe nearly one-tenth of its population of around 31 million now lives outside the country. For better-off professionals the preferred destination is Spain or the U.S., where Venezuelans are overstaying their visas in droves and now lead asylum requests for the first time – 18,155 last year alone.

    But for many poor people fleeing Venezuela’s triple-digit inflation, hours-long food lines and medical shortages, Colombia is the journey’s end. The neighboring Andean nation has received more Venezuelans than any other nation. Estimates indicate more than 1 million have arrived in the last two decades, reversing the previous trend of Colombians fleeing war heading to Venezuela.

    The most desperate cross illegally through one of hundreds of “trochas,” unpaved dirt roads along Venezuela’s porous 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border with Colombia.

    “When you talk to Venezuelans, they all say, ‘I want to come,'” said Saraid Valbuena, 20, who made the journey with her husband and their then 1-month-old daughter earlier this year. “Even though you come here to sleep on the ground, people want to come because they know with a day or two of work at least they’ll eat.”

    n this June 9, 2017 photo from left; Saraid Valbuena, carrying her daughter; Genesis Montilla; Heraly Obando and Wilson Bernadette, all recently arrived to Colombia from Venezuela, walk towards a bus station in Bogota, Colombia. Fernando Vergara / AP

    The influx shows no sign of waning and has worried Colombian officials enough that they are crafting contingency plans in the event of an even larger spike or a repeat of a crisis like the one in 2015, when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro overnight expelled some 20,000 Colombians.

    Recently, Colombia’s government sent a delegation to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey to learn how to respond to a sudden wave of mass migration. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is also studying how prepared their offices in Colombia, as well as Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago, are to deal with a potential swell of Venezuelan migrants.

    “Since about a year and a half ago, it has been a constant flow,” said Daniel Pages, president of the Venezuelans in Colombia Association. “They need to leave in order to live.”

    Officially, Venezuela denies its citizens are fleeing to Colombia. As recently as February, Maduro claimed Colombians were still pouring “en masse” into Venezuela. Venezuela has not released migration statistics in more than a decade.

    Valbuena and Montilla share four tiny bedrooms made of cinder blocks with 12 others. They’ve scrounged used jackets to withstand Bogota’s damp, Andean climate. One of the flattened mattresses in a bedroom was pulled from the trash.

    “Every day I wake up wanting to leave, but I can’t,” says Montilla, who in Venezuela lived in a comfortable home with her children but earned less in one day at an emergency room clinic than the cost of a tube of toothpaste.

    On a typical day, Montilla and five others take a bus to a wholesale food market where they purchase mangos. But on this day, mango season is winding down and prices are rising as the fruit becomes scarcer. Instead of about $4 for a bundle of 30 mangos, the seller wants $7.50, nearly double.

    They don’t have the money.

    Instead, they decide to try and sell the 54 mangos still left in the wooden carts they store overnight in a wealthier part of Bogota.

    Baby bundled and jackets on, the group departs from their apartment toward the bus station. As they approach the station, two policemen in yellow reflector jackets stop them.

    “Identity cards, everyone,” an officer demands.

    “We’re Venezuelan,” several in the group reply.

    The officers, surprised by the group’s bluntness, announce that they will call migration, a threat that doesn’t faze the Venezuelans. One of the three girls in the group pulls out a border card that allows short trips into Colombia. The officers appear satisfied but tell them to carry ID cards next time.

    Decades ago, 4 million Colombians poured into Venezuela at a time when their own nation was engulfed in an armed conflict with guerrillas and Venezuela’s oil-rich economy was booming.

    Many of the Venezuelans arriving today have Colombian roots, but those who do not find gaining legal status difficult. Unlike nearby Peru, which has offered Venezuelan arrivals temporary work visas, Colombia does not provide any sort of humanitarian legal status to Venezuelans. Refugee visas are available but can take more than two years to process.

