Colombia

Colombian coca production in record jump

In unsettling news for the country's peace process with the FARC guerillas, Colombia registered a record-shattering 50% increase in coca-leaf cultivation last year, according to the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The figures, released by UNODC's Integrated Illicit Crops Monitoring System (SIMCI) and reported by Bogotá daily El Tiempo July 14, show 146.000 hectares under coca cultivation in 2016, compared to 96.000 in 2015—actually a 52% jump.

Colombia: still more 'consultas' reject extractivism

More localities in Colombia are formally rejecting mineral and oil exploitation within their territories through popular consultas (consultations, or referenda). Two victories were reported July 9, as "no" votes prevailed overwhelmingly in the municipalities of Arbeláez, Cundinamarca department, and Pijao, Quindío. Celebrations broke out in the streets of Pijao as the results were announced. Mónica Flórez of the local Comité Ecológico said, "We went through the entire municipality, vereda by vereda, so that everyone could understand the importance of going out to vote in this consultation."

Colombia pressured to release FARC prisoners

The United Nations on July 14 charged that Colombia's government is undermining the country's peace process by failing to release imprisoned FARC members and protect disarmed guerillas. In an unusually harsh statement, the UN Mission in Colombia said the government should “act responsibly and swiftly to put an end to a situation that weakens peace building." More than 3,400 FARC members remain in prison six months after the congressional approval of the Amnesty Law and two weeks after the completion of the guerilla army's disarmament. More than 1,400 imprisoned FARC members have gone on hunger strike, demanding the government release them as promised in the peace deal signed on Nov. 24 last year and ratified by Congress shortly after. Only 837 imprisoned FARC members have been released.

Maduro invokes 'Gran Colombia' nostalgia

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro jacked up tensions with neighboring Colombia, telling his counterpart Juan Manuel Santos, "Bow down to me, I am your father" (Inclínate e híncate ante tu padre, soy tu padre). The nationally broadcast statement came after Santos had offered to mediate a resolution to the crisis in Venezuela, where clashes between security forces and opposition protesters have killed more than 70 this year. The violence has also spurred an increase in cross-border migration, mainly from Colombian residents of Venezuela. In rejecting the offer July 6, Maduro insinuated Venezuelan supremacy over its neighbor: "We were a single republic, Colombia was founded here in Orinoco. The people of Guayana are the fathers of Colombia, our grandparents founded Colombia." (Éramos una sola unión de República, Colombia se fundó aquí en el Orinoco, ustedes guayaneses son los padres de Colombia, nuestros abuelos fundaron Colombia.) He then went on to demand obeisance. 

Climate change would 'ravage' Colombia

Colombia's official Institute for Hydrology, Meteorology & Environmental Studies (IDEAM) on June 20 released an "Analysis of Vulnerability and Risk" to the country from climate change. The study predicts a 2.4 C increase in average temperatures over the coming century, from the current 22.2 C to 24.6 C, resulting in more "extreme weather events," especially in the Amazon region, where the disappearing Andean glaciers could mean devastating flooding followed by extended drought. Additionally, the country could lose 50,000 hectares to sea level rise. The island department of San Andres off the Caribbean coast was named as at greatest risk. IDEAM director Omar Franco said climate change "would ravage" (desabastecería) the country. (El Tiempo, June 20)

Colombia: high court upholds indigenous justice

Colombia's Supreme Court of Justice on June 28 nullified an 18-year prison term imposed on one of the country's most renowned indigenous leaders for the detention and flogging of an army soldier who had entered his people's territory in 2008. The ruling ends authorities' 10-year effort to have leader Feliciano Valencia punished for the incident in which indigenous guards of his Nasa people detained, caged and whipped a soldier, according to constitutionally protected indigenous law. The heavily indigenous southern department of Cauca has seen several such incidents in recent years. The decision is seen as a major victory for indigenous autonomy in Colombia.

FARC disarmament completed; para terror goes on

Colombian leaders declared an official completion of the FARC disarmament process in a June 27 ceremony at Mesetas, in Meta department. UN monitors symbolically padlocked the last containers of weapons turned over by the guerillas, as FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño AKA "Timochenko" announced "Farewell to arms, farewall to war!" President Juan Manuel Santos presented Timochenko with a gold-plated shovel made from an old machine gun as a symbol of peace, and a cloud of yellow butterlies was released (a reference to Gabriel García Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude). But the UN special representative for Colombia acknowledged that the "re-integration" of the  10,000 former FARC fighters into society will be difficult. Days after the ceremony at Mesetas, Jean Arnault told the UN Security Council that FARC members have "a deep sense of uncertainty" about their economic future and physical security following their disarmament. (AP, June 30; FT, EFE, June 27)

Colombia: push to resume glyphosate spraying

A new ruling by Colombia's top court may open the way for a resumption of glyphosate spraying to wipe out coca crops, which was suspended in 2015 due to health concerns—in defiance of much pressure from Washington. In the May 25 decision, a two-judge panel of the Constitutional Court did order that the suspension of the fumigation program be continued. But it also ordered the government to conduct a "prior consultation" with campesinocommunities to establish acceptable terms for spraying.

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