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Colombia News Brief for January 29 – February 8, 2018

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

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes with Colombian Foreign Affairs Minister Maria Angela Holguin at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on November 20, 2017. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Peace Accord Implementation

Mixed signals ahead of Tillerson’s trip to Colombia

Jack Norman, Colombia Reports, February 3, 2018 

“While officials in both countries say Colombia’s peace process tops the agenda for US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s upcoming brief trip to Bogota, there are major differences of opinion on how to accomplish that…‘We continue to support [Colombia’s] sustainable peace, but challenges do remain. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine—the source of 92% of the cocaine seized in the United States,’ Tillerson said in a Texas speech outlining his goals for this week’s trip…While Tillerson did mention the need for alternative cash crops for coca farmers, he said nothing suggesting the US was backing off its pressure for massive forced eradication in coca fields…In the US, not only is President Donald Trump’s attention riveted on investigations that threaten to undermine his hold on office, but the State Department has been drained of senior diplomats with Latin American experience and is operating with numerous vacancies in key positions…Trump is also being pressured by the right to make the fight against imported drugs his chief objective in Latin America.”

Trumping Colombia’s peace: U.S. drug war threatens fragile accord, forests

Sean Mowbray, Mongabay, February 5, 2018 

“Plan Colombia pumped nearly ten billion U.S. dollars into the South American nation to fight drug trafficking, and is lauded as a drug interdiction success story by some experts…For others, the program is seen as a disaster, a socially and environmentally destructive game of cat and mouse between law enforcement and traffickers, with farms, farmers and ecosystems sprayed aerially and widely with fumigants, especially Monsanto’s controversial glyphosate…Under President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the U.S. appears to be renewing its international War on Drugs, just as Colombia is gearing up for peace, implementing a fragile peace accord that also offers a rare opportunity to protect the country’s extraordinary biodiversity.”

What Elections Mean for Colombia’s Peace Process

Manuel Rueda, Americas Quarterly, February 1, 2018 

“In the 14 months since Colombia’s Congress signed off on peace with the FARC, President Juan Manuel Santos has had plenty to celebrate. Hostilities effectively ended, the rebels disarmed and legislators passed a bill allowing the FARC to turn itself into a legitimate political party…But with legislative elections coming in March and a presidential vote set for May, legal challenges and electoral calculation have stymied Santos’ efforts to implement key elements of the agreement – highlighting the still fragile nature of Colombia’s peace. As his time in office comes to a close, the fate of Santos’ signature achievement could fall to a successor with a vastly different view of the deal from his own.”

FARC says ELN killed three former guerrillas in southwest Colombia

Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 2, 2018 

“According to the FARC, its three members and one family member were kidnapped, tortured and murdered in La Florida, a rural community in the southwestern Nariño province…The former guerrillas called on the ELN to respond to the allegations its members were responsible for the killing…Nariño has been particularly violent. The ELN, dissident FARC guerrillas, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers are fighting over control over the vast coca plantations in the province.”


After Five Decades of Civil War, Colombia’s Healing Begins

Alma Guillermoprieto, National Geographic, January 2018 

“According to the HALO Trust, a worldwide mine-clearing organization, Colombia has consistently ranked behind Afghanistan as the country with the second highest number of mine victims in the world; mines have killed or wounded more than 11,400 Colombians since 1990…‘Land mines did more damage to campesinos than to the army,’ Álvaro Jiménez, a mine expert, told me…In a great irony of this complicated war, the FARC may turn out to be by far the cheaper of two evils, compared with the cost of controlling the savage new drug-trafficking gangs taking over the territories where guerrillas and paramilitaries once fought for control. The government estimates that 5 percent of the guerrilla forces have refused to lay down their weapons and may eventually find their way into the ranks of the so-called bacrim (short for bandas criminales). Today these gangs are mostly involved in the drug trade, but they’re slowly taking over old guerrilla and paramilitary sidelines as well: extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking.” 



Colombia’s President Santos suspends peace talks with ELN rebels

BBC News, January 29, 2018

“It comes after attacks over the weekend in northern Colombia left seven police officers dead and 47 people injured…The government says that the group was behind the three bombings…The group has admitted carrying out the worst attack but not the others. The Colombian defence minister said that all three attacks were related…Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said talks were being suspended because of a ‘lack of coherence on the part of the ELN between its words and actions.’”


