Bogotá police are caught on mobile phone video issuing repeated taser shocks to 42-year-old lawyer Javier Ordóñez, who dies of blunt-force blows in police custody. The video sparks citywide protests on September 9 and 10, which in turn engender dozens of mobile phone videos of police aggressively attacking civilians. Police kill twelve citizens around the city over those two evenings.
Bogotá Mayor Claudia López says that the police disobeyed her directives, while President Duque dons a police jacket and has his photo taken at a police station. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and other officials blame the uprising, which targeted dozens of neighborhood police posts or CAIs, on a conspiracy of ELN and FARC dissident elements, a claim that is widely disputed. The unrest inspires a weeks-long debate about reforming Colombia’s police, one of few Latin American police forces that remain within a defense ministry.
U.S. authorities decide to deport Salvatore Mancuso, the former maximum head of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary confederation, back to Colombia. Then-president Álvaro Uribe extradited Mancuso and 13 other AUC leaders to the United States in 2008. Mancuso completed his U.S. prison sentence for drug trafficking in January, and has been in ICE immigration custody pending deportation since then.
The decision to deport to Colombia reverses an earlier U.S. intention to deport Mancuso to Italy, as the former paramilitary, a dual citizen of both countries, had requested. Mancuso immediately appeals to remain in the United States under the Convention Against Torture, claiming a fear for his safety if returned to Colombia.
Colombian government errors in requesting the extradition spur speculation in somequarters that the Duque government is reluctant to see Mancuso back in Colombia, where he might further reveal past cooperation between political elites and paramilitaries. Mancuso remains detained in ICE’s detention center in Irwin county, Georgia.
Former president and sitting senator Álvaro Uribe, currently under house arrest as he awaits trial for witness tampering charges, resigns his Senate seat. This shifts the prosecution of his case from the jurisdiction of Colombia’s Supreme Court to that of the Prosecutor-General’s office (Fiscalía).
Five Afro-Colombian teenagers are found brutally tortured and murdered in Cali. According to press reports, they had left their homes that morning to go fly kites. The massacre occurred in Llano Verde, a neighborhood in eastern Cali where the majority of families were forcibly displaced by the armed conflict.
The Llano Verde massacre is one of seven multiple killings in a two-week period across the country, spurring alarm about a return to violence recalling the armed conflict’s most intense years.
An August 17 statement from the UN Mission and UN Country Team in Colombia reports that, so far in 2020, the UN has documented 33 massacres, is following up on reports of 97 killings of human rights defenders, and has verified 41 killings of demobilized ex-combatants.
The Supreme Court orders former President Álvaro Uribe, the most powerful politician in 21st century Colombia, placed under house arrest pending trial for tampering with witnesses. Uribe allegedly urged his lawyers to convince imprisoned former paramilitary members to give false testimony against a political rival, Senator Iván Cepeda. Uribe is confined to his ranch in Córdoba department, where he publishes a tweet falsely blaming his detention on “testimonies against me purchased by the FARC, its new generation, and its allies.”
The JEP declares “precautionary measures” for ex-FARC members among its defendants, who are facing increased security threats. The transitional justice tribunal calls on the High Commissioner for Peace and the Presidential Counselor for Stabilization to convene bodies created by the peace accord to guarantee ex-combatants’ security, among other specific recommendations.
The Truth Commission abruptly cancels a planned event about false positive killings, organized by Maj. Carlos Guillermo Ospina, the Commissioner who is a retired military officer. The decision comes because one of the event’s foreseen panelists was to be Col. Hernán Mejía, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering “false positive” killings and has been released pending trial before the JEP. Col. Mejía is an outspoken figure on Colombia’s political right who denies any responsibility for abuses.
Colombia’s Senate approves the promotion to Major General of Army Chief Gen. Eduardo Zapateiro. All opposition senators boycott the vote, as Zapateiro faces five investigations for alleged corruption and disciplinary violations. Another allegation that has been dropped involved Gen. Zapateiro’s possible involvement in the 1995 disappearance of Jaime Enrique Quintero, father of star soccer player Juan Fernando Quintero.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) releases its annual survey of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia in 2019. It finds that 154,000 hectares of coca were planted in Colombia that year, a decrease of 15,000 hectares from 2018. It estimates that this coca was used to produce 1,137 tons of cocaine, up from 1,120 in 2018.
U.S. and Colombian civil-society organizations release Protect Colombia’s Peace, a joint report calling on the U.S. and Colombian governments to do more to implement the 2016 peace accord and to protect threatened social leaders. “The U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts in Colombia helped pave the way for peace, and this wise investment should not be wasted,” the report advises.
Maximum FARC party leader Rodrigo Londoño repeats the claim, uttered a day earlier by FARC Senator Griselda Lobo, that the guerrilla group did not recruit children as a matter of policy—while also admitting that the FARC’s policy was to accept recruits as young as 15 years old.
