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.
Caption: “La @DefensoriaCol acompaña en el aeropuerto El Dorado de Bogotá la llegada de 64 personas deportadas de Estados Unidos. Se busca, en compañía de sus familias, garantizarles sus derechos en las actuales circunstancias de cuarentena y un pronto reencuentro con sus seres queridos.”
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.
Fearing COVID-19 infection, prisoners in Bogotá’s La Modelo penitentiary protested conditions. Government forces, claiming an attempt to escape, killed 23 prisoners and wounded many more. The next day, relatives of prisoners gathered outside its gates.
Inmates in several Colombian prisons stage protests out of concern for the spread of the COVID-19 virus amid very crowded conditions. In Bogotá’s La Modelo prison, where thousands participate in a protest, authorities claim that guards killed 23 prisoners attempting to escape.
Over 100 ethnic and rural organizations are calling for a two-week ceasefire in Colombia’s most conflict-ridden areas. They are asking for a cessation of hostilities to be added to measures taken by the Colombian government to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The signatories are overwhelmingly from the conflict-hit departments of Cauca, Chocó, Meta, Putumayo, and Valle del Cauca. Many communities have self-protection measures in place, like the Indigenous Guard, to peacefully work to defend their territories. Colombia must listen to vulnerable communities and meet their demands at this time.
Here is the English text of the letter that went to Colombian President Iván Duque. The letters to the illegal armed groups are closely similar.
Cessation of armed operations by COVID-19 to President Iván Duque Márquez
Our communities live in territories where violence persists in various forms.
We call upon you, combatants of all forces, to protect your own lives and the lives of we, the civilians, in our territories.
We call on you as the main commander of the Armed Forces and National Police to protect the lives of the official combatants and the lives of civilians in our territories with a cessation of hostilities. We make this call on all armed groups operating in our regions based on the WHO declaration of the pandemic called COVID–19, which is already causing irreparable loss of human life.
In particular, we propose:
Inform all personnel of the COVID–19 pandemic and the consequences for their lives and those of those who are in contact with them.
Train them in preventive mechanisms.
Only act in case of attacks and non-compliance by opponents of this proposal, which is implicit in the Global Humanitarian Agreement by the Pandemic. This request is also made explicitly to the Armed Forces and Police, security agencies, and eradicators. we have reports of the virus infection in armed forces personnel of the United States.
Remove your personnel from our environments or communities and place them at distances that prevent the virus from spreading.
Refrain from convening any kind of mandatory meeting.
Our communities in some regions are experiencing droughts, other regions are affected by heavy rains. Their lives and our lives are precious. The armed strategies, for reasons of humanity—of all humanity—must stop for at least two weeks, until 1 April, starting tomorrow with a possible extension until at least 30 May.
The pandemic has very severe social, environmental and economic effects that are calling us to take the path of a different society. Today no one is exempt from dying from this virus, not even the most powerful in weapons and wealth.
Let’s take advantage of COVID–19 to think about the life of each one of you, in the life of each of us, in the life of the country. Assume the reflection among your crews, fronts, brigades, battalions, commanders. Nothing remains of our arrogance, nor of our vain pride. It is the time of solidarity, and from it peace in a new democracy.
We invite you to listen to our request for a partial cessation of hostilities.
Life is teaching us. It is a time for everyone. The isolation experienced by the citizenry in the country must lead us, perhaps, to reflect on the confinement and lack of food for years that we have lived in the regions.
We need a social, environmental and legal state that consolidates a transversal and integral peace. With this crisis, the importance of an inclusive country without corruption, in cooperation with all of humanity, in which you can contribute, will be recognized.