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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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In Jericó, Colombia, farmers and villagers are resisting the construction of a large copper mine by AngloGold Ashanti, fearing it will harm their water supply and agricultural livelihood. The company, seeking to extract significant amounts of copper, gold, and silver, has faced opposition from locals who blocked environmental impact studies necessary for the mining license. The town is divided, with some residents supporting the mine for its economic benefits, including job creation and community investments. Despite these benefits, environmental concerns and potential impacts on local water sources have fueled protests. The project remains stalled, awaiting further environmental studies and government approval.

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Over 700 campesinos in Cartagena del Chairá, Colombia, are restoring 4,762 hectares of degraded rainforest, planting nearly a million trees in a deforestation hotspot. Collaborating with researchers from SINCHI and the Association of Community Action Boards (Asojuntas), they have documented over 600 plant and 100 animal species. This initiative, involving environmental education and restoration activities for all ages, has inspired many youths to pursue environmental careers. Economic pressures previously drove deforestation, but now, communities are actively replanting and protecting the forest, valuing its biodiversity and ecological importance. The restoration project has fostered environmental awareness and a commitment to sustainable development among locals, with a long-term vision of a greener, biodiverse future.

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News articles in this month’s Migrant Justice Update:

(1) See Us. Here Us. #ReuniteUS. (2) ICE Air: Update on Removal Flight Trends. (3) Migration Declining. (4)  At the Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border. (5) Guatemalan Youth Defy Tragedy, Continue Trek to US Despite Familial Losses.  (6) Kidnapping of Migrants and Asylum Seekers at the Texas-Tamaulipas Border Reaches Intolerable Levels.  (7) President-elect of Panama pledges to close the Darién Gap.  (8) Trans & Nonbinary Migrants File Complaint Over Treatment at ICE Detention Facility in Colorado

TAKE ACTION items:

(A) Migrant Families in Cleveland Need Household Items. (B) Root Causes: Cut US Militarism in Latin America. (C) Root Causes: Stop Deportation Flights to Haiti. (D) Root Causes: Redesignate TPS for Nicaraguans. (E) Support Migrants in Detention.

 

Immigration enforcement continues to be top of mind for many in the US electorate. We’re likely to see the two presidential candidates duke it out on who pledges to be tougher on immigration.

With changes in presidential administrations in two of the countries that the US sees as crucial partners in stemming migration (Panama and Mexico), it’ll be interesting to see how things unfold over the next several months leading up to the US elections on November 5.

In Panama, conservative José Raúl Mulino was elected on May 5 and will be sworn in on July 1. He has  pledged to close down the treacherous Darién Gap, through which more than a half a million migrants crossed last year. “The border of the United States, instead of being in Texas, moved to Panama.” He also pledged to “repatriate all these people.”

In Mexico, a new president will be elected on June 2 and inaugurated on October 1. The Biden Administration has worked closely with the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to stem the steady streams of immigration into Mexico headed toward the US southern border.  Mexico has been cracking down on migrants at the Guatemala border and within its borders.  Mexico’s migration enforcement set a record in November 2023 with 97,969 apprehensions, only to break that record in January 2024 (120,005 apprehensions) followed by a short dip in February (119,943). And the Mexican government is busing migrants away from its northern border and sending them to destinations deep in the country’s interior or back to the southern border.  The large numbers of people currently bottled up throughout Mexico is causing harm to migrants and is unsustainable.

The next administration in the US will face political challenges with respect to border enforcement. Thousands of migrants currently in Mexico will likely try to head north again—not to mention the thousands yet to depart their home countries. Migrant justice advocates in the US continue to stress the urgent need for an increase in funding for the asylum process and efficient adjudication of those cases. The system dedicates fewer than 725 judges to a backlog of 3 million cases. The US government needs to invest in an immigration and asylum system that is faster, fairer, more humane, and sustainable.

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At the end of its seventh year, the implementation of the 2016 Colombian Peace Accord is at a critical midpoint. A new report from the Peace Accords Matrix (PAM) at the Keough School of Global Affairs’ Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies details the current status of the accord's implementation, highlighting progress and challenges as the peace process enters the second half of its 15-year plan.

