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CPJ calls for justice for Ecuadoran reporting team killed in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, April 17, 2018--Authorities in Ecuador and Colombia must conduct a transparent investigation into the kidnapping and killing of an Ecuadoran reporting team in Colombia and ensure all those responsible face justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Ecuadoran President Lenín Moreno on April 13 confirmed during a news conference in Quito that two Ecuadoran journalists Javier Ortega and Paúl Rivas, and their driver, Efraín Segarra, had been killed after they were abducted on March 26 by drug traffickers in the Ecuadoran border village of Mataje.

Moreno's announcement followed several contradictory statements by the Colombian and Ecuadoran governments about the state of the hostages and whether they were being held in Colombia or Ecuador, according to the B ogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom.

As of today, the bodies of the journalists and their driver were still in Colombian territory, according to President Juan Manuel Santos. News reports said the alleged kidnappers have not yet agreed to hand them over to authorities.

"Recent events raise concerns about the ability of Ecuadoran and Colombian authorities to carry out an effective investigation, which will require high-level coordination and a commitment to transparency," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon from New York. "The two governments must work together to ensure the families and colleagues of Javier Ortega, Paúl Rivas, and Efraín Segarra know what happened to them and see their killers face justice."

According to news reports, Ortega, a reporter, and Rivas, a photographer, were documenting drug-related border violence for the Quito daily El Comercia.

Colombian and Ecuadoran officials on March 27 said that a group of cocaine traffickers led by the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) member Walter Arizala, known as "Guacho," took the reporting crew hostage, according to El Comercia.

The FARC is a Marxist guerrilla group that agreed to disarm under a 2016 peace treaty; however, about 1,200 of the FARC's 7,000 fighters, including Arizala, refused to do so, according to the Bogotá think tank Ideas for Peace. According to news reports, Arizala recently split with the FARC.

On March 27, Ecuador's Interior Minister César Navas said that his government was in contact with Arizala's group and that the three hostages were in "good" condition.

On April 3, Bogotá's RCN TV station broadcast a video of the three press workers shackled together in chains and padlocks looking distraught. In the video, Ortega says that the group's captors wanted to carry out a prisoner exchange and urged Moreno to comply with their deman ds. "Mr. President, our lives are in your hands," Ortega said.

On April 11, RCN received a communiqué which stated that it was from Arizala's group, saying that the three journalists had been killed amid a military operation. The next day, RCN TV received photos that appeared to show that the three press workers had been executed.

At a news conference in Quito on April 13, Polivio Vinueza, head of Ecuador's national police anti-kidnapping and extortion unit, said that his government had been in contact with Arizala's group via sporadic WhatsApp messages between March 26 and April 7 and that Arizala demanded the release of three members of his group, including his sister-in-law who are imprisoned in Quito.

Vinueza said officials were exploring the legalities of releasing the prisoners from Arizala's group and sent a video message from one of the inmates to Arizala to show that the government was negotiating in good faith. Vinueza also said that the kidnappers demanded that the Ecuadoran government cancel joint anti-drug operations with the Colombian military along the border before the kidnappers cut off communication.

Arizala's group released another communiqué on April 13, republished by the newspaper El Espectador, which stated that the hostages were killed because the Ecuadoran and Colombian governments refused to halt their military operations against Arizala's group.

During the April 13 press conference, Moreno offered a US$100,000 reward for information leading to the kidnappers' capture and said that Ecuadoran authorities "confirmed that these criminals [the kidnappers] never had the intention of handing them back safe and sound."

Ecuadoran officials later on April 13 arrested nine alleged members of Arizala's group, which officials say is connected with the kidnapping, according to news reports.

Source: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia


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Colombia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Colombia just made it into the tournament, with James Rodriguez providing the spark.

Colombia World Cup Fixtures

James Rodriguez was one of the players of the tournament in 2014 (Getty Images)

Colombia World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Since making their World Cup quarter-finals debut in 2014, Colombia have been consistently disappointing, and their qualification campaign for Russia was a laboured, uninspired affair with few
high points from a group of players who would seem to be capable of better.

