The government’s Reincorporation and Normalization Agency (ARN) announces that, during the period of COVID-19 social distancing, it will continue food and medical assistance for the 2,893 FARC ex-combatants who remain in 24 former demobilization sites (ETCRs). Monthly transfers of 90 percent of minimum wage are to continue through August. Nearly all outside visits to the ETCRs have been suspended by quarantine measures, and most ARN services, like medical consultations and technical training, are being provided virtually or by telephone.
The ELN announces a unilateral ceasefire during the month of April in response to the COVID-19 emergency. The guerrillas’ statement asks the government to send negotiators to Havana to discuss making the ceasefire bilateral.
The Defendamos la Paz movement issues a statement on March 30 hailing the ELN’s decision.
The government’s high commissioner for peace, Miguel Ceballos, turns down the ELN’s demand that local military units pull back to their barracks during the ceasefire.
The government names former ELN leaders Francisco Galán and Felipe Torres “peace promoters”—advisors and possible interlocutors with the guerrilla group. This releases Galán from preventive prison for his alleged role in a 2000 kidnapping, and suspends an arrest order against Torres.
This is the day when Salvatore Mancuso, former top leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary network, is scheduled to have been released from federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. He was extradited to face drug trafficking charges in May 2008. Mancuso, 55, was likely transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention; it is not clear whether he is requesting U.S. asylum or will be returned to Colombia, or whether COVID-19 is delaying his return.
20-year-old Alejandro Carvajal is killed in an “incident,” as the Army calls it, with soldiers accompanying coca eradication in the municipality of Sardinata, in the Catatumbo region. The Catatumbo Campesino Organization (ASCAMCAT) states that Carvajal, the nephew of a local social leader, was killed in his home.
On March 19, the Defense Ministry had pledged to continue manual coca eradication despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ELN hands over three civilian kidnap victims, whom it had held for a month, to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Cauca. On March 18 the ELN handed over a minor to the ICRC in rural Arauca.
Inmates in several Colombian prisons stage protests out of concern for the spread of the COVID-19 virus amid very crowded conditions. In Bogotá’s La Modelo prison, where thousands participate in a protest, authorities claim that guards killed 23 prisoners attempting to escape.
Marco Rivadeneira, a well-known campesino leader who had accompanied peace accord-mandated crop substitution programs in Putumayo, is killed in Puerto Asís municipality. Three men took Rivadeneira from a crop-substitution meeting by force; his body was found shortly afterward.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) accords victim status to the Patriotic Union (UP) political party. The UP was founded during a 1980s peace process with the FARC, as a means to ease the guerrillas’ foreseen entry into civilian life. More than 3,000 of its members were killed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) refuses to admit former top paramilitary leader Carlos Mario Jiménez alias “Macaco,” who was extradited to the United States in 2008 and returned to Colombia in 2019. Macaco’s war crimes, the JEP contends, are already covered by the Justice and Peace transitional justice system set up for the AUC paramilitaries’ 2003-06 demobilization. However, the JEP holds out the possibility that Jiménez might participate in order to be held accountable for crimes he committed as a paramilitary supporter, before he joined the AUC.
On its Twitter account, Colombia’s army briefly creates a reading list called “Opposition,” which includes the accounts of 33 journalists, former guerrillas, politicians, opinion leaders, and non-governmental advocates. The Army apologizes, and either deletes the list or takes it private.
The JEP requires former police general Mauricio Santoyo to stand trial for his role in the 2000 disappearance of two members of the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared (ASFADDES) in Medellín. Santoyo stands accused of working with the paramilitaries who disappeared Claudia Patricia Monsalve and Ángel José Quintero when he was commander of the Medellín Police anti-kidnapping unit. He later went on to be the chief of then-president Álvaro Uribe’s security detail before being extradited to the United States to face drug charges. He was returned to Colombia in 2019.
President Iván Duque meetswith UN Secretary General António Guterres in New York. “A framework agreement has been reached for the UN and its agencies’ [presence] in our country for the 2020-2023 period,” Duque says. The meeting appears to ease some tensions between the government and UN agencies over recent human rights reports and a canceled contract for verifying crop substitution programs.