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.
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.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and Colombia’s National Police release their estimates of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia in 2019. The report finds a 9 percent reduction in coca-growing from 2018 to 2019, from 169,000 hectares to 154,000 hectares, but a 1.9 percent increase in cocaine production, to an estimated 1,137 metric tons of pure cocaine. Coca cultivation decreases most in Caquetá, Antioquia, Nariño, Bolívar, and Putumayo, while increasing in Norte de Santander and Valle del Cauca.
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.
- President Iván Duque meets with 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.
- Michel Forst, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, presents his report on Colombia to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Forst had a difficult relationship with the Duque government, which prevented him from traveling to the country in 2019 to do follow-up work on his preliminary findings.
- The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) releases its annual report on the human rights situation in Colombia. It includes criticisms of the government’s implementation of the peace accord’s rural governance provisions and protections of social leaders, while documenting abuses committed by the security forces.
- President Iván Duque criticizes “imprecisions,” adding that the report’s recommendation that the National Police pass from the Defense Ministry to the Interior Ministry is an “infringement of sovereignty.” High Counselor for Stabilization Emilio Archila calls the report a “blunder” (chambonada).
- At a February 27 UN Human Rights Council meeting to review the report, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expresses grave concern about Colombia’s human rights situation. Colombian government representatives regret that the UN High Commissioner’s Office “missed the opportunity to produce a complete, balanced, comprehensive, and updated report that reflects precisely Colombia’s complex reality, and takes into account the precise context in which that reality happens.”
- The “Defendamos la Paz” coalition releases a statement backing the UN agency.
- News emerges that, at some point in recent weeks, the Colombian government terminated its contract with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to monitor and verify the crop-substitution effort carried out under chapter 4 of the peace accord.
- In a thorough February 4 report, UNODC found high levels of compliance with the crop substitution program, with very little re-planting of coca despite delays in government compliance with commitments.
- The Colombian government sends to the UN Human Rights Council a strongly worded, 20-page statement taking issue with the work of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michael Forst. On December 26, 2019, Forst had published a report that was quite critical of the government’s response to the crisis of killings of social leaders, relying significantly on data from non-governmental sources. The Colombian government had refused to allow Forst to revisit the country for a follow-up visit.
- In Puerto Guzmán, Putumayo, Jordan Tovar becomes the 17th social leader murdered in Colombia during the first 14 days of 2020.
- A statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights offers grim numbers, which contradict the Colombian Presidency’s earlier claims of a 25 percent reduction in social leader killings during 2019. The UN agency’s 2020 count is smaller because it doesn’t count fully verified killings.
We are deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019. According to our records, 107 activists were killed last year, and our staff in Colombia are still in the process of verifying 13 additional cases reported during 2019 which, if confirmed, would raise the annual total to 120 killings. Attacks on human rights defenders had already intensified during 2018, when 115 killings were confirmed by the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia. And this terrible trend is showing no let-up in 2020, with at least 10 human rights defenders already reportedly killed during the first 13 days of January.
- UN Verification Mission Head Carlos Ruiz Massieu presents the Mission’s latest findings to the UN Security Council. “It is urgent,” Ruiz Massieu says, that the parties establish and implement “a public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups, criminal structures and their support networks through the National Commission on Security Guarantees,” as foreseen in the peace accord.
- President Duque meets with UN Verification Mission Head Carlos Ruiz Massieu to go over the Mission’s findings, as documented in the Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council. Duque calls on the Mission to extend its mandate to 2022. It is currently set to expire at the end of 2020.
- Ruiz Massieu says that although “very important advances” had been made in the accord’s implementation, it faced “great challenges.”
- A FARC communiqué rejects President Duque’s claims, following his meeting with Ruiz Massieu, that the government has made significant advances in implementing the peace accord. The process “is going through a critical moment,” according to the ex-guerrillas, who called on the UN verification to exercise “greater neutrality.” The FARC called out the government for referring at all moments to its own “peace with legality” policy instead of to the peace accord.