El equipo negociador del Gobierno con el Eln se queda en Bogotá

El Espectador, 31 de enero de 2018

“Por un lado, desde antes que terminara el cese, el primero en cinco décadas de conflicto con esta guerrilla, el Eln manifestaba que era necesario ‘un nuevo cese al fuego’, por los incumplimientos del Gobierno durante los 101 días…La guerrilla se refiere a que el Gobierno, en su opinión, no cumplió con los puntos que le correspondían en los meses del cese, entre los que se incluye, garantías a los líderes sociales, por los asesinatos que se han presentado en los últimos meses en el país…Pablo Beltrán, jefe negociador de la guerrilla, afirmó que el Gobierno tiene una posición de ‘doble estándar’, pues ‘ellos sí pueden mantener operaciones militares ofensivas, pero las nuestras las tenemos que suspender’. Además, aseveró que el Eln ‘con amenazas no funciona’”.


Proceso de paz con el Eln, en jaque

El Espectador, 29 de enero de 2018

“¿Qué sigue ahora? Al menos en lo que tiene que ver con el presidente Santos, la decisión de poner en pausa las negociaciones de paz obtuvo un amplio respaldo en los sectores políticos y empresariales, aunque en la actual coyuntura electoral no faltan las voces críticas que piden acabar definitivamente el proceso”.


Conversaciones con el Eln: se agudiza la crisis

Verdad Abierta, 30 de enero de 2018 

“Luego de que el Frente de Guerra Urbano Nacional de ese grupo armado reconociera la autoría del atentado con explosivos que causó la muerte de siete policías este sábado en Barranquilla, la Mesa de Diálogos de Quito se congeló nuevamente, esta vez con el agravante del rechazo generalizado que produjeron esos hechos violentos en distintos sectores de la sociedad”.


ELN Peace Talks Unraveling as Post-Ceasefire Violence Continues

Angelika Albaladejo, InSight Crime, January 30, 2018

“The Colombian government’s recent decision to suspend peace talks with the ELN and escalate military action is just the latest sign that trust in the process is breaking down, potentially foreshadowing a collapse of the talks…And with elections looming, neither side appears ready to back down…The ELN’s continuing attacks have also opened questions about how unified the group might be when it comes to supporting the peace negotiations…There may also be a weakening of trust in the process among some members of the ELN in light of setbacks in the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and the FARC…The international community and the Catholic Church — both of which strongly supported the FARC-government peace talks — have called for a renewal of the ceasefire…the current administration of President Donald Trump does not appear to be throwing support behind the negotiations with the ELN.”


The national urban war front, the ELN’s elusive urban terrorist network

Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, January 31, 2018

“The National Urban War Front is the ELN‘s urban terrorist network with cells in most of Colombia’s larger cities that has been recruiting radicalized students for years…the ELN has been very secretive about its vulnerable network of urban cells…Most of the cells are highly active in public universities where they try to recruit radicalized students…The cells generally consist of only a handful of members who specialize in bomb-making…According to police intelligence, the network is commanded by a man believed to be called Jaime Galvis, a.k.a. ‘Ariel’ or ‘Lorenzo Alcatruz,’ who reportedly is one of the trustees of the ELN’s supreme commander, ‘Gabino.’”


Colombia: Bombing Near Indigenous Territory in Chocó

Amnesty International, January 31, 2018 

“While carrying out operations against the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Colombian Security Forces bombed near the Wounaan Indigenous reservation of Chagpien Tordó, in the municipality of Litoral de San Juán in Chocó, injuring a minor. Nearby communities are currently forcibly displaced as fear of new operations threaten the population.”


Las 3 cosas que revela la guerra del ELN en el Pacífico

Laura Soto, La Silla Vacía, 1 de febrero de 2018 

“Dos hechos recientes muestran que a quienes primero golpea el recrudecimiento del conflicto es a los indígenas…Si bien Santos ordenó el aumento de las acciones militares contra el ELN por los ataques a estaciones de Policía en el Caribe, la respuesta en Chocó también se debe, según un integrante de la Fuerza de Tarea Titán que trabaja en la zona, a la orden de frenar el crecimiento de este grupo que como contamos después del cese regresó recargado…Dos fuentes del sector humanitario en Chocó, un líder indígena, y un militar reconocen que el cese al fuego había aliviado a las comunidades indígenas, incluso a pesar de violaciones como el asesinato del gobernador indígena Aulio Isarama Forastero”. 


