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Colombia News Brief for October 7-23, 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.

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Children help build a house in rural Tumaco (source).

Peace Accord Implementation

UN official: Reintegrating Colombia rebels is not going well
Edith M. Lederer forAP, The Washinton Post, October 20, 2017

“Gilmour said the FARC rebels have demobilized and given up their weapons ‘but they have not found alternative means of income for them and their families.’ He said government institutions are not moving into areas which the FARC controlled for decades, and as the rebels vacate them ‘there is a danger that unless the state moves in to fill that vacuum then the vacuum gets filled by highly undesirable elements.’ He cited people involved with illegal mining and other extractive industries and drugs.”

One Year On, How is the Colombia Peace Process? Slow, With Lurking Spoilers
Renata Segura and Sabrina Stein, IPI Global Observatory, October 10, 2017

“An overly complicated and extended bureaucracy has led to competition over resources and competencies, often stagnating processes and implementation. At the same time, a difficult transition that has put at risk the FARC’s cohesion has kept its Secretariat addressing immediate crises rather than planning strategically for the future. After having disarmed, the FARC has limited negotiating power, and some observers argue that, after the armed group ceased to exist, the Colombian establishment doesn’t have much interest in really reforming the status quo.”

Colombia’s Precarious Peace
Mario Murillo, NACLA, October 18, 2017

“The challenge is trying to reconcile the two points — comprehensive land reform and rural development on the one hand, and crop eradication and substitution on the other — in a way that is economically and socially sustainable and will not be too disruptive for the vast majority of the poor peasant farmers in just about every region of Colombia. Given the history of government neglect, lack of infrastructure, a total absence of any level of technical support for the communities and ongoing threats from paramilitary groups operating in the area, the prospects do not look so good.”

Colombia peace deal cannot be modified for 12 years, court rules
Reuters, October 11, 2017

“‘Institutions and authorities of the state have the obligation to comply with what is established in the final accord in good faith…until the end of three complete presidential periods following the signing,’ reads the constitutional reform approved by the court.”

‘El Acuerdo no es intocable ni se puede “hacer trizas”‘: Corte
Juanita León y Juan Esteban Lewin, La Silla Vacía, 12 de octubre de 2017

“Justo cuando el futuro del Acuerdo de Paz con las Farc corre mayores riesgos, la Corte Constitucional avala de manera unánime el acto legislativo 02 de 2017 con el que el Gobierno y las Farc buscaron ‘blindar’ el Acuerdo de Paz. Su mensaje sobre la estabilidad de lo negociado como política de Estado hace más difícil que el próximo presidente de Colombia ‘lo haga trizas’. Pero, al mismo tiempo, la Corte deja claro que no es intocable”.

Puntos en acuerdo de paz serían inconsistentes con CPI, dice EE. UU.
Sergio Gómez Maseri, El Tiempo, 11 de octubre de 2017

“La definición de responsabilidad de mando que se incluyó en los acuerdos de paz con las Farc y que hace parte del proyecto de ley que busca reglamentar la Jurisdicción Especial de Paz (JEP) sería incongruente tanto con los estándares de Estados Unidos como con aquellos de la justicia internacional”.

FARC former rebels register party for Colombia’s 2018 election
EFE, October 10, 2017

“The party is currently ‘studying the electoral strategy’ for next year’s ballot, Estrada said, declining to exclude the possibility that the FARC will field a presidential candidate. The erstwhile rebel second-in-command, Ivan Marquez, said the FARC wants to work together with like-minded people of all parties who share the goal of ‘overcoming the old and unjust social order.’”

Is Colombia Underestimating the Scale of FARC Dissidence?
Angelika Albaladejo, InSight Crime, October 17, 2017

“[A]ccording to extensive field work conducted by InSight Crime in several departments across Colombia, the true percentage of former FARC guerrillas who have dissented is likely more than double the government estimates. And their numbers appear to be growing… InSight Crime research suggests that the Colombian government would have more success stemming the tide of dissidence by focusing on fulfilling peace accord promises such as crop substitution and rural development projects, rather than emphasizing military operations and coca eradication which have in many cases proven ineffective.”

