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Colombia News Brief for March 16-22, 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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Peace Accord Implementation

Colombia tribunal begins mammoth task of investigating, trying war crimes
Julia Symmes Cobb, Reuters, March 15, 2018

“Transitional justice, by definition, is modest, because we already know we can’t do everything,” tribunal administrator Nestor Raul Correa said. “If I were to give a random figure – of 200,000 crimes that have happened in these fifty years, we’ll investigate 1,000.”

En Cacarica se preparan para Comisión de la Verdad
Yhobán Hernández, Verdad Abierta, 16 de marzo de 2018

“Esta comunidad del departamento del Chocó fue afectada por fuertes operativos del Ejército y grupos paramilitares. 21 años después de esas acciones, que ocasionó un masivo desplazamiento, sus pobladores están dispuestos al perdón y a la reconciliación, pero reclama verdad y justicia restaurativa”.

Where are the FARC’s child soldiers?
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 20, 2018

“Consequently, the minors miss out on support programs for former child soldiers and the FARC commanders could evade justice for the recruitment of minors.The United Nations did not say how many child soldiers could be left out of the FARC’s transitional justice system, just that 135 were formally surrendered to Family Welfare.”

La Justicia Especial para la Paz da los primeros pasos
Verdad Abierta, 16 de marzo de 2018

“Tras definir su reglamento interno, este jueves abrió las puertas al público la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP), el sistema de justicia transicional surgido del Acuerdo Final de paz que firmaron el gobierno nacional y la entonces guerrilla de las Farc en noviembre de 2016. Desde enero pasado, cuando fueron posesionados, los togados se dedicaron a tiempo completo al diseño de ese reglamento y a la elaboración del proyecto de ley de procedimiento que deberá contener las normas procesales que regirán el juzgamiento de los excombatientes, los agentes estatales y los terceros civiles que comparezcan ante la Jurisdicción”.

Implementación de la paz y vencer el ausentismo: retos del Congreso
El Tiempo, 19 de marzo de 2018

“El Congreso comenzará el tramo final de sus sesiones ordinarias, en las cuales el avance de la implementación del acuerdo de paz y vencer el ausentismo se plantean como los principales retos para vencer. Desde este martes y hasta el 20 de julio, senadores y representantes cumplirán con el periodo final de la actual legislatura, en la cual todavía hay temas pendientes”.

Colombia FARC Rebel Dissidents Number 1,200, Military Says
U.S. News, March 20, 2018 
“Around 1,200 former members of Colombia’s FARC rebel group did not demobilize under a peace deal and instead joined dissident factions still fighting the government, the head of the military said on Tuesday, quadrupling the initial official estimate of dissidents.”

Officials attribute Ecuador attack to dissident FARC rebels
AP News, March 21, 2018

“Ecuadorean authorities say a guerrilla faction that was once linked to Colombia’s largest rebel group is responsible for an attack that left three soldiers dead. Gov. Pablo Hadathy Rodas of the northwestern Esmeraldas province where Tuesday’s attack took place told a Colombian radio station that the rebels are now involved in drug trafficking and were behind a recent spate of violence along the border.”

ELN

Colombia, ELN Rebels Resume Peace Talks in Ecuador
EFE, March 2018

“President Juan Manuel Santos suspended the process in late January following a series of attacks attributed to the ELN against Colombian security targets.The resumption of the 100-day cease-fire – which ended on Jan. 9 – is on the agenda for discussion during the new cycle of negotiations, an ELN spokesperson told EFE.”

Colombia’s Last Guerrillas Fight Over Cocaine Hub
Mimi Yagoub, InSight Crime, March 19, 2018

“On the same day that Colombia’s biggest guerrilla group, the ELN, resumed peace talks with the government, reports emerged of a battle between the rebels and former guerrillas embedded in the main cocaine hub on the Venezuela border: the region of Catatumbo.”

Santos se muestra optimista en diálogos con el Eln
El Espectador, 20 de marzo de 2018

“A menos de cinco meses de dejar Casa de Nariño, el presidente Juan Manuel Santos ordenó la semana pasada el reinicio de la mesa de diálogos con el Eln. Proceso que, según gente del círculo de confianza del mandatario, es una de sus prioridades”.

