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Colombia News Brief for August 6 – August 13, 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: Sebastian Barros Salaman/Flickr

SPOTLIGHT

Colombia Arrests Uribe
Mary Anastasia O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2020
“When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extradited Andrés Felipe Arias to Colombia last year, it signaled a lack of U.S. interest in human rights and democratic norms in that country. With an order last week to put former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe under house arrest, Colombia’s Supreme Court has sent a signal back: Message received.”

COVID-19

Colombia Coronavirus Cases Spiral as Lockdown Nears an End
Andrea Jaramillo, Sebastian Boyd, Bloomberg, August 10, 2020
“Colombia now has the fourth-highest number of cases in Latin America, surpassing Chile. On a per-capita basis, the country’s fatality numbers are the worst in the world, with 43.1 deaths for every million people, according to Johns Hopkins data and Bloomberg calculations. That’s after spiraling cases and mortalities in recent weeks prompted the nation’s two main cities — Bogota and Medellin — to reimpose strict lockdowns.”

COVID-19 ravaging Colombia as pandemic reaches projected peak
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, August 10, 2020
“Colombia’s healthcare system is being put to the ultimate test as the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have reached its peak in the country’s biggest cities. According to the healthcare ministry, more than 12,800 people have died since the first infection of the coronavirus was confirmed on March 6. This human cost of the pandemic is likely considerably higher due to a delay in testing, saturated healthcare systems and government attempts to downplay the gravity of the situation.”

Colombia’s long virus lockdown fuels anxiety and depression
Christine Armario, AP News, August 5, 2020
“The effects of the long isolation are beginning to surface: In the capital of Bogota, the mayor’s office reports that suicide attempts are up 21% since the start of quarantine. Psychologists have seen a dramatic rise in new patients complaining of anxiety and depression. Divorce lawyers say they are getting more inquiries, although clients also discover they cannot afford to separate.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Court record in Colombia reveals Uribe’s mounting legal bind
Christine Armario, AP News, August 10, 2010
“The Supreme Court had just opened an investigation into allegations that Uribe had engaged in witness tampering and his supporters were eager to get it closed. If Monsalve could testify that he’d been pressured by an opposition lawmaker into making false assertions against Uribe, he could help spare one of Colombia’s most popular if polemical leaders a possibly ruinous legal headache. The audios are among a trove of legally intercepted calls, covert recordings and witness testimony that make up the backbone of a monumental Supreme Court investigation into Uribe, whose house arrest order last week rocked the political establishment and divided the nation. The transcript is documented in the classified 1,554-page decision obtained by The Associated Press.”

In Mande, former Farc combatants help save lives
UN Verification Mission in Colombia, August 7, 2020
“Juan Ángel Cuesta, who graduated last year as a Rural Health Promoter and now helps save lives in the town of Mandé, in Urrao, Antioquia, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, malaria, and snake bites, among other illnesses. Through WhatsApp, Juan Ángel shared his experience that is part of his reintegration process in a zone that can be reached by donkey, walking, or on a helicopter. Our verification moves forward in line with the Peace Agreement.”

FARC llama a debate sobre crímenes a excombatientes en Colombia
TeleSur, 7 de agosto de 2020
“El partido de la Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común, (FARC), convocó este viernes a un debate de control político para analizar los crímenes contra excombatientes y la persecución a líderes sociales y firmantes del Acuerdo de Paz. La propuesta de la agrupación política FARC pide la aprobación de la Comisión conjunta de Paz de la Cámara de Representantes y el Senado de la República para su realización y buscar una solución a la compleja situación que pone en riesgo la vida de cientos de personas”.

Military Incentives Led To Civilian Deaths In Colombia, Study Finds
Art Carden, Forbes, August 6, 2020
“A recent study by a group of economists showed that when the Colombian military introduced “high-powered incentives”—pay-for-performance, where performance was defined as “dead bad guys”—they got more than they bargained for. In their paper “The Perils of High-Powered Incentives: Evidence from Colombia’s False Positives,” the economists Daron Acemoglu, Leopoldo Fergusson, James Robinson, Dario Romero, and Juan F. Vargas found that high-powered incentives meant more “false positives,” or “innocent civilians…killed and misrepresented as guerillas” (p. 1). The paper appears in the August 2020 issue of American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.”

Venezuela Oil Minister’s Frontman’s Assets Will Be Handed Over to FARC Victims
Sabrina Martín, PanAm Post, August 6, 2020
“The U.S. justice system dealt a heavy blow to Samark López, Tareck El Aissami’s frontman. The Supreme Court reiterated that over 318 million USD were to be paid to victims of kidnapping by the Colombian guerrilla group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). On Monday, August 3, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal filed by the defense of López, who refused to hand over the property that was confiscated from him.”

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

Ocho periodistas, en peligro por amenazas del Eln
Publimetro, 9 de agosto de 2020
“La FLIP denunció que ocho periodistas del Magdalena fueron amenazados por el Eln. Los afectados son los comunicadores Lina María Peña (El Artículo), Cipriano López (Radio Magdalena) y Yannis Moscote (Contraportada). También aparecen Víctor Polo (Caracol Radio), Miguel Martínez (El Mono TV.), Víctor Rodríguez (Opinión Caribe), Aristides Herrera (Revista 7) y Leopoldo Díaz Granados (Seguimento), según explica en un comunicado la FLIP”.

