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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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As Fiscal Year 2022 is almost over, we are hearing numbers of 750 or more migrant deaths over the past twelve months. While, tragically, it does still happen that migrants die while being chased by Border Patrol agents or shot when attempting to cross the border, the majority of these deaths are a result of the so-called “prevention through deterrence” strategy that forces people to take on more dangerous routes when traveling up to the southern U.S. border to seek safety. And if they do make it through to the U.S., they are often expelled immediately or put into deportation proceedings, waiting for their hearing in Mexican emergency shelters or U.S. detention centers. Read IRTF's monthly overview of recent updates on U.S. immigration and what has been happening at the border!

News Article

As the Colombian government transitions from the right wing conservative Iván Duque to the leftist Gustavo Petro, the violence and crime holds on. 

WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America), has received reports of a multitude of cases of human rights violations including shootings, assassinations displacements and death threats. On the 12th of September an armed conflict broke out in the Afro-Colombian community in the town of San Miguel, displacing 100s of families, causing power outages and lockdowns. The  Afro-Colombian General Community Council of San Juan (Consejo Comunitario General de San Juan, ACADESAN) calls on the State to defend the human rights of the community and urges the armed groups to respect human rights and laws.

Only 2 days earlier, a hitman killed the secretary of administrative affairs of the Oil Workers Union (Unión Sindical Obrera, USO) Sibares Lamprea Vargas in a drive by shooting.  The Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo) issued an Early Warning Alert, indicating that trade unionists belonging to the USO face danger due to their activities. USO members are frequent targets of death threats intimidation and sabotage in their workplace. 

On September 9th, in Surcre, the female social leader Eva Amaya Vidal was killed in her home. Vidal participated in Sucre government innovation programms and was an example of leadership for other women. An early alert was issued stating that female social leaders are often targets based on their gender. 

The The Afro-Colombian Peace Council (Consejo Nacional de Paz de Afro-Colombianos, CONPA) reports that between July 27 and August 7,  957 male and female leaders as well as human rights activists were assasinatied, 261 signers of the peace accords were killed, and 1,192 people were killed in 313 massacres. Furthermore, the CONPA reports 2,366 death threats, 555 kidnappings and 178 early warnings. CONPA urges the government to declare a state of humanitarian emergency and to seek politically negotiated solutions to the conflicts. 

A full list of the WOLA reports can be found in the article below.   


News Article

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

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

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Colombia's president Gustavo Petro announced the possibility of an "economic emergency" in Colombia due to the upcoming winter season, which could trigger a climate crisis due to the possible increase in rainy activity. 

Previous 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 of updating the risk maps and enable voluntary relocations.


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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 , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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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.