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Colombia News Brief for February 5-27, 2018

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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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Slain human rights defender Temistoclés Machado. Source: Las Dos Orillas

 

Peace Accord Implementation

Un plan B para salvar las circunscripciones de paz 
El Espectador, 18 de febrero de 2018 
“En esencia lo que propone es que, ante la imposibilidad de que las circunscripciones especiales de paz apliquen ya a partir del próximo 20 de julio, cuando se instale el nuevo Congreso, una vez sea tramitado el acto legislativo y el presidente de la República lo sancione, serán las organizaciones de víctimas y sociales las que a través de una plancha —así como se hace en la escogencia de las directivas sindicales y otras organizaciones de afiliados— definan en consenso a sus 16 representantes a la Cámara para que tomen posesión inmediata.Teniendo en cuenta que esas curules están planteadas para ocho años, en 2022 sí tendrían que ir a votación”. 

La Farc en la política: entre la esperanza y el rechazo
Verdad Abierta, 8 de febrero de 2018
“Con las elecciones legislativas y presidenciales por delante, el partido político Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (Farc) realiza su campaña mirando hacia los sectores más vulnerables del país, a los que les promete superar deudas históricas en materia económica y social. No obstante, el rechazo que la organización cosechó durante 50 años de guerra se ha transformado en expresiones públicas en su contra”.

FARC denuncia asesinato de otro integrante del partido
El Espectador, 19 de febrero de 2018 
“Este hecho se suma a los 38 asesinatos de ex combatientes registrados por nuestra organización desde la firma del acuerdo de Paz, dentro de los que se encuentra el homicidio de 12 ex prisioneros políticos de las FARC-EP’, señala la FARC en un comunicado…Para la FARC, el incumplimiento por parte del Estado ha impedido que ‘se materialicen las garantías reales para un efectivo y digno proceso de reincorporación, lo cual se ha convertido en uno de los factores de mayor vulnerabilidad y aumento del riesgo para nuestros militantes y ex combatientes, razón por la cual hemos exigido que se levanten las trabas y se cumplan los compromisos acordados”.

Stripping FARC and its associates of their guerrilla riches, no easy task
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 22, 2018 
“Colombia’s prosecution is trying to prevent that the FARC leadership will keep guerrilla riches now that the Marxists have formed a political party. This is a monumental task…Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez will have to try to prevent repeating past mistakes; after paramilitary group AUC demobilized, many of the far right warlords failed to surrender assets…The peace process with the FARC could cost tens of billions of dollars, meaning that the state has to do anything within its power to make sure all wealth is accounted for and is used to compensate victims.”

Colombia Asset Seizures Raise Doubts About FARC Peace Deal Compliance
Parker Asmann, Insight Crime, February 20, 2018 
“The large-scale seizure of FARC-linked assets is likely to reinforce the perception that the rebel group is not fully committed to the terms of the peace agreement, particularly when it comes to using its assets to provide reparations for victims…The mounting speculation that the FARC is not complying with the terms of the peace agreement could also have ramifications in presidential elections scheduled for May…Opponents of the FARC peace deal have long claimed that the rebel group can’t be trusted to hold up its end of the agreement. The issue of undeclared FARC assets could give a boost to critics of the deal, in addition to undermining the already-struggling political vehicle of the demobilized rebels…”

Colombian police die in clash with ‘FARC dissidents’
AFP, February 20, 2018 
“Two policemen were killed in a gunbattle in southern Colombia with alleged FARC dissidents, the defense minister said Tuesday…The two police officers died after being taken to a hospital, where one of their attackers also died…The minister said ‘everything points’ to the men being dissident members of the FARC…”

ELN

Un mensaje de respeto a quienes votan
ELN Voces, 26 de febrero de 2018 
“Recordamos la importancia que tiene seguir avanzando en la Agenda pactada en Caracas el 30 de marzo de 2016…Así mismo, este Quinto ciclo debe evaluar el pasado cese, para pactar uno nuevo, donde se respete la bilateralidad en los mecanismos de verificación y control del cese…La Agenda debe continuarse desarrollando con rigurosidad y celeridad, respetando a la vez los instrumentos y protocolos pactados, para buscar un acuerdo que supere la confrontación armada y acordar transformaciones en búsqueda de una Colombia en paz y equidad…En consecuencia con lo anterior, proponemos al Presidente Santos fijar una fecha de inicio del Quinto ciclo de conversaciones y enviar su Delegación de Diálogo a Quito. En correspondencia, en esta fecha también se harían presentes todos nuestros delegados, en la capital de Ecuador”.

