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Colombia News Brief for April 1-7, 2017

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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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Yolanda Pinto, wife of slain Antioquia Governor Guillermo Gaviria, greets President Santos before signing the decrees
of the Commission of Truth and the Missing Persons Search Unit. Photo: Colombian Government

Peace Accord Implementation

• Peace Accord Implementation Advances in Colombia: Progress, But Challenges Abound
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group, April 5, 2017

“Colombia’s homicide rate is now the lowest in 40 years. Anti-kidnapping group País Libre closed its doors in March, declaring its mission completed. There were only 205 kidnappings for ransom in 2016, down from 3,500 in 2000, and more than 80 percent of kidnappings in 2016 were linked to common criminals, according to police, rather than members of guerrilla forces. This momentum towards peace in Colombia is encouraging. At the same time, there are concerning trends that must be addressed in order to ensure a lasting peace.”

Building solid foundation for peace in Colombia needs ‘consistent viligance’ – UN Envoy
UN News Centre, April 5, 2017

“While the first phase in implementing the recently agreed peace deal between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) remains largely on track, the “relatively short window of opportunity” to build a solid foundation for peace requires consistent vigilance, the United Nations envoy in that country told the Security Council today.”

Colombian Ambassador: We Have to Make Our Peace Case to Trump, U.S. Congress
Tim Padgett, WLRN, April 3, 2017

“The Obama administration pledged almost half a billion dollars to Colombia’s peace implementation. But it’s still waiting for approval in Congress. President Santos said he was confident President Trump would get it approved, but there are questions about his support for it. Do you think Colombia will see that money?”

• La Verdad, la Comisión todavía se demora
Juanita León and Juan Esteban Lewin, La Silla Vacía, 5 de abril de 2017
“Esta mañana el presidente Juan Manuel Santos lideró un evento para firmar el decreto que crea la Comisión de Verdad y la Comisión de Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas que acordaron con las Farc. Fue un evento conmovedor con las víctimas, que más allá de narrar su dolor expresaron su esperanza en que lo que arranca ahora les permitirá obtener la verdad que llevan tantos años buscando. También fue un evento que mostró el difícil camino que le espera a esa Comisión de la Verdad, que si bien ya quedó creada en un decreto, le faltan meses antes de arrancar.”

• For Colombian Rebels, a Risky Shift from Armed Revolt to Party Politics
Camille Boutron, The Conversation, April 5, 2017
“By now, the numerous hindrances to Colombia’s peace process are well documented, from the inadequate FARC centralisation zones and the tight disarmament and reintegration schedule to a much-criticised amnesty law and the frequent assassinations of Colombian human rights activists. But less attention has been paid to the FARC’s internal challenges as this half-century-old Marxist insurgency decommissions its fighters and transitions into peace. Such dynamics are important. For Colombia’s peace to stick, this violent rebel group must successfully become an officially sanctioned political actor.”

 FARC Surrenders More than Twice the Number of Child Soldiers it Said it Had
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 3, 2017

“Colombia’s largest, but demobilizing rebel group FARC has so far surrendered 57 child soldiers, more than double the “no more than 25” it said to have in its ranks ahead of the peace process.”

•  Las Farc dejan atrás sus alias
Juanita León, La Silla Vacía, 5 de abril de 2017
“Según anunció el Gobierno, el Secretariado de las Farc entregó el listado total de los 6.804 hombres y mujeres que se encuentran en las zonas de concentración y puntos veredales, con sus nombres reales, sus alias, el bloque y frente al que pertenecen, y sus cédulas. También entregó un primer listado de milicianos, que contiene un total de 1.541 integrantes. “Se espera un listado adicional”, dice el comunicado de la Oficina del Comisionado de Paz.”

•  ¿Ejército ofreció dinero a guerrilleros para que abandonen Zona Veredal de Mesetas?
Verdad Abierta, 2 de abril de 2017
“VerdadAbierta.com conoció varios audios en las que presuntos integrantes del Batallón de Infantería No. 21, con sede en Meta, invitan a subversivos de las Farc a acogerse al plan de desmovilización del gobierno y les prometen incentivo económico por las armas que logren sacar. ¿Qué ocurre?”

• “Esta marcha debe continuar”: Álvaro Uribe Vélez
Semana, 1 de abril de 2017

“El expresidente estuvo en Medellín acompañado por cerca de 50.000 paisas. Más que una protesta “contra la corrupción”, fue una jornada preelectoral para medir en la calle el rechazo a Juan Manuel Santos. Semana.com estuvo en varios puntos del país.”

