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Colombia News Brief for July 30 – August 5, 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: Guillermo Castaño / Flickr

SPOTLIGHT

Defending Tomorrow: The climate crisis and threats against land and environmental defenders
Global Witness, July 2020
“Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play and the dangers they increasingly face, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work. Our annual report into the killings of land and environmental defenders in 2019 shows the highest number yet have been murdered in a single year. 212 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2019 – an average of more than four people a week.”

Colombia was deadliest country for land rights activists in 2019
Oliver Griffin, Reuters, July 29, 2020
“Colombia was the deadliest country for land rights activists in 2019, as killings of environmental defenders soared in the Andean country, according to a report published by advocacy group Global Witness on Wednesday. The report found 64 land rights activists were killed in Colombia last year – up from 25 in 2018 – the highest level Global Witness has ever recorded in the country.”

Duque goes mute after ‘terrorist attack’ on city hall in Colombia’s largest port
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, August 3, 2020
“Inspector General Fernando Carrillo fiercely rejected the ‘terrorist attack… against the administration of Mayor Victor Hugo Vidal,’ that left no injuries, but a lot of questions about the national authorities’ deafening silence. President Ivan Duque, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, the National Police and the military remained unanimously quiet about the attack the mayor believed to be in retaliation of a letter he sent to Duque requesting support four days before.”

COVID-19

Colombia faces most difficult month of pandemic as epicenter shifts to Medellín
The City Paper Bogota, August 3, 2020
“Bogotá also witnessed on Monday, the lowest number of case in months, with 2,138 new infections while an estimated 5 inhabitants of the city’s 9 million remained under strict quarantine. Medellín, capital of Antioquia, surpassed Bogotá with 2,899 new cases and close to the number of 2,986 registered on Saturday.”

Colombia’s Emberá: From rainforest violence to urban want
Ramon Campos Iriarte, The New Humanitarian, July 29, 2020
“Waves of forcibly displaced Emberá people have been coming to Bogotá since the turn of the century. The remnants of a pre-Columbian people, they are one of the largest and most iconic indigenous communities in Colombia, having for years borne the brunt of the civil war. They have been killed, their youth conscripted, their land appropriated. Last month, seven soldiers confessed to gang-raping a 12-year-old Emberá girl on Indigenous land in Risaralda – an atrocity seen as the latest in a string of alleged human rights abuses. Several Emberá leaders opposed to land invasions, including by the military, have been assassinated on reservations in recent months.”

Colombia’s quarantine measures extended until August 30
Emma Newberry, The Bogota Post, July 28, 2020
“As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Colombia approaches 270,000 and the number of deaths passes the 9,000 mark, President Iván Duque has announced that the country’s mandatory isolation will continue until August 30. The isolation was supposed to finish on August 1, but those living in cities like Bogotá, Medellín and Barranquilla which have been implementing stricter lockdowns in recent weeks will not be surprised to hear of the extension.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Testaferro de Maduro, a pagar US $ 53 millones por secuestros de Farc
Sergio Gomez Maseri, El Tiempo, 3 de agosto de 2020
“El caso se remonta al 2012, cuando un juez de la Florida ordenó pagarle a Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves y Thomas Howe US$ 318 millones de dólares como compensación por los 5 años de cautiverio en Colombia a manos de las Farc. Los fondos debían provenir de esta organización guerrillera, que también está incluida en la Lista Clinton. Pero dado que las Farc no tiene activos en EE. UU. –o no pudieron ser detectados–, los contratistas no tenían de dónde recolectar la indemnización.”

31 de diciembre, nuevo plazo para entrega de bienes de las Farc
Semana, 31 de julio de 2020
“Hasta el próximo 31 de diciembre, el Gobierno nacional amplió el plazo para que los excombatientes de las Farc hagan entrega material de bienes que se destinarán al proceso de reparación de las víctimas. La decisión, contemplada en el decreto 1.080, significa una prórroga de cinco meses a este proceso, que vencía este viernes 31 de julio. Emilio Archila, consejo para la Estabilización, afirmó que la determinación se debe a las dificultades generadas por la pandemia.”

Los crudos relatos sobre reclutamiento de menores en las Farc
El Espectador, 27 de julio de 2020
“En ocasiones, el grupo guerrillero apeló directamente a la violencia física y a las amenazas hacia los menores y sus familiares; pero, en otros casos, las Farc también se aprovecharon de la inmadurez de los menores y de las difíciles condiciones socioeconómicas y familiares que atravesaban, haciendo uso de estrategias persuasivas y de engaños para lograr su incorporación.”

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

Venezuela Indigenous Communities at Risk From ELN Mining Incursions
Insight Crime, July 31, 2020
“In mid-July, opposition lawmaker Américo de Grazia wrote on Twitter that a group of 60 men belonging to Colombia’s National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional — ELN) had moved into in the municipality of Maripa in Bolívar state, allegedly to “protect” mining operations there. Since May, Indigenous communities in Maripa have been warning that an increase in gold mining along the Caura River was worsening an irreversible “ecological and social crisis,” according to Kapé Kapé, a non-governmental organization helping Indigenous communities in Venezuela.”

