By Diana Sánchez Lara, EL ESPECTADOR, August 23, 2020

(Translated by Eunice Gibson CSN Volunteer Translator)

“While the government and the agencies responsible for human rights are like a drifting boat and wandering aimlessly, as in the words of the song, the violence regains the spotlight it had in years past, and the transition to peace is being eclipsed.”

The people governing Colombia in the past two years are the same people that pushed the NO vote in the peace plebiscite. Their election campaign started with that infamous negative, promoted with lies and manipulations. They knew that that was how they would win, the way they have always done it. They needed to have the country continue to be in conflict, with the violence and the corruption fed by alliances with the drug traffickers and the paramilitaries, and in the process, justify an elevated military budget that now reaches 36 billion pesos (just under USD 9,350,000,000). To impede the advance to truth, justice and reparation was imperative, the reason for the promise to tear up the Peace Agreement.

On August 23, 2018, a few days after his inauguration as President, Iván Duque promised a public policy of protection for leaders. In making the announcement, he ignored the policy framework of security already existing for former combatants, social leaders, and vulnerable communities, established in the Peace Agreement.

In November, three months later, through the Ministry of the Interior, he aimed the “down payment” on the policy for human rights defenders and social leaders with the Plan for Opportune Action (PAO in Spanish), made up of three strategies: strengthening of agency response, strategic action in the countryside, and campaigns against stigmatization. Nothing new under the sun. Of those three priorities, he has only carried out the second: militarization of the countryside, with the so-called Special Areas for Complete Intervention.

With two years gone by, the results are readily apparent: increasing violations of human rights, resurgence of violence, increases in the numbers of social leaders murdered, massacres, which we thought were part of history, forced displacement, extrajudicial executions, and massacres of young people by illegal groups, but also by the Armed Forces.

But nobody knows anything about the public policy announced in August of 2018. Both the Interior Ministry, as well as the Presidential Counsel on Human Rights have announced on several occasions (December 2019, March 2020, and August 2020) the publication of that policy, which would be through a Conpes (National Council on Social and Economic Policy). On this point nobody knows if this is ingenuousness, incapacity, or a deliberate attitude of the government to expect that a Conpes could do anything about the violence against social leaders. A Conpes is a mushy instrument of public policy, directed toward economic and social programs, and because of that, it lacks teeth and scope to confront the criminal entrenchment in the countryside. So, why the insistence on a Conpes.

Simultaneously, the government belittles the importance of the National Commission on Security Guarantees (CNGS), established in the Peace Agreement, through Statutory Order No. 154 of 2017. It has binding force and the mandate to create a complete policy for the dismantling of paramilitarism and organized crime. At first, Iván Duque ignored this Commission; however, because of political pressure, he had to call a meeting, but his Counselor for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, skillfully robbed it of its character and turned it into a minor advisory committee of the PAO. Nothing has been done with regard to the dismantling of paramilitarism and organized crime, in spite of the proposals from the committee members from civil society. Right now, the government is only pretending to implement the mandate of the CNGS, making room for the expansion of paramilitarism and the residual groups of the former FARC, and the expansion of the ELN.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Counsel for Human Rights walks around without a light of its own and shows no clear understanding of what it’s supposed to be doing, both in its first year with Francisco Barbosa, and in its second year with the former Minister of Interior Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez. Since it has no compass, it was dedicated to publishing informative bulletins about the situation of the social leaders, with partial diagnoses, a list of the activities of all of the government agencies, and vacuous recommendations, full of commonplaces and of the obvious, which surely no official will ever read.

In short, while the government and the agencies responsible for human rights wander aimlessly like a boat adrift, as in the song, the violence returns to the importance it had in previous years, and the transition to peace continues to be eclipsed.

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