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Colombia News Brief for October 28 – November 4, 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: Hanna Wallis / Al Jazeera

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

La CCEEU hizo fuertes reparos al Gobierno por la situación del Cauca
La Opinión, 4 de noviembre de 2019 
“La Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos (CCEEU), red conformada por 281 organizaciones de promoción y defensa de los derechos humanos, rechazó las masacres y asesinatos que se vienen presentando en Cauca en contra de las comunidades indígenas, sus autoridades, guardias indígenas y otros sectores sociales. Para la CCEEU es motivo de preocupación el accionar de la fuerza pública y la falta de garantías estatales, que garanticen una política de seguridad para detener el ‘exterminio’ y garantizar la vida de quienes se encuentran en contextos de conflicto y graves crisis humanitarias debido al actuar delictivo por parte de organizaciones criminales ligadas al narcotráfico.”

Town in southwest Colombia shocked by second massacre in two days
 Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, November 1, 2019 
“Two days after alleged FARC dissidents massacred an indigenous governor and four guards, authorities in Corinto, a town in southwest Colombia, reported a second massacre. The indigenous community of the Tacueyo reserve hadn’t even buried governor Cristina Bautista and four of the community’s guards when four bodies were found in the nearby village of Santa Helena. A fifth body was found in the neighboring municipality of Caloto. In an interview with RCN, President Ivan Duque said he had ordered his defense minister and the commander of the armed forces to immediately travel to the northern Cauca region and take control of the situation.”

Espacios de reincorporación de desmovilizados, otro reto para la paz en Colombia
María Fernanda Ramírez, InSight Crime, 1 de noviembre de 2019 
“El asesinato de un exguerrillero en un campamento de reincorporación colombiano ha disparado la incertidumbre de los excombatientes desmovilizados de las antiguas FARC sobre su seguridad, inclusive en los lugares dispuestos para su protección…El homicidio de Parra, pareja de una candidata local por el partido político Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC), conmocionó a los excombatientes. Tras el hecho, el presidente Iván Duque ordenó refuerzos de seguridad para los ETCR, pero es posible que el daño sea irreversible.”

The Slow Death of Colombia’s Peace Deal
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Foreign Affairs, October 30, 2019 
“… three years later, Colombia’s peace process is unraveling. Santos’s successor, conservative President Iván Duque, campaigned on a promise to dismantle the 2016 accord, appealing to segments of Colombian society that wanted a more punitive deal for the FARC. Once in office, Duque found himself constrained by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that he, along with the next two presidents of Colombia, must implement the peace deal. The international community has also continued to express strong support for the accord. And so Duque has trod a dangerous middle path, claiming to support peace while at the same time defunding or derailing key provisions of the deal.”

Letter to President Ivan Duque from Civil Society Organizations
29 de octubre de  2019 
“Hoy más que nunca se requiere la actuación de la Oficina en Colombia y el ejercicio de su doble
mandato de asistencia técnica y de observación, sin modificaciones, para contribuir al cumplimiento
de las recomendaciones internacionales. Muchas de ellas continúan sin aplicarse plenamente, según
los informes de los diversos mecanismos de la ONU que han examinado a Colombia en derechos
humanos en los últimos años. Además, el Acuerdo de Paz celebrado con la guerrilla de las Farc ha
generado un triple efecto sobre la situación de derechos humanos del país.”

Five Colombian indigenous guards killed, possibly by rebel dissidents, military says
Reuters, October 29, 2019 
“Five Colombian indigenous guards, tasked with protecting the country’s tribal reservations, were killed in a confrontation, possibly with dissident rebel fighters on Tuesday, the military said. The attack on the guards by ‘presumed members of a residual organized armed group’ – a phrase used by the military to refer to former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who refused to demobilize under a 2016 peace deal – took place in Tacueyo, in southwestern Cauca province. The armed group attacked to free three group members captured by the guards, the military said in a statement. Six other people were injured.”

Starting at the bottom: former FARC guerrillas book first election victories
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, October 29, 2019 
“The FARC on Monday announced its party’s first electoral victories since the former guerrillas laid down their weapons in 2017. The demobilized rebels already took part in the 2018 congressional elections, but without success. The local elections allowed the FARC party its first electoral victories as the former guerrillas are slowly entering politics. The former rebels’ political party took part in the elections with 308 candidates, 111 of them ex-combatants, who aspired in 23 departments to mayors, councils, assemblies and community action boards. While the ex-combatants’ electoral impact was low as expected, they did manage to secure three mayoral positions in the departments of Bolivar, Cauca and Putumayo flying under the banners of other parties.”

ELN GOVERNMENT PEACE PROCESS

‘El Montañero’ Capture Shows Power of El Mesa Crime Group in Colombia
Maria Alejandra Navarrete, InSight Crime, November 4, 2019 
“El Mesa formed more than three decades ago in Bello, a municipality just north of Medellín. It originally operated in the neighborhood of Mesa. It strengthened under its links to the Oficina de Envigado, a confederation of smaller mafias that has controlled Medellin’s underworld since the 1990s…. It also extended into areas in north and northeast Antioquia by forming alliances alliances with other groups operating in the region, including La Oficina, El Tapón, Los Chatas, Niquía Camacol, guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia – FARC) dissident cells.”