More Power for ELN: Maduro Handing Over Prisoners and Territory to Colombian Guerrillas
Sabrina Martín, Panam Post, July 28, 2020
“But the presence and power of the ELN are not seen in the state of Táchira alone. The state of Apure, which also borders Colombia, is home to members and leaders of the Colombian guerrillas, including Jaime Galvis Rivera alias ‘Ariel,’ who, according to Infobae, lives on a farm, protected by ‘at least three security rings.’ For the regime, the paramilitaries, the ELN, and the FARC are all defensive fronts because it does not trust the Venezuelan Army, which it has decided to gradually disempower.”

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Colombia’s president and ruling party fiercely defend Uribe as jail looms
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, August 4, 2020
“Colombia’s President Ivan Duque and his party embarked on a PR campaign in defense of their political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, who may be days away from going to jail. Duque and his far-right Democratic Center party are increasingly nervous about the impending Supreme Court decision on Uribe, who is on trial on fraud and bribery charges. The former president and former Medellin Cartel associate is Duque’s political patron and the undisputed boss of the controversial party, which has multiple leaders who have been closely associated with organized crime.”

Ser mujer: un riesgo laboral en medio de la pandemia
Mónica Trujillo, La Silla Vacía, 1 de agosto de 2020
“Desde el inicio de la cuarentena nacional, en la Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP) hemos hecho un seguimiento permanente a la respuesta del sector empresarial, entre otras variables, al estado del empleo para las mujeres, con la idea de ayudar a evitar los impactos negativos. Veníamos de un escenario relativamente optimista. En la última década, la tasa de participación laboral de las mujeres en Colombia aumentó 8,1 puntos porcentuales. Sin embargo —además del retroceso que supone el covid-19—, aún antes de que comenzara la pandemia persistían brechas tangibles entre hombres y mujeres.”

Las demandas históricas de los campesinos llegan por primera vez a la Procuraduría
José Puentes, Pacifista, 31 de julio de 2020
“En la audiencia se escuchó a líderes campesinos de varias regiones exigiendo respuestas al Gobierno sobre los avances de la política pública para el campesino, la adopción de la resolución de Naciones Unidas de 2018 (donde reconoce los derechos de los campesinos) y el cumplimiento de los puntos del Acuerdo de paz con las Farc que benefician al campo.”

In Colombia, scientists are finding new species in uncharted territory
Thomas Page, CNN, July 30, 2020
“Colombia is the world’s second most biodiverse country, with around 6,500 species of plants and lichens unique to the country, Diazgranados estimates. The UK, in comparison, has fewer than 100. And that’s only what is known. Colombia is less documented than other countries in South America, Diazgranados says. That’s partly due to the conflict, but also because of its geography. ‘There’s no road access to half of Colombia, and the country still has 53% of its area covered by tropical rainforest. There’s still lots and lots of places totally unexplored,’ he says.”

Explosion deaths reveal desperation among Colombia’s poor
Manuel Rueda, Cesar Garcia, Associated Press, July 30, 2020
“The explosion devastated Tasajera, a village on Colombia’s Caribbean coast whose livelihood had been badly damaged by ill-designed highway projects and has now grown even more desperate by pandemic restrictions that have sharply reduced its sales of fish. For many Colombians, the incident highlighted the plight of poor towns across the country as the pandemic decimates the economy, stretches the health system and will likely make it even harder to address deep-rooted inequities.”

DRUG POLICY

Dos golpes contra clan del Golfo: incautan lancha y capturan sicarios
El Tiempo, 4 de agosto de 2020
“El operativo se desarrolló por la Armada Nacional y el CTI de la Fiscalía a 28 millas náuticas del municipio de Necoclí, en el norte de Antioquia. Tres personas fueron capturadas, una colombiana y dos extranjeros: un ciudadano con pasaporte de Nicaragua y otro de Costa Rica. La lancha fue incautada y los tres hombres fueron señalados de tráfico de estupefacientes agravado y porte ilegal de armas de fuego de defensa personal, pues les fue hallada una pistola calibre 9 milímetros con 11 cartuchos.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Justicia de Cabo Verde aprueba extradición de Alex Saab a Estados Unidos
El Espectador, 4 de agosto de 2020
“Según Estados Unidos, entre noviembre de 2011 y septiembre de 2015, Saab y su socio, Álvaro Enrique Pulido, se confabularon con otros para lavar sus ganancias ilícitas y transferirlas desde Venezuela a cuentas bancarias estadounidenses, motivo por el que Washington tiene jurisdicción en el caso. La imputación se hizo en 2019 por un presunto lavado de US$350 millones, supuestamente defraudados a través del sistema de control cambiario en Venezuela.”

A dollar for sex: Venezuela’s women tricked and trafficked
Paddy Dowling, The Guardian, July 30, 2020
“Ecuador brought in mandatory quarantine in April, but by May Venezuelan girls were forced out of brothels and on to street corners in Machala, near the Peruvian border, in search of clients. Bravo says: ‘The conditions for sex workers now under the pandemic is worrying. Quarantine measures have meant they are unable to generate enough income for their families back in Venezuela, or even to sustain themselves.’ Two years ago, in a coffee shop in Machala, at the height of the refugee crisis, Bravo told me that due to the number of Venezuelan women desperate to earn money to send home, many were offering sex for $9, half that charged by their Colombian counterparts.”

* 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.