A look at the living conditions of Afro-descendant people displaced to Meta, in Colombia’s eastern plains.
The story of displacement and resistance of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and campesino communities along the Naya River, which forms the border between Valle del Cauca and Cauca departments.
Abbey Steele of the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences is a scholar of violence and politics who has done most of her work in Colombia. She is the author of Democracy and Displacement in Colombia’s Civil War (2017, Cornell University Press).
In this episode, she discusses her work in Apartadó, in Colombia’s Urabá region, which saw forced displacement by paramilitary groups intensify after Colombia began direct local elections and leftist parties performed well. She calls what happened “political cleansing” or “collective targeting”: the paramilitaries targeted entire communities for displacement based on election results.
Steele explains this and other findings, particularly how communities have organized to resist the onslaught. She has a sharp analysis of the challenges that continue for the displaced—and for communities and social leaders at risk of political cleansing—today, in post-peace-accord Colombia.
Listen above, or download the .mp3 file.
The ICRC’s annual overview of the humanitarian situation in Colombia. Finds an alarming 2019 increase in landmine victims, confinements, and attacks on medical personnel.
Posted March 3, 2020.
A look at fragmentation of and disputes between armed groups, the effect of Venezuela’s crisis, and the humanitarian crisis in Catatumbo, a conflictive region of Norte de Santander department.
A visit to a town in Panama whose population is mostly made up of Colombians who have fled violence.
A multimedia presentation and article about reporters’ visit to conflictive zones of Chocó department, up the Pacific coast into Panama.
- Fighting between the Gulf Clan and dissidents from the FARC’s 18th Front displaces 863 people in the rural zone of Ituango, Antioquia, which lies on a strategic trafficking route. Some say they were given ten minutes to leave their homes on pain of death.
- Intelligence sources tell El Colombiano that the displacement is a tactic that armed groups use when they are in a position of weakness. “The people in the 18th Front residual group are surrounded by Gulf Clan personnel. So they pressure the communities to displace the that automatically obligates the Army to mobilize its troops, avoiding the other group’s advance.
- Earlier in the month, the entire remaining population of the Santa Lucía FARC demobilization site (ETCR) in Ituango—62 former fighters and 45 relatives—decided to abandon the site within 60 days due to threats. Twelve former FARC members have been killed in Ituango, more than any other municipality. Departmental and national government agencies are discussing options with the ETCR’s residents.
- The Army’s 7th Division reports on January 30 that it had learned of a plot by FARC dissident groups to assassinate ex-guerrillas living at the Santa Lucía facility.
Violence between paramilitaries and FARC dissidents in stateless rural areas displaced more than 800 people in Ituango, Antioquia.
The ICRC expresses grave concern about displacement and confinement of indigenous and Afro-descendant populations in Chocó.
- Fighting between the ELN and EPL displaces at least 236 people in the rural zone of Ábrego municipality, in Norte de Santander’s conflictive Catatumbo region.
- More than 10 days of fighting between FARC dissident factions and paramilitaries displaces over 3,000 people in Tumaco, Nariño. The dissident factions are the Oliver Sinisterra Front and the Comandante Alfonso Cano Western Bloc, the paramilitary group is called “Los Contadores” (“The Bookkeepers”).
In third week after end of ELN ceasefire, violence intensifies
Talks in Ecuador between the government and the ELN made no progress more than two weeks after the non-renewal of a 100-day cessation of hostilities, which ended on January 9. Last week, events on the battlefield made the situation worse.
In the early morning hours of January 27, an explosive device killed five police and wounded forty-three more as they began their day at a post in Barranquilla, Colombia’s fourth-largest city. A second bomb went off on January 28 near a police post in another Barranquilla neighborhood, wounding two police and three civilians. Also on January 27, a bomb in Santa Rosa del Sur, in the northern department of Bolívar, killed two police. The ELN retweeted a statement from an urban bloc (account since suspended, but it was here) claiming responsibility for the Barranquilla attacks. The government reported capturing a suspect: a man who, authorities allege, had a notebook with a map of one of the bombing sites.
Following the Barranquilla attacks, rightwing candidates for Colombia’s May presidential elections called on President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend or end talks with the ELN. “The government can NOT restart negotiations with the ELN in these conditions, it must react with determination and authority,” tweeted Germán Vargas Lleras, who had served as Santos’s interior minister and vice president. The candidate of ex-president Álvaro Uribe’s “Democratic Center” party, Iván Duque, tweeted, “when terrorism is given advantages, it feels free to attack with cowardice.”
Former FARC launch campaign but are increasingly vulnerable to attack
The Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, the political party descended from the FARC guerrillas, launched its 2018 election campaign at a January 27 event in Ciudad Bolívar, a sprawling low-income neighborhood in southern Bogotá. (And one of a handful of Bogotá districts where a majority voted “no” against the FARC peace accord in an October 2, 2016 plebiscite.) Led by maximum leader and presidential candidate Rodrigo Londoño (previously known as “Timochenko”), the new political party introduced a political platform including a proposed guaranteed basic income for all Colombians.
The peace accords give the former guerrillas an automatic 5 seats in a 107-seat Senate and 5 in a 172-seat House of Representatives. The new party is running 23 candidates for Senate seats and 51 in the House. That places the FARC 12th among all Colombian parties in number of House candidates, and 13th in number of Senate candidates. “We’re very optimistic and confident that we will win more than 10 seats,” said top leader Carlos Antonio Lozada. That is far from certain: the ex-guerrillas’ past of human rights abuses, most of which remain unacknowledged for now, make them quite unpopular in mainstream Colombian opinion. The peace accord also holds out an awkward possibility of FARC officeholders standing trial for serious war crimes.
Meanwhile, threats and attacks against the FARC political organization are worsening. About 33 former guerrillas have been killed since the final peace accord was signed in November 2016. The past week saw armed men raid the FARC party headquarters in Quibdó, the capital of the northwestern department of Chocó. FARC party member Johana Poblador was beaten in Bogotá by armed men who threatened to kill FARC leaders. Two FARC members in Medellín received death threats from the “Gaitanistas” or “Urabeños” neo-paramilitary group, which has already threatened to attack FARC party offices around the country.
Violence and displacement around the country
Last week it became evident that, between only the 17th and 20th of January, violence forced more than 1,000 people to leave their home communities. The Urabeños, the ELN, and FARC dissident groups—all of them fighting to occupy vacuums left by the demobilized FARC—were involved in all cases. Violence continued, and perhaps worsened, this week.
- About 172 people were displaced by fighting between the ELN and FARC dissidents in the La Voz de los Negros Community Council of Magüi Payán, Nariño, southwestern Colombia.
- In Cumbal, Nariño, fighting between the ELN and FARC dissidents forced many to flee into neighboring Ecuador.
- Just to the north, in Argelia, Cauca, at least 11 armed men opened fire on a festival, killing three people.
- Further north, in Buenos Aires, Cauca, a roadside attack killed two members of a mining cooperative. “We’re feeling the fight for territorial control, with the exit of the FARC from municipalities that have to do with narcotrafficking. In addition are those affected by illegal mining,” said Cauca governor Óscar Campo.
- An “unidentified armed group” forced 425 people to flee five hamlets and an indigenous reserve in San José de Uré, in the northwestern department of Córdoba. This area, the southern part of the department, sits along a key corridor for trafficking cocaine to the Caribbean coast. The government human rights ombudsman (Defensoría) reports that Urabeños have been increasing their presence, patrolling in camouflage-clad groups of 15 to 30 combatants in zones that used to be FARC-dominated.
- Just to the south, in the coca and cocaine-producing Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia department, three armed men entered a bar on January 21 in the town of Yarumal, indiscriminately opened fire with Mini Uzis and killed seven people. A similar massacre took place in the same municipality in December.
- Elsewhere in the Bajo Cauca region, in Cáceres and Caucasia municipalities, violence forced about 400 more people to flee. Here, the identity of the armed group isn’t clear: “It’s that we don’t know who they are, they don’t identify themselves, they don’t wear labels,” a local witness told Medellín’s daily El Colombiano. “We’ve only seen them several times around here, armed, wearing camouflage, it was about 30 men.” The zone has a presence of both ELN and Urabeños. (Also in Caucasia last week was U.S. Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, paying a visit to observe U.S.-supported coca eradication and substitution programs.)
- Fighting between the security forces and the ELN displaced several families in Paya, Boyacá.
- Olga Patricia Rendon Marulanda, “Los Enredos para Dar Libertad a los Presos Políticos” (El Colombiano (Medellin Colombia), January 26, 2018).
- Ivonne Rodriguez Gonzalez, “¿Por Qué ‘Desmontaron’ la Unidad de Restitucion de Tierras en Chocó?” (Verdad Abierta (Colombia), January 26, 2018).
- Video: “El Naya: La Ruta Oculta de la Cocaína” (Pacifista (Colombia), January 25, 2018).
- Kyle Johnson, “Las Disidencias: Ni el Plan a, Ni el Plan B” (International Crisis Group, La Silla Vacía (Colombia), January 24, 2018).
- Infographic: “La Organización de los Magistrados de la JEP” (El Espectador (Colombia), January 24, 2018).
- Sara Ruiz, “La Cara de la Paz en San Jose de Apartadó” (La Silla Vacía (Colombia), January 22, 2018).
- Alberto Salcedo Ramos, “Adiós a las Armas” (El Tiempo (Colombia), January 22, 2018).
Here is a Spanish PDF of an article in Defensor, the monthly magazine of the Mexico City human rights ombusdman, by WOLA Senior Associate Gimena Sánchez Garzoli. It looks at characteristics and considerations for Colombia’s longstanding crisis of forced internal displacement, as the country nears a post-conflict scenario.