Related: World Cup TV Schedule

Key Moments in Qualifying

Nov 2015
Abandoning midfield elaboration for a more direct game plan by pla ying straight up to the front three, a 1-1 draw in Chile sees the hosts drop points for the first time.
Mar 2016
After taking just four points from their first four games, Colombia let slip a two-goal lead before finding a late winner to triumph 3-2 away to Bolivia â€" a notoriously difficult fixture in which Uruguay were the only other team to have left with all three points.
Nov 2016
With seven changes to the side, Colombia suffer a huge blow to their confidence with a 3-0 thrashing in Argentina.
Oct 2017
Two late Paraguay goals in a 2-1 defeat almost derail Colombia’s qualification hopes, but they salvage things with a 1-1 draw in Peru five days later.

Colombia World Cup Group

Colombia are in Group H alongside Poland, Senegal, and Japan.

Colombia World Cup Friendlies

On the 23rd of March Colombia came back from 2-0 to win 3-2 against France. Four days later they drew 0-0 t o Australia and that was their final World Cup warm-up game.

  • 23rd March â€" France (won 3-2)
  • 27th March â€" Australia (drew 0-0)

Related: World Cup Friendlies

Colombia World Cup Fixtures

Colombia play against Japan on the 19th of June, followed by a potentially pivotal match against Poland. Finally Senegal are on the 28th.

  • 19th June â€" Japan
  • 24th June â€" Poland
  • 28th June â€" Senegal

Related: World Cup Fixtures

The Coach

Jose Pekerman, age 68 (03.09.49)
Appointed at the start of 2012, he made his name as a highly successful coach of the national under-20s in his native Argentina at the turn of the century, and then took the senior side to the 2006 World Cup.

Success: Pekerman was an immensely successful un der-20’s coach (Getty Images)

The Players
The big star of 2014, James Rodriguez has had an uneasy time at club level since his golden tournament, but he clearly relishes being important to the national team and was the team’s top scorer in qualifying.
Defensive midfielder Carlos Sanchez is a man-marking specialist whose positional sense and timing in the tackle balance out the side.
Gifted but wayward attacking midfielder Edwin Cardona was the most important member of the post-2014 intake, alongside Yerry Mina, the giant centre-half who came into the team for the second half of the campaign and adds pace on the ground to an aerial dominance.

Related: World Cup Stadiums

Colombia World Cup Squad

Colombia are yet to announce their squad for the World Cup.

Colombia World Cup Injuries

We will update you with all the injuries here.

Spark: Rodriguez had a stellar tournament in 2014, can he do the same in Russia? (Getty Images)

The Unanswered Questions

Can they trust David Ospina?
With the exception of a meaningless Copa Centenario group game, it is more than six years since anyone but Ospina has started a competitive match in goal for Colombia. But inactivity at Arsenal may have taken its toll and he ended the campaign in calamitous fashion. Two candidates to replace him were blooded in November, so will he still get the nod?

Usage: Pekerman has not really worked out how to use Falcao properly yet (Getty Images)

How will Radamel Falcao be used?
Pekerman has rarely trusted Falcao to play up front on his own, with Duvan Zapata playing alongside him in the final qualifier. If they are to play two up front, a creative midfielder will be sacrificed.

Will past experience?
Several of the squad played their way through to the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals, the 2015 Copa America quarter-finals and the 2016 Copa Centenario semi-finals. Experience might just help them hang in there and grind out results.

Don’t forget to follow World Soccer on Facebook and Twitter.

