Colombia’s National Police announces that it measured 1,321 homicides during the pandemic quarantine period of March 20-May 20, a 34 percent drop from the 2,012 homicide cases measured between those dates in 2019.
Colombia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) issues arrest warrants for 10 mayors, alleging corruption in COVID-19-related contracting. The Comptroller’s office announces that it has detected US$110 million in likely contracting cost overruns, mainly for medical equipment, food, and related coronavirus services.
A court in Nariño orders a halt to virtual online consultations with communities in remote areas to discuss the environmental impact of renewed aerial herbicide eradication of coca. The court was responding to a complaint filed by communities fearful of being fumigated with herbicides without proper consultation. In order to restart the U.S.-backed fumigation program, Colombia’s Constitutional Court had required the environmental licensing agency ANLA to consult with communities on an eradication plan. COVID-19 had made those consultations impossible to carry out in person, so the agency had sought to perform them over internet, even though many of the affected rural communities have little or no internet access. The court’s order may delay the reinitiation of fumigation, originally expected for mid-2020.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) announces that it is taking voluntary testimonies from accused perpetrators via internet, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The Colombian National Protection Unit’s Risk Assessment and Protection Measures Recommendation Committee announces that, for public health reasons, it had suspended meetings to conduct risk assessments and respond to requests for protective measures on March 19.
- 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.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deports a planeload of 64 undocumented Colombian citizens to Bogotá. Twenty-three of them test positive for COVID-19.
- 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. He calls the ELN’s announcement “a good gesture, but late and insufficient,” calling on the group to make the unilateral ceasefire permanent.
- 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.
Colombia’s government declares a national lockdown in an effort to arrest the spread of COVID-19. It creates an emergency fund equal to 2.8% of gross domestic product.
- More than 100 ethnic and rural organizations call on all armed groups to observe a two-week cessation of hostilities in order to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
For public health reasons, President Iván Duque orders the closure of all seven official Colombia-Venezuela border crossings, and deploys 5,000 security-force personnel to guard unofficial crossings.