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Colombia News Brief for February 5, 2016

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Welcome to the Colombia News Brief, LAWGEF’s compilation of this week’s top articles and reports on issues of peace, justice, and human rights in Colombia.

This week’s news brief includes articles and reports on issues of peace, justice, human rights, and U.S.-Colombia relations in the context of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ Washington DC visit, the 15th anniversary of Plan Colombia, and the announcement of a new U.S. aid package dubbed “Peace Colombia.”

President Santos’ Visit to Washington DC

•   Video: President Juan Manuel Santos on Colombia’s Transformation and Future Challenges
Americas Society & Council of the Americas, February 4, 2016
“On the first day of his February 2016 Washington DC visit, Colombian President Santos spoke in a public event about “Colombia’s progress in security and governance over the last 15 years. He will also review the state of the negotiations with the FARC, the prospects for a country at peace, and the challenges that lie ahead.”

•   Video included: Obama Praises Colombia’s Peace Efforts With Rebels and Seeks Big Aid Increase
Mark Landler, New York Times, February 4, 2016
“Plan Colombia, Mr. Obama said, will be renamed Peace Colombia to reflect its new purpose of helping the country keep the peace, rather than wage war. ‘In Colombia today,’ he said, ‘there is hope.’’

Colombia’s president seeks U.S. support for historic peace deal
Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2016
“Human rights activists, academics and others argue that any new U.S. plan for Colombia should shift its focus from military aid to the peace-time challenges of removing land mines, granting land titles to indigenous communities, building government institutions in rural areas and providing recovery for victims.”

•   Colombian president arrives in D.C. as a peace accord appears imminent, but some grumble at the cost
Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post, February 3, 2016
“Santos is looking to add at least $200 million, with growth options for years to come. Among the more costly items on his agenda are a rural development program to move coca cultivators into other crops and resettle more than 6 million Colombians who have been displaced by the war, a figure making Colombia’s number of internally displaced persons among the highest in the world. The government also hopes to extend its coverage of security and services to vast areas of the country where its presence has been marginal at best.”

•   Santos y Biden hablaron del futuro del Plan Colombia y el proceso de paz
Caracol Radio, 4 de febrero de 2016
“El presidente Juan Manuel Santos se reunió en el Observatorio Naval de Estados Unidos con el vicepresidente Joe Biden, donde la paz, el posconflicto, el Plan Colombia y como se relacionarán estos temas en el futuro fueron discutidos en la reunión que duró alrededor de una hora”.

•   Q&A: Colombia’s President Santos in Washington: On the Issues with Virginia “Ginny” Bouvier
Fred Strasser, United States Institute for Peace, February 3, 2016
“Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos meets President Barack Obama on Feb. 4 in Washington to commemorate the 15th anniversary of “Plan Colombia,” a U.S.-led effort that has provided about $10 billion to help the South American country’s security forces fight leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers. Virginia Bouvier, a senior advisor for peace processes at the U.S. Institute of Peace, who has led the Institute’s work on Colombia for the past decade, talks about Santos’s visit and the fast-moving peace talks with those rebels that are taking place in Havana.”

Reflections on Plan Colombia, 15 years on

•   Grasp the Chance for Peace in Colombia, But Don’t Forget the Brutal War
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, February 3, 2016
“‘I have never seen a day of peace in my life,’ Colombian civil society leaders have told me. As President Juan Manuel Santos visits Washington on February 3 and 4, 2016, there’s hope they may see such a day.”

•   Correcting Plan Colombia: 5 ways the U.S. can support a lasting peace in Colombia
Gimena Sanchez, Lisa Haugaard, and Geoff Ramsey, Colombia Reports, February 3, 2016
“Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will meet with US President Barack Obama to promote the peace process and mark the 15th anniversary of Plan Colombia, a US assistance package that was accompanied by grave human rights abuses on the ground since it started in 2000. Their meeting provides an excellent opportunity for the US government to learn from the mistakes of Plan Colombia, and ensure that future aid and diplomacy truly contributes to a lasting peace.”

