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Colombia News Brief for December 7, 2019 – January 17, 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: Fernando Vergara / Associated Press

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2019
Front Line Defenders is an Irish-based human rights organization founded in 2001 to protect those who work non-violently to uphold the human rights of others as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their report details the physical assaults, defamation campaigns, digital security threats, judicial harassment, and gender-based attacks faced by human rights defenders across the world, who were on the frontline of protests against deep seated inequalities, corruption and authoritarianism. Out of the 31 countries mentioned in the report, Colombia was by far the bloodiest nation with a total of 106 murders in 2019.

Staggering number’ of human rights activists killed in Colombia, UN reports
The Guardian, January 14, 2020

“The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed alarm at the ‘staggering number’ of social activists killed in Colombia despite a peace accord aimed at improving conditions in poor, rural areas. According to the UN, 107 human rights defenders were killed in 2019, a worrying number that could grow to 120 as investigations are completed. At least 10 activists have been reported killed in the first two weeks of 2020.”

Chuzadas sin cuartel
Semana, 13 de enero de 2020

“Lo que ningún colombiano sabe es que el 18 de diciembre a las 8:45 de la mañana, una comisión de la Corte Suprema de Justicia y medio centenar de policías judiciales adscritos a la Dirección de Investigaciones Especiales de la Procuraduría, allanaron las instalaciones de esa unidad militar en busca de evidencia sobre las chuzadas. En ese operativo cinematográfico, que duró casi 16 horas, hubo de todo: funcionarios judiciales que buscaban computadores, oficiales del Ejército que trataban nerviosamente de esconder información, tinterillos que buscaban obstaculizar el operativo, suboficiales que escondían equipos, computadores desvalijados a última hora, uniformados que trataban de sacar información subrepticiamente por la ventana, etcétera.”

Colombia’s capital first woman mayor promises to fight “racism, class distinctions and xenophobia”
MercoPress, January 2, 2020

“Bogota’s first woman mayor Claudia Lopez took office on Wednesday, promising leadership in the troubled Colombian capital and pledging to fight ‘racism, class distinctions and xenophobia.’ The centre-left mayor, who married her same-sex partner last month, takes over a city that has become a focal point of countrywide protests against the rule of right-wing President Ivan Duque. Lopez, 49, broke with tradition and held her inauguration event in the city’s Simon Bolivar park attended by hundreds of people.”

Rostros, Rastros y Trazos: A mural to remember
The Bogota Post, December 8, 2019

“Carlos Pedraza, a 29-year-old community leader and recent graduate of the National Pedagogical University, was found dead 60 kilometres away from his home in Bogotá in January 2015. He had been killed by a gunshot wound to the head. Pedraza worked for the Congreso de los pueblos – a well known human rights organisation – as a regional coordinator on issues such as the social and economic empowerment of agricultural workers.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Carta a Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide 
Defendamos la Paz, 15 de enero de 2020

“La firma del Acuerdo de Paz del Teatro Colón entre el gobierno nacional y las FARC-EP en noviembre de 2016 constituyó un momento de esperanza para superar más de cinco décadas de conflicto armado interno. Sin embargo, la limitada voluntad política del actual Gobierno ha hecho que la implementación integral de los acuerdos firmados se vea obstaculizada y sus avances sean limitados. Los asesinatos selectivos no se detienen y la crisis humanitaria de los sectores más vulnerables de la población, en diferentes territorios de la geografía nacional, van en aumento.”

Diego Chica: el primer cuerpo que entrega la Unidad de Búsqueda de Desaparecidos
Carolina Ávila Cortés, El Espectador, 15 de enero de 2020

“El caso de Diego Chica es el primer resultado público de la labor humanitaria de la Unidad de Búsqueda de Personas dadas por Desaparecidas, de la efectividad que tiene la coordinación entre las instituciones encargadas de la búsqueda e identificación y por supuesto, del trabajo que están haciendo los excombatientes de las Farc para reparar a las víctimas y encontrar a los desaparecidos por el conflicto armado. De acuerdo con Luz Marina Monzón, directora de la UBPD, el trabajo humanitario abre un camino de diálogo y confianza con quienes tienen la información para que se puedan encontrar a quienes están desaparecidos o por lo menos, saber qué ocurrió con ellos.”

UN envoy for Colombia: Peace depends on stopping killings
Edith M. Lederer, The Washington Post, January 13, 2020

“The U.N. envoy for Colombia warned Monday that peace won’t be achieved if former combatants who laid down their weapons and social leaders continue to be killed. Carlos Ruiz Massieu said Sunday’s announcement by Colombian authorities that they thwarted a planned attempt to kill Rodrigo Londono, who had been the top military commander of the country’s largest rebel group and now heads its legal political party, ‘underscored the risks’ facing former rebels ‘and the peace process itself.’”

Armed conflict in Colombia could heat up in 2020: peace mediator
Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, January 13, 2020

“Armed conflict in Colombia could heat up in 2020 and there could even be bombings in cities if dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) follow through with plans to pressure the government into a new peace deal, an expert mediator said on Monday. Henry Acosta, who traversed the Andean country for more than a decade to help bring the FARC and government together for peace talks that eventually lead to a 2016 deal, said he fears a resurgence in conflict as rebels who rejected demobilization push for constitutional reform they believe would guarantee political, economical and social change.”