ELN announces unilateral ceasefire for Colombia’s congressional elections
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, February 26, 2018 
“The group has been carrying out multiple attacks after a bilateral ceasefire with the military expired last month…This latest measure was announced ‘as a sign of respect’ for Colombians who want to practice their democratic rights in the upcoming election…The rebels called on President Juan Manuel Santos to resume peace negotiations in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito…The president suspended peace talks with the guerrillas after a wave of attacks that followed the expiry of the ceasefire.”

ELN offers no concessions as social leaders seek resumed peace talks
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, February 13, 2018 
“Santos has been adamant in his demand guerrilla violence must be reduced before any negotiations can be resumed…The guerrillas refuse and hold the government responsible for a wave of assassinations of social leaders that followed a peace deal with the FARC, the Marxist group that demobilized last year…The talks are complicated by a lack of confidence between the parties and upcoming votes to elect a new president and congress…The rebels have accused the military of colluding with the AGC, a paramilitary organization that is four times the size of the ELN that has been combating the guerrillas in western Colombia.”

Colombian President Sees Resuming Talks with ELN Hard to Imagine
EFE, February 10, 2018 
“Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said it will be very difficult to resume peace talks with the ELN if that guerrilla group doesn’t show any coherence between what it says and what it does, a reference to its bombing this Saturday of a bridge and a highway in the northern part of the country…The president recalled that the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the early hours Saturday used explosives to damage a bridge and a highway in the north Colombian province of Cesar. There were no victims.”

Colombia’s ELN rebels continue attacks as warrants pile up
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 19, 2018
“In total, judges have warranted the arrest of 21 members of the group. Five of the suspects are members of the Central Command, the military leadership of the ELN…According to the United Nations, the ceasefire that ended on January 9 significantly improved the humanitarian situation in areas where the ELN’s rural guerrilla units are active…The Colombian government is in the last six months of its mandate and suffering abysmal approval ratings…The guerrilla attacks have agitated the electorate, which is set to vote for a new Congress in March and a new president in May…Conservative candidates have called to end the talks with the ELN. Liberals and social democrats have urged calm, and have supported the government’s decision to suspend talks while waiting for ELN concessions…The ELN, however, seems unwilling to reduce or end its attack.”

El dilema de Colombia: ¿qué camino tomar con el ELN?
¡Pacifista!, 14 de febrero de 2018 
“El ELN parece perdido y las opciones que tiene no son muchas. Hace ya mucho tiempo que abandonó la esperanza de una victoria militar y continuar con la violencia no le va a reportar un aumento de su poder de negociación. Pero, al mismo tiempo, sus expectativas de que vayan a producirse cambios en las conversaciones de paz son limitadas…Estas opciones limitadas provocan que se den pasos erráticos en distintas direcciones. Abogan por un nuevo cese al fuego, pero se muestran reacios a negociarlo. Piden que la violencia disminuya a la vez que matan a agentes de la policía. Apelan a la participación de la sociedad civil mientras generan antagonismo en la opinión pública”.

With Armed Strike in Colombia, ELN’s Warmongers Seek Upper Hand
Mimi Yagoub, Insight Crime, February 13, 2018 
“People affected by the Western War Front’s strike in the northwestern department of Chocó who were consulted by InSight Crime speculated that the ELN may be using the strike as part of their territorial strategy…It is feasible that the ELN is manipulating the strike to reorganize following the ceasefire, especially in areas where they run lucrative criminal economies…As a result of their actions, the ELN’s warmongers are quickly drowning out the group’s peace advocates…The newest round of talks that were supposed to start this year never really took off, with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recalling his government negotiators after the ELN unleashed a wave of violence following the end of the bilateral ceasefire…Furthermore, Santos is reaching the end of his tenure. Presidential elections are coming up mid-year, putting the talks at further risk…A successor less amenable to the peace talks could double down on this strategy, potentially giving other elements of the ELN a reason to side with the warmongers over the peacemakers.”

