The investigative news outlet La Nueva Prensa triggers a political firestorm by revealing audios of a top Duque campaign figure arranging a 2018 vote-buying scheme with José Guillermo Hernández, alias “el Ñeñe,” a large landowner with close organized crime ties who was under investigation for murder when he was killed in Brazil in 2019.
The Army acknowledges that it transported “el Ñeñe” on its aircraft on at least two occasions since 2015.
While on a visit to Putumayo, Colombia’s recently named interior minister, Alicia Arango, makes comments downplaying the severity of attacks on social leaders and human rights defenders. “More people die here from cellphone thefts than for being human rights defenders,” she says. “It sounds like a lie, but we have to defend all Colombians and we have to defend the leaders too, of course, we’re working on that.”
Later, Arango tellsW Radio that she refuses to retract her comments: “I don’t understand why there’s so much scandal when what I want to say is that a lot of people are killed in Colombia.” She adds that “the motive [for the killings] isn’t only that they’re leaders. What happens is that we’re a violent country, dreadful.”
On March 10, networks of human rights defenders boycott a scheduled meeting with Arango in Cauca, the department that has suffered the most murders of human rights defenders and social leaders.
The human rights group Corporación MINGA withdraws its archive from the government’s Center for Historical Memory due to concerns about its director, Darío Acevedo. The materials MINGA took back included 66 boxes, 427 folders, and 31,265 folios of testimonies and documents. Acevedo, who took over the Center in 2019, had made past statements denying the existence of an armed conflict, and in the view of human rights defenders, has been favoring efforts to help military officers and large landowners to tell their stories of victimization.
President Iván Duque makes a hastily planned visit to Washington, where he meets with President Donald Trump at the White House. Asked by a reporter about coca cultivation in Colombia, Trump tells Duque, “Well, you’re going to have to spray. If you don’t spray, you’re not going to get rid of them. So you have to spray, with regard to the drugs in Colombia.” Duque responds, “We have to combine all the elements that we have: obviously, precision spraying, but also the record highs that we reached in 2019 on manual eradication and also dismantling the drug cartels.”