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Colombia News Brief for December 28, 2020 – January 6, 2021

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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.

SPOTLIGHT

Colombia: Former Attorney General Linked to Corruption Scandal
TeleSur, January 6, 2021
“Local outlet Cuarto de Hora on Wednesday revealed that Colombia’s former Attorney General Nestor Martinez is hiding assets and funds in Spain under the Panamanian company Amanda Advisors S.A. ‘That company owns 100 percent of the shares, so the name of the former official does not appear on the actions, nor he has declared them to the Colombian tax authorities,’ Cuarto de Hora reported.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Four years later, Colombia’s Peace Agreement advances at a snail’s pace
Open Democracy, January 6, 2021
“A report presented in August 2020 by Colombian senators and representatives of the opposition recounted where the Agreement was in terms of its implementation, four years after it was signed. Four months after that devastating report, statistics on violence remain staggering and, what represented a great and historic opportunity for Colombia, has witnessed an incomprehensible stagnation on some of its key points. According to the report, the country has seen an important increase in the number of slayings of social leaders, confinements and forced displacements. Likewise, on the issues of victim reparation and land endowment, the report found it would take the Colombian State 43 years to compensate all of the conflict’s victims, while only 0.08% of the targeted 3 million hectares of the Land Fund has been allocated.”

Colombia’s illegal armed groups lost more than 5,000 members in 2020 -military commander
Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, January 5, 2021
“Colombian illegal armed groups lost roughly 5,120 members in 2020 as the country’s armed forces continued operations amidst the coronavirus pandemic to weaken them and stop them from growing in size and territory, said General Luis Fernando Navarro. The figure includes combat deaths, captures, and desertions affecting the National Liberation Army (ELN), dissidents of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who rejected a 2016 peace deal, and other armed groups including Clan del Golfo, Los Caparros, and Los Pelusos, Navarro said.”

Painful start of 2021 for Colombia’s former FARC guerrillas
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, January 4, 2021
“According to the authorities, FARC member Yolanda Zabala and her sister Reina were assassinated on January 1, and Duvan Arled Galindez on January 2. Until their violent deaths, Zabala took part in a reintegration program in Anori, a town in the northwestern Antioquia province, and Galindez in the southern municipality of Cartagena de Chaira.”

Asciende a 251 el número de excombatientes de Farc asesinados
El Tiempo, 4 de enero de 2021
“Duván Arled Galíndez Nadia, de 34 años de edad y excombatiente de las Farc, fue asesinado en la noche de este sábado en el municipio de Cartagena del Chaira, Caquetá. El crimen eleva a 251 el número de militantes de ese grupo que firmó el Acuerdo de Paz y que han sido muertos en condiciones de indefensión a lo largo y ancho del país. Como lo ha informado El Tiempo, la cadena de asesinatos de desmovilizados de las Farc que se acogieron al acuerdo de paz se está convirtiendo, más allá de la implementación de lo acordado en La Habana, en uno de los más difíciles retos para el Gobierno, junto a los crímenes de líderes sociales y defensores de derechos humanos. El fantasma del exterminio de la Unión Patriótica (UP) está muy presente”.

The Farc have delivered $ 50 billion to repair the victims
Explica, January 2, 2021
“The national government of Colombia reported this Friday, January 1, that, after the expiration of the deadline for the delivery of the goods inventoried by the Farc, established until December 31, 2020, $ 50 billion pesos have been collected for the repair of the victims of the defunct guerrilla. The presidential adviser for Stabilization and Consolidation, Emilio Archila, indicated that the Government will continue to advance in the extinction of the domain of assets not inventoried by the now political party, and will continue to be careful to identify if there are untimely assets.”

Colombia’s FARC delivers a fraction of pledged peace deal assets by deadline
Nelson Bocanegra, Reuters, December 31, 2020
“Under the deal, the FARC agreed to hand over around 1 trillion pesos ($291 million) in assets taken during the conflict by the end of 2020. However, the former rebels have delivered just 44.4 billion pesos ($12.9 million) in local currency, dollars and gold, according to the government – a number that was confirmed by the FARC. ‘It’s an issue that greatly concerns the government, not just because of the amount of resources we’re talking about, but because the FARC’s ill-won assets were destined to compensate victims, which would have an impact on reconciliation,’ Emilio Archila, the presidential adviser for implementing the peace deal, told Reuters.”

COVID-19

Colombia restricts incoming travel, partially locks down capital over new COVID fears
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, January 4, 2021
“A recent surge in coronavirus infections in Colombia spurred authorities to impose restrictions on incoming air travel and a partial lock down in the capital Bogota. Health Minister Fernando Ruiz reinstated mandatory COVID tests for incoming travelers as ordered by a court in December last year. Ruiz and President Ivan Duque initially said they would ignore the court, but changed his mind after fierce criticism, a sudden surge in coronavirus infections and deaths and the possible arrival of a more infectious strain of the virus that was first detected in the United Kingdom.”

Colombia ends 2020 with unprecedented coronavirus outbreak
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, January 1, 2021
“Colombia began 2021 with a record-breaking coronavirus outbreak and daily COVID deaths not registered since September 1. The government of President Ivan Duque has been racing to get its hands on vaccines as COVID hospitalizations are threatening to collapse municipal healthcare systems. The Health Ministry on Thursday reported a record number of 16,314 infections and 304 deaths, the highest number since September 1.”

