The Human Rights Ombudsman’s office (Defensoría) issues an “early warning” alert about armed groups’ activities during the COVID-19 emergency. Between March 23 and April 27, the agency documents 72 threats or other violent acts that groups have justified by claiming enforcement of public health measures. It documents ten cases in which armed groups killed people for violating the quarantine rules that they had put in place. Of 41 violent acts, the Defensoría finds FARC dissidents responsible for 14, the ELN for 11, neo-paramilitary groups 6, the EPL 2, and the rest other organized crime groups or unknown armed actors.
Citing their vulnerability to COVID-19 while imprisoned, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) orders house arrest for 25 people accused of committing war crimes while serving in the security forces. On April 22, the JEP’s Legal Situations Chamber denied release to two former senior officers, Colonels Joaquín Correa López y Jorge Eliécer Plazas Acevedo, both over 60 years old. The JEP mandated that they be granted humanitarian protective measures while detained.
The ELN’s one-month unilateral ceasefire comes to an end. ELN negotiators who have been in Havana since talks broke down in January 2019 reiterate a demand that they be allowed to leave Cuba and re-enter Colombia. The Colombian think-tank CERAC, which maintains a database of conflict events, reports that it could not verifiably document a single offensive action by the ELN during this period, or indeed since March 12, 2020. It does note a few ELN aggressions during this period, but cannot state clearly whether the guerrilla group was the first to act in any of the cases.
Responding to a proposal by governing-party congressman Edward Rodríguez, High Commissioner for Stabilization and Consolidation Emilio Archila says that the government has no intention to take funds intended for peace accord implementation and divert them to COVID-19 public health needs.
Gunmen massacre social leader Álvaro Narváez and three members of his family at their home in rural Mercaderes, Cauca.
A presidential decree lowers judicial penalties to members of criminal groups who agree to demobilize peacefully and submit to the High Commissioner for Peace.
It does not apply to the ELN, whose “political character” the state recognizes, making benefits available to individual ELN deserters. It applies instead to FARC dissident groups, the Gulf Clan and Caparros neo-paramilitary groups, and the Pelusos or EPL. These are the groups that, according to the government, meet the Geneva Conventions Protocol II definition of those “which, under responsible command, exercise such control over a part of its territory as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations.”
The ELN announces that it will not renew the one-month unilateral ceasefire that it declared for April, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was unfortunate that the Duque government did not respond in a reciprocal manner,” reads the guerrilla communiqué. The ELN missive calls for its negotiators to be allowed to leave Cuba, where they have been since peace talks broke down in January 2019, and re-enter Colombia as agreed in the talks’ protocols.
“We think there’s an enormous lack of harmony between the ELN’s leaders. Two have made declarations, one in Cuba and one is in Venezuela,” says High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos. “It would seem that they don’t have good contact with their organization’s members and they seem disconnected with the reality that needs non-violent action.”
Earlier in the day, the UN Mission in Colombia had called on the ELN to prolong the ceasefire.
CERAC, a Bogotá think-tank that monitors security, measured no ELN offensive actions during April.
Congressional representatives from the governing Centro Democrático party propose to divert planned peace accord spending into COVID-19 relief efforts. The Duque administration does not agree.
The JEP amnesties Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, three alleged members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who had fled Colombia in 2004 while appealing a sentence for teaching FARC members how to build improvised bombs. The JEP finds that the men had committed an amnistiable political crime.
The Defense Ministry agrees to transfer 100 billion pesos (about US$30 million) from planned weapons purchases to pandemic public health needs. The idea was first proposed by opposition Senator Iván Cepeda.
From Cuba, ELN leader Pablo Beltrán insists that the guerrillas remain willing to re-start negotiations, and have enough “internal cohesion” to sustain talks. Beltrán had led the ELN’s negotiating team until talks collapsed in January 2019.
Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo says that the government is forging ahead in the fulfillment of Constitutional Court-mandated requirements for the re-starting of aerial herbicide fumigation in coca-growing zones.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) and Ministry of Justice submit an extradition request to the United States for Salvatore Mancuso, the former maximum leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group. The government of Álvaro Uribe extradited Mancuso and 13 other paramilitary leaders to the United States to face drug-trafficking charges in 2008; Mancuso is about to complete his U.S. sentence.
Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Minister Margarita Cabello announces that about 4,000 prisoners will be released from the nation’s prisons in order to practice social distancing under house arrest.
Eight members of the “Carlos Patiño Front” FARC dissident group are reported dead in Argelia, Cauca, following combat with the Army.
Maximum ELN leader Nicolas Rodriguez alias “Gabino” sends a message calling on the armed forces to join in a bilateral ceasefire. The group had declared a unilateral ceasefire for the month of April, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecutor-General Carlos Barbosa says that the COVID-19-related prison protests of March 21, which led to guards killing 23 prisoners that night, were instigated by the ELN and by FARC dissident leader Henry Castellanos alias “Romaña,” who is part of the “Nueva Marquetalia” group led by former chief negotiator Iván Márquez. “Romaña” was known during the conflict as a hardliner who pioneered the practice of ransom kidnappings along roads on Bogotá’s outskirts.
Police capture Abel Antonio Loaiza Quiñonez, alias “Azul”, whom the Prosecutor-General’s Office holds responsible for the killing and forced displacement of 11 social leaders and former FARC combatants in Putumayo, mainly in Puerto Guzmán municipality. “Azul,” allegedly a member of a local FARC dissident group, was instrumental in a string of rural social leader killings that the magazine Semana called “the caravan of death.”
Combat between the ELN and the Gulf Clan in rural Bojayá, Chocó, which began on March 28, forces the displacement of 193 indigenous people. 393 more people displace less than two weeks later.