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Colombia News Brief February 27 – March 5, 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.

Paolo Cinque/flickr 

SPOTLIGHT

U.S.-Colombia Anti-Drug Plan Pushes Failed Policy of Aerial Fumigation 
WOLA, March 6, 2020
“Washington, D.C.—On March 5, the United States and Colombian governments reaffirmed a bilateral agenda aimed at halving the cultivation and production of coca in Colombia by 2023. The announcement, which reflects growing alarm about record-high rates of coca cultivation and cocaine production, pushes an anti-drug strategy that includes the aerial herbicide spraying of coca-growing zones from spray aircraft dispensing the herbicide glyphosate. This policy risks causing serious harm: it may push some of Colombia’s poorest citizens deeper into poverty, generate violence and unrest, harm the environment, and detrimentally impact efforts to implement Colombia’s 2016 peace accords.”

Report: Women Coca and Poppy Growers Mobilizing for Social Change
Teresa García Castro, WOLA, February 28, 2020

“Across Latin America, women who grow coca and opium poppy often play a major role in fighting for social change in their communities. However, the importance of their role as changemakers and political actors is often overlooked. When women growers are made invisible, this impacts the effectiveness of public policies on both rural development and coca and poppy production. As outlined in a new report, Women Coca and Poppy Growers Mobilizing Women for Social Change, addressing the dearth of information about the social roles played by women growers and supporting women’s participation in political and public life is critical for the design of gender-sensitive policies that more positively benefit women growers and their communities.”

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Acoso sexual, participación política e inclusión laboral: las deudas de Bogotá con las mujeres
El Espectador, 05 de marzo de 2020

“La Veeduría Distrital presentó un panorama de la situación actual de las mujeres en la ciudad. Aunque reconoce que hay avances en materia de política pública con la creación en 2016 de la Secretaría de la Mujer, evidencia que todavía hay mucho por hacer para salvaguardar y promover los derechos de la población femenina. Hay varios pendientes en materia acoso, inclusión laboral y participación política de las mujeres en Bogotá. Así quedó evidenciado en un informe de la Veeduría Distrital que también reconoció los avances en materia de política pública con la creación en 2016 de la Secretaría de la Mujer, así como con la inclusión en la propuesta de Plan de Desarrollo de la actual administración de temas que buscan fortalecer el disfrute de derechos laborales y a la ciudad de las habitantes de Bogotá.”

Colombia criminalizing instead of protecting human rights defenders: UN rapporteur
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 5, 2020
“While failing to provide protection, Colombia’s authorities criminalize the defense of human rights, a United Nations special rapporteur said Wednesday. The report of Michel Frost, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, is the latest to fiercely criticize President Ivan Duque‘s administration. The top UN human rights concluded that ‘the vast majority of human rights defenders in Colombia are unable to work in a safe and supportive environment. They lack positive social and public recognition and are undermined and criminalized because of their human rights work by State and non-State actors. They are in danger and the risks they face have increased in the three years since the signing of the Peace Agreement.’”

Life without fear is overdue in Colombia
International Committee Of The Red Cross, March 4, 2020
“The growing number of victims of explosive devices and anti-personnel mines, the confinement of communities, ongoing forced displacement and disappearances, attacks on health-care personnel and facilities and breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL) are indicative of a critical backdrop in some regions of the country. In 2019, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recorded 352 victims of explosive devices and anti-personnel mines, 159 of whom were civilians. Accidents occurred in 13 departments of the country; Norte de Santander, Arauca and Antioquia, where 57% of the casualties were recorded, were those with the biggest increase in victims.”

Femicide in Colombia left at least 44 victims so far this year, and one girl impaled
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 4, 2020
“Despite efforts to decrease hate crimes against women in Colombia, at least 36 woman and six girls were murdered so far, according to Bogota news website 070. The student newspaper’s second monthly report on femicide in the country is nauseating as it exposes the sadistic cruelty involved in the registered cases of femicide. One 14-year-old girl was stripped naked and impaled, one 16-year-old girl was beheaded by her boyfriend and the youngest victim was only four years old. These three cases happened in February alone. The victims registered by 070 in the first two months of the year were between four and 71 years old.”

Peace eludes parts of Colombia as humanitarian situation worsens – ICRC
Oliver Griffin, Reuters, March 4, 2020
“Peace eludes many parts of Colombia and conditions worsened in 2019 as forced displacements and attacks against medical missions increased, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday. The Andean country signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016 to end the guerrilla group’s role in a more than 50-year conflict that left 260,000 dead. But armed groups including FARC dissidents and the National Liberation Army remain active, as do criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking and illegal mining. ‘The humanitarian situation has deteriorated for civilians. Over the last year, our teams noted 987 violations of international humanitarian law and other humanitarian rules,’ said Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia.”

