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Colombia News Brief for March 31, 2021

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SPOTLIGHT

25 Organizations Call for an End to U.S. Support for Aerial Herbicide Fumigation in Colombia
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), March 26, 2021

“Colombia’s government is moving closer to reinstating a program, suspended in 2015, that would spray herbicides from aircraft over territories where coca is cultivated. Twenty-five U.S. and Colombian organizations have joined on this letter to President Joe Biden urging him to avoid supporting a renewed ‘fumigation’ program, succinctly laying out the reasons why this would be an unfortunate policy mistake. The letter was shared with the White House on March 26.”

Informe especial: La sustitución voluntaria siembra paz
Asociación Minga, 26 de marzo de 2021

“Al cierre de este informe se conoció el importante pronunciamiento de siete relatores de las Naciones Unidas del 17 de diciembre de 2020, en el que le piden al presidente Iván Duque y al Congreso de la República no reactivar el Programa de Erradicación de Cultivos Ilícitos con Glifosato. Los relatores de Sustancias Tóxicas, Afrodescendientes, Medio Ambiente, Derecho a la Alimentación, Derecho a la Salud, Situación de Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y de los Derechos de Pueblos Indígenas, consideran que el programa atenta contra el Acuerdo de Paz y la erradicación manual como método prevalente de erradicación, según lo dispuesto por la Corte Constitucional. Plantean también su preocupación en torno a que la reactivación del programa se plantee en un contexto sistémico de violencia contra los pueblos indígenas, afrocolombianos y personas defensoras de los derechos humanos”.

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Nos decían: tras de negras, maricas
Comisión de la Verdad, 30 de marzo de 2021

“Entrega de informe a la Comisión de la Verdad sobre las experiencias e impactos del conflicto armado en personas afro-LGBT del sur de Bolívar y el sur del Pacífico”.​​​​​​

Colombia accuses FARC dissidents over car bomb attack
Reuters, March 27, 2021

“Colombia on Saturday accused FARC dissidents of detonating a car bomb in the town of Corinto in the country’s Cauca province, which left 43 people injured, including 11 public officials, and caused material damages. The attack, which took place on Friday, was condemned by the government and a United Nations mission in Colombia. ‘We express our solidarity with all those affected by this indiscriminate terrorist attack that took place … with a car bomb in front of the mayor’s office in Corinto,’ recently appointed Defense Minister Diego Molano said in a recorded video statement on Saturday.”

Colombian President Iván Duque: ‘We have never played roulette with the economy or with social-spending programs’
Jan Martínez Ahrens and Javier Lafuente, El País, March 24, 2021

“On a Saturday morning, Colombian President Iván Duque greets EL PAÍS journalists in an aviator jacket and jeans. As he guides us on a tour of the Casa de Nariño official residence, he talks about its construction, its first owners and its sale to the state. He elaborates at length in front of the urn that holds the steel and bronze sword of Simón Bolívar, reciting facts from memory. In his office, one can spot a motto on his desk that reads: ‘If you do the little things well, the big things will work out better.’ When applied to Duque’s policies, his detractors would argue he has not stuck to the message.”

COVID-19

Medellin hospitals on brink of collapse amid COVID-19 surge
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 31, 2021

“Authorities imposed strict mobility restrictions on Colombia’s second largest capital Medellin where a surge in COVID-19 infections all but collapsed hospitals. Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suarez ordered a curfew between 5PM and 5AM in the Antioquia province that surrounds the capital Medellin. The governor said previously announced mobility restrictions that allow people to go shopping or go to the bank on specific days and took force last week would remain in place.”

Delays, corruption and misinformation thwart Covid-19 vaccination efforts across Amazon region
Eduardo Campos, America Magazine, March 30, 2021

“With almost 60,000 deaths and 2.4 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, the nine-nation Pan-Amazon region has become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in South America. The Amazon’s traditional peoples—its indigenous, quilombola, riverside and subsistence agriculture communities—have been included among the priority groups for vaccination in most countries of the Amazon, but those distinct immunization campaigns have several obstacles to overcome. In February, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (known by its Spanish and Portuguese abbreviation R.E.P.A.M.) issued a letter asking the region’s national governments to ‘spare no effort in buying and distributing vaccines for the Amazonian region.’”

