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Colombia News Brief for May 5, 2021

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4 de mayo de 2021
“Varios días después de las numerosas protestas sociales, el gobierno del Presidente Iván Duque se decidió a escuchar el clamor popular de retirar la regresiva y nefasta propuesta de Reforma Tributaria, que de manera indolente pretendía estrangular aún más las deterioradas condiciones de vida de la población, produto de las malas políticas para manejasr la pandemia. Sin embargo, su empeño por imponerla por la fuerza en contra de una mayoría de la población, desató una represión violenta sobre la ciudadanía y una negación flagrante de las elementales garantías en un Estado de Derecho para el ejercicio de la movilización, la protesta y la participación ciudadana en los asuntos que los afectan”.

International civil society organisations urge the Colombian Government to guarantee the  peaceful exercise of the legitimate right to public assembly and social protest, enshrined in  the Colombian Political Constitution and to protect the lives of those who exercise it. 
May 3, 2021
“As international civil society organizations, we ask the Colombian State to urgently adopt measures to protect life, personal integrity, personal freedom, due process, freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to assembly, the right to participation and other rights and fundamental principles recognised in the American Convention on Human Rights, which are at serious risk due to the events described above. Additionally, in a country where, according to the Dane, 21 million people (42.5% of the national population) are below the monetary poverty line, and are facing daily difficulties in accessing food which is creating the conditions for a food crisis, during the context of a health crisis, the Colombian State should take measures to protect their rights.”


The Colombian exiles seeking refuge in Spain
Mauricio Morales, Al Jazeera, May 4, 2021
“Even in the relative safety of the Basque Country in Spain, Lucia* fears for her safety and for the lives of her family back home in Colombia. In 2019, she was declared a ‘military target’ by one of the FARC dissident factions and forced to flee her home. Lucia, 49, is what is termed a ‘líder social’ (social leader) in Colombia; even in exile, she continues to feel like one.”

In Colombia, Hundreds of Ex-Rebels Have Been Murdered Despite Peace Agreement
Rodrigo Acuña, TruthOut, May 2, 2021
“So far this year alone, Colombia has seen 33 massacres of social leaders, trade union organizers and ex-guerrilla fighters belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). At least 119 people have been murdered by paramilitary groups, state security forces or unidentified assassins as of April 27, according to the Instituto de Estudio para el Desarrollo y la Paz, or Institute of Study for Development and Peace. According to Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office, in the first three months of 2021, more than 27,000 Colombians were forcibly displaced due to violence by groups fighting for territorial control and control of the drug trade — an increase of 177 percent compared to last year.”

Colombia’s former FARC accept responsibility for kidnappings
Julia Symmes Cobb, Reuters, April 30, 2021
“The group will continue to give information to help find remains of hostages who died captive, he added. Former rebels who give full information about crimes to the tribunal may eventually face restrictions on their freedom for five to eight years. Those who do not or who lie could be sentenced for up to 20 years in prison.”


Pandemic pushes 3.6 million Colombians into poverty 
The City Paper Bogota, May 1, 2021
“Faced with unprecedented challenges to mitigate an economic recession caused by the health crisis, the Colombian government expanded social welfare programs to reach an additional 3 million households with cash subsidies through Ingreso Seguro (Secure Income), as well as relief measures to millions of beneficiaries of other social protection programs. With 21 million Colombians surviving on COP$331,688 (US$92) each month or households (four persons on average) receiving COP$1,440,000 (US$370) or less, Colombia lost a decade in efforts to reduce poverty. Persons considered to be in conditions ‘extreme poverty’ require at least COP$145,000 (US$40) to acquire 2,100 calories every month to stave off malnutrition.”

Protesters March In Colombia Against Plan To Raise Taxes In Pandemic-Wracked Economy
NPR, April 30, 2021
“Colombian officials have tried to discourage the marches — which began Wednesday and have yet to die down — saying they could become coronavirus superspreader events at a critical moment. Across Colombia, hospital intensive care units are nearly full, and on Thursday, the health authorities reported 505 deaths in a single day from COVID-19, a new record. Meanwhile, just a tiny fraction of Colombians have been vaccinated.”

