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Colombia: News & Updates

Colombia has the world's second largest population of internally displaced persons (five million) due to the half-century internal armed conflict—the longest-running war in the Western Hemisphere (since 1964). Control for territory and popular support among the three main groups (left-wing rebel forces FARC & ELN, right-wing paramilitaries, Colombian police/military) has left 220,000 killed, 75% of them non-combatants. Since 2000, the US has exacerbated the violence by sending more than $9 billion in mostly military assistance. Colombia, which has both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, holds strategic interest for the US for global trade and military posturing.

   

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News Article

On behalf of IRTF's Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

News Article

History was made in Colombia. A presidential ticket with a message of social justice and equality will govern the country for the next four years. An Afro-descendant woman was elected Vice President. Against many predictions, the electoral process took place largely peacefully, with President Iván Duque and fellow candidate Rodolfo Hernández quickly congratulating President elect Gustavo Petro and Vice President elect Francia Márquez, who won by a small but clear margin. In a country with a long history of tragic political violence and deep polarization, this should not be underestimated. But the election marks only the beginning. Time for celebration will undoubtedly be cut short by the monumental human rights, ethnic rights, and humanitarian crises facing the South American nation. 

News Article

Gustavo Petro, a senator and former guerrilla, was elected the country’s first leftist president, galvanizing millions of poor, young, struggling Colombians desperate for someone different. His victory, unthinkable just a generation ago, was the most stunning example yet of how the pandemic has transformed the politics of Latin America. The pandemic hit the economies of this region harder than almost anywhere else in the world, kicking 12 million people out of the middle class in a single year. Across the continent, voters have punished those in power for failing to lift them out of their misery. And the winner has been Latin America’s left, a diverse movement of leaders that could now take a leading role in the hemisphere. 

News Article

Colombia has elected a former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro as president, making him the South American country’s first leftist head of state. Petro’s election marks a tidal shift for Colombia, a country that has never before had a leftist president, and follows similar victories for the left in Peru, Chile and Honduras. During his victory speech, Petro issued a call for unity and extended an olive branch to some of his harshest critics, saying all members of the opposition will be welcomed at the presidential palace “to discuss the problems of Colombia”. Petro’s journey from a fighter in the M-19 guerrilla army in the 80s to president also saw him become a senator and the mayor of the capital, Bogotá. He has a reputation for meandering speeches and high-handedness.

News Article

June 19 is the second and final round of Colombia’s presidential elections. The race has come down to two anti-establishment candidates: populist businessman Rodolfo Hernández, who has little political experience, and leftist Gustavo Petro, whose election would end decades of rightwing leadership. As the polls predicted, Petro won the most votes in both the primaries and first round, but Hernández as the runner-up came as a surprise. Perhaps the most surprising outcome of this year’s election cycle, however, has been Márquez’s meteoric rise. Although she failed to garner enough signatures to run as an independent presidential candidate, her star performance in the Pacto Histórico coalition's primaries secured her spot as Petro's running mate. This Sunday, she could become Colombia’s first Black vice president. An Afro-Colombian environmental activist and lawyer, Márquez is new to politics. Since announcing her candidacy, Márquez has become a rallying point for Colombian activists and youth dissatisfied with the status quo. She is only the second Black woman to run for president in Colombia and campaigned on a platform that challenges the traditional powers in a highly militarized, conservative country. Unlike other presidential candidates, Márquez is from a small majority-Black town in southwest Colombia and doesn’t have a political machine behind her. So she did something that other candidates did not: she appealed to the Colombian diaspora.

News Article

Please see a summary of the letters we sent to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, and (3) bring human rights criminals to justice…..IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

News Article

The first round of the Presidential elections in Colombia was marked by the real possibility of a triumph of the political left, a stalemate in the peace process, the proliferation of armed groups, and growing violence. Gustavo Petro, former senator and former mayor of Bogota, obtained 40 percent of the votes and Rodolfo Hernández, an emerging candidate, came in second with 28 percent. One of the big questions ahead of the second round on June 19 is whether Hernández will be able to capitalize on the 55 percent of voters who did not choose Petro. In this interview, Gimena Sánchez, Director for the Andes at WOLA and Adam Isacson, Director for Defense Oversight at WOLA, discuss the main challenges the new president will face, the risks of electoral violence, and the implications of Colombia’s new political map for the bilateral relationship with the United States.

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