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Colombia News Brief for April 7, 2021

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Welcome to LAWG’s Colombia News Brief, a compilation of top articles and reports on issues of peace, justice, human rights, and more in Colombia.

Source: Pedro Szekely/Flickr

SPOTLIGHT

United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia
United Nations Security Council, March 26, 2021
“One of the most significant peace process developments that took place during the reporting period was the meeting between the President of Colombia, Iván Duque, and the president of the Comunes party (formerly the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC) party), Rodrigo Londoño, which took place on 10 March, to discuss the status of implementation of the Final Agreement. During this constructive dialogue facilitated by the Special Representative of the Secretary – General for Colombia and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, both parties reiterated their commitment to the Final Agreement, and agreed to work jointly to design a road map for the remainder of the time frame envisioned for its comprehensive implementation, as well as to redouble efforts to strengthen the reintegration of, and security guarantees for, former combatants.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Indigenous Venezuelans demand eviction of ELN and FARC dissidents, Fundaredes denounces
EFE, El Carabobeño, April 7, 2021
“Several indigenous peoples of the Venezuelan state of Amazonas demanded that the authorities ‘evict’ the Colombian guerrilla Army of National Liberation (ELN) and dissident groups of the FARC ‘that occupy territories belonging to the ethnic groups,’ the Human Rights Observatory reported on Wednesday of the NGO Fundaredes. The complaint was made by the organization on its Twitter account, where it did not detail which peoples made the demand or in which area of ​​the Amazon, bordering Brazil and Colombia, these ethnic groups reside within the broad territory of the state. According to Fundaredes, the members of the ELN and the FARC dissidents ‘occupy the ethnic groups’ own territories and completely alter coexistence, even forcing them to move from the places where they have lived since their ancestors.’”

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

‘Duque ally sabotaged ceasefire with Colombia’s ELN guerrillas’
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 6, 2021
“At an event organized by the country’s war crimes tribunal (JEP), Santos said his administration failed to sign a ceasefire with the ELN before leaving office in 2018 because ‘an important spokesperson’ of the current administration told the guerrillas to wait. The former president did not mention who would have frustrated the ceasefire. According to Senator Roy Barreras, who has  been closely involved in efforts to negotiate peace, ‘this official was Angelino Garzon,’ the former vice-president of Duque’s political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe.”

Santos dijo que estuvo cerca de firmar cese el fuego con Eln
El Colombiano, 6 de abril de 2021
“Se lamentó que el proceso de paz que adelantó durante su mandato para acabar la guerra con las Farc, no se había podido consolidar con el Eln, que sigue siendo un dolor de cabeza para el Gobierno. ‘Infortunadamente con el Eln no se logró lo mismo, aunque avanzamos muchísimo, estuvimos a punto de firmar un cese al fuego antes de salir yo del gobierno. Infortunadamente un muy importante vocero del actual gobierno fue a decirle a los del Eln que no firmaran el cese al fuego con este gobierno, sino con el próximo y el Eln se creyó ese mensaje y no firmó conmigo y mire en lo que estamos’, dijo Santos en medio del diálogo”.

COVID-19

The pandemic’s devastating impact on poverty in Colombia
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 7, 2021
“Without President Ivan Duque‘s emergency stipend for the poor, Colombia’s poverty rate would have gone from 31.7% in 2019 to 38.7% last year, the ECLAC estimated. According to the various estimates, between 18.9 million and 23.9 million of Colombia’s inhabitants would have started the year living off less than $91 per month. Despite the government’s monthly $41.50 stipend, Colombia’s poverty rate became the highest of South American countries that were studied by ECLAC.”

Ya son 12 los hospitales en emergencia
Carlos López, El Colombiano, 6 de abril de 2021
“La cantidad de personas que requieren atención médica en este tercer pico de la pandemia por covid-19 en la ciudad de Medellín, llevó a que 12 hospitales y clínicas del Valle de Aburrá y Rionegro declaran el estado de emergencia hospitalaria grado III, desde este martes 6 de abril. Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, IPS Universitaria, Clínica Las Vegas, Clínica Las Américas, Clínica Cardio Vid, Clínica CES, Clínica Bolivariana y los hospitales públicos de Envigado, Itagüí, Sabaneta y La Estrella hacen parte de los centros médicos que superaron el 100 % de ocupación de camas UCI y declararon la emergencia”.

