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Colombia News Brief October 29 – November 4, 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.

SPOTLIGHT

El Virus de la Violencia
Somos Defensores, 3 de noviembre de 2020
“Durante el primer semestre de 2020 las personas que ejercen liderazgo social en Colombia se enfrentaron a un doble riesgo derivado, por un lado, de las agresiones en su contra provenientes de una gran cantidad de actores que pusieron en peligro su integridad y sus vidas y, por el otro, de la pandemia ocasionada por el COVID-19 que puso mucho más en evidencia las deudas históricas que tiene el Estado con muchos territorios”.

Could Colombian Politicians Help Trump Win Florida?
Miguel Salazar, The Nation, October 30, 2020
“In recent days, similar smear and misinformation campaigns have intensified to sway voters ahead of the November presidential election, but what is remarkable now is that they are being propelled and amplified by Colombian politicians. Led by Álvaro Uribe and members of his right-wing political party, the Centro Democrático, serving Colombian officials have shared pro-Trump posts and videos. Some have even gone so far as to endorse Donald Trump ahead of the election, as Senator María Fernanda Cabal did recently over Facebook Live.”

The Specter of Colombia in the U.S. Presidential Election
Cruz Bonlarron Martínez, NACLA, October 29, 2020
“These blatant attacks on the sovereignty of Colombia’s judiciary and electoral systems are not new, and form part of a pattern of Trump criticizing the Colombian Left and the peace process since late September. His opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has also played on fears of the Left in Latin America. The specter of “Castro-Chavismo” haunts liberal attack ads and Spanish language op-eds against Trump. Neither candidate has proposed significant U.S.-Colombia policy change, indicating that a militarized antidrug strategy will remain the centerpiece of the bilateral relationship. Nonetheless, as social movements are under attack in both countries, solidarity and grassroots alliances are more important than ever.”

GOVERNMENT-FARC PEACE PROCESS

Colombia Farc: The former rebels who need bodyguards to stay safe
Manuel Rueda, BBC News, November 3, 2020
“What the former fighters want to see is the dismantling of criminal groups and investment in rural infrastructure, so that people in those areas do not turn to the drug trade to make a living. ‘Getting bullet-proof cars and bodyguards for 13,000 former fighters is impossible’ says Tulio Murillo, a 54-year-old Farc party leader who has received death threats and has four bodyguards to protect him. ‘What we need is greater commitment to the agreements that were made.’”

Former FARC guerrillas march in Colombia to demand end to killings
Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuters, November 1, 2020
“Hundreds of demobilized former members of the FARC rebel group marched in Colombia’s capital Bogota on Sunday to demand more security, implementation of a 2016 peace deal, and an end to the killings of former combatants. Waving both white and Colombian flags, former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) arrived in Bogota as part of the ‘pilgrimage for life and peace.’ The killings of 236 former members of the demobilized FARC since the signing of the 2016 peace deal has been a major hurdle for implementation of the agreement that ended the group’s role in more than five decades of conflict which has left 260,000 dead and millions displaced.”

Colombia’s peace deal could hang on the US election
Jack Guy, Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, October 29, 2020
“Though Duque has not made any statement about the US election, there is little doubt that his government appreciates Trump’s disregard for the peace deal, as it would prefer to be allowed to continue weakening the agreement without pressure from Washington. Analysts say a Democratic administration is more likely to oppose the changes. Certain Colombian politicians who also oppose the peace deal have even been accused of promoting Trump’s reelection campaign, including Colombian Congressman Juan David Velez, of Duque’s Democratic Center party, who acts as sort of ambassador for Colombians in the United States.”

