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Colombia News Brief June 9 – 16, 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.

Source: David Ospina Tovar/Flickr

COVID-19

As quarantine wanes, Bogota’s medics brace for a spike in COVID cases
Julia Symmes Cobb, Reuters, June 14, 2020
“COVID ICUs in Bogota – the epicenter of Colombia’s outbreak – have seen their occupancy rates rise steadily over the past several months and last week reached 50% capacity, according to the city’s mayor. While that remains low compared with some neighboring countries, such as Brazil – where some areas are using more than 80% of ICU capacity – medics say it is just the beginning.”

The Coronavirus Is Spreading Through Indigenous Communities In The Amazon
John Otis, NPR, June 12, 2020
“With nearly 40,000 deaths, Brazil has registered the world’s third-highest COVID-19 death toll and the second-highest confirmed caseload. Its neighbors fear the disease is spilling across Brazil’s borders. Indeed, one Colombian frontier town has already turned into a coronavirus hot spot.”

Las prioridades del gobierno en tiempos del COVID-19
Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos, 9 de junio de 2020
“El sistema económico, que durante cuatro décadas ha arruinado la producción industrial y agrícola por efectos de la implementación del modelo neoliberal -al concentrarse en los sectores de servicios y actividades extractivas, junto con la especulación financiera- ha dejado más de 5.4 millones de personas sin empleos en solo un mes de la emergencia económica y social decretada, aumentando el desempleo a un 32.6%.”

Colombia’s Medellin emerges as surprise COVID-19 pioneer
Christine Armario, Associated Press, June 13, 2020
“How has Medellin, so far, defied the odds? City officials and epidemiologists credit early preparation, a novel app that connected needy residents with food and cash while also collecting important data that later helped track cases, and a medical system that has moved rapidly to treat the sick before they fall critically ill.”

In Medellín, a museum takes an essential role in the city’s pandemic response
Andrew Wight, CityMetric, June 11, 2020
“It wasn’t long before the municipally run museum, which documents the impact of Colombia’s armed conflict, took the lead as a social services provider in Medellín’s Comuna 8 neighbourhood. Sanchez-Escobar personally helped deliver basic foods to those who hadn’t benefited from other available aid. Staff have also connected people with the city’s new homeless shelters, and members of the cultural department that the museum belongs to have been using music to spread the word about social distancing.”

Medellin Takes Lead in COVID-19 Fight, Economic Revival
Latin America Herald Tribune, June 10, 2020
“The second-largest city of Colombia set an example on Tuesday in its results to mitigate the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus with the use of technology, which allowed various sectors to return as quickly as possible to activity paralyzed by the national quarantine that began on March 25.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Colombia: Dialogues to Implement Peace Agreement Restart
TeleSur, June 12, 2020
“Colombia’s government and the Alternative Revolutionary Force of the Commons (FARC) political party Thursday resumed the peace agreement’s implementation dialogue, almost a month after bilateral negotiations ceased.”

How Mexico’s drug cartels helped Colombia’s narcos frustrate peace process
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, June 11, 2020
“Mexico’s drug cartels have seen so many Colombian drug cartels and guerrilla groups come and go that changing trafficking partners is part of the routine. The demobilization of the FARC was different because it didn’t threaten only distribution, but also supply. Most of Colombia’s cocaine was produced in territory controlled by the FARC whose guerrillas also protected part of the routes from the cocaine factories to the export hubs.”

Los problemas de seguridad en Colombia y los carteles mexicanos
Semana, 11 de junio de 2020
“Los grupos postfarc o disidencias han venido incursionando en zonas históricas donde hizo presencia la guerrilla, pero también en otros territorios donde han realizado alianzas con grupos criminales para procurar el control y la regulación de los mercados allí presentes.”

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

Colombia’s ELN rebels free six more hostages amid peace talks plea
BBC News, June 15, 2020
“President Iván Duque says the release of all hostages and the end of kidnappings and attacks are pre-conditions for talks. The group is believed to be holding at least 10 more hostages, according to the government.”

Colombia guerrilla group the ELN releases six prisoners
Reuters, June 14, 2020
“The ELN has now freed eight hostages in the last three days after the leftist rebel group released two people on Friday. The release of the kidnap victims on Sunday, including two police officers and four civilians, took place in a rural zone of Colombia’s North Santander province, which is close to the border with Venezuela.”

