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Colombia News Brief for April 1 – April 15, 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: MedGlobal / Flickr


The Advocate: Spring 2020
Latin America Working Group, April 22, 2020
“Like many of you, we are under stay-at-home restrictions due to COVID-19. But from our homes we are doing our best to advance our mission: demanding just U.S. policies towards Latin America and the Caribbean. The latest issue of our newsletter, The Advocate, is now online!”


Colombia to put 4,000 prisoners on house arrest to curb coronavirus spread in jails
Julia Symmes Cobb, Reuters, April 15, 2020
“The measure is directed at prisoners who are pregnant, disabled or over age 60, women prisoners with children under age three, and those with cancer, diabetes or cardiac problems – conditions that often lead to bad outcomes if they contract the virus. Prisoners who have sentences of up to five years and who have completed 40% of their sentences are also eligible for the house arrest program, according to a government decree.”

To Beat the Virus, Colombia Tries Separating Men and Women
Julie Turkewitz, New York Times, April 15, 2020
“Bogotá, Colombia’s capital and largest city, joined Panama this week in instituting a gender-based virus-prevention measure designed to limit the number of people in the streets. On odd-numbered days, men can leave the house to seek out essentials. On even-numbered days, it’s the women’s turn.”

UN Colombia Envoy: Ex-Combatants Making Masks Amid Pandemic
Associated Press, The New York Times, April 14, 2020
“On a positive note, Ruiz Massieu said the National Reintegration Council approved three new collective projects on April 2 including a textile cooperative led by 22 former combatants — 11 men and 11 women — which has begun producing face masks to respond to COVID-19. He said eight other former combatants’ cooperatives have also initiated efforts to make face masks.”

Colombia: Police Abuse Becomes Common During COVID-19 Outbreak
TeleSUR, April 13, 2020
“Social media users shared videos showing police imposing arbitrary and random fines during the quarantine period in Colombia this past week. Colombian officers are also intimidating citizens who are seen outside of their homes.”

Finance minister expects ‘worst year in Colombia’s economic history’
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 13, 2020
“In an interview with newspaper El Espectador, Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla said that he had lowered his economic growth projection from +3.7% to between -1.5% and -2%. This would be the first contraction of the economy since the country’s financial crisis in 1999 that triggered the bankruptcy of multiple banks and mass home evictions.”

In Colombia, Silence Is The Price Paid For Coping With Coronavirus
Andrew Wright, Forbes, April 12, 2020
“For the vast majority of working class Colombians – and the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants in the country – working from home is not an option. For those with an empanada stand, fruit cart or other informal work, if they don’t leave the house, they don’t eat.”

Las divisiones de género durante la pandemia violentan los derechos de la población trans
Nathalia Guerrero Duque, Washington Post, 12 de abril de 2020
“A pesar de que las razones que dan los gobernantes sobre cómo esta norma facilita el control y el trabajo de la Policía en las calles, el binarismo de la norma violenta a poblaciones trans, personas con identidades de género no binarias y demás identidades disidentes, como ya se vio en Perú y Panamá”.

COVID-19 and Human Rights in Colombia
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America, April 10, 2020
“In this update, we include information received from our partners with their view on how the pandemic is affecting their communities, along with concerning reports of ongoing killings, attacks, and threats against social leaders; armed conflict; insecurity; and other abuses. Sadly, despite the national quarantine in Colombia, killings and attacks on social leaders and armed confrontations continue and have become more targeted.”

Indigenous Groups Isolated by Coronavirus Face Another Threat: Hunger
Julie Turkewitz, The New York Times, April 9, 2020
“So far, there is just one case of the virus in La Guajira. But Colombia’s nationwide quarantine has paralyzed the department’s tourism and trade economies, shuttering businesses based around small urban centers and leaving parents unable to buy the week’s rice, fish or cornmeal.”

Coronavirus e inequivirus
Gustavo Gallón, El Espectador, 9 de abril de 2020
“Urge tomar medidas inmediatas para contener el daño durante el coronavirus, pero deben asimismo diseñarse correctivos para tener condiciones de desarrollo más equilibradas en el futuro frente al virus de la inequidad (o inequivirus)”.

Third of this year’s femicides in Colombia happened during quarantine: prosecution
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 7, 2020
“Twelve women did not survive the first two weeks of Colombia’s ongoing quarantine, the prosecution said Monday as domestic violence is becoming a growing concern. According to Vice-Prosecutor General Martha Janeth Mancera, her office registered 37 cases of femicide since the beginning of the year, almost one third of which took place in the past two weeks.”