GOVERNMENT-ELN PEACE PROCESS

Asesinaron a Jorge Solano, delegado de la Mesa de Víctimas de Ocaña, Norte de Santander
El Espectador, 3 de noviembre de 2020
“Solano envió una carta con fecha del 19 de mayo de 2020 dirigida a Israel Ramírez, más conocido como Pablo Beltrán, jefe de la delegación del Eln para las conversaciones de paz con el Gobierno Nacional, en el que solicita se aclarara una serie de amenazas que recibió en varias ocasiones por parte de un supuesto comandante del Eln llamado Carlos. Solano afirmó en la carta que este supuesto comandante trató de intimidarlo por su gestión anticorrupción en Ocaña, argumentando que se estaba metiendo con sus amigos. Además, el 18 de mayo, un día antes de enviar la carta, Solano habría recibido otra llamada de Carlos en la que el supuesto guerrillero le informaba que sus superiores lo habían declarado objetivo militar”.

ELN Likely to Quickly Move Past Uriel’s Death in Colombia
Juan Camilo Jaramillo, InSight Crime, October 27, 2020
“Uriel’s killing is one of the most severe blows dealt by the Colombian government to the ELN in recent years. But it is likely an isolated victory, as it will do little to halt the transnational spread of arguably Latin America’s most powerful criminal syndicate. Though highly visible, Vanegas Londoño served more as a local leader than a national one.”

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Justice advances for the U’wa Nation
Earth Rights International, November 3, 2020
“On October 21, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights sent case number 11.754 U’wa Indigenous People vs. Colombia to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after finding the State of Colombia responsible for violating the U’wa’s rights to collective property, culture, freedom of thought and expression, participation in government, fair trial, and judicial protection as enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights. EarthRights International applauds this development. This landmark victory comes after centuries of resistance and territorial defense. For more than 25 years, the U’Wa Nation has fought for justice in national courts and the Inter-American system, seeking truth, justice, and full reparation for the systematic violations of their rights caused by militarization, the imposition of extractive projects, and the lack of recognition of their ancestral territory, kera shikará.”

Peace activist becomes Colombia’s most popular politician: poll
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, November 2, 20202
“One of Colombia’s most outspoken promoters of peace, former Vice-President Humberto de la Calle, has become the country’s most popular politician, according to Gallup. While Colombians’ approval of President Ivan Duque‘s is tanking again, their impression of the man who negotiated peace with former guerrilla group FARC and has defended the peace process has seen his popularity rise.”

Nueva masacre enluta a Colombia: matan a tres familiares de líder social asesinado
Andrea Rincón, France 24, 1 de noviembre de 2020
“El Cauca es uno de los departamentos colombianos más afectado por el conflicto armado y prácticamente no conoce los beneficios del acuerdo de paz firmado en noviembre de 2016 por el Gobierno y la entonces guerrilla FARC, ahora convertida en partido político. Según el más reciente informe de las Naciones Unidas, 48 líderes sociales y defensores de derechos humanos, entre ellos cinco mujeres, han sido asesinados este año en el país”.

‘We have a right to be at the table’: four pioneering female peacekeepers
Carmela Fonbuena, Joe Parkin Daniels, Liz Ford, Kate Hodal, The Guardian, 29 October, 2020
In 2017, Vera started working at the government agency responsible for reintegrating about 10,000 ex-Farc members. Building on her own experience, and her belief that a strong community and network are key to leaving war behind, she enjoyed laying out the options available to former comrades. ‘Making peace is about providing genuine alternatives to violence,’ Vera says of her work at the agency. ‘People need to know what economic opportunities they have, how to seek them out, and they need to learn that differences don’t need to be settled at the barrel of a gun.’ Vera believes Colombia’s peace process is made stronger by the involvement of women like her at the grassroots level.”

Assassination Attempt Against Indigenous Colombian Senator Underscores Need to Implement the Ethnic Chapter
The Washington Office on Latin America, October 29, 2020
“Rather than implementing the Ethnic Chapter and other provisions favorable to protecting the rights of Indigenous communities, the Duque administration is simulating peace implementation by prioritizing policies and programs that go against the spirit of the agreement. A recent report by the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA) found that not only is the implementation of the Ethnic Chapter underwhelming, but that authorities have taken actions that go against its intent. The Duque administration needs to send a strong message that this violence cannot take place without consequences. Authorities must carry out a swift, impartial investigation to identify and convict those who perpetrated and those who ordered the attack.”