    In the early years of the late President Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution, fleeing oil executives and other wealthy Venezuelans arrived in Colombia in such numbers that they drove up real estate prices and made getting into elite private schools even more difficult. But the newest arrivals come with little more than the change in their pockets.

    Though many come from Venezuela’s lower and middle classes, Montilla and her friends have seen even skilled professionals like architects and engineers arriving in Colombia and sleeping in bus stations.

    Montilla said she decided to leave when her children began saying, “I’m hungry” and she had nothing to feed them.

    She told her children her plans before departing.

    “Go,” her oldest son, 10, said. “So that we aren’t hungry.”

    Source: Associated Press via NBCnews

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    Colombia’s peso at 7-month high as global oil prices tumble

    The Colombian Peso is trading above the 3,000 benchmark

    The Colombian peso lost 7 months of gains against the U.S. dollar, Tuesday, trading above the 3,000 peso benchmark as increased supply by several key oil producing nations hammered crude futures.

    Currencies of leading oil exporting nations led currency declines across Latin America with the Colombian peso slipping 2.2% to its lowest point in 2017 and shares in Colombia’s Ecopetrol also dropped nearly 3%.

    For the peso to reach 3,000 is hardly good news for importers, who, since October 2016, have grappled with a revalued peso that has been trading between 2,800 and 2,900 for most of this year. The United States Federal Reserve’s decision to raise short-term interest rates 0.25% and fourth hike since the financial crisis, also weighed-heavily on the peso losing ground to the greenback.

    While the Fed’s decision was anticipated, the global investment bank Goldman Sacks warned that currencies from emerging markets would be impacted if Brent crude fell below US$45 per barrel, including the Colombian peso.

    As the third-largest economy in Latin America, Colombia has unperformed during the 1Quarter of 2017 with GDP growth at 1.1%. Despite investor confidence with the end of a half-century of internal conflict and the arduous end-game of a weapons hand-over of 7,000 combatants, the impact of crude slipping to its lowest price this year could evaporate the peso’s retreat during the 2Q of this year as a result of an over-supply of U.S petroleum and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ failure to cut back on production to stabilize prices above US$50 per barrel.

    The feuding among OPEC nations on whether to cut production or not, is not going away anytime soon, and this could weaken Colombia’s capacity to generate much-needed revenues from oil and gas exports to finance its peace process and much-needed social welfare programs.

    Source: Thecitypaperbogota.com

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    Colombia Authorities Release Composites of Suspects in Bogota Mall Bombing

    The explosion that rocked the Centro Andino shopping center in Bogotá, Saturday, killing three women and injuring 11 has security forces in Colombia searching for clues to arrest persons implicated in the terror attack.

    The bomb placed in the women’s bathroom on the eve of Father’s Day detonated at 5:10pm forcing the evacuation of shops, restaurants and a crowded movie theatre in the heart of one of Bogotá’s most visited areas, known as ‘Zona Rosa.’

    The victims of the attack include French national Julie Huynh, 23, who was finishing a six-month stay in the country, after working on social projects in a marginalized neighbourhood. The other two victims, Ana María Gutiérrez, 41, and Paola Jaimes Ovalle, 31, died at the nearby Clinica del Country on the same Saturday night. Pilar Molano Villamizar, 45, remains in critical condition and has required several surgeries.

    World leaders have condemned the attack and a memorial service was held Sunday afternoon in the main lobby of the four-floor shopping complex, decked with white flags and wreaths placed by the Mayoralty and French Embassy.

    Within hours of the blast, the National Liberation Army guerrilla, or ELN, repudiated the attack in a statement from Quito where peace talks are taking place with the Colombian government. The commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) also condemned the attack by “enemies of peace.”

    As thousands evacuated this popular commercial zone and the National Police sealed-off the main entrances to the Centro Andino, the first reports of a bomb placed in the women’s bathroom surfaced. Bogotá’s mayor Enrique Peñalosa arrived with a security detail and addressed the media, stating that the blast was a “cowardly terrorist act.”

