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Colombia News Brief for April 20-26, 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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Source: archivo Semana via Verdad Abierta 

Peace Accords Implementation

Can the Colombia-FARC peace deal hold? [VIDEO]
The Stream, Al Jazeera, April 24, 2018
“With FARC failing to add to its ten guaranteed congressional seats in recent legislative elections and the centre-right Democratic Centre party in the ascendancy, the peace deal is at a critical point. The Stream will ask whether it can survive and, if so, how.”

IACHR Condemns Attack on a Committee of Colombia’s Land Restitution Unit
Organization of American States, April 23, 2018
“According to publicly available reports, the URT committee was attacked with explosives on April 11, 2018 by an illegal armed group, in an event that caused the deaths of eight National Police officers. The Commission expresses its concern that such acts of violence may seek to hinder the enforcement of the Victims Law and the Peace Agreement with FARC.” [En Español]

Concerns in Colombia after feared former FARC commander disappears
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 23, 2018
“Conservatives in Colombia are concerned that a feared former FARC commander could be rearming guerrilla forces after he abandoned the camp where he was leading the reintegration of demobilized guerrillas.”

U.S. Extradition Request Undermines Colombian Peace Processes
Anthony Dest, WOLA, April 12, 2018
“The arrest and possible extradition of Santrich deals a strong blow to Colombia’s already shaky peace process with the FARC. After more than half a century of internal armed conflict, Latin America’s oldest clandestine guerrilla group kept its initials and converted into an aboveground political party, the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons. The Peace Accords represent a major accomplishment that, if implemented, would address some of the root causes of the Colombian conflict.”

ELN

Chile offers to host talks between Colombia, ELN rebels
Reuters, April 20, 2018
“Chile’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Chile was willing to host the next meeting between the government of Colombia and rebel group ELN, after Ecuador earlier this week pulled support for the talks.”

ELN Seeks to Shield Itself From US Measures
TeleSUR, April 25, 2018
“The ELN’s chief negotiator fears its members or leaders could be extradited at the request of the United States.Pablo Beltran, chief negotiator for Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) in the peace talks with the Colombian government, has requested protection from United States in order to continue the fifth round of talks.”

El Catatumbo: de espaldas al Estado y de cara a la guerra
Verdad Abierta, 26 de abril de 2018
“Esta nueva guerra entre el Eln y la antigua disidencia del Epl se ha librado con tal ferocidad que ambos mandos han desconocido las normas del Derecho Internacional Humanitario (DIH). Funcionarios de la Defensoría del Pueblo denunciaron que ambas estructuras armadas prohibieron la movilización de un equipo médico hacia zona rural del municipio de San Calixto, donde se registraron combates que dejaron un saldo de dos personas muertas”.

Colombia deploys 2,000 soldiers in bid to end guerrilla turfwar in northeast
Jarrod Demir, Colombia Reports, April 23, 2018
“Colombia sent 2,000 soldiers to the conflict-affected region of Catatumbo in a bid to stabilize escalating tensions between illegal armed groups in the northeast of the country.The directive, handed down by President Juan Manuel Santos, is set to assist the already-present 8,000 soldiers in the region plagued by the ongoing conflict between armed guerrilla groups, the ELN and the EPL.”

2018 Elections 

Los partidos tomaron partido para las elecciones presidenciales
Lorena Arboleda Zárate, El Espectador,  26 de abril de 2018
“Sólo faltaba la decisión de uno de los partidos con verdadera capacidad de mover el tablero electoral para que, por fin, comenzara la campaña a toda máquina de cara a la primera vuelta presidencial. En una decisión sin mayores confrontaciones y con muy pocos ‘peros’, el Partido Conservador decidió dejar ayer en libertad a sus militantes frente a los apoyos presidenciales del 27 de mayo, y éstos, a su vez, se fueron con dos de las cartas más fuertes con posibilidad de disputarse la Casa de Nariño en la segunda vuelta: Germán Vargas Lleras e Iván Duque”.

Candidatos presidenciales firmaron pacto por la no violencia
El Tiempo, 26 de abril de 2018
“La idea de comprometer a los candidatos presidenciales con una campaña sin agresiones surgió luego de encontrar que en el debate para las elecciones legislativas, el 20 por ciento de los más de 8 millones de mensajes que circularon en redes sociales sobre el tema tenían altos contenidos de intolerancia y polarización”.

No tengo condenados en mi campaña: Germán Vargas Lleras
El Espectador, 26 de abril de 2018
“El candidato defendió a Rosa Cotes, gobernadora del Magdalena, quien fue llamada a declaración por la Procuraduría por un presunto detrimento patrimonial en la Vía de la Prosperidad por más de $13 mil millones”.