No tan solidarios: radiografía de la participación social de los colombianos en pandemia
El Espectador, 29 de abril de 2021
“‘Esto dice mucho de cómo las personas están cambiando su forma de participar y opinar en los temas claves del país, expresando su apoyo a causas sociales que exigen cambios a las autoridades, siendo esta una de las formas de activismo social que más ha aumentado tras la llegada de la COVID-19’, afirmó. Con respecto al panorama del activismo social en el país, al evaluar la participación y el apoyo de la ciudadanía a causas sociales en el mundo digital, el 27% de las personas haría algo para evitar que un proyecto de ley tramitado por el Congreso de la República se hunda, si considera que este es injusto o perjudicial para la comunidad. El 45% estaría dispuesto a enviar un oficio o derecho de petición en contra de la iniciativa, el mismo porcentaje se manifestaría en redes sociales, el 39% asistiría a una protesta o manifestación pública y el 9% consultaría a los partidos políticos para pedir ayuda”.


Colombia protests: What is behind unrest?
BBC, May 5, 2021
“The rallies were organised by the biggest trade unions, but were also joined by many middle-class people who feared the changes could see them slip into poverty. The proposal would have lowered the threshold at which salaries are taxed, affecting anyone with a monthly income of 2.6m pesos ($684; £493) or more. It would also have eliminated many of the current exemptions enjoyed by individuals, as well as increasing taxes imposed on businesses.”

Paro Nacional 4M: Bogotá vivió una noche “trágica y dolorosa”
El Espectador, 5 de mayo de 2021
“Los enfrentamientos en la capital dejaron 30 civiles y 16 policías heridos; 25 CAI vandalizados, entre ellos el de La Aurora, donde intentaron quemar vivos a 10 policías. Además, 104 buses del sistema de transporte, cuatro de estos incinerados. La alcaldesa Claudia López calificó ‘el nivel de destrucción y de violencia’,como algo insólito”.

UN condemns violent repression of Colombia protests after at least 18 die
Joe Parkins Daniels, The Guardian, May 4, 2021
“Colombia’s rightwing president, Iván Duque, has faced three major nationwide protests since his term began in 2018, and each has been met with police violence. Last September, anti-police demonstrations broke out after officers in Bogotá killed a man using a Taser electrical weapon. The current protests began with a general strike over an unpopular tax reform, though many demonstrators are marching against a deeply polarizing government, in defense of threatened human rights leaders, for an increase of the social safety net during the pandemic, and for police reform.”

Comisión de Paz pide acompañamiento de la CIDH para garantizar la protesta
El Espectador, May 3, 2021
“Este lunes, la Comisión de Paz del Congreso se manifestó en contra de la decisión del presidente Iván Duque de ofrecer ‘asistencia militar’ a las ciudades con mayor desorden público debido al paro nacional y anunciaron que pidieron acompañamiento de la Comisión Interamericana de DD. HH. (CIDH), para que vele por el cumplimiento de la Constitución de 1991 y, principalmente, garantice la protesta pacífica. ‘Hay que legitimar a las instituciones para que puedan ejercer el gobierno a plenitud. Los gobiernos legítimos dialogan, no reprimen. Hemos pedido también a la CIDH el acompañamiento al cumplimiento de la carta democrática y el derecho a la protesta pacífica en Colombia’, se lee en el comunicado”.

Amid Nationwide Protests, Colombia’s President Withdraws Controversial Tax Hike
Scott Nueman, NPR, May 3, 2021
“Following days of deadly protests across Colombia against a planned nationwide tax increase, President Iván Duque has withdrawn the proposal that he insisted was needed to fix the country’s pandemic-battered economy. Protests that began last week have led to multiple deaths, and they continued over the weekend despite a promise by Duque on Friday to remove some of the bill’s most controversial provisions. On Sunday, he announced the proposed overhaul would be shelved and replaced.”