Asesinan en Cali al escolta del líder social Leyner Palacios
Semana, 04 de marzo de 2020

“A Arley Enrique Chalar Rentería, escolta del líder social Leyner Palacios, lo asesinaron este miércoles en Cali cuando terminaba de almorzar en un concurrido sector de la capital del Valle. Según las autoridades, el crimen ocurrió exactamente a las 2:25 p.m. Sicarios lo abordaron en la carrera 46 con calle 14b, barrio La Selva, suroriente de la ciudad. Le dispararon en repetidas ocasiones y huyeron en moto. Arley no murió ahí, alcanzó a ser trasladado hasta un centro asistencial, donde falleció minutos después.”

Con su inhibición, la Corte congela avance sobre aborto pero deja la puerta abierta
Juanita León, La Silla Vacía, 03 de marzo de 2020
“Como lo anticipó La Silla Vacía, con un fallo de 6-3, la Corte Constitucional decidió no abordar la discusión de fondo sobre el aborto. Con su decisión de inhibirse, congela por ahora la posibilidad de avanzar en la lucha por la despenalización del aborto durante las primeras 16 semanas, pero no le echa llave a la puerta para reabrir la discusión en el futuro. Y, en todo caso, evita darle munición al movimiento en contra del aborto en un momento político que no era favorable para el movimiento pro-despenalización.”

Colombian farmers continue push against mining, for peace
Sandra Cuffe, Toward Freedom, March 3, 2020
“For a decade, residents of La Soledad and nearby communities, including the town of Jericó, have been battling a giant, and that battle could soon heat up. AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world’s biggest gold mining companies, has its sights set on a large-scale underground copper and gold mine in the area. Colombia’s National Environmental Licensing Authority announced in late January it had begun its review of the company’s environmental impact assessment to determine whether or not the mine can proceed.”

The Risks of Colombia’s Guerrilla-to-Entrepreneur Plan
Maria Paulina Arango, The National Interest, March 2, 2020

“Women made up nearly a quarter of the 13,000 guerrilla fighters disarmed by Colombia’s 2016 peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Though implementation has been halting, the landmark peace deal officially ended Colombia’s 52-year armed conflict with this Marxist rebel group. But even before the peace deal more than 19,000 fighters – including thousands of women – had abandoned different Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups, voluntarily or after being captured by the army.”

Colombia Upholds Abortion Laws as Legalization Battle Shifts to Argentina
Kejal Vyas, The Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2020
“Colombia’s top court Monday opted not to expand abortion rights but campaigners for the procedure now look to Argentina, where the new leftist president said he will propose a legalization bill to Congress by next week. Both countries have become the focus of abortion legalization activists working to loosen Latin America’s strict laws against the procedure. But the effort in Colombia has for the moment been put on ice after magistrates of the Constitutional Court here voted 6-3 against a motion brought by the justice handling the case, Alejandro Linares, that sought to lift all restrictions on abortion through 16 weeks of pregnancy.”

Colombia’s Duque questions U.N. report on activist killings, human rights
Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, February 27, 2020
“A United Nations report critical of Colombia’s efforts to protect human rights advocates failed to recognize advances in that area and social investment in regions suffering violence, President Ivan Duque said on Thursday. The Wednesday report, in which the U.N. decried a nearly 50% increase in killings of women human rights defenders in 2019 and asked the government to continue protection efforts, interferes in domestic issues, Duque added.”

Respuesta de Defendamos la Paz a Iván Duque
Defendamos La Paz, La Línea Del Medio, 27 de febrero de 2020

“El movimiento Defendamos La Paz hace suyas las preocupaciones consignadas en el informe de la Oficina de la Alta Comisionada de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos. Desde su instalación en 1997, esta representación de la ONU ha contribuido a prevenir, observar y visibilizar violaciones de derechos humanos mediante la documentación y la asesoría, tanto en terreno como en Bogotá. El presidente Duque ha dicho que el informe constituye una intromisión en la soberanía de Colombia. Desde Defendamos La Paz, replicamos que la defensa de los derechos humanos está por encima del principio de no injerencia en asuntos internos. Así lo han afirmado los órganos internacionales de corte universal y regional, incluyendo el Consejo de Seguridad.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

“La JEP es cómplice del terrorismo”: Marc Gonsalves, exrehén las Farc
Ingrid Betancourt, Semana, 05 de marzo de 2020

“Un profundo malestar comienza a crecer en las víctimas de las Farc. En los últimos días se hizo pública una carta en la que Ingrid Betancourt rechaza la forma como la magistrada Julieta Lemaitre ha llevado el caso de secuestro. La excandidata presidencial asegura que se han enterado por los medios que en el caso se habla de ‘retención ilegal’ y no de ‘secuestro’ y detalla el malestar que eso ha producido en quienes vivieron ese calvario. Ahora, otra voz se suma a ese rechazo, el estadounidense Marc Gonsalves.”