The U.S. House of Representatives passes its version of the 2021 Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual bill making adjustments to the law underlying the Pentagon and the U.S. military. It includes two amendments relevant to Colombia. One, proposed by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), requires the Secretary of State to submit a report assessing allegations that U.S. aid to Colombia has been misused for illegal surveillance of civilians, including journalistsa and human rights defenders. A second, introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), places weak limits on U.S. support for aerial herbicide fumigation in coca-growing areas.
Rep. McGovern tellsBusiness Insider, “If it was up to me, I would end security assistance to Colombia right now. Those who are responsible for illegal acts ought to be held accountable.…Clearly that doesn’t happen in Colombia.”
One of the FARC’s five senators, Griselda Lobo Silva alias Sandra Ramírez, is named the second vice-president of the Senate for the chamber’s 2020-21 term. Lobo was the partner of maximum FARC leader Manuel Marulanda, who died in 2008. Ex-president and then-senator Álvaro Uribe praises Lobo for her “coherence.” Two days later, the senator ignites controversy by denying that the FARC recruited minors.
The Rastrojos, a remnant of what had been a larger post-AUC paramilitary group, massacres seven people in rural Tibú, Norte de Santander. The attack displaces 400 people. Meanwhile an armed group’s explosive on the roadside between Cúcuta and Tibú kills two soldiers and wounds eight more. The violence highlights a worsening conflict between the Rastrojos and the ELN for control of border crossings between Colombia (Tibú, Puerto Santander, and Cúcuta municipalities) and Venezuela.
For security reasons, Colombia’s government helps to relocate an entire settlement of demobilized FARC guerrillas from the Román Ruiz post-conflict demobilization site (ETCR) in Ituango, Antioquia, to the neighboring municipality of Mutatá, several hours’ drive away, where the government has rented new land. Twelve members of the ETCR had been killed in the site’s vicinity since the FARC demobilized. The Gulf Clan and Caparros paramilitary groups are active in Ituango, as are dissident members of the FARC’s old 18th Front.
The UN Security Council holds its quarterly review of Colombia’s peace process and the work of the UN Verification Mission. Member states’ representatives voice strong concerns about increased attacks on social leaders and human rights defenders. Cauca-based social leader Clemencia Carabalí, of the Proceso de Comunidades Negras, addresses the session.
Citing testimonies and evidence from contractor personnel, Semana magazine reports that forced manual coca eradication teams may have been inflating and exaggerating their results, measured in land area, by as much as 30 percent.
94 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all Democrats, send a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on the State Department to do more to encourage Colombia to protect social leaders and to “vigorously implement the peace accords.”
An administrative tribunal in Cundinamarca temporarily suspends the activities of the U.S. Security Force Assistance Battalion, which had been on a high-profile advisory and training mission in Colombia since early June. The court finds in favor of 25 Colombian senators who argued that the Constitution requires that they autorize such deployments. The suspension is temporary while the Duque government turns information about the deployment over to the Congress.
Press reports reveal an internal FARC party document recommending reprimands and even expulsions of high-ranking party leaders regarded as divisive and insubordinate to leadership. They include Benedicto González, Jesús Emilio Carvajalino (Andrés París), Ubaldo Enrique Zúñiga (Pablo Atrato) and José Benito Cabrera (Fabián Ramírez). González accuses maximum leader Rodrigo Londoño and other moderate party leaders as “submissive to the state” and favoring multinationals’ involvement in productive projects at excombatant reincorporation sites.
Colombian authorities arrest Ramón Rodríguez Guerrero, a Venezuelan citizen living in Bogotá. While Rodríguez appears to be organizing Venezuelan opponents of the Maduro regime in Bogotá, Colombia alleges that he is a regime spy who has infiltrated the Venezuelan opposition inside Colombia, in order to collect intelligence on them.
Community members in the village of Filoguamo, in Teorama municipality in Norte de Santander’s Catatumbo region, allege that Army soldiers killed social leader Salvador Jaimes Durán. The military’s Vulcano Task Force, which operates in Catatumbo, releases a photo of guerrillas insinuating that Durán was a member of the ELN. The ELN denies it and the guerrillas release a recording of the individual who appeared in the photo.
The joint body for verification of the 2016 peace accord’s implementation (Commission for the Follow-up, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Final Agreement, CSIVI) meets for the first time since May 14. On that date, the FARC delegation boycotted the CSIVI meeting, as did the ambassador from Cuba, after High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos applauded the United States’ addition of Cuba to its list of states not cooperating against terrorism. A subsequent effort to convene the CSIVI, on June 11, fell through.
High Counselor for Stabilization Emilio Archila says that the Colombian government “has never placed in doubt or questioned Cuba’s role as a guarantor country” for the peace talks, and “hopes it will keep exercising that function.” Cuban ambassador José Luis Ponce is a “formal invitee” to the June 26 meeting, at which, the government reports, the CSIVI “defined a calendar of meetings to speed up the work of overseeing implementation.”