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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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March 1, 2021 to March 22, 2021
Join us Mondays in March for the IRTF-hosted Labor Solidarity Series featuring service workers, farm workers, and industrial workers. We will be amplifying worker stories and pushing organizational initiatives to support our local and international workers during these economic and health crises. We'll feature workers and union organizers from Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the US. See you there!
February 26, 2021
ADISPA is doing critical work to protect the Amazonian Pearl Peasant Reserve Zone (ZRCPA) of Putumayo by promoting reforestation initiatives and denouncing the socio-environmental effects of oil extraction operations. For that reason, powerful groups want them out of the way. The InterChurch Commission of Justice and Peace (CIJP) recently verified a plan by the the armed group Comando de la Frontera (Border Command) to kill or displace members of the Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of the Amazonian Pearl (ADISPA). During the first weeks of 2021, the Comando de la Frontera visited some of the 700 families who live in the ZRCPA to tell them that ADISPA should disappear, and that no social organization that wants to work in the territory could do so if it disobeys their rules. Because of these ongoing threats, we are urging that authorities in Colombia grant members of ADISPA protection measures, in consultation and in agreement with them.
February 14, 2021
This weekend, we honor the Colombian laborers who make many sacrifices to supply the US with 2 out of every 3 flowers. We ask you to take action to show your solidarity with flower workers this weekend. Flower workers, who are largely women in economically vulnerable situations, have reported health issues, mistreatment by management and grueling work hours- up to 22 hours a shift between the Valentine’s and Mother’s Day months. With the signing of the 2011 Labor Action Plan following the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, the United States committed to protecting the rights of flower workers. Yet, almost 10 years later, the promises to workers have been left unfulfilled. Hear from workers about strategies they are implementing to promote their cause of labor rights and justice.
February 14, 2021
Death threats to María Eugenia Mosquera Riascos are part of a larger context of illegal armed groups intimidating members of the human rights community in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca Department. These armed groups, responsible for forced recruitment of youth, are trying to impose their control in the city through fear, various extortionist tactics, and advertising what they call a “social cleansing” in the city. Maria Eugenia Mosquera Riascos is the legal representative of CONPAZCOL (Association of Communities Building Peace in Colombia) and member of the Roundtable for Access to Justice, Victims, Protection and Memory), which participates in the Buenaventura Civic Strike Committee. On January 7, again on January 29 and 30, she received a series of threatening messages on her mobile phone. One threat read: “you have three guys watching you,” and “we are the ones who kill informant toads of those other people.”
February 11, 2021
Social organizations based in the city of Buenaventura, Colombia’s largest Pacific port, have warned of a deteriorating humanitarian situation due to the presence of paramilitary groups and increased violence against residents.
February 7, 2021
Colombia’s largest port city, Buenaventura, saw a 200 percent increase in homicides in January, compared to the same time period last year. The killings are attributed to deep-rooted problems: state abandonment, systemic racism, and a lack of concerted investments in Afro-Colombian communities.
February 5, 2021
Never in more than forty years has the union organization or its members been threatened. Nevertheless, unfortunately we know first-hand the terror that some groups instill to intimidate those who participate in union activity. Just a few weeks ago several leaders of SINTRABRINKS (the union of workers at the Clínica Medellín) received death threats for the third time.”
Colombia: Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and Campesino Communities Outline Peacebuilding Priorities for Biden-Harris Administration
January 25, 2021
On January 21, a coalition of Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and Campesino communities represented by the Inter-Ecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, CIJP) published a statement addressed to the Biden-Harris administration outlining recommendations for peacebuilding priorities in Colombia. The recommendations include: a full commitment to the agreed terms of the 2016 peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), resume peace dialogues with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and advance humanitarian minimums, dismantle illegal armed groups following community input, enforce agrarian reform, implement illicit crop substitution programs, and strengthen rural judicial institutions.
January 24, 2021
Four-year-old María Ángel Molina was recently found dead in rural Colombia, making her one of 18 confirmed cases of femicide this year- with 13 more cases pending verification. Rights groups are concerned about the safety of women and girls, particularly during lockdowns due to coronavirus which forces them indoors with abusive men. Femicide Foundation Colombia, an NGO that provides support for women and tracks gender-based violence, in 2020 confirmed 229 femicides, of which 35 were girls, and is trying to verify a further 260 cases. Horrifying murders of women and girls are not uncommon in Colombia, and are sometimes committed by authority figures. In June 2020, scandal engulfed the military after seven soldiers gang-raped a 13-year-old indigenous girl. “We know that this is not an isolated issue, it is structural,” said Aida Quilcue, at the time a human rights adviser at the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).
January 21, 2021
By the 1980s, the FARC had territorial control of the town of Palestina, Huila Department. Enrique Chimonja says: “what happened was repression and in some way the assassination and extermination of campesino leaders, [putting] a permanent fear in the population.” His own father (Tuliio Enrique Chimonja, age 33) was forcibly disappeared in 1983. “ Tulio Enrique Chimonja is one of many campesinos who lost his life — or in his case, enforced disappearance — for having found himself in the middle of an armed conflict,” Enrique says. Now, Enrique, his family, and other victims are occupying the mechanisms of transitional justice set up after the 2016 Peace Accord between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP to expand their search for truth and justice, and finally find Enrique’s father. Using these institutions, they hope to empower themselves and find closure for the tragedy that has marked their lives for over 30 years. It is not a perfect process, but Chimonja pushes forward anyway in a search for truth and to honor the memory of his father.