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Guerrillas of the Central General Staff (EMC), a faction of the FARC that rejected the 2016 peace agreement and continued the armed struggle, inspect vehicles at a checkpoint installed on a highway in the Llanos del Yari, Colombia April 12, 2024.

REUTERS/Luis Jaime Acosta

Colombia ditches cease-fire with rebel groups

The Colombian government on Tuesday suspended a cease-fire with a major faction of Marxist guerrillas, highlighting the challenges to President Gustavo Petro’s attempts to rein in violence.

The background: Back in 2016, the Colombian government signed a historic peace deal with the FARC, the country’s largest rebel group. Dissident fighters who rejected those accords formed the EMC, which operates in about two-thirds of Colombia’s provinces and often provides social services that the government cannot.

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Suspended Jewish Columbia and Barnard students participate in a press conference outside the president of Columbia University’s house on April 23, 2024, in Manhattan, New York.

REUTERS/ Barry Williams

Hard Numbers: Columbia punishes deans, Iran boosts missile output, UN accuses Rwanda of fighting in Congo, Colombia protects the forest

3: Columbia University on Monday removed three deans from their positions over antisemitic text messages they exchanged in a group chat during a late-May event about Jewish life on campus in the wake of protests about Oct. 7 and the war in Gaza. The three have been placed on indefinite leave. For our complete on-the-ground coverage of the upheaval at Columbia this spring, led by GZERO’s Riley Callanan, see here.

2: Iran has been ramping up its output of ballistic missiles at two key production facilities, according to satellite imagery. Tehran’s most prominent buyers of the missiles include the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah paramilitaries in Lebanon and, of course, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which signed a missile deal with Iran in 2022.

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The Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen's Houthis last month, is seen off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen, December 5, 2023.

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Hard Numbers: Migrant boat capsizes off Yemen coast, US banana giant found liable for murders, EU stocks up on bird flu vaccines, “Pink slime” crisis in America

49: At least 49 people are confirmed dead, and 140 are missing after a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Yemen. The vessel was carrying roughly 260 people, mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia, to Yemen, where they would have continued the treacherous onward journey to the wealthy Gulf kingdoms in search of work. Despite being wracked by a brutal, decade-long civil war, Yemen is a major immigration route, with some 380,000 migrants in the country right now.
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Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa looks on as his wife Lavinia Valbonesi (not pictured) takes part in a referendum that asks voters to support mostly security-related questions to fight rising violence, in Guayaquil, Ecuador April 21, 2024.

REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

Ecuador votes to get tough on drugs

Ecuadorians showed overwhelming support for a government crackdown on drug-related violence in referendums this weekend in what could become a regional trend. Quito won support for joint police-military patrols, extradition of wanted criminals, tighter gun control, and tougher punishments for murder and drug trafficking, among other measures.

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Cows graze in a deforested pasture on the Yari plains, in Caqueta, Colombia March 3, 2021. Picture taken March 3, 2021.

REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Deforestation surges in Colombia – and you’ll never guess why

For years, Colombian rebels and narcos perfected the art of kidnapping people for ransom – now they are holding the rainforest hostage.

New figures show that after declining for many years, deforestation in the Andean country has shot up 40% in each of the last two quarters.

The culprit? A major armed group that controls vast swathes of the jungle rescinded an earlier order to protect the vital forest resource. The “Estado Mayor Central,” as the guerilla command is known, is now using the rainforest as a bargaining chip in peace talks with the government, by allowing, or forcing, local farmers to clear trees for cattle or coca farms.

By way of background: In 2016, the government signed a peace accord that ended decades of war with the FARC, the largest of various Marxist and narcotrafficking groups active in the country. But as those rebels demobilized, other violent groups filled the vacuum.

President Gustavo Petro, the country’s first leftist president (himself a former guerrilla), pledged during his 2022 campaign to reduce chronic violence by negotiating a “Total Peace” with all armed groups. He also committed himself to a pro-environment agenda. Suddenly, those are two branches of a common problem.

A view of a Dollar Tree store in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2021.

REUTERS/Erin Scott

Hard Numbers: Forest of Dollar Trees axed, Danes for drafts, Colombia reforms stall, Don Lemon X-communicated, Wilders won't be PM

1,000: Dollar Tree, a major discount food and variety chain, will close 1,000 stores across the United States. The chain’s stores are often the only source of food in low-income communities that would otherwise be “food deserts,” but the stores and others like them have faced strong criticism for driving out independent grocers and selling unhealthy products.

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GZERO 2023 music playlist

It was a bumpy year, so bump and groove your way into the New Year with our 2023 playlist! We scoured the charts from Buenos Aires to Beijing for songs that captured the zeitgeist, from Ice Spice to Fela Kuti — and make you wanna boogie.

Playlist tracks

Inflation - “Expensive shit” by Fela Kuti

French protests – “Paris is a bitch” by Biga*Ranx

West African coups - “Soldier Take Over” by Yellowman

Milei elected - “Desesperada” by Sara Hebe

European migration - “Desaparecido” by Manu Chao

Politics in general - “Liar’s Dub” by Max Romeo

Climate change failure - “Sogno otro mundo” by Apres la classe and Manu Chao

Struggle between Mexico government and drug cartels - “La People” by Peso Pluma

Nigerian election - “I Told Them” by Burna Boy

Xi Jinping wins historic third term as Chinese president - “Paint the Town Red” by Doja Cat

25th anniversary of Good Friday agreement - “Jackie Down the Line” by Fontaines DC

War in Ukraine - “Heart of Steel” by Tvorchi

Power Barbie - “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice

George Santos - “Banned in DC” by Bad Brains

UAW/SAG strikes - “Never Cross a Picket Line” by Billy Bragg

China economic weakness - “Made in China” by Higher Brothers and Famous Dex

Ukraine - “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush

Rise of AI - “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1” by The Flaming Lips

Colombia’s new drug policy – “Don’t Sniff Coke” by Pato Banton

US telling on India for killing Hardeep Singh Nijjar – “Exposing me Remix” by FBG Duck

Elon Musk unravels – “Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies

Chinese spy balloon – “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell

Biden-Xi meeting – "Bad Idea Right" by Olivia Rodrigo

The Black Sea grain deal – "Is It Over Now? (Taylor's Version) by Taylor Swift

Biden runs for president (again) – “Never Gonna Give You Up” – By Rick Astley

Putin survives Prigozhin revolt -- "Houdini" by Dua Lipa

Putin to Lukashenko – “Lil Boo Thang” by Paul Russell

North Korea fires more missiles for attention – “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling

Migrants trek through the Darien Gap towards the border with Panama.

Yader Guzman / Hans Lucas

Sexual assault spikes in the Darién Gap

Some 460,000 migrants – triple last year's number – have made the treacherous, 10-day trek through the Darién Gap, the jungle linking Panama and Colombia and the only land-based pathway connecting South and Central America, this year. The vast majority were fleeing the economic crisis and authoritarian rule of Venezuela.
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