August 23, 2023

COLOMBIA: 215 Social Leaders And Human Rights Activists Were Killed In 2022. YTD 2023, 94 Social Leaders, 23 Ex-Combatants Were Assassinated, And 179 Citizens Were Murdered In 55 Massacres.

Redacted published August 23, 2023: EXCLUSIVE: Gunman opens fire on Colombian social leader. Redacted has obtained exclusive footage of an attempted assassination of Colombian social leader Guillermo Mosquera. Correspondent Dan Cohen traveled to Colombia to investigate why social leaders and former combatants are being killed despite a landmark peace accord.

Reuters News
written by Staff
Monday January 23, 2023

BOGOTA - Colombia witnessed killings of 215 social leaders and human rights activists in 2022, the highest toll ever recorded, as illegal armed groups intensified their attacks in key drug-trafficking areas, the government's human rights ombudsman said on Monday.

The number of killed human rights activists and social leaders - a term referring to community, land, and environmental leaders, among others - rose from 145 in 2021 and 182 in 2020, the ombudsman said in a statement.

"It's a serious impact on the basis of democracy, because these are leaders who take up the concerns of the people, who are spokespersons and who work for a country where human rights are respected," ombudsman Carlos Camargo said in a statement.

Violence against social leaders and civilians, is a major issue in Colombia and successive governments have faced calls to from the international community and non-governmental organizations to do more.

Despite President Gustavo Petro's push for peace across the country, assaults on social leaders and human rights defenders continued after he took office in August, with 82 killed in the last five months of the year.

Petro wants to end Colombia's almost six decades of internal armed conflict, which left at least 450,000 dead between 1985 and 2018.

His government began peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group in Venezuela in November and wants to implement a 2016 peace deal with dissident factions of the now-demobilized FARC guerrillas who reject the agreement.

The government also hopes to bring criminal gangs linked to drug trafficking to justice, offering incentives such as reduced sentences for those who surrender.

It also declared a bilateral ceasefire over the new year with two FARC dissident groups, criminal group Clan del Golfo, and paramilitaries in Colombia's Sierra Nevada region.

"We hope the start of talks with the ELN and the ceasefire with other illegal armed groups, will lead to decreased attacks against social leaders and human rights defenders," the ombudsman said.

Le Monde, France local news
written by Marie Delcas(Bogota (Colombia), correspondent)
June 21, 2022

Colombia is experiencing political change for the first time in its history. Gustavo Petro, the 62-year-old leader of the left-wing coalition Historic Pact for Colombia, won the second round of the presidential election on Sunday, June 19, beating the rich businessman Rodolfo Hernandez, 77. Mr. Petro's victory will make history in a country that has always been governed by the right. No less historic is the victory of his Black vice president, feminist and environmentalist Francia Marquez, a descendant of enslaved workers. Mr. Petro, who is to take office on August 7, 2022 will succeed Ivan Duque.

On Sunday night, as the future president said "a new history is beginning for Colombia," left-wing activists could hardly hold back their tears. "We have lost so many comrades," said Carlos Suarez, a trade unionist. "Petro has served several terms as a member of the Colombian Parliament and as mayor of Bogota and has run for president three times. He is not the God-sent outsider who fell from the sky to save the people. We know his qualities and his defects."


Peoples Dispatch
written by Staff
Tuesday July 25, 2023

During the past week, one Indigenous leader, one social leader, one former member of the FARC were assassinated, and three people were killed in a new massacre

Despite significant advances towards peace made by the left-wing government of President Gustavo Petro and a decrease in targeted killings of activists, paramilitary violence continues to cause suffering in Colombia. According to reports from the Colombian human rights organization, the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ), between January 1 and July 23, 2023, 94 social leaders and 23 ex-combatants were assassinated, while 179 citizens were murdered in 55 massacres. INDEPAZ reported that between January 1 and July 31 of 2022, there were targeted killings of 117 social activists and 30 former guerrilla fighters, while over 196 people were slaughtered in 58 massacres.

During the past week, INDEPAZ reported the assassination of one Indigenous leader, one social leader, one former member of the FARC and the slaughtering of three people in a massacre.

On July 23, Tiberio Chepe Zeti, an Indigenous leader and traditional doctor of the Kwe’sx Yu Kiwe territory, was assassinated in the Florida municipality in the Valle del Cauca department. The day before, on July 22, social leader Ilder Dรญaz, who was currently a candidate for the Policarpa municipal council, in the Nariรฑo department, was murdered in the municipality. According to INDEPAZ, Chepe Zeti and Dรญaz were the 94th and 93rd social leaders to be assassinated in 2023, and the 1,508th and 1,507th since the signing of Havana peace agreements in November 2016.

On July 21, INDEPAZ reported the murder of ex-FARC guerrilla Alberto Quintero in the Algeciras municipality in the Huila department. Quintero was currently working as a prosecutor for the association of signatories of Algeciras and was also a member of the Autonomous Roundtable for Reincorporation (MAR). According to INDEPAZ, Quintero was the 23rd ex-combatant to be killed in 2023, and the 379th since the signing of peace agreements.

Similarly, on July 20, the institute reported the killing of three men in a massacre in the San Josรฉ de Cรบcuta municipality, in the Norte de Santander department. According to the organization, the three men were first kidnapped and later murdered by unidentified armed men. This was the 55th massacre of 2023.

The Petro government, which took office in August 2022, has vowed to bring total peace to the country. The administration has been promoting peace agreements with all irregular paramilitary, drug-trafficking and rebel groups willing to submit to justice. According to INDEPAZ, around two dozen groups have expressed their will to lay down arms, engage in dialogue and accept conditions in exchange for peace and definitive non-repetition of violence.

