Maduro Looking into “De-friending” Spain Over Comments

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela is not taking the criticism of Spain’s Prime Minister Mariono Rajoy very well.  Rajoy has called for Maduro to release an opponent of his from jail.  In response Maduro has ordered the revision of all bilateral ties with Spain.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro / Photo courtesy of

The conservative Rajoy met the wife of Venezuelan protest leader Leopoldo Lopez in Madrid this week, Tweeting a photo with an exhortation for him to be freed and protests allowed.

“I think you have made a mistake, Mr. Rajoy, ” the socialist Maduro thundered in a speech on state TV, accusing him of a patronizing attitude towards Spain’s former colonies.

“He thinks he’s a king, the owner of the Americas … You respect Venezuela, Mr. Rajoy, as we respect the Spanish people … You are creating a disaster in Spain.”

Lopez, 43, was jailed on February 18, 2014, on charges of masterminding anti-Maduro protests that raged for three months, stirring violent clashes that killed 43 Venezuelans. Lopez’s trial is currently taking place.

“I have ordered the foreign minister (Rafael) Ramirez to review all relations with Spain due to this unfriendly and meddling act of support to the ultra-right groups who exercise violence in Venezuela,” Maduro added.

“There is exploiting Prime Minister Rajoy meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela, when he simply has no moral standing to talk about Bolivarian Venezuela,” Maduro said Friday.

“Don’t meddle in my fatherland, Rajoy. Venezuela must be respected, you hear?,” the president said.

“We have had plenty of patience with people of the far right such as you, who comes along now to support groups responsible for the deaths of more than 40 Venezuelans,” Maduro said.

Supporters of Lopez say that the protests were borne out of frustration with a dictatorial government, failed economy, wasted oil revenues, and daily hardships from product shortages to soaring prices.  

Venezuelan authorities tell a different story.  They say he is a dangerous maverick directly responsible for killings and property damage during this year’s protests which they call a coup attempt against Maduro. They often remind Venezuelans of his role in a short-lived 2002 coup against former leader Hugo Chavez when Lopez helped arrest a minister and haul him away through a mob.

International clamour over Lopez’s case has been growing, with the top United Nations human rights official Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein also calling for his release this week.  Maduro does not welcome this “meddling” in his governmental affairs.

Fluent in English and from a wealthy family, the U.S.-educated Lopez, an economist by training, leads a hardline political party, Popular Will, within the opposition coalition.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Venezuela’s Maduro slams Spain’s Rajoy over jailed opponent – 24 Oct. 2014

Fox News Latino – Venezuela’s Maduro announces review of ties with Spain – 24 Oct. 2014 – Spanish leader Rajoy met Leopoldo Lopez’s wife – 23 Oct. 2014

El Universal – President Maduro orders to review Venezuela-Spain relations – 24 Oct. 2014


Allegations in the Baltics Over Violations by Russia Continue to Amass

By Kyle Herda

Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – For the second time in two days, NATO jets were scrambled to intercept Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea. The Russian aircraft did not violate the airspace of any foreign nations, and after identifying the aircraft, NATO jets let it go.


This picture, released by the Swedish military, shows what appears to be a suspicious object partially submerged, and some believe it to be a Russian submarine. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

While the Russian Ilyushin-20 surveillance aircraft did not violate the airspace of any nation this time, Russian jets have already done so numerous times. These two incidents mimic incidents that occurred on October 7 and September 11 where Russian jets again went through the Baltic Sea but did not violate any country’s airspace. Finland, however, says that Russian military aircraft have violated Finnish airspace five times already this year, and twice Russian military ships intercepted Finnish research vessels in international water.

Also in the center of the spotlight near the Baltic Sea is an incident in Swedish waters involving what some allege to be a Russian submarine. Reports were that some people had seen what appeared to be a submarine near Stockholm, and Sweden is taking this very seriously. Multiple reports and photographs seem to suggest that there may indeed be something in the Swedish waters that does not belong there.

On Good Friday last year, several Russian military planes conducted a simulated missile attack on Stockholm and southern Sweden. This drill caught Sweden so off-guard that their response jets never even left the ground. However, real or not, Sweden is taking this new incident very seriously and responding with haste.

