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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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February 25, 2021
Widespread violence continued to impact Colombia’s most vulnerable and marginalised communities and social groups in 2020, according to the annual report on the country by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report also found alarming levels of inequality, with women badly affected, and lack of access to essential services, with some regions lacking clean water and medical care. In many instances, the Colombian state has failed to address security and humanitarian concerns, particularly in regions long impacted by conflict, structural poverty and historic state abandonment. The global pandemic also impacted on the human rights of the population. Among its recommendations, the OHCHR prioritised full implementation of the peace agreement in addressing the endemic violence which has claimed hundreds of lives since late 2016.
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 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 13, 2021
Colombian President Iván Duque on February 8th decreed that all Venezuelans who arrived in the country before January 31 may receive a “Temporary Status for Venezuelan Migrants” (ETPV) allowing them to stay in the country for 10 years, to work legally, and to access health and education services, including COVID-19 vaccines. El Tiempo revealed a February 6 communication that the Cuban embassy in Colombia shared with the Colombian government, the chief of the UN Verification Mission, and two Catholic Church representatives. It reads: “Our embassy received information, whose veracity we cannot assess, about an alleged military attack by the Eastern War Front of the ELN in the coming days. We have shared this information with the ELN peace delegation in Havana, which expressed total ignorance and reiterated the guarantee that it has no involvement in the organization’s military decisions or operations.” In Buenaventura, the port that accounts for 70 percent of Colombia’s import-export activity, a paramilitary-derived gang that briefly dominated criminality in the city, “La Local,” underwent a December schism into two factions, the “Chotas” and the “Espartanos.” Daily street fighting has ensued, leaving much of the city’s 400,000 people in the crossfire. Estimates of the toll so far in 2021 range from 20 to 52 killed, and 112 to 1,700 families displaced.
February 13, 2021
In Buenaventura, the port that accounts for 70 percent of Colombia’s import-export activity, a paramilitary-derived gang that briefly dominated criminality in the city, “La Local,” underwent a December schism into two factions, the “Chotas” and the “Espartanos.” Daily street fighting has ensued, leaving much of the city’s 400,000 people in the crossfire. Estimates of the toll so far in 2021 range from 20 to 52 killed, and 112 to 1,700 families displaced.
Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras: A Pandemic within a Pandemic: Violence in Latin America against Women and the LGBTQ+ Community during COVID-19
February 12, 2021
The Latin America Working Group (based in Washington, DC) has been monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights across the region. This blog is focused specifically on the impact of the pandemic on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. The following are brief summaries that capture the situation for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and to call attention to the lack of support and urgency behind addressing this violence by these governments.
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.