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Colombia News Brief for May 2 – June 1, 2017

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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. Throughout the summer months, dependent on the capacity of LAWG, the Colombia News Brief will be sent out either weekly or bi-weekly.

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Peace Accord Implementation

•  Colombia misses guerrilla disarmament deadline in peace deal, blames logistical woes
Jim Wyss, Miami Herald, May 29, 2017

“Colombia’s largest guerrilla group will have an additional 20 days to hand over its weapons and an additional two months to reintegrate into society amid delays and foot-dragging in implementing a historic peace deal.”

•  Se aplaza la dejación de armas y la fecha de caducidad de las zonas veredales
Semana, 29 de mayo de 2017

“Dados los retrasos en casi toda la logística de la concentración, las enormes dificultades para garantizar la amnistía pactada y la lenta implementación de los acuerdos, el desarme tampoco se hará como quedó pactado en el papel y se prolongará un tiempo más.”

•  La nueva hoja de ruta para el desarme y desmovilización de las Farc
El Espectador, 30 de mayo de 2017

“En un documento de cuatro páginas, la Comisión define las obligaciones tanto del Gobierno como de las Farc, al tiempo que revela las peticiones que se le harán a las Naciones Unidas, como organismo encargado de la verificación y la vigilancia de dicha implementación. Este es el nuevo cronograma en la búsqueda de una paz estable y duradera…”

•  Colombia Court Ruling Spells Trouble for FARC Peace Process
James Bargent, InSight Crime, May 19, 2017

“On May 17, the court declared unconstitutional two aspects of the legal framework established for implementing the peace agreement struck last year between the Colombian government and the FARC. Firstly, the court struck down the clause stipulating Congress could only vote to approve or deny blocks of laws and reforms related to implementing the peace process rather than debating and voting on each point individually. Secondly, it overturned the clause establishing that modifications to peace legislation can only be made with adjustments to the agreement itself and with the approval of the government.”

•  Santos y la fórmula para acelerar el ‘fast track’
Semana, 19 de mayo de 2017

“Solo existe un plan B: aferrarse a la gobernabilidad en el Congreso. Sin embargo, el ministro Cristo admitió que el trámite de la implementación podría ralentizarse, con el agravante de que los tiempos no son el mejor aliado y que, según ha trascendido, él se retiraría muy pronto del gobierno y un nuevo ministro tendría que estrenarse en esta coyuntura difícil. Si la agenda parecía apretada, ahora, con la decisión de la Corte, lo que empieza para el gobierno es una carrera contra el reloj.”

•  Colombia law give former rebels role in politics
AFP, May 11, 2017

“Colombia’s Congress has approved a law ratifying provisions of a peace agreement permitting the country’s largest leftist guerrilla group to participate in the South American country’s politics. The Senate voted 52-2 Wednesday in favor of the law providing for the “political reintegration” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.”

•  El viacrucis del desarme de las Farc 
Semana, 6 de mayo de 2017

“La principal consecuencia de esta lentitud en el desarme es que incrementa la vulnerabilidad del proceso de paz.  Por un lado, siembra desconfianza en todas las partes… Los asesinatos de guerrilleros y sus familiares así como la falta de garantías jurídicas acrecientan los temores y resistencias de guerrilleros de base que creen que van a ser traicionados por el gobierno. Por no hablar de que aumenta la desconfianza política de medio país, que no se traga aún el acuerdo de paz, y le da munición a los detractores del proceso, en plena campaña electoral.”

•  La complicidad empresarial en la guerra
Juanita León, La Silla Vacía, 1 de mayo de 2017

“Durante la aprobación vía fast-track del acto legislativo que crea la Jurisdicción Especial de Paz -JEP- uno de los puntos que más polémica generó fue el de la responsabilidad de los no-armados que cometieron crímenes en el conflicto. Dadas las últimas modificaciones que sufrió, y la experiencia internacional sobre el tema, es posible anticipar que serán muy pocas las empresas y los empresarios que terminarán siendo juzgados por la justicia transicional.”

•  ¿Cómo cambia la política colombiana con el silencio de los fusiles de las Farc?
Sylvia Colombo, The New York Times, 11 de mayo de 2017

“La paz es una buena noticia por sí sola. Pero ¿qué consecuencias tendrá en la disputa electoral del año próximo? El principal beneficiario podría ser la izquierda. Históricamente, el colombiano medio ha desconfiado de la izquierda porque la asociaba con la guerrilla. Ahora se abre una oportunidad para que los candidatos de centroizquierda, izquierda moderada e incluso de la izquierda radical se postulen y tengan oportunidad de ir a un balotaje. Esto último es inédito en Colombia.”

•  Can Colombia’s centre hold?
The Economist, May 4, 2017

“Delays and problems in implementing the peace deal were inevitable: Colombia is not Switzerland. What makes them dangerous is the political context. By acting together, Colombia’s politicians have transformed a country that was close to being a failed state 20 years ago into one with a potentially bright future. Now the political establishment is discredited and divided. “What kept it together was the guerrillas,” says Mr Cepeda. “The consensus is broken.””