In 1981, a Soviet submarine with nuclear weapons found itself stranded off Sweden’s southeast coast, an incident now known as the “whiskey on the rocks” incident. After 11 days, the sub was let go, free to return to the Soviet Union. Colonel Jan Mörtberg of the Swedish Defence College says this incident is different, however: “[I]n those days [Russia] didn’t have to restore its superpower-status. That status was clear.” A high-ranking Latvian official made similar claims: “Russia is trying to position itself a dominant centre of power on the global stage.”

Today, Sweden is still searching the waters for any possible submarines, and is not afraid to use weapons to make it surface if needed. Whether there is currently a submarine in Ingaro Bay remains unknown, but Sweden wants to be sure before calling off the search.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Sweden could use force against suspected foreign sub – 22 October 2014

Newsweek – NATO, Swedish Fighters Scrambled to intercept Russian Plane – 22 October 2014

ABC – Estonia: Russian Military Plane Violated Air Space – 22 October 2014

Yahoo – NATO intercepts Russian jets over Baltic Sea – 21 October 2014

Newsweek – The ‘Russian Submarine’ in Swedish Waters Isn’t the Only Unwelcome Visitor in the Baltic Sea – 21 October 2014

Mercury News – Sweden’s hunt for mystery submarine revives Cold War tensions – 20 October 2014


North Korean Leader Reappears after Long Public Absence

By Hojin Choi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PYONGYANG, North Korea – The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, appeared in public view having an “on-site guidance trip” according to a North Korea’s state-run media, the Korean Central News Agency. In photos, Mr. Kim was walking with a cane, which gives credence to the theory that he had been suffering from leg pains and had surgery recently.

Mr. Kim, known to be 30, had been absent from the public since September 3, and there had been much speculation about his status. First, he was thought to have health problems as a few foreign doctors had been witnessed entering North Korea. Moreover, Mr. Kim was seen limping in early July on North Korean television. A few months later, a state-run television mentioned his health status, noting that he “was not feeling well.” According to statements of the former personal doctor of Mr. Kim’s grandfather, he inherited a number of health problems from his ancestors, such as psychological problems and obesity.

The young dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, reappeared with a cane after long public absence. (Getty Images)

Another rumor indicated he lost power over the North Korean Communist Party and the military hierarchy. During 2014 Incheon Asian Game, which was recently held in South Korea, three core members of the North’s politics and military surprisingly visited the South together. They are ranked in the governmental hierarchy as numbers 2 to 4, and it was the first time after the Korean War that these high-ranking officials visited the South at the same time.

According to the news agency, Mr. Kim took a trip to the new residential complex and “inspected” it. He also visited the Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy of Sciences. Reportedly, Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, the 2nd ranking official in the North, accompanied Mr. Kim during the trip. Mr. Kim’s wife and sister were also walking closely with him.

The Washington Post analyzed Mr. Kim as comparatively “more open” than his grandfather and father, the preceding leaders of North Korea. John Delury, an expert on North Korea at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, said that “there is a pattern here of being more forthcoming, a little less cryptic.” There had been rumors whether Mr. Kim had successfully taken over the power from his father because he was too young and inexperienced, but “by appearing in public, Kim wanted to show the world he still rules the state,” said Koh Yoo-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

Nothing has been clearly proven about the political stability of the new regime, but it remains the world’s most isolated and authoritative country under the young leader.

For more information please see:

The New York Times – North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Reappears in Public, North’s Media Reports – 13 October 2014

NBC News – North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Ends Long Public Absence – 14 October 2014

The Washington Post – As Kim Jong Un returns, North Korea becomes slightly more open – 14 October 2014

CNN – North Korea says leader has reappeared – 14 October 2014

Bloomberg – North Korea Shows Kim With Cane in 1st Sighting in Weeks – 13 October 2014

Study: Most Victims of Human Trafficking Enter the United States Legally

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

WASHINGTON DC, the United States of America – According to a new study, funded by the United States Department of Justice, published by Northeastern University and the Urban institute most victims of human trafficking arriving in the United States enter the country legally. The study found that most victims of human trafficking in the United States arrived in the country with a legal work visa and later became indentured servants after their immigration papers were taken away by traffickers and recruiters. The study focused on 122 foreign men and women who sought to receive services from a coalition of organizations that assist the victims of trafficking. The researchers also interviewed service providers and law enforcement officials as well as the victims of trafficking themselves.

