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Colombia expands protected areas by 31,000 square miles
20 April 2018 - Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced this week that the country will add 31,000 square miles of land to its protected areas and will also give indigenous communities the autonomy to govern their own territories, according to Mongabay and Thomson Reuters. Santos said the government will spend the next two weeks outlining the boundaries of the new protected land, as well as distributing land titles to indigenous groups. (more)

Colombia takes 'unprecedented' step to stop farms gobbling forests
11 April 2018 - Indigenous communities that depend on Colombia's Amazon rainforest for their survival will have more say over their ancestral lands, as Colombia adds 8 million hectares to its protected areas in an effort to stem forest loss. The new measures announced by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday (10 April) aim to create a buffer zone for the country's southern Amazon region. (more)

Colombia's top court orders government to protect Amazon forest in landmark case
6 April 2018 - Colombia's highest court has told the government it must take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest and stem rising deforestation, in what campaigners said was an historic moment that should help conserve forests and counter climate change. In their ruling on Thursday (5 April), the judges said that Colombia -- which is home to a swathe of rainforest roughly the size of Germany and England combined -- saw deforestation rates in its Amazon region increase by 44 percent from 2015 to 2016. (more)

Colombia and ELN rebels move peace talks toward ceasefire
30 June 2017 - Colombia's government and Marxist ELN rebels agreed to work toward a ceasefire, both sides said on Friday, a move that would improve security in the country where a peace accord with another guerrilla group led to its disarmament last week. The government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the second-largest insurgent group, began formal peace negotiations in February after more than three years of secret talks to draw up the agenda and logistics. The next cycle begins on July 24 in Quito. (more)

Colombia takes big step to peace as rebels lay down guns
27 June 2017 - Colombia reached a major milestone on its road to peace Tuesday [27 June] as leftist rebels relinquished some of their last weapons and declared an end to their half-century insurgency. The historic step was taken as President Juan Manuel Santos traveled to [a] demobilization camp in Colombia's eastern jungles to join guerrilla leaders as they begin their transition to civilian life. In a short, symbol-filled ceremony, United Nations observers shut and padlocked the last containers storing some of the 7,132 weapons that members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have turned over the past few weeks at 26 camps across the country. Yellow butterflies were released... (more)

Colombia ELN rebels agree to free captive, start peace talks
18 January 2017 - Colombia's second-largest rebel group has agreed to free a prominent politician held captive for almost a year, clearing the way for repeatedly postponed peace talks to begin next month. The agreement worked out during months of backchannel talks with the National Liberation Army was announced at a news conference Wednesday in Quito, Ecuador. The two sides have been holding exploratory peace talks for more than three years. President Juan Manuel Santos praised the breakthrough from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (more)

Colombia making 'substantial progress' with peace deal - President
2 November 2016 - Colombia is making 'substantial progress' in getting its stalled peace deal with Marxist rebels back on track and hopes to have a deal very soon, the country's President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday. A renegotiation seems to depend on whether the FARC would accept tougher conditions, maybe combined with a softening of former President Uribe's demands. After years of refusing to meet negotiators, Uribe has now said he is willing to seek a joint solution. Santos predicted significant economic benefits from a peace deal, which would ease decades of unrest in Colombia. (more)

Give peace a chance: Colombia extends ceasefire with rebels
13 October 2016 - President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Thursday (October 16) that he is extending a ceasefire with Colombia's largest rebel movement in a bid to give more time to efforts to save a peace deal rejected by voters. Santos said in a televised address that he was extending by two months the ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia until December 31. (more)

Colombia revives stalled peace talks with ELN rebels
10 October 2016 - Colombia's government and rebels from the National Liberation Army have agreed to revive a stalled peace effort, providing a boost to President Juan Manuel Santos [after] voters' shocking rejection of a deal with the much-larger FARC guerrilla group. The rebels and government officials said Monday (October 10) that formal peace talks would begin October 27 in Ecuador. In a brief statement from Venezuela, whose socialist government is co-sponsoring the peace process, the guerrilla group known as the ELN committed itself to freeing two captives it has been holding for months before the talks begin. Additional unspecified humanitarian actions on both sides would also take place. (more)

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos awarded Nobel Peace Prize for bid to end half-century conflict
7 October 2016 - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his efforts to end a half-century of civil conflict in his nation, despite Colombian voters' shocking rejection of the peace deal just days ago. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it made the decision because of Santos's landmark efforts to halt one of the world's longest-running conflicts -- Marxist rebels battling government forces since the 1960s. The prize, which was first awarded in 1901, is the most prestigious of the series of awards endowed by the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. (more)

