Colombia

Women’s Voices and the Colombian Peace Process: We Must Sweep away the Culture of War

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Three Colombian women
— Olga Amparo Sánchez (Casa de la Mujer), Magda Alberto (Mujeres por la Paz), and Danny Ramírez (Conferencia Nacional de Organizaciones Afro-colombianas)—recently talked about the inclusion of women in the peace talks in Havana. At an event sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, and the Colombia Human Rights Committee, the panelists also discussed the contributions women can make to help with the country’s healing process.

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Colombia: On to the Future or Back to the Past? Extrajudicial Executions and Peace Talks

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Two crucial events just happened in Colombia. One gives hope for the future. The other sheds light upon the dark recesses of the recent past.

On June 10, 2014, the Santos Administration announced that it has been advancing in preliminary peace discussions with the ELN guerrillas, the last major guerrilla group after the FARC. The FARC and the Colombian government have reached the halfway mark in their negotiations. Now, this announcement that the ELN and the government will negotiate brings a real peace that much closer.

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2014 Colombian Presidential Elections: Cliffhanger for Peace?

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Santos y ZuluagaCREDIT: Carlos Ortega / EL TIEMPOIn most democratic countries, elections, presidential elections in particular, are usually of great importance. After all, a country is deciding its fate for the next four years or so. However, based on the low voter turnout, it seems that most Colombians feel this year’s elections are as pointless as carrying water to the sea. An astonishing 60% of Colombia’s 33 million eligible voters did not exercise their constitutional rights during the first round of presidential elections that took place on May 25. The low turnout during the first round of the presidential elections comes at the heels of a
similar showing of 63% of eligible voters abstaining or casting blank or null votes earlier this year during the March congressional elections.

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The United States, the Colombian Elections and Peace

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This blog originally appeared in El Espectador. Click here to read the original posting in Spanish. 

U.S. policymakers perceive the U.S. relationship with Colombia as a strong partnership that endures despite transitions in power. But that does not mean there are no private preferences.

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Colombia: Peace and Drugs

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This blog originally appeared on Huffington Post. Click here to read the original posting.

fumigation-1The peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrillas reached the halfway mark on May 16th, 2014 with a ground-breaking agreement on how to treat drug production and trafficking. This is the first peace process in history with a “drug policy” chapter.

The two parties have already agreed upon rural development and land reform as well as expanding political participation. The Gordian knots of justice, truth and victims’ rights remain ahead, along with how to demobilize and reintegrate combatants. But the peace process to end the longest-running war in the Western Hemisphere has shown resilience and with this third agreement, gains momentum.
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A Plan Still on Paper: Three Years of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan

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DSC_0846Monday, April 7th marks the third anniversary  of the failed U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP). Intended to address the concerns about labor rights that long stalled the U.S. Congress’s approval of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the LAP was supposed to be, in theory, a tool that would create structural changes for workers to improve their working conditions in a country known more for its anti-union violence than its adherence to the rule of law. Unfortunately, practice is far removed from theory.  Rather than celebrating this anniversary, we are just once again reminded that Colombia still has far to go to protect labor rights and labor unionists’ lives.

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Make Peace in Colombia an Agenda Item for Congress

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final_military_aid_slideThe failed war on drugs, support of an abusive military, fumigations that destroy farmers’ food crops, and the failure to stop murders of human rights defenders and violence that drives thousands of people from their homes are just the beginning of the laundry list of problems with U.S.-Colombia policy. That is why this spring we are gearing up for our biggest Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia to call on our government to finally put an end to its destructive policies and contribute to the historic opportunity of peace in Colombia.

Tell Congress to prioritize peace rather than military solutions in Colombia!

The ongoing peace process in Colombia not only gives our government a chance to play a constructive role in a history-making peace accord but to also start over and move away from outdated military solutions in Latin America. Colombia has been the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance in the Americas, and yet this focus on military aid has exacerbated a displacement crisis that has left nearly 6 million people without a home. Small farmers have seen their livelihoods disappear due to forced eradication and fumigation programs funded by the United States.

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Peace Is More than Silencing Guns: Human Rights and Colombia’s Peace Process

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This post first appeared on USIP’s Olive Branch blog. It was written by Virginia M. Bouvier of USIP, Lisa Haugaard of LAWG, and Moira Birss of PBI. Click here to view the original post.

Peace is more than just silencing guns. That was the upshot when Colombian human rights defenders gathered at USIP recently to discuss the ongoing peace process between the FARC guerrillas and Colombia’s government and how the talks can advance justice in the aftermath of a deal. Days later, in a development unrelated to the gathering, the Colombian government took a step in that direction.

The event at USIP, the latest in a series called the Colombia Peace Forum, was co-sponsored by the Latin America Working Group Education Fund and Peace Brigades International. It convened some 50 policymakers from across the U.S. government and other interested parties to discuss the link between human rights and the peace process.

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Corruption, Human Rights Scandal Rocks the Colombian Armed Forces

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Colombia’s Semana magazine revealed in February a massive corruption scandal involving the top ranks of Colombia’s armed forces.  Officials were skimming up to 50 percent off of lucrative military contracts.  “Give us 5 billion [pesos] and give the other companies 3.  If we are all eating, no one will pick a fight,”   said one colonel. 

Top military commanders, as well as personally benefitting from this corruption, were steering contracts to officers and soldiers under investigation and detained in military garrisons for involvement in extrajudicial executions. According to Semana, “this was a system to buy their silence and ensure that they did not implicate higher-level officials in the sadly famous practice of false positives.”

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In their Homes, in their Work, Colombia's Human Rights Defenders Remain at Risk

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In their houses, in front of their children, in the middle of meetings, while taking their children or grandchildren to school, while eating in restaurants, while walking to or from work:  these are some of the places in which 78 Colombian human rights defenders were assassinated in 2013.

Community leaders, representatives of poor farmers and victims, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, land rights champions, union leaders, LGBTI and women's rights defenders, youth leaders:  these are some of the kinds of defenders assassinated in 2013.  Most were poor, from far-flung parts of the country.

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