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)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a statement calling on the government of Colombia to "take urgent measures" to protect social leaders and human rights defenders in response to the wave of assassinations over recent months. The statement asserted that 22 rights defenders had been killed in Colombia in the first two months of the year, and over 100 more threatened with death. The assassinations come in an atmosphere of violence across much of the country's rural areas, with some 2,500 displaced in recent months. Despite government denials, community leaders insist resurgent paramilitary networks are behind the attacks. (Photo via Contagio Radio)
Colombia's peace process continues to advance, with institutional mechanisms for a post-war order falling into place. But violence in the countryside across Colombia remains at an alarming level, as social leaders are targeted for assassination by paramilitary factions. The ELN guerilla organization—which, unlike the FARC, remains in arms—released a statement noting that January had seen an assassination every day across the country, and charged that rightist paramilitary networks are carrying out a "systematic genocide."
Four armed men attacked the cabildo (town hall) in the indigenous reserve of Pioyá in Colombia's Cauca department, killing Eider Campo Hurtado, a young activist with local media collective Pelsxhab Stéreo. Pioyá's Indigenous Guard mobilized in response to the attack, and apprehended four men said to be members of a renegade FARC faction that has refused to lay down arms and abide by the peace accords. The four are being held by Pioyá indigenous authorities; it is unclear if they will be turned over to state security forces.
Colombia's ELN guerillas carried out a string of attacks in a new offensive aimed at shutting down the South American country, mostly targeting transportation infrastructure. The four-day "armed strike" was called weeks after a ceasefire broke down and days after the government suspended peace talks with the ELN. Bogotá has responded to the campaign by issuing arrest warants for ELN leaders, including two top negotiators at the suspended Quito talks. The new violence has also occasioned the latest inflammation of Colombia's ongoing tensions with Venezuela, as Bogotá's defense minister Luis Carlos Villegas charged migrants from the neighboring country with involvement in the ELN attacks. Caracas, in turn, accused Colombia of preparing a "military invasion." (Photo: Colombia Reports)
Despite the peace process with the FARC rebels, rural unrest persists across Colombia. Recent weeks have seen a wave of peasant strikes across several regions of the country to demand a voice in the peace process for campesino and indigenous communities, and attention to their demands on land restitution and rural development. The National Minga for Life, Territory and Peace was repeatedly attacked by the security forces. (Photo: El Orejiverde)
Colombia's government—under Washington pressure—is pushing ahead with plans to forcibly eradicate 50,000 hectares of coca leaf this year, despite mounting resistance from peasant growers. Violent confrontations between cocaleros and eradication forces are reported across the country. Even "voluntary eradication" is meeting protest, as campesino communities are flooded with National Police troops, in violation of their pacts with the government.
The wave of deadly attacks on social leaders across Colombia persists in spite of the peace process. Human rights group Global Witness, which annually releases a report on the world's most dangerous countries for environmental defenders, this year names Colombia as second only to Brazil. The group counts 37 environmental activists slain in Colombia in 2016, compared to 26 in 2015. In the first six months of 2017, the figure was already up to 22.
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, show 146.000 hectares under coca cultivation in 2016, compared to 96.000 in 2015—actually a 52% jump.
Colombia's Supreme Court nullified a prison term imposed on an indigenous leader for the detention and flogging of an army soldier who had entered his people's territory in 2008.
Campesinos and environmentalists held a national mobilization demanding that Colombia establish a Truth Commission for environmental crimes as part of the peace process.
Hundreds of peasant coca-growers shut down a main highway through southern Colombia to oppose the government's renewed "forced eradication" campaign in the region.