ELN anuncia un paro armado en todo el país
Semana, 7 de febrero de 2018
“Según un comunicado de la guerrilla, este comenzará a las 6 a.m. del 10 de febrero hasta la misma hora del 13 de febrero…De igual forma, aclaran que ante tal decisión, ‘todas las estructuras del ELN han sido orientadas para cumplir dicha orden’…El anuncio del paro armado sucede precisamente cuando se crearon nuevas expectativas de un posible nuevo acercamiento, tras conocerse de manera extraoficial que un grupo de garantes intenta tender nuevos puentes de confianza entre las partes”.

Colombia’s ELN Reportedly Distributing Venezuela Government Food on the Border 
Venezuela Investigative Unit, Insight Crime, February 9, 2018
“The ELN could be participating in the distribution of Venezuelan government food rations in states along the Colombian border, which may be an attempt by the Colombian rebel group to consolidate its presence in Venezuela and strengthen possible links with President Nicolás Maduro’s administration. This is happening at a key moment for both ELN’s future and the broader criminal dynamics in the area…The presence of the ELN in Venezuela and its links with the Maduro administration are not new. For many years, the ELN has carried out criminal activities in Venezuela and has taken refuge from Colombian authorities in the area. It has even been established that some of the guerrilla group’s leaders live in Venezuela or have a significant presence there, especially in border states such as Apure and Táchira.”

2018 Elections

Violencia contra líderes políticos y sociales se disparó en época electoral
El Espectador, 15 de febrero de 2018 
“Desde el 11 de diciembre de 2017, cuando se cerró la inscripción de candidatos y comenzó en firme la campaña electoral al Congreso, se han registrado en el país 62 casos de violencia contra líderes políticos, sociales y comunales, una cifra que se traduce en una conclusión preocupante: la violencia de este tipo no sólo se disparó en época electoral, sino que en apenas mes y medio se ha presentado el 20 por ciento de toda la violencia política y social del último año. Con otro agravante, el aumento de la violencia letal”.

El discurso ‘antiestablishment’ dispara a Gustavo Petro en las encuestas en Colombia
Francesco Manetto, El País, 26 de febrero de 2018 
“El exalcalde de Bogotá Gustavo Petro, político nítidamente de izquierdas y exguerrillero del M-19, se ha posicionado en las últimas semanas a la cabeza de las encuestas para suceder a Juan Manuel Santos como presidente de Colombia. Debe su proyección a un discurso contra el establishment tradicional que, si le ha valido las críticas cerradas de sus adversarios, que lo acusan de populista, también recoge cada vez más consensos entre las clases populares y los jóvenes…Su campaña, vertebrada también por un eficaz manejo de las redes sociales, despierta pasiones de amor y odio y se inserta en un contexto de polarización con las candidaturas conservadoras”.

Colombia: FARC to Resume Presidential Election Campaign?
TeleSur, February 17, 2018
“Following a meeting with authorities on Saturday, the former guerrilla group turned political entity announced it’s analyzing the feasibility of returning to the campaign trail after the government of Juan Manuel Santos offered ‘guarantees.’…Londoño recently held a meeting with the head of the United Nations mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, and with government representatives from Cuba and Norway, to discuss the FARC’s political reincorporation and electoral guarantees ahead of the presidential elections due May 27.”

Ex-guerillas suspend political campaigns in Colombia
Associated Press, February 9, 2018 
“Flanked by armed police officers, leaders of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force political party announced Friday that they will halt campaign events until their safety can be assured…Since launching their campaigns less than two weeks ago, the ex-combatants have encountered angry mobs and protests, underscoring the challenges of reconciliation that remain in Colombia after the signing of a 2016 peace agreement to end Latin America’s longest-running conflict.”

En Cali protestan durante rueda de prensa de Rodrigo Londoño
El Tiempo, 7 de febrero de 2018
“A las 9 a. m. de este miércoles, Londoño atendía una rueda de prensa en la sede de la Corporación de Periodistas del Valle y a los alrededores de ese escenario llegaron varias personas, dos con megáfonos, quienes empezaron a lanzar arengas y a gritar ‘asesino’ por la presencia del ahora candidato presidencial…Uno de los manifestantes se presentó como víctima de desplazamiento forzoso en Tumaco (Nariño) y rechazó que a Londoño se le permitiera ser aspirante a la Presidencia”.