Seguridad, la asignatura pendiente en Barranquilla

Laura Ardila Arrieta and Juan Pablo Pérez, La Silla Vacía, 30 de enero de 2018

“…El economista y columnista Jairo Parada: ‘En Barranquilla y Soledad, el paramilitarismo no se movió en grandes combates, sino que lo hizo por medio de homicidios selectivos’…la ciudad [Barranquilla] vivió, hace exactamente un año, el mes de enero con las cifras de homicidios más altas de los últimos 10 años…Lo cierto es que este atentado del ELN es un punto de quiebre en el discurso que las autoridades barranquilleras habían sostenido sobre la inseguridad en la ciudad, pues ya hay otros elementos a considerar antes de afirmar que las oleadas de violencia de la ciudad son sólo producto de la delincuencia común”. 


2018 Elections

FARC leader’s first campaign rally marked by fierce protests

Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 3, 2018 

“Riot police and at least 12 bodyguards were necessary to allow safe passage for the former guerrilla leader, who had picked Armenia, the capital of his native Quindio province, for his first campaign rally…Hours before the rally, Londoño formally registered to stand trial before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the transitional war crimes tribunal…The FARC presidential candidate will be charged with at least 61 crimes including homicide, kidnapping and the recruitment of minors…The court that will investigate guerrilla and military war crimes is expected to begin public hearings after the elections.”


Peace in Colombia: FARC sues Uribe instead of trying to kill him

Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 2, 2018 

“A FARC election candidate sued Senator Alvaro Uribe on Friday. Sixteen years before the Marxists’ political debut, guerrillas killed 15 people in an attack on the former president’s inauguration…FARC candidate Manuel Garzon said he he sued Uribe after the leader of the Democratic Center party had said Garzon was ‘part of the terrorist participation’ in the trial against the former president’s brother…Santiago Uribe is in jail on claims he formed a far-right death squad. Before joining the FARC’s political party, Garzon was one of the human rights lawyer investigating the controversial Uribe family…Uribe has rejected the criminal charges as a ‘political montage.’”


Visita de Rodrigo Londoño al Quindío causa controversia en la región

El Tiempo, 1 de febrero de 2018

“El presidente del Concejo de Génova, Eider Fernando Salazar señaló que se siente ‘extrañado de que el señor Rodrigo Londoño venga a nuestro municipio, donde dejaron una estela de violencia y dolor, y donde, hasta hace unos años, era imposible viajar por el miedo. Aquí mataron campesinos y dirigentes y ahora vienen a recordarnos eso’…El concejal agregó que ‘no lo comparto, pero soy respetuoso. Creo que con esto generan más heridas en un país tan polarizado como Colombia. Uno habla con la gente y es un rechazo generalizado, como lo confirmaron los resultados de las votaciones del plebiscito, en las que ganó el ‘No’”…‘La gente no cree pero hay una cantidad de personas de izquierda en el departamento que están apoyando el proceso, campesinos que no creen en los partidos políticos tradicionales, esperamos tener una gran acogida’, contó Arias”. 


De la Calle, Running for Colombia President, Says He Can Guarantee Peace

EFE, 29 de enero de 2018 

“Humberto de la Calle is approaching the May 27 Colombian presidential election not only as a candidate for the Colombian Liberal Party but also as one who can guarantee peace with the FARC guerrillas, which he himself helped negotiate, in the face of the campaigns of two rightist candidates: German Vargas Lleras and Ivan Duque…The liberal candidate, who has a long and broad political career during which he has served as vice president, a Cabinet minister and played a key role in the 1991 Constituent Assembly, is also promising to take measures against corruption if he wins the presidency”. 


Human Rights and the Environment

Organizaciones Internacionales de la Sociedad civil rechazan los asesinatos y atentados en contra de los líderes y lideresas sociales y exigen al Estado colombiano esclarecer los hechos y sancionar a los responsables

February 5, 2018

“Las organizaciones internacionales de la sociedad civil, que suscribimos el presente comunicado manifestamos nuestra profunda preocupación por el recrudecimiento de las amenazas y atentados contra la vida de líderes y lideresas sociales en Colombia y exhortamos al Estado colombiano a dar respuestas efectivas que frenen este baño de sangre y brinden garantías para el legítimo ejercicio de su trabajo.”


Colombia’s black minority devastated after murder of iconic leader

Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, January 29, 2018

“The United Nations, which is monitoring a peace process with Marxist FARC guerrillas, condemned the attack on Twitter…More than 170 community leaders have been killed since the beginning of a peace process with the FARC in December 2016, according to independent investigators…Many communities, particularly in the countryside, are terrorized by the mass killing of their representatives that is carried out by multiple illegal armed actors…The United Nations has urged the government to effectively take control of territory abandoned by the FARC…Many of these areas have long been neglected by Colombia’s traditionally weak and corrupt state system.”