Uribe desatado en redes a 30 días de elecciones
El Espectador, 24 de abril de 2018
“En la medida en que se acerca el día de las elecciones Presidenciales, la campaña se turna ruda y los contrincantes en la puja por el poder se atacan en busca de conseguir el apoyo de los indecisos. Esto lo tiene muy claro el expresidente Álvaro Uribe, quien amaneció este martes desatado en sus redes sociales atacando al presidente Santos, a Gustavo Petro y Germán Vargas Lleras”.

Human Rights and the Environment 

He was linked to war crimes. Now he’s Colombia’s ambassador in Seoul.
Adam Taylor, The Washington Post, April 26, 2018
“Hundreds, possibly even thousands, of civilians are believed to have been killed. Rodríguez allegedly played a key role, commanding the Colombian army’s 4th Brigade from 2006 to 2008. According to evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch, at least 28 civilians were killed by the brigade under his watch.”

Afro-Colombian Social Movement Leaders Arrested
Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network, April 23, 2018
“The arrests of black activists are part of a systematic campaign to challenge the legitimacy of Afro-Colombian rights, and criminalizing the defense of human rights undermines the tenuous status of the Peace Accords. In 2012, another PCN activist Felix Banguero was arrested along with 27 others under similar circumstances for allegedly belonging to the FARC.”

Colombia arrests 30 social leaders, officials on rebellion charges
Jarrod Demir, Colombia Reports, April 23, 2018
“The leaders hail from southwestern Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Nariño provinces that have been heavily afflicted by Colombia’s ongoing armed conflict. It is alleged that several of the detainees attended peace talks between the state and the ELN in Ecuador and were subsequently accused of ‘rebellion’ and ‘links to this armed group’.”

Defensoría alerta sobre riesgos de vulneración de derechos humanos en suroccidente de Medellín
Verdad Abierta, 25 de abril de 2018
“La tensión que se vive en las laderas de esa zona de la ciudad como consecuencia de la confrontación de la llamada ‘Oficina de Envigado’ con las Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (Agc), que se disputan el control de este estratégico corredor de movilidad y las rentas ilegales, llevó a la Defensoría del Pueblo a emitir una Alerta Temprana de Inminencia a través de la cual busca que se activen diversos mecanismos institucionales para proteger a los habitantes de esa populosa zona”.

Civil Society Groups: Pence Must Address Killings of Colombia Human Rights Leaders
WOLA, April 12, 2018
“In a letter made public on April 12, 2018, a group of 31 civil society groups and leaders asked Vice President Mike Pence to address the high number of assassinations of Colombian human rights and social justice leaders, a phenomenon which threatens to undermine the full implementation of Colombia’s historic 2016 peace deal, which ended over 50 years of civil conflict.”

Colombia: Witness Linked to Uribe Probe Murdered
Human Rights Watch, April 26, 2018
“A witness connected to a criminal investigation of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez was murdered on April 14, 2018, and other witnesses have been threatened, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should redouble its protection of witnesses and their relatives.”

Colombia’s Uribe Says Witness Against Him is ‘Rightfully Dead’
TeleSUR, April 25, 2018
“Alvaro Uribe and his brother Santiago Uribe are currently under investigation for links to paramilitary groups. Uribe’s time as president saw a rise in killings of social leaders by both state forces, and illegal paramilitary groups that many say were linked to Uribe’s government. Since his presidency, Uribe has become a bitter opponent of his former Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, regarding the peace deal with the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.”

Líder colombiana Francia Márquez gana “Nobel de medioambiente”
El Espectador, 23 de abril de 2018
“Este año, Francia Márquez fue elegida como la ganadora del premio de la Fundación Goldman en América del Sur por detener actividades de minería ilegal en Cauca. Con su lucha, esta líder afro logró movilizar a las mujeres negras del norte del departamento para presionar al Gobierno con el fin de deterner la extracción de oro en la región. Tocó las puertas del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas en Colombia, marchó durante diez días y 350 kilómetros rumbo a Bogotá. Y, como si fuera poco, ya en la capital, acampó durante 22 días frente al Congreso acompañada por su comunidad, insistiéndo en que las autoridades sacaran del territorio a las decenas de retroexcavadoras con las que se sacaban minerales”.

Peasants and Afro-Descendants Preserve Mother Earth in Colombia
TeleSUR, April 22, 2018
“The communities’ conservation practices include recreational and sharing activities. Meetings or assemblies do not have to be limited to a political or organisational dimension, they aim to promote well-being and leave time for ‘Been y Bien Vivir’ (good living and well living). The communities pictured here are reclaiming the peasant way of life as a reason for pride and a dignified life. Their conservation initiatives are critical to protecting biodiversity. It is important that the state ensures these communities a right over their territories and freedom from violence and threats so they can continue to live in and conserve their territories.”