•   Infographic: The Human Rights Costs during Plan Colombia 
Angelika Albaladejo and Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, February 1, 2016
“Since the start of Plan Colombia, more than 6 million people were victimized, more than 4 million people were displaced, more than 4,300 civilians were murdered allegedly by government security forces to up the body count, more than 1,000 trade unionists and 400 human rights defenders were murdered, and countless women suffered sexual violence.”

•   15th Anniversary of Plan Colombia: Learning from its Successes and Failures
Interactive Website from the Washington Office on Latin America, February 1, 2016
“Plan Colombia’s results are not the ‘clear success’ that the reigning narrative implies. We were unfortunately correct about the human rights damage, the prolongation of the conflict, and the stubborn persistence of drug production… let’s commemorate Plan Colombia by learning from what worked and is applicable elsewhere, what didn’t and why it failed, and what should never be repeated. WOLA offers this data presentation to guide that discussion.”

•   ¿Plan Colombia o Paz Colombia?
Jorge Rojas, El Espectador, 4 de febrero de 2016
“Quince años después la pregunta sigue vigente. Esta semana en Washington los presidentes Obama y Santos, en presencia del ex presidente Andres Pastrana y en medio del desplante del expresidente Uribe, se reúnen para celebrar el décimo quinto aniversario del Plan Colombia, que para algunos fue un éxito, pero para otros una operación militar con graves efectos colaterales”.

•   Las muchas lecciones del Plan Colombia
Adam Isacson, El Espectador, February 1, 2016
“Si bien la estrategia ha logrado avances importantes, todavía no se puede hablar de misión cumplida. En un escenario de paz, urge llevar institucionalidad a las regiones y se necesita un nuevo plan, con aporte generoso de donantes internacionales”.

•   Has Plan Colombia really worked?
Natalio Cosoy, BBC News, February 4, 2016
“The US-funded plan aims to solve the problem of drug trafficking and internal conflict in Colombia, in which more than 200,000 people have died…The initiative has met its goals in many ways, but it has also brought with it unexpected consequences.”

U.S. Support for Peace

•   White House Fact Sheet: Peace Colombia—A New Era of Partnership between the United States and Colombia
The White House Office of the Press Secretary, February 4, 2016
“The President announced a new framework for bilateral cooperation in the event of a peace accord with the FARC: Peace Colombia.  Building on existing efforts and with the support of Congress, this multi-year initiative would scale up catalytic U.S. support to help Colombia ‘win the peace.’”

•   History weighs as Obama, Santos plot Colombia peace
Andrew Beatty,Yahoo News, February 4, 2016
“Some are also calling on the United States to help peace by examining the legacy of ‘Plan Colombia’ and its own role in Colombia’s long and dirty war. Virginia Bouvier of the US Institute of Peace said the US could help by declassifying documents and offering transparent information about events.”

•   Ahead of President Obama’s Meeting with Colombian President, McGovern Leads Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Urging Support for Peace Process
Representative Jim McGovern’s Office, February 2, 2016
“Ahead of this week’s White House meeting between President Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a bipartisan group of 57 House lawmakers called on President Obama today to support the Colombian peace process.”

•   Hay que apoyar a Colombia en la paz, dice poderoso senador de EE. UU.
Sergio Gómez Maseri, El Tiempo, 4 de febrero de 2016
“Pero no sería aceptable que los líderes de las Farc, o altos miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas que sean responsables de crímenes de guerra o contra la humanidad no pierdan su libertad por un periodo de tiempo apropiado. Ignorar eso sería contrariar las obligaciones internacionales de Colombia, una ofensa para las familias de las víctimas y perpetuaría la historia de impunidad en Colombia”.

•   US already supporting Colombia’s post-conflict: Ambassador
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 4, 2016
“According to Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, the US’ foreign aid agency USAID is already supporting government reintegration programs for demobilized fighters, including those who have deserted the FARC while formally still at war with the state.” 