Colombia police begins counteroffensive against lying election candidates
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 12, 2018 
“Colombia’s National Police has actively begun countering false claims made by candidates and other political actors ahead of elections in the South American country…The first politician to be reprimanded was Senate candidate Claudia Bustamante of the hard-right Democratic Center party of former President Alvaro Uribe…The Medellin businesswoman on Friday published photos of a 2016 farmers’ strike on Twitter, falsely claiming that ELN guerrillas were burning trucks as part of an ongoing shutdown.”

Human Rights and the Envrionment

Líderes sociales: el riesgo de ser una piedra en el zapato en Colombia
Semana, February 26, 2018 
“Este jueves 1 de marzo la organización Somos Defensores lanza su informe sobre la situación de los líderes sociales en 2017. El coordinador de esta investigación, Carlos Guevara, cuenta algunos de los principales hallazgos…Durante la última década, la organización Somos Defensores ha venido reportando las agresiones sistemáticas contra los defensores de derechos humanos en Colombia. Este jueves 1 de marzo presentará el informe de 2017, sin duda uno de los años más turbulentos para todos los líderes sociales en la historia del país”.

Are Colombia’s social leaders facing another extermination?
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, February 22, 2018 
“More than 200 social leaders, peasant representatives and human rights defenders have been murdered since the start of Colombia’s peace process, according to a report…The killings are spurring fears that the widespread killing could be a repetition of an extermination campaign in the 1980s and 1990s in which thousands of leftists were murdered, and spurred a wave of retaliatory guerrilla violence…The mass killings spurred ELN guerrillas to reject the extension of a ceasefire and are terrorizing entire communities, mainly in areas where authorities failed to assume control after the demobilization of the FARC last year…Since 1964, the year groups like the FARC and ELN were founded, more than 265,000 Colombians have been killed. Millions were displaced.”

El mapa de la vergüenza
El Tiempo, February 2018 
“El cuerpo sin vida del líder campesino y extrabajador de una emisora comunitaria, Elkin Fabian Toro, fue encontrado en la tarde de este sábado en el corregimiento Filo El Gringo, del municipio de El Tarra, en Norte de Santander…Toro es uno de los 205 líderes sociales, campesinos y defensores de derechos humanos que, según cifras del Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz (Indepaz), han sido asesinados en Colombia desde el comienzo de la implementación de los Acuerdos de Paz, es decir, en los últimos 15 meses.”

‘Aquí van a seguir matando líderes’: Buenaventura alerta al país
Sebastián Serrano, ¡Pacifista!, Febrero 22, 2018
“Los funcionarios explican que no pueden girar recursos para proyectos que no han sido aprobados, los líderes de la comunidad afirman que el acompañamiento de los funcionarios para formular los proyectos ha sido insuficiente y que desde Bogotá solo llegan trabas…”

Asesinatos de líderes sociales: pocos avances para la magnitud de la tragedia
Verdad Abierta, 11 de febrero de 2018
“Los recientes asesinatos de Jesús Orlando Grueso Obregón y Jonathan Cundumi Anchino, quienes venían promoviendo la sustitución voluntaria de cultivos de coca en el municipio caucano de Gaupi, según lo acordado en el acuerdo de paz que firmaron el gobierno nacional y la guerrilla de las Farc, son otra triste prueba que corrobora la advertencia que han realizado en los últimos años diferentes organizaciones: los líderes sociales y defensores de derechos humanos que promoven la implementación del Acuerdo Final se encuentran en riesgo extremo”.

Situación de vulnerabilidad de líderes del Bajo Atrato se ha exacerbado
Verdad Abierta, 16 de febrero de 2018 
“A propósito del recrudecimiento de la violencia contra líderes sociales en varias regiones del país, la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) concluyó que el gobierno colombiano no ha implementado ‘medidas efectivas’ que eviten la continuidad de las amenazas, hostigamientos y asesinatos contra líderes de las comunidades afrodescendientes en la región del Bajo Atrato chocano”.

