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Colombia News Brief, April 15 – April 30

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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: Jesuit Refugee Service International / Flickr

COVID-19

‘Coronavirus used as excuse to roll back Colombia’s peace process and democracy’
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 29, 2020
“President Ivan Duque and his far-right party are using the coronavirus to cover up ‘assaults’ on Colombia’s peace process while promoting authoritarianism, the country’s peace movement told the United Nations on Tuesday.”

Indigenous in Colombia take on armed groups – and coronavirus
Hanna Wallis, Al Jazeera, April 28, 2020
“More than 15,000 unarmed guardians from the Guardia Indigena (Indigenous Guardians or Guards), a civilian, community defence force, have mobilised throughout the country to prevent the virus from reaching Indigenous reserves, enforcing the command #QuedateEnElTerritorio, or ‘stay in the territory.’”

A pandemic of corruption: $40 masks, questionable contracts, rice-stealing bureaucrats mar coronavirus response
Anthony Faiola and Ana Vanessa Herrero, The Washington Post, April 26, 2020
“There, he bought the same products for roughly half the supposedly bulk-rate prices being paid by the government of Cesar state. The comparison shopping prompted one of what is now 14 coronavirus-related criminal probes in Colombia. The South American country is one of many around the world now seeing a surge in corruption allegations.”

Out of work and hungry, Colombians protest during Covid-19 lockdown
Chloé Lauvergnier, France24, April 23, 2020
“These protests have been gaining momentum in recent days, especially in the poorest and hardest-hit neighbourhoods in Bogota, Medellin and Cali. According to reports by local media and posts on social media, authorities haven’t distributed any food at all in some of these neighbourhoods. And even when they do, families say it isn’t enough.”

Fallece el primer indígena en Colombia por coronavirus
Mauricio Moreno, El Tiempo, 23 de abril de 2020
“En este escenario, dice la Onic, que se hace pertinente aunar esfuerzos con instituciones científicas y académicas independientes que permitan tener una valoración más objetiva de la pandemia en el país y realizar la respectiva incidencia para que los planes de contingencia elaborados por los pueblos y naciones indígenas sean apoyados por parte del gobierno nacional”.

Bogota’s supermarkets become safe spaces for women to report abuse
Anastasia Moloney, Reuters, The Jakarta Post, April 23, 2020
“Women in Colombia’s capital city facing domestic abuse can seek help in hundreds of supermarkets and pharmacies as part of a new campaign launched on Wednesday to tackle the rise in gender violence under the coronavirus lockdown.”

Grupos armados impiden llegar alimentos a indígenas colombianos
TeleSUR, 22 de abril de 2020
“La Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (Onic) denunció que diversas comunidades enclavadas en el departamento del Chocó se encuentran desde el pasado lunes confinadas por grupos armados ilegales, los que restringen su movilidad… Estas comunidades se están viendo imposibilitadas de tener acceso a los alimentos producto del actuar del personal armado”.

Colombia Extends Coronavirus Lockdown Until May 11, but Some Sectors to Reopen
Reuters, The New York Times, April 20, 2020
“’The construction sector – with very specific protocols – can start its work and the industrial manufacturing sector, which is important not just to attend to many things related to COVID-19 but also to attend to the needs of citizens, can also operate,’ he said. The government may allow other sectors to eventually return to work, Duque said, but will take measures if coronavirus cases increase or the health system becomes overwhelmed.”

Violence against women up amid Latin America COVID-19 lockdowns
Megan Janetsky, Al Jazeera, April 20, 2020
“Despite orders from Colombian President Ivan Duque for local governments to provide resources to women and children faced with domestic violence, one report found that 590 police forces in Colombia lack basic infrastructure like the internet to take domestic violence calls. Instead, it has fallen to aid organisations to fill that gap, developing new digital tools to address the new territory they have been thrust into.”

Colombia: Indigenous Peoples will die from COVID-19 or from hunger if the state does not act immediately
Amnesty International, April 17, 2020
“In these semi-nomadic communities, isolation measures exacerbate their situation of vulnerability because they cannot access their means of subsistence as they cannot move within their territories. Moreover, these are Indigenous Peoples believed to be on the brink of physical and cultural extinction.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Colombia to offer legal benefits to those who leave gangs
Julia Symmes Cobb, Reuters, April 29, 2020
“Those who voluntarily surrender will get legal benefits like reductions in jail sentences and access to an up to six-year reintegration process that includes economic support. There will not be pardons or amnesties for those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity like the use of landmines, Ceballos said.”

Mothers of murdered sons fight for justice in Colombia
Steven Grattan, BBC News, April 23, 2020
“False positives is the name given to the killings of young men – mainly from poor families in Bogotá and its surroundings – carried out by the Colombian army. The army’s aim was to pass them off as left-wing Farc rebels to boost its kill rate and give the impression it was winning the armed conflict against the group. The victims were lured to rural parts of Colombia with promises of job opportunities, and their bodies were later found dead in mass graves.”

Desmovilizados antes del Acuerdo de Paz recibirán apoyo económico
Javier Alexander Macías, El Colombiano, 18 de abril de 2020
“El Gobierno nacional determinó que a 3.193 personas que dejaron la ilegalidad antes del Acuerdo de Paz con las Farc, entregaron las armas de manera colectiva o individual y ya no recibían algún tipo de ayuda, era necesario entregarles el auxilio de 160.000 recibidos por otros colombianos para mitigar la cuarentena decretada hasta el 27 de abril”.

