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Colombia News Brief for April 14-24, 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. Throughout the summer months, dependent on the capacity of LAWG, the Colombia News Brief will be sent out either weekly or bi-weekly.

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Source: La Cultura Nuestra

The Politics of Peace

• La carta que Uribe envió al Congreso de EE.UU.
El Espectador, 16 de abril de 2017

“En la misiva, enviada este domingo, el expresidente asegura que “la situación de riesgo de Colombia” tiene vínculos con la crisis que está viviendo Venezuela. Critica una vez más el acuerdo de paz y las decisiones del Gobierno Santos”.

• Álvaro Uribe’s Questionable “Message to U.S. Authorities” About Colombia’s Peace Effort
WOLA, April 18, 2017

“On Easter Sunday Colombia’s former president, Álvaro Uribe, wrote a blistering attack on Colombia’s peace accords with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas. He sent it in English as a “message to the authorities and the Congress of the United States of America.” It went to every U.S. congressional office, as well as to Washington’s community of analysts, advocates and donors who work on Colombia.”

• Secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago raises questions about Colombia peace and Trump
Franco Ordoñez and Anita Kumar, Miami Herald, April 20, 2017
“White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer initially declined to answer questions about the meeting, leading to a rash of speculation in Colombian media. Colombian newspapers, websites and radio stations debated the meeting’s significance — and whether it actually had happened. “I don’t have anything for you at this time,” Spicer said Wednesday when asked. The White House later confirmed the meeting to McClatchy but downplayed its significance, saying it was a mere coincidence that both former leaders opposed to the peace pact were at the president’s club. Aides to Rubio declined to comment.”

 • Rubio denies setting up secret Mar-a-Lago meeting between Trump, former Colombian presidents
CBS News, April 22, 2017
““I’m a big fan of President Uribe,” Rubio said. “I didn’t even know he was in Florida. And beyond it, I would say to you, I don’t see what the problem is. But my understanding is it wasn’t even a meeting. My understanding is that President Uribe and the former President [Pastrana] happened to head over to the Mar-a-Lago and bump into the president while he was there. But I didn’t even know President Uribe would be in Florida.””

• The Four Proven War Crimes that have Uribe Against the Wall
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 17, 2017
“While Uribe enjoys presidential immunity for alleged war crimes committed between 2002 and 2010, the president is also embroiled in investigations of war crimes for which he would enjoy no immunity.”

• Asesinan al primer miembro de las FARC
Semana, 19 de abril de 2017
“Tras la firma del acuerdo de paz la guerrilla denunció que Luis Alberto Ortiz Cabezas fue atacado en zona rural de Tumaco quince días después de recuperar su libertad”.

• Colombia’s FARC Demands Security Guarantees After Member Killed
TeleSUR, April 20, 2017
“In a statement, the FARC said the murder of Ortiz Cabezas demonstrates “the permanence of paramilitaries in the territories and undermines the confidence in the real guarantees of security to the life and integrity of the people — (guarantees) that are ultimately the exclusive responsibility of the state.””

• Colombians are Fed up with Government Corruption
Fabio Andres Diaz for The Conversation, US News, April 17, 2017
“Civil unrest seems to be the order of the day – and the coming weeks – in Latin America. The sprawling Odebrecht bribery scandal that started in Brazil is now complicating life in many neighboring nations. In Colombia, recent reports reveal that the Brazilian construction company has been bribing the country’s public officials since 2010. With the 2018 presidential campaign heating up, the revelation is spurring dissatisfaction with President Juan Manuel Santos and imperiling the country’s fledgling peace process.”

• Not Another Betrayal 
Kieran Duffy, Jacobin, April 13, 2017

“Since the peace process began, twenty-eight community leaders have been murdered. Despite this, the anger of the Colombian public has long been primarily directed at the FARC. Many in urban centers are unaware of the widespread war crimes and displacements carried out by or with the backing of the state. (Unsurprisingly, the people most likely to support the peace deal are those in remote areas most affected by the war.) Many millions of Colombians firmly back Uribe in his opposition to the peace process, believing it to be a sellout to terrorists or a communist takeover of the country.”