Indigenous Colombian senator escapes shooting uninjured
Oliver Griffin, Reuters, October 29, 2020
“Colombian senator Feliciano Valencia, a member of the Andean country’s Nasa indigenous community, said on Thursday he had escaped uninjured from a shooting attack in southwestern Cauca province. Valencia recently acted as a spokesman for protests which drew thousands of indigenous people to capital Bogota. Marchers demanded a meeting with President Ivan Duque to discuss better protection of their lands, violence against local activists and recent mass killings.”

Colombia: Worst violence in nearly two decades flares in border areas
Doctors Without Borders, October 29, 2020
“The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a brief pause to the violence and conflict that has plagued Colombia for generations. But over the past few months, people living in the Norte de Santander department, which borders Venezuela to the north, and the Nariño department, which borders Ecuador to the south, have been caught in escalating cycles of violence. Disputes between various armed groups have resulted in massacres, assassinations, threats, and widespread displacement. Despite the 2016 peace agreement between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), violence in several regions of Colombia resurged in late 2017.”

DRUG POLICY

‘I Will Be Left With Nothing’: Why Colombians Are Watching the U.S. Election Closely
Genevieve Glatsky, Politico, November 2, 2020
“The fumigation succeeded, for a time, in destroying the coca crops in Putumayo and elsewhere. But Hernandez, who spoke by phone from Mundo Nuevo last month, says it also destroyed subsistence crops, preventing the villagers’ from making a living in any other way. Right-wing paramilitary groups, which threatened to kill villagers who didn’t pay taxes or sell them their coca crops, simply moved to other areas to repeat the same tactics. Nearly all of the town’s 5,000 residents, including his four siblings, left to find work in different cities, joining the millions of Colombians displaced by 56 years of armed conflict in their country. ‘Plan Colombia’ officially ended in 2015, when the Colombian government reached a historic peace agreement with the country’s largest leftist guerrilla organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But two decades later, the threat of fumigation is back—and could depend on the U.S. election.”

Colombia’s War on Drugs Will Thrive No Matter Who’s in the White House
Wes Michael Tomaselli, VICE, October 29, 2020
“‘A Biden administration would re-focus on democracy and human rights. I think that’s going to be more pronounced than we’ve seen in the past and I think the vice president will put those issues at the top of his foreign policy agenda.’ Since the beginning of Trump’s term in office, the President has focused singularly on reducing the flow of drugs into the United States. For Colombia, that’s meant enormous pressure on Duque to reduce the amount of acreage under cultivation of coca. It’s part of a wider, multi-billion-dollar foreign policy initiative launched in the early 2000’s called Plan Colombia.”

VENEZUELAN CRISIS

Aumentaron publicaciones discriminatorias tras comentario de Claudia López: barómetro de la xenofobia
El Espectador, 30 de Octubre de 2020
“Ante esto, el informe resalta cómo este tipo de señalamientos por parte de funcionarios públicos en altos cargos extrapola imaginarios negativos, estimula los discursos de odio y finalmente la xenofobia, pues tras el comentario de López se lanzaron nueve alertas tempranas por comportamientos anómalos en la conversación de xenofobia y seguridad en línea, ante el incremento en más del 100% de las publicaciones que incitaban al odio y la violencia. ‘Lo más riesgoso es que esos discursos provengan de quién está encargada de velar por el respeto de los derechos de todos los habitantes de Bogotá. Es más, no podemos normalizar que frases como matando a los venecos y limpieza social sean predominantes en la conversación en línea y menos que se utilicen las declaraciones de la Alcaldesa para avalar estas afirmaciones’ indicó Alejandro Daly, Coordinador Nacional de El Derecho a No Obedecer”.

* 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.