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Colombia News Brief for June 16, 2021

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SPOTLIGHT

‘This is a revolution’: the faces of Colombia’s protests
Joe Parkin Daniels, The Guardian 
“Fifty-eight people have died in six weeks of unrest – at least 45 of them killed by police – and dozens of people have gone missing. Protesters have set up more than 2,000 roadblocks around the South American country, hitting businesses and the government, as well as slowing down humanitarian access. Police stations and civic buildings have been torched, and the images of smoke-filled streets and skirmishes between frontline protesters and riot police have become a daily reality. But demonstrators say they are more determined than ever to fight for change.”

Informe presentado por el Comite Nacional de Paro a la CIDH
9 de junio de 2021 
“Queremos presentar este informe donde incluimos una sustentación de las razones del Paro Nacional iniciado el pasado 28 de abril, las garantías para la protesta que hemos exigido al gobierno y sobre las cuales el gobierno nacional no ha tenido la voluntad de adoptar, las consecuencias de esta falta de garantías, y unas solicitudes concretas con las que pensamos podemos mejorar las condiciones para ejercer los derechos de reunión y manifestación pública”.

Declaración Comisión de la Verdad: Reflexión desde la búsqueda de la verdad
7 de junio de 2021
“Los miembros de la Comisión de la Verdad para el esclarecimiento del conflicto armado hemos vivido como ciudadanos desde los distintos territorios del país los acontecimientos del Paro Nacional. Desde la misión que tenemos de escuchar a todos los lados poniendo en primer lugar a las víctimas para proponer caminos de convivencia, no repetición y reconciliación, sentimos la diversidad de esperanzas, indignaciones, sufrimientos y perplejidades que surgen en la movilización legítima. Hemos acompañado las marchas que anticipan en cantos y tambores una nación nueva y hemos estado en la calle atentos a comprender a los jóvenes que resisten”.

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Falsos positivos: ‘expresidente Uribe no irá a Comisión de la Verdad’ 
El Tiempo, 14 de junio de 2021
“Sin embargo, EL TIEMPO estableció que el expresidente Uribe no asistirá a la Comisión de la Verdad, a pesar de que tienen una interlocución respetuosa y frecuente con De Roux, quien además mantiene cercanía con la exprimera dama Lina Moreno. El propio Uribe ha sido enfático en que ha pedido perdón por este capítulo oscuro en varias oportunidades, una de ellas, en la Corte Suprema, en donde les pidió perdón a las madres de Soacha. De hecho, tras confirmar que, al día de hoy, la decisión del exmandatario es “no asistir a la Comisión de la Verdad”, recordaron que es claro que, ‘a pesar del respeto mutuo con el padre De Roux, Uribe no ha legitimado instancias derivadas del acuerdo de paz con las ex-Farc’”.

Colombia militant jailed for 28 years for Ecuador press murders
Buenos Aires Times, June 11, 2021  
“Gustavo Angulo Arboleda, also known as ‘Cherry’, confessed to participating in the abduction and killing of two journalists from the daily El Comercio, as well as their driver, on the border between Ecuador and Colombia. He was also fined the equivalent of $1.2 million. ‘The victims were kidnapped by members of the Oliver Sinisterra group, a breakaway group of the FARC, in the province of Esmeraldas (Ecuador) on March 26, 2018,’ then ‘transferred to Colombian territory and delivered to Cherry,’ the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Prosecutors said Angulo Arboleda was part of the group in charge of guarding the hostages, until the Ecuadoran head of the splinter group, known as ‘Guacho,’ ordered the murder of reporter Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and driver Efrain Segarra, 60.”

Former Colombia leader asks pardon for army killings of civilians 
Al Jazeera, June 11, 2021
“Santos served as defence minister under Uribe for nearly three years between 2006 and 2009 and was in the post when the killings were uncovered. ‘The chapter of the false positives is one of the most painful moments I’ve had in my public life and is an indelible stain on the honour of the army,’ said Santos, adding he regretted that mothers lost children to the practice during his time as minister. Pressure to produce high kill counts, backed by Uribe, was to blame, he said, and the army should ask forgiveness. ‘This should never have happened,’ Santos said. ‘I recognise that and ask forgiveness from all the mothers and their families, victims of this horror, from the depths of my soul.’”