• ‘Another Round of Whack-a-Mole’: Decoding the White House’s Tough Talk on Cartels
Alan Pyke, Think Progress, April 18, 2017

“To many drug policy experts familiar with this basic reality of the drug market, the conclusion is obvious: To kill the profitability of the drug trade, legalize the drugs. Yet while Kelly’s pronouncements that marijuana isn’t a big deal to the drug trade and that “the solution is not arresting a lot of users” might carry the whiff of an upheaval, the follow-through never materialized. He used the same observation about drug economics to call for doubling down on failed policies: Teaching kids not to do drugs, and going after drug organizations even harder.”

Peace Accord Implementation

• Acuerdos de paz: algo no va del todo bien
Semana, 15 de abril de 2017

“Todos están de acuerdo con que Colombia ha mejorado su situación radicalmente si se compara con las décadas pasadas, cuando el país estaba al borde del colapso y bañado en sangre. También existe un importante consenso en que el país tiene grandes capacidades institucionales. Justamente por eso resulta alarmante que se vea difícil tan pronto la implementación de los acuerdos en aspectos que parecen fáciles, o apenas prácticos, como la instalación de las zonas veredales para el desarme de las Farc, la puesta en marcha de la Ley de Amnistía o la reincorporación de 7.000 guerrilleros”.

• ¿Proyecto de ley de tierras contradice el Acuerdo de Paz?
María Alejandra Medina, El Espectador, 20 de abril de 2017
“La propuesta para las tierras que hace el Gobierno es considerada por la oposición como una “traición” al acuerdo final con las Farc. El borrador, dicen sus defensores, da prioridad a la población vulnerable”.

• Primeros reparos al proyecto que reforma la ley de tierras
El Tiempo, 19 de abril de 2017

“En una carta firmada por cinco congresistas y siete organizaciones sociales como la Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, se hacen 14 advertencias sobre la supuesta inconstitucionalidad del proyecto y además se afirma que va en contravía de lo acordado en La Habana”.

• ‘Nos tocará prorrogar el ‘fast track’ algunos meses más’: Cristo
El Tiempo, 17 de abril de 2017
“El ministro del Interior, Juan Fernando Cristo, se mostró confiado en que con las recomendaciones que presentará este lunes la Misión Electoral Especial, creada en el marco del acuerdo de paz, se pueda avanzar en crear “unas reformas radicales y profundas al sistema político y electoral en el país”.”

• El lío de las caletas de las Farc
Semana, 22 de abril de 2017

“El hallazgo de una caleta de armas de las Farc en Putumayo demuestra que estos depósitos clandestinos serán el gran desafío que tendrá la ONU durante la dejación de armas. Las Farc tienen 900 en todo el territorio y están en los lugares más inhóspitos”.

• Inside a FARC Camp that’s Preparing Guerilla Soldiers for Civilian Life
Harriet Dedman, Vice, April 18, 2017
“Zona Veredal ‘La Variante’ lies 30 miles from Colombia’s Pacific Coast city, Tumaco. Along the banks of the Río Mira, 10 miles from the Ecuadorian border, this demobilization camp lies in the heart of the Nariño region and Colombia’s infamous, illicit coca trade. Farmers here grow coca in large plantations hidden by a dense wall of trees, or on steep slopes that descend into the river. The flag of the former Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, as seen above, still flies in many of the communities here.”

Other Armed Actors

• Colombia’s Other Militancy Problem
Diego Solis, Stratfor, April 16, 2017
“In response to the guerrilla violence and state neglect, in the 1970s rural communities in Antioquia department decided to take up arms in defense. In 1997, the groups were formalized into the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). However, their use of extreme violence and their ties to the drug trade and to state institutions motivated then-President Alvaro Uribe to officially demobilize the units between 2003 and 2006. But the private armies did not completely disappear: Now former AUC combat units are active in Colombian organized crime and have evolved into the United Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces, a neo-paramilitary group also known as Clan del Golfo.”

