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Colombia News Brief for February 17-23, 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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Source: InSight Crime

Politics of Peace

• Nearly 7000 FARC-EP Members Arrive at Zones Where UN Mission Will Verify Laying Down of Arms
UN Mission, February 20, 2017
“Around 300 men and women arrived on 18 February at the zone of Agua Bonita, in the department of Caquetá, central Colombia, where the UN Mission will verify the laying down of arms.  This movement completes the arrival of around 6,900 FARC-EP men and women, some of them pregnant or with small children, to begin their transition to civilian life.”

• Last FARC Rebels Reach Concentration Zones, but Questions Remain
Leonardo Goi, Insight Crime, February 21, 2017
“Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said the FARC guerrillas have completed their transition into special concentration zones, but questions remain about the number of insurgents still left in the field and how the next steps in the demobilization process will pan out.” 

• Colombia’s President Visits Rebels as they Prepare to Disarm
Associated Press, The Washington Post, February 20, 2017
“Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is celebrating the arrival of the last contingent of leftist rebels at United Nations-supervised transition areas where they are preparing to disarm.”

• FARC Disarmament to Begin on March 1: Army
Jamie Vaughan Johnson, Colombia Reports, February 22, 2017
“Demobilized guerrillas of Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, will begin surrendering their weapons to the United Nations on March 1, the Colombian military said Tuesday.”

• Correr la fecha de la dejación de armas es una necesidad: FARC
Semana, 21 de febrero de 2017
“Tras el cruce de información entre Jean Arnault, María Ángela Holguín y Sergio Jaramillo, el grupo guerrillero -a través de una carta- le pide a la ONU que cambie el calendario.”

• Raid of Colombia Cocaine Labs Shows Resilience of Drug Trade
David Gagne, Insight Crime, February 21, 2017
“Security forces in Colombia have destroyed over 150 cocaine laboratories belonging to a criminal group that the government recently announced had been dismantled, a sign of the drug trade’s resiliency as the country enters the post-conflict phase.” 

• Uribistas buscan pista para aterrizar en Tribunal de Paz
Semana, 18 de febrero de 2017
“Algunos exfuncionarios uribistas se preparan para ir a la justicia transicional acordada con las Farc. La figura es forzada pero posible. Ayudaría, por fin, a construir un consenso político.”

• Colombian Families Flee Criminal Gangs as FARC Leaves, says UN
BBC News, February 18, 2017
“Families on Colombia’s border with Venezuela have been displaced by criminal former paramilitary groups trying to fill the vacuum left by the departure of Farc rebels, the UN says.Officials said 96 families in the northern region of Norte de Santander had fled their homes.”

• Colombia FARC Rebels to Start Disarmament Process
Reuters, February 21, 2017
“Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebels can begin surrendering their weapons to the United Nations now that almost 7,000 of them have reached designated demobilization zones around the country, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday.”

• FARC Demobilization Could Threaten Costa Rica Security: Minister
Leonardo Goi, Insight Crime, February 20, 2017
“Authorities in Costa Rica are worried that the dismantling of Colombia’s main guerrilla group could threaten the Central American country’s stability, as a new generation of criminal networks are likely to take over the drug routes formerly held by the insurgents.” 

• Gobierno y ONU, la pelea por la dejación de armas que nadie anticipaba
Semana, 20 de febrero de 2017
“La críticas de Jean Arnault y la respuesta de María Ángela Holguín y Sergio Jaramillo dejaron al descubierto que detrás de la postal histórica de los 7.000 guerrilleros trasladándose a los puntos de concentración, hay problemas logísticos que necesitan soluciones.”

• FARC Finish Demobilization as UN Confirms Paramilitary Activity
Telesur, 19 de febrero de 2017
“As FARC rebels completed their final demobilization on Saturday and entered the last of the 26 designated safe zones, U.N. monitors reported that right-wing paramilitary groups are moving into former rebel-controlled areas displacing almost a hundred families.”

• Colombia Death Toll Rises as Gangs Fill Vacuum left by FARC Rebels
The Guardian, 18 de febrero de 2017
“After a 64-year-old activist, Porofirio Jaramillo, was dragged from his home and murdered by four men on motorbikes, the head of the Colombian government’s victims unit did not mince his words. The country was facing a massacre in slow motion, he warned.”

Ongoing Peace Talks with the ELN

• Colombia, ELN Announce 1st Accord at Peace Talks
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 16, 2017
“Colombia’s government and the country’s last active rebel force announced a preliminary agreement in their work toward a permanent ceasefire at peace talks on Thursday.The government is seeking a peace deal with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) to seal “complete peace” after signing an accord last year with the bigger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).”

• Political Challenges Threaten ELN Peace Talks
The Dialogue, February 15, 2017
“After 10 months as a hostage, former Colombian congressman Odín Sánchez is finally free. Sanchez had been a captive of the National Liberation Army (ELN) since last April when he exchanged his freedom for that of his ailing brother, Patrocinio. This—along with the other prisoner exchanges that followed—is an encouraging sign of good faith in the peace talks, which began last week.”

• Ecuador’s Opposition Guarantees Continued Support for Peace in Colombia
Richard Kelleher, Colombia Reports, February 23, 2017
“Ecuador’s opposition presidential candidate has ensured that he will continue support for peace talks between Colombia’s government and ELN rebels in the event he is elected president.”

Human Rights Issues

• Contra Las Cuerdas
Programa Somos Defensores, 2016
“Si la lucha de los defensores de derechos humanos en Colombia fuera una pelea de boxeo, en 2016 estos activistas estarían contra las cuerdas. Incrementos desproporcionados en asesinatos y atentados  y una desprotección por parte del Estado que no tiene justificación “ad portas” de la finalización del conflicto colombiano son el tema que aborda el Informe Anual  2016. Que la Paz no les cueste la vida a los defensores(as) en Colombia es la consigna. Las advertencias del pasado se cumplieron y el Estado colombiano continua en silencio.”

• Colombia Activist Killings ‘Will not be Tolerated’ says Minister
Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian, February 18, 2017
“The woman who is emerging as a linchpin in Colombia’s efforts to implement historic peace accords said last week that the culture of impunity over the killing of indigenous land and human rights activists “will not be tolerated. The end of impunity for killing of this kind is crucial to imposing the peace agreement, which is also about an end to the use of all arms for political ends in Colombia.”

• Defensores Derechos Humanos piden que paz no les cueste la vida
Terra, 21 de febrero de 2017
“La a construcción de la paz está costando cara a los defensores de los Derechos Humanos, 80 de los cuales fueron asesinados en 2016, según el informe anual divulgado hoy por la ONG Programa Somos Defensores.”

• Colombian Human Rights Defender Stabbed, in Critical Condition
Telesur, February 21, 2017
“Francisco Gomez, a Colombian human rights lawyer, remains in a critical condition after being stabbed several times in his sleep overnight. Gomez’s story adds to a catalog of violence against human rights defenders as the country continues to roll out peace between the FARC and the government.”

 *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.