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

Carta abierta al presidente Iván Duque: Acuerdo Humanitario Global COVID19   
Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, 29 de abril de 2020
“Por tercera ocasión nos dirigimos a usted, nuevamente en nombre de la Virgen de Chiquinquirá que usted invoca a escuchar, si no nuestras voces, ni la de cientos de comunidades y de iglesias; sí, al Papa Francisco, el Secretario General de Naciones Unidas, para concretar el llamado de ellos con un cese de operaciones ofensivas mientras termina esta situación de emergencia por la pandemia COVID19”.

Colombia’s ELN rebels scrap ceasefire
AFP, France24, April 27, 2020
“Colombia’s last active rebel group said Monday it will resume its guerrilla war on May 1, ending a one-month unilateral ceasefire over the coronavirus pandemic. The ELN said in a statement it was resuming military operations because of a lack of response to its March 30 ceasefire announcement by the conservative government of President Ivan Duque.”

¿Qué ha pasado con el cese el fuego del Eln?
Ricardo Monsalve Gaviria, El Colombiano, 27 de abril de 2020
“‘El alivio en términos humanitarios es muy importante, son más de 40 días en los cuales las comunidades no están sometidas a hechos activos de violencia. Claro que no ha desaparecido la amenaza de este grupo que ejerce el terrorismo, que recluta, que instala minas, que secuestra; pero el hecho que no se den acciones intencionales representa un alivio enorme para muchas comunidades’, afirma Jorge Restrepo, director del Cerac”.

Colombia: ELN Invites President Duque to Resume Peace Talks
TeleSUR, April 17, 2020
“‘Although the government froze conversations, we always keep channels open. They have to step in, sit down, and talk. There is an urgent need for a ceasefire,’ the ELN negotiating team head Israel Ramirez said.”

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Al menos 19 defensores de derechos humanos han muerto en Colombia en 2020
La Vanguardia, 24 de abril de 2020
“El portavoz Rupert Colville calificó de “profundamente preocupante” la situación concreta del departamento del Cauca, en el sur del país, donde al menos 13 activistas de derechos humanos han sido asesinados desde el comienzo del año, tres de ellos en los últimos días”.

Press freedom in Colombia deteriorated in 2019 amid persistent aggression and self-censorship
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 22, 2020
“The freedom of the press deteriorated in Colombia last year as journalists continued to suffer violence and abuse by illegal armed groups, public officials and even their own bosses, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Particularly reporting on ‘the environment, public order, armed conflicts, corruption or collusion between politicians and illegal armed groups elicits systematic harassment, intimidation and violence,’ according to RSF.”

Colombia: Not Even the Pandemic Halts Killing of Social Leaders
TeleSUR, April 18, 2020
“Colombia’s National Agrarian Coordinator (CNA) denounced that social leader Teodomiro Sotelo was assassinated on Friday while working on his farm in the El Tambo municipality. ‘Armed individuals entered his property to murder him in front of his family and workers,’ local outlet El Colombiano reported and recalled that several farmers are migrating out of the area to avoid being new victims of violence.”

DRUG POLICY

Una audiencia virtual no daría validez al regreso del glifosato en Colombia, dicen organizaciones
El Espectador, 28 de abril de 2020
“Ante la intención del Gobierno de reactivar las fumigaciones con glifosato durante la cuarentena, organizaciones sociales se opusieron a que la audiencia se dé manera virtual. Creen que se estaría utilizando la emergencia de sanitaria para dejar por fuera a los sectores que se oponen al regreso del herbicida”.

Colombia Pushes Coca Eradication During COVID-19 Pandemic
Washington Office on Latin America, April 23, 2020
“Even while imposing a strict national quarantine, the Colombian government has launched more intense and aggressive coca eradication operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. These operations, which often require the deployment of public security forces without appropriate protective equipment, have sparked long-standing tensions in six Colombian departments.”

Insisten al Gobierno en que haga ya las fumigaciones aéreas de cultivos ilícitos
El Universal, 20 de abril de 2020
“Otra voz crítica al gobierno la dio el dirigente uribista, Fernando Londoño, quien se pregunta por qué el ministro Trujillo no ha dado la orden para adelantar la fumigación de las 250.000 hectáreas de coca que hay en el país, aprovechando que los narcotraficantes están supuestamente quietos”.

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Colombia Prevents Venezuelans from Returning to Their Country
TeleSUR, April 27, 2020
“The Colombian authorities have prevented nearly 12,000 Venezuelans from returning to their country, leaving them stranded on their side of the border… According to Colombian immigration authorities, not allowing the border crossing is a measure to avoid crowding at exit points.”

More than half of Venezuela’s refugees in Colombia at risk of starvation: UN
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 23, 2020
“The coronavirus pandemic has put an estimated 900,000 Venezuelan migrants in Colombia at imminent risk of starvation, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP). This is more than half of the Venezuelans who have settled in Colombia since their country entered a humanitarian crisis in 2015, according to estimates by the International Organization.”

How Bogota is combatting child begging
Sarah Hucal, ABC News, April 20, 2020
“Some 14% of Venezuelans arriving in Colombia rely entirely on begging to sustain themselves, according to UNHCR. Some bring their children with them as a means of generating greater empathy and therefore, more funds. In the past year, Colombian media have revealed that Venezuelan families have been preyed on by organized crime rings, which offer desperate parents money to rent out their children, including babies, lending them to others who hope to earn more money by having a small child with them.”