    Intelligence agencies are working on several leads as to which organization could have orchestrated an attack aimed at civilians, especially women and children. As the bomb exploded, the third-floor theatres of Cine Colombia were full with families enjoying a Saturday at the movies.

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos arrived at the shopping center around 9:30pm, Saturday, to assess for himself the extent of the damage and called the attack “a vile, cruel and cowardly act”. The head of state said a full investigation was underway and the terrorists would be captured. Santos offered a $100 million peso (U.S$35,000) reward for information leading the arrest of persons implicated in the attack.

    According to an eyewitness, the carnage on the second floor was extensive with “blood everywhere.” Graphic images of injured women were circulating on social media within hours of the bombing. “It was a surreal situation with the evacuation and simultaneously clients enjoying coffee in the many cafés of the mall,” remarked a foreigner who asked to remain anonymous and was forced to evacuate from an emergency stairwell. “The whole process was very slow. Theatregoers were more concerned about texting than leaving the building.”

    Colombia’s anti-terrorism entity has been coordinating the investigation with the state’s security forces, as well as Interpol. Several people approached representatives of the country’s Fiscalia (Attorney General’s Office) to give testimony of suspicious activity within the mall. According to one account, a tall man, was confronted by several women when he emerged from a stall on the third-floor bathroom in the early afternoon. The bomb exploded on the second floor two hours later. “At the time, it didn’t seem suspicious, rather the case of a pervert or confused tourist,” stated one of the women. Another eyewitness claims to have seen a man leave the women’s bathroom on the second floor. A third account describes a middle-aged man dashing out the main entrance of the Centro Andino, pushing people aside, moments before the explosion.

    Police were reviewing CCTV cameras on all floors of the luxury mall late Saturday and examining the crime scene.

    The State Department issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens residing or visiting Colombia within hours of the attack offering to “provide any support requested by the Colombian authorities.” The Canadian government asked its nationals to “remain vigilant” in Bogotá.

    The investigation is focusing on several hypothesis, as the attack appears to be have been planned and coordinated by several individuals, and authorities have not ruled out a connection to dissident, fringe groups affiliated with the country’s largest guerrilla group, FARC, who want to destabilize the peace process and demobilization of 7,000 combatants. Another theory is looking at a drugs cartel connection, implicating the Clan Usuga, that has vowed to launch a terror campaign in Bogotá, as a result of major drug seizures in recent months along the coast.

    On Tuesday, the Attorney General’s Office released the police composite sketches of two suspects – both middle aged men – one of whom, appears to “speak with a foreign accent.”

    The bomb was fabricated with 500 grams of ammonia and TNT. Police have not ruled out the involvement of a woman in the attack.

    Given the seriousness of the attack, and fact that no one has so far claimed responsibility, the only authorities who can comment on the on-going investigation are President Santos, Mayor Peñalosa and the capital’s chief of security, Daniel Mejía.

    Source: Thecitypaperbogota.com

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    Three Theories on Bogota Bombing

    The bomb exploded on Saturday afternoon in one of the ladies’ restrooms on the second floor of the Andino Mall, one of Bogota’s most exclusive shopping

    TODAY COLOMBIA (BOGOTA) Investigators are looking at three theories in connection with the bombing that killed three women, including a 23-year-old French citizen, in Bogota, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Sunday.

    “The investigating team has three basic hypotheses and I’m not going to mention them so as not to harm the investigation,” said Santos at the end of a security council meeting in which the decision was made to offer a reward of 100 million pesos (about us$33,600) for information leading to the apprehension of those responsible.

    Santos said that he had asked the authorities to keep “informing the public but only with true, confirmed and appropriate information that does not affect the progress of the investigation.”

    He said that the only entities authorized to provide “official information” are the Attorney General’s Office and the police leadership.

