By Colombia 2020, EL ESPECTADOR, July 23, 2020

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Latin America Working Group, together with another 23 United States and Colombian organizations, has published a report entitled “Protecting the Peace in Colombia”. It calls for accelerating the implementation of the Peace Agreement.

Last week Colombia was one of the central subjects on the agenda of United States legislators. A few days ago, the House of Representatives called on the Donald Trump administration to refuse to furnish funds to finance fumigation of illegal crops in Colombia. In addition, the House made clear that it was examining the “chuzadas” (wiretapping) of journalists, politicians, and human rights defenders by the Colombian Army.

To this recognition was added the work of 24 United States and Colombian organizations (among them the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), Caribe Afirmativo, and Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas). They prepared and published the report “Protecting the Peace in Colombia”. In the report they urge the Colombian government to accelerate implementation of the central points in the Peace Agreement, and they urge the United States government to play a more active diplomatic and political role, one that advocates for the consolidation of peace in Colombia.

To the Colombian Government

This initiative exhorts the government of Iván Duque to implement the points agreed on in Havana in their totality. That means structural rural reform, the ethnic chapter, and the provisions on gender. Regarding this subject, the representative of the Afro-Colombian National  Council for Peace (CONPA in Spanish), Ariel Palacios, states that the “ethnic chapter on peace is paralyzed right now with only 7% implementation. As a consequence, in the Afro-Colombian and indigenous territories the armed conflict is increasing and the government presence is weak.”

The urgency of implementing the agreements also has a fundamental theme: confront long-standing social and racial inequalities in Colombia. Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Director for the Andes of the Washington Office on Latin America, insists on that. She also pointed out that, “with the Peace Agreement, Colombia has a tool that, if it’s implemented correctly, could make a significant contribution toward building an inclusive society, more democratic and egalitarian.”

For their part, representatives of Colombian and American organizations, like Cristina Espinel and Julio Idrobo of the Colombia Human Rights Committee, say that, “the implementation of Point No. 1 of the Peace Agreement, ‘Integrated Rural Reform’, is crucial for peace in Colombia. The campesinos have struggled to gain those reforms for many years.”

Besides that, the report also points to the danger that community, social, and indigenous  leaders are facing, as well as campesinos that are promoting economic projects in their communities and are part of the development programs focused on the territories (PDET in Spanish) that the agreement provides for. They also insist that, “the government’s actions have been insufficient and they have not protected the people that are risking their lives for peace. You see the cost of that reflected in the fact that more than 500 social leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered since the final accord was signed.”

The original sin of the intensification of the violence in Colombia, they insist, is the failure of the Colombian government to take the presence of civil government to the territories vacated by the now-extinct FARC. “The failure was begun by the Santos’ government’s failure to plan for the post-agreement, and has been aggravated by the Duque government’s deliberate lack of investment in implementation,” concludes the report.

To the United States government

In “Protecting the Peace in Colombia,” the call to the Donald Trump administration is to take up an active diplomatic and political role in supporting the Peace Agreement. “The United States should be bold in promoting the full compliance with the Peace Agreement before it’s too late,” insist the organizations.

In the same manner, and in line with what was proposed by the House of Representatives, they point out that the United States ought not to furnish military support or assistance for the forced eradication or aerial fumigation programs. “The parameters that measure the success of the initiatives in the war on drugs should stop being a count of hectares of coca and instead focus on guaranteeing that households can dedicate themselves to other legal and sustainable economic activities.”

On the same point, they also insisted that continuing forced eradication “doesn’t just weaken the chapter on drug policy in the Peace Agreement, and weaken the little faith that people living in rural areas have in the government, but it also undermines the possibilities of achieving a more sustainable drug policy.”

In spite of acknowledging the importance of economic support and providing resources to the Agreement, they emphasize that United States diplomatic support for its implementation—at least from the White House and the Secretary of State—“has diminished drastically and has largely been replaced by an almost exclusive focus on the production of illegal drugs and on the crisis in Venezuela.” That strategy, they insist, has to change drastically. It should put special emphasis on using the Peace Agreement to put an end to one of the oldest internal conflicts in Latin America.

In the same way, they say that the United States government should encourage the Colombian government to carry out a fundamental reform of its intelligence services, and an exhaustive reform of its philosophy and military training, so as to guarantee that it will promote  an appropriate understanding of the role of the Colombian Armed Forces in a democratic society and in the path to reconciliation.

Finally, because of the pandemic’s impact on the communities, and the obstacles it has generated for getting programmed activities under way, the organizations are insisting that it’s necessary to update the timeline of the three institutions that make up the Integrated System of Transitional Justice that came out of the Agreement (Special Jurisdiction for Peace; Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons; and the Truth Commission), as well as also updating the implementation of the Peace Agreement in general.

The complete report can be seen at

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