“Buenaventura es una contradicción”: Temístocles Machado

Juan Diego Restrepo, Verdad Abierta, 29 de enero de 2018

“Este líder, asesinado el pasado sábado en el barrio Isla de Paz, tenía una postura muy crítica sobre las causas de las dificultades que padecen desde hace varias décadas las comunidades más vulnerables de este puerto sobre el Océano Pacífico…‘Buenaventura es un pueblo sin ley, no funciona nada, las entidades de control no funcionan’, me dijo Temístocles, con la claridad que le daban su experiencia de lucha por mejorar las condiciones de las comunidades negras de Buenaventura…comenzó a hablar de sus cuatro preocupaciones: la entrada en operación de la Terminal de Contenedores de Buenaventura (TCBuen); la remodelación del centro de la ciudad, que comenzó con la ejecución de la primera fase del Malecón Bahía de la Cruz; las consecuencias de la construcción de la llamada Vía Alterna Interna, diseñada para el tránsito de tractocamiones; y la falta de consulta previa en los proyectos que se desarrollarán en la ciudad, tanto en la zona continental como en la insular”.


Si el asesinato de líderes sociales no es sistemático ¿Entonces qué es?

Sebastián Serrano, ¡Pacifista!, 30 de enero de 2018 

“Setenta y dos asesinatos después, el ministro de Defensa Luis Carlos Villegas insiste en que no existe ninguna sistematicidad en la matanza de los líderes sociales…Pero los números son mucho más contundentes que las explicaciones del ministro: Casi el 40 por ciento de los líderes asesinados pertenecían a  comunidades indígenas o campesinas. Otro 20 por ciento militaba en organizaciones políticas de izquierda como Marcha Patriótica y el Congreso de los Pueblos. Y el resto eran activistas de la sustitución de cultivos ilícitos y la reclamación de tierras despojadas”.


SOS. ONIC denuncia y rechaza asesinato Guardia Indígena en Choco

Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, 31 de enero de 2018 

“En materia de Derechos Humanos y Derecho Internacional Humanitario, se suman a las afectaciones históricas, que aun en el marco del Post Acuerdo de Paz ocurren y afectan a los derechos de los Pueblos indígenas y que se entienden como un riesgo inminente en contra de las comunidades y la Organización…’Reiteramos el llamado al Gobierno Nacional en cabeza del Nobel de Paz, Dr Juan Manuel Santos, y jefe máximo de las Fuerzas Armadas y por ende del Ejército Nacional y Ministerio de Defensa, pronunciarse y tomar las medidas oportunas para que no sigamos asesinados en tiempo de paz.  Hace ocho días, fueron asesinados, tipificado como falso positivo, dos dirigentes Batoy en Tame Arauca y hoy un Guardia Indígena de Paz en el Chocó.  Esperamos que este hecho, no sea reportado como otro falso positivo más”, indica Luis Fernando Arias Arias”. 

“Si me quitan el esquema de seguridad, seré asesinado en cualquier momento”

Verdad Abierta, 3 de febrero de 2018 

“Ese angustioso llamado es de Orlando Castillo, un histórico líder comunitario de Buenaventura, promotor de la creación del espacio humanitario de las víctimas de la masacre del Naya y quien ha recibido por lo menos 37 amenazas de muerte. A pesar de vivir ‘en medio de dos bases paramilitares’, la Unidad Nacional de Protección considera que no necesita escoltas ni carro blindado”. 

Letter about Peace Community

Inter-American Court of Human Rights, January 30, 2018

‘We, the undersigned organizations and international networks, address this letter to you in order to express our profound concerns at the attempt on the life of the legal representative of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, German Graciano Posso, that took place on the 29th of December in the region of Uraba (Colombia). This community has been the beneficiary of precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights since 1997 and since 2000 it has been the beneficiary of provisional measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. On the 6th of December 2016, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights declared admissible the case of presumed responsibility of the Colombian state in the multiple human rights violations1

suffered by the Peace Community from 1997 to date.”

Palm Oil Workers Strike for Recognition as Employees

Tula Connell, Solidarity Center, January 26, 2018

“More than 1,000 palm oil workers on strike outside San Alberto, Colombia are seeking recognition as employees. As subcontracted workers, they have no rights under Colombia’s labor laws, including freedom of association and the right to negotiate working conditions.”

