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Colombia News Brief for November 22 – December 6, 2019

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

Source: Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Colombian Government, Unions Renew Talks but No Agreement Reached
Reuters, New York Times, December 5, 2019 

“Union leaders and Colombian government representatives met on Thursday for the second time this week but failed to reach an agreement to end protests against President Ivan Duque’s economic and social policies. The meeting took place just one day after a national strike organized by unions, students and advocacy groups drew thousands of protesters. ‘We remain deeply at odds with the government over the make up of the discussions,’ Diogenes Orjuela, the head of the Central Union of Workers (CUT), told journalists after the meeting. ‘Furthermore, the government has taken a step back by labeling the discussions as exploratory. We continue to hold that this is a table for negotiations between the government and the national strike committee, to discuss the 13 demands that have been raised,’ he said.”

Colombia is having its largest wave of protests in recent decades. Why?
Sandra Botero and Silvia Otero Bahamón, Washington Post, December 5, 2019

“The protests started when unions and social movements called a rally on Nov. 21, known by its Twitter hashtag, #21N, against the government’s intentions to reduce benefits for retirees and workers. Supporters argue that these measures will help increase employment and expand pensions to more people. Unions, student organizations and other social groups disagree. Colombians often hold rallies like this one, which come and go without massive participation. But this time, the government responded with a heavy hand. Right-wing President Iván Duque denied his government was preparing such bills. Former president Álvaro Uribe, the official leader of Duque’s Democratic Center party, claimed protesters were linked to international radical leftist organizers. And the night before the protests, police searched the offices of dozens of alternative media outlets and art collectives, which protesters and other observers saw as attempted censorship.”

Duque ‘doesn’t want to negotiate’; Colombia’s strike leaders to schedule more anti-government protests
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, December 5, 2019 

“Colombia’s government continues to refuse to negotiate demands of a national strike that has triggered more than two weeks of almost ongoing anti-government protests, strike leaders said Thursday. The labor unions and student leaders met with government delegates for the second time on Thursday after two previous attempts to convince the government to negotiate…Student representatives said the government ‘seeks to delay dialogue.’ The student and teacher representatives said they will meet on Friday and on Saturday to define new strike dates. According to student leader Alex Gonzalez, ‘the character and scope of the roundtable was discussed, but the government does not want to define it as a negotiating table until the demands are specified.’”

Ten of Thousands of Protesters Mark Third National Strike in Colombia
Reuters, New York Times, December 4, 2019 

“Colombian unions and student groups marked a third national strike on Wednesday with marches, chants and dancing, ahead of additional dialogue between protest leaders and the government over President Ivan Duque’s social and economic policies. It was the latest demonstration in two weeks of protests, which have drawn hundreds of thousands of marchers and put pressure on Duque’s proposed tax reform, which lowers duties on businesses. Duque announced a “great national dialogue” on social issues, but government efforts to stop demonstrations have failed. The union-led National Strike Committee has stuck to demands for one-on-one talks and refused to call off protests. The demonstrations, while largely peaceful, resulted in damage to dozens of public transport stations and curfews in the city of Cali and the capital Bogota.”

Colombian protesters prepare for a third national strike
Alessandro Rampietti, Al Jazeera, December 4, 2019

“Talks between the Colombian government and protest organisers have ended, with no resolution. The country is preparing for its third national strike in just over two weeks, as part of continuing anti-government protests against President Ivan Duque’s social and economic policies. Five people have died in connection to the continuing unrest in the country. Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti reports from the capital, Bogota”

“Dejen trabajar”: la otra petición que resuena en el paro
Dinero, 4 de diciembre de 2019 

“En medio de las peticiones que han sonado desde hace once días por parte de los ciudadanos que se tomaron las calles del país para manifestarse en contra de algunas decisiones tomadas por el Gobierno Nacional, hay un murmullo que está empezando a tomar fuerza y es el ‘dejen trabajar’. En los últimos días, muchos de los colombianos que se han visto afectados por las movilizaciones han expresado su malestar por las mismas, incluso se ha visto como algunos ciudadanos han solicitado a los manifestantes que realicen sus jornadas de protesta en paz, sin afectar los sistemas de transporte y sus actividades laborales.”