The progressive government has already begun peace talks with at least five groups, including the Estado Mayor Central (EMC) and the Segunda Marquetalia, dissident groups of the FARC-EP guerilla group; and the drug cartels: the Pachencas, the Shottas and the Espartanos.

Petro’s government has also resumed the peace process with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest active guerrilla group in the country. Next week, on August 3, the Colombian military forces and the ELN will begin a 180-day bilateral ceasefire that will remain in force until January 29, 2024.

It doesn't matter that you're not safe.
It doesn't matter than you can't think differently or ask questions.

Peoples Dispatch
written by Laura Capote
Wednesday August 9, 2023

Petro’s inaugural year was characterized by guaranteeing free higher education, agrarian reform, reopening of relations with Venezuela, and an attempt to reform health care, labor regulations, and pensions

This week marked the first year of the first progressive government in Colombia’s history. In this short time, the government has proven its commitment to defend its victory at the polls. The Colombian people have also affirmed their will to enact radical change that brings the country closer, in the terms of the National Development Plan presented by Petro, to being a “world power of life” as Petro’s slogan says.

Domestic, regional, and international factors have marked these 12 months of government and undoubtedly will shape the course of the three years to come. These elements include the political will for transformation, an opposition led by the economic sectors that see their interests affected by the government’s reforms, and the fact that peasant, Indigenous, impoverished, and diverse people have gone from absolute invisibility to the front page of government policies with the project of social justice.

Achievements and reforms to come

The government has attempted to make good on its slogans of social justice with its focus on the health, labor, and pension reforms presented to the Congress of the Republic. Despite having encountered setbacks, they are expected to be approved in the new legislative period which began on July 20. These reforms, which essentially propose structural changes in the neoliberal design of these areas, have been complemented by political initiatives that continue to concretize, in other aspects of the country’s social and political life, the inclusion of traditionally excluded sectors.

An example of this was the approval of the legislative act (reform of the Colombian constitution) that recognized the peasantry as a subject of rights, in response to a historical demand of the peasant communities. In the same sense, the progress made in the agrarian and rural reform, which included the purchase of 28,000 hectares for the peasantry, is evidence of this inclusion. Finally, the passing of the law recognizing free public higher education is a dream of many generations who were unable to access university education.

Total peace with social justice

Likewise, the Total Peace project, also central to the last presidential campaign, has made important advances, particularly with respect to the reopening of talks with the ELN and the recent inauguration of the National Participation Commission, which will design the mechanisms for the participation of the Colombian society in this peace process. Finally, the government achieved a bilateral ceasefire that seeks (together with efforts with different armed groups in the country) to advance in the Total Peace project. This change has predictably been rejected by the opposition which is nostalgic for war.

Of course, the project of structural change in a country where the same elite always occupied the places of power contrary to popular will, was never going to find a smooth or simple path. The hegemonic media and the economic elites who feel their interests threatened have played a central role. Thus, there have been many attempts to destabilize the Petro government, such as recently with the case of the investigation into the president’s son, Nicolรกs Petro, who is being prosecuted for the crimes of illicit enrichment and money laundering. These are allegations for which the president himself has asked for a transparent investigation. The attempts of the opposition press to show some link between the president and these allegations have not been successful because they do not correspond to reality.

Along with social justice, environmental justice has been the second major pillar of the government and it has taken several initiatives in this vein. In this first year, part of the policy of decarbonization of the economy at the national level—and as a proposal even at the global level—as well as its Just Energy Transition project towards clean energies, has allowed the government to reduce deforestation in the Amazon region by 76%. At the same time, it has allowed the government to promote innovative initiatives on the international agenda, such as the proposal to exchange debt for climate action in the countries of the region and the proposals of the Amazon Pact within the framework of the Leticia Amazon Summit in July. The same happened at the Amazon Summit in August, with the initiative for an Amazonian court of justice for environmental crimes, a scientific research center and an Amazonian cooperation treaty, among others.

The Bolivarian dream of Gran Colombia and regional integration

In the international agenda, in addition to the environmental agenda, it is essential to highlight the importance of the reopening of the border and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the neighboring country for the binational agenda of Colombia and Venezuela. At the same time, Colombia has played a crucial in the relaunching of the regional integration project with a new paradigm of sovereignty. It has challenged the United States to recognize the failure of the drug war policy it promoted in the region and its dramatic consequences. It has also been an active participant in the process to strengthen CELAC, it has returned to UNASUR, and been present in meetings of the Andean Community of Nations. Likewise, it has been an important voice in the defense of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace, with a call for a political solution to the conflict in Ukraine, outside the geopolitical impositions of NATO.

The great number of initiatives at the national and international level, as mentioned above, encounter today a strong opposition from those sectors of power that are not willing to turn the page of war and subordination. In spite of these difficulties, Gustavo Petro has insisted on the call to build a National Agreement that includes the different political sectors, not for the benefit of the government, but for the establishment of democratic, fair and stable bases for the country, beyond the government in office. He appeals both to the political sectors with representation in the legislature, as well as to the different social expressions of the common people, who must take this objective as their own in order to achieve the change they voted for at the polls.

Laura Capote is a Colombian journalist and an activist with Colombia’s Patriotic March. She is part of ALBA Movimientos Secretary, and she works in the Buenos Aires office of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
I had to go look up ALBA Movimentos and this is what I found:

ALBA or ALBA–TCP, formally the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra Amรฉrica) founded initially by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004, it is associated with socialist and social democratic governments wishing to consolidate regional economic integration based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid. The ten member countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela. Suriname was admitted to ALBA as a guest country at a February 2012 summit.

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