Where conflict once reigned in Colombia, coffee beans now grow
Marcy Nicholson for Reuters, The Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 2017

“About 950 coffee-growing families have returned to the San Carlos area, representing about 60 percent of the 1,600 families who left during the war, according to data from the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC). The supply from this region, about 205 miles northwest of the Colombian capital of Bogotá, could expand further as farmers plant more of their land and more people return to the region to provide the needed labor. The area now has about 800 hectares (approximately 2,000 acres) of coffee farms, double the low of 400 hectares during the war. That’s still only about half of the 1,500 hectares prior to the conflict, according to FNC data.”

Human Rights and Counternarcotics Issues in Tumaco

Colombia Must Immediately Investigate, Punish Those Responsible for Killing Protesters in Coca-Growing Region
WOLA, October 6, 2017

“WOLA calls on the U.S. government to immediately condemn this massacre and urges Colombian authorities to investigate and sanction those responsible for these abuses. We also urge U.S. officials to tone down the rhetoric and offer constructive solutions to the coca issue. President Trump’s recent threats to decertify Colombia on account of increased coca cultivation put pressure on Colombia to show results at any cost.”

Tensión por masacre de Tumaco se traslada a los discursos
Verdad Abierta, 7 de octubre de 2017

“Un día después del asesinato de varios campesinos que se oponían a un operativo de erradicación de cultivos de hoja de coca en el municipio con más hectáreas sembradas en el país, diferentes sectores reaccionaron ante un suceso que afecta la confianza en las autoridades en la búsqueda de soluciones a la producción y mercado de las drogas ilícitas”.

Colombia suspends police officers who fired into crowd, leaving six dead
Sibylla Brodzinsky, The Guardian, October 9, 2017

“The six farmers were killed on 5 October during a protest by growers of coca leaf, used in making cocaine, against forced eradication efforts. Security forces first blamed a dissident faction of the Farc for the deaths but local activists said the police had opened fire on the protesters. Preliminary forensic testing showed the six farmers were killed by high-velocity long-range bullets. By Monday the government acknowledged that witnesses overwhelmingly blame police. ‘The immense majority of the testimony signals the police as responsible,’ said Vice-President Óscar Naranjo, a former chief of national police who traveled to Tumaco after Thursday’s killings.”

Policía ataca a misión humanitaria no gubernamental en Tandil, Tumaco
JustaPaz, 8 de octubre de 2017

“Se solicita al presidente Santos la remoción de los mandos y unidades policiales acantonados en Tumaco; la adopción de medidas de protección inmediata para la población de Tandil; las garantías para la misión de las y los defensores de derechos humanos y de paz, presentes en la zona; las garantías para el ejercicio de la libertad de expresión de los periodistas locales, regionales y nacionales; y el diseño e implementación del plan de sustitución acordado con las comunidades y su vinculación a los [Programas de Desarrollo con Enfoque Territorial]”.

UN: Colombian Police Fired on Mission Sent to Probe Slayings
AP, October 9, 2017

“The United Nations denounced Colombia’s anti-narcotics police on Monday for firing on a humanitarian mission it led to investigate the murder of several coca growers during clashes with security forces. The mission, comprised of observers from the U.N. as well as the Organization of American States and church groups, were attempting Sunday to reach a remote outpost where the killings took place when they were stopped in their tracks by four exploding stun grenades as well as teargas and the sound of gunfire, according to the U.N.’s human rights office in Colombia.”

Las verdades a medias en Tumaco
Natalia Arenas, La Silla Vacía, 9 de octubre de 2017

“La pregunta clave que sigue sin resolverse es entonces qué fue lo que detonó el ataque y definir si en efecto, fue la Policía Antinarcóticos la que disparó. Aunque después del comunicado de la Defensoría, la hipótesis más fuerte apunta a la Policía, para confirmarlo hace falta un informe de balística que ayude a descifrar si las armas que dispararon son privativas de la Fuerza Pública”.

Colombian Security Forces ‘Massacre’ Coca Farmers Under Pressure From Trump
Jeremy Kryt, Daily Beast, October 15, 2017

“Drug-war hawks in Washington have blamed these public health and economic safeguards for spiking coca and cocaine production rates—leading directly to POTUS’ recent tough talk on decertifying Colombia. Security Analyst Ávila says the recent U.S. pressure has led ‘to a radicalization of anti-drug policy’ in places like Nariño. ‘The Colombian state is going crazy trying to comply, and to show President Trump [the coca quota] will be forcibly eradicated,’ he said. ‘The pressure is felt not only in Tumaco but among all the cocaleros.’”

