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Colombia News Brief for March 18, 2016

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

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The Peace Process

•   Waging peace in Colombia
Juan Manuel Santos, The Tico Times, March 15, 2016
“Colombians are close to bringing to an end the oldest and only remaining armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. After more than five years of negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, we can say that we have reached an irreversible phase that will put an end to more than 50 years of a cruel and costly war.”

•   “Concentration Zones”: the Perplexing Key to a Bilateral Ceasefire in Colombia [Part 1 of a WOLA Series on Colombia’s Peace Process: Ensuring the Success of a Potential Bilateral Ceasefire Agreement]
Adam Isaacson, Washington Office on Latin America, March 15, 2016
“A major part of the ceasefire arrangement will be a concentration of guerrilla forces in specific zones around the country. Colombia’s armed forces will not be allowed to enter these zones, and for some time the guerrillas assembled there will be allowed to keep their weapons, as they begin what may be a long process of ‘leaving aside arms.’ These areas will eventually become the sites where guerrillas undergo demobilization and disarmament, after the signing of a final accord, which is likely to occur in mid-2016.”

•   Race to a Finish Line That Proves Elusive Brings Multiple Advances at Colombia’s Peace Table
Ginny Bouvier, Colombia Calls, March 15, 2016
“With less than two weeks before the March 23rd deadline for a final peace deal between the Colombian government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC-EP), President Juan Manuel Santos announced this week that he would not ‘sign a bad agreement’ just to meet a deadline and proposed setting a new date for a final agreement… Postponing the deadline is a bold and mature move, and a recognition that important items still need to be discussed at the table.”

•   More than 17,000 FARC rebels will demobilize in event of peace: Santos
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, March 16, 2016
“Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday he estimated that more than 17,000 FARC rebels will demobilize if a peace deal with the guerrilla group is signed. Ahead of the March 23 deadline, the rebels and the Santos administration are seeking to move towards a solution on the issue of the demobilization of troops, the decommissioning of weapons and the reintegration of fighters, or DDR.”

•   Colombian Attorney General Asked to Rule Out Peace Referendum
teleSur, March 11, 2016
“Guaranteeing peace to Colombians does not necessarily require their direct approval via referendum, argued the country’s prosecutor. Colombia’s attorney general asked the Supreme Court Friday to declare unconstitutional the referendum pushed by President Juan Manuel Santos to ratify the future peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.”

•   Cinco claves para entender el ‘nudo’ por el que pasa el proceso de paz
¡PACIFISTA!, 14 de marzo de 2016
“‘Casi que estábamos para cerrar el acuerdo sobre el cese al fuego bilateral y definitivo, y la dejación de armas, una discusión que lleva más de ocho meses… Ayer en la tarde, cuando se reunía la subcomisión técnica para avanzar en el tema de los sitios donde vamos a estar ubicados a partir del cese al fuego, nos fue leído un documento, que a todas luces fue redactado por el Alto Comisionado para la Paz, que borra de tajo todo lo consensuado en ocho meses de larga discusión entre los militares activos y los mandos nuestros’. Esa frase, que se escucha en una grabación conocida el pasado viernes, sería parte de un comunicado enviado por “Timochenko” a los comandantes de las Farc en Colombia, alertando sobre las complicaciones en que andan las conversaciones de paz y pidiéndoles que tomen precauciones para evitar que el Gobierno les haga ‘una jugada sucia’”.

•   ‘Álvaro Uribe, principal saboteador de acuerdo de paz en Colombia’
Pablo Novarro, Equilibrio Informativo, 14 de marzo de 2016
“‘Preferimos un buen acuerdo a una foto con Obama’, acotó Timochenko, en referencia a la posibilidad de que la visita del presidente de Estados Unidos (EE.UU.) a La Habana coincida con la posible firma del acuerdo de paz entre la insurgencia y el Gobierno colombiano”.

•   Los Montes de María, se anticiparon simbólicamente a la firma del proceso de paz
RCN Radio, 16 de marzo de 2016
“En un acto simbólico miles personas de la región de los Montes de María, firmaron un acuerdo de paz, como un mensaje claro a los negociadores en La Habana, ‘No levantarse de la mesa de diálogos sin lograr conseguir el anhelo de todos los colombianos’”.

•   Colombia’s ‘Oficina de Envigado’ Allegedly Seeks Peace Negotiations
Michael Lohmuller, InSight Crime, March 15, 2016
“Medellín-based crime syndicate the ‘Oficina de Envigado’ is allegedly seeking to negotiate with the Colombian government, a questionable development that raises skepticism over the benefits of such a process given the group’s fractured nature.”

•   Postconflict in Colombia: investing in gender equality
Katja Noordam, open Democracy, March 16, 2016
“A corporate perspective with a focus on gender equality makes obvious that investing in the human capital of women equates to investing in the development of strong businesses in peaceful societies.”

•   Presentamos nuestro primer tema musical [Canción]
Generación Paz, 14 de marzo de 2016
“Con la participación de varios artistas de Medellín, Generación Paz presenta su primer tema musical, una pieza que buscar interesar a diversos públicos en el Proceso de Paz y la construcción de paz en los territorios que se dan hoy en día en Colombia y que, sin duda, está transformando la vida de las generaciones presentes y futuras de colombianos y colombianas”.