Colombia ramps up vaccinations as COVID-19 infections surge
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, March 28, 2021

“Colombia’s health authorities have ramped up vaccination the elderly as a surge in COVID-19 infections is threatening to collapse the country’s healthcare system. The Health Ministry reported Saturday that the day before almost 120,000 people received a vaccine shot, which is more than twice as many as the same day last week. President Ivan Duque has vowed that 35 million people will be vaccinated against the coronavirus before the end of the year as part of his National Vaccination Plan.”

GIFMM Colombia: COVID-19 Joint Needs Assessment, December 2020
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, March 27, 2021

“This report details the results of the fourth round of the joint needs assessment by the Interagency Group on Mixed Migration Flows (GIFMM), implemented in November 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and accompanying preventative measures. The report outlines the methodology used, its scope, and the main results. The objective of the fourth round is to understand: (i) what are the levels of access and availability of basic goods and services and the problems households face in accessing these (ii) how living conditions have evolved and (iii) what are the priorities of the population, with a view to establishing a baseline that will inform the response in 2021. The analysis included in this document reflects the analysis of the data by member organizations of the Interagency Group on Mixed Migration Flows (GIFMM), as well as the experience and contribution of each of the experts in the sectors evaluated. The graphs presented in this report were prepared by the authors, based on the information collected.”

Covid-19 vaccination rate in Colombia falls by more than 80%
The Rio Times, March 25, 2021

“Colombia is moving forward with its immunization plan, but at a slow pace. The vaccination rate has fallen in the last two weeks by more than 80.56%. The Colombian Ministry of Health said, the peak of daily Covid-19 vaccine applications was reached on March 10th, with 119,615 administered doses. On March 22th only 23,251 doses were inoculated.”

U.S. Should Help Countries Without COVID-19 Vaccines: Colombia’s Duque Says
Julia Symmes Cobb, U.S. News & World Report, March 25, 2021

“The United States should help countries in the Western Hemisphere that do not yet have COVID-19 vaccines to acquire them, Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Thursday. U.S. President Joe Biden earlier on Thursday said he was setting a new goal of administering 200 million doses in his first 100 days in office, after an initial goal of 100 million doses was met ahead of schedule. ‘The distribution of vaccines has been pretty much unequal and we have countries that have bought vaccines but they haven’t been able to receive not even one (dose),’ Duque said during a virtual event hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank and attended by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Roy Blunt.”

HUMAN RIGHTS

“Ya no estamos dispuestas a seguir aguantando en silencio”: Claribed Palacios
Mauricio Rodríguez Múnera, El Espectador, 30 de marzo de 2021

“La AFD (Agencia Francesa para el Desarrollo) y El Espectador quieren destacar la valiosa labor de lideresas colombianas que desde diversos campos contribuyen a la construcción de país y que luchan por un mundo solidario, más justo: un mundo en común. Claribed Palacios García nació en Nuquí, Chocó, hace 42 años. De adolescente fue víctima del desplazamiento por la violencia en su departamento y vive ahora en Medellín. Es separada, con tres hijos -de 23, 16 y 9 años-, a quienes ha logrado sacar adelante con grandes esfuerzos. Cursa cuarto semestre de derecho. Desde hace dos años es la presidenta de la Unión Afrocolombiana de Trabajadoras del Servicio Doméstico, un sindicato que cuenta con 630 afiliadas en Bogotá, Neiva y algunos municipios de Urabá y Bolívar”.

Boy dubbed Colombia’s ‘Greta Thunberg’ braves death threats with his environmental activism
Andrea Torres, WPLG Local 10 News, March 30, 2021

“Francisco Vera was 6 years old when he attended his first protest against bullfighting, which Colombia’s constitutional court later ruled was a tradition that does not fall under the category of animal cruelty. It has been five years since, and his activism now includes campaigns against oil fracking tech and single-use plastics. From his home in a rural area of the Colombian town of Villeta, Francisco was 9 when he founded the ‘Guardianes Por La Vida,’ or the Guardians of Life. Months later, he wore a blue blazer to speak to legislators at the Colombian Congress on Dec. 17, 2019.”