• Colombia’s Armed Groups Sow Seeds of New Conflict as War with FARC Ends
Sibylla, Brodzinsky, The Guardian, April 18, 2017
“Across Colombia, new armed groups – and some long-established ones – are violently occupying the regions left behind by the Farc, all hoping to wrest control of the cocaine trade, illegal gold mines and other criminal enterprises which once financed the rebels.”

• Colombia Still Plagued by Paramilitary Kidnappings
TeleSUR, April 20, 2017

“Smaller paramilitary groups continue to wreak havoc in rural parts of Colombia, underscoring the country’s precarious peace. In recent years Colombia has been able to shake off the infamous title of the kidnapping capital of the world, but as peace is slowly implemented, the threats of paramilitarism continues as eight people have been kidnapped by smaller and still active paramilitary groups just in the last 12 days.”

Human Rights Issues

• La segunda misión política de la ONU en Colombia: fundamental para la protección y seguridad de defensoras y defensores de derechos humanos
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli y Sonia Londoño, WOLA, 18 de abril de 2017
“El proceso de paz en Colombia ha contado con el apoyo generalizado de la comunidad internacional incluyendo los Estados Unidos y tanto el gobierno Colombiano como las FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), confían que esta contribución se mantenga en el proceso de implementación de los acuerdos. El punto 6 de los acuerdos crea un mecanismo de acompañamiento internacional, en el cuál se solicita una serie de apoyos orientados a “fortalecer las garantías para la implementación de los acuerdos”.”

• Dos líderes sociales asesinados en 36 horas
Mario Zamudio Palma, ¡Pacifista!, 19 de abril de 2017
“Sigue la tragedia. Este miércoles a las 4 y 40 de la tarde llegó sin vida al hospital de Timbío, en el Cauca, Germán Acosta, el gobernador del cabildo indígena Kite Kiwe de la vereda La Laguna de este municipio. Según información preliminar, Acosta fue asesinado cuando “salia de una reunión de su comunidad, y un sicario le disparo en repetidas ocasiones. La comunidad lo auxilio, lo trasladó de urgencia a hospital cercano pero llego sin signos vitales”. El líder tenía medidas de protección de la UNP tipo uno. Es decir, escoltas”.

• Colombia Paramilitaries Send Death Threats to Huber Ballesteros
TeleSUR, April 18, 2017
“Paramilitary members of Colombia’s United Self-Defense Forces have sent death threats to prominent human rights activist and recently released political prisoner Huber Ballesteros, reported Patriotic March in a statement Monday.”

• GM Colombia Dismisses 12 Injured Workers
Paige Shell-Spurling, Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, April 18, 2017

“We are writing to inform you that General Motors’ Colombian subsidiary once again violated Colombian labor law and international labor standards yesterday, April 17th,2017. The latest violation was the dismissal of 12 injured workers who GM had originally dismissed unlawfully in July of 2016 and who had been reinstated in December of 2016.”

Were Peasant Farmers Poisoned by the U.S. War on Drugs? A Jury has the Case.
Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post, April 19, 2017
“After a 15-year legal battle, a U.S. jury will begin deliberations Wednesday over whether a U.S. security contractor must pay damages to as many as 2,000 Ecuadoran farmers who say they were poisoned by the U.S. and Colombian government’s’ years-long, coca-eradication campaign.”

Colombia Landslides Kills at Least 17 in Manizales
BBC News, April 20, 2017
“Landslides caused by heavy rain have killed at least 17 people in the city of Manizales, in central Colombia, officials say.The search continues for at least seven others who are missing, they add. Mud and rocks have destroyed several precarious houses built on steep hills.”

‘La mujer del animal’ y la otra cara de la violencia de género en Colombia
Camila Osorio, The New York Times, 16 de abril de 2017

“La mujer del Animal es una película que ayuda a pensar en casos como el de Armero y, a la vez, no lo hace. Al pintar la violencia de género de forma binaria, no nos da respuestas para esos miles de casos en los que el abusador sí genera simpatía en su barrio, entre sus amigos o en su país. La violencia no solo surge en los barrios pobres de Medellín, sino en todas las esquinas, incluidas las del fútbol. Son en esos casos en los que se pone a prueba nuestra capacidad de mirar y reaccionar”.

* 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.