•  Colombia’s Christian Alt-Right
André González, Jacobin, May 13, 2017

“In Colombia, drummed-up hysteria over “gender ideology” channels public support for the right wing by linking Christian fundamentalism with anticommunist rhetoric. “Gender ideology” evokes the specter of a conspiracy threatening traditional values like Christianity, heterosexuality, and market liberalism — and allows the Right to mobilize fear in the service of their political agenda.”

U.S. Support for Peace

•  President Trump and Colombia’s Santos to Meet this Week
Adam Isacson and Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, WOLA, May 15, 2017

“It would be a major mistake if the United States turns its back on Colombia at this time. It could potentially undo all of the security gains achieved in recent years. All peace processes are fragile and their success and sustainability depends on effective implementation. U.S. support for sustainable peace is key to achieving transformative change in this country. For there to be more equitable economic growth, security gains, and effective drug control efforts, Colombia needs more support–not less–in its post-conflict era. U.S. financial support, monitoring, and political engagement will be needed for at least 10 years to consolidate peace.”

•  The Promises of Peace in Colombia
President Juan Manuel Santos, The New York Times, May 18, 2017

“My country is far better off today than it was seven years ago. As we strived for peace, we strengthened our economy. We dramatically reduced poverty. Peace in Colombia will only further those gains and will usher in a new era of cooperation with the United States. Colombia is now better prepared to confront the challenges of the future and benefit from its opportunities, and to be an even stronger ally and partner to the United States.”

•  Colombian President Santos, at White House, seeks aid renewal
Tracy Wilkinson and Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2017

“With Trump’s vow to slash foreign aid, Colombia suddenly sees its recovery prospects in jeopardy. “The only people who will benefit are the drug traffickers” if U.S. aid is cut, Juan Carlos Pinzon, the Colombian ambassador in Washington, told reporters before Santos’ visit. Much of the aid would support rural development in areas considered the breeding ground of rebels and drug traffickers.”

•  Keep America’s bonds with Colombia strong
Sen. Marco Rubio, Miami Herald, May 16, 2017

“While the U.S.-Colombian partnership has come a long way, there’s still more work today. I hope to see a positive meeting between President Trump and President Santos. Just as Colombia’s citizens continue to stand proud and united in safeguarding their nation’s hard-won democracy and improving stability, the United States should make clear our continued commitment to them and our respect for their democratic process amid these momentous times.”

•  Is Colombia Sacrificing Coca Farmers’ Trust for US Aid Dollars?
Tristan Clavel, InSight Crime, May 17, 2017

“But the fact that Colombian authorities have eradicated nearly as much coca in less than five months this year as in all of 2016 serves as a sign of the government’s intent to place a greater emphasis on eradication after a significant drop in the practice in recent years. This shift was made visible earlier this year, when authorities announced that they would seek to eradicate 100,000 hectares of coca crops… The announcement of the new eradication figures comes as President Juan Manuel Santos is set to meet President Donald Trump in Washington, DC on May 18. According to a White House statement, the two heads of state will discuss the implementation of the peace agreement and anti-drug strategies, among other issues.”

Human Rights Issues

•  Colombian strike: ‘To live with dignity, our people don’t give up’
Seb Ordóñez and Patrick Kane, Open Democracy, May 31, 2017

“The people of Buenaventura in the Colombian pacific have had enough. For over two weeks, communities and social movements in Colombia’s most important port city have been engaged in an indefinite civil strike over the government’s historic neglect of the city’s majority Afro-descendent population.”

•  West Colombia strikes again after Bogota again fails to fulfill promises
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, May 10, 2017

“The 2016 agreement with Choco saw the national government roll out promises of investment in road infrastructure connecting Choco with the cities of Medellin and Pereira, healthcare facilities, supply of clean drinking water and a range of other basic necessities for Colombia’s poorest province. The government however has failed to deliver with the neglect of the region continuing, leaving 11% of the population unemployed, one of the highest in the country, according to statistics agency DANE. The provinces poverty rate lies above 62%.”

•  Indigenous people of Chocó forced to flee for their lives
ABColombia, April 30, 2017

“Many communities in Choco are being forced to displace due to combats between the ELN and neo-paramilitary group the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC). These combats are a part of a fight to control strategic locations for coca cultivation, processing and commercialisation and mechanised small-scale gold mining in areas abandoned by the FARC guerrilla when they moved into the Transitional and Normalisation Zones (TNZ) to disarm.”

•  Colombian Hate Crimes Against LGBTIs Up Threefold in 2016
TeleSUR, May 17, 2017

“On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Colombia’s Ombudsman office urged the government Wednesday to strengthen the bill addressing sexual discrimination, given that victims of violence based on their sexual orientation multiplied threefold in 2016.”

•  Why has Colombia seen a rise in activist murders?
Natalio Cosoy, BBC News, May 19, 2017

“Exact figures for the number of deaths are hard to come by. Non-governmental organisation Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders) says 80 social leaders and human rights activists were killed last year. The UN has a figure of 64, while the state ombudsman puts it even higher, at more than 100. Part of the discrepancy comes from differences in defining human rights leaders. Yet they all agree on one thing: the numbers have increased since 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.