Covid-19 Shut Schools Across Latin America, and Children Joined Gangs
Kejal Vyas, The Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2021
“In Colombia, rights activists documented the recruitment of children in 22 of the country’s 32 provinces during the pandemic, with most cases taking place in rural provinces where the government has little presence and drug-smuggling syndicates hold sway. A group that researches the impact of drug-related violence on children here, the Coalition Against the Involvement of Children in Colombia’s Conflict, said armed groups recruited 220 youths between 12 and 17 in 2020, an 11% increase from 2019. But the number of child recruits could be far higher, because it is believed few families report that their children joined armed gangs for fear of retribution, said Trian Zuñiga, who until last month was the top human rights official in this province, Guaviare.”

Colombia to allow private imports of COVID-19 vaccine, but shots must be free
WHBL, April 5, 2021
“Colombia will allow the private importation of COVID-19 vaccines, the health ministry said on Monday, but the shots must be free for those being inoculated. The Andean country plans to immunize about 70% of its 35 million people this year under a free national program and has administered some 2.4 million doses since February. Those giving out privately acquired shots must comply with government standards and cannot use facilities needed by the national program, the health ministry said in a draft decree shared with journalists.”

Colombia to extend coronavirus restrictions as infections rise 
Al Jazeera, April 4, 2021
“In remarks shared on social media, Duque said on Sunday that the restrictions would vary based on ICU occupancy rates. The curfews will be in place from Monday and continue through April 19, he said.”

HUMAN RIGHTS

Colombia strips courts of powers that block Duque’s authoritarian ambitions
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 7, 2021
“Colombia’s justice minister on Tuesday stripped the judicial branch of powers that force the increasingly authoritarian President Ivan Duque to abide by the law. Only Congress is allowed to legislate on the judicial branch’s powers within the boundaries of the constitution, but that didn’t stop Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz. The minister issued a decree that removed administrative courts’ power that limit the president’s ability to execute policies that break the law or violate citizens’ rights.”

Reportan otro líder social asesinado en Colombia
Prensa Latina, 6 de abril de 2021
“Medios digitales reportan hoy el asesinato del fundador de la Asociación de Campesinos del Norte de Antioquia, Albeiro Hoyos, en la localidad de Anori, a casi 600 kilómetros al norte de esta capital. Según la web Colombia Informa, con esta muerte suman 43 los líderes sociales asesinados en os transcurrido de 2021, considerado por analistas uno de los inicios de año más violento de las últimas décadas”.

ONU insiste en urgente necesidad de frenar violencia en Colombia
Prensa Latina, 6 de abril de 2021
“De acuerdo con cifras recogidas en el documento, del 28 de diciembre de 2020 al 26 de marzo de 2021, fueron asesinados 14 excombatientes de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, y desde la firma del Acuerdo de Paz en 2016 suman ya 262 el total de contabilizados por ONU. La concentración de la violencia en algunas regiones colombianas es el resultado de una presencia limitada del Estado, elevados niveles de pobreza y la proliferación de grupos armados ilegales y organizaciones criminales que se enfrentan por las economías ilícitas, indica el sitio oficial de noticias de Naciones Unidas. Además, añade, la seguridad en zonas en las cuales se habían registrado mejoras en los últimos años también se deterioró nuevamente”.

Bajo Cauca and Vaupés – Colombia’s Child Recruitment Hotspots 
Mathew Charles, InSight Crime, April 1, 2021
“In Bajo Cauca, the place where Santiago was recruited, a turf war over coca production and illegal gold mining between the Caparrapos and their former criminal masters, the Urabeños, has left hundreds dead since it erupted in 2017. In Vaupés, which lies along the southeastern corner bordering Brazil, former FARC soldiers have been recruiting as they expand their territorial control. In November last year, 18 teenagers were taken from the remote community of Carurú in the west of Vaupés.”

