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Colombia News Brief June 16 – 23, 2020

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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: David Ospina Tovar/Flickr

SPOTLIGHT

Press Release: U.S. and Colombian Civil Society Organizations Call for Reinvigorating Peace Accord Implementation in Colombia
Latin America Working Group, et al., July 23, 2020
“This joint U.S.-Colombian initiative advocates for U.S. aid and stronger diplomacy to call on the Colombian government to implement the peace accord’s ethnic chapter and gender provisions, ensure justice for the victims of the armed conflict, protect human rights defenders, advance sustainable drug policy and rural reforms to reach Colombia’s small farmers and Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, end abuses by the Colombian armed forces, and dismantle the paramilitary successor networks.”

 

COVID-19

The Hill Interview: Colombian President Duque calls for multilateral COVID-19 solutions
Rafael Bernal, The Hill, July 20, 2020
“If Duque tacitly raises an eyebrow to the American approach to coronavirus, he explicitly embraces American leadership in the region, a strategy that has served Colombia well for two decades. Duque did not name-check other regional leaders who shunned a technical approach to combating coronavirus, with the exception of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, whose open disregard for democratic norms has turned him into the region’s pariah.”

Coronavirus en Colombia: van más de 7.000 muertos en el país
Semana, 21 de julio de 2020
“Con esto, la cifra total de contagios llega a 211.038 y la de casos activos es de 104.624, pues 98.840 personas se han recuperado y 7.166 han muerto desde el inicio de la emergencia en Colombia.”

COVID-19 in Colombia: Bogota begins denying critical care to elderly
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, July 19, 2020
“One 85-year-old patient was able to receive intensive care in the Simon Bolivar hospital after public pressure, but the family of an 86-year-old patient said Saturday their father was denied a promised ICU after younger patients arrived.”

Colombia’s anti-corruption team bought COVID-19 gear at motorcycle repair shop?
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, July 18, 2020
“Colombia’s prosecution and the Comptroller General’s Office bought $357,000 (COP1.3 billion) worth of face masks and other products at a shady company registered at the location of a motorcycle repair shop. Bogota‘s Security Secretary also bought COVID-19 products from the company, but for a value of $4,534 (COP16.5 million).”

Colombia Sees Bouts Of Looting As Coronavirus Fallout Puts People Out Of Work
NPR, July 17, 2020
“Sporadic episodes of looting have broken out elsewhere in Colombia, too. Four days after the gas tanker exploded, a truck loaded with fish overturned on a highway near Cartagena. Police fired shots but the looters ignored them and picked the truck clean. In Medellín in April, residents stole from a vehicle carrying humanitarian aid.”

Colombia’s Hospitals Near Capacity as Paramilitaries Enforce Coronavirus Lockdowns with Violence
Democracy Now!, July 17, 2020
“Elsewhere in Colombia, illegal armed groups have been enforcing their own quarantines in areas with limited government control, threatening civilians who fail to comply with orders by paramilitaries. Human Rights Watch reports at least nine people have been killed for defying the measures, with some residents barred from leaving their homes even if they are sick.”

Colombia: Armed Groups’ Brutal Covid-19 Measures
Human Rights Watch, July 15, 2020
“Human Rights Watch found that armed groups have informed local populations they were imposing rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in at least 11 of Colombia’s 32 states – Arauca, Bolívar, Caquetá, Cauca, Chocó, Córdoba, Guaviare, Huila, Nariño, Norte de Santander, and Putumayo. In at least five, the groups used violence to enforce compliance, and in at least another four threatened violence. The groups have communicated, usually through pamphlets and WhatsApp messages, a wide range of measures that include curfews; lockdowns; movement restrictions for people, cars, and boats; limits on opening days and hours for shops; as well as banning access to communities for foreigners and people from other communities.”

 

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Violence forces exodus of former FARC guerrillas
France24, July 21, 2020
“Their caravan of vehicles set off under government escort for Mutata, a town located hundreds of kilometers away also in the department of Antioquia. It’s the first time since the peace agreement was signed that ex-guerrillas have been forced to move for their safety. They bid farewell to their neighbors, loaded up their animals and belongings in trucks, and hit the road. There were no hugs or kisses — the novel coronavirus pandemic put paid to that.”

Condiciones de EE. UU. para ayudar a Colombia
Sergio Gómez Maseri, El Tiempo, 22 de julio de 2020
“En el caso del presupuesto del Departamento de Estado, que es donde se incluye parte de la ayuda que EE. UU. le da al país anualmente, la Cámara exige que se investigue y castigue a los responsables de espionaje dentro de las fuerzas armadas. Por otro lado, este mismo presupuesto amarra el desembolso del 20 por ciento de la ayuda antinarcóticos a que primero se certifique que los programas de erradicación que adelanta el Gobierno respetan los acuerdos del proceso de paz que se firmó con las Farc y los lineamientos que dé la Corte Constitucional en este sentido.”

Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil Internacional Apoyan CEV
17 de julio de 2020
“Desde el lugar de las víctimas va tejiendo caminos, construyendo metodologías, habilitando espacios, generando diálogos, recibiendo informes y testimonios a lo largo y ancho del país y en el exterior, para esclarecer la verdad contribuyendo de esta forma a la terminación del conflicto armado en Colombia.”

Colombia relocates village of ex-rebels as killings surge
Associated Press, July 15, 2020
“The Roman Ruiz Reincorporation Center in northwest Colombia was home to a group of ex-Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia fighters and their families, who lived in small prefabricated homes and worked on projects that included raising chickens and a coffee farm. The village’s entire population of 94 people loaded their belongings onto trucks and boarded double-decker buses to move to the banana-growing region of Uraba, where the government has rented 137 hectares (340 acres) of land for the group and promised to help them build new homes.”

 

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

‘Alianza de Eln y Maduro dificulta la paz y es traición a la patria’
El Tiempo, 20 de julio de 2020
“Maduro nos debe una explicación y también el Eln. Si esta guerrilla considera como comandante al dictador Maduro, necesita explicárselo al pueblo colombiano y tiene la responsabilidad de asumir estas consecuencias. El hecho de que esté afirmando que Nicolás Maduro es el comandante del Eln resulta un obstáculo gigantesco para la paz.”

Tras 20 días de retornar a territorio, niña indígena fue asesinada
El Tiempo, 16 de julio de 2020
“Esta comunidad indígena se había desplazado hace cerca de dos meses al casco urbano del Alto Baudó, conocido como Pie de Pato, huyendo -precisamente- de los combates entre los grupos armados. Apenas hace unos 20 días, la comunidad había retornado a sus hogares, para pasar la emergencia sanitaria de la covid-19. Sin embargo, este jueves ocurrió el ataque que terminó con la vida de uno de sus integrantes, acción que era lo que más temían.”

 

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Violencia desplazó 450 personas este fin de semana en Colombia
TeleSur, 21 de julio de 2020
“Señaló que hay mucho miedo por la intimidación, por los combates, por los enfrentamientos y los hechos violentos que han ocurrido. ‘La masacre fue el detonante para que la comunidad se desplazara a pesar de la orden de Los Rastrojos de no hacerlo’, indicó Cañizares. Según fuentes locales, en la zona hacen presencia el Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), el Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL) y bandas delictivas que se enfrentan por corredores para el narcotráfico, entre otros.”

Un ejército de agresores camuflados
Sinar Alvarado, The New York Times, 21 de julio de 2020
“Inmune al ruido y la crítica ciudadana que despertaron estos casos, el presidente de Colombia, Iván Duque, ha mantenido en sus puestos a casi todos los generales, mientras ha explicado los delitos con la manida tesis de las manzanas podridas: un reducido grupo de inadaptados que hace quedar mal a un ejército sin máculas. Pero el problema es mayor. Y no se resuelve solo separando del grupo a los autores materiales de las ilegalidades como quien extirpa un tumor para salvar al organismo sano. Para entenderlo basta revisar los casos de abuso sexual.”

Colombia: Authorities Capture Social Leaders Murders’ Suspects
TeleSur, July 16, 2020
“According to local news media, El Choco authorities detained Riosucio town councilor Ever Garcia, who was in complicity with Clan del Golfo gang. The Clan del Golfo gang paid him $690 monthly. Garcia collected extortion payments from merchants and contractors and alerted the criminal organization about police movements and operations.”

OAS silent on Colombian’s Human Rights violations
Albor Ruiz, Al Día, July 15, 2020
“The silence of the Organization of American States (OAS) with regard to the killing of those working to protect and organize the poor and the powerless in Colombia is deafening. The regional organization and its hypocritical Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, always eager to condemn Venezuela and Cuba, have not uttered a peep about such a flagrant violation of human rights. Almagro has gone as far as asking for a military invasion of Venezuela, forgetting that his position calls for him to be the main peacekeeper in the region.”

“We Need A Radical Reconstruction Of This System”: In Boston, A Black Colombian Scientist Protests Against The Racism Pandemic
A.J. Naddaff, The Intercept, July 14, 2020
“The virus itself highlights racial disparities in the U.S. health care and housing systems, killing Black Americans at 2.3 times the rate of white people. And lawmakers have begun to understand just how deadly racism can be, with state and local officials declaring it a public health emergency. For Caicedo, the pandemic of racism is far older, larger, and worthy of attention than Covid-19, he told me at the protest, where he wore two masks and regularly sprayed his homemade sanitizer onto his hands.”

Colombia: Killing of rights defenders, social leaders, ex-fighters, most serious threat to peace
United Nations, July 14, 2020
“After months of uncertainty and mounting security risks from illegal armed groups, Mr. Massieu said operations are now underway to transfer the former territorial area for training and reintegration in Ituango – where 11 former FARC-EP members and seven of their relatives were killed – to a new location in Mutatá. ‘The hopes of dozens of former FARC-EP combatants and their families, who were forced to leave due to the escalating violence, are now placed in this new site’, he said, underscoring their essential need for protection as they reintegrate into civilian life.”

