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Colombia News Brief for February 10-16, 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.

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Flower Worker Julia Duranti Latin Correspondent article
Workers pack roses to be shipped to the US ahead of Valentine’s Day at a flower company site in Chia, north of Bogotá. 
Source: Latin Correspondent
 

The Politics of Peace

• FARC Finalizing Demobilization: Disarming Colombia’s Largest Guerrilla Group Next Challenge
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 13, 2017
“Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, has begun demobilizing its last two remaining units, the verification mission led by United Nations observers announced Sunday. According to the UN, the last remaining FARC guerrillas were being transported to demobilization camps, or so-called ZVTNs, in Colinas, Guaviare and Madrigal, Nariño, both in southern Colombia.”

• Farc terminarán de entrar a zonas de concentración este fin de semana
El Tiempo, 15 de febrero de 2017
“Más de siete mil integrantes de las Farc que se acogieron al proceso de paz con el Gobierno terminarán su ingreso a las zonas veredales en las que procederán a dejar sus armas el próximo fin de semana.El anuncio lo hizo el ministro del Interior, Juan Fernando Cristo, durante el debate del proyecto de acto legislativo que regula la participación política del nuevo partido político que surja de la guerrilla, una vez se desarme.”

• MVM’s Report on FARC-EP Transfer Operation into Zones and Points Where the Laying Down of Arms Will Take Place
UN Mission in Colombia, February 13, 2017
“The National Direction of the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) presents the progress of activities carried out from January 28 to February 10, 2017, related to the movements of FARC-EP members from the Temporal Pre-grouping Points (PPT) to the zones and points where the laying down of arms will take place, based on the protocols governing the Bilateral Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities and the Laying down of Arms.”

• El largo camino de las Farc hasta Caño Indio
Verdad Abierta, 15 de febrero de 2017
“En la instalación de la última zona veredal en Colombia bajo los acuerdos de esta guerrilla con el gobierno nacional, se hicieron visibles problemas locales que deben ser tenidos en cuenta en la implementación de los acuerdos: la sustitución de los cultivos ilícitos, la presencia de otros actores armados ilegales y el rol político que jugarán las organizaciones sociales regionales y locales.”

• Voceros de FARC dicen que en vereda de Mesetas solo hallaron potreros
El Tiempo, 13 de febrero de 2017
“Los cerca de 600 guerrilleros de las Farc que se concentraron en la zona veredal de transición a la normalidad de Buenavista (Mesetas) no la están pasando nada fácil. Largos días de exposición al intenso sol, fuertes vientos y fríos en la noche contrastan con el cobijo que les brindaban las selvas del sur del Meta.”

• La difícil transición mental hacia la paz
Jineth Prieto, La Silla Vacía, 14 de febrero de 2017
“La semana pasada, cuando la caravana con 190 guerrilleros del Frente 33 de las Farc salió desde La Gabarra hacia el sitio de concentración en Caño Indio sucedieron dos episodios que muestran lo difícil que es hacer la transición mental hacia la paz.”

• Aprobada reforma para que Voces de Paz intervenga en el Congreso
Verdad Abierta, 15 de febrero de 2017
“La agrupación política de origen ciudadano que está encargada de velar por la implementación del Acuerdo Final entre el gobierno nacional y las Farc, tendrá voz en el Legislativo, pero no derecho al voto. Esta es la segunda norma aprobada vía Fast Track.”

• Paramilitary Violence on the Rise
Emma Newbery, The Bogota Post, February 13, 2017
“In addition to the spate of violence against human rights defenders, there are reports of a rise in paramilitary violence, attacks and threats in many communities in areas that have now been vacated by the FARC. Armed men wearing camouflage are entering villages and telling residents that they plan to stay in the territory and that those who oppose them will be killed. In some areas, the violence – or threat of violence – has got so bad that people are having to flee their homes.”

• La pelea de los ilegales por los vacíos que dejaron las FARC
Semana, 11 de Febrero de 2017
“La fuerza pública enfrenta uno de los mayores desafíos del último medio siglo: pasar de combatir a un enemigo a controlar realmente el territorio. Ese ha sido uno de los puntos más débiles del Estado, una de las razones por las cuales la guerra se prolongó por cinco décadas.”

• Uribe Family Submerged in Paramilitary Accusations 
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 14, 2017
“A Medellin court ordered not only to investigate the brother of former President Alvaro Uribe for forming his own death squads, but also for financing other paramilitary groups.The court investigating crimes by the paramilitary AUC asked the prosecution to investigate accusations made by numerous demobilized paramilitaries who had claimed the former president’s brother financed the “Bloque Pacifico,” a.k.a. “Héroes del Chocó,” and the “Bloque Héroes de Granada.”

