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Colombia News Brief for September 17-September 23, 2020

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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.


Supreme Court rules in favor of Acción de Tutela to protect the right to protest in the face of police violence
22 de septiembre de 2020
On Tuesday, a judge of the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an “Acción de Tutela” presented by several human rights organizations together with academics of the Universidad del Rosario and journalists. The ruling not only says that the Minister of Defence has to publicly apologize for the excess use of force by the police during the November National Strike mobilizations, but also that the weapon used to kill Dilan Cruz can no longer be used at protests. Furthermore, it indicates that a ‘mesa de trabajo’ should be established to review guidelines for social protests and to develop new monitoring and accountability guidelines. You can find the full ruling here.

Colombian Cops Killed, Maimed, and Sexually Abused Protesters During Anti-Police Uprising
Jeremy Kryt, The Daily Beast, September 17, 2020
“Large-scale demonstrations against police brutality began the next day in Bogotá and soon spread to Medellín, Cali, Popayán, and other major cities. The protests have been compared to the Black Lives Matter and ‘Defund the Police’ movements in the U.S. However Colombian authorities reacted to these marches with a brand of ferocity selcom seen stateside, repeatedly using live rounds and firing indiscriminately into crowds of unarmed civilians, and thus further fanning the flames of trust.”


Colombia hace un llamado a un mundo más justo y sostenible tras la pandemia de COVID-19
Noticias ONU, 22 de septiembre de 2020
“La pandemia está siendo un punto de inflexión para pensar en un futuro sostenible y justo, aseguró el presidente de Colombia, Iván Duque, ante la Asamblea General este martes. ‘Ahora que estamos en miras de reactivar nuestras economías y nuestra vida productiva, es necesario que la sostenibilidad ambiental sea el punto de encuentro para la construcción de un mundo más sostenible, más responsable’, expresó en un mensaje en video.”

First fighting, then COVID-19 leave Colombian forest tribe homeless
Anastasia Moloney, Reuters, September 17, 2020
“She and about 300 other Emberas were forced to flee their rainforest reserves in Colombia’s western Choco province in the beginning of the year to escape fighting by armed criminal groups. The tribe traveled hundreds of miles to the capital, where some scrapped a living together selling handmade jewelry on the street, while others begged. Having already fled one crisis, they found themselves facing another: the coronavirus pandemic.”


‘El 63 % de funcionarios de la UNP son ex-Farc’
Alicia Liliana Méndez, El Tiempo, 20 de septiembre de 2020
“El director de la Unidad Nacional de Protección (UNP), Alfonso Campo Martínez, en entrevista con EL TIEMPO dio a conocer que lanzó un programa que se llama ‘UNP en territorio’, para acercarse a las comunidades. Afirma que este año se han invertido 85.000 millones en la protección de ex-Farc.”

Exguerrilleros de las Farc aceptaron el delito de secuestro ante la JEP
El Espectador, 18 de septiembre de 2020
“En medio de una versión colectiva ante la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP), 11 exguerrilleros del Comando Conjunto Central de las extintas Farc, compuesto por los frentes 17, 21, 25 y 50, y los frentes ‘Tulio Varón’ y ‘Joselo Losada’, asumieron su responsabilidad por el delito de secuestro, en el marco del caso 01. Los excombatientes reconocieron varios hechos representativos cometidos en los departamentos del Tolima, Huila, Meta, así como algunas áreas de los departamentos de Cundinamarca, Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío, Valle del Cauca y Cauca.”

“El reclutamiento de menores no era un delito en las Farc”: Carlos Antonio Lozada
El Espectador, 18 de septiembre de 2020
“Tres horas y media tardó la primera versión voluntaria pública realizada por la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP) del caso 07, sobre reclutamiento de niños y niñas en la guerra. En el banco de quienes deben aportar verdad sobre este delito estuvo el exjefe guerrillero Julián Gallo Cubillos, conocido en la guerra como Carlos Antonio Lozada, quien fue comandante en el Bloque Oriental de las Farc y, quien, tras el Acuerdo de Paz se convirtió en congresista del ahora partido Farc. Desde las 9 de la mañana hasta el mediodía, contó qué supo de este fenómeno que, según él, era considerado una falta grave al reglamento interno de la insurgencia, pero no un delito.”

Massacres in Colombia Lay Bare Next Phase of the Conflict
Thomas Power, NACLA, September 18, 2020
“Massacres have risen 30 percent during the first two years of Iván Duque’s presidency. Through August 25, Colombian think tank Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz (Institute for the Study of Development and Peace, Indepaz) registered 55 massacres this year. The killings coincide with areas where social leaders have been murdered in recent years, and where the now demobilized FARC-EP guerrillas previously controlled territory. While the massacres follow past patterns of violence, they also indicate new dynamics, where the actors and interests behind attacks are not always clear-cut.”


Estados Unidos ofrece hasta US$5 millones por un jefe del Eln: ¿quién es?
El Espectador, 21 de septiembre de 2020
“El Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos, a través del secretario Mike Pompeo, anunció una recompensa de hasta 5 millones de dólares por información que conduzca a la captura o condena de un jefe del Ejército de Liberación Nacional (Eln) que ha sido acusado en el Distrito Sur de Texas por los delitos de: narcoterrorismo, conspiración para distribución internacional de cocaína y distribución internacional de cocaína. Se trata de Wílver Villegas Palomino, alias Carlos El Puerco o El Puerco, quien está señalado de realizar actividades de narcotráfico para el Frente de Guerra Nororiental del Eln, en la región del Catatumbo y en Venezuela.”


