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Colombia News Brief for March 25, 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

•   Farc peace talks in Cuba miss deadline for final deal
Sibylla Brodzinsky and Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, March 23, 2016
“Colombian peace negotiators missed their deadline to sign a final accord to end Latin America’s longest-running war on Wednesday but said they would continue talks to settle critical issues that still stand in the way of a peace deal… The two sides had set 23 March as the deadline for a final peace agreement but recently tamped down expectations as they failed to agree on key issues of how and where the rebels will demobilise and disarm, and how to guarantee the security of demobilised fighters as they move from an insurgent army to a political organisation.”

•   Colombia misses peace deadline with guerrillas amid differences
Jim Wyss, The Miami Herald, March 23, 2016
“When Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the country’s largest guerrilla group announced six months ago that they planned to have a finalized peace deal by March 23, it seemed bold and ambitious. On Wednesday, those ambitions fell flat as negotiators admitted there were still ‘important differences’ between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In a brief statement, the country’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said the country was not interested in signing a deal at any cost or one that couldn’t be sustained.”

•   Las razones por las que no se firmó la paz este 23 de marzo
El Tiempo, 23 de marzo de 2016
“Aunque durante meses el Gobierno se mostró inamovible en cuanto a cumplir ese compromiso –no tanto así las Farc que no veían viable un acuerdo en tan poco tiempo–, las diferencias en los dos puntos de la agenda que faltan por negociar requerirán más tiempo de diálogo”.

•   Why Colombia’s Negotiators Couldn’t Manage a Cease-fire by March 23
Adam Isaacson, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), March 23, 2016
“It sounded over-ambitious when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced last September 23, during a historic handshake meeting in Havana with the FARC guerrilla leadership, that both sides’ negotiators would sign a final peace accord in just six months—that is, by today, March 23, 2016… A more realistic hope was that the negotiators could agree by March 23 on something more modest than a final accord, but still tremendously important: a bilateral ceasefire… But there was no ceasefire accord, despite last-ditch efforts by President Santos’s older brother to break an impasse.”

•   ‘Timochenko’ dice que acuerdo sobre cese el fuego ha avanzado en el 70%
Semana, 24 de marzo de 2016
“El jefe máximo de las FARC, Rodrigo Londoño, ‘Timochenko’, señaló que el acuerdo de cese el fuego bilateral entre el grupo guerrillero y el Gobierno se halla avanzado en ‘el 70%’… el líder guerrillero afirmó que los ‘avances son muy grandes’ sobre cómo proceder para el cese el fuego e incluso superan las diferencias, las cuales sin embargo aún deben ser ‘resueltas’. ‘Timochenko’ manifestó que las conversaciones para firmar la paz, cuyo plazo expiró el pasado miércoles, han logrado avances sobre cómo frenar los grupos paramilitares, pero que para implementar eso y el resto de puntos discutidos hasta el momento, hacen falta reformas en la Constitución”.

•   Colombia debe implementar una perspectiva de género para tener una paz duradera
Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), 22 de marzo de 2016
“Mientras que la mayoría de los combatientes en el conflicto armado colombiano han sido hombres, la participación de las mujeres en la construcción de paz es  absolutamente necesaria para que ésta sea una paz duradera. Cuando el Consejo  de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas adopto la resolución 1325, la cual exige una  participación igualitaria de las mujeres en los acuerdos  de paz, se inició un esfuerzo para cerrar la brecha, tanto teórica como práctica, por medio de la integración de una perspectiva de género en los procesos de paz. Colombia, devastada por la guerra, representa el escenario perfecto para implementar este nuevo enfoque y  a pesar de algunos inconvenientes presentados  en el esfuerzo  de incluir  a las mujeres en los acuerdos  de paz, éste ha tenido éxito en formas transformadoras”.

•   Así haya acuerdo de paz, 281 municipios seguirían en peligro
El Colombiano, 22 de marzo de 2016
“En un posible escenario de posconflicto y tras la firma de un acuerdo de paz con las Farc, el 25,5 % de los municipios del país tendrá algún tipo de vulnerabilidad. La presencia de otros grupos armados ilegales, como bandas criminales o el Eln, es uno de los factores por los que 281 poblaciones, en 26 departamentos, podrían continuar con diversos riesgos o viviendo épocas violentas”.

