The Andes
Arauca

Multi-sided warfare across Colombia

Despite a peace process that has faltered under President Ivan Duque, the internal war in Colombia continues nearly across the country—now involving multiple armed actors: remnant guerilla groups, resurgent paramilitary forces, regional cartels, and the official security forces. Thousands have been displaced in recent months, as campesino and indigenous communities are either caught in the crossfire or explicitly targeted. (Photo: INDEPAZ via Contagio Radio)

The Andes
colombiahr

Protest closing of ICC Colombia investigation

A coalition of Colombian human rights groups and survivors’ organizations released a statement decrying as “shocking” the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to close its preliminary examination of possible war crimes carried out in the country. The statement, jointly issued by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the JosĂ© Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR), said that closure of the examination “could mean that hundreds or thousands of victims of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC will be deprived of knowing the truth and obtaining justice concerning the crimes committed. In Colombia…there is still a systematic absence of investigation of those responsible at the highest levels for crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC.” (Photo: Prensa Rural)

The Andes
Francia-Petro

Colombia: pending presidency ‘between two populisms’

Following a first round of presidential elections, “between two populisms” is the catchphrase being used by Colombia’s media for an unprecedented moment. A pair of political “outsiders” are to face each other in the run-off: Gustavo Petro, a former guerilla leader and Colombia’s first leftist presidential contender, versus Rodolfo Hernández, a construction magnate whose pugnacious swagger inevitably invites comparison to Donald Trump. Hernández, an independent candidate and the former mayor of Bucaramanga, rose precipitously in an ostensibly anti-establishment campaign driven by social media, winning him the epithet “King of TikTok.” But Colombia’s political establishment is now lining up behind him to defeat Petro. The former mayor of Bogotá and a veteran of the demobilized M-19 guerillas, Petro is the candidate of a new progressive coalition, Colombia Humana, emphasizing multiculturalism and ecology as well as more traditional social justice demands. (Photo via Twitter)

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paramilitaries

Colombia: inactive guerillas join active paras off US terror list

The US State Department announced that Colombia’s disbanded FARC guerilla army has been removed from the list of “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” The statement acknowledged that the FARC “no longer exists as a unified organization.” In fact, the de-listing came on the fifth anniversary of the peace agreement under which the FARC agreed to demobilize. However, the right-wing paramilitary groups now active across the country are still not listed by the State Department. These paramilitary forces are overwhelmingly behind the ongoing campaign of assassinations of social leaders across Colombia.  (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes
paro

Colombia: gunmen fire on indigenous protesters

Colombian President Iván Duque flew to Cali in the middle of the night after street clashes in the southwestern city left several indigenous protesters injured. Amid a national strikesparked by Duque’s proposed burdensome tax reform, some 5,000 indigenous activists from the nearby administrative department of Cauca had been holding a “Minga,” or protest gathering, on the outskirts of Cali, when unknown gunmen in civilian dress arrived in a pickup truck and opened fire. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reported that at least 10 activists were wounded, and that the gunmen were intermingled and cooperating with uniformed police. Bogotá has also seen days of street fighting, while an ongoing street festival, with music and dancing, is being maintained by strike supporters in MedellĂ­n—despite police repression that has led to hundreds of detentions. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

The Andes
Cauca

Massacres, assassinations continue in Colombia

Police killed at least eight people in Colombia’s southwestern city of Cali, amid national protests against President Iván Duque’s proposed reform of the tax code. Clashes between police and protesters also took place in Bogotá, Medellin and other cities. In response to the protest wave, Duque said he would revise his proposed reform, and that new taxes on sales of food and gasoline would be dropped. The protests come as political violence is escalating nearly across Colombia, but especially the southwest. Amid the violence, a locally-organized “Caravan for Peace” is making its way through the region, calling for a dialogue with armed actors and civil society to arrive at a new “Pact for Life & Peace,” addresing needs for security, land, and economic sustenance. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

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paramilitaries

UN rights chief warns of heightened violence in Colombia

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged state authorities in Colombia to respond to heightened violence with concrete action and stronger protection. According to the UN Human Rights Office, 375 killings have been recorded in Colombia thus far in 2020. Of these killings, 255 people were slain in 66 massacres, and 120 human rights defenders have also been killed. What is more, since Colombia’s peace agreement was signed in November 2016, a total of 244 demobilized FARC fighters have been slain. The killings continue to be committed “by non-state armed groups, criminal groups and other armed elements,” moslty in remote areas of Colombia, and particularly targeting “peasants, indigenous and Afro-Colombian people.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes
Minga

Colombia: indigenous ‘minga’ marches on Bogotá

Some 10,000 participated in a cross-country march and motorcade through Colombia’s southern Andes, dubbed the “Minga for Life, Territory, Democracy and Peace,” culminating in a mass demonstration in Bogotá. Called by Nasa and Guambiano indigenous leaders in the southern department of Cauca, the Minga (a traditional Andean word for “collective labor”) was joined by Afro-Colombian and mestizo campesino communities in its 10-day trek to the capital. Chief among the marchers’ grievances is the ongoing wave of assassinations of social leaders by illegal armed groups operating on indigenous lands. They charge that their communities have been betrayed by President Iván Duque’s failure to fully implement terms of the peace accords with the demobilized FARC guerillas. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

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Belalcázar

Monumental controversy hits Colombia

Local indigenous people toppled the statue of conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in Popayán, capital of Colombia’s southwestern Cauca department. The statue came down 84 years after local authorities had erected it atop Morro de Tulcán, 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 Iván 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 Iván 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—but refused to call them “massacres.” Visiting Pasto, capital of Nariño 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—collective 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 Guanábano, Corinto municipality, as part of a land reclamation campaign dubbed “LiberaciĂłn 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 NaciĂłn 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)