Las fallas del Estado que ponen en peligro a los líderes sociales
Juan Pablo Sepúlveda, ¡Pacifista!, 6 de febrero de 2018 
“Los dos organismos del Estado que deben velar por la seguridad de los líderes sociales son la Fiscalía y la Unidad Nacional de Protección (UNP)…La Unidad Nacional de Protección es una entidad estatal que, como muchas otras, ha estado involucrada en escándalos de corrupción. El organismo está haciendo una transición luego de una administración que tuvo desfalcos presupuestales millonarios, huelgas ocasionadas por el no pago de salarios y la renuncia de su entonces director, que ahora es investigado por la Procuraduría. También, en 2015, la Fiscalía abrió una investigación sobre una red dentro de la UNP que supuestamente recibía dineros a cambio de adjudicaciones en contratos de trabajos de seguridad”.

Colombia: en el ‘top 3’ de países peligrosos para ser líder ambiental
Santiago Valenzuela, ¡Pacifista!, 6 de febrero de 2018 
“En Colombia, como en el mundo, la situación sigue siendo crítica. Según Ben Leather, defensor senior de Global Witness,“ solo hasta que las comunidades sean genuinamente incluidas en las decisiones sobre el uso de sus tierras y recursos naturales, aquellos que hablen y denuncien, continuarán enfrentándose con acoso, encarcelamiento y amenaza de muerte”. 

¿A quién le estorban, hasta matarlos, los protectores de la naturaleza?
Julián Parra, Las Dos Orillas, 7 de febrero de 2018
“De los 37 líderes asesinados, los paramilitares son responsables de 22 muertes. El problema es que el Estado ha negado la presencia de estos grupos en muchas zonas del país, incluso ha asegurado que no son paramilitares sino bandas criminales…Camilo Prieto asegura que el activismo ambiental no se puede quedar solo en la retórica, lo más importante son las acciones, y las redes sociales se han vuelto un vehículo para transmitir y mostrar lo que han hecho. Más de 100.000 personas siguen su página de Facebook, lugar por donde más los contactan para trabajar. ‘El ambientalismo sin rostro no tiene gran impacto. Por esa razón los líderes son tan importantes en las regiones, son ellos los que desarrollan políticas públicas en las regiones’”.

Attacks against Colombia’s civilian population up 27% in 2017: UN
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 14, 2018
“According to the UN office, one in 10 Colombians is in need of humanitarian assistance, also due to ‘the persistence of institutional presence and social investment vacuums.’…According to European observers, the government has failed to execute more than 80% of the peace agreement and refuses to acknowledge the paramilitary groups that operate in the countryside, often with the help of rogue elements within the military and far-right political forces.”

Violence in Colombia has displaced more than 800 people – U.N.
Reuters, February 21, 2018 
“Violence by criminal gangs battling over drug trafficking areas has displaced more than 800 people in northwestern Colombia, the United Nations said…Areas previously controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, who demobilized last year following a peace deal, have become flashpoints for fighting among crime gangs and smaller rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN)…Poor farmers and indigenous people have recently fled the rural municipality of Caceres, in Antioquia province.”

Hay más de 140 familias indígenas desplazadas en el sur de Colombia
Agencia Anadolu, El Espectador, 9 de febrero de 2018 
“La Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC) denunció que un total de 142 familias, que suman 451 personas del Resguardo Indígena Awá de Inda Guacaray, ubicado en el corregimiento de Llorente, en el municipio de Tumaco, Nariño, fueron desplazadas por hechos violentos ocurridos en los últimos tres meses…‘Exigimos a todos los actores armados respeten el territorio, la autonomía y la cultura, nos declaramos un pueblo de paz, no queremos que nos involucren, ni involucrarnos en este conflicto armado’, señala la ONIC en un comunicado”.

Colombia war tribunals hope to heal wounds, punish atrocities
Anastasia Moloney, Reuters, February 12, 2018 
“Colombia’s five-decade civil war pitted leftist rebels against government forces and right-wing paramilitary groups…The conflict killed at least 200,000 people, drove 7.5 million from their homes, and saw at least another 60,000 listed as missing, according to government figures…A number of war tribunals and truth commissions are expected to begin work once a legal framework is finalised – and that could happen by September, a government official says…Their task is to investigate those responsible for human rights atrocities committed during the war, including forced displacement, disappearances and massacres. Controversially, they have limited sentencing powers.”