 

DRUG POLICY

Colombia to kick off congressional year with cocaine decriminalization bill
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, July 20, 2020
“The cocaine regulation bill seeks strict state control over the cultivation of coca and the production of cocaine, which is currently controlled by illegal armed groups and drug trafficking organizations. While the bill does not rule out the legal export of cocaine for scientific purposes, it mainly intends to cut the finances of drug trafficking organizations and illegal armed groups like the ELN, Marulanda told newspaper El Tiempo.”

En defensa del derecho a la dosis mínima
El Espectador, 22 de julio de 2020
“Se trata de una decisión importante por dos motivos. Primero, porque reconoce que en Colombia es un derecho que tienen los ciudadanos el consumo de la dosis mínima, en ejercicio de su libre desarrollo de la personalidad. Segundo, porque también les recuerda a la Policía y de paso al Gobierno que las directrices de seguridad no pueden ser abusivas ni limitar indiscriminadamente los derechos de las personas.”

Videos: ¿Es hora de legalizar las drogas en Colombia?
Semana, 22 de julio de 2020
“El Consejo de Estado tumbó la posibilidad de decomisar la dosis mínima, a menos que se compruebe que es para la venta o se consuma en un sitio público que dañe a terceros. ¿Hay que legalizar las drogas en Colombia?”

Legalización de la marihuana: un nuevo “round”
Juan S. Lombo, El Espectador, 21 de julio de 2020
“El debate de la guerra contra las drogas es un tema recurrente en la agenda mundial. Varios expertos y políticos, entre los que están el expresidente Juan Manuel Santos, han dicho que este tipo de estrategias han generado un afianzamiento de las estructuras transnacionales del narcotráfico. Al ser declaradas ilegales y perseguir a sus productores, sus rentas pasan a financiar a las organizaciones criminales y sus ejércitos. No obstante, en el mundo viene creciendo una tendencia que plantea la legalización como salida al círculo vicioso de las últimas décadas: al permitir el expendio legal de estas sustancias, se les quita el negocio a las manos criminales y el Estado encuentra una fuente nueva de recursos.”

 

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

In Venezuela, US Sanctions Are Only Hurting
Patrick Gaspard, CNN, July 22, 2020
“The need to lift all sanctions contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is clear. Remaining sanctions, targeting corrupt and abusive officials, should align with diplomacy. Using sanctions as a scalpel, and not as a sledgehammer, the United States should actively engage in midwifing additional humanitarian agreements — such as the recent initiative with the Pan American Health Organization — that allow international assistance to reach the country, and eventually enable a path to free and fair elections.”

As Coronavirus Explodes In Venezuela, Maduro’s Government Blames ‘biological Weapon’: The Country’s Returning Refugees
Ana Vanessa Herrero, Anthony Faiola, Mariana Zuñiga, The Washington Post, July 19, 2020
More than 5 million people have fled starvation, poverty and government repression in Venezuela in recent years, with most settling elsewhere in Latin America, where the poorest have scraped out precarious lives as domestic workers, laborers and street vendors. But as the coronavirus has torn through the region, and countries from Mexico to Argentina have locked down, many of these refugees, left jobless and hungry on the streets of Quito, Lima and Bogotá, are heading home. In recent weeks, a rush of 60,000 returnees has caused bottlenecks at Colombian border-control points. Some have spilled over to illegal crossings, known as trochas, along the lawless frontier between Colombia and Venezuela.”

Stuck at Venezuela’s Border with Covid-19 All Around
Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Kathleen Page, Human Rights Watch, July 15, 2020
“Waiting to be tested isn’t the only time returnees may be at risk; returning Venezuelans with a negative antibody rapid test are required to isolate in a shelter. This makes sense because the rapid antibody test used to screen them can be falsely negative during the early and most contagious time of infection. But this also means that some people entering the quarantine shelters may be infected and, without adequate protections, could easily spread Covid-19 to others. Many quarantine shelters, which range from hotels to stadiums to abandoned schools, are overcrowded and people face unsanitary conditions, including difficulty accessing water. This has made social distancing and handwashing, two basic measures to prevent Covid-19 from spreading, nearly impossible.”

Desperate living conditions on Venezuela/Colombia border plumb new depths, amid COVID-19 fears
HelpAge International, July 20, 2020
“Most at risk are the almost 5,000 older migrants living in La Guajira. According to a survey of the region – carried out by HelpAge in January 2020 – 84% of them have no handwashing facilities and 78% have no access to safe drinking water. This has not improved since the outbreak of COVID and creates serious obstacles to protecting a population at risk from the virus. Self-isolation is almost impossible in La Guajira and there are no opportunities for quarantine. 75% of the older people have never even been consulted by a humanitarian NGO about their needs.”