    “All different information (coming from other sources), I’m asking them not to use it as official because in these situations, and as our experience has shown, people begin to speculate, they begin to circulate all sorts of versions that, often, are untrue and can even cause panic,” Santos said.

    The bomb exploded on Saturday afternoon in one of the ladies’ restrooms on the second floor of the Andino Mall, one of Bogota’s most exclusive shopping facilities located in the well-to-do El Chico neighborhood.

    According to the information presented on Saturday evening by Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, the blast killed 23-year-old Julie Huynh, a French citizen, who had been working for the past six months as a volunteer at a high school in the Colombian capital.

    The other people killed were identified as Ana Maria Gutierrez, 27, and Lady Paola Jaimes, 31, and Huynh’s mother – Nathalie Nadine Veronique Levrand, 48 – is among the injured.

    Regarding the reward, the president said that it will be provided “to any person who gives us information that can help capture those responsible.”

    Meanwhile, on Sunday, Santos cancelled his trip – scheduled to begin on Monday – to Portugal to be able to stay closely informed about the investigation into the attack, saying that “the first days after an attack … are essential … to getting the investigation going and achieving results.”

    Santos did say, however, that he will travel to France, where he will meet with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, “to move forward on our agenda of cooperation.”

    Latin American Herald

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    Bogotá Bombing Kills Three People And Leaves Nine Wounded

    Andino Mall, Bogota

    TODAY COLOMBIA – Three people died, and nine were injured in a bomb explosion occurred on Saturday in a women’s bathroom in Centro Comercial Andino, a shopping mall in the northern part of the Colombian capital Bogotá.

    Right after the bombing, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos canceled a state visit to Portugal to take charge of the investigations. He offered a 100 million pesos (US$33,790) reward to whoever provides information leading to those responsible for the attack.

    Santos stated that the authorities are working with three lines of investigation about the perpetrators of the attack, but refused to disclose them. “The investigative team has three specific hypotheses, and I will not mention them so as not to damage investigations,” he said.

    The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the two guerrillas of the country, both condemned the bombing.

    Centro Andino in Bogota, Colombia, Saturday, June 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

    The “ELN repudiates the attack against civilians targets on Centro Comercial Andino,” the militia wrote on Twitter. The guerrilla called for “seriousness to those who make unfounded and reckless allegations” after some sectors identified that group as responsible for the attack.

    Meanwhile, FARC commander, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko,” wrote on Twitter that the bombing in the shopping mall could only come from sectors that want to “close the roads of peace and reconciliation.”

    Agencia CMA Latam

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    Two Dutch journalists kidnapped in Colombia by ELN rebels

    From Spoorlos

    TODAY COLOMBIA – Two Dutchmen were kidnapped in the northeast of Colombia on Monday, the country’s ombudsman announced. According to local media, the victims were journalists.

    The Ombudsman’s Office tweeted that the reported journalists were “retained” in El Tarra, a municipality in the mainly lawless region of Catatumbo, Norte de Santander in the northeast of the country.

    Derk Johannes Bolt, 62, a television journalist, and Eugenio Ernest Marie, 58, a television cameraman, were seized while working in El Tarra in Norte de Santander, which borders Venezuela, according to a military statement.

    They were searching for the mother of a Colombian child adopted in the Netherlands a few years ago.

    The Colombian authorities tweeted a demand “for the immediate release of the two men.”

    “We have established that members of the Frente Hector of the ELN appear to have kidnapped the journalists,” the statement said.

    The ELN, the second biggest insurgent group, is in peace talks with the government to put an end to more than five decades of war in the Andean nation.

    The biggest rebel movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), signed a peace accord late last year and is expected to complete disarmament this week.

    The area of Norte de Santander also has several crime gangs trafficking drugs.

    The armed forces have launched operations to find the two Dutch reporters.

     

    Sources: Colombia Reports; Reuters

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    How many jobs does fashion generate in Colombia?