•   Why Obama should press Colombia on justice
José Miguel Vivanco and Daniel Wilkinson, Human Rights Watch, February 4, 2016
“The real question for Colombians today isn’t whether they want peace or justice. It’s whether they want both or neither… If Obama wants to support the quest for peace in Colombia, he should press Santos to strengthen the justice component of the agreement and prevent those responsible for atrocities on both sides of the conflict from escaping genuine punishment for their crimes.”

Peace Process

•   Stars Move into Alignment for the Peace Accords: Heading toward the Finish Line in Cuba
Virginia M. Bouvier, Colombia Calls, February 1, 2016
“The peace process continues to move ahead in Havana, apparently energized by the recently approved UN Security Council resolution, and on track for a March 23 deadline.”

•   Santos and FARC tipped to win 2016 Nobel Peace Prize
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 1, 2016
“Colombia’s government and rebel group FARC are among the favorites to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize if they are able to sign peace.”

•   FARC leader says 99% of guerrillas will demobilize after peace deal
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, January 31, 2016
“FARC leader “Timochenko” said in an interview published Sunday that he believes almost all guerrillas belonging to his rebel group will demobilize in the event of peace.”

•   “Esperamos firmar en marzo. Si es dos días o una semana tarde, no importa”
Semana, 2 de febrero de 2016
“Durante una charla en Washington el presidente Santos reconoció que, aunque el mandato es acelerar los diálogos, el compromiso de firmar el 23 de marzo se podría retrasar”.

•   Exmiembros del ELN piden que esa guerrilla le meta pedal a la paz
Élber Gutiérrez, El Espectador, 2 de febrero de 2016
“Mientras los acercamientos entre el Gobierno y las Farc apuntan a la inminente suscripción de un acuerdo que pondría fin a seis décadas de violencia con este grupo armado ilegal, todavía hay un importante actor del conflicto con el que el panorama no parece tan claro y del cual depende, en buena medida, que los pactos con las Farc no terminen en frustración. Ese actor es el Eln”

Human Rights

•   Colombia: Over 200 Families Still Disappeared in Antioquia
teleSur, February 1, 2016
“Forced displacements have long been a tragic outcome of the war in Colombia, but even though violence has reportedly diminished in recent years, over 200 families in the state of Antioquia remain displaced and refuse to return home because of the ongoing fighting.”

•   Los Afrocolombianos en las relaciones de Estados Unidos y Colombia
Marino Córdoba y Gimena Sánchez, Actualidad Étnica, 29 de enero de 2016
“Pese a ser los dueños colectivos de más de 5.5 millones hectáreas de tierras tituladas colectivamente, con algunos de los mejores recursos naturales de Colombia y del mundo, los afrocolombianos enfrentan serias consecuencias que afectan su desarrollo y supervivencia.”

•   Internal Displacement Decreases Dramatically in Colombia
Elise Ditta, InSight Crime, February 4, 2016
“The number of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Colombia decreased dramatically in 2015, but territorial disputes in the criminal world may mean the end of forced displacement is not in sight.”

•   From the Humanitarian Refuge in Puerto Claver
Hamish Low, Peace Brigades International Colombia, February 2, 2015
“In Puerto Claver hundreds of people have been displaced by the armed conflict in the surrounding area.”

•   Experts Alarmed Over Indigenous Child Health Crisis in Colombia
teleSur, February 5, 2016
“At least 18 Indigenous children died of preventable and curable illnesses in the Riosucio municipality in Colombia’s western department of Choco in the last three years, according to a United Nations mission that has raised alarm over the public health crisis.”

•   La participación de los ‘paras’ en las ejecuciones extrajudiciales
Verdad Abierta, 3 de Febrero de 2016
“La documentación que viene realizando la Unidad de Justicia Transicional de la Fiscalía deja al descubierto cómo grupos paramilitares, como el Bloque ‘Héroes de Granada’, retuvieron ilegalmente a  decenas de personas que luego fueron reportadas como guerrilleros muertos en combate por el Ejército Nacional.”

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*The Colombia News Brief is a selection of relevant news articles and reports, all of which do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Latin America Working Group.