DRUG POLICY

How not to curb Colombian cocaine
Mary Speck, The Global Americans, April 2, 2021
“But destroying coca crops is unlikely to further either goal. Forced eradication can undermine counterinsurgency efforts, which depend on winning support from local populations. As a February 2021 report by the International Crisis Group points out, “forced eradication has criminalized poor cultivators, pushed them to the very edges of Colombia’s territory, and driven them to take the side of local armed groups.”

THE ENVIRONMENT

Colombia oil workers join anti-fracking campaign 
Oliver Griffin, Reuters, April 7, 2021
“The Petroleum Industry Workers Union (USO) and the Colombia Free from Fracking Alliance said in a joint statement they are joining forces to protect the Magdalena Medio region and the country as a whole from non-conventional exploration. Colombians are divided over the development of non-conventional deposits, including fracking for shale gas and coal bed methane. Commercial development of the deposits is currently not permitted, but the country’s highest administrative court is holding hearings ahead of a final ruling and has allowed pilot projects to go ahead in the meantime.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Venezuela asks UN to facilitate communication with Colombia
Reuters, April 6, 2021
“Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the country would submit a letter to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to help broker talks between the two countries. The letter would ask him ‘to establish a direct and permanent communication channel between the competent authorities to resolve all issues related to the border and to ensure that both nations coexist in peace as good neighbors,’ Arreaza said in a televised broadcast.”

Dismantled Network Illustrates Pattern in the Exploitation of Venezuelan Migrants in Colombia
Laura Ávila, InSight Crime, April 5, 2021
“The network, led by Luis Enrique García, alias “El Chamo,” managed to permeate the institutions responsible for issuing immigrant identification and control documents. The network sold Venezuelan citizens, particularly women from Zulia, a department on the Venezuelan border, false residency permits and promised them well-paid work in Colombia. After transporting them through clandestine routes to cities such as Cúcuta, Valledupar and Villanueva, the women were sexually exploited.”

Venezuela activa zona operativa de defensa en estado de Apure
Prensa Latina, 5 de abril de 2021
“En rueda de prensa, el ministro de Defensa Vladimir Padrino informó que las operaciones abarcan tres municipios y más de 700 kilómetros de la línea fronteriza con Colombia, como parte de las acciones para neutralizar a grupos irregulares procedentes del vecino país. Las medidas extraordinarias de seguridad serán diseñadas y ejecutadas por el Comando Estratégico Operacional de la FANB (Ceofanb) con el fin de erradicar las amenazas contra la paz y la estabilidad nacional, garantizar el resguardo de bienes públicos y privados, precisó el titular. En tal sentido, el Ceofanb y la Zona Operativa de Defensa Integral de Apure, de conjunto con autoridades civiles, establecerá restricciones de horarios para el tránsito terrestre, fluvial y aéreo, además de aplicar medidas de control para asegurar el funcionamiento de los servicios públicos”.

5,000 Flee as Venezuela Launches Largest Military Campaign in Decades
Julie Turkewitz, The New York Times, April 2, 2021
“The military has since stepped up its presence in La Victoria, according to a civilian witness who asked not to be named, fearing retribution from Venezuelan security forces. The man, the owner of a small market, described soldiers rounding villagers up, demanding identification, pinning them against walls and pointing weapons at them. In one instance, he said, a resident was forced to kneel and was then beaten and detained.”

Venezuelan offensive sends thousands of civilians into Colombia
Steven Grattan, Al Jazeera, April 2, 2021
“Tensions are high between the left-wing Venezuelan and right-wing Colombian governments over the surge in conflict along the border. Colombia accuses the Venezuelan government of collaborating with former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who reject the 2016 peace deal involved in drug trafficking. Venezuela blames Colombia for allowing these Colombian fighter groups to operate in its territory.”

Venezuela: Two soldiers killed by land mine near Colombia border
Al Jazeera, April 1, 2021
“Refugees fleeing the area last week told Reuters that security forces burned homes and killed civilians. Venezuela said it was investigating accusations that members of its military committed abuses. Dissidents of the demobilised Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who reject a 2016 peace deal with the Colombian government, are the targets of the military operations, fleeing civilians told Reuters.”

* The Colombia News Brief is a selection of relevant news articles, all of which do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Latin America Working Group.