Murders of Colombian community leaders rose in first half of 2020: report
Reuters, September 22, 2020
“Between January and June this year, 81 social, political and community leaders were killed in Colombia, up from 61 in the first half of last year even though incidents of violence and attacks fell 2%, according to a study by local civil rights group the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE). The report did not specify which armed groups were responsible for the murders, attacks and threats.”

Corte ordena proteger derecho a protesta ante agresiones sistemáticas
El Tiempo, 22 de septiembre de 2020
“En un fallo histórico en el que da una serie de órdenes para proteger las protestas pacíficas, la Sala de Casación Civil de la Corte Suprema de Justicia aceptó una tutela presentada por varios ciudadanos que consideran que de parte del Gobierno y del Esmad ha habido “sistemáticas agresiones” que amenazan su derecho a manifestarse y que restringen su posibilidad de protestar y cuestionar al Gobierno, sin violencia.”

Colombia: spying on reporters shows army unable to shake habits of dirty war
Joe Parkin Daniels, The Guardian, September 22, 2020
“An investigation by the local news weekly Semana found that the Colombian army gathered intelligence on Villamizar and more than 130 of her colleagues – including at least three US reporters. Soldiers had trawled through information on social media in order to build “profiles” on each target, with comprehensive lists of their contacts, families and friends. Their political leanings were deduced from their posts and connections, and logged in a database.”

Colombia police officers charged with killings that sparked riots
Al Jazeera, September 19, 2020
“The two officers involved in the arrest of Javier Ordonez, who was repeatedly tasered before dying later in custody, were charged on Friday with ‘torture and aggravated homicide’, according to Attorney General Fransisco Barbosa. Five other police officers are being investigated in the case.”

From Conflict to Conservation: Colombia’s Ex-Combatants Become Citizen Scientists
Jenna Homewood, The Organization for World Peace, September 18, 2020
“To ensure environmental protection, it is crucial to engage and empower local communities. From conflict emerged conservation opportunities and resources have been redirected to the latter. More than 14,000 former combatants needed to be reintegrated into society, and as they hold local ecological knowledge having spent many years in forested areas, the former-fighters now work alongside researchers studying Colombia’s wildlife.”

How Colombia Regulators Became Purveyors of Illegal Wood
César Molinares, Natalia Moreno, InSight Crime, September 18, 2020
“The department of Santander, where this natural reserve is located, has three million hectares of land, 800,000 of which are natural forests like those in Yariguíes. There are laws designed to manage these areas within national parks and along their so-called buffer zones, or what are referred to as Special Handling Districts (Distritos de Manejo Especial). Still, so much of the state has been deforested already that some scientists say the erosion of forest cover is causing water shortages in areas of the department.”


Colombia lawmakers seek to take control of cocaine market. It’s a long shot
Julia Barajas, Los Angeles Times, September 21, 2020
“The plan favored by the legislators is one that virtually everyone acknowledges would be highly difficult to integrate or enforce. It calls for the national government to take control of the drug market by purchasing coca leaf harvests and regulating cocaine sales. The challenges include cost, pushback from an international community that wants to maintain the status quo with regard to drug policy, and the potential reaction of an illegal drug empire that does not hesitate to use violence to get its way.”

Pompeo hails Colombia’s stance on Maduro, pledges more help in drugs fight
Reuters, September 19, 2020
“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday thanked Colombian President Ivan Duque for his stance against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and pledged continued assistance to help drug trafficking. In the fourth stop on his tour of South America, Pompeo said the partnership between Colombia and the United States was a force for good in the region.”

Estados Unidos certifica a Colombia en su lucha contra las drogas
Sergio Gomez Maseri, El Tiempo, 16 de septiembre de 2020
“La administración republicana de Donald Trump certificó este miércoles el desempeño de Colombia en la lucha contra las drogas durante el año 2019, aunque consideró que los cultivos ilícitos y la producción de coca siguen en niveles muy altos e inaceptables.”


How COVID-19 has created a crisis on the Venezuela-Colombia border
Joshua Collins, The New Humanitarian, September 23, 2020
“But the coronavirus has frozen economies across Latin America and reversed this exodus, leaving Colombian border communities reeling from chronic shortages of medical attention and food, as well as increased violence. La Guajira, an arid Indigenous region in northeastern Colombia, is grappling with a medical system near collapse, while the aid response in Cúcuta, the only open border crossing to Venezuela, is strained by long waits at official immigration points, even as violence spikes along the informal migration and smuggling routes controlled by armed criminals.”

El fin de la cuarentena reactiva el retorno de venezolanos a Colombia
Andreína Itriago, Julián Ríos, El Tiempo, 18 de septiembre de 2020
“Según Migración Colombia, desde el cierre de la frontera el pasado 14 de marzo, 106.000 migrantes han retornado hacia Venezuela. De estos, el 72 por ciento regresó por Norte de Santander; el 20 por ciento, por Arauca, y 8 por ciento, por La Guajira. Sin embargo, tras la reactivación de la economía en Colombia, por las fronteras con Venezuela se han empezado a ver ciudadanos caminando en busca de llegar al interior del país. Pero esta vez ingresarían más venezolanos de los que salieron.”

* 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.