•   CONPAZ Pide Acelerar Negociaciones de Paz con ELN y FARC
Juan Martínez, Contagio Radio, 22 de marzo de 2016
“La Red, CONPAZ, Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios  envió un comunicado a las delegaciones de paz del gobierno y las FARC que están en la Habana y otra a la guerrilla del ELN también dirigida al gobierno para que se aceleren las conversaciones de paz en Cuba, y los diálogos con el ELN pasen a su fase pública… ‘Pensamos que si se firman los acuerdos con las FARC y no con el ELN quedaría incompleto el punto del fin del conflicto’, dice Martínez, asegurando que para que se pueda construir la paz en Colombia debe tenerse en cuenta a las dos guerrillas para forjar una nueva democracia”.

International & U.S. Support for Peace

•   John Kerry holds unprecedented peace talks with Colombian Farc rebels
Sibylla Brodzinsky and Dan Roberts, The Guardian, March 21, 2016
“US secretary of state John Kerry held an unprecedented meeting on Monday with leaders of [the FARC]… In closed-door meetings, Kerry first spoke with the members of the Colombian government team seeking a peace deal… He then met separately with rebel negotiators in the Laguito neighbourhood, where peace talks have been held since 2012.”

•   Kerry encouraged by Colombia peace talks after Havana meeting
Reuters, March 21, 2016
“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was encouraged by progress in the Colombian peace process after meeting on Monday in Havana with representatives of Colombia’s Marxist FARC guerrilla group and the Bogota government, a State Department spokesman said. Kerry, in Cuba as part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to the Communist-run island, met the two sides separately and called for them to redouble their efforts to resolve the remaining issues in the talks, spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.”

•   Reunido con el Gobierno y las Farc, Kerry busca impulsar diálogos
El Tiempo, 21 de marzo de 2016
“La intención de Washington es ratificar su postura de aliado de las negociaciones de paz, pero, al mismo tiempo, darle un impulso para que la firma final de un acuerdo no se siga dilatando. El encuentro, clave para el futuro de un proceso de paz que tiene más de tres años y medio, se producirá en La Habana, sede de los diálogos y a donde Kerry llegó como miembro de la delegación del presidente estadounidense, Barack Obama, quien visita la isla para continuar con la normalización de relaciones”.

•   Gobierno y Farc aún no están listos para firmar acuerdo de paz: John Kerry
El Espectador, 23 de marzo de 2016
“El secretario de Estado de Estados Unidos, John Kerry, concedió una entrevista a la cadena Univisión en la cual manifestó, tras reunirse este lunes por separado con las delegaciones de paz en La Habana, que el Gobierno y las Farc aún no están listos para firmar un acuerdo final de paz. Tras el encuentro con ambas delegaciones considera que hacen falta negociar temas espinosos que podrían alargar la firma del fin del conflicto armado en Colombia”.

•   FARC-EP welcomes Secretary of State John Kerry
Communiqué by the Peace Delegation of the Central High Command and the National Secretariat of the FARC-EP, March 21, 2016
“Mr. John Kerry, United States of America Secretary of State. Through you, we thank the US Government for its support for the peace talks in Havana between the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP that seek to end the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere.”

•   Peace in Colombia, Shielded by International Support
Constanza Vieira, Inter Press Service, March 25, 2016
“Before Wednesday it was already clear that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC would not meet the Mar. 23 deadline to put an end to 52 years of armed conflict.
But at least an upbeat joint communiqué was expected, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday Mar. 21 with the heads of the two negotiating teams in the Cuban capital, and expressed his support for the talks, urging them to ‘redouble their efforts’. Two weeks ago, the Colombian legislature approved a law on demobilisation of the guerrillas. During the bilateral ceasefire that would be put in place by a final peace deal, the rebels would hand over their weapons and remain in rural ‘concentration zones’… But the FARC saw this as a step backwards… Perhaps that is why Kerry decided to intercede in such a touchy issue, when he announced that the United States would be willing to help guarantee the security of the combatants once they hand in their weapons.”

•   European envoy to peace talks visits Colombia’s conflict victims
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, March 19, 2016
“The European Union (EU) envoy to Colombia’s peace process met with victims of the conflict who are going through a reparations process in the capital Bogota… Gilmore acknowledged the importance of the work by the Victim’s Unit and said the attention to victims is a progressive initiative in advance of a peace deal being signed which will bring to an en a 51-year conflict.”