HUMAN RIGHTS

Los dilemas de parar para avanzar
Yesid González Perdomo, La Silla Vacía, 15 de junio de 2021 
“Este es un breve análisis personal frente a los últimos sucesos del Paro Nacional y el levantamiento del cese de actividades por parte de Fecode, que no compromete el colectivo al que pertenezco o las decisiones oficiales de la ADE. Es, ante todo, una posible respuesta a la multiplicidad de preguntas e inquietudes que pululan en las redes sociales donde participan, sobre todo, maestros y maestras. Lo hago por un medio de comunicación para evitar tergiversaciones y como evidencia de que los y las docentes no somos pacientes de la política, sino agentes de la misma. Veamos”.

Comité del Paro prepara anuncio para suspender las marchas
El Tiempo, 15 de junio de 2021
“Precisamente este lunes se realiza una reunión clave entre los voceros, en la que se espera que haya un consenso y un anuncio público sobre esos cuestionamientos. Entre tanto, los miembros del CNP evalúan suspender temporalmente las marchas y empezar las nuevas estrategias. Por ahora no hay marchas programadas para esta semana que hayan sido convocadas por ellos. De otro lado, se ha conocido que las nuevas estrategias para seguir con el paro nacional pasan por asambleas permanentes y pedagogía en la sociedad sobre el pliego de emergencia, que fue presentado por los sindicalistas en 2019.”

Car bomb explosion at Colombia military base injures 36
Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, June 15, 2021 
“The explosion took place at a base used by the 30th Army Brigade in the northeastern city near the border with Venezuela. The ELN, FARC dissidents and crime gangs are all present in sometimes-restive Norte de Santander province, where the 30th Brigade operates. ‘The initial hypothesis is that the ELN are behind this demential and vile act,’ Molano said. ‘Also being investigated is the involvement of FARC dissidents.’”

Colombia mourns assassination of rapper, black rights activist
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, June 15, 2021
“Artists, social leaders and Colombia’s national public radio station expressed their grief about the assassination of the activist to advance the situation of Colombia’s black minority and people from the impoverished Pacific region where Jein was born. The rapper was the most prominent of 73 social leaders who have been assassinated in Colombia so far this year, according to think tank Indepaz. A far-right activist falsely claimed on Colombia Reports’ Twitter account that Jein’s homicide was ‘an adjustment of narcotrafficking accounts,’ painfully confirming a claim made by Jein in one of his more recent songs, ‘Quién Los Mató?’ (Who Killed Them?).”

Dos mujeres indígenas desaparecieron en extrañas circunstancias 
Ludys Ovalle Jácome, El Tiempo, 14 de junio de 2021
“Tras las extrañas circunstancias que rodean la desaparición de las dos mujeres, la comunidad indígena kankuama, realizó un plantón pacífico el pasado domingo en una de las vía cercana a Valledupar. En la jornada exigieron a las autoridades mayores acciones para establecer el paradero de estas personas. ‘Hablamos con algunos familiares y nos contaron que ellas nunca se habían ausentado de esta manera. Resulta extraño que todas las pertenencias estén en la finca. Bernabet no se llevó las gafas ni la cartera’, afirmó Iván Lúquez, secretario general del pueblo kankuamo.”

Hombres armados dispararon contra 40 campesinos en Norte de Santander 
Andrés Carvajal, El Tiempo, 14 de junio de 2021
“Según se conoció, en la noche de este sábado, varios hombres armados que se movilizaban en motocicletas llegaron al sector conocido como Agualasal, donde increparon a los manifestantes y los señalaron de ser colaboradores de grupos subversivos, luego desenfundaron sus armas y dispararon indiscriminadamente. Dos campesinos resultaron heridos. El General Oscar Antonio Moreno, comandante de la Policía Metropolitana de Cúcuta (Mecuc), informó que una comisión interinstitucional adelantará una investigación. Se descartan víctimas mortales”.