Glimmers of hope for families of Colombia’s missing
Julia Symmes Cobb, Reuters, February 9, 2018 
“Colombia has been using DNA to identify bodies for 15 years. The latest version of the CODIS software being supplied by the FBI, mentioned in myriad television dramas, has been in use in Colombia since 2015…It is designed for unidentified remains and lets extended family members contribute samples, increasing the chances of a match…The system has so far turned up just 156 matches, but there are now 3,658 unidentified bodies registered and more than 35,000 samples from families…The new software comes as Colombia emerges from a war that killed more than 220,000 people, not including the disappeared.”

Court orders investigation of Uribe for paramilitary witness tampering
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 18, 2018

“Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered the investigation of former President Alvaro Uribe for allegedly fabricating claims and manipulating witnesses to discredit a political opponent…According to the court, there is evidence that indicates Uribe was involved in manipulating witnesses to support false claims against socialist Senator Ivan Cepeda.”

‘Una guerra sin edad’: claves de cómo el conflicto reclutó a nuestros niños
Juan Pablo Sepúlveda, ¡Pacifista!, 12 de febrero de 2018 
“Unos de los protagonistas olvidados del conflicto colombiano han sido los niños, niñas y adolescentes que han participado en él. Aunque hay denuncias, registros e investigaciones que rastrean el tema, no existía hasta ahora un reporte que se aproximara a la dimensión real del reclutamiento a menores de edad en el país por parte de los grupos armados al margen de la Ley. Consciente de esa situación, el Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica (CNMH) presenta hoy Una guerra sin edad, un texto que expone y cuantifica dicha realidad”.

Grupos armados convirtieron por lo menos 16 mil menores en “soldados”
Verdad Abierta, 12 de febrero de 2018 
“El reclutamiento y la utilización de niños, niñas y adolescentes en el conflicto armado interno no son un fenómeno reciente en la historia colombiana. Por el contrario, han sido prácticas frecuentes y en ellas tienen que ver todos los actores armados, legales e ilegales. Así lo plantea el informe Una guerra sin edad: informe nacional de reclutamiento y utilización de niños, niñas y adolescentes en el marco del conflicto armado colombiano, elaborado por el Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica (CNMH)”.

Indígenas trans, las rebeldes de Santuario
Joseph Casañas, ¡Pacifista!, 23 de febrero de 2018 
“El gobernador indígena Martín Siagama, autoridad del resguardo unificado de Pueblo Rico, Risaralda, le dijo a El Espectador que la Guardia Indígena contempla la posibilidad de organizar operativos para ‘capturar’ a las trans que todos los sábados llegan al municipio de Santuario…‘Lo que hace que la transfobia exista es precisamente no reconocer al otro, no reconocer a la otra, todos los prejuicios que se forman a partir del desconocimiento’, reflexiona Laura Frida Weinstein, directora ejecutiva de la Fundación Grupo Acción y Apoyo a Personas Trans. Las cerca de 20 indígenas trans que llegan a Santuario cada sábado son consideradas parte de una población flotante”.

Attacks on press freedom in Colombia reached record levels in 2017
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 11, 2018
“Some 150 journalists were threatened in 2017, according to Colombia’s press freedom foundation FLIP, which registered a record number of attacks on press freedom in the country…The FLIP on Saturday released its 2017 report in which it highlighted a 43.5% increase in registered attacks against the freedom of press compared to the year before…The general increase in attacks on press freedom is mainly due to a sharp increase in threats against journalists, according to the foundation.”

Colombia le sigue fallando a la libertad de prensa
Andrés Camilo Gómez Forero, El Espectador, 9 de febrero de 2018
“La Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, FLIP, en su informe anual sobre el desarrollo de la actividad periodística, registró un incremento del 43% en ataques a la prensa durante 2017…Desde 2009 la FLIP alertó un incremento en agresiones cometidas por servidores estatales…El 8 de octubre de 2017, la periodista regional María Efigenia Vásquez de la emisora Renacer Kokonuko, fue asesinada mientras cubría una protesta en Puracé, Cauca…Internet se ha convertido en una plataforma idónea para los atacantes, pues pueden emitir amenazas o agresiones sin ser identificados…Desde 1977 se han registrado en el país 154 asesinatos a periodistas y solo en 27 de ellos se han emitido condenas. Los otros 127 se encuentran en la impunidad”.