According to a new study that examines labor trafficking in the United States, human trafficking has been seen in agriculture, construction, hotels, restaurant and domestic services industries. (Photo courtesy of CNN Money)

According to the Report the average age of victims in the study was 33 at the time they began receiving services. Most had children. Almost a third of the victims had attained higher education, and 71% held some type of temporary work visa when they entered the United States. The study found traffickers often used the visa status as a weapon to exploit workers by withholding their documentation in an attempt to keep the victims from leaving and threatening to have them deported if they refuse to continue serving the traffickers.

The report found that most of the victims involved in the study were recruited in their home country, and were often deceived about the nature and compensation of the work they would be doing in the United States. Typically, the victims of human trafficking came from countries in Central America or Southeast Asia.

While human trafficking is not limited to any area of the globe, the majority of the workers in the Northeastern University Study were trafficked from their homelands in Asia and Latin America. (Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe)

According to the report, foreign workers are often lured by traffickers offering false promises of a good life with good jobs in the United States. However the victims of traffickers soon find themselves living as slaves in plain sight. About half of these workers pay “recruitment” fees to their traffickers, these fees are often thousands of dollars that can leave them stuck in debt to traffickers for years.

The victims of human trafficking are living and working under slave-like conditions across America in farming communities, on construction sites, in restaurants and even inside homes in quiet suburban neighborhood. Since human trafficking was criminalized in 2000 the federal Justice Department has convicted labor traffickers in New York, Georgia and Washington State among other prosecutions.

According to The International Labour Organization, a United Nation’s agency, an estimated 21 million people worldwide are the victims of forced labor. However, there is no official estimate of how prevalent the problem is in the United States.

For more information please see:

The Boston Globe – Most Victims of Human Trafficking Enter The US Legally, Study Says – 21 October 2014

CNN Money – Slave Labor in America Today – 21 October 2014

Hartford Business – Slave Labor in America Today – 21 October 2014

Reuters – Study Shows U.S. Forced-Labor Victims Unclear Where to Seek Help – 21 October 2014

Lawmaker Kidnapped & Released in Northeast Colombia

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

BOGOTA, Columbia — The Colombian politician Carlos Omar Angarita Navarro, deputy of the Assembly of the Department of Norte de Santander, was released today by the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) who had kidnapped him Monday in that area of ​​Northeast, said official sources.

Diputado Navarro / Photo courtesy of

The ELN has been classified as a terrorist organization by the governments of Colombia, Peru, the United States, the European Union and Canada.  The group has been violently active in Colombia since 1964, advocating for a composite of Communist Marxism and Liberation Theology.  

Navarro, a member of the Conservative Party, was abducted Monday afternoon on the outskirts of the town of Hacari as he was returning from a meeting with the community at which the town’s health problems were discussed.  The politician was in a meeting with members of an IPS in that town, they were complaining about the alleged poor performance of its services. 

Currently the Conservative Party is the second largest political force in the government’s congress.

He was captured on the highway that links Hacari and Ocaña, the provincial police commander, Col. Eliecer Camacho, told reporters on Tuesday.

“No criminal group has said anything about the motive for the kidnapping,” the police chief said, although he refrained from confirming ELN rebels were responsible.  Navarro’s relatives believe that the ELN rebels were responsible.

Three armed men forced the vehicle Navarro was traveling in with his two sons to stop at a spot known as El Espejo, kidnapped the lawmaker and took him toward the mountains, Hacari spokesman Diogenes Quintero said.

Col. Camacho said that although a family member said the politician was abducted by the ELN, often criminal bands perpetrate their crimes using the name of another group.  But he added that the ELN does indeed operate in the area, along with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas and the Popular Liberation Army.  

The deputy was released after negotiations with the participation of several Colombian authorities and mediated by a local priest, the chief investigator said in a statement , who also participated in these efforts.  

According to officals, the presence of these armed groups poses a risk to the inhabitants of the towns of Hacarí, El Tarra, San Calixto and Teorama, belonging to the troubled region of Catatumbo.

For more information, please see:

W Radio – Norte de Santander: secuestran en Hacarí al diputado Ómar Angarita – 21 Oct. 2014

El – En libertad diputado secuestrado por el ELN en Norte de Santander – 21 Oct. 2014 – El ELN libera a diputado regional secuestrado en el noresete de Colombia – 21 Oct. 2014

Fox Latino – Regional lawmaker kidnapped in NE Colombia – 21 Oct. 2014