Source: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia


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Colombia revives waterway PPP

Home / Daily Briefs / 2018 / 18 / Colombia revives waterway PPP Colombia revives waterway PPP Colombia revives waterway PPP April 18, 2018 | Mick Bowen Finance Ministry approves new financial model, and now Cormagdalena moves ahead with drafting a new contract for the project Colombia's Finance Ministry has approved a new financial structure for the Río Magdalena waterway PPP, allowing Cormagdalena to move ahead with tendering the revised project. Cormagdalena will present the proposed PPP to the national planning department DNP before it conducts an economic study, the waterway authority said in a statement. The project then goes before the fiscal policy council Con fis to approve government funding, Cormagdalena said. The government scrapped the original PPP contrac

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Start free trialSource: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia


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Rebels kidnap couple on Ecuador and Colombia border

Colombian journalists gather in front of Ecuador's embassy to protest against the murder of journalists and their driver [Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters]
Colombian journalists gather in front of Ecuador's embassy to protest against the murder of journalists and their driver [Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters]

Ecuador's government says it has received a video showing a couple taken hostage by a dissident rebel group operating on the country's border with Colombia.

The announcement on Tuesday came five days after Ecuadorian authorities said that two kidnapped journalists and their driver were killed by former members of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group who failed to demobilise in a landmark 2016 peace deal with Colombia's government.

Cesar Navas, Ecuador's interior minister, presented the "proof of life" video of the kidnapped couple at a news conference.

In the filmed footage, the man and the woman are shown tied up with ropes around their necks and hands.

They ask Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno for help, while the man confirms they are Ecuadorian citizens, according to local reports.

Authorities have named them as Oscar Efren Villacis and Katty Vanesa Valesco, hailing from the northwest of Ecuador.

According to reports, they were travelling to the Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas bordering Colombia. Navas said they were abducted either on Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

The minister also said that the video was received "via a communication channel" with Guacho, an ex-FARC rebel, whose real name is Walter A rtizala.

Two years ago, the peace accord signed by Colombia's government and the FARC ended half a century of civil war in which 220,000 people died and millions were displaced.

At the time, Gaucho broke away from the FARC to form a new splinter group, known as Oliver Sinisterra Front.

According to reports, Guacho has since led a group of up to 80 fighters on the border between Ecuador and Colombia.

Last month, the group kidnapped two journalists from Ecuadorian newspaper, El Comercio, as well as their driver.

Two weeks after their kidnapping, the group released a statement to say all three had died.

Subsequently, both Colombia and Ecuador increased their military presence in search of the members of the group.

A number of members of the group are reported to have been arrested in the process.

The group requested the release of the detained fighters in return for freeing the abducted couple, local media quoted Nava s as saying.

"What's really important to note is that the government has completely failed to occupy the areas that FARC did," said Pete Watson, an academic at Sheffield University specialising in nation-building in Colombia.

"The failure of the government to go in and oppose their law and order - and to establish a presence is one of the reasons why we are seeing these things occurring," he told Al Jazeera.

Ecuadorian authorities are now offering $100,000 for information on Guacho.

"There haven't been too many kidnappings [recently], but it's important to note that these are trafficking routes," Watson told Al Jazeera.

Watson told Al Jazeera there is a difference an ideological difference between FARC and new splinter-groups such as Oliver Sinisterra Front.

"I think what's very important is that these FARC splinter groups are not really politically minded. FARC obviously talk a lo t about their political aims - that's what they were originally supposed to do.

"They had a very social, rural, land kind of focus - very left wing. These splinter groups aren't really much more than BACRIM - bandas criminales (criminal networks) - that are really part of the drug trafficking new networks that have grown up."

Recently efforts have been made to bring in other Colombian groups into the peace process, most notably the ELN - another leftist rebel group.

"The ELN and the government have been working towards a new bilateral ceasefire and there are negotiations going on in Quito," Watson said

"This dissident group doesn't have much to do with the ELN. The ELN itself has been quite responsible for damaging the talks in Quito. There have been varying attacks by the ELN, particularly in Barranquilla."

