Colombian President Iván Duque announced the deployment of military forces to put down the protests that have been rocking the country since a national strike was called a month ago. Speaking from violence-torn Cali as some 1,400 soldiers arrived in the city, he said army troops would focus on “nerve centers where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism.” An additional 7,000 troops were sent to break up roadblocks in the local department of Valle del Cauca. “Islands of anarchy cannot exist,” Duque declared. (Photo: Colombia Informa)
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 Medellín—despite police repression that has led to hundreds of detentions. (Photo: Colombia Informa)
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)
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 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)
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)
In an unprecedented ruling, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) found the Colombian state responsible for several extrajudicial executions carried out under the practice of "false positives"—random civilians claimed as guerillas killed in action. The six cases examined took place in the departments of Arauca, Santander and Casanare between 1992 and 1997. Although individual soldiers had been sentenced by the Colombian courts in some of these cases, the Costa Rica-based IACHR ordered the Colombian government to carry out further investigations and prosecutions, provide reparations to the families of the victims, and commit to a "public act of acknowledgement" of responsibility. (Photo: 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)
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)
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 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.