Grupos armados aprovechan la cuarentena para asesinar a indígenas y defensores en Colombia
Antonio José Paz Cardona, El Espectador, 6 de abril de 2020
“‘Ellos [los indígenas], junto con los campesinos, son uno de los liderazgos más perseguidos en el país. Sus luchas tienen mucho que ver con territorio y medio ambiente. Están en un riesgo muy grande en este momento’, dice Muñoz”.



UN Worried About Attacks Against Ex-FARC Members
TeleSUR, April 14, 2020
“The United Nations also discussed the recent violence affecting Colombia, as members of the Peace Mission attended a meeting that discussed the latest attacks against the ex-FARC members inside the South American country. ‘I am especially concerned about the situation in the Putumayo department, including the situation of the social leaders, leaders of substitution of illicit crops and ex-combatants,’ the U.N. Mission said.”

Colombia hopes for ‘humanitarian’ ceasefire during coronavirus as violence resurges
Shauna N. Gillooly, The Conversation, April 10, 2020
“Following the United Nations’ appeal on March 24 for a global ceasefire while the coronavirus crisis lasts, the ELN – Colombia’s largest active guerrilla group – declared a monthlong ceasefire as a ‘humanitarian gesture.’ So far, other armed groups have not heeded the call. Humanitarian workers worry that aid to the country may start to dry up with supplies from the U.S. and Europe being redirected to their domestic coronavirus response.”



Caffeinated conservation: Colombian farmers switch coca for coffee to protect wildlife
Oliver Griffin, Reuters, April 9, 2020
“Yet this ecosystem is threatened by mining and drug cultivation. Not long ago, crops of coca, the chief ingredient in cocaine, were rooted where Barajas’ coffee plants grow. Now, Colombian environmental group WebConserva is leading a first-of-its kind project bringing together farmers in San Lucas and roasters across Colombia to produce coffee from plantations that build protective borders around forests to shield the biodiversity within.”

Ni el confinamiento frenó la mala calidad del aire y los incendios forestales
Antonio José Paz Cardona, Mongabay Latam, ¡Pacifista!, 6 de abril de 2020
“La dramática reducción de emisiones provenientes del transporte hacía pensar que la contaminación disminuiría, pero los incendios en la Amazonía, la Orinoquía y el Caribe no han permitido que eso suceda con la velocidad que se esperaba”.

UN favors measures to end violence in Colombia
Prensa Latina, 1 de abril de 2020
“Guterres noted that the top priority in 2020 is the adoption of all necessary measures to end the tragedy of the assassinations of social leaders, human rights defenders and former combatants who joined the civil life.”



Q&A: Putting U.S. Counterdrug Operations in the Caribbean in Context
Adam Isacson, Geoff Ramsey, and David Smilde, Washington Office on Latin America, April 3, 2020
“During an April 1 press briefing on the U.S. response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump announced new deployments of ships and aircraft to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, describing the move as necessary amid the pandemic due to the ‘growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists, and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain’ … We’ve prepared the following factsheet to place the announcement into perspective.”

La operación antidrogas de Trump apunta a Venezuela
Francesco Manetto, El País, 5 de abril de 2020
“Tumaco y Buenaventura. Dos municipios colombianos devastados por décadas de violencia. Dos plazas clave para el tráfico internacional de drogas en el país que más hoja de coca produce en el mundo. Ambos están a orillas del Pacífico, un territorio donde se inicia el 70% del tráfico marítimo de cocaína en esa región”.



Coronavirus brings new worries for Venezuelans in Colombian shanty town
Dylan Baddour and Pu Ying Huang, The New Humanitarian, April 14, 2020
“These images offer a glimpse of life in Alfonso Gómez – an informal community with winding dirt paths that is outside the jurisdiction of any local government. The wild, open area was claimed by an armed group that then allowed people to settle on it, transforming the land into an expanse of mishmashed tarp homes and dirt roads.”

‘Nothing left’: Venezuelans head home amid coronavirus pandemic
Manuel Rueda, Al Jazeera, April 6, 2020
“Thousands of Venezuelan migrants who work in the informal economy have lost their jobs – and in some cases been evicted from their homes – as Colombia and other nearby countries impose strict social distancing measures. With no other options, some are starting to make the journey back to Venezuela on foot or rides from cargo trucks as their savings give out and they find no other options to return to Venezuela.”