    The fashion industry continues growing at an unstoppable speed. Increasingly companies are betting on the fabric and clothing business in Latin America

    According to Fashion United, the global apparel market is valued at 3 trillion dollars and accounts for 2% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

    In Colombia, the textile-clothing sector has more than a 100 year of experience. According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) fashion business produces about 200.000 direct jobs and 600.000 indirect jobs in the South American country. This department is incorporated by 10.000 factories located in seven cities of the country. Medellin is at the epicenter with approximately 40% of the national production.

    To have a clear idea, the fashion division includes: cotton crops, fabric production, garment making, footwear, leather goods, and marketing.

    Procolombia, the enterprise in charge of promoting Colombian exports, international tourism, and foreign investment, confirm that exports account for approximately 30% of domestic production and that 24% of the country’s manufacturing employment is generated by this sector.

    The Delegate Minister of Business Development of Trade Industry and Tourism, Daniel Arango Ángel, called on entrepreneurs in fashion industry to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the eleven free trade agreements Colombia has signed with 50 countries and allow access to 1.500 million of consumers around the world.

    Inexmoda is the company in charge of organizing Colombia Moda fair, the event that represents the opening of the fashion industry of Latin America. In the previous year, 13,555 buyers participated in the affair which 11,953 were nationals and 1,602 internationals.

    However, Inexmoda’s Executive President, Carlos Eduardo Botero Hoyos, exposed the manufacturers’ concern about the recent increase in VAT from 16% to 19% which may have a negative impact on the dynamics of sales.

    Colombiatex, Caliexposhow, and Bogotá Fashion Week are also big expos that represent a great monetary entrance to the economy of the country.
    Globalization has made fashion a section that moves the economy of the world. Colombia is a country that promises a prosperous future for entrepreneurs in the sector, free trade agreements, and the government’s politics help new companies makes this section a tempting investment point.

    The positive image of Colombia abroad and the talent of local designers shining on the international scene make the country a fashion center of high quality and competitive prices.

    Source: LatinAmerican Post

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    Trending Hot

    Los Tres Maridos: Three Men Marry in Colombia

    From right to left, Manuel Bermúdez, Víctor Hugo Prada y Alejandro Rodríguez. Foto: Pablo Andrés Monsalve / SEMANA, Medellín

    Three gay men in Colombia have announced they have been recognized legally as the first “polyamorous family” in the country.

    Same-sex marriages were legalised in Colombia last year.

    A notary in Colombia’s second-largest city Medellin granted full legitimacy to a marital union between three men, the first such arrangement to be recognized in the South American country, according to Semana.com.

    Manuel Bermudez, Victor Hugo Prada and Alejandro Rodriguez were united in what was heralded as a landmark arrangement for Colombian marriage rights, as well as a nascent movement to legally recognize

    One of the men, Hugo Prada told the country’s media in a published video yesterday, “We wanted to validate our household … and our rights, because we had no solid legal basis establishing us as a family.”

    According to him, he and his two partners, sports instructor John Alejandro Rodriguez and journalist Manuel Jose Bermudez, signed legal papers with a solicitor in the city of Medellin, establishing them as a family unit with inheritance rights.

    He added, “This establishes us as a family, a polyamorous family. It is the first time in Colombia that has been done.”

    Foto: Pablo Andrés Monsalve// SEMANA, Medellín
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    Colombian surgeon rebuilds acid victims’ lives

    Colombian authorities say their country is one of the world’s worst for acid attacks on people, such as these women waiting to see a plastic surgeon who specializes in helping such victims rebuild their lives

    TODAY COLOMBIA – Angeles Borda ignored the cat calls as she walked past the building site. But she couldn’t ignore the nitric acid that her tormentor then threw in her face.

    A decade on she is still disfigured. But help is at hand.

    In Colombia, said by authorities to be one of the countries worst affected by acid attacks, a campaigning plastic surgeon is helping — for free — to rebuild victims’ faces and lives.

    Borda, a 32-year-old mother of three, has had the ninth operation on her face at Alan Gonzalez’s pristine surgical clinic.