The eighth comprehensive report, “Seven Years of Final Accord Implementation: Perspectives to Strengthen Peacebuilding at the Halfway Point,” covers December 2022 to November 2023, using quantitative and qualitative data to assess the implementation of all 578 stipulations in the agreement.

Key events during this period include the government's focus on the Total Peace policy, aimed at negotiating with illegal armed actors for sustainable peace, and the regional elections in October 2023, along with the adoption of the National Development Plan (PND) 2022–2026.

Data reveals that 10% of stipulations have not started, 39% are minimally implemented, 19% are at an intermediate stage, and 32% are completed. Most points in the agreement saw changes in implementation levels, except for the Problem of Illicit Drugs. Integral Rural Reform (Point 1) and Verification and Monitoring Mechanisms (Point 6) were particularly dynamic but remain among the least implemented.

Although implementation has continued over the past seven years, progress has been slow since 2019. This trend saw a slight improvement in 2023, with 2% of stipulations initiating implementation, up from 1% in 2022.

Effective peace agreements maintain momentum early and mid-term. However, there is concern about completing the remaining 49% of commitments within the 15-year deadline. The disparity in implementation levels is partly due to the complexity of reforms and partly to ineffective or incomplete implementation, particularly in gender, ethnic, and territorial integration.

The report concludes with recommendations for strengthening the implementation process, including transparent execution of the PND, convening the Peace Cabinet, and reviewing the Framework Plan for Implementation. The Kroc Institute has also produced a policy brief summarizing key points and released several prior reports on various aspects of the peace process.

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In Colombia, violence against social activists, trade unionists, and former guerrillas persisted throughout April 2024, adding to a grim tally since the start of the year: 59 activists and ten former FARC members in the peace process have been killed, alongside 21 documented massacres. Despite government efforts to engage in dialogue with armed groups, the scale of the human rights crisis remains daunting.

Key incidents in April include:

  • 1 April: Ever Albeiro Espí Hernández, president of a community council in Arauca, was murdered, marking the 40th activist killing in 2024.
  • 5 April: Explosions in Cauca and the forced confinement of indigenous families in Buenaventura due to armed groups' presence.
  • 7 April: Five people killed in a bar in Valle del Cauca, and a Conservative Party councillor murdered in Caldas.
  • 9 April: A councillor from an indigenous political party was abducted in La Guajira.
  • 13-14 April: A massacre in Cucuta, followed by the killing of lawyer Jaime Alonso Vásquez.
  • 15 April: Youth worker Yoiner Gómez Burbano was murdered in Cauca.
  • 17 April: Former FARC member Carlos Garzón Noscue was killed in Putumayo, and LGBTQ activist Manuel José Bermúdez's body was found in Antioquia.
  • 19 April: Two Attorney General's Office employees were abducted in Cauca, and activists Carlos Arturo Londoño and Clarivet Ocampo were killed in Valle del Cauca.
  • 20 April: A massacre in Antioquia, the killing of community activist Zayra Enciso Gómez, and the murder of teacher trade unionist Luis Alfredo Leones Álvarez.
  • 21 April: Community activist Narciso Beleño was killed by Gulf Clan paramilitaries in South Bolivar.
  • 25 April: Youth worker Yarlinton Robledo Rentería and social activist Robinson Franco were murdered.
  • 27-30 April: Several killings, including political candidate John Freddy Gil Franco and social activist Antonio Montañéz Villazana in Arauca.

These events underscore the ongoing and severe human rights challenges in Colombia, with numerous activists and former combatants being targeted despite peace efforts.

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  • An Indigenous woman from the Inga community in the Condagua reservation in Putumayo, Colombia, is leading the struggle against a Canadian mining company that plans to mine the community’s sacred mountains for copper and molybdenum.
  • Within Soraida Chindoy’s territory is the Doña Juana-Chimayoy páramo, where eight rivers have their source and where there are 56 lagoons. The site, where the Amazon rainforest and the Andes meet, is sacred to the Indigenous population.
  • Her campaign against mining was borne of tragedy.

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