With reporting by Bala Chambers

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

Source: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia


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Colombia aviation: taxation to hurt national competitive stature

16-Apr-2018 10:30 PMColombia aviation: taxation to hurt national competitive stature

Colombia’s domestic passenger levels fell in 2017, driven in part by a pilot strike at the country’s largest airline Avianca. But the country has posted impressive growth in its domestic air travel market during the past seven years, with passenger levels expanding by more than 60% from 2011 to 2017.
The country’s aviation sector has changed during the past couple of years as LATAM Airlines Colombia has debuted a new pricing structure and Copa Colombia has transitioned to a low cost airline, Wingo. Those changes have occurred as Latin America’s airlines are adapting to low cost airline growth in the region.
There’s still much runway for passenger stimulation in Colombia’s domestic and international markets, but similarly to many countries in Latin America, Colombia could risk jeopardisin g air passenger growth through a passenger fee proposed by Bogotá’s mayor, which would levy a new tax on passengers to fund investments in road infrastructure.


  • Despite a contraction in domestic passenger growth in 2017, Colombia’s domestic market has grown significantly during the past few years
  • Market share levels in Colombia’s domestic market have remained stable despite business model evolutions by LATAM and Copa
  • Proposed taxes on Bogotá’s air passengers threaten the competitiveness of Colombia’s air transport industry

Colombia's domestic passenger growth dips, but remains solid in the long term

Colombia posted a rare 3.3% decline in domestic passenger growth in 2017, driven in part by a 51 day pilot strike at the country’s largest airline Avianca.

The airline’s domestic passenger numbers fell 6.4% year-on-year (according to Colombia’s DGAC), but Avianca maintained its dominance in Col ombia, holding a 58% share of the country’s domestic passengers. LATAM Airlines Colombia’s passenger levels were flat year-on-year, while VivaColombia grew its passengers by 2.5% to 3.2 million.

Although the smaller carriers EasyFly and Satena hold smaller shares of Colombia’s domestic passengers, those airlines logged passenger growth of 2.8% and 5.3%, respectively.

Avianca 58%
LATAM Airlines Colombia 19%
VivaColombia 13%
EasyFly 4%
Satena 4%


Even as Colombia’s passenger levels fell in 2017, passenger growth in the country’s domestic sector has grown significantly during the past seven years. During 2011, Colombia’s airlines transported 16 million passengers.

2011 16 million
2012 19 mill ion
2013 21 million
2014 23 million
2015 25 million
2016 27 million
2017 26 million

With Wingo’s transition, the establishment of another Viva franchise in Peru and a new ULCC JetSMART debuting in Chile, LATAM Airlines Group has adopted product segmentation in six South American domestic markets â€" Chile, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia. The project began in 2017, the company offering basic economy-like fares in those markets that are 20% cheaper and projecting 50% passenger growth on domestic routes in its South American countries by 2020.
Colombia represents approximately 4% of LATAM’s revenue-based point of sale (according to company data for the 12M ending Sep-2017), but with VivaColombia continuing to grow its market share, LATAM needs a strategy to capture passenger growth in Colombia’s dom estic market. LATAM Airlines Colombia’s traffic grew 6.6% in 2017 on 3.3% capacity growth, and its load factor increased from 80.8% to 83.4%.
Copa’s goal with Wingo was to transform its loss-making Colombian operations, and the company is pleased with the results. Wingo’s operations are titled toward international operations, and Copa executives have stated that while the new low cost brand represents just 2% of its revenues, the airline’s performance has exceeded Copa’s expectations both financially and operationally.