    “I know that in a few months I will look better,” she says.

    She has never been sure who was behind the attack, though an ex-boyfriend has been suspected.

    Rebuilding faces


    Angeles Borda, a 32-year-old Colombian who survived an acid attack ten years ago, puts on makeup at her home near Bogota.  Photo Raul Arboleda, AFP

    Previously used to treating soldiers wounded in conflict, Gonzalez, 46, has since 2010 specialized in helping women disfigured by acid.

    “Plastic surgery is not the surgery of vanity, but of life. The challenge is to give them back their hopes and dreams — and above all, their smiles,” he says.

    “We don’t just rebuild faces, we rebuild lives.”

    Official figures indicate that about 100 women get disfigured in acid attacks every year in Colombia, most of them in romantic disputes.

    The country last year passed a law specifically targeting such crimes.

    Struck by the “ignorance and intolerance” of such violence, Gonzalez helped set up Rebuilding Faces, an organization to help victims.

    Since late 2010 he has rebuilt the faces of 15 women in some 300 separate operations.

    – Reason to live –

    Victims typically contemplate suicide, Gonzalez says.

    On top of the trauma of the attack, they suffer discrimination and struggle to find work.

    Borda works selling sweets on buses.

    “I had two choices: sit there crying or go out and be seen the way I am,” she says.

    “What happened to me is very sad, but it is possible to live with the consequences. I have dreams, I have goals, and I have the strength to move forward.”

    Another patient, Luz Nidia Mendoza, 37, says she has not worked since suffering an acid attack in 2011.

    She was blinded and is missing seeing her children grow up.

    “I hear them, I feel them, I touch them. But I cannot see them,” she says.

    Like Borda she says she would have killed herself if it had not been for her children.

    “It is because of them that I am here.”

    She has had 25 operations, with more yet to come, to rebuild her cheeks, forehead, mouth and nose.

    She is also hoping for a corneal transplant to be able to see again.

    “Doctor Alan is an angel for us. We owe him a lot,” says Luz. “He gives us courage. He gives us joy.”

    Read more: Digitaljournal.com
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    Colombia’s Muslims celebrate Ramadan

    TODAY COLOMBIA – The holy month of Ramadan has not been ignored in Colombia, especially in the capital Bogota. Like millions around the world, Bogota’s Muslims are also fasting from sunrise to sunset.

    Every evening, members of Bogota’s small but growing Muslim community come together to break their fast.

    Catholicism is the dominant religion in Colombia, but the Muslim population is also growing as more people convert. Colombia has one of the smallest Muslim populations in South America, with estimates ranging from at least 10,000 to over 40,000 believers.

    Converts in Bogota say a look inside any mosque in the capital will show how more than half the people there are Colombians who became Muslim “without any proselytising.”

    Source: TRTWorld.com

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    FARC Accuses Colombian Government of ‘Repeatedly Breaking’ Peace Accord

    Weapons belonging to rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are stored at a rebel camp in La Carmelita near Puerto Asis in Colombia’s southwestern state of Putumayo.

    The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) accused the Colombian government Sunday of “repeatedly breaking” various terms of their peace deal, and threatened to delay the Marxist rebels’ demobilization.

    “In face of government’s repeated failure to comply with the Peace Agreement, the FARC is going to seek international monitoring,” rebel leader Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timochenko, warned on Twitter.

    The statement does not make immediately clear what Londoño meant about international oversight, which is already part of the UN-monitored peace process even after demobilization of FARC forces.

    Timochenko earlier said he was “considering” postponing demobilization.

    Earlier, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the government would stick to its calendar. “That is our commitment and we will fulfill it,” Santos said. He has called the peace process “irreversible.”

    The government and the FARC reached a deal after four years of negotiations in the Cuban capital last November.

    The accord also takes foreign magistrates off special peace tribunals, although there will be foreign observers, and stipulates FARC must turn in “exhaustive and detailed” information about its involvement in the drugs trade.