Success of Maharishi's Programmes
Short Summaries of Top Stories

Father Gabriel Mejia of Colombia includes Transcendental Meditation in rehabilitation of street children
22 July 2016 - The founder of Colombia's Fundacion Hogares Claret, (Claret Homes Foundation), Father Gabriel Mejia, has helped over 45,000 young people get off the streets, away from drugs and crime in his rehabilitation centers. During the early days of organizing his foundation - while touring other treatment facilities - Father Gabriel realized that including yoga and Transcendental Meditation in his facility's daily routine would improve on the traditional therapeutic approach. Staff and students at Hogares Claret have expressed the many ways that their change towards a more peaceful, orderly life has come from within themselves through practising TM. (more)

'Love and Transcendence: The Secrets of Lasting Rehabilitation' - Father Gabriel Mejia's talk now available online
24 March 2014 - ConsciousnessTalks is a new website featuring compelling talks from some of the leading thought-leaders and change agents in the world who are shaping our conscious future. A new talk just released this month is by one of the most remarkable men of great heart and depth in our time--Father Gabriel Mejia, who has rescued over 100,000 children off the streets of Colombia. His rehabilitation programme includes Transcendental Meditation--creating the opportunity for the children to return to productive, happy, and healthy lives. In this 20-minute TED-style talk, Fr. Mejia explores how this kind of lasting rehabilitation can come from the complementary forces of love and transcendence. He explains that love is the basis of a compassionate society--one that sees homeless children not as problems, but as opportunities full of potential. (more)

Colombia: Transcendental Meditation provides new drug rehabilitation approach, alternative to prison
4 December 2012 - Transcendental Meditation is central to rehabilitation programmes at Fundacion Hogares Claret, a network of centres in Colombia caring for thousands of troubled youth. The technique has been shown through scientific research to promote integrated brain functioning and reduce drug dependency, and its use at Hogares Claret has yielded very good results. Now the programme has a new angle: teaching drug addicts Transcendental Meditation instead of their being sent directly to jail. This is a new development where young offenders who would probably have to spend a few years in prison, instead go to an alternative programme--Transcendental Meditation and a four or five-year stay at Hogares Claret. (more)

From the streets of Colombia to MUM
25 October 2012 - Just a few years ago, 12-year-old Camilo Estrada was one of many thousands of displaced children living on the streets of Medellin, Colombia. Then he heard about Father Gabriel Mejia's Fundacion Hogares Claret, which provides shelter for homeless children. There he learned Transcendental Meditation. 'I don't know if I would be alive if I hadn't gotten into the Foundation,' he said. He received a scholarship to enrol at Maharishi University of Management, where he is studying health and physiology, and plans to return to Colombia and create Maharishi Ayurveda Health Centers for the children in Father Gabriel's rehabilitation centres. (more)

'Saint of Colombia' uses Transcendental Meditation to successfully treat drug addiction
7 August 2012 - Father Gabriel Mejia, founder of Hogares Claret, a network of rehabilitation centres in Colombia, traveled to treatment facilities around the world, observing many different therapeutic methods. This led him to realize that the traditional methods his centres were employing were not enough. Father Mejia saw a way to improve the traditional therapeutic approach applied in rehabilitation programmes, by introducing yoga, Transcendental Meditation, and its advanced techniques. These new programmes have proved very effective. (more)

Colombia: 100 youth learn advanced meditation in rehabiltation centre
7 August 2012 - In a recent course at a Hogares Claret rehabilitation centre, 105 young participants from five different regions of Colombia came together to learn an advanced meditation practice known as the Transcendental Meditation-Sidhi programme. In recent years centre administrators have seen substantial physical and mental health benefits for children in their care through Transcendental Meditation and its advanced programmes. Three new courses will be held in the coming months, mainly in long-term centres throughout Latin America, where some of the children will spend 3-6 years in rehabilitation programmes and therefore can benefit most fully from their meditation practice. (more)

Colombia: Hogares Claret offers Transcendental Meditation as focus of rehabilitation for troubled youth
7 August 2012 - In the beginning, the founder of Hogares Claret--a network of rehabilitation centres caring for thousands of at-risk youth in Colombia and other Latin American countries--used traditional therapeutic methods. Ten years ago, however, he saw a way to change and improve the traditional therapeutic approach applied in rehabilitation programmes, introducing yoga, Transcendental Meditation, and its advanced techniques. Now, these approaches have proved so successful that Father Gabriel Mejia is focusing a large part of the therapy around Transcendental Meditation. 'It's one of the main ingredients of his rehabilitation programme,' said a Transcendental Meditation teacher--'a key ingredient and top priority'. (more)

