Authors: Lisa Haugaard, Ana Pereyra Baron
Colombia’s new government offers an opportunity to expand and consolidate peace in a country that has been at war for generations. While the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas was successful at demobilizing 13,000 combatants and in providing a measure of truth, justice, and reparations to victims of all armed actors, it achieved only a partial peace. Successors of Colombia’s rightwing paramilitary groups, remaining guerrilla groups, and drug trafficking organizations continue to threaten and harm vulnerable communities. Now, negotiations with the largest remaining guerrilla group, the ELN, have advanced farther than in any of the six previous Colombian administrations.
The talks have gained national and international momentum. Norway, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, and Chile are the “guarantor” countries for the talks. Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Spain
are “accompanying” the negotiations. Institutions and groups that support the peace talks include Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos, a network of over 270 human rights groups, and the United Nations Security Council and the Colombian Conference of Bishops. The United Nations and the Bishops Conference are monitoring the ceasefire. Removing the ELN from the battlefield would protect communities caught in the conflict, improve respect for human rights, and achieve greater inclusion of historically excluded sectors of the Colombian population, including Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and poor rural and urban communities.
To support peace in Colombia, LAWG organized a letter to Secretary of State Blinken calling for the United States to officially support the negotiations with the ELN and to appoint a special envoy to the talks. We will be working to encourage more congressional and public support for the peace process as it moves forward.
After the Republican chair of the State, Foreign Operations subcommittee, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, announced he would “defer” all aid to Colombia over vague objections to Colombia’s leftist President, Gustavo Petro, LAWG organized to defend U.S. aid to support the peace accords. Following two decades of U.S. government aid for war, LAWG is not going to let members of Congress stop aid for peace. We organized a letter from U.S. organizations, worked with WOLA to support a letter from over 215 Colombian civil society groups, and collaborated with the Colombia Human Rights Committee on a letter from Colombian Americans supporting U.S. assistance for peace.
LAWG and allies also organized support for a letter signed by 50 members of Congress urging President Biden to use his constitutional authority to designate Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to Colombia, which would protect individuals from deportation for a specific period. In December 2022, Colombian President Petro requested the Biden Administration grant DED to Colombians already living in the US. The letter also acknowledges that a DED designation would indicate the U.S. government’s support of Colombia’s efforts toward peace and leadership in regional migration challenges. Immigration relief for Colombians in the U.S. can bring a level of security and peace to those who were forced to leave their home country due to violence during the armed conflict. Thanks to all of you who contacted your member of Congress asking them to sign. LAWG will continue to fight for the 182,000 Colombians in the United States who live in fear of deportation.