Colombia: no guns, no drugs, no atrocities, no rape, no murder. Just bananas…
Tim Adams, The Guardian, February 25, 2018 
“The war began between the big plantation owners and government, who refused unionised labour, and revolutionary groups who eventually took to the jungle to resist them…It was fuelled over the next three decades by the great wash of money and corruption from the cocaine trade and it took on a kind of hallucinatory violence. Official figures put the death toll at 220,000 though it is probably higher; 7 million people were ‘internally displaced’, mostly from rural communities…Sitting in the sun of Ciénaga, the banana farmers express not much faith in the accord. They trust the intentions neither of the thousands of Farc rebels, many now housed in closely guarded “rehabilitation camps” around the country, awaiting acceptance and state help to reintegrate, nor the government which has rarely, if ever, seemed on their side. They put their faith instead in the things they can try to control and to build.”

Extractive Industries and Environmental Regulation in Post-Conflict Colombia
Lorenzo Morales, The Dialogue, February 2018 
“In the wake of the peace accords signed with the FARC in 2016, Colombia must pursue new strategies to ensure sustainable development of natural resources. Oil and mining are important sectors of the economy, making a significant fiscal contribution to cover the costs of implementing the peace deal. Improved security could even encourage companies to expand extractives activity in former conflict zones..Yet there is a lack of consensus about how to manage environmental concerns related to these sectors. Inconsistent policies and inefficient regulation have slowed oil and mining production, while many communities are strongly opposed to extractive industries on environmental grounds. The peace negotiations have further emboldened some communities to oppose oil and mining projects…In this context, the next president will be tasked with outlining a fresh approach to environmental regulation of extractive industries in the post-conflict period.”

Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis

Human Rights Watch, February 7, 2018
“I am writing to respectfully urge you to adopt all measures at your disposal to seek the immediate release of 61 people—including 60 Colombians and a Venezuelan citizen unduly deported back to his country from Colombia—who are currently detained in Venezuela…To increase international pressure to ensure the prompt release of these abuse victims, we respectfully urge you to take further steps, including: beginning an international campaign denouncing the arbitrary detention of the 60 Colombians whose cases are described in this letter, and the abuses suffered by Lorent Saleh in Venezuela; supporting efforts by the Lares family to request precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and a decision from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; officially sharing information your government has obtained about all these cases with competent international human rights bodies, so they can adopt relevant measures; denouncing these arbitrary detentions during multilateral meetings regarding Venezuela’s crisis, including with the Lima Group, so this group adopts this matter as one of its priorities; and supporting international efforts to bring Venezuelan officials responsible for these and other abuses to justice and to impose targeted sanctions against them, including cancelling visas and freezing their assets.”

A Full-on Exodus
Adam Isacson, February 23, 2018
“It’s bad. I mean, it’s really bad. People are doing whatever they can to get out of Venezuela…Right now it’s a chaotic scene with thousands of people either crossing, milling around, waiting in long immigration lines, or trying to sell food or other services, like hauling suitcases on carts.”

‘Migrate or die’: Venezuelans flood into Colombia despite crackdown
Julia Symmes Cobb, Anggy Polanco, Reuters, February 26, 2018 
“A weary migration official said as many as 2,000 Venezuelans enter Colombia legally through Paraguachon each day, up from around 1,200 late last year…Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced a tightening of border controls this month, deploying 3,000 additional security personnel…Food shortages, which many migrants jokingly refer to as the ‘Maduro diet’, have left people noticeably thinner than in photos taken years earlier for their identification cards…Santos is asking for international help to foot the bill, which the government has said runs to tens of millions of dollars…Spooked by police raids, migrants in Maicao have abandoned the parks and bus stations where they had makeshift camps, opting to sleep outside shuttered shops. Female migrants who spoke to Reuters said they were often solicited for sex.”

Colombia says needs international aid to cope with Venezuela crisis
Reuters, February 13, 2018 
“Colombia’s migration authority has said that the number of Venezuelans living in Colombia increased 62 percent to more than 550,000 in the second half of 2017. Colombia has estimated that it costs $5 per day to give each Venezuelan migrant food and lodging…As the number of Venezuelans crossing the border increases, including unattended children who get free vaccinations and education, Colombia estimates it would need $30 million to build an assistance center to give the migrants a temporary place to stay before deciding their next move.”