Gobierno da vía libre a diálogo directo con dirigentes del paro
El Tiempo, 3 de diciembre de 2019 

“El Gobierno Nacional dio el lunes un paso que puede ser definitivo para superar el paro nacional, que hoy cumple 13 días y deja pérdidas por más de 1,4 billones de pesos: aceptó tener un diálogo paralelo con el Comité Nacional del Paro, algo a lo que se había negado.
Se definió que este martes se daría un encuentro entre las partes para iniciar la negociación. A las 8 de la mañana, los dirigentes del paro se reunirán con el coordinador de la conversación nacional, Diego Molano, y Angelino Garzón, embajador en Costa Rica, quien llegó para apoyar al Gobierno. Esta será la oportunidad para que se defina la metodología con la que se trabajará y, lo más importante, para que haya una mesa de negociación.”

Duque’s resistance breaks: president agrees to talk about end of Colombia’s anti-government protests
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, December 2, 2019 

“Colombia’s government agreed to negotiate an end to ongoing anti-government protests with the leaders of a national strike on the condition strikes end ahead of talks. The announcement was made by Diego Molano, the director of the National Planning Department, who told press that the government would negotiate the strike leaders’ demands parallel to a ‘National Conversation’ announced last week. According to Molano, the government asked the strike leaders ‘to suspend the December 4 strike so that the economic effects of the strike do not continue to affect the development of trade and transport activities.’ The strike leaders accepted to meet on Tuesday, but announced a 5th strike day for Wednesday in an attempt to keep the pressure on the government, which has isolated itself.”

Statement by INGOs in Colombia on the Right to Freedom of Speech and Assembly
ABColombia, November 28, 2019 
“The peaceful protests by Colombian citizens that started on 21 November 2019 in several cities and municipalities across the country as part of the National Strike, are the legitimate right of the Colombian people to freedom of assembly and social protest enshrined in the article 37 of the Political Constitution…As international civil society organisations that work and have a presence in Colombia, we call on the Colombian authorities, led by the President of the Republic, to ensure that citizens who decide to protest, are guaranteed their rights to assembly and freedom of expression at public gatherings and can demonstrate without fear.”

Endogamia
Gabriel Cifuentes, La línea del medio, 26 de noviembre de 2019
“Parece que el presidente Iván Duque ha optado por la endogamia para enfrentar los problemas de gobernabilidad que tiene. Del clamor popular que llama a gritos un gabinete abierto al diálogo e incluyente, el mandatario ha preferido seguir aceitando su desgastado margen político con el Centro Democrático como si abrirse a otros sectores contrariara su más firme dogma en contra de la mermelada.”

Organizadores del paro se levantaron de la mesa convocada por Duque
La Semana, 26 de noviembre de 2019 

“En la mañana del martes, el Comité Organizador del Paro Nacional se reunió con el presidente Iván Duque en la Casa de Nariño. Los organizadores de las protestas que se han vivido en el país a lo largo de los últimos días se levantaron de la mesa después de no aceptar las condiciones de negociación del mandatario. El principal reparo después del encuentro es que gremios, entes de control y empresarios hagan parte de la llamada conversación nacional que propuso Duque.”

Duque no ha leído su realidad política
Guillermo Rivera, La línea del medio, 26 de noviembre de 2019 
“Luego de casi 16 meses de gobierno, Duque no ha leído adecuadamente su realidad política. Esa ausencia de lectura ha ocasionado que los hechos lo desborden desde el momento mismo en que inició su mandato. Su equivocación más grave surgió de creer que fue elegido con un mandato amplio. Los lectores me dirán que el equivocado soy yo porque evidentemente Duque fue elegido con más de 10 millones de votos, dos millones más que los obtenidos por Petro en la segunda vuelta de la elección presidencial. Matemáticamente eso es cierto, pero políticamente no tanto.”

Carta al Presidente Duque sobre dialogo nácional
Fernando Carrillo Flórez, 25 de noviembre de 2019
“Las reuniones convocadas por el Gobierno Nacional con gobernadores y alcaldes electos, representantes empresariales y la Comisión Nacional de Concertación Laboral, constituyen la base de un gesto que debe ampliarse a otros actores, especialmente aquellos que conforman el Comité Nacional del Paro, a fin de fortalecer los insumos para un efectivo Diálogo Social. El Gobierno a través de su Plan Nacional de Desarrollo ha propiciado una serie de pactos; no obstante, la sociedad reclama mayor inclusión, entendida ésta como mayor voz y participación en el análisis de los problemas y construcción de soluciones. Las circunstancias actuales ofrecen una oportunidad incluyente para materializar los pactos propuestos.”