Colombia Blames Armed Groups for Protest Violence, Death Toll Still Unclear
Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, May 3, 2021
“The national human rights ombudsman has reported 16 civilians and one police officer were killed during five days of protests, while the procurator’s office on Sunday said it is investigating connections between the protests and 14 violent deaths. A local human rights group has reported more than 20 deaths. Twenty-six allegations of police brutality during the protests are being investigated, said General Jorge Luis Vargas, director of Colombia’s national police. Truck drivers’ and taxi drivers’ unions, which had threatened to join protests on Monday, backed out of strikes following the withdrawal of the tax reform.”

Colombia’s mayors dismiss Duque’s attempt to militarize cities
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, May 2, 2021
“President Ivan Duque was humiliated on Saturday when Colombia’s mayors rejected his idea to militarize cities to quell anti-government protests. In a television address, Duque seemed determined to fulfil his ‘obligation as President of the Republic’ and use the army to ‘first and foremost guarantee the security of citizens above all else.’ The far-right president vowed ‘to guarantee the right to protest’ as part of an ongoing national strike that kicked off on Wednesday to force the withdrawal of a widely rejected tax reform.”

Human Rights pide investigar muertes durante paro nacional
El Tiempo, 1 de mayo de 2021
“La organización Human Rights Internacional hizo público un reporte en el que expone que desde el 28 de abril, fecha de inicio del paro nacional en el país, hasta este viernes  30 ha habido 7 muertes de civiles confirmadas y se están investigando otras posibles 28. También aseguró que hay una denuncia de violación a una mujer, reportes de 31 personas desaparecidas y 45 defensores de Derechos Humanos agredidos. Human Rights comentó que la protesta social es ‘un derecho humano y fundamental cuyo ejercicio fortalece la democracia’ e invitó a los manifestantes a ejercer sus derechos de forma responsable, pacífica y acorde con los derechos de libertad de expresión y asociación”. 

Oposición pide al Gobierno que brinde garantías para la movilización social
El Espectador, 1 de mayo de 2021
“La oposición también alertó que se presentaron en la jornada alrededor de 286 detenciones en su mayoría arbitrarias, y una centena de heridos. Según las cifras hechas públicas por los congresistas, seis de ellas tendrían lesiones oculares, cuatro de ellas con impactos de armas de fuego y ocho productos de acciones de violencia policial. Por este alarmante panorama, los miembros de la oposición pidieron al Gobierno y a la Fuerza Pública (Policía y Ejército) garantías para “ejercer los derechos a la libre expresión y manifestación pacífica, respetando los deberes y límites de los servidores en el control de las manifestaciones”. En un sentido parecido, pidieron que desde el Ejecutivo se deje de estigmatizar la protesta social, en cumplimiento del reciente fallo de la Corte Constitucional”.

Paro nacional: Policía confirma la captura de 185 personas
El Tiempo, 30 de abril de 2021
“El director de la Policía Nacional señaló que en el Centro Cibernético, con ayuda de la Fiscalía y las Fuerzas Militares, se están analizando ‘en este momento 700 videos que han circulado por redes sociales y se ha dado apertura a 120 noticias criminales’. Resaltó que con órdenes de Policía Judicial se está identificando a las personas que están cometiendo delitos y ‘que están instigando a cometer los delitos, en lo que es una clara infracción a la Ley penal colombiana’, puntualizó Vargas. Finalmente, aseguró que se están ofreciendo hasta 20 millones de pesos a ‘quien nos ayude a identificar a las personas que se ven en los videos’, quienes serán imputadas por los delitos de: instigación para delinquir, pánico y terrorismo”.