El ELN reivindica el secuestro de una cabo del Ejército colombiano
Notimérica, 12 de junio de 2020
“El grupo armado ha detallado que el secuestro de López se produjo como parte de la ‘labor de Inteligencia, registro y control’ que los guerrilleros llevan a cabo en esa zona rural de Arauca.”

ELN asesina a dos militares en Arauca
Juan Felipe Velez, Panam Post, 8 de junio de 2020
“La organización advierte que las ‘disidencias’ y el ELN realizan reclutamientos forzosos tanto desde el lado colombiano como desde el venezolano, no obstante, apenas hay cifras y registros por parte de las autoridades venezolanas de las actividades de estos grupos en su lado de la frontera. Para el año pasado se registraron 191 homicidios en el departamento de Arauca, según el Instituto de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forense los Grupos Armados son los responsables de la mayoría de estos homicidios.”

Duque pide a Cuba privilegiar relación con Colombia, no con la guerrilla del ELN
Reuters, 8 de junio de 2020
“La declaración de Duque se produjo una semana después de que Cuba arremetió contra el gobierno de Colombia al acusarlo de abrir el camino para que Estados Unidos incluyera a La Habana en una lista de países que “no cooperan plenamente” con los esfuerzos para combatir el terrorismo.”

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Colombian farmers, ranchers join businesses to turn the tide on Amazon deforestation
Dimitri Selibas, Mongabay, June 12, 2020
“While the Colombian government continues its efforts to tackle the systemic issues underlying the appropriation of land in the Amazon, campesinos like Trujillo and cattle ranchers are coming together with support from Colombian businesses and research institutions to find their own sustainable solutions to stop deforestation.”

No haber implementado el Acuerdo de Paz ha costado vidas
Guillermo Rivera, La Línea del Medio, 11 de junio de 2020
“Michel Forst, Relator de Naciones Unidas, sostuvo en febrero de este año que Colombia es uno de los países más peligrosos del mundo para la defensa de los derechos humanos. Las cifras solas no muestran la tragedia humana que hay detrás de cada caso.”

Forced Disappearances Remain High in Norte de Santander
Jessica Spanswick, Javier Ochoa, Aulablog, June 9, 2020
“A massive influx of Venezuelans fleeing crisis back home has also led to a spike in disappearances. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that nearly 5 million Venezuelans (many of Colombian heritage) have fled the country, the vast majority passing through or staying in Colombia. Many, distrustful of both countries’ officials at formal ports of entry and without a proper channel to receive refugee status, transit informal trocha crossings controlled by criminal groups, where they are at risk of extortion, human trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, and forced disappearance.”

Violence Rages on in Colombia’s Cauca Department
Juan Diego Cárdenas, Insight Crime, June 10, 2020
“The towns of Argelia and El Tambo, which are part of this corridor, provide the ELN and the dissident FARC groups with access to coca crops and to an essential route for the trafficking of drugs, chemical precursors and weapons to the Pacific. Other armed groups have also possibly entered the fray. In August 2019, reports emerged of another ex-FARC Mafia cell, the Estiven González Front, moving into southern Cauca from their base in northern Nariño.”

DRUG POLICY

Pandemic upends Colombia’s controversial drug war plan to resume aerial spraying
Kate Karáth, Science, June 11, 2020
“Late last month, a Colombian court ruled that the spraying of the herbicide glyphosate, which some studies have linked to human health and environmental problems, cannot resume until the government informs and consults with affected communities—a process that has been severely disrupted by the ongoing pandemic. The government had planned to hold virtual meetings with the communities, but environmental and human rights groups went to court to challenge that plan, arguing that Colombia’s rural communities often lack reliable internet, cellphone, or radio service.”

Colombia seizes $265 million worth of cocaine in shipping containers
Reuters, June 9, 2020
“Colombia is a leading producer of cocaine, with output of around 951 tonnes a year and cultivations of coca – the drug’s main ingredient – covering more than 200,000 hectares (494,211 acres), according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Maduro restricts the return of Venezuelan migrants and considers them a threat
MercoPress, June 9, 2020
“The Nicolás Maduro regime blames Venezuelan migrants for the increase in the spread of the coronavirus in Venezuela while hundreds of these emigrants, pushed by their limited survival options, remain stranded in makeshift camps in different cities of Colombia waiting to be able to cross into their country.”