Por territorios minados, 1.500 indígenas están confinados en Frontino (Antioquia)
El Espectador, 29 de marzo de 2021

“Alrededor de 1.500 indígenas están confinados en los resguardos indígenas de Amparradó Alto, Amparradó Medio, Guabinas, Cañaveral y Julio Chiquito, ubicados en el municipio de Frontino (Antioquia) debido a que su territorios y caminos están invadidos de minas. Esta actividad, común en otros resguardos indígenas del departamento, sería responsabilidad del Ejército de Liberación Nacional (Eln). El miedo reina en estas comunidades indígenas, quienes no pueden abandonar sus casas ante el miedo de caer en una de estas minas. Además, según dijo el alcalde Frontino, Jorge Hugo Elejalde, 60 personas salieron de los resguardos rumbo al centro poblado para abastecerse y hoy no han podido regresar por el mismo temor”.

Unicef: paso de menores por selva del Darién se multiplicó por 15
El Espectador, 29 de marzo de 2021

“El número de menores que cruzan el Tapón del Darién, la peligrosa selva fronteriza entre Panamá y Colombia, en su ruta migratoria hacia Norteamérica, se ha multiplicado por más de 15 en los últimos cuatro años y se espera que este flujo siga aumentando, afirmó este lunes Unicef. El Darién está considerada una de las rutas de migrantes irregulares más peligrosas del mundo, no solo por sus características propias de una selva tropical sino porque allí colindan grupos del crimen organizado como narcotraficantes y guerrillas. Según los datos de la agencia de la ONU, ‘desde 2017, el número de niños, niñas y adolescentes que cruzan el Tapón del Darién se ha disparado de 109 a 1.653 en 2020, con un pico de 3.956 en 2019. Esto supone 15 veces más’, mientras que la proporción de los menores que pasó de representar el 2 % de todos estos migrantes en 2017 a más del 25 % en 2020”.

Children Trapped by Colombia’s War, Five Years After Peace Deal
Julie Turkewitz and Sofía Villamil, The New York Times, March 27, 2021

“At 13, she left home to join the guerrillas. Now, at 15, Yeimi Sofía Vega lay in a coffin, killed during a military operation ordered by her government. Some of the youngest children in her town, Puerto Cachicamo, led her funeral procession, waving small white flags as they wound past the school, with its mildewed books and broken benches, past the shuttered health clinic and their small wooden houses. ‘We don’t want bombs,’ the children chanted, marching down a dusty road to the cemetery. ‘We want opportunities.’”

Colombia: Ensure Justice for Killed Protester
Human Rights Watch, March 24, 2021

“Colombian authorities should respect the right of peaceful assembly and ensure independent and impartial investigations of police use of force, including killings against protesters, Human Rights Watch and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights said today as they submitted an amicus brief to the country’s constitutional court. The amicus brief supports a petition to transfer the criminal investigation into the 2019 death of an 18-year-old protester, Dilan Cruz, at the hands of police to the ordinary justice system from the military courts, where it currently stands. The brief also outlines Colombia’s obligations to protect and respect the right to assemble peacefully as well as to ensure victims’ right to an effective remedy.”

DRUG POLICY

Piden a Biden no apoyar el reinicio de fumigaciones aéreas en Colombia
Sergio Gómez Maseri, El Tiempo, 31 de marzo de 2021

“Veinticinco organizaciones estadounidenses y colombianas le pidieron al presidente Joe Biden no apoyar el reinicio de la fumigación aérea en Colombia pues a su juicio no solo es un método ineficaz sino que socava los acuerdos de paz que se firmaron en el 2016. En la carta, fechada el pasado 26 de marzo, le sugieren al nuevo mandatario demócrata oponerse a que los recursos que anualmente le da EE. UU. al país se usen con este objetivo. ‘La fumigación aérea puede reducir a corto plazo el número de hectáreas sembradas de coca. Pero la experiencia del pasado muestra no sólo que estas ganancias se revierten rápidamente, sino que la estrategia debilita otros objetivos de seguridad de Estados Unidos y Colombia. Recurrir a la fumigación es como retroceder en el tiempo, ignorando mucho de lo que hemos aprendido sobre lo que funciona y lo que no’, dicen en la carta tras reiterar que la aspersión debilitaría la implementación de lo pactado en las negociaciones de paz, que Biden apoyo cuando era vicepresidente de Barack Obama”.