    The deal is bringing to an end 52 years of armed conflict in Colombia that has claimed at least 260,000 lives.

    Source: VOAnews.com

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    Colombia Would Change If Poor Complained as Much as Venezuela’s Rich: William Ospina

    Colombian poet, writer and essayist William Ospina. | Photo: EFE

    TODAY COLOMBIA – “If Colombia’s poor were able to complain as much as the rich do in Venezuela, Colombia would change,” Colombian poet William Ospina said in an interview with Caracol TV Sunday, arguing that the political culture in Colombia impeded the surge of a revolutionary movement.

    The novelist and essayist explained that poverty and unemployment rates in Colombia are very high, even higher than what the government is willing to acknowledge, where the official poverty line stands below a US$70-monthly wage, a number he said was unrealistic.

    “Eighteen years of Bolivarian Revolution … has not produced the levels of death, massacres, catastrophes that Colombia has experienced in that same period,” the poet said.

    “The truth is that here, besides poverty, abandonment, exclusion and lack of employment, one does not understand how Colombian society holds together and doesn’t explode,” the poet added.

     

    In reference to the Bolivarian Revolution, whose achievements he supports he said, “In a continent as unequal as Latin America, I will always hold as a principle the support for anything that puts the interests of the people before the hegemonic economic groups.”

    Ospina continued, “If we compare ourselves the truth is, that 18 years of Bolivarian Revolution, with the terrible polarization that has occurred, has not produced the levels of death, massacres, catastrophes that Colombia has experienced in that same period.”

    As for the conflict within two conservative sectors represented by current President Juan Manuel Santos and former President Alvaro Uribe, Ospina commented, “Colombia is missing an opportunity to become a modern country, no one is talking about renewable resources, about the protection of water, the Magdalena river is completely contaminated.”

    Source: Telesurtv.net

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    Colombia peace deal faces tough challenges

    Next year, Colombian voters will go to the polls to choose a new president and a new congress, and the FARC are supposed to take part in the electoral process for the first time

    In Colombia, a peace process between Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and the government is about to hit a milestone.

    On Monday, the FARC rebel group is due to hand over their arms stockpile to the United Nations.

    That will mark a decisive step in the historic peace deal that has brought an end to more than 50 years of war in the country.

    “We made the decision to lay down weapons, so that we could enter politics,” says Ivan Marquez. FARC’s chief negotiator, adding that the group originally started as a political movement.

    But there are many obstacles standing in the way of peace, and as TRT World ‘s Anelise Borges reports from Bogota, implementing the accord will be the toughest battle both sides have ever faced.

    Source TRTWorld.com

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    Colombian rebels turn to parenting

    During the 52-year war, rebel women FARC fighters were obliged to use birth control. Those who became pregnant were made to leave their babies with family members, or even forced to terminate their pregnancy.

    FARC rebel couple Jerly Suarez (L) and Vicente Pulecio walk to a cooking class with their 9-month-old son Dainer at a rebel camp in a demobilization zone in La Carmelita, in Colombia’s southwestern Putumayo state. (February 28, 2017)

    As Colombia transitions out of its 50-year civil war, dozens of guerrilla fighters are dropping their guns to become parents.

    Under the terms of the peace accord, the guerrillas must stay in government-run transition camps until the end of May, when they will hand their weapons over to the United Nations.

    But raising kids is not easy for these new families. The camps are ridden with construction delays that make it difficult to raise children.

    “The design for these camps was not agreed upon during the peace talks,” says one former fighter. “The peace deal got under way in December, and we only reached an agreement on the camps at the end of January.”

    TRT World ’s Manuel Rueda visited a guerrilla camp deep in the Colombian countryside to find out more about these rebels-turned-parents.