•   UN warns for neo-paramilitary violence in Colombia after peace with FARC
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 22, 2016
“The United Nations, in charge of monitoring a future peace deal between Colombia’s government and FARC rebels, warned Monday about a possible surge in violence by paramilitary successor groups if the FARC demobilizes.”

Life as a FARC Guerrilla

•   Inside Colombia’s jungles, how FARC rebels are preparing for peace
PBS Newshour, March 21, 2016
“After decades of evading the Colombian military, FARC rebels are emerging from the jungle. Special correspondents Nadja Drost and Bruno Federico offer an exclusive look at the FARC perspective amid peace talks to end the world’s longest-running conflict.”

•   In a Rebel Camp in Colombia, Marx and Free Love Reign
Nicholas Casey, The New York Times, March 18, 2016
“The rebel camp is a Communist time capsule. An old guerrilla fighter sings songs about Che Guevara on his guitar as a crowd leans in to listen, armed with rifles and grenades… I was invited by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as theFARC, to witness this sprawling jungle hide-out for about 150 fighters during what were supposed to be its last days.”

•   How We Got to a Colombian Guerrilla Camp [Behind the Story]
Nicholas Casey, Times Insider, March 18, 2016
“It was an assignment that took us through those two towns and deep into the rebel-controlled jungles in the Colombian highlands. Our destination: a hide-out of 150 fighters where for four days we would document life in one of Latin America’s last remaining guerrilla camps.”

•   Why free love in the FARC isn’t so free. (You wouldn’t know it from reading the New York Times.)
Roxanne Krystalli, The Washington Post, March 24, 2016
“Stories reporting on the anthropology of everyday life during conflict and within armed groups can illuminate the full range of members’ experience — or can erase their realities. For instance, while it’s important to recognize that women and girls have been part of the FARC, those who tell their stories and who craft the peace must understand their complex and diverse motives and experiences. Similarly, research has shown us that the twin categories of ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’ of violence aren’t neatly separated: The same person may have been simultaneously committing violence and a victim of it.”

Human Rights

•   Gobierno anuncia medidas para proteger a defensores de DDHH
El Heraldo, 24 de marzo de 2016
“El ministro del Interior, Juan Fernando Cristo, anunció que el Gobierno tomará medidas para garantizar la seguridad de los defensores de derechos humanos en el país.
‘Vamos a conformar un grupo especial de trabajo para identificar y actuar con éxito frente a hechos que atenten contra los defensores de derechos humanos’, dijo Cristo en el municipio de Soacha, ubicado al sur de Bogotá, en donde participó en la ‘Mesa de Garantías’ para revisar la situación de seguridad que afecta a los líderes sociales”.

•   Nearing peace, Colombians seek missing loved ones
Alba Tobella, AFP via Yahoo News, March 21, 2016
“There are some 45,000 people listed as missing due to the conflict, which started in the 1960s with a peasant uprising and has drawn in various armed groups. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that hundreds of thousands of people have suffered ‘forced disappearances’ in the Colombian conflict. ‘The main need the families have is to know — to know where the person is, what happened and in what circumstances,’ said Deborah Schibler, the committee’s representative in Colombia.”

•   Ponte en mis zapatos: Testimonios por la paz de Colombia
TeleSur, 22 de marzo de 2016
“Neyla Hernández es defensora de derechos humanos en Colombia y trabaja con víctimas en diferentes zonas del país. En su trasegar por valles, ríos y montañas ha ido recopilando en sus cuadernos de campo y su corazón, el diario y duro vivir de comunidades enteras, mujeres y hombres, niñas, viejos, niños, indígenas, campesinos, en fín, puro pueblo, víctima de la ignominia de un conflicto armado que se ha prolongado por varias décadas. Este es uno de sus relatos”.

•   “The Truth Will Make Us Free”
Ana Vicente, Peace Brigades International Colombia, March 23, 2016
“David Ravelo’s voice was heard in a chamber of the European Parliament, in an event organised by the Euro-deputies Javier Couso and Marine Albiol. A voice that, again, demanded justice due to the irregularities in his case, and in the cases of other human rights defenders who are facing similar situations. It was a voice that demanded respect for the noble activity of defending human rights. A voice that celebrates the agreement on justice achieved in Havana and that demanded that we continue the long journey towards a country in peace, a sustainable and stable situation of peace that will last. A peace where the truth will make us free.”