“Apoyar fumigación con glifosato envía un mensaje de crueldad”: organizaciones a Biden
El Espectador, 29 de marzo de 2021

“En una carta enviada a la Casa Blanca, 25 organizaciones internacionales y colombianas piden que el gobierno estadounidense no financie la aspersión aérea en Colombia. Enviará familias campesinas de la pobreza a la extrema pobreza, le advirtieron. Una vez más la posibilidad de que el gobierno de Iván Duque retome las fumigaciones con glifosato contra los cultivos de coca hace levantar voces de rechazo no solo en Colombia, sino a nivel internacional. Esta vez, 25 organizaciones entre internacionales y colombianas enviaron una misiva directamente a la Casa Blanca, en Washington, para que el presidente Biden no financie ese programa, como lo ha hecho antes ese país norteamericano”.

COLOMBIA — U.S. RELATIONS

How the US can help Colombia surmount dual crises New Atlanticist
Larry Luxner, Atlantic Council, March 30, 2021

“On the eve of the two-hundredth anniversary of diplomatic ties between the United States and Colombia, there is ‘good momentum to strengthen the bilateral relationship,’ says Colombian President Iván Duque. Duque shared his optimism for the future of US-Colombia relations during an Atlantic Council Front Page event hosted by the Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. The event, moderated by author and journalist Marie Arana, also featured US Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), the co-chairs of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center US-Colombia Task Force.

A conversation with President of Colombia Iván Duque and US Senators Roy Blunt and Ben Cardin
Atlantic Council, March 25, 2021

“A new government in the United States provides an opportunity to strengthen US-Colombia cooperation on many fronts. The live conversation will focus on the progress that has been made on key bilateral objectives in the past year, highlighting the strategic importance of strong US-Colombia relations. It will also explore how the US and Colombia can continue to work together to address global challenges, including the world drug problem, the Colombian Peace implementation process, citizen security, human rights, the Venezuelan migration crisis, and COVID-19 recovery.”

Read the transcript of the conversation here for more.

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

‘In the middle of a war zone’: thousands flee as Venezuela troops and Colombia rebels clash
Joe Parkin Daniels, The Guardian, March 31, 2021

“Lizeth Iturrieta, a journalist in the small town of La Victoria on Venezuela’s western border with Colombia, was woken by the rumble of armoured vehicles rolling past her home. Hours later the sounds of gunfire and explosions shook the walls, and she and her husband dived for cover. ‘Out of nowhere we were in the middle of a war zone,’ Iturrieta said in a video call from a refugee camp on the Colombian side of the frontier. ‘After a day of hiding at home in absolute silence, we ran for our lives to the boat to Colombia. We almost fell into the river in the panic.’ More than a week later Iturrieta is one of nearly 5,000 refugees holed up in Arauquita, a small town on the Colombian side of the Arauca River, having fled intense and continuing armed clashes between Venezuela’s armed forces (FANB) and Colombian rebel groups.”

Politics, peace and poverty: a powder keg called Colombia
Javier Lafuente, El País, March 30, 2021

“To say that over the past few years something approaching dead calm has descended on Colombia could be considered erroneous. High rates of violence, the clash over judicial independence and a lack of progress in the implementation of the peace process have cast any hypothetical plain sailing into the wind. The problem is that today, even more uncertainty has been added to Colombia’s problems: public healthcare of course, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but also economic concerns, with an alarming increase in poverty and a serious lack of institutional cash flow.”

Drug trafficking disputes causing Venezuelans to flee to Colombia: Colombian minister
Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, March 28, 2021

“A dispute over control of drug trafficking between the Venezuelan military and illegal armed groups is behind the violence causing thousands of people to flee to Colombia, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said on Sunday. The flow of refugees began a week ago after Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) launched an offensive against armed groups in La Victoria, a Venezuelan town in Apure state that is located across the Arauca River from Arauquita, Colombia.”

‘Humanitarian time bomb’: 4,700 Venezuelans flee to Colombia
Al Jazeera, March 28, 2021

“About 4,700 Venezuelans have been displaced to neighbouring Colombia during the past week, according to Colombian government figures, after the Venezuelan military launched an operation against armed groups near the border. Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from a shelter in Arauquita, Colombia, said clashes continued on Sunday on the Venezuelan side of the border. ‘Many here are very angry at the Venezuelan government for what they consider the use of excessive force on the part of the Venezuelan armed forces,’ Rampietti said.”