Youth rehabilitation programme in Colombia uses Maharishi's technologies
15 November 2011 - Ninety students in Colombia, Latin America, recently learned one of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's most powerful technologies of consciousness. Many of the students are at risk for drug involvement or former drug users themselves. They are learning Transcendental Meditation and its advanced techniques as part of an effective drug prevention and rehabilitation programme started by Father Gabriel Mejia. (more)

Colombia: Meditation course gives 106 youth in rehab centre a fresh start
14 June 2011 - In Father Gabriel Mejia's many youth centres in Colombia, the Transcendental Meditation Programme is central to rehabilitation programmes for homeless youth, many of whom come from stressful backgrounds including experiences with crime, drug abuse, and violence. Recently 106 young men at one centre graduated from an advanced course in the Transcendental Meditation Sidhi Programme. Father Mejia told graduates they were equipped to make a fresh start for a much better future. (more)

Transforming the lives of Colombia's street children
2 May 2011 - Over the last 25 years the centres of Father Gabriel Mejia have helped tens of thousands of the abandoned street children of Colombia find a way to live healthy, happy and purposeful lives. As part of the rehabilitation process the children learn the Transcendental Meditation Technique, which helps relieve the traumatic stress of their daily lives. (more)

Short Summaries of Top Stories

Colombia: Conflict continues in areas vacated by FARC fighters
1 March 2018 - Thousands of Colombians are being driven from their homes and dozens killed despite a peace accord ending half a century of civil war, the Red Cross said on Thursday. (! March), urging the government to better protect civilians. A peace deal between the government and the left-wing rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was signed in 2016, ending a war that has killed about 200,000 people. The FARC has largely demobilized and become a political party. But conflict continues in areas vacated by FARC fighters, leaving a power vacuum ... Some areas, particularly in Colombia's south and Pacific region, have become flashpoints for fighting among crime gangs and a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), over drug trafficking and gold mines. (more)

Colombia in unchartered territory with peace deal's defeat
2 October 2016 - After a stunning referendum defeat for a peace deal with leftist rebels, Colombians are asking what comes next for their war-torn country, which like Britain following the Brexit vote has no Plan B to save an accord that sought to bring an end to a half century of hostilities. The damage from Sunday's vote is still sinking in. Instead of winning by an almost two-to-one margin as pre-election polls had predicted, those favoring the accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia lost by a razor-thin margin, 49.8 percent of the votes to 50.2 percent for those against the deal. (more)

Factbox - Colombia takes grim count of war that drove millions from homes
25 August 2016 - Colombia's government and rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced late on Wednesday (24 August) they had reached a final peace accord to end a 52-year-old guerrilla war, bringing an end to one of the world's longest conflicts. The deal still needs to be voted on in a plebiscite. More than a quarter of Colombia's 47 million people have suffered in some way as a result of the war involving rebels, right-wing paramilitary groups, and government troops. Here are eight humanitarian consequences of Colombia's war. (more)

More than 3,100 pregnant women in Colombia have Zika virus: government
6 February 2016 - More than 3,100 pregnant Colombian women are infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday, as the disease continues its rapid spread across the Americas. The virus has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly, which prevents fetus' brains from developing properly. There is no vaccine or treatment. 'The projection is that we could end up having 600,000 cases,' President Santos said, adding there could be up to 1,000 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can cause paralysis and which some governments have linked to Zika infection. (more)

Colombia deports 2 Venezuelan student activists
5 September 2014 - Colombia has deported two Venezuelan student activists, drawing criticism on both sides of the border by groups who fear they'll be unjustly prosecuted for their political views. Lorent Saleh, whose arrest had been sought by President Nicolas Maduro's government, was handed over to Venezuelan authorities Thursday night after he was detained for overstaying and violating the terms of his visa. Fellow Venezuelan Gabriel Valles was expelled on Friday though his visa remained valid. Both are members of the activist group Operation Liberty, which is critical of the Venezuelan government. Valles entered Colombia in early June with a 90-day tourist visa, which he renewed earlier this month, according to authorities. Immigration police arrested him Friday in the Colombian city of Cucuta, near the border with Venezuela. The Colombian Foreign Ministry said he had been carrying out 'activities expressly prohibited under the immigration laws,' but did not offer additional details. Saleh led students in a well-publicized hunger strike in 2011 in front of the Caracas offices of the Organization of American States in a bid to attract foreign attention to the Venezuelan government's human rights record. The Venezuelan human rights group A Window To Freedom is calling the arrest 'strange,' and demanding that Venezuelan intelligence service guarantee the rights and safety of the young men. (more)

