BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombia’s defense minister said Wednesday that several young people were at a rebel camp recently attacked by the military, but would not confirm reports that children were among those killed, an allegation that fueled deep outrage in a nation reeling from decades of war.
In an interview on W Radio, the minister, Diego Molano, said that “young combatants,” who had been recruited and transformed into “machines of war” by criminal actors, were present at a military operation meant to target a violent armed group.
But he declined repeatedly to reveal the ages of the dead, amid reports from local officials and news outlets that one or more of those killed were minors, including a 9-year-old girl. In the interview, Mr. Molano called that information “illegitimate” and part of a “political war to give information that sought to delegitimize our military.” On the program, the host read out the names of those reported dead in local news reports.
The accusations instantly resonated in a nation scarred by decades of brutal internal war involving the U.S.-backed government, left-wing rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and powerful drug cartels — fighting that frequently included child combatants and claimed many civilian casualties. Today, the country is divided over a 2016 peace deal that sought to put an end to that era, but has had only limited success.
FARC signed a peace deal with the government in 2016, officially ending the war between the two sides. But some rebels, including Mr. Duarte, abandoned the peace deal and returned to arms.
As the FARC has pulled out of vast swaths of territory, other violent groups have moved in, turning many communities into battlegrounds between the military, old and new rebel groups, and paramilitaries. For many in Colombia, the war has not ended.
President Iván Duque has been the subject of growing criticism that he is not doing enough to stop the violence.
In late 2019, his former defense minister, Guillermo Botero, left his position after failing to disclose that several children died during a military raid on a criminal group.
wrote Diego Cancino, a councilman in Bogotá, the capital, on Twitter. “Minister Diego Molano, you can’t justify the unjustifiable.”
Sofía Villamil contributed reporting.
WASHINGTON — As many as 320,000 Venezuelans living in the United States were given an 18-month reprieve on Monday from the threat of being deported, as the Biden administration sought to highlight how dangerous that country has become under President Nicolás Maduro.
The immigrants also will be allowed to work legally in the United States as part of the temporary protective status the administration issued as it considers the next steps in a yearslong American pressure campaign to force Mr. Maduro from power.
“The living conditions in Venezuela reveal a country in turmoil, unable to protect its own citizens,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement. “It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.”
Venezuela is mired in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises under Mr. Maduro, who, through a mix of corruption and neglect, oversaw the decay of the country’s oil infrastructure that had propped up its economy. The United Nations has estimated that up to 94 percent of Venezuela’s population lives in poverty, with millions of people bereft of regular access to water, food and medicine.
Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader and former head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the country’s legitimate leader.
But one of the officials who briefed reporters on Monday on condition that he not be identified said the Biden administration was reviewing whether to lift a raft of economic sanctions that experts believe have cost Venezuela’s government has much as $31 billion since 2017.
The official said that review would assess whether the economic pressure exacted against Mr. Maduro and his government was worth the risk of exacerbating the dire living conditions for Venezuelans.
The new protections were welcomed by Democrats and Republicans in Congress who had appeared divided on the approach to immigration policy under Mr. Trump.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said he supported the protections, although “it is critical that we continue working with our democratic allies to secure a Venezuela free from tyranny and ensure this temporary status in the U.S. does not become a permanent one.”
Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, both Democrats, noted that earlier efforts to allow Venezuelan immigrants to remain in the United States were blocked by the former president’s supporters in Congress.
“For years, the world watched in horror as man-made humanitarian and political crises turned Venezuela into a failed state,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Despite these disastrous and dangerous conditions, Venezuelans were still forcibly deported back to their country by the Trump administration.”
federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration’s argument that immigrants from places like El Salvador, Haiti and Sudan, which were recovering from disasters or political turmoil, no longer needed safe haven in the United States.
Monday’s announcement signaled that the Biden administration was likely to continue at least some of the protections.