Proposed taxes on Bogotá passengers could hurt Colombia's competitiveness

With the country having a population nearing 49 million, and 26 million passengers travelling on domestic flights in 2017, there is a lot of upside for growth in Colombia’s aviation market. Colombia’s trips per capita in 2016 were 0.7 â€" sligh tly above Brazil’s, Mexico’s and Peru’s 0.6 trips per capita. In contrast, trips per capita in the mature US market during 2016 reached 2.9.
But Colombian airlines could face a setback from a proposal by Bogotá’s mayor to levy a USD2.88 tax on domestic passengers traveling through El Dorado International airport, as well as a USD5.00 fee for international passengers, to fund road infrastructure.
The Latin American airline association ALTA has warned that the move could jeopardise the competitiveness of Colombia in Latin America. The association has said that El Dorado is the third largest airport in the region, handling more than 30 million passengers per year. “Increasing the airport’s taxes would negatively affect competition and the potential [of El Dorado] to become a regional hub compared to airports in nearby countries such as Panama”, the association stated.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in a recent study, calculated that interna tional spend represents 41% of Bogotá’s tourism revenue, and has concluded that the city has a greater reliance on international visitors than several other cities in Latin America, including Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, Santiago, and Brasília.
ALTA noted the success Colombia’s government had achieved in driving benefits for the country’s air passengers, including Aeronautica Civil de Colombia’s role in reducing airport taxes at Cartagena in 2015. “With this tax reduction, the city of Cartagena got a great jump in air traffic and tourism development,” said ALTA. “Resulting in more supply and demand, more opportunities for more people to fly, and direct benefits to Colombian economy.” Cartagena’s passenger numbers increased by 15% and 12% in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

VivaColombia has publicly opposed the proposal to levy taxes on passengers traveling through Bogotá, warning the fees could reduce passenger levels by 902,000 per year. The a irline has reiterated IATA’s statement that “Colombia is the third country in Latin America to have the highest amount of taxes on air tickets after Venezuela and Argentina”.

Latest moves in Bogotá shows Latin America's stubborn stance on taxation

Similarly to many markets in Latin America, much untapped passenger potential remains in Colombia as it has reached new levels of political and economic stability. The country continues to log solid growth in international visitors, with international passengers growing 6% year-on-year in 2017.
But high taxation on the country’s airlines and air passengers threatens to weaken Colombia’s aviation industry and its economic contribution to Colombia’s GDP. The latest proposal to levy taxes on Bogotá’s air passengers shows significant challenges remain in convincing governments in Latin America about the benefits that aviation can contribute to the region.

Source: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia


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Will the arrest of an ex-FARC leader threaten peace in Colombia?

Will the arrest of an ex-FARC leader threaten peace in Colombia?
Santrich was one of the FARC negotiators during the peace talks in Havana, Cuba [File:Franklin Reyes/AP Photo]

Bogota, Colombia - The arrest of a former top FARC commander last week has put an already fragile peace deal under further strain, but could help bolster the peace process in the long run, depending on how the charges are carried out, according to analysts.

The deal between the left-wing rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group and the state, signed in late 2016, formally ended 52 years of conflict that had left an estima ted 222,000 people dead and more than seven million displaced.

Despite having received near-universal praise on the international stage, domestically, Colombia's landmark peace accord has never received the same level of popularity.

Following delays in its implementation and corruption scandals, the process encountered another setback this week when Seuxis Hernandez, better known as Jesus Santrich, was charged by US courts and the Colombian general prosecutor with conspiracy to ship 10,000kg of cocaine - with a street value of $320m - to the United States.

According to analysts, the charges pose some serious issues for the peace accord by further damaging trust with the FARC, potentially frightening ex-rebels into joining dissident groups and potentially swelling support for reversing an already unpopular agreement.

"This is a serious blow for the political standing of the FARC," said Jorge Restrepo, director of the Conflict Analysis In stitute, CERAC.

"They did not get more than 50,000 votes in the elections - [the arrest] shows there was reason in the majority of Colombians who did not trust them to abandon organised crime," he added, referring to last month's elections that saw the FARC participate as a political party for the first time.

A setback for trust in FARC?

With their history of drug-trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and massacres, building societal trust in the FARC was never going to be easy, analysts say.


A large sector of the population still doubts their ability to reform themselves from narco-criminals to ordinary citizens and despise the special judicial arrangements in the peace accord, which are perceived to let ex-rebels off easy for serious crimes they have committed such as kidnap, murder and drug-trafficking.

According to a Gallup poll from February, 73 percent of those interviewed said they do not believe the FA RC will comply with what was agreed on in the accords.