 Gobierno y Eln anuncian plan de desminado humanitario
El Tiempo, 6 de abril de 2017
“Este jueves, el Gobierno Nacional y el Eln anunciaron, al cierre del primer ciclo de la Mesa de Diálogos de Paz que se adelantó en Quito (Ecuador), el desarrollo de un programa piloto de desminado humanitario.”

• Large Colombia Cocaine Seizure Points to Urabeños Strength
Leonardo Goi, InSight Crime, April 3, 2017

“Authorities in Colombia seized a multi-ton cocaine shipment belonging to Colombia’s most powerful crime group, showing that despite divisions within its leadership, the criminal organization remains a major force in the drug trade.”

• The Anti-Racist Horizon in Colombia’s Peace Process
Roosbelinda Cárdenas, NACLA, March 23, 2017

“For Colombia’s Afro-Colombian communities, a peace process that seeks social inclusion alone will not remedy centuries of anti-Black racism.”

Human Rights Issues

• Falsos positivos de Soacha: condenan a 21 militares a penas entre 37 y 52 años de prisión
Semana, 3 de abril de 2017
“Sin tropiezos, por fin se desempantanó uno de los casos judiciales más sonados desde cuando se destapó el escándalo de los falsos positivos. Este lunes, el juez primero especializado de Cundinamarca profirió la condena más amplia que hasta ahora se conoce contra los miembros de la Fuerza Pública involucrados en el asesinato de los cinco jóvenes de Soacha.”

Colombia: Prosecution Suspended on Army Killings Case
Human Rights Watch, April 5, 2017
“Colombian judicial authorities’ decision effectively suspending a closely watched murder and enforced disappearance prosecution of soldiers sets a worrying precedent, 33 Colombian and international human rights groups said today. A higher court with the power to overturn this decision should carefully consider the wider damage it could do to efforts to hold those responsible for serious human rights violations to account.”

•  “Hay un fenómeno criminal contra la paz”, advierte el defensor
Semana, April 1, 2017
“Semana conoció en exclusiva la detallada investigación que acaba de terminar la Defensoría del Pueblo sobre los atentados contra los líderes sociales y de derechos humanos en el país. El defensor Carlos Negret explica sus conclusiones.”

•  Dozens of Activists are Being Murdered in Colombia—and it’s Threatening the Country’s Fragile Peace
Luis Gallo, Fusion, April 2, 2017
“Guerilla leaders and human rights organizations are attributing these killings to right-wing paramilitary groups. They say that the murders of these activists could destabilize, and even destroy, the peace deal, which took four long years to finalize.“They are killing leaders who are supposed to implement the peace deal in their regions,” Leon Fredy Muñoz, director of Fenalpaz, an NGO that partners with rural organizations, told me. “They’re also sending a clear message they will try to kill anyone who gets in their way.”

The Mocoa Mudslide

•  More Than 250 Dead in Colombia Mudslides
Deborach Bloom, Angela Dewan, Jennifer Deaton, and Mariano Castillo, CNN, April 3, 2017
“There are no more people officially missing after mudslides in Colombia that killed at least 254, the country’s president said on Twitter Sunday.Torrential rains Friday night caused three rivers surrounding the southern Colombian city of Mocoa to overflow—sending a torrent of mud and debris surging through the city. President Juan Manuel Santos said 170 victims had been identified.”

•  Mocoa sin consuelo
Rodrigo Urrego, Semana, 4 de abril de 2017

“El lunes comenzaron a ser entregados los cuerpos a los familiares y el cementerio de la ciudad es una procesión de llanto y dolor.”

•  Warnings but No Action Preceded Deadly Flood in Colombia
Ben Fox and Alba Tobella, US News, April 5, 2017

“Government agencies, land use experts, and environmental organizations say the recent disaster in Colombia was just waiting to happen. 

•  Colombia Opens Investigation into Deadly Mocoa Landslide
BBC News, April 6, 2017
“The Colombian authorities have ordered an investigation into a deadly landslide that swept through the south-western town of Mocoa. The inquiry will focus on whether building regulations were enforced and whether officials had planned adequately for natural disasters. At least 290 people are now known to have died in Saturday’s disaster and more than 300 are still missing.” 

 *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.