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)
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 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—Gersain Yatacué in the community of Toribio and Enrique Güejia 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)
Following up on his pledge to address the matter within 30 days of taking office, Colombia's new right-wing President Iván Duque spoke about his conditions for resuming his predecessor's peace dialogue with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country's last significant guerilla group that remains in arms. Duque listed three conditions: the concentration of guerilla fighters in pre-determined areas (akin to the "concentration zones" used in the FARC demobilization), the liberation of all captives held by the guerillas, and a firm time-table for the dialogue process. The president spoke days after the ELN freed three soldiers who had been taken captive the same week Duque was inaugurated last month in Arauca department. But some 20 other captives remain in the guerillas' hands, including six soldiers who were also seized a month ago in Chocó department. (Photo: Colombia Reports)
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)
The US Congress approved a $390 million aid package for Colombia, despite efforts by President Trump to have it slashed. The package includes large sums slated for human rights training and aid to the displaced, with some advocates hailing it as a boost to Colombia's peace process. But despite moves toward peace, paramilitary terror against peasant and indigenous communities continues across the country. Bogotá's central Plaza Bolívar has seen an ongoing protest vigil against the wave of assassinations, demanding that measures against the paramilitary networks be included as part of the peace process. The International Court of Justice has meanwhile opened an investigation into several Colombian military officers and generals over thousands of extrajudicial executions. (Photo: ELN Voces)
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."
Colombia’s government is under pressure from both the United Nations and impacted communities in the conflict zones to rebuild a ceasefire with the ELN guerillas and return to the dialogue table. As a 100-day ceasefire ran out, ELN fighters attacked the Caño Limón oil pipeline, forcing a suspension of pumping operations. The guerillas also attacked a military base in Arauca department. President Juan Manuel Santos responded by recalling his peace negotiator from Quito, where a fifth round of talks with the ELN was set to begin. The ELN peace delegation reacted in a statement, pledging: “We maintain our determination, previously expressed, to agree on a new bilateral ceasefire.” (Photo: Colombia Reports)
After all-night negotiations with protest leaders in Colombia's Pacific port of Buenaventura, government representatives pledged to invest $517 million in local infrastructure.
Following days of protests, Colombia's largest port city of Buenaventura exploded into violence as police opened fire on demonstrators, leaving one dead and many wounded.
Even as the FARC guerillas begin the disarmament process under Colombia's peace plan, the ongoing wave of deadly violence against social leaders remains unrelenting.
Under UN oversight, the FARC guerillas began the process of turning over their weapons at the 26 "transitional camps" established for the purpose around the country.