Trusting these individuals only became more difficult when it was revealed that Santrich, who played a role in the historic peace negotiations in Havana, had allegedly continued to conduct illicit activities after the deal was signed.

The blind commander was also one of 10 former rebel leaders guaranteed a seat in congress according to the peace deal, individuals who critics argue should not be in politics but jailed for life for their past actions.

"I don't understand how this can happen," former Vice President Francisco Santos Calderon told Al Jazeera.

"Somebody who just won a huge prize of having all his crimes cleaned gets caught drug-trafficking? It gives the peace process huge problems, and it gives the organisation huge problems."

'Who will be next?'

In response to the shock arrest, President Juan Manuel Santos announced his "hand will not waiver" in extraditing Santrich if he is found guilty. The prospect of jail and extradition to the US, however, has caused a lot of anger among the FARC who continue protesting the innocence of their comrade and reiterating the potential negative consequences for the peace deal at a critical juncture.


"With the capture of our comrade Jesus Santrich the peace process finds itself at its most critical point and threatens to be a true failure," announced Ivan Marquez, another high-ranking FARC leader.

The former rebels also claim the arrest is a conspiratorial move - "orchestrated by the US along with the public prosecution" - which was hatched when US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Colombia last December.

The claims come despite allegedly strong video and written evidence and the capture of his three FARC coconspirators, but regardless of the truth behind the accusations, the FARC's fears could s till affect all.

"They are chopping heads and making things up to jail FARC leaders, obviously following orders from the Pentagon", Jorge Tavarich, a demobilised rebel currently residing in a dedicated FARC reincorporation zone told Al Jazeera.

"We are all a little worried, because, who will be next?" he said.

Due to the government's perceived inability to comply with their end of the peace deal, some 1,200 former FARC rebels did not demobilise and instead joined dissident groups, according to military figures from March.

The probability of a full u-turn by the FARC is next to zero, but the risk of widespread anxiety pushing more former fighters to join the dissidents is very real, according to analysts.


"Obviously, the risk is that certain ex-guerillas feel that promises are not being met and will want to return to arms," said Yann Basset, a political analyst at La Universidad del Rosa rio, Bogota.

"It is therefore important for the judicial system to act with all transparency and forcefulness in the evidence provided by the prosecution, and for the government to act prudently and clearly inform demobilised guerrillas of the situation," Basset told Al Jazeera.

Restore faith in the peace process?

More generally, however, experts say that while the development may increase the already strong anti-peace accord sentiment, it could also restore faith in the process, depending on the results of the judicial process and positions taken in politics.

"It depends on how the political institutions act and political leaders react," CERAC's Restrepo said. "If the day after tomorrow he is quickly extradited … that will lead to a strengthening of the peace agreement."

One potential effect is a boost for right-wing presidential candidate Ivan Duque and his Democratic Center Party's goal to roll ba ck the peace accord.

Fair and transparent judicial treatment of Santrich, however, could strengthen both the accord and "pro-peace" political parties by quashing accusations that FARC criminals are outside the law.

"The issue is being well received by public opinion as it shows the peace accords are not a pact for impunity - contrary to what its most radical opponents pretend," Basset said.

According to analysts, it appears the Santos government and the judicial system will now have to walk a fine line between respecting the principles of the peace accord and the FARC while also not going "light" on Santrich.

"This is a moment of reckoning, a serious challenge to the institutions created by the peace process - and particularly those relating to transitional justice," says Restrepo. "They need to show the FARC that they cannot even entertain the possibility of continuing in criminal activity without the seri ous threat of prosecution."


Should the web of illegality be found to entangle more FARC commanders, however, it could be fatal for the peace accord.

"A nephew of [commander] Ivan Marquez was also captured; that tends to point not towards an individual decision, but a collective decision by the FARC to continue with drug trafficking," former Vice President Calderon said.

"If it's proven that it is a collective FARC operation, it could mean that all the heads of the organisation are asked for extradition, that would definitely be a deadly blow to the peace process."

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

Source: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia