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.
A chronology of events related to peace, security, and human rights in Colombia.
July 15, 2020
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.
July 14, 2020
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.
July 12, 2020
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.
July 7, 2020
Colombia’s government rejects an ELN call for a bilateral ceasefire, which did not specifically address kidnapping, extortion, or other illegal non-combat activity.
July 6, 2020
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.”
July 2, 2020
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.
June 29, 2020
June 29, 2020
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.
June 28, 2020
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.
June 27, 2020
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.
June 26, 2020
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.”
June 26, 2020
Assassins kill indigenous leader Luz Miriam Vargas Castaño at the Avirama reserve in Paez, Cauca. She is the third social leader killed in a 48-hour period in Colombia. Gunmen kidnapped and killed the indigenous governor of Agua Clara, Bajo Baudó, Chocó, and kill social leader Yoanny Yeffer Vanegas Cardona in San José del Guaviare, Guaviare.
June 22, 2020
Embera indigenous community leaders in Pueblo Rico, Risaralda, denounce that a group of soldiers raped a 12-year-old girl. The Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalia) reports that seven soldiers have pleaded guilty, but 25 more “may have had knowledge of this act.” President Duque promises, “We will get to the bottom of the investigations, and if we have to inaugurate the use of life sentences with them, we will do so.” An Army spokesperson says that the institution will not be providing defense lawyers for the accused.
Ultra-conservative ruling party Senator María Fernanda Cabal, known for her incendiary statements and for being the wife of the president of Colombia’s cattlemen’s federation, tweets that the rape allegation might be a “judicial false positive” instigated by those who wish to defame the armed forces.
June 17, 2020
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.
June 16, 2020
The Kroc Institute of Notre Dame University, which the peace accord gives a formal role in verifying compliance with accord commitments, releases its latest report, covering December 2018 to November 2019. Of 578 different commitments laid out in the accord, Kroc finds that the parties have fulfilled 25 percent completely, 15 percent are on pace for completion, and 36 percent have undergone “minimal” compliance, while work has yet to begin on 24 percent of commitments.
“The report emphasizes that implementation in Colombia is at a crucial point, transitioning from a focus on short-term efforts to medium- and long-term priorities, as well as focusing more on the provisions with a territorial focus.”
June 16, 2020
Carlos Lehder, a top leader of the Medellín cartel in the 1980s who pioneered aerial cocaine transshipment to the United States, completes a lengthy sentence in U.S. prison. A dual citizen of Germany, the 70-year-old Lehder departs for Berlin.
June 15, 2020
The FARC party reports that Mario Téllez Restrepo, shot to death on June 14 in Tibú, Norte de Santander, is the 200th former guerrilla to be killed since the peace accord went into effect in December 2016.
June 14, 2020
Armed men massacre four people and wound two others in Samaniego, Nariño, a zone of longtime ELN influence. The National Police reportedly hypothesize that the massacre was a dispute over narcotrafficking. One of those wounded was arrested in April 2019 and charged by the Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) of ELN affiliation; the charges were later dropped.
June 14, 2020
The daily El Espectador reveals the existence of “Code Black,” a corruption network within the U.S.-funded Antinarcotics Directorate of Colombia’s National Police. Starting in 2017, police whistleblowers began denouncing embezzlement and a scheme to use wiretaps to shake down narcotraffickers for money. The Prosecutor-General’s Office’s (Fiscalía’s) investigation has since moved very slowly.
June 14, 2020
The ELN releases four civilian hostages to a commission from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoría), and the Catholic Church in rural Norte de Santander. The release comes two days after the guerrillas turn over two oil workers in Arauca. Colombia’s government claims that the ELN continues to hold 10 other hostages. Among them is Nubia Alejandra López Correa, an Army corporal abducted in Arauca on June 7.
June 12, 2020
Colombia’s Free Press Federation (FLIP) learns that 14 more journalists were among the 130 civilians for whom military intelligence had been maintaining detailed profiles, part of a scandal known as the “Secret Folders” that broke in early May. That pushes to 52 the known number of profiled civilians who work as journalists.
June 12, 2020
June 11, 2020
The Bogotá-based think tank CERAC, which maintains a database of conflict events, finds no significant increase in offensive armed actions committed by the ELN since the end of the group’s April unilateral ceasefire. “Since March there is no registry of the death of civilians or security force members in violent events attributed to the ELN,” CERAC reports. However, the guerrilla group commits several kidnappings during this period.
June 10, 2020
Colombia’s Senate holds a debate over the presence in the country of a 53-person U.S. training brigade (Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB). The debate is called by opposition senators, who allege that the deployment violates Colombia’s constitution, which requires Senate approval for the transit of troops through national territory. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, in an hourlong statement, insists that the U.S. personnel are not “transiting through” on their four-month deployment, but are collaborating to fight narcotrafficking. Ruling-party Senator and former president Álvaro Uribe leads the bloc of senators defending the U.S. troop deployment. Opposition legislators voice strong concern that the U.S. deployment could be a step toward Colombian involvement in a conflict with Venezuela.