In an unprecedented move, a Colombian judge gave President Ivan Duque 48 hours to suspend the participation of US troops in counternarcotics operations. The legal challenge was brought after 53 soldiers from the Pentagon’s Southern Command arrived as part of a “Security Force Assistance Brigade.” When opposition lawmakers protested that they had not been consulted, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo told Congress he didn’t need their permission. Left-opposition Sen. Ivan Cepeda responded by taking the matter to the Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal. The judge ruled that if Trujillo wants the US troops to continue their operations he must either receive permission from Congress or successfully appeal the ruling within 72 hours. (Photo via Colombia Reports)
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)
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)
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)
Colombia’s voters elected conservative Iván Duque as the country’s president, handing a decisive defeat to leftist candidate Gustavo Petro in a run-off vote. Duque is political protege of ex-president Alvaro Urbe, a bitter opponent of the peace process with the former FARC guerillas, and campaigned on a pledge to revise the peace deal. A popular referendum on overturning the legislation that was passed to implement the peace deal has been broached.
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."
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)
The United Nations condemned the assassination of two demobilized FARC members at an election campaign rally in the central plaza of Peque, a town in Colombia's Antioquia department. The UN Verification Mission noted that this was the first deadly attack within the framework of the 2018 electoral process, in which the FARC is participating as a newly formed political party. According to a December report by the UN mission, 36 demobilized FARC fighters and 13 of their family members have been killed in reprisal attacks since the peace deal with the government took effect in late 2016. The FARC’s presidential candidate and former military commander Rodrigo Londoño said members of the organization "have been the target of constant persecution by armed actors that seek to destabilize the implementation of the peace accords." (Photo: Colombia Reports)
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)
Some 15 civilians were killed and more than 50 were injured when Colombian security forces opened fire during coca eradication operations in a hotly contested incident at a village in the southern region of Nariño. The National Coordinator of Coca, Opium and Marijuana Producers (COCCAM) refutes the authorities' claim that renegade FARC rebels attacked the eradication patrol with improvised explosive devices.
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.