Indígenas Awá emprenden batalla judicial contra Ecopetrol
Verdad Abierta, 19 abril de 2018
“Dos gobernadores de ese pueblo le pidieron a la justicia que declare responsable a la estatal petrolera por daños incalculables al medio ambiente y a la cultura causados por ataques al Oleoducto Transandino durante el conflicto armado. Alegan negligencia en la prevención y el manejo de las crisis ocasionadas por los derrames de crudo”.

Buscando salidas a la crisis humanitaria en el Catatumbo
El Espectador, 23 de abril de 2018
“Altos funcionarios del Ejecutivo se reunieron con alcaldes de la zona, líderes sociales y representantes de la Iglesia para establecer las medidas para hacerle frente a la crisis humanitaria. Las comunidades piden que la acción vaya más allá de lo militar y que finalmente llegue la tan anhelada paz”.

Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis 

Colombia’s Migrant Crisis Worsens With Venezuela Nearing ‘Implosion’
Matthew Bristow, Bloomberg, April 23, 2018
“The migrant crisis is probably the biggest challenge facing Colombia at the moment, Santos said. Venezuelans are currently crossing the border into Colombia at the rate of more than 100,000 per month, according to data from the immigration authority, with many more arriving illegally.”

‘Flujo de migrantes venezolanos puede empeorar’
El Tiempo, 25 de abril de 2018
“De acuerdo con él, es urgente caracterizar las cifras de población venezolana que está pasando la frontera, pues es necesario saber quiénes son. Como una manera de subrayar la compleja situación de la migración, Merkx dijo que el 10 por ciento de las personas que llegan al país son niños, población muy vulnerable que requiere un plan de atención especial”.

Venezuela’s refugee crisis: Views from the border
Dany Bahar, The Brookings Institution, April 23, 2018
“Official figures estimate that about 35,000 Venezuelans cross the border on a daily basis, but unofficial estimates from observers on the ground estimate that number to be much higher. It is also estimated that somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 people crossing stay in Colombia or travel to another country in the region. The rest are crossing for a few hours or a few days to work and/or get food and medicines not readily available in Venezuela. Below are some pictures and stories of places I visited and people I met during my visit.” 

Colombia border teems as Venezuelans “without anything” flee crisis
Dylan Baddour, Reuters, April 21, 2018
“Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has described the situation in Venezuela, with its hyperinflation and severe recession, as a “humanitarian crisis.” Colombia was spending millions of dollars to support the migrants, he said during a recent visit to the border.”

Not welcome in Colombia, indigenous migrants stuck at border after fleeing Venezuela
Dylan Baddour, The Guardian, April 23, 2018
“Around 500 members of the group are camped out by the river, including several dozen pregnant women. Members of the group sleep in the open or in shelters assembled from recycled material. In the evening, a dozen small fires flicker in the woods as those with food cook white rice or corn cakes.”

Counternarcotics 

Alleged drug-ring leader brought from Colombia to US court
Associated Press, The Washington Post, April 24, 2018
“Colombia’s most wanted drug lord, also known as “Don Mario,” pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday after being captured in a jungle raid nine years ago and extradited to the U.S. on April 23.”

Dos extraditables del caso “Santrich” fueron trasladados a La Picota
El Espectador, 25 de abril de 2018
“En las últimas horas, Fabio Simón Younes Arboleda y Armando Gómez, capturados por cuenta de una investigación de agentes federales de la DEA y del Departamento de Justicia de Estados Unidos por un supuesto tráfico de drogas, fueron enviados a la cárcel La Picota, en el sur de Bogotá. El traslado se realizó mientras las autoridades de Colombia y Estados Unidos definen la extradición de estas dos personas a Estados Unidos. En el caso de Younes Arboleda, su abogado Pedro Nel Escorcia solicitó que esta se realice de manera exprés, pues se busca agilizar el procedimiento”.

Santos warns at UN that war on drugs is not won, calls for different focus
EFE, April 24, 2018
“Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, saying that the war on drugs has not been successful, calling for a different international focus and emphasizing that drug trafficking is the main threat to peace in his country.”

Mitos y verdades sobre la presencia militar gringa en Colombia
¡Pacifista!, 20 de abril de 2018
“Apenas unas tres semanas, Colombia fue escenario de otro evento que ejemplifica lo que ha sido la cooperación de Estados Unidos con nuestro país: una serie de entrenamientos militares en la capital. Pero el trasfondo de todo esto, con bases o sin ellas, sigue siendo el mismo: la lucha contra las drogas”.

* 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.