The Andes
Belalc√°zar

Monumental controversy hits Colombia

Local indigenous people toppled the statue of conquistador Sebasti√°n de Belalc√°zar in Popay√°n, capital of Colombia’s southwestern Cauca department. The statue came down 84 years after local authorities had erected it atop Morro de Tulc√°n, a hill that had been a sacred site for the Misak indigenous people. The Movement of Indigenous Authorities of the Southwest¬†issued a statement saying the move to overturn the monument was taken following a decision by traditional elders of the Misak community. Many Colombians have celebrated the toppling of the statue, calling it “historic.” Left-opposition senator Gustavo Petro said, “The monuments to the conquistadors and slaveholders are an insult to the people of Colombia, its indigenous and its Black ethnicity.” Supporters of right-wing President Iv√°n Duque, however, are appalled. Misak leaders report¬†an increase in threats and harassment from National Police troops since the statue was brought down. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: Duque denies ongoing massacres

Amid the relentless and escalating wave of massacres and assassinations in Colombia, President Iv√°n Duque is adopting openly euphemistic terminology in an attempt to downplay the crisis. This week he acknowledged that massacres at various points around the country over the past days had left more than 30 dead‚ÄĒbut refused to call them “massacres.” Visiting Pasto, capital of Nari√Īo department which has been the scene of several recent attacks, he said: “Many people have said, ‘the massacres are returning, the massacres are returning’; first we have to use the precise name‚ÄĒcollective homicides.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes
Abelardo Liz

Colombia: indigenous journalist slain by army

An indigenous journalist was among two killed when army troops were called in to evict a land occupation in Colombia’s southern Cauca region. The lands of three haciendas had been under occupation for months by Nasa indigenous campesinos at El Guan√°bano, Corinto municipality, as part of a land reclamation campaign dubbed “Liberaci√≥n de la Madre Tierra.” The National Police riot squad¬†was first mobilized to clear them, burning their huts and destroying crops. When the occupiers fought back, the army was sent in, and troops opened fire. Abelardo Liz, who was covering the confrontation for Naci√≥n Nasa community radio station, was shot in the abdomen, and died while being rushed to the hospital in Corinto. (Photo via RSF)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: UN protests slaying of rights activists

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the killings of human rights defenders in Colombia last year. The statement said the commission is “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019.” The commission asserted that there were between 107 and 120 killings of rights activists in Colombia over the course of the year. It called on the “Colombian Government to make a strenuous effort to prevent attacks on people defending fundamental rights, to investigate each and every case and to prosecute those responsible for these violations, including instigating or aiding and abetting violations.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes
Cauca blast

War escalating in Colombia’s south

As Colombia’s major cities exploded into protest amid a national strike, a truck-bomb attack targeted a police station in the southern department of Cauca, leaving¬†three officers dead. Authorities blamed¬†the blast in the town of Santander de Quilichao on “dissident” elements of the FARC guerillas who have remained in arms despite the peace accords. The blast came two weeks after Colombia’s defense minister Guillermo Botero¬†resigned amid outrage over an air-strike on a supposed guerilla camp in the neighboring department of Caquet√°, in¬†which several children were revealed to have been¬†killed. (Photo via¬†Colombia Reports)

The Andes
Cauca massacre

‘Genocide’ charges follow Colombia massacre

Indigenous leaders in Colombia are raising accusations of “genocide” following the latest massacre, in which five members of the Nasa people were killed in southwestern Cauca department. Cristina Bautista, a Nasa traditional authority, or neehwesx, was killed along with four members of the Indigenous Guard, an unarmed community self-defense patrol, when they tried to stop a car of gunmen at a checkpoint. Indigenous peoples have been particularly targeted in the ongoing wave of deadly attacks on social leaders across Colombia. The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) names President Ivan Duque as complicit, for his refusal to talk to indigenous authorities, and his opposition to implementation of the peace deal with the FARC rebels. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes

Indigenous target in Colombia human rights crisis

The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the government to effectively protect the lives and physical and cultural integrity of the Nasa indigenous people amid a wave of assassinations in their territory in the southern department of Cauca. The statement noted attacks on members of the Nasa Indigenous Guard over the past 24 hours, in which two were killed‚ÄĒGersain Yatacu√© in the community of Toribio and Enrique G√ľejia in the community of Tacueyo. These brought to 36 the members of the Nasa people killed so far this year, according to Alberto Brunori, the UN human rights officer for Colombia, who¬†said there is now an “alarming situation” in Cauca. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia sliding deeper into internal war

Under pressure to address the ongoing wave of targeted assassinations in Colombia, President Iván Duque for the first time spoke before the National Commission to Guarantee Security, formed by the previous government to address continuing violence in the country—which has only worsened since he took office last year. Duque said 4,000 people are now under the government's protection program for threatened citizens. But his office implied that the narco trade is entirely behind the growing violence. Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez told the meeting: "This great problem is derived from the 200,000 hectares of illicit crops that we have in Colombia." However, it is clear that the narco economy is but part of a greater nexus of forces that fuel the relentless terror—all related to protecting rural land empires and intimidating the peasantry. (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes

Colombia: UN concern over political assassinations

Gilberto Valencia, a young Afro-Colombian cultural worker, became 2019's first casualty of political violence in Colombia, when a gunman opened fire on a New Years party he was attending in his village in Cauca region. As the death toll from around the country mounted over the following weeks, the UN Mission to Colombia  warned President Iván Duque that he must address "the issue of the assassinations of social leaders and human rights defenders." Colombia's official rights watchdog, the Defensoría del Pueblo, acknowledges that there was an assassination on average every two days in the country last year—a total of 172, and a rise of more than 35% over 2017.  (Photo via Caracol Radio)

The Andes

Colombia: Duque sworn in amid terror, massacre

Colombia's newly-elected right-wing President Iván Duque took office pledging to unite the country. As he was sworn in, thousands marched in Bogotá to demand that Duque respect the peace pact with the FARC, and address the ongoing assassination of social leaders—thought to number 400 since the peace deal was signed in November 2016. Exemplifying the depth of the crisis, days before the inauguration armed men opened fire in broad daylight at a pool hall in the town of El Tarra, near the Venezuelan border. Among the slain were at least two demobilized FARC fighters and a local community leader. (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes

Colombia: ‘systematic’ attacks on social leaders

Thousands of Colombians took to the streets July 6 to protest the mounting wave of assassinations of social leaders in the country. The protests and vigils were largely ignored by the country’s political leaders, who have come under international pressure for their failure to respond to the wholesale killing that has claimed the lives of 311 community leaders since 2016. Days after the mobilization, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights issued yet another call for the Colombian government to take urgent measures to call a halt to the ongoing attacks. Opposition leaders charge that the assassinations are a "systematic" campaign, and that authorities must break up resurgent paramilitary networks rather than just arresting individual sicarios (assassins). (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes

Colombia: para terror persists despite ‘peace’

Despite peace accords with the FARC guerillas, remnant right-wing paramilitary forces remain active across Colombia, and are escalating their reign of terror against indigenous and campesino communities. Several families have been displaced from the Afro-Colombian community of Juan Santos since an April attack by a group of gunmen who abducted three residents. In May, three indigenous leaders in Cauca region were assassinated by gunmen who invaded their communities. A leading rights group reports that Colombia has seen a spike in assassinations of social leaders this year. A total of 46 social leaders have been killed so far in 2018, up from 26 in the same period last year. (Photo via Contagio Radio)