Colombia names new ambassador to US amid rights concerns  
Manuel Rueda, The Washington Post, June 14, 2021
“President Iván Duque said that Juan Carlos Pinzón – who was defense minister from 2011 to 2015 — will be Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, where he is expected to begin his duties in August. Pinzon, 49, had already been Colombia’s ambassador to Washington between 2015 and 2017, when Colombia’s government signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that was backed by the U.S. and ended five decades of internal conflict in the South American country. But after leaving his post as ambassador, Pinzón became a critic of the peace deal, saying its terms were too lenient to rebel commanders who committed war crimes and that it gave strategic advantages to drug trafficking groups still operating in Colombia.”

‘La única reparación es que el Estado entre al Bajo Cauca’: líder social
Juan Camilo Gallego Castro, El Espectador, 14 de junio de 2021 
“Para Carlos Andrés Zapata, mientras no se transite a economías más democráticas seguirán las conflictividades fuertes en el territorio. Un punto que concluye el informe, cuando asegura que ‘si no se realiza un ordenamiento territorial que incluya a todos los pobladores y demás intereses sobre el territorio (en otras palabras, si no se realiza una negociación del ordenamiento del territorio en el que confluyan todos los actores, y principalmente las comunidades que le han dado un sentido de pertenencia por encima del de propiedad), no se podrá construir una verdadera paz sostenible con perspectiva territorial’”.

The Sown Seeds For Colombia’s Ongoing Protests 
Saurav Maini, The Organization for World Peace, June 14, 2021
“The manner in which the recent demonstrations obtained mainstream attention draws parallels yet also yields some exceptions with the previous protest. Both cases garnered substantial awareness within mainstream media. Secondly, public opinion for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 demonstrations shifted greater attention and support towards the elimination of police brutality, economic inequality, and the violence perpetrated against indigenous groups. One major difference is that the National Strike Committee was previously unable to accomplish any legislative or institutional changes for the aforementioned issues – along with no changes to any leadership within the current administration. The current demonstration, however, has already achieved institutional change and has pressured President Duque to abandon his tax reform proposal. The same can be said for electoral consequences, whether intended or unintended.”

Entrevista con Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez: “No nos podemos anticipar a lo que pueda recomendar la CIDH”
Natalia Tamayo Gaviria, El Espectador, 14 de junio de 2021
“‘¿Como Gobierno, están dispuestos a aceptar las recomendaciones que se deriven o a aplicar las medidas cautelares que haga la CIDH con relación al manejo de la protesta social y la garantía de los DD. HH?’ ‘No nos corresponde anticiparnos, sino esperar las recomendaciones. Como colombiana, sentí tristeza porque luego de elogiar al país maravillo que tenemos, sí dijeron que veían una estigmatización muy fuerte y que, entre otras cosas, percibían en el lenguaje una forma de agresividad muy fuerte, no en el sentido de contradictores, sino de enemigos. Es doloroso que esa sea la percepción’”.

¿Cambio de rumbo tras la visita de la CIDH?
Rodrigo Pardo, El Espectador, 13 de junio de 2021 
“Así lo demuestra, tanto por el lugar de destino, la prontitud de la visita y los temas enfatizados, la visita a Centroamérica de la vicepresidenta Kamala Harris, que van en línea con otras acciones del mandato de Biden. La cual corrobora otras realidades, como la escasa comunicación —así fuera telefónica— que ha habido entre los presidentes Duque y Biden. Por curioso que parezca, la angustiosa situación de Venezuela genera una convergencia entre Bogotá y Washington que sirve para reducir las tensiones que podrían surgir en otros asuntos bilaterales.”