Colombian government & the ELN

•   Colombia’s ELN rebels free soldier hostage
Julia Symmes Cobb, Reuters, March 20, 2016
“Colombia’s second-largest rebel group has freed a soldier hostage held for more than six weeks, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday, meeting a government condition for the start of peace talks.”

•   “El ELN juega a mostrar que están vivos”, Santos
Semana, 19 de marzo de 2016
“La fase preliminar de conversaciones entre el Gobierno y el ELN sigue teniendo más espinas que certezas. Durante en un acto público en Barichara (Santander), el presidente Juan Manuel Santos se mostró enérgico frente a las recientes acciones del grupo alzado en armas. El mandatario insistió en que no comenzará una fase pública de negociaciones hasta que ‘liberen a todos los secuestrados’”.

Environment, Land and Agriculture: Concerns and Advances

•   Will peace halt Colombia’s coca boom?
Jim Wyss, The Miami Herald, March 25, 2016
“As the Colombian government and the nation’s largest guerrilla group inch toward a deal to end the country’s half-century civil conflict, coca farmers are in the crosshairs… Of all the threats to a lasting peace deal, the drug trade might be one of the most menacing. Experts fear the lucrative business might tempt some FARC factions to break ranks and join criminal gangs for control of the trade. And then there are the farmers themselves. More than 156,000 families are thought to make their living by growing and processing coca, according to United Nations data.”

•   Colombia’s big comeback
Howard LaFranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, March 20, 2016
“To say that Plan Colombia worked is not to suggest that it accomplished everything it set out to do. It was initially conceived largely as an anti-narcotics collaboration, and that part of the plan was hardly a rousing success… Human rights advocates fault the plan for focusing on security and concentrating spending on military hardware… Still, the initiative has transformed millions of lives and helped bring state institutions – a professionalized National Police force, judicial services, and social programs such as rural development – to large swaths of formerly lawless territory. It is helping people like [farmer Serafín Guzmán] support the world’s taste for chocolate instead of its desire for cocaine.”

•   Can Sustainable Farming Revive Colombia’s Former Killing Fields?
Karen Tatiana Pardo, World Crunch, March 16, 2016
“In what was once the setting of civil war and gangland murder, peasants in northern Colombia’s Montes de María region are using sustainable farming practices to rebuild a degraded environment. It may be a ticket to their future. The innovative approaches include protecting the dry tropical forest of the Caribbean coast, using efficient cooking techniques to burn much less wood and growing food in small vegetable patches.”

•   Al que no quiere caldo: Tobie Mining Inc. demanda a Colombia por 16.5 billones de dólares
Marco Velásquez-Ruiz, El Tiempo, 22 de marzo de 2016
“El 19 de febrero de 2016 el gobierno colombiano fue notificado de una demanda instaurada por la empresa multinacional Tobie Mining Inc., en el marco del tratado de libre comercio celebrado entre Estados Unidos y Colombia en 2006, por 16,5 billones de dólares. Sin embargo, sólo hasta hace muy poco se conoció el texto de la demanda que amenazaría la estabilidad del país tanto a nivel fiscal como socioeconómico. Ya no se trata de amenazas vagas -como se ha querido mostrar por un sector de la opinión pública-, sino que nos encontramos frente a un hecho cierto. Frente al silencio de las autoridades al respecto, considero no sólo relevante sino moralmente necesario visibilizar el caso e ilustrar las exorbitantes pretensiones de esta empresa, que están soportadas en argumentos sorprendentes”.

•   Protecting Their Sacred Zizuma: Colombia’s U’wa Indigenous Guard Mobilizes
Andrew E. Miller, Amazon Watch, March 21, 2016
“Taking direct action to defend their territory is a deadly serious proposition for Colombia’s indigenous peoples. Seared in the collective memory of the U’wa people are the drowning deaths of three U’wa children when they fled a violent police crackdown on anti-oil protests in 2000. As such, the current mobilization of the U’wa Indigenous Guard to stop tourists from entering the sacred snow-capped mountain peak of El Cocuy has grabbed national and international attention.”