Colombia Must Protect Community Leaders in Conflict Zones like Tumaco
WOLA, October 18, 2017

“Colombian authorities must guarantee the security of the remaining 14 members of the Community Council board and their families. This means strengthening security measures for those who are already receiving some form of protection and immediately grant measures for those who are not. The killing of Cortes increases the risk that the entire community of Alto Mira and Frontera will flee the area due to safety concerns, and thus become internally displaced.”

Una muerte literalmente anunciada
Natalia Arenas, La Silla Vacía, 18 de octubre de 2017

“Según informó la Defensoría del Pueblo, José Jair tenía medidas de protección de la Unidad Nacional de Protección. Aún así, fue asesinado después de que salió del casco urbano de Tumaco –donde estaba huyendo junto con sus compañeros de la junta por amenazas de los disidentes de las Farc (comandados por alias ‘Guacho’ y alias ‘David’) y los narcos (comandados por alias ‘Cachi’) que se oponen a la sustitución de cultivos— y había vuelto a su territorio a visitar a un familiar que estaba enfermo”.

IACHR Condemns the Killing of Colombian Farmers and a community leader and the Attack on a Humanitarian Mission and on Journalists
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, October 19, 2017

“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the violent death of at least seven peasant farmers, including two members of the Awá indigenous people, in the municipality of Tumaco, in Colombia. The IACHR urges the Colombian authorities to adopt urgent measures to thoroughly investigate these events and ensure the safety and integrity of the campesino, indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities. The IACHR also condemns the attack carried out three days later against a humanitarian mission, journalists, and members of the Organization of American States Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP-OAS) by members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (ESMAD) and Anti-Drug Police.”

Asesinato de Jair: el riesgo persiste
Nicolás Sánchez A, El Espectador, 19 de octubre de 2017

“Las denuncias vienen de tiempo atrás, en un consejo de seguridad de la Gobernación de Nariño se habló de las presiones de los armados y por eso salieron del territorio. En un comunicado del 5 de octubre, horas después de la masacre que acabó con la vida de siete campesinos en la vereda El Tandil, la junta de gobierno reiteró: ‘Durante las últimas semanas se han venido presentando presiones de grupos armados hacia la comunidad perteneciente al consejo comunitario, buscando que asuman el rol de escudos humanos ante la intervención de la Fuerza Pública que realiza labores de erradicación forzosa’”.

Siguen asesinando civiles en Tumaco, ¿qué está pasando?
Semana, 19 de octubre de 2017

“El pueblo awá, los indígenas que por siglos han ocupado Tumaco, también está en la mira de los violentos. Este lunes en la mañana, según conoció SEMANA, dos miembros de esa comunidad fueron asesinados cerca a su casa en la Guayacana, un sector cercano al corregimiento de Llorente y a la vía que conduce hacia Ipiales”.

Colombian President Santos Promises to Fight Crime in Tumaco with New Force
TeleSUR, October 21, 2017

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has officially launched Operation Atlas, an initiative deploying more than 9,000 police and military personnel to fight crime in the municipality of Tumaco… He said the new initiative ‘reorganizes the Public Force, unites units that were dispersed …and gives the command to a Major General who has specific plans to fight crime.’ Santos also promised that implementing the program of substitution of illicit crops will be a top priority.”

Counternarcotics

REPORT: Colombia’s Armed Groups Battle for the Spoils of Peace
International Crisis Group, October 19, 2017

“Colombia’s 2016 peace accord has brought over 10,000 FARC fighters to the cusp of civilian life, but in their wake rival armed groups are battling for control of vacated territory and lucrative coca crops. In order to roll back booming drug production and expanding non-state groups, the Colombian government should provide local farmers with alternative livelihoods while developing grassroots security and local governance.”