Silence surrounds Colombia's 92,000 disappeared - ICRC
29 August 2014 - More than 92,000 Colombians have disappeared during 50 years of war and at the hands of drug gangs, and the government needs to step up efforts to find missing people, the Red Cross said. Every day nine people are reported missing in Colombia. Of the total number of those registered as missing over the years, nearly 70,000 remain missing without trace, according to the government's official register. Many are victims of five decades of armed conflict between government troops, right-wing paramilitary groups and leftist rebels, while others are victims of ongoing drug-turf wars. 'The problem of missing people in Colombia is as widespread as it is silent,' Jordi Raich, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Colombia said in a statement on Friday. The government must do more to find and identify the tens of thousands of people missing in Colombia, raise awareness about the largely invisible problem, and make it easier for relatives of the missing to seek and get help from authorities, the ICRC in Colombia said. All warring factions, including state security forces, have been responsible for forced disappearances, according to a report by Colombia's National Centre for Historical Memory published earlier this year. (more)

Girls in Colombian town struck by mystery illness
27 August 2014 - A mystery illness has overwhelmed a small town in northern Colombia as scores of teenage girls have been hospitalized with symptoms that parents fear could be an adverse reaction to a popular vaccine against cervical cancer. Authorities say they still don't know what caused more than 200 girls in El Carmen de Bolivar to come down with symptoms ranging from fainting to numbness in the hands and headaches. Parents are on edge because all the girls, ranging in ages from 9 to 16, were injected in recent months with the vaccine Gardasil. On Wednesday, residents marched peacefully to demand a thorough investigation. Francisco Vega, the town's mayor and a trained physician, told The Associated Press that illnesses first appeared at the end of May and have been steadily increasing since. Over the weekend 120 girls were rushed to hospitals, collapsing the town's limited medical facilities. (more)

FARC chief says Colombia peace deal unlikely this year
11 August 2014 - Colombia is unlikely to sign a peace accord with Marxist rebels this year as the remaining items on the negotiating agenda are complex and time consuming, FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono said. President Juan Manuel Santos had expressed hope that talks to end a half century of war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) could be concluded as soon as this year though he acknowledged they could run on longer. In an interview published on the rebels' website on Monday, Londono said there would not be time in the next four months to complete discussion on reparation to victims and how to bring a definitive end to the conflict. Dozens of FARC and government negotiators have reached agreement in talks -- taking place in Cuba -- on land reform, how to end Colombia's illegal drugs trade and rebel participation in politics. In an apparent response to Santos' recent warnings that talks could collapse if the FARC continue to attack civilian and economic targets, Londono insinuated that the killing of any member of its seven-member secretariat would disrupt talks. (more)

UK teen dies in Colombia after taking hallucinogen
26 April 2014 - A British teenager died in southwestern Colombia after he drank a hallucinogen during a tribal ritual, his body left by the side of the road by two frightened young local men, authorities said Saturday. Henry Miller, 19, was found dead Wednesday by a rural road outside Mocoa, the capital of the Putumayo region, said Ricardo Suarez, the Putumayo police commander. Colombian medical authorities said the cause of the death has not been definitely established. In a statement published by the BBC, Miller's family said he took part in a ritual that involved a drink made from local plant infusions, and 'it is likely that a reaction to this drink was the cause' of his death. Miller drank yage, a psychedelic brew produced from various plants native to the Amazon, during a ritual led by a local shaman, Suarez told The Associated Press. Suarez said such rituals are popular in the Putumayo and Amazon regions of Colombia 'for the effects caused by the drink, especially hallucinations.' (more)

Eight killed, 20 injured in Colombia bomb attack blamed on FARC
7 December 2013 - At least eight people were killed and 20 injured in a bomb attack on Saturday in a village in southern Colombia that the military blamed on left-wing FARC guerrillas who have been engaged in peace talks with the government for the last year. Military sources told Reuters rebel fighters from the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, launched hand-made missiles into a house serving as an army and police base in the municipality of Inza in Cauca province, a region known for a strong guerrilla presence. 'We condemn and repudiate this cowardly attack in Inza,' President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on Twitter, adding that he would travel to the area to hold a meeting about security. Santos initiated peace talks with the FARC in Cuba late last year, a decision that has won cautious support from Colombians desperate for peace after five decades of war while angering those who fear FARC leaders will never face punishment. (more)


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