Ejército incautó al Eln material de guerra, intendencia y explosivos en Santa Rosa del sur de Bolívar
Fuerzas Militares de Colombia, 11 de agosto de 2020
“Tropas del Ejército Nacional, en desarrollo de operaciones militares de acción ofensiva en el departamento de Bolívar, atendiendo las recomendaciones de la alerta temprana No.052 del 2018, sostuvieron combate de encuentro con integrantes del Frente de Guerra Darío Ramírez Castro, del Grupo Armado Organizado, GAO, ELN, en la vereda Chaparral, zona rural del municipio de Santa Rosa Sur de Bolívar.”

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

La inocencia de los niños embera que pasan sus días en el parque Tercer Milenio
Semana, 11 de agosto de 2020
“Pero de eso no alcanzan a ser conscientes los niños de dos y tres años que se reúnen alrededor de un hueco donde han creado un improvisado lavadero para enjuagar sus tapabocas. Dos pequeñas untan de jabón sus elementos de protección y los restriegan contra los ladrillos antes de sumergirlos en parte del líquido que tiene su familia para comer y asearse durante lo que resta de la tarde. En su lenguaje, otros menores las alientan a seguir, hasta que una joven, que se muestra molesta, las regaña y se lleva el botellón a la carpa”.

Those Who Value the Rule of Law Should Back Supreme Court’s Independence in Colombia
José Miguel Vavanco, Human Rights Watch, August 10, 2020
“Uribe supporters in Colombia, including influential political leaders, reacted to the court’s ruling with groundless accusations and threats. They made statements designed to smear and intimidate the court, including by proposing an overhaul of the country’s entire judicial system. The court urgently needs support. Unfortunately, some political figures in the region who claim to be democratic seem to be doing just the opposite.”

Humanitarian partners in Colombia respond to a new emergency in Norte de Santander
UNOCHA, August 10, 2020
“Humanitarian partners came together in late July to provide assistance to more than 1,000 displaced people in the rural areas of Cúcuta and Tibú in Norte de Santander, a northern Colombian province bordering Venezuela. The activities complemented the assistance provided by local institutions and followed two evaluation missions carried out in areas hosting the newly displaced, including 325 adult Venezuelans and more than 330 children. As part of the response, the partners delivered more than 1,123 food kits, 1,080 non-food items, 445 water, sanitation and hygiene kits, and 370 biosecurity kits for COVID-19.”

In Colombia, a protected park is buffeted by social, environmental conflicts
Antonio José Paz Cardona, Mongabay, August 7, 2020
“Despite its diversity, this protected area continues to experience serious social and environmental conflicts. Before the creation of the park, people were living there. Many of their activities were banned overnight, but productive alternatives were not provided with the same sense of urgency. Moreover, Las Quinchas is intersected by oil and gas pipelines; there are still small areas of illicit crops; a battle is being waged against illegal logging; and the majority of campesinos (small-scale farmers) have not been able to gain titles to their land, which, by law, they can only sell to the state.”

DRUG POLICY

Por coronavirus cayó el capo ‘Albert’, jefe de los ‘Pachelly’
El Tiempo, 11 de agosto de 2020
“Henao, conocido con el alias de Albert, era uno de los hombres más buscados en Colombia por ser la cabeza de una de las redes de narcos más poderosas, los ‘Pachelly’, que delinque en el valle de Aburrá. Un grupo especial de investigación judicial e inteligencia de la Policía capturó a ‘Albert’ el domingo, sobre las 2 p. m., en un elegante edificio ubicado en el sector de El Poblado en Medellín. “Estaba en un piso 27, donde gozaba de una vista maravillosa hacia la ciudad. Esa ventana fue crucial para que a través de un dron lográramos identificarlo plenamente en horas de la mañana”, le dijo a EL TIEMPO uno de los oficiales de la Policía de Medellín que estuvo al frente del caso”.

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

COVID-19 Turns Violent and Chaotic at the Colombia-Venezuela Border
Marta Matinez, Vice News, August 10, 2020
“Then, in late March, the Colombian government closed the border to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since then, the only way to cross is through one of the over 80 trochas near the area. These irregular pathways across the river are controlled by a dozen illegal armed groups—paramilitary, guerrillas, narcotrafficking, and other criminal networks—and are plagued with homicides, kidnappings, and sexual abuse. With the pandemic border closure, criminal gangs have strengthened their power along the riverbed.”

Expulsan de Colombia a militares venezolanos que violaron soberanía nacional
Francisco de la Hoz, El Heraldo, 11 de agosto de 2020
“Tres militares pertenecientes a la Guardia Nacional de Venezuela, que fueron aprehendidos por soldados de la Décima Brigada del Ejército Nacional cuando habían ingresado al territorio colombiano violando así la soberanía nacional, fueron expulsados por el puesto de Migración en Paraguachón, en la jurisdicción del municipio de Maicao. La retención de los militares se produjo el día domingo en la mañana en inmediaciones de Castilletes, donde existe una base del Ejército Colombiano y una estación de la Policía Nacional”.

* 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