Colombia tightens border control as Venezuela migrants surge
Christine Armario, Associated Press, February 20, 2018 
“Colombia will tighten control of over its porous border with Venezuela as thousands of migrants fleeing a rapidly deteriorating political and economic crisis escape into the neighboring Andean nation…In a visit to a border city at the epicenter of Colombia’s mounting migration crisis, President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday announced new measures that could make it more difficult for Venezuelan migrants to cross into the country illegally or remain there without any official status.”

Colombia opens first shelter for legal migrants from Venezuela
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 5, 2018
“The shelter is meant to alleviate the situation in Cucuta, where hundreds have been stranded in a desperate attempt to escape the hunger and violence that is gripping Venezuela…Immigration authorities have begun arresting and deporting Venezuelans from Cucuta and Bucaramanga, another major city in the east of the country, in an attempt to regulate the flow of migrants…The United Nations has offered to assist local authorities in dealing with the flow of migrants…Colombia’s finance minister last week urged the international community to prepare for a total collapse of the Venezuelan state.”

Counternarcotics

Criminal Violence Threatens Colombia Drug Crop Substitution: Report
Parker Asmann, Insight Crime, February 22, 2018 
“A new report says that homicide rates increased substantially between 2016 and 2017 in municipalities in Colombia partaking in coca crop substitution programs, highlighting the fragility of the program in the context of intensified conflict among the country’s fragmented crime groups…The new FIP report suggests that Colombia’s coca crop substitution program continues to face some of the same obstacles that the organization identified in a previous report.”

¿En qué va la sustitución de cultivos ilícitos?
Fundación Ideas Para la Paz, February 2018 
“De los 183 municipios con presencia de cultivos de coca registrados en 2016, el proceso de sustitución comenzó en 36 (el 20%), que concentran el 52% del total de hectáreas cultivadas. Bajo la presión generada tras el aumento de los cultivos de coca, el Ejecutivo fijó como meta para 2017 la reducción de 50.000 hectáreas vía sustitución, para lo cual firmó acuerdos con más de 127.000 familias, 54.000 de las cuales fueron vinculadas al programa. Con la participación de las Farc, el Estado entró en zonas que estuvieron bajo el control de esta guerrilla y donde históricamente se han concentrado los cultivos de coca”. 

Colombia’s two anti-coca strategies are at war with each other
The Economist, February 20, 2018
“The successes may be short-lived. UNODC estimates that growers replant 30% of the area uprooted on average. More important, the government has not made much progress in areas controlled by organised armed groups. As a result, the coca-growing area might well have expanded last year, UNODC says…It will be up to the next president and congress to determine the balance between helping coca-growers and uprooting crops. Candidates on the left, such as Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogotá, favour the voluntary approach. Conservatives such as Germán Vargas Lleras, a former vice-president, would resume aerial spraying. None of the main right-of-centre candidates has given much support to crop substitution. Unless Colombia’s next president gives stronger backing to the voluntary approach, a Black Hawk could soon land on Ms Ruano’s doorstep.”

Líderes de sustitución de coca, objetivo del narcotráfico
El Espectador, 18 de febrero de 2018 
“Desde septiembre de 2017 a la fecha se han registrado 22 ataques e intimidaciones contra el programa de sustitución voluntaria de cultivos de uso ilícito y sus líderes. Los responsables: el clan del Golfo, la disidencia de las Farc y el Eln”.

Colombia’s latest counter-narcotics strategy likely to miss coca removal target
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, February 8, 2018
“Plagued by weak government and violent opposition from drug traffickers, Colombia is unlikely to meet the target of removing 50,000 hectares of coca through crop substitution before May…With only three months to go, the United Nations has verified the ongoing removal of only 16,754 hectares, the international organization told newspaper El Tiempo on Wednesday…In September last year, Post-Conflict Minister Rafael Pardo said he expected 30,000 hectares to have been removed by the end of January…According to think tank Indepaz, which is monitoring the drug policy, the disappointing results are due to extremely violent opposition from illegal armed groups and the government’s failure to execute a peace process.

Tillerson: US encouraged by Colombia efforts to reduce coca
Associated Press, February 6, 2018 
“In a joint appearance with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Tillerson said that as a primary consumer of illicit drugs the U.S. shares a responsibility in combating the narcotics trade and will continue to support Colombia’s efforts.”

 

* 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.