Palms, Pineapple Farming Giving New Life to Colombians Affected by Violence

EFE, February 4, 2018 

“Sixty-year-old Gladys Ortega Rodriguez, whose husband and one of her sons were killed by Colombian paramilitaries, is a rural resident who has managed to get out of the spiral of violence that surrounded her and is now a small, but successful, palm grower…With a lively face and short hair, she is one of 11,000 peasants who decided to take advantage of the government’s ‘El Agro Exporta’ program, whereby farmers in 200 towns – 70 of them located in zones heavily affected by violence – are improving their agricultural productivity and quality and are exporting their products.”


¿Por qué ‘desmontaron’ la Unidad de Restitución de Tierras en Chocó?

Ivonne Rodríguez González, Verdad Abierta, 25 de enero de 2018 

“Mientras en la Dirección General aseguran que se trata de medidas de fortalecimiento, los reclamantes, organizaciones no gubernamentales y abogados advierten que esa supresión debilita los procesos de restitución y obedece a presiones políticas y económicas. Líderes de la Iglesia Católica, incluso, hablan de una doble moral del gobierno nacional”.


Key witness in Colombia’s super corruption trial survives poisoning attempt and rabies

Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 1, 2018

“Moreno fears for his life as his testimonies implicate the very top of Colombia’s legislative and judicial branches…According to the former chief anti-corruption prosecutor, he facilitated bribes from senators and representatives to corrupt members of the Supreme Court…Moreno was arrested in August last year after the US’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) caught the admittedly corrupt top prosecution official red handed while facilitating a bribe…The US claims spurred the biggest corruption scandal since the imprisonment of more than 60 congressmen for using paramilitary groups to coerce voters in the early 2000s…With elections held this year, faith in Colombia’s corruption-ridden public institutions has dropped to record lows.”


Rearmados de toda clase amedrantan a los indígenas de Suárez

Verdad Abierta, 1 de febrero de 2018 

“Los pobladores de ese municipio del norte de Cauca, que en el pasado padecieron las acciones del Frente 6 de las Farc, ahora son intimidados por hombres de antiguos grupos guerrilleros y paramilitares. Por esa razón, les piden a sus líderes que activen nuevamente el Plan Minga Resistencia, un mecanismo de atención humanitaria que crearon para afrontar los momentos más difíciles del conflicto armado”.


Shifting Criminal Dynamics Signal Violent Future for Colombia-Venezuela Border

InSight Crime, January 29, 2018 

“Venezuela’s continued descent into chaos and the shake up of Colombia’s criminal world after the demobilization of the FARC is causing criminal dynamics along the Colombia-Venezuela border to take new form…‘The ELN and FARC dissidents control the illegal criminal economies on the Colombia-Venezuela border,” Tarazona told InSight Crime. “The Maduro administration allows these groups to operate on both sides of the border and is complicit in their criminal activities. The Cartel of the Suns works with ELN guerrillas and FARC dissidents to move drugs through the border…According to Tarazona, Colombian criminal groups are recruiting fleeing members of the colectivos, in addition to children and teenagers, to use in their criminal operations. As more colectivo members flee Venezuela and fall into the hands of Colombian criminal groups, Tarazona told InSight Crime that this will “cause more conflict” on the border.”


Jóvenes colombianos luchan en los tribunales para salvar la Amazonia

Sally Palomino, El País, 30 de enero de 2018 

“Un tribunal deberá resolver la petición de 25 niños y jóvenes colombianos entre siete y 26 años que esperan que la justicia le ordene al Gobierno reducir a cero la tasa de deforestación en la Amazonia. Lo que piden es que Colombia cumpla con una de las promesas que hizo en la Cumbre del clima de París de 2015, cuando se puso como plazo 2020 para frenar la deforestación…DeJusticia, un centro de estudios políticos y jurídicos que acompaña la acción legal, argumenta con números la necesidad de que el Estado asuma su compromiso. Según el último reporte del Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales (Ideam) en 2016 la deforestación en Colombia creció 44%. El país perdió 178.597 hectáreas de bosque, el 39% concentrado en la Amazonia”. 