El país ha empezado a cambiarse de ropa 
Hernán Darío Correa, 24 de noviembre de 2019
“La importancia de la jornada estriba, además de lo masiva y extensiva en el país, en esa combinación
de paro y movimiento, que no se presentaba en todo el país desde hace décadas, el cual empezó a
estremecer los cimientos del régimen político más allá de la crisis de gobernabilidad misma. En lo puntual de la jornada, y en los eventos subsiguientes (concentraciones fluctuantes,
cacerolazos, debates, denuncias y esclarecimientos por las redes, entre otros), se ha empezado a
esbozar una suerte de ‘huelga ciudadana’, con las limitaciones impuestas por la devastación de la
guerra sucia de varias décadas, pero al mismo tiempo con las potencias de los relevos generacionales
evidentes en la participación juvenil, el desgaste de las polarizaciones ideológicas tradicionales, la
suma de motivos en toda la línea de la realidad social y ambiental, y la apertura de repertorios de
acción colectiva más amplios, frescos y con una alegría renovada, incluyendo las acciones virtuales.”

Colombia: Authorities must impartially investigate the repression of protests
Amnesty International, Reliefweb, November 22, 2019 

“‘Instead of repeating the sad scenes of violent repression that we have seen in much of the region during recent months, President Iván Duque’s government must guarantee the legitimate right to demonstrate peacefully. The Colombian authorities must put an end to the violent repression of demonstrations, including the excessive use of force and arbitrary detentions’, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. Amnesty International believes that the participation of various sectors of society in the ‘National Strike’ in Colombia was a legitimate exercise of their human rights. The number of people that took to the streets to peacefully protest shows the increase in social dissatisfaction towards official policy on human rights and the grave situation in which social leaders and human rights defenders find themselves in the country.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Corte Constitucional amplió la vigencia de la Ley de Víctimas
El Espectador, 5 de diciembre de 2019
“La Corte Constitucional acaba de extender la vigencia de la Ley de Víctimas y de Restitución de Tierras que iba incialmente hasta junio de 2021. La decisión la tomó la Sala Plena al estudiar una demanda presentada por el exministro del Interior, Juan Fernando Cristo, que aseguraba que los fines de esa ley todavía no se han cumplido y que su finalización, implicaría la eliminación de toda una política pública que, además, está relacionada con la implementación del Acuerdo de Paz firmado con la guerrilla de las Farc.”

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

Colombia’s peace movement has a new demand for Duque: talks with the ELN
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, November 30, 2019 

“The endorsement by Colombia’s peace movement of ongoing protests against President Ivan Duque came with another demand: peace talks with the ELN. This demand is the latest, as social, political and diplomatic pressure on Duque is accumulating, to engage in talks with the organizers of the biggest anti-government protests in four decades. The students, labor unions, indigenous organizations and dozens of other organizations were already demanding the implementation of the 2016 agreement with guerrilla group, FARC. The peace movement added that the Duque administration ‘should explore possibilities to resume  talks with the ELN,’ talks that the president suspended when taking office in August last year. The possibilities are there; the ELN negotiators have been waiting patiently in Cuba for the talks to resume while the president has been blowing his political capital.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Colombian president poised to launch another attack on Venezuela
Prensa Latina, December 3, 2019 

“Several experts are currently warning that President Ivan Duque, one of the promoters of the application of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) against Venezuela, intends to resolve the internal crisis in Colombia through new aggressions against that neighboring country. Such claims come as Bogota hosts this Tuesday a meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to serve as the Consultation Body for the Application of TIAR, a mechanism that contemplates the use of military force. Attention has been drawn to the fact that this meeting is taking place in the midst of anti-government protests that have been taking place in Colombia since November 21, through which thousands of people are demanding profound reforms in areas such as education, health, the environment and security.”

Protests in Colombia spark backlash against Venezuelan migrants
Steven Grattan, Al Jazeera, December 1, 2019 

“Non-governmental organizations and researchers say rumors blaming Venezuelan migrants for isolated looting and vandalism connected to the protests have caused a sharp rise in xenophobia over the last 10 days. Posts on social media and messages forwarded on messaging application WhatsApp – many mentioning Venezuelans – stoked panic among Bogota residents on the night of the curfew, as the city’s emergency line was inundated with calls reporting residential break-ins that police say never happened.”

* 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.