Colombia’s protests are a product of its post-peace-deal reality  
Jen Kirby, Vox, June 12, 2021
“The peace deal did not solve all of Colombia’s problems, nor did it fully end the violence. But the civil war between the government and the FARC was Colombia’s central crisis. With the peace deal, that main cleavage consuming Colombia started to fade away, said Gamboa. But all the other major problems stuck on the sidelines, especially socioeconomic issues, started to bubble up. Inequality, education, employment, social justice, racial inequities — all of it became much more salient. ‘The peace process has opened up a space for other concerns and for other political debates,’ said Sandra Botero, assistant professor of international studies and political science at Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá.”

Why Colombia’s Unrest Will Not Stop Soon
The Good Men Project, June 12, 2021
“The great repression and violation of human rights experienced by the Colombian people is only one of the causes of citizen mobilization. Colombia has experienced a historical social crisis that has become more evident due to the pandemic. There have been no guarantees for human rights defenders and social leaders who have been systematically murdered since the signing of the peace agreement. The historical debt with education that suffers deficiencies due to the lack of investment by the State, which over the years has evidently preferred to invest in arms and military equipment, making education in this country a privilege and young people end up not receiving it; that’s why we protest, to have a secure future.”

Colombia’s Government Has Declared War on Protesters
Seth Wulsin, Jacobin, June 12, 2021
“Álvaro Uribe, Colombia’s former right-wing president and Duque’s political patron, has used his Twitter platform to support violence against protesters and promote a neo-Nazi theory of ‘dissipated molecular revolution’ that claims protest is inherently an act of civil war requiring a militarized state response. While Twitter removed a tweet of Uribe’s early in the general strike for ‘glorifying violence,’ the social media network has since allowed him to use it as his command center, from which he sends messages invoking the language of terrorism and counterinsurgency to police and paramilitary groups that continue to maim, torture, rape, and kill protesters.”

Falsos positivos: Raúl Carvajal murió de covid tras 14 años exigiendo justicia por su hijo militar
El Espectador, 12 de junio de 2021
“También conocido como don Furgón, Raúl Carvajal pasó años parqueado con su camión cubierto de carteles en la esquina de la carrera séptima con avenida Jiménez en Bogotá, reclamando justicia por su hijo, un soldado al que habrían asesinado por negarse a cometer un falso positivo. Este sábado 12 de junio de 2021, don Raúl murió por covid-19”.

Intensification of Anti-Government Protests in Colombia
Myra Mansoor, The Organization for World Peace, June 11, 2021
“As an attempt to respond to the massive spike of COVID-19 cases, the government established a court order ruling against protests and marches yet protests continued in full swing, organized by trade unions and the National Strike Committee. Tens of thousands of people marched in Bogotá with demonstrations taking place in smaller cities as well. It has become evident that the marches aren’t exclusively held against the reform, but also come as a continuation of the anti-government protests which began November 2019. These protests are a major contribution to the larger movement, especially in terms of objecting to police brutality. The police have consistently held immense power in the past but happen to be exceptionally hostile given the current political climate. Riot police are aggressive to the point where even the United Nations Human Rights office accused Colombia’s security officials of using excessive force.”

Revealed: Secretive British anti-crime agency spent millions training Colombia’s repressive police   
Matt Kennard, Declassified UK, June 11, 2021
“The NCA programme in Colombia ‘engaged’ with ‘Colombian law enforcement agencies to improve their capability’, according to UK government documents seen by Declassified. The aims included ‘specialist cadres of police to be trained in priority areas of intervention’ alongside ‘trusted relationships formed with key units and individuals’. But the NCA refused to disclose the names of these Colombian police units and individuals to us. ‘Due to operational security, we are unable to divulge any information about individuals or units’, a NCA spokesperson told Declassified. This refusal also covered ‘the nature of the training delivered’, they added. The project does not appear on the NCA website or in any of its public documentation.”

