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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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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, El Salvador, Guatemala, 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.

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In his meeting with the United Nations Secretary Antonio Guterres, Columbia's president Gustavo Petro stated his goal to achieve total peace in his country, by restructuring the crime fighting strategy within South American.

Following his visit to the United Nations, Petro held a speech in Queens, stressing the difficulties Columbian emigrates are facing in the United States. 

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Colombias president Gustavo Petro announced the possibility of a economic emergency rises. 

Previously to his statement the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) declared that the rainy season may extend until December, causing floods and landslides. 

Due to the pandemic, the heavy rains are even more likely to cause an economic emergency. 

To prevent a disaster, the president has mentioned the possibility to update the risk maps and enable voluntary relocations.

 

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Gustavo Petro is off to a fast start. In his first two weeks in office, the new Colombian president has already reestablished relations with Venezuela, replaced several top security officials, and moved to restart negotiations with one of the country’s most notorious rebel groups. And, with ambitious tax reforms and climate policies on the docket, he shows no signs of slowing down. Petro’s reform agenda is a chance to steer the country away from poverty, corruption, and a decades-long war on drugs that has led to nearly half a million deaths without putting a dent in coca production. But experts say the impact of these policy shifts could go well beyond Colombia’s borders, offering new approaches for major issues from the international drug trade to the crisis in Venezuela.

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Colombia's new president said Saturday he was suspending arrest warrants and extradition requests for members of the left-wing guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN) in an effort to restart peace talks to end nearly 60 years of war. The announcement is part of a principal campaign promise by newly elected Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 insurgency, who took office on Aug. 7 on pledges to bring "total peace" to the Andean country. "This resolution initiates a new possibility of a peace process in Colombia," Petro said after attending a security council meeting in the province of Bolivar.

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Thousands of Colombians have celebrated in the streets what is hoped to be a “second liberation,” now from neoliberalism, via the ascension of the first left-wing president in the country’s history, Gustavo Petro, together with his vice president, Francia Márquez, to power. A former guerrillero and an Afro-Colombian activist now hold the highest political positions in the country, a turning point in Colombian political history and a key moment for the whole of Latin America. But Petro and Francia will not have much time to celebrate. Huge challenges await them.

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While the US and Colombia are different, the need to reckon with structural racism and its effects on the basic, civil, economic, socio-political rights of ethnic minorities are not dissimilar. The obstacles faced by Afro-descendant and Indigenous persons in both nations share root causes and challenges. Ethnic communities have a strong history of leadership, resistance, resilience, organization, and activism in both countries. Also, the drug and military policies in the US and Colombia that disproportionately negatively affect ethnic communities are interlinked.

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Former right-wing President of Colombia, Ivan Duque, has landed a job at the Washington-based Wilson Center as a “Distinguished Fellow” and Global Advisor” for issues including defense of democracy and climate change, despite his atrocious record on human rights and environmental destruction. Whilst Duque’s supposed democratic credentials are lauded in Washington, Colombia is the most dangerous places in the Americas to be an indigenous or union leader, a situation that has worsened under Duque’s leadership. As of May 2022, the murder of community leaders averaged out at one every two days.  

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