Human Rights Flashpoints – November 10, 2009

What’s Up This Week

  1. Colombia – Venezuela: No Love
  2. Sudan: Threat Against Election Officials
  3. Upcoming This Week

Colombia and Venezuela – The Cold War Continues?
The tension between Colombia and Venezuela has once again flared with Venezuela’s government sending 15,000 troops to the border at the end of last week and publicly stating that it is preparing for war. There have been multiple causes for the recent deterioration of relations between the two governments. Most recently, the murder of two national Venezuelan guardsmen on the border allegedly by Colombian paramilitary groups resulted in the closing of two bridges connecting the two countries. Consequently, Chavez has accused the Colombian government of complacency against paramilitary groups trying to destabilize his government. In addition, the Venezuelan leader has cited last month’s military cooperation lease between the US and Colombia to give American troops more access to national military bases as the foundation for a US invasion into Venezuela. The US and Colombia have argued that the military deal will assist in the fight against drug traffickers and other insurgents. The recent violence further exacerbated the already strained relations caused by the Venezuelan arrests of supposed Colombian spies last month, the discovery of multiple bodies along the border presumed to be Colombian paramilitaries, and Colombian charges that Chavez was supplying guerilla groups with anti-tank weapons.

The Uribe government in Colombia announced on Sunday that it would solicit the aid of the UN Security Council and the Organization of American States to deal with the growing enmity with Venezuela.  While an all out war between the parties is highly unlikely, Chavez’s decision to send troops to the border could lead to an escalation in border violence.

This time, though, the increasing volatility on the border, presence of illegal armed gangs, and growing political distance between the two governments, mean the latest crisis may be tougher to solve and could spill over into more violence.
War is unlikely, but the potential for more violence on the border, ranging from an accidental troop clash to attacks from illegal armed groups, has increased.

Regarding the motives for this recent development, analysts have argued that Chavez’s move to fortify the border is a ploy to distract from increasingly divisive domestic problems.


Considering the threats of war enunciated by the government of Venezuela, the government of Colombia proposes going to the Organization of American States and the Security Council of the United Nations – Colombian President Alvaro Uribe 

Let’s not waste a day on our main aim: to prepare for war and to help the people prepare for war, because it is everyone’s responsibility – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

We are very much aware of recent tensions along the Venezuela and Colombia border. I certainly don’t think this is about the United States, but we certainly would encourage dialogue between Venezuela and Colombia and a peaceful resolution of the situation along their border – Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Public Affairs

Must Reads:

Darfur Rebels Threaten Violence Against Poll Workers
The announcement by the Sudanese Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) to target officials in Darfur implementing a voter mobilization campaign in Darfur has emphasized concerns about violence leading up to the upcoming Sudanese elections in April 2010. A senior rebel Official Ibrahim al-Helwu recently declared that “If any of them come into our territory we will target them as soldiers ”

Recently, the same group prevented the take-off of a helicopter from the United Nation Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). UNAMID has demanded that the rebel group end its campaign to obstruct peace and security work, stating that

UNAMID strongly deplores the periodic harassment and detention of its personnel and stresses that it will not tolerate any attempts at intimidation or attacks on its personnel that are aimed at thwarting the progress of the peace process

Accusations by Sudan’s political parties of voter intimidation, fraud and other irregularities occurring during the registration process currently underway also point to the enormous potential for an escalation of violence leading up to the elections.

Must Reads:


Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response  team

This entry was posted in Africa, Americas and tagged , , , , , by Christoph Koettl. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christoph Koettl

Christoph Koettl is the Emergency Response Manager at Amnesty International USA and works on urgent human rights situations such as armed conflicts. In his work he focuses on exploring the intersection of technology and human rights, specializing in utilizing satellite imagery or citizen video for human rights research and advocacy. He previously worked and studied in Austria, the Netherlands and Italy and holds an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His expertise is in International Humanitarian Law, conflict analysis, crisis mapping, video validation and social media forensics and he is a regular speaker on technology and human rights. He has testified on war crimes in Sri Lanka before the United States Congress and his work is covered regularly by numerous national and international media, including Associated Press, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Reuters.
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