Roberto Marrero, a Venezuelan opposition leader who moved to Florida after spending a year and a half in jail in Venezuela, called Monday’s decision a “bittersweet victory.”
“It gives us protection,” he said, “but also reminds us that we’re here because there’s a dictatorship in our country.”
Lara Jakes reported from Washington, and Anatoly Kurmanaev from Bogotá, Colombia.
BUENOS AIRES — For the first time in more than a century, women in Argentina can legally get an abortion, but that landmark shift in law may do them little good at hospitals like the one in northern Jujuy Province where all but one obstetrician have a simple response: No.
Abortion opponents are reeling after a measure legalizing the procedure was signed into law in December, but they have hardly given up. They have filed lawsuits arguing that the new law is unconstitutional. And they have made sure doctors know that they can refuse to terminate pregnancies, a message that is being embraced by many in rural areas.
“The law is already a reality, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay still,” said Dr. Gloria Abán, a general practitioner and abortion opponent who travels the remote Calchaquí Valleys of Salta Province to see patients. “We must be proactive.”
In neighboring Jujuy, 29 of the 30 obstetricians at the Hector Quintana Maternity and Children’s hospital have declared themselves conscientious objectors, as the law allows. So have all but a handful of the 120 gynecologists in the province, said Dr. Rubén Véliz, head of the obstetrics department at Hector Quintana.
But even officials in President Alberto Fernández’s administration, which introduced the bill, acknowledge that hard work remains to ensure that women are able to gain access to the procedure. “Activists will have to play an key role,” Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Argentina’s minister of women, gender and diversity, said in an interview.
denied an abortion. The baby was delivered in a C-section but died shortly thereafter. The case inflamed passions across the country.
Officials say the opposition by doctors will have limited impact because the vast majority of abortions within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy are carried out with pills and do not require a medical procedure. Even when a procedure is needed, they said, there will be ways to work around roadblocks.
“The practice is guaranteed, because if a certain hospital does not have professionals who are not conscientious objectors we will transfer the patient,” said Dr. Claudia Castro, who leads the women’s health department in the maternity and infancy division of Jujuy’s Health Ministry.
In rural areas, though, it may be difficult for women to ask for help in the first place.
María Laura Lerma, a psychologist in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a remote mountain valley in Jujuy, said doctors often tried to scare pregnant women off abortion. Health care workers, she said, “will often tell young women her fetus will become an elf.”
“It’s one of many popular beliefs that are in the collective imagination,” said Ms. Lerma, who belongs to an abortion rights coalition of health care providers.
Recently, Ms. Lerma said, a woman in her early 20s came to see her and said she was terrified about the prospect of having an abortion because a gynecologist had told her it would cause cancer.
more than 1,500 prosecutions directly related to abortion and 37 for “obstetric events,” which typically refers to miscarriages.
The first category may be easier to handle. Since abortion is now allowed, any pending cases may be thrown out, though “this won’t be so automatic,” said Diego Morales, a lawyer with the legal center.
a book published last year that brought to light how common such prosecutions had become. Sometimes, she said, the women said they had not even known they were pregnant — “but nobody believed them.”
“There should be a presumption of innocence in our judicial system,” Ms. Saralegui Ferrante said, “but in these cases it was the other way around, there was a presumption of culpability.”
One woman, Rosalía Reyes, who was placed under house arrest after being sentenced to eight years. She says she suffered a miscarriage when she was seven months pregnant.
Judges declared it murder.
As a mother of four, the judges reasoned, Ms. Reyes should have known how to cut the umbilical cord, even though she lost so much blood she fainted, said her lawyer, Fabiana Vannini.
Ms. Vannini hopes she may now have a way to reopen the case. The new law, she argues, does more than just legalize abortion.
“It also changes the paradigm of what is a woman, and who has control over her body, her uterus,” the lawyer said.
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The testimony is searing. “They tied me to a tree,” said one victim of Colombia’s guerrilla. “They put us in a cage,” said another. “I was kidnapped for four years.”
“Until then, I had not heard of ‘mass graves,’” said a victim of the military. “Finally I understand that those in charge of protecting civilians killed thousands of Colombians.”
After decades of civil war, Colombia has created a historic postwar court designed to reveal the facts of a conflict that defined the nation for generations, morphing into the longest-running war in the Americas.
Thousands have testified. Wide-ranging investigations are underway. The first indictments were issued in January — and the first pleas are expected in April. Perpetrators will be punished, with those who admit responsibility receiving lesser, “restorative” sentences, like house arrest or remaining free while doing hard physical labor. Those who refuse to do so will face trial, and the possibility of decades in prison.
Special Jurisdiction for Peace, could help change the trajectory of a nation that has been at war for much of its history, with one conflict rolling almost immediately into the next.
Its failure could mean the repetition of that cycle.
“We have a window — a generational opportunity — to leave behind the insane violence we have lived in all our lives,” said Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate who was kidnapped and held by guerrillas, sometimes in chains, for more than six years. “I would like us to be able to open that window and let the light in.”
signed a peace deal that included the creation of the postwar court.
But if the goal of the court is to dig up buried truths, it is clear that this search is also exhuming and exacerbating longstanding divisions — and that the road to a common narrative, if one can be found, will be lined with conflict.
Some see the court as their best chance to find answers about lost loved ones, and the country’s best hope for peace; others are angered that assassins and kidnappers will not receive prison sentences; still others simply dismiss the court’s findings, saying the institution is biased in favor of the former guerrillas.
report by the court implicates the military in more than 6,400 civilian deaths from 2002 to 2008, during his presidency.
Mr. Uribe responded to the report by calling it an “attack” with “only one purpose,” “to discredit me personally.”
The court is held in an imposing black building on a main avenue in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. Some testimony is public, and has been streamed on social media or released in public documents, offering a window into decades of suffering. To protect participants’ safety, much of it takes place behind closed doors.
first indictment, accusing eight top FARC leaders of orchestrating a kidnapping-for-ransom operation that lasted decades and resulted in more than 20,000 victims, many of them civilians, some of whom were raped or murdered. The kidnappings were used to fund the insurgency, said the court, and amounts to crimes against humanity.
The accused former FARC leaders have indicated that they will admit guilt. If they do, they will receive non-prison sentences, which could include up to eight years digging up old land mines or tracking down bodies. If they don’t admit guilt, they’ll face a trial and the possibility of decades behind bars.
They have until late April to reply to the court.
“We are assuming collective responsibility,” said Julián Gallo, who is among the indicted leaders, in an interview.
“These were practices that in some form delegitimized our fight,” he went on. “What we have asked for is forgiveness.”
scathing report that implicated officials in the intentional killing of at least 6,402 civilians when Mr. Uribe was in office.
The killings were part of a previously revealed strategy in which Colombian soldiers or their allies lured civilians from their homes with the promise of jobs, and then killed them and tried to pass off their deaths as combatant kills. Many of the victims were poor, some were mentally disabled.
The idea was to show that the government was winning the war.
responded to the court’s announcement by calling the numbers “inflated,” and an attempt to “delegitimize the commendable work” of the military.
Magistrates are expected to begin announcing indictments in that scandal later this year.
Mr. Uribe, who has repeatedly said he did he everything he could to stop the killings, is exempt from the court as a former president.
During one of the court’s public hearings, Jacqueline Castillo described how her brother Jaime, a civilian, disappeared one day in August of 2008, and reappeared days later in a mass grave far from home, identified by the military as a rebel killed in combat. She went to the grave, she said, and watched as men pulled her brother from the earth.
Before, she had idolized the Colombian military.
“They were my heroes,” she said, pressing her palm to her heart. “Now they make me sad.”
Sofía Villamil contributed reporting.