Colombia foils attempt to assassinate ex-Farc leader Timochenko
BBC News, January 12, 2020

“Colombian police say they have foiled an attempt to assassinate the former head of the now demobilised Farc rebels, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, better known as Timochenko. General Oscar Atehortua, director of Colombia’s national police, told reporters that officers acting on a tip-off intercepted the two assassins close to a farm where Timochenko was staying on the border of the departments of Quindio and Valle del Cauca.”

2019, el año más letal contra excombatientes de FARC en Colombia, según ONU
Semana, 31 de diciembre de 2019

“El organismo, que verifica el acuerdo que terminó con la que fuera la organización rebelde más poderosa de América, publicó en Bogotá un informe en que subraya la alarma del secretario general, Antonio Guterres, frente a los crímenes contra los antiguos rebeldes. En ese sentido, urgió ‘a que se adopten medidas más efectivas para proteger la vida de los y las excombatientes, teniendo en cuenta especialmente que el 2019 ha sido el año más violento’ para ellos.”

The Slow Death of Colombia’s Peace Movement
Juan Arredondo, The Atlantic, December 30, 2019

“Three years on, however, that peace process is faltering. Criminal gangs and drug traffickers have reemerged, fighting to control Colombia’s lucrative illegal-narcotics and mining industries, and targeting union organizers, indigenous leaders, environmentalists, and community activists—like Velasco—for speaking up and opposing their presence. According to Colombia’s Institute of Studies for Peace and Development, more than 700 community leaders were killed from the beginning of 2016 to June of this year. Most of those murders took place in regions that the FARC had controlled but abandoned when it disarmed.”

Colombia’s 2016 peace agreement: has it been fulfilled?
openDemocracy, December 12, 2019

“So much has happened in Colombia since then – a change in government, ex-combatants filling political posts, recent local elections opening the door to political alternatives and, in recent weeks, massive social unrest – that a reassessment of the agreement’s implementation is fitting. The questions that need to be answered are: Were truth, justice and reparation for victims achieved? Are the institutions that were created under the framework of the agreement working as they should? Did the government and the ex-combatants fulfill the commitments undertaken? But more importantly, was peace truly achieved?”

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

Colombian president says ELN rebels attacked air force base
The Washington Post, January 10, 2020

“Colombia’s president said Friday that rebels were behind an early morning attack on an air force base that injured an officer. President Ivan Duque blamed the rebel National Liberation Army for explosions set off outside a base in the city of Yopal, saying it showed how the rebels ‘had no interest’ in peace.” The National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish acronym ELN, is one of Colombia’s last remaining rebel groups. Colombia’s government broke off peace talks with the rebels a year ago after they bombed a police academy in Bogota, killing 22 people. The group has not commented on Friday’s attack.”

Why peace talks with Colombia’s ELN rebels are so difficult
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, December 9, 2019

“Colombia’s government last week reopened the door for peace talks with the ELN guerrilla group, whose very nature makes successful talks extremely difficult. Unlike the FARC, the guerrilla group that needed four years of negotiations to demobilize and disarm, the ELN is highly decentralized, and does not have the strict military hierarchy that facilitated a relatively smooth demobilization of the FARC in 2017.”

DRUG POLICY

Colombia eradicates record amount of coca fields last year, president says
Reuters, January 9, 2020

“Colombia, a top source of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, eradicated more than 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of the crop last year, President Ivan Duque said on Thursday. The Andean country has come under repeated pressure from the United States, an important destination for cocaine shipments, to reduce coca cultivation, especially as crop figures shot up in recent years.”

Detoxifying Colombia’s drug policy
Vanda Felbab-Brown, The Brookings Institution, January 8, 2020

“Colombia’s counternarcotics policy choices have profound impact on consolidating peace in the wake of the 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia…and on the building of an effective state. Strategies of forced or voluntary eradication of coca crops have proven ineffective. As evidence from around the world shows, a long-term comprehensive effort to promote alternative livelihoods for coca growers — integrated into rural development and supported by well-designed interdiction efforts, with eradication delayed until these alternative livelihoods are generating sustainable income — has the best prospects for producing peace and a capable state and for reducing drug production.”

Colombia’s Release of Draft Decree on Aerial Coca Eradication
U.S. Department of State, December 31, 2019

“The United States welcomes the Duque administration’s release of its draft decree on the resumption of aerial coca eradication, which details how it would meet strict health and environmental conditions set by Colombia’s Constitutional Court. The decision to employ aerial spraying is a sovereign decision for the Colombian government. The release of this draft decree is a critical step toward integrating aerial coca eradication into Colombia’s comprehensive counternarcotics strategy. Like the United States, Colombia recognizes that a successful counternarcotics approach must address both supply and demand reduction.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Are Venezuelan Refugees Still Welcome?
Annette Langer, Spiegel, January 13, 2020

“Tens of thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing to Colombia each day because they might otherwise starve. But how long will their neighbors’ goodwill last, considering they themselves are taking to the streets to protest poverty, violence and a reviled president?”

* 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.