For 48 hours Feb. 21-2, hundreds of peasant coca-growers shut down the main highway between the southern Colombian cities of Tumaco and Pasto. The feared anti-riot force, the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD), was finally called in to clear the roadway, using tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up the estimated 1,200 cocaleros. But the highway was repeatedly re-taken by the protesters. The action was called by the newly-formed National Coordinator of Coca, Opium and Marijuana Producers (COCCAM) to oppose the government's renewed "forced eradication" of coca crops in Tumaco municipality. COCCAM called the resumption of forced eradication in the area a betrayal of government commitments under the recent peace accords with the FARC guerilla movement. (Contagio Radio, Feb. 23)
Transcripts of conversations between the highest leaders of the FARC guerillas were revealed by Colombian media Feb. 15 after being intercepted by the Armed Forces. The transcripts reveal dialogues between the FARC’s peace delegation in Havana, Cuba and the guerrilla group’s highest military commander Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry AKA "Timochenko." Colombia’s military intelligence was able to access the conversations after breaking through their encrypted codes protecting their communication mediums. Colombia's Blu Radio station gained access to the transcripts. A scandal over sying on the peace delegations has forced the dismissal of four top military commanders.
Two gunmen described as sicarios (hired assassins) killed Juan Álvaro Pai, a traditional governor of the Awá indigenous people, in an incursion into the resguardo (reserve) Inda Guacaray, in Colombia's southern Nariño department, Nov. 30. The gunmen arrived in the resguardo on a motorcycle, immediately made for Pai's home, and upon finding him fired six bullets into his body. Víctor Gallo, mayor of local Tumaco municipality, demanded that the Fiscalía (public prosecutor) and National Police open an urgent investigation, protesting the atmosphere of "impunity" that allows aggression against the Awá. In early July, Awá held a public demonstration, blocking the Pan-American Highway for a week, to protest the violence directed against their communities by various armed actors in Colombia's civil war.
Colombian campesinos on Sept. 10 ended their national strike after more than two weeks, and lifted the road blockades they were still maintaining, chiefly in Cauca, Nariño, Putumayo and elsewhere in the south of the country. The organization coordinating the strike in this region, the National Agricultural and Popular Table of Dialogue and Accord (MIA), agreed to recognize a pact already won in talks between the government and campesino organizations in Boyacá, Cundinamarca and elsewhere in the central region of the country. United Nations observers who had been brought in for the dialogue process confirmed that all protest roadblocks had been dismantled. (EFE, Sept. 11; El Tiempo, Bogotá, Sept. 7)
Colombia's campesinos, miners, truckers and other sectors launched a nationwide strike Aug. 19, with clashes reported as strikers launched roadblocks and President Juan Manuel Santos deployed elite National Police units. Central arteries were blocked in Boyacá, Nariño and Putumayo departments. In the town of Segovia, Antioquia, hundreds of protesters reportedly threw firebombs and tried to burn the police station, leaving six officers injured. Authorities say the strike has affected 12 of Colombia's 32 departments, but press accounts have put the number as high as 28.
After tense negotiations, the Red Cross transported to safety Feb. 15 two Colombian National Police agents being held by the FARC guerillas since Jan. 25. The release had been delayed due to large groups of journalists in the vicinity of the drop-off point according to leader of Colombians for Peace (CCP), Piedad Cordoba, who helped broker the negotiations. The armed forces had ceased military activity around Miranda in the southwest Cauca department to provide safe passage for the Red Cross. The humanitarian mission will next fly to Pasto to secure the release of a soldier captured by the FARC on Jan. 31 during clashes in southern Nariño department. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 14)
An open letter from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) Nov. 22 outlined an "Indigenous and Popular Peace Proposal" that they are demanding be taken up at the talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels now underway in Havana. The proposal stresses issues not on the agenda at Havana, including the territorial autonomy and traditional authority of Colombia's indigenous peoples. Indigenous leaders will convene a meeting next month to advance the proposal and press demands for openinig the peace process to popular participation. The meeting will be held at the village of La María de Piendamó, Cauca department, which has been declared a "territory of peace and dialogue."
A landmine believed to have been placed by FARC guerillas exploded Aug. 15, killing an indigenous man and two workers who were repairing an power pylon that had been knocked down last week in an attack also attributed to the guerrillas in a rural area of Tumaco municipality of southwest Colombia's Nariño department. The indigenous man was a member of the Awá people who had been hired as a guide by the Central Naraño Electric company. Tumaco, a city of some 170,000, has been without electricity for five days due to attacks on pylons. (EFE, Aug. 15) One week earlier, Embera and other indigenous peoples up the Pacific coast in Chocó reported that their communities had come under aerial bombardment by army helicopters in the Alto Andágueda area. A statement from the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Chocó (OREWA) said some 360 families, comprising about 1,500 people, were forced to flee the villages of La Palma, Masura, Unipa and Santa Isabel. No casualties were reported, but the statement said the displaced families were "constantly menaced" by forced of the national army, FARC and ELN guerillas. (OREWA, Aug. 6)