International & U.S. Responses to the Peace Process

•   UK vows to contribute $7.6M to Colombia peace process
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 15, 2016
“The United Kingdom will contribute $7.6 million to international funds that seek to finance ongoing peace efforts in Colombia, the British government announced.”

•   US, Colombian Militaries Eye a Post-Conflict Future
Defense News via Agence France-Presse, March 13, 2016
“Now that a historic peace accord with leftist FARC guerrillas could be signed within weeks, Colombia’s government is eager to ensure ties to the US military endure in a post-conflict future. President Juan Manuel Santos this week rolled out the red carpet for the Pentagon’s top officer, Gen. Joe Dunford, honoring him with three ceremonies during a brief visit to Bogota.”

•   Dunford: Colombia Is at Inflection Point
Jim Garamone, Department of Defense News, March 14, 2016
“The Colombian government’s imminent peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, will help to put an end to an insurgency that stretches back to the 1960s, but it also complicates the situation in Colombia, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. told reporters traveling with him that Colombia is at an inflection point, and the challenges facing the government and the Colombian military don’t end with the pact.”

Afro-Colombian & Indigenous Voices for Peace

•   Colombia’s Peace Process: Integrating Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Rights [Part 1 of a WOLA Series on Colombia’s Peace Process: Ensuring the Success of a Potential Bilateral Ceasefire Agreement]
Gimena Sanchez, Washington Office on Latin America, March 16, 2016
“After more than 50 years the Colombian government and the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), are finally engaging in peace negotiations. Beyond the signing of a potential agreement, ensuring peace will require incorporating into the process those communities that have been the hardest hit during the conflict and where tensions can rise to violence during the post-conflict era. Precisely because indigenous and Afro-Colombian persons make up a disproportionate number of the victims and displaced communities of the conflict, their voices are especially essential for ensuring a just and lasting peace.”

•   Marino Córdoba: Un Afro colombiano en la Casa Blanca
Actualidad Étnica, 14 de marzo de 2016
El evento se llevó a cabo el pasado 4 de febrero en Washington DC, capital de Estados Unidos. “Aunque la organización estaba a cargo del gobierno de Barack Obama, no dejaba de ser paradójico que el presidente colombiano no hubiera incluido a ningún miembro de las minorías étnicas en su numerosa delegación. El tema no pasó inadvertido y en los Medios y redes sociales no dejaba de hablarse de la “metida de patas de Santos”, sobre todo considerando que el país del norte es liderado por un Afro-Americano, que además cuenta con una importante representación negra en el Congreso gringo”.

Human Rights

•   Will New U.S. Aid Address Damage Caused to Colombia’s Rural Communities?
Katie Sizemore, The Huffington Post, March 13, 2016
“In reality, a rose-tinted view of Plan Colombia severely neglects the detrimental humanitarian toll it has had on the country’s rural poor. If the United States is to be effective in supporting its South American ally during its peaceful transition, “Peace Colombia” demands a better understanding than its predecessor of the local realities in the areas where its efforts and dollars are likely to be focused.”

•   Post-conflicto en Colombia: Invertir en la equidad de género
“Katja Noordam, democraciaAbierta, 16 de marzo de 2016
Un punto de vista corporativo enfocado en la igualdad de género evidencia que la inversión en el capital humano de la mujer equivale a invertir en el desarrollo de las empresas fuertes en las sociedades pacíficas”.

•   Por los derechos de los campesinos
Edilia Mendoza, El Espectador, 15 de marzo de 2016
“Ha soportado golpes, amenazas e intentos de secuestro en medio de esta difícil lucha. Hoy perdona todos los atropellos que ha sufrido, pero pide igualdad y respeto por la tierra”.

•   Regresa el fantasma paramilitar
Semana, 12 de marzo de 2016
“Mientras el proceso de paz avanza, los neoparamilitares se expanden en el país. Las bacrim aumentan y son la mayor preocupación de las Farc de cara a la dejación de armas. ¿Quién los detendrá”?

Environment and Land: Concerns and Advances

•   Calculating the environmental benefits of peace in Colombia
Doug Weir, New Internationalist, March 17, 2016
“Colombia’s environment has suffered widespread and severe damage as a result of half a century of armed conflict. With a peace agreement with FARC on the table, the government has been reviewing the financial costs of the damage – and the economic and environmental benefits of peace. By its own calculations, an end to the conflict could see the government saving $2.2 billion a year in addressing avoidable environmental damage. But a sustainable environment will first require a sustainable peace.”

Reports

•   Colombia: Insidious violence on the rise in 2015
International Committee of the Red Cross, March 10, 2016
“Although the fighting is abating between government forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP), the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) is continuing to register the same levels of violence in the country as in previous years. In a report released today about the humanitarian challenges facing Colombia in 2016, the ICRC underlined the high incidence of death threats, disappearances and sexual violence in 2015.”

*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.