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

ONU pide urgente protección a pueblos indígenas del país
El Tiempo, 1 de noviembre de 2019 
“La Oficina de la Alta Comisionada de la ONU para los Derechos Humanos elevó una ‘urgente necesidad de una protección eficaz y medidas preventivas para los pueblos indígenas de todo el país’.  ‘A pesar de los esfuerzos realizados por los sucesivos gobiernos colombianos, los pueblos indígenas continúan enfrentándose a grandes riesgos, especialmente quienes son autoridades ancestrales o líderes de la comunidad’, aseveró este organismo.”

Colombia renovó mandato de la Oficina de Derechos Humanos de la ONU
El Tiempo, 30 de octubre de 2019
“Después de varios meses de negociaciones, el gobierno colombiano, a través del ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, informó este miércoles que fue renovado el mandato de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de Derechos Humanos de la ONU por tres años más, el cual vencía este jueves 31 de octubre…  En esta renovación también quedaron consignadas de manera detallada las tareas que le fueron encomendadas a la Oficina por el Acuerdo Final con las Farc, desde su firma en el 2016, y que la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de Derechos Humanos ha venido desarrollando como parte de la implementación del mismo.”

Colombia violence: Dissident rebels kill indigenous leader
BBC, October 30, 2019
“An indigenous leader, Cristina Bautista, and four volunteer community guards have been killed in south-west Colombia. The security forces say that members of a dissident rebel group are behind the attack in Cauca province. The number of indigenous Colombians killed has risen steeply amid a resurgence of violence by dissident rebel groups and paramilitaries. President Iván Duque has sent the interior minister to the area. He also said that he had ordered the military to ‘find the criminal group responsible for the attack’.”

Colombia agrees to renew mandate of UN human rights office, avoiding crisis: report
Colombia Reports, Adriaan Alsema, October 30, 2019  
“Colombia’s government agreed to extend the mandate of the United Nations’ human rights office, only just evading a major international scandal, weekly Semana reported Tuesday. Colombia’s foreign ministry tweeted on Tuesday that ‘the mandate will be renewed’ after human rights organizations called on President Ivan Duque to intervene in the apparent crisis. This claim, however, was not confirmed by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, or the OHCHR office in Bogota.”

Women Defenders of Agricultural, Territorial, and Environmental Rights in Colombia: Risking their lives for peace
Paula San Pedro, Oxfam, October 2, 2019 
“In Colombia, the women who defend their land, their culture, and the environment are being threatened, harassed, and sometimes even murdered. Since the Peace Agreement was signed, their territories have become highly desirable property. While defenders try to preserve these territories, armed groups are prepared to kill for them. These women are true peace builders, but the State provides them with barely any protection. If urgent measures are not taken, their lives are in grave danger.”

DRUG POLICY

Half of All Destroyed Coca Crops Replanted in Colombia
Juan Camilo Jaramillo, InSight Crime, October 29, 2019 
“The Colombian government has lauded the success of its stringent targets for the eradication of coca crops nationwide, but with replanting rates estimated at up to 67 percent, the impact of this campaign is in doubt. Last year, Colombia saw its first drop, albeit a minuscule one, in its total coca crop cultivation since 2012, falling from 209,000 hectares in 2017 to 208,000 hectares in 2018, according to data from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). However, replanting is occurring at a rate of between 50 and 67 percent, according to Miguel Ceballos, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Venezuelan FM condemns human rights violation in Colombia
Prensa Latina, October 30, 2019 
“Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, on Wednesday urged the international community to express themselves against the serious consequences of violence reinstalled in Colombia and the permanent violations of human rights. Following the murder of eight members of the neighboring country’s indigenous community the day before, without a statement from the Colombian state, Arreaza sent a message of solidarity from the Bolivarian people and government via Twitter. In this regard, he pointed out that Venezuela repeatedly condemned human rights violations and massacres of social leaders, indigenous people and ex-combatants carried out by Colombia’s ruling class.”

‘Living a daily tragedy’: Venezuelans struggle to survive in Colombia
Steven Grattan, The Guardian, November 1, 2019 
“Since Venezuela’s economic collapse began under the presidency of Nicolás Maduro in 2016, violence, insecurity and a severe lack of basic food and medicine have caused more than 4 million people to flee. An estimated 1.5 million have settled in Colombia. About 59,500 have settled in Maicao, smaller in size and with less public infrastructure than the more popular migrant entry point of Cúcuta, and it’s struggling to cope. A UN assessment of Venezuelans’ living conditions in Maicao found almost half were living on the streets, or in informal settlements in and around the city. A year ago, with public spaces and local infrastructure like hospitals and schools starting to collapse, the city’s mayor pleaded with the UN for help. The UN refugee agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), opened its first camp in Colombia, giving a maximum of one month’s temporary respite to the most vulnerable.”

* 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.