The return of narcoterrorism in Colombia
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, May 4, 2021
“Investigations into the Metro Bloc in 2011 revealed evidence indicating that ‘The Slaughterman’ and his brother Santiago formed this paramilitary group with former cartel associates after Escobar’s death in the 1990s. While Uribe continued referring to the guerrillas as narcoterrorists, legal trouble of the narcoterrorism activity of the former president, and his allies in the security forces grew, especially after a 2016 peace deal with the FARC. With the help of the mafia, ‘The Slaughterman’ was able to secure the 2018 election of his puppet, President Ivan Duque, who was able to maintain Uribe’s alleged ties to the cartel and the paramilitaries’ terrorism and drug trafficking activities under the rug.”

One Colombian Gang Laundered $100 Million in a Year
Shane Sullivan, InSight Crime, April 30, 2021
“Dubbed ‘Los Brokers,’ the criminal structure relied on a group of Colombian business owners, or ‘facilitators,’ who lent their names, businesses and bank accounts to receive large sums of money deriving from false export contracts with front companies in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Chile, said General Hernán Bustamante, director of Colombia’s anti-narcotics Police. The front companies paid for fictitious export shipments via checks made out to ‘facilitators.’ The checks were passed to a series of complicit accountants, administrators and bankers, who deposited the funds into company bank accounts and fabricated a paper trail, lending the transactions a façade of legitimacy and evading anti-money laundering controls. Financial professionals were paid one percent of each check processed.”

Cae red que transportaba marihuana en carrotanques de crudo 
El Tiempo, 30 de abril de 2021
“La Fiscalía logró judicialización de los presuntos articuladores principales de una estructura ilegal conocida como ‘Los Cisterna’, señalada de mover cargamentos de marihuana entre carrotanques que transportan hidrocarburos. Según la investigación, la droga salía de zonas de cultivo en Cauca, Valle del Cauca y Nariño, luego era camuflado en los vehículos de carga y trasladado a Bogotá y a municipios de Huila, Meta, Cundinamarca, Antioquia, Caquetá y la Costa Atlántica. Dentro del modus operandi, la organización, al parecer, alquilaba en Barrancabermeja, Santander, tractocamiones utilizados para mover crudo y los llevaba a parqueaderos ubicados en Bogotá, Funza y Mesitas del Colegio, Cundinamarca, donde personas especializadas en metalmecánica les acondicionaban las caletas”.


Colombia iniciará proceso para regularizar a más de 1,7 millones de venezolanos
Oriana Rivas, PanAm Post, May 1, 2021“Migración Colombia detalló cómo funcionará el proceso que contará con tres fases, comenzando de manera virtual y culminando con la entrega del documento que acredita el permiso. Los beneficiados serán aquellos venezolanos regulares, irregulares que ingresaron antes del 31 de enero de 2021 y aquellos que ingresen durante los dos primeros años del vigentes del Estatuto Temporal de Protección. El director general de Migración Colombia, Juan Francisco Espinosa, detalló que los requisitos para pedirlo serán: estar viviendo en el país, un documento de nacionalidad venezolana vigente o vencido y autorizar el uso de datos personales para la gestión del trámite”.

U.S. aid to Venezuela was not aligned with humanitarian principles, audit finds 
Reuters, April 30, 2021
“‘Today, @USAID itself recognizes that it was part of a political operation meant to change a government.’ ‘It was never a humanitarian action, but rather a covert operation,’ wrote Information Minister Freddy Ñañez in an emailed statement. ‘Humanitarian aid was the excuse with which they tried to break our territorial sovereignty.’”

Atrocities at the Colombia-Venezuela border
Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Human Rights Watch, April 29, 2021
“The egregious abuses in Apure are not isolated incidents by rogue agents, but consistent with systematic practices in Venezuela that have been under examination by the International Criminal Court prosecutor and the United Nations Independent Fact-Finding mission on Venezuela. Both found evidence of crimes against humanity. The UN mission found ‘reasonable grounds’ to implicate President Nicolás Maduro and his interior and defense ministers. The ICC prosecutor anticipates determining whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with a formal investigation by July.”