    Source: TRTWorld

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    Colombian Peasants Turn Away from Coca

    Colombia coca field

    LAHT.com – BRICEÑO, Colombia – The time has come for peasants here in what was once reputed to be the most heavily mined municipality in Colombia to abandon coca cultivation and put behind them the era of living in fear of stepping on an explosive device, a community elder told EFE.

    Gerardo Antonio Vera Jaramillo, 86, and wife Maria live along with their nine children and more than 30 grandkids in Pueblo Nuevo, one of the 43 hamlets that make up Briceño, tucked into the mountains of the northwestern province of Antioquia.

    Colombia is a leading producer of coca, the raw material of cocaine, and the various factions involved in the drug trade – including criminal gangs, Marxist rebels and fascist paramilitaries – often use landmines to protect coca plantations.

    “I own a farm where I have plots of yucca, plantain, beans and corn, but what has really put food on the table are the 2 hectares (5 acres) we planted with coca,” Vera said.

    Acknowledging that he doesn’t “know much math,” Vera pointed out that while a plantain tree, like the one President Juan Manuel Santos planted here Monday to launch a crop-substitution program, takes 14 month to bear fruit, coca is ready for harvest in half the time.

    “And don’t even talk about the prices. The difference is very great. What we cultivate legally brings in very little money,” he said. “Until not so long ago, there wasn’t even a road for a vehicle to come in, and we were forced to lose or to give away corn, beans and coffee. Nobody would pay us a peso.”

    The Santos administration is implementing a National Comprehensive Program for the Voluntary Substitution of Illegal Crops that aims in its first year to eradicate roughly 50,000 hectares (123,400 acres) of coca while assisting roughly 100,000 families currently subsisting from the coca trade.

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    Trump: Colombia’s Peace Is In Your Hands

    Thehill.com – History is littered with cases of peace agreements that don’t actually generate peace. From the Dougia Accord in Chad to the Honiara Declaration in Papua New Guinea, countries are more likely to have returned to violence than be at peace within five years of signing a peace treaty. About one-half of agreements barely last more than two months. Even implemented agreements often fail to end conflict and violence in the long run.

    Colombia’s peace agreement is a case in point. Reached in August 2016 between the government and the FARC rebel group, the agreement was rejected in a popular referendum in early October. Congress approved a revised accord at the end of November, days before President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

    Despite the false start, the new agreement has held for nearly six months  — well above the low two-month bar that the first accord and so many others failed to clear. That’s an important step forward. But will peace hold?

    The recent US budget compromise, by approving $450 million promised by President Obama as part of the peace agreement, represents another important step forward. Why? Research has shown that outside support for the peace process is one of the critical elements to understanding if peace prevails.

    The aid package aims to support the peace deal signed between the Colombian government and leftist guerilla group known as FARC. This comes amidst a recent unofficial meeting between President Trump and former Colombian presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana that lead to speculation that they were seeking Trump’s support against the historic peace deal Santos brokered with the FARC rebel group.

    So when do peace deals create peace? Colombia has begun the treacherous journey towards stability in creating a strong agreement that includes political participation, transitional justice, rural development and demobilization. Political scientist Page Fortna’s research shows that strong agreements create stronger peace, even when the circumstances on the ground are challenging.

    Direct attempts to form a strong and lasting agreement include creating demilitarized zones to separate troops, monitoring by international observers, and third party guarantees. When peace accords include measures proactively preventing violence, like creating commissions to resolve disputes and demilitarized zones, fighting is less likely to recur. What are the chances Colombia’s measures create a lasting peace?

    My work on the topic of conflict resolution and lasting peace shows there are important trends that can help us identify if peace is likely to hold. Involving actors outside of the conflict in the peace-building process has consistently been shown to prevent violence.

    Research on civil war settlement highlights the important role outside states can play in rebuilding trust after a violent conflict. Civil war expert Barbara Walter shows the involvement of countries outside the conflict can provide important assurances that bolster peace. She shows former warring parties consider these factors in deciding whether to negotiate or return to fighting.

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