Young Colombians file landmark climate lawsuit

Anastasia Moloney, Reuters, January 29, 2018

“The lawsuit, filed at a Bogota court, alleges the government’s failure to stem rising deforestation in Colombia puts their future in jeopardy and violates their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water…”Deforestation is threatening the fundamental rights of those of us who are young today and will face the impacts of climate change the rest of our lives,” the 25 plaintiffs, whose ages range from seven to 26, said in a joint statement…It is the first climate change litigation in Latin America, according to the Bogota-based rights group, Dejusticia, which is supporting the plaintiffs’ case…The Colombia lawsuit calls on the government to halt deforestation in Colombia’s Amazon and keep to its promises…Despite the government’s pledges, deforestation in Colombia’s Amazon region rose 23 percent and across the country increased by 44 percent from 2015 to 2016…Experts say Colombia’s rainforests are under increasing threat with once no-go conflict areas opening up for development and criminal gangs cutting down trees for illegal gold mining.”


Innocent conflict victims or guerrillas? Colombia’s indigenous minority vs the military

Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, January 31, 2018 

“Colombia’s military has clashed with several indigenous nations this week, claiming that killed and injured civilians were guerrillas or criminals…In at least three military operations three men were killed and one 16-year-old girl was injured by the military…Days earlier, two members of the Betoy people were killed by soldiers in a second dispute. The ONIC rejected a military claim that the men were members of guerrilla group ELN…The indigenous organization also asked peace observers to investigate the injury of a 16-young girl after a bombing meant for the ELN struck a second indigenous community in Choco…State neglect, one of the causes of armed conflict in Colombia, often is rife in the remote areas where indigenous and black communities often live.”


Horrors of war return to western Colombia

Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, January 30, 2018

“Western Colombia looks again to be plunged into the horrors of war as local indigenous leaders denounce a bombing that took place on Tuesday morning leaving two communities stranded…Ombudsman Carlos Negret, who is currently touring the region expressed his deep concern at the growing humanitarian crisis and assured that he will be requesting the presence of the Armed Forces in the area as soon as possible…Thousands of indigenous and Afro-Colombian inhabitants of the region have already been displaced…The area has largely been abandoned by the Colombian state but human rights organizations like Amnesty International continue to lobby for a tangible effort to be made to deal with the illegal groups and to restore basic human rights to its inhabitants.”



The Narco War in Colombia Is Not Over. Trump’s Policies Are Fueling the Fire.

Daily Beast, January 30, 2018 

“Nationwide there were 170 social leaders assassinated in 2017, an increase of about a third from the year before…According to Sauca, 32 community officials were killed in the Cauca region last year. In recent months hundreds of families have been displaced in the state, which is a hotbed of coca production and illegal gold mining. In addition to the leftist ELN guerrillas, Cauca is also home to a dozen other armed actors…State security forces frequently turn a blind eye to such problems, citing lack of resources and mobility…In September POTUS threatened to blacklist Colombia as a narco state on the order of Bolivia or Venezuela—which would cost the country millions of dollars per year in U.S. aid—if the Santos administration didn’t step up its coca-crop eradication efforts…The heavy-handed approach pushed for by Trump and company culminated in a police massacre of cocaleros last October near the Pacific port city of Tumaco…Sauca pointed out that the majority of civilians killed, displaced, and sometimes claimed as falsos positivos over five decades of conflict have been poor campesinos and disenfranchised native peoples.”


Illegal armed groups impeding Colombia’s counter-narcotics strategy: minister

Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, February 5, 2018 

“Post-Conflict Minister Rafael Pardo told local media that the problem is greatest in the southwestern Cauca province where multiple armed groups ‘have prevented in some cases the verification of families who have registered for the program.’…The substitution program affects the income of illegal groups,’ said Pardo…The United Nations was forced to shut down verification of progress in the southern Caqueta province last week after a team of observers was attacked by dissident FARC guerrillas…Without verification by the UN, families taking part in the crop substitution program cannot receive the stipend that helps them survive while awaiting their first legal harvest…In some areas, community leaders who promote crop substitution have been assassinated by illegal armed groups”. 


Mexican Cartels in Colombia: Setting up Shop or Seeking New Partners?

Victoria Dittmar and Josefina Salomón, InSight Crime, January 31, 2018 

“Colombian authorities have claimed that Mexican cartels are attempting to establish themselves in the South American country. However, the presence of suspected cartel members in Colombia is more likely an indication that Mexican organized crime groups are seeking new partners to fill the vacuum created by FARC’s demobilization and the Urabeños’ decline, two of their closest allies…The presence of suspected members of Mexican organized crime groups in Colombia should not be understood as an indication that Mexican cartels are attempting to seize control of the country’s drug trade.”


* 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.