Colombia reaches deal with J&J for 9 million vaccine doses
Oliver Griffin, Nelson Bocanegra, Reuters, December 30, 2020
“Colombia has reached an agreement with Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division Janssen to acquire 9 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, President Ivan Duque said in a televised address on Wednesday. The Andean country, which has reported over 1.6 million cases of coronavirus and just under 43,000 deaths, had already secured deals with Pfizer and AstraZeneca Plc to provide 10 million doses each of their COVID-19 vaccines.”

Colombia: Infographic on COVID-19 Response (March – October) – UNHCR
UNHCR, December 29, 2020
“Infographic that resumes UNHCR’s response to its persons of concern, including IDPs, populations at risk, refugees and migrants, Colombian returnees and host communities during the COVID-19 emergency in Colombia.”

HUMAN RIGHTS

Prominent transgender activist in Colombia dies
Michael K. Lavers, The Washington Blade, January 2, 2021
“A prominent transgender activist in Colombia died on Saturday. Laura Weinstein, director of Fundación Grupo de Acción y Apoyo a Personas Trans (GAAT), a trans rights group based in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, passed away four days after she was hospitalized with difficulty breathing. ‘I have been hospitalized since yesterday because of breathing difficulties,’ tweeted Weinstein on Dec. 31. ‘They gave me a COVID test and we are waiting for the results, but not being able to breath is something that I never wish upon anyone.’”

Continúa la tragedia: Gerardo León, primer líder social asesinado en 2021
El Espectador, 2 de enero de 2021
“El asesinato de líderes sociales en Colombia no para. Al medio día del 1 de enero de 2020, en el resguardo el Tigre en zona rural de Puerto Gaitán (Meta), fue asesinado el líder comunitario Gerardo León. Este hombre que se desempeñaba como docente etnoeducador, miembro de la Federación Colombiana de Educadores Fecode en esa zona, murió luego de ser atacado con un arma blanca”.

‘Sunday is the most violent day of the week’: Covid leaves Colombia’s children exposed to abuse
Sophie Foggin, The Telegraph, December 27, 2020
“While official rates of domestic violence against children recorded from March to April decreased by 32 per cent compared to the same period last year, Paola González, an investigator at the Ideas for Peace (FIP) think tank, believes this year’s figures are grossly under-reported. Without the support of teachers or family members, she explained, victims are simply not denouncing violence. According to Oscar Darío Patiño, headmaster of the Padre Roberto Arroyave Vélez School in rural northern Antioquia, the transition to virtual classes was traumatic.”

THE ENVIRONMENT

Colombia’s sustainable forestry drive boosts biodiversity and business
Dimitri Selibas, Mongabay, December 30, 2020
“Despite the high costs and long registration times, sustainable timber harvesting has the potential to bring more value to rural Colombians while also acting as an effective and important conservation tool. Forest management plans are critical to establishing which trees should be exploited, as well as setting standards for related processes so that the environmental impact can be minimized and deforestation avoided. Since the start of it Legal Wood Pact in 2009, Colombia has seen sales of legal timber grow from $500,000 in 2011 to $13 million in 2018, with sustainable forestry now considered a key growth area for the economy.”

DRUG POLICY

Colombia targets repeat of last year’s coca eradication in 2021
Luis Jamie Acosta, Nasdaq, January 4, 2021
“Colombia has set its sights on destroying 130,000 hectares (321,237 acres) of coca – the chief ingredient in cocaine – in 2021, matching eradication levels last year, President Ivan Duque said on Monday. The South American country faces pressure from the United States, the main destination for cocaine, to counter coca cultivation. The area covered by coca crops soared to 212,000 hectares in 2019, with a potential production output of 879 tonnes a year, according to the U.S. government.”

Government: Colombia manual coca eradication most in decade
Yahoo! News, December 30, 2020
“Colombia manually eradicated 130,000 hectares of coca crops in 2020, the highest figure in the last decade, the government said. The figure easily tops the 94,670 hectares of coca manually eradicated in 2019 and the 59,977 hectares in 2018, according to a government report.”

VENEZUELA CRISIS

Large Venezuelan Migration Sparks Xenophobic Backlash In Colombia
NPR, December 29, 2020
“Just three days after crossing the border into Colombia to escape food shortages, joblessness and authoritarian rule in Venezuela, Alexander González says he’s shocked by the xenophobia of his adopted homeland. ‘Colombians treat Venezuelans badly,’ says González, 19, as he takes a breather in the Colombian town of Pamplona before setting off on foot for the capital of Bogotá. ‘They practically spit in our faces.’”

Alarm at Colombia plan to exclude migrants from coronavirus vaccine
Joe Parkin Daniels, The Guardian, December 22, 2020
“Colombia will refuse to administer coronavirus vaccines to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees within its borders, President Iván Duque has announced, in a move which stunned public health experts and prompted condemnation from humanitarian groups. Speaking to a local radio station on Monday, Duque that only Venezuelans with dual nationality or formal migratory status will have access to the vaccine when it is eventually distributed in the country. According to migration authorities, Colombia currently houses 1.7 million Venezuelans who have fled political repression, economic ruin and widespread food and medicine shortages. Only about 45% have formal status, and hundreds more cross the border unofficially every day.”

* 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.