Reports & Series

•   A WOLA Series on Colombia’s Peace Process: Ensuring the Success of a Potential Bilateral Ceasefire Agreement

•   “Concentration Zones”: the Perplexing Key to a Bilateral Ceasefire in Colombia
•   Colombia’s Peace Process: Integrating Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Rights
•   The UN Verification Mission’s Essential Role in Colombia’s Long-Awaited Ceasefire
•   The Colombian Military Faces Post-Conflict Uncertainty

•   Una Serie de WOLA sobre el Proceso de Paz en Colombia: ¿Cómo asegurar el éxito de un posible acuerdo bilateral de cese al fuego?

•   “Zonas de Concentración”: la sorprendente clave para un cese al fuego bilateral en Colombia
•   Diálogos de Paz en Colombia: Integrando los de derechos de los afro-colombianos e indígenas
•   La misión de verificación de las Naciones Unidas jugará un papel esencial en el cese bilateral del fuego en Colombia
•   El ejército colombiano enfrenta incertidumbre después del conflicto

•   Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, March 16, 2016
“In the present report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomes the efforts of the Government of Colombia to meet its human rights obligations and the progress made in the pursuit of a negotiated end to the internal armed conflict. The High Commissioner describes how sustainable peace will require substantial efforts to overcome inequalities in access to political and economic rights and public services. He also highlights the need to address past violations, including extrajudicial executions.”                 

•   Informe del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos sobre la situación de los derechos humanos en Colombia
El Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, 15 de marzo de 2016
“El Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos celebra los avances en las negociaciones para el fin del conflicto armado interno entre el Gobierno de Colombia y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), resalta sus efectos positivos durante el 2015 e identifica riesgos y oportunidades para la construcción de la paz, con base en la observación de la situación de derechos humanos y las experiencias internacionales. Destaca además algunos desafíos estructurales en materia de derechos humanos que considera prioritarios para que el proceso de paz trascienda el cese de las hostilidades y cree una transformación hacia el disfrute de los derechos humanos de todos los hombres, mujeres, niñas y niños en Colombia.”
                   
•   Childhood in the Time of War: Will the children of Colombia know peace at last?
UNICEF, March 2016
“Child Alert is a briefing series that presents the core challenges for children in a given crisis location at a given time. This issue focuses on Colombia where peace negotiations are under way to end one of the longest conflicts in modern history. As the country prepares for a new chapter in its history, UNICEF urges all parties to put children first.”   

•   Press Release: Over 250,000 children affected by Colombia conflict since 2013, despite peace talks
UNICEF, March 19, 2016
“More than 250,000 children have been affected by the conflict in Colombia since peace talks between the Government and the country’s main armed opposition group (FARC-EP) started three years ago, UNICEF said in a report released today.”

Multimedia

•   How a Ceasefire in Colombia Can Work: Overcoming Challenges to a Smooth Transition from War to Peace [Podcast]
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), March 24, 2016
“Colombia’s government and FARC guerrillas missed the March 23 deadline that they had set for themselves to finish a peace accord. Still, after three-and-a-half years of talks, an agreement on a full cessation of hostilities—a bilateral ceasefire—is likely in the near future. What would happen the day after that? In this episode of Latin America Today, the WOLA podcast, Senior Associate Adam Isacson and Program Officer Sarah Kinosian look at the obstacles in the way of a smooth, post-conflict transition. These include other violent groups, demobilization challenges, a lack of consultation with communities, international apathy, and—perhaps most of all—the Colombian government’s historic inability to be present, protecting its citizens, in much of the national territory.”

•   Mensaje del Senador indígena colombiano Luis Evelis Andrade Casama a líderes políticos y sociales de Estados Unidos [Video]
18 de marzo de 2016
Senador Colombiano Luis Evelis Andrade y visita de Pueblos Indigenas y Afrodescendientes a Washington, DC

•   A decade in immigration purgatory: My struggle to become an American citizen [Graphic Essay]
Juana Medina, Fusion, March 24, 2016
“While the difficulties faced by undocumented immigrants — from dangerous smugglers to deportations — are well-known, immigrating legally can also be fraught with complications. Here, 35-year-old illustrator and author Juana Medina describes her Kafkaesque struggle to stay in the United States after moving legally from Colombia in 2002.”

*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.