Rights group: Colombian police cause deaths of 20 protesters  
Astrid Suárez, Miami Herald, June 10, 2021
“Authorities have been slow to investigate the reports of violence, and as of Saturday, only four people had been indicted in connection with two homicides that occurred during the protests. Of the 170 police officers under disciplinary investigation, only two have been suspended, according to Human Rights Watch. Official public data indicates most of these investigations are for abuse of authority and 13 are linked to deaths. Police have also been accused gender-based and sexual violence. The Ombudsman’s Office, an agency in charge of protecting human rights, has reported 14 cases of sexual assault and 71 cases of gender-based violence, including physical and verbal assault.”

Peace in Colombia Should Mean Land Reform and an End to Hunger 
Vijay Prashad and Zoe Alexandra, Globetrotter, June 3, 2021
“The accords put in place a plan for integrated agrarian reform and democracy, as well as restitution for the victims of the long war. ‘We put down our arms,’ Granda said, ‘but we did not disarm ourselves from an ideological point of view.’ The signing of the accords is only one part of the FARC’s plan toward peace, since their implementation is key before other kinds of meaningful change can be made. But the Colombian oligarchy, Granda said, has an entirely different view of what peace would mean. For the oligarchy, peace means that the guns of the FARC are silent. ‘For us,’ he says, ‘peace means an attack on the factors that generate the violence in the first place.’ These include factors like hunger, dispossession and the frustration with the oligarchy and the harsh violence by the state against which the people of Colombia continue to protest.

ENVIRONMENT

Peace accord in Colombia has increased deforestation of biologically-diverse rainforest 
Michelle Klamp, Science Daily, June 8, 2021
“‘When the peace accord was finally signed in 2016, that was the moment to re-open conversations about the land,’ said the study’s lead author, Paulo J. Murillo-Sandoval, who conducted the research as part of his doctoral dissertation at OSU. ‘The peace accord is 300 pages long and the word forest appears just three times. The forest was not taken into account.’ The findings, which were just published in the journal Global Environmental Change, underscore the potential for negative environmental impacts when control over land changes hands and the need to build inclusive forest conservation planning future peace accords, said David Wrathall, an associate professor at OSU and co-author of the paper.”

DRUG POLICY

Opinion | Colombia’s toxic battle against crops that won’t go away 
María Teresa Ronderos and Andrés Bermúdez Liévano, The Washington Post, June 14, 2021
“There’s an old saying: The definition of insanity is trying the same strategy repeatedly, while expecting different results. This is precisely what Colombia has been doing with its illicit coca crops: returning over and over, as we have during the 20-year-long War on Drugs, to the aerial spraying of these crops, fruitlessly hoping they disappear. President Iván Duque’s administration wants to resurrect this strategy, arguing that it is the most effective shortcut to achieve significant reductions in coca crops, which grew from 118,000 acres in 2012 to 380,000 by the end of 2019, according to the latest census of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS 

Behind The Violence Between Venezuelan Forces And Colombian Guerillas
John Otis, Delaware Public Media, June 11, 2021
“That’s Jeremy McDermott, co-director of the research group InSight Crime. He says that since 1999, when Hugo Chavez ushered in a socialist revolution, Venezuela allowed the rebels to use its territory in their fight against the Colombian government, which is a U.S. ally. Under Colombia’s 2016 peace agreement, most of the rebels disarmed, but some refused. And many of these guerrillas are thought to be smuggling Colombian cocaine through Venezuela in cahoots with the Venezuelan army. McDermott claims the fighting broke out when one guerrilla faction tried to bypass the Venezuelan military and keep most or all of the cocaine profits.”

Venezuela Is Locked in Battle With Guerrillas It Once Welcomed 
Juan Forero, The Washington Post, June 10, 2021
“The clash, in Venezuela’s border state of Apure, has received little outside attention but laid bare the expanding presence of illegal armed groups in Venezuela’s interior. The conflict has featured aerial bombardments, a rebel siege of an army base, the airborne deployment of Venezuelan troops and the deaths of several of them in combat and from accidents. It has also generated a flow of refugees to Colombia, along with claims by human-rights groups that the Venezuelan army has killed civilians.”