President Duque travels to the embattled Catatumbo region, promising to accelerate investment in the Territorially Focused Development Plans (PDET) foreseen in the peace accord’s first chapter (Rural Reform).
Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez criticizes the peace process, which she opposed, in a forum hosted by Semana magazine. “There’s pressure for implementation of the accord with the FARC,” she says. “An accord, that I would personally say, is semi-failed, even though the government has respected the accord’s institutionally. But the FARC as such, they didn’t keep their commitments to those who believed in them.”
President Duque contradicts Minister Gutierrez, assuring that implementation advances “a little more” every day, and that “peace with legality is going well, it is being executed.”
Stabilization Advisor Emilio Archila says that the government does have concerns about “the pace with which some of the FARC’s obligations are being fulfilled, like information about child combatants and landmines.”
FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño tells El Tiempo that Gutiérrez’s comments are “unfortunate, very unfortunate. I could practically tell you that she is putting a tombstone over us when she says that we haven’t complied.”
A civilian judge sends to preventive prison, pending trial, an Army colonel who allegedly green-lighted the April 22 murder of former FARC combatant Dimar Torres in Catatumbo. “This man should be killed,” Col. Jorge Armando Pérez Amézquita reportedly said of Torres, whose murder by soldiers caused a national outcry. “We can’t stand to see him captured only to get fat in jail.” The corporal who carried out the deed was sentenced to 20 years in prison in late 2019.
Senate President Lidio García raises the possibility that the body might re-visit legislation, foreseen in the peace accord, that would create 16 temporary congressional districts for conflict victims, not political parties. Though legislation to create these districts won a majority of Senate votes in late 2017, the absence of senators from the chamber raised questions about whether a quorum existed. A quorum did exist if one excluded the seats of senators who had been suspended, for corruption or similar reasons, but the legislation was ruled as failing to pass, and the special districts were not created for the 2018 legislative elections. In light of a 2019 Constitutional Court decision on the quorum question, Senator García signals an intention to send the 2017 bill to President Duque as approved legislation. If Duque signs it, the temporary seats for victims, representing 16 conflict zones, would be created.
High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos casts doubt on the temporary congressional districts, contending that the Constitutional Court’s 2019 decision cannot be applied retroactively to a vote that took place in 2017.
Truth Commission President Francisco De Roux says that the Defense Ministry has gone a year without honoring requests for classified files necessary for the elaboration of the Commission’s report. De Roux says he has spent more than a month seeking a meeting with Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, whose order could probably produce the needed files.
The Colombian government sends to the UN Human Rights Council a strongly worded, 20-page statement taking issue with the work of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michael Forst. On December 26, 2019, Forst had published a report that was quite critical of the government’s response to the crisis of killings of social leaders, relying significantly on data from non-governmental sources. The Colombian government had refused to allow Forst to revisit the country for a follow-up visit.
The FARC political party suffers some high-profile defections. Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch citizen who joined the guerrillas in 2002 and was part of the negotiating team in Cuba, left the party “because I’ve had years without feeling in sync with what is decided, discussed, or planned.” Also leaving for political reasons was Martín Batalla, who ran one of the most successful ex-combatant reintegration processes. Neither defector appeared to be taking up arms—just leaving the ex-guerrilla political party.
Hernando Londoño, director of the program implementing the peace accords’ crop substitution commitments (Comprehensive National Program for Illicit Crops, or PNIS), causes a stir by alleging that no leaders of coca substitution efforts have been killed. While dozens of people involved in coca substitution efforts have been murdered, Londoño tells El Espectador, they have not been leaders of coca farmer associations. He goes on to allege that “one or two last year” were killed because they were demanding kickbacks from the payments that coca growers were receiving from the PNIS program. “Those who have been killed were obviously involved in the program,” Londoño went on, “which is regrettable and should not happen, but many cases have to do with the same coca leaf business.”
The U.S. Department of Justice communicates that top former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, who headed the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), will be returned to Colombia on March 27, twelve years after his extradition to the United States. A Colombian judge has determined that Mancuso has already served his required jail time under the “Justice and Peace” process that governed the AUC’s 2003-06 demobilization, though he must continue to cooperate with that process. Mancuso intends to collaborate with the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) because, as a landowner, he supported paramilitary groups for several years before becoming a paramilitary leader.
A delegation from the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor’s Office completes a four-day visit to Colombia. In a statement, the Office “reiterates the importance of the SJP [Special Jurisdiction for Peace, or JEP] and the necessity to maintain its integrity and independence, as well as the need to provide it with the necessary resources and support to carry out its important mandate.”
More than 10 days of fighting between FARC dissident factions and paramilitaries displaces over 3,000 people in Tumaco, Nariño. The dissident factions are the Oliver Sinisterra Front and the Comandante Alfonso Cano Western Bloc, the paramilitary group is called “Los Contadores” (“The Bookkeepers”).
High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos says that Colombia will ask for a delay of its commitment to the Ottawa Landmine Treaty, extending the original goal of demining the country by 2021. This is in part due to an increase in use of landmines by armed groups, with more victims in 2019 than 2018.
The CEO of the International Development Finance Corporation, a U.S. government body that issues loans and loan guarantees, visits Tumaco, the Pacific coast municipality that leads all Colombian municipalities in land area planted with coca. Adam Boehler promises US$5 billion in financing for private development projects, and witnesses a coca eradication operation.