2018 Elections

Colombia Probes Voter Registration Cyberattacks Traced to Russia’s Allies
Martin Arostegui, VOA News, March 15, 2018

“While Villegas did not specifically mention Russia at a March 8 press conference in which he denounced the ongoing incidents, he said three of the hacks — which each triggered repeated robotic attacks — were linked to internet addresses in Colombia, while one was identified as coming from Venezuela. Colonel Jose Marulanda, a Colombian intelligence analyst, said Russia was seeking a foothold in the region.”

Colombia Election Results Cast Doubt Over Future of FARC Peace Deal
Mike LaSusa, InSight Crime, March 12, 2018

“The combination of a legislature and executive branch dominated by opponents of the FARC peace deal would not bode well for the future of the accords, and could deepen the existing problem of dissidence among former FARC fighters.”

Colombia: Why did the FARC ‘fail’ its first electoral test?
Luke Taylor, Al Jazeera, March 14, 2018

“The FARC failed to pick up any additional seats outside the 10 –  five in each of the 108-member Senate and the 172-member lower house – they were guaranteed as part of the peace agreement.The former rebels secured no more than 0.21 percent of votes in the lower house and just 0.34 percent in the senate; even less than initial predictions of one to two percent.”

¿Por qué Colombia necesita a la Farc en la política?
Dario Villamizar H., The New York Times, 21 de marzo de 2018

“En la elección del 11 de marzo no se produjeron grandes sorpresas en la composición del parlamento. Ni la aplicación de esta medida excepcional ni la presencia de candidatos de la Farc en el escenario electoral afectaron los resultados que alcanzaron otros aspirantes de la izquierda, como la Lista de la Decencia que apoya a Gustavo Petro o al proyecto de centro del Partido Alianza Verde que apoya a Sergio Fajardo”.

Human Rights and the Environment

Ejecuciones extrajudiciales no se han acabado en Colombia, dice la ONU
El Espectador, 20 de marzo de 2018

“En total, la ONU registró 11 casos de ejecuciones extrajudiciales en 2017 en Arauca, Bolívar, Cesar, Córdoba, Cundinamarca, Norte de Santander y Tolima.  De esos 11 casos, ocho habrían sido cometidos por el Ejército y  tres, por la Policía. El informe adjudica estos casos a diferentes causas: falta de mando y control por parte de los comandantes de la Policía y las Fuerzas Armadas; la falta de planificación de las operaciones; y la ausencia de disciplina en la estrategia de los mismos entes de seguridad”.

84 human rights leaders were killed in Colombia last year
Manuel Rueda, AP News, March 16, 2018

“Analysts say the peace deal has led to an overall decrease in homicide rates. But in a report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said activists and social leaders are still being targeted by drug traffickers, right wing death squads and smaller rebel groups.”

Colombia Social Leaders Caught in Crossfire of Battle for Pacific Coast
Parker Asmann, InSight Crime, March 21, 2018

“A total of 282 social leaders have been killed in Colombia between 2016 and the end of February 2018, an average of 11 per month, according to a recent report from the country’s Ombudsman’s Office. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, nearly a third of these killings occurred in 2017 alone.”

Santos firmará el decreto para la protección colectiva de líderes sociales
Caracol Radio, 14 de marzo de 2018

“El programa tendrá 4 componentes básicos, establece medidas integrales de prevención, seguridad y protección; crea un programa de promotores comunitarios de paz y convivencia; inicia un protocolo de protección para territorios rurales y activará un programa de apoyo a la actividad de denuncia”.

ONU, ‘extremadamente preocupada’ por violencia contra líderes
El Tiempo, 20 de marzo de 2018

“Los últimos asesinatos de líderes defensores de derechos humanos están marcados por una paradoja, mientras en años anteriores la mayoría de quienes fueron asesinados se oponían a políticas de gobierno, en los casos recientes varias víctimas apoyaban programas gubernamentales”.

OECD: Probe Colombia’s inaction on indigenous hunger crisis
Juan Pappier, Euronews, March 20, 2018

“The government has promised to act, but its efforts have fallen short, speaking volumes about Colombia’s commitment to the Wayuu. Government food programs for children in the villages I visited often ran short. Many doctors and nurses lacked medicine to treat children. And several wells dug by the government were not operating or provided only salty water.”

Colombia welcomes UN’s new human rights chief, but under pressure
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 22, 2018

“More than 400 organizations wrote President Juan Manuel Santos, international diplomats and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to demand an urgent accreditation.The Italian diplomat replaced Todd Howland, who was the UN’s top human rights official in the country since 2012 and has returned to Geneva.Brunori, 52, is a heavyweight in human rights affairs and previously led the international organization’s Central America office.”

Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis

Venezuelans flee Maduro regime seeking freedom and safety — but asylum is elusive
Jim Wyss, Miami Herald, March 20, 2018

“Many Venezuelans are leaving their country for a variety of reasons, including their beliefs and personal traits, insecurity and violence, lack of access to food, medicine and essential services, as well as loss of means of survival due to the current economic situation,” the UNHCR said in a statement. “While not all Venezuelans are refugees, we believe a significant proportion are in need of international protection and could qualify as refugees.Those seeking political asylum in Colombia feel particularly vulnerable.” 

IACHR Presents in Geneva Report on the Human Rights Situation in Venezuela
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, March 15, 2018

“The report addresses the situation of human rights in Venezuela, analyzing the impact that the weakening of democratic institutions in the country has had on them. The report is organized around four main axes, which represent the central concerns of the IACHR regarding the country: democratic institutions; social protest and freedom of expression; violence and citizen security; and economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (DESCA).”

US to supply emergency food, medicine to Venezuelan migrants
Associated Press, March 20, 2018

“The Trump administration is providing $2.5 million for emergency food and medicine assistance to Venezuelan migrants in Colombia in the U.S.′ first action to alleviate a burgeoning humanitarian crisis reverberating across Latin America.Most of the aid will be directed toward the border city of Cucuta, which has been overwhelmed in recent months by hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing hunger and economic turmoil.”

‘We’re Losing the Fight’: Tuberculosis Batters a Venezuela in Crisis
Kirk Semple, The New York Times, March 20, 2018

“The flight of millions of Venezuelans abroad in the past decade has included many talented medical professionals, and veteran tuberculosis specialists in Caracas say their ranks have thinned considerably.Many well-prepared people are leaving,” said Dr. Verónica Martínez, a pediatric pulmonologist at José Ignacio Baldó Hospital”.

Counternarcotics

Mexican cartels increasing presence in Colombia: attorney general
Reuters, March 15, 2018

“‘It has been clearly identified by the attorney general’s office, and we’ve informed the national government, of a growing presence of Mexican cartels,’ attorney general Nestor Humberto Martinez told journalists. ‘We have to banish them because they are a threat to national security’.”

Narcotráfico colombiano prefiere “invisibilidad a la violencia”, dice informe
La Vanguardia, 14 de marzo de 2018

“El narcotraficante de hoy prefiere esconderse bajo la fachada de empresario exitoso, evitando la ostentación y la violencia extrema que caracterizaron a generaciones anteriores”, dice la investigación, presentada hoy en la Universidad del Rosario de Bogotá”.

Ex-FARC Mafia Boss Had Cocaine Network, Mexico Ties
Mimi Yagoub, InSight Crime, March 16, 2018

“Police and Defense Ministry press releases state that Cachi was the group’s finance chief and was in charge of drug trafficking and social control, and was just as important to the organization as Guacho himself. El Tiempo reported that local communities accused Cachi of forcing them into violent protests against security force eradicators.”

‘The Invisibles’: Colombia’s New Generation of Drug Traffickers
Jeremy McDermott, InSight Crime, March 15, 2018

“Drug trafficking has long embedded itself in Colombia’s civil conflict, hiding among, and subverting, the warring factions. Now as the civil conflict draws down, with just the ELN still in the field, drug trafficking is mutating once again. This time Colombia’s drug lords realize that their best protection is not a private army, but anonymity. That is why we are calling the fourth generation of drug traffickers in Colombia ‘The Invisibles’.”

Santos ready to demobilize Colombia’s remaining warlords
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 21, 2018

“Colombia’s government asked Congress to approve legislation that would allow the demobilization of the country’s largest illegal armed group, the AGC.The group, which has an estimated 7,000 members, offered to surrender to justice in September last year. Its leaders abandoned the demobilization process of paramilitary group AUC between 2003 and 2006.”

Latin America Falls Short on Anti-Crime Efforts: US State Department
Parker Asmann, InSight Crime, March 20, 2018

“An annual report by the US State Department on international drug trafficking suggests that Latin America continues to struggle with developing effective strategies to combat criminal activities due to a variety of factors ranging from corruption to shifts in regional drug dynamics.”

* 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.