Colombia: Social Actors to Debate Country’s Armed Conflict
Telesur, March 4, 2020

“Representatives of all social sectors in Colombia will reflect next week on the country’s armed conflict, thanks to the initiative ‘Espacios de Escucha’ (Listening Spaces), promoted by the Truth Commission and the result of the Peace Agreement signed by the Colombian State and the former guerrilla group FARC-EP. The Truth Commission informed this Wednesday that listening spaces be held on March 9th, which will be the ideal opportunity to exchange stories and truths about the reality of the country, which is experiencing a wave of extreme violence against ex-guerrilla fighters and human rights defenders.”

FARC denounces increase in violence against former guerrillas
ANF News, March 3, 2020

“The Alternative Revolutionary People’s Force party (FARC) issued a press release to denounce the violence increase against former guerrillas. In the press release FARC leaders pointed out the ‘increasing threats and attacks against 187 former guerrilla members and more than 30 relatives, alongside the displacement of dozens of families.’ The party also acknowledged some recent dispositions of the Congress of the Republic in its peace commissions about the current situation of the ex-guerrilla fighters and their families, specifically on their security during the reincorporation process. Those guarantees are the responsibility of the High-Level Commission, a group who was requested to establish a dialogue with–with the purpose of exchange concerns and possible solutions towards this topic.”

The Risks of Colombia’s Guerrilla-to-Entrepreneur Plan
Maria Paulina Arango, The National Interest, March 2, 2020

“Women made up nearly a quarter of the 13,000 guerrilla fighters disarmed by Colombia’s 2016 peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Though implementation has been halting, the landmark peace deal officially ended Colombia’s 52-year armed conflict with this Marxist rebel group. But even before the peace deal more than 19,000 fighters – including thousands of women – had abandoned different Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups, voluntarily or after being captured by the army.”

Will Colombia’s FARC be Allowed to Clear Mines to Repair Their Victims?
Andrés Bermúdez Liévano, Justice Info, March 2, 2020

“Colombian victims want to see the former guerrillas clearing landmines. The government less so. Delays, bureaucratic hurdles and the government’s lack of urgency are preventing former combatants to do the work. As a result, one of the most tangible and powerful ways in which former FARC members can repair the damage they caused to thousands of victims of the conflict has floundered so far.”

New Murder of Ex-Guerrilla Fighter Denounced in Colombia
Telesur, February 28, 2020

“The president of the Colombian party Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) Rodrigo Londoño denounced Friday, the murder of a former guerrilla; the fourteenth ex-combatant killed so far this year. ‘Holman Fabio Montes Sánchez, 38, was shot dead in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán, in the southern department of Caquetá,’ FARC President Rodrigo Londoño, known as ‘Timochenko’ because of the alias he used during his time as a guerrilla warned on Twitter.”

DRUG POLICY

United States and Colombian Officials Set Bilateral Agenda to Reduce Cocaine Supply
The White House, March 5, 2020

“Today, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the United States Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) led a counternarcotics dialogue with the Government of Colombia to set forth a bilateral, whole-of-government joint action plan to reduce the high levels of coca cultivation and cocaine production by 50 percent by the end of 2023.”

Colombia coca eradication hampered by landmines and protests, police say
Luis Jaime Acosta and Julia Symmes Cobb, Reuters, February 27, 2020

“Landmines and protests promoted by armed groups involved in drug trafficking are major obstacles to the eradication of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, according to a Colombian anti-narcotic police chief. The Andean country, long a major supplier of cocaine, is looking to eradicate 130,000 hectares (320,000 acres) of coca this year. It will likely return to the use of aerial fumigation using the herbicide glyphosate once the government meets safety conditions set by the Constitutional Court.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

“Crisis migratoria no está siendo abordada con urgencia”: Presidente Duque a Donald Trump
Proyecto Migración Venezuela, 04 de marzo de 2020

“En su visita de este lunes a Estados Unidos, el presidente Iván Duque insistió en su mensaje del jueves pasado en una columna  publicada en The Washington Post. ‘Colombia no puede sola con los efectos de la migración venezolana.’ Y en ese sentido hizo un llamado a la comunidad internacional para abordar este fenómeno de manera urgente, ‘antes de que se salga de control.’”

* 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.