Foreign Affairs and the Peace Process

• US stands to gain from Colombia’s ongoing rise to prosperity
Juan Carlos Pinzon, The Hill, February 15, 2017
“Colombia now faces the complex task of implementing the recently adopted Peace Agreement that ended more than 50 years of armed conflict. The United States can play a pivotal role once again and help Colombia sustain its transformation with the next phase of Plan Colombia — the Peace Colombia initiative.”

• Trump to ‘Personally’ Take Charge of Aid for Colombia Peace Process: Santos
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 11, 2017
“US President Donald Trump will “personally take charge” of the pending congressional approval of a $450 million aid package for Colombia’s ongoing peace process, President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday.”

• Readout of the President’s Call with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia
The White House, February 13, 2017
“President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia over the weekend to underscore the importance of continuing the long history of cooperation with Colombia, one of our strongest allies in the Western Hemisphere.  President Trump reiterated the value the United States places on the relationship, and both Presidents discussed U.S. support for Colombia’s effort to create a just and lasting peace in its 52-year conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). President Trump expressed concern about the situation in Venezuela, and the leaders discussed the importance of promoting respect for democratic institutions and norms throughout the Western Hemisphere.  The two leaders look forward to meeting each other in the future.”

• Readout of the Vice President’s Call with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia
The White House, February 10, 2017
“Vice President Mike Pence spoke by telephone today with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. The two leaders discussed the important bilateral relationship between the United States and Colombia that has existed for many years, and they pledged to maintain and deepen their cooperation on security issues. The Vice President congratulated President Santos for the initial steps in implementing the Colombian peace accord. The two leaders vowed to remain in close communication on bilateral and regional priorities.”

• Presidente de Irlanda visitará hoy zona de agrupamiento de las Farc
El Espectador, 12 de febrero de 2017
“Michael Higgins se reunirá el próximo martes con el presidente Santos, con quien dialogará sobre el apoyo del Gobierno de Irlanda para el posconflicto y oportunidades de inversión, comercio y turismo.”

• Santos Thanks Correa for Support on Colombian Peace Process
South America Times, February 16, 2017
“Many thanks for all the support that you have been giving us, support in the peace process. Your generosity, your vision, your commitment to peace in the region and peace in Colombia is something that we will never forget,” said Santos upon his arrival in the city of Guayaquil to meet with his Ecuadorian colleague.

Human Rights Issues

• The Activists Key to Consolidating Colombia Peace are Facing Increased Attacks
Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli and Sonia Londono, WOLA, February 15, 2017
“With the end of 52 years of conflict between the Colombian government and armed rebels, civil society activists are playing a key role in constructing a lasting peace and democracy in Colombia. Sadly, the human rights defenders, trade unionists, Afro-Colombian, indigenous and other community leaders conducting this vital effort are under threat. Since the signing of the peace accord between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the start of its implementation, attacks against civil society activists have increased at an alarming rate.” 

• Human Rights Violations Persist After Peace in Colombia: Report
Telesur, February 14, 2017
“Social leaders in Colombia have suffered at least 317 violations of human rights since the beginning of the definitive bilateral cease-fire between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, according to a report released by a human rights commission organized by Colombian political and social movement Patriotic March.” [Informe en Español]

• Colombia Human Rights Leader Attacked in Medellin
David Maas, Colombia Reports, February 14, 2017
“A human rights defender was attacked and left critically injured by gang members in Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin, late Sunday night.According to local media, the 39-year-old Yudy Andrea Seguro, a community leader in the Belen Altavista neighborhood of Medellin, and her daughter were shot at by members of the ‘Los Chivos’ criminal gang.”

• Indigenous Woman Shot Dead in Colombia as Activists Targeted
Telesur, February 11, 2017
“Another Indigenous leader and activist was killed in Colombia as authorities refuse to acknowledge the return or existence of paramilitaries in native communities. Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela of the Wiwa tribe in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a strong spiritual Indigenous territory, fought to protect Indigenous and women’s rights in her community.”

• Fifth Activist Killed in Antioquia, Colombia This Year
Telesur, February 10, 2017
“The body of Luz Herminia Olarte, a social leader who worked in the town of Llano de Ochalí in Yarumal, Antioquia, was found after she was reportedly taken from her home Tuesday Feb. 7. Colombian human rights organization, The Social Process of Guarantees for the Work of Human Rights Defenders, has spoken out against the murder and demanded government action.”

• Colombia Embarks on Demining War-Torn Countryside
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, February 14, 2017
“Colombia will escalate the process of removing landmines from its territory as the demobilization of the Marxist-inspired FARC guerrillas continues, according to reports from the government on Tuesday.”

• FARC Troops Help Boost Colombia’ Landmine Removal Effort
Telesur, February 15, 2017
“As part of Colombia’s transition to peace, around 1,000 former FARC rebels will help to identify and remove land mines across Colombia as the country works towards its goal of eradicating landmines in the next four years.”

*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.