US increases pressure on Colombia to curb coca production
Gideon Long, Financial Times, October 19, 2017

“‘The White House was within its rights to express its concern over coca growing,’ says Adam Isacson, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America. ‘But to threaten to decertify Colombia, to say ‘we’re putting you in the same basket as Venezuela and Bolivia’ — that was humiliating.’”

Human Rights & the Environment

Doctrina Militar Criminal: Negada Pero Vigente
Comunidad de Paz San Jose de Apartado, 22 de octubre de 2017

“[E]l Estado  sigue demostrando, de manera contundente, que su arraigada doctrina militar represiva, justificadora de crímenes de lesa humanidad y de prácticas de exterminio de todo movimiento social, sigue tan vigente como hace 50 años; no ha cambiado ni un ápice. Así lo ha evidenciado al estigmatizar nuevamente al fundador de San José de Apartadó, por el hecho de haber sido Concejal de la Unión Patriótica. Al mismo tiempo sigue demostrando que no es capaz de cumplir los acuerdos que firma, al reprimir violentamente a los cultivadores de coca, faltando a su promesa de no erradicar sin darles alternativas de sobrevivencia a los campesinos pobres que viven de ello por carencia de otra vía”.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for human rights urges effective protection of rights defenders amid continued attacks
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, October 9, 2017

“UN Assistant Secretary-General for human rights Andrew Gilmour on Monday welcomed progress in the demobilization and disarmament of the FARC, but expressed concern about problems in the implementation of the accords which relate to the continued attacks against human rights defenders and community leaders. At the end of a six-day visit to the country, Gilmour acknowledged the Government’s efforts to adopt policies aimed at preventing such attacks, but said the efforts had yet to produce significant results.” [En Español]

Priests lead campaign against mining in rural areas of Colombia
Manuel Rueda, National Catholic Reporter, October 21, 2017

“The struggle started in 2015, when Sanchez discovered the federal government had granted several mining titles in Sucre’s rural area, without informing the local population. One of the licenses would have allowed a local company to establish an open-pit limestone mine that could have potentially dried up 26 local streams, leaving up to 1,500 people without a reliable water supply and threatening the livelihoods of local dairy farmers, according to a study conducted by local environmental groups.”

FARC Confirms Deaths of 6 Former Fighters in Colombia
TeleSUR, October 18, 2017

“Six former FARC fighters who were reintegrating into civilian life as part of the group’s peace deal with the government, have been killed in an ambush in Isupi, in the southwestern department of Nariño. Ramiro Cortes, a member of the Alternative Revolutionary Force Commons national leadership, the political party which the FARC transitioned into, said ‘They were part of the process. We know they were summoned to a meeting and that’s when they were murdered last Sunday.’”

The trans experience in Colombia: ‘This is where we work – and this is where we are killed’
Kate Lyons, The Guardian, October 8, 2017

“Last year’s peace deal between the government and the Farc rebels has renewed hopes that its decades-long civil war might be over. For LGBT people, who were regularly targeted in the violence, there is hope that the country might be made safer for them. Trans people in particular hope that the visibility and acceptance trans issues are beginning to receive in the US might spread south… If this is the beginning of a shift in attitudes, it is people such as Salamanca and other leaders of the nascent Colombian trans rights movement who are largely responsible.”

Thousands Are Fleeing Venezuela by Two-Lane Border Bridge
Andrew Rosati, Bloomberg, October 12, 2017

“According to Colombia’s migration authority, the number of foreigners entering Cucuta, the first major city across the bridge, more than doubled this summer. Over 50,000 came in August, up from 22,700 in June. The numbers don’t reflect dual nationals returning to their homeland, or thousands simply crossing into Colombia without passing official checkpoints.”

Lawmakers lament Labor Department’s silence as U.S.-Colombia deadline passes
Isabelle Hoagland, Inside US Trade, October 13, 2017

“Ways & Means trade subcommittee ranking member Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) also took aim at the Trump administration for what he claimed are several missed deadlines pertaining to labor enforcement in free trade deals. ‘Another day, another deadline missed by the Trump Administration. By missing the deadline to assess Colombia’s compliance with its labor obligations this week, the Trump Administration has now missed at least three deadlines related to enforcing the labor provisions in our trade agreements,’ Pascrell said in a statement to Inside U.S. Trade.”

*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.