ELN Considers Ceasefire and Formal Peace Talks

January 8, 2015

by AQ Online

In a video statement released yesterday, Colombia’s Ejercito de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN) reaffirmed its willingness to join formalized peace talks with the Colombian government and announced that it would consider a ceasefire.

In the video, ELN leader Nicolás Rodríguez said, “The government […] has called the insurgents to the table. We will attend this dialogue to examine the will of the government and the Colombian State. If we conclude that arms are no longer necessary, we will consider quitting using them.”

For two years, the Colombian government has been conducting formal peace talks with the country’s largest rebel movement, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia—FARC). On December 20, 2014, the FARC declared a unilateral, indefinite ceasefire, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently said that he had instructed government peace negotiators to “accelerate” the talks with the FARC.

Last June, Santos revealed that his government and the ELN had begun separate preliminary peace talks in January 2014. Until now, little was known about the progress of those talks. The two sides recently concluded a “spiritual retreat” in the Colombian city of Cartagena, after which the President Santos urged the ELN to consider a ceasefire.

“We have given much thought to a unilateral and indefinite ceasefire, in this regard with must recognize that the FARC have delivered. We want to invite the ELN to join the initiative and to reach an agreement as soon as possible regarding the issues we have been discussing for some time,” Santos said.

Read more about the Colombian peace negotiations here.

Tags: Colombia, ELN, Colombia Peace Talks

FARC Declares Unilateral Ceasefire

December 18, 2014

by AQ Online

In a statement published on one of its official websites Wednesday, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) declared an indefinite, unilateral cease fire and end to hostilities in Colombia, on the condition that the rebels are not attacked by government forces. The announcement was made as part of the peace talks with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration in Havana, and it marks the first time the guerrilla group has declared an indefinite halt to the fighting.

However, Santos has so far refused to reciprocate the gesture, saying that a bilateral ceasefire could potentially allow the FARC to regroup and attack, as they did during the failed peace negotiations that took place from 1999-2002. The president’s wariness also stems from an incident this September that nearly foiled accords again, when the FARC took General Ruben Dario Alzate and two of his traveling companions hostage in September, along with two others in a separate incident. All the hostages were released in November in order to continue the peace negotiations.

Currently, the Colombian government and FARC negotiators have reached agreements on three points of the original five-point peace agenda, but have stalled on the fourth point of restitution for victims. The Colombian government and FARC leaders have been engaging in peace talks in Havana since 2012. That same year, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos dismissed a temporary Christmas truce proposed by the FARC by saying, “The sooner we get to a peace agreement, the sooner we will silence the guns.”

Over 200,000 people have been killed since the internal war began between the guerillas and the government began in 1964. The FARC ceasefire will go into effect this Saturday, December 20.

Read more in AQ’s Fall 2014 issue on Cuba and Colombia.

Follow ongoing developments in Cuba here.

*Updated 12/18/2014

Tags: Colombia, FARC, Ceasefire

Colombia Submits Action Plan to EITI Secretariat

October 14, 2014

by Kai Whiting and Ana Carolina González Espinosa

The extraction of natural resources, such as oil, gas, metals and minerals, is supposed to boost the economy and improve the quality of life of the residents of resource rich countries. However, in too many cases, resource extraction has led to social inequality, environmental degradation and corruption. In places like Colombia, it aggravates conflict.

The global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Standard (EITI Standard) is an international standard for the mining and hydrocarbon industries. By establishing a participatory approach that ensures the collaboration of governments, private sector actors, and civil society organizations, the EITI Standard promotes a fairer, more transparent accounting of resources.

The EITI was launched in 2002 by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom to promote accountability and transparency in both the mining and hydrocarbon sectors and to the fight against the so-called “resource curse.” According to EITI Board Chair Clare Short and the head of the EITI Secretariat, Jonas Moberg, “public understanding of government revenues and expenditure over time could help public debate and inform choice of appropriate and realistic options for sustainable development.”

As of September 2014, 46 countries—working in collaboration with more than 80 private supporting companies and 21 partner organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank—had implemented the initiative.

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Tags: Colombia, EITI, Transparency, Natural resource extraction

Los Límites del Consejo de Defensa Suramericano

September 3, 2014

by Víctor M. Mijares

Entre el 14 y el 15 de agosto, en Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, el Consejo de Defensa Suramericano (CDS) llevó a cabo su reunión anual. Desde el momento en que Surinam fue seleccionada por rotación para presidir la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR), de acuerdo a entrevistas realizadas a funcionarios diplomáticos relacionados con la UNASUR, estaba claro que el pequeño estado no tenía la capacidad de manejar toda la organización. Teniendo en cuenta eso, se escogió a Colombia como responsable pro tempore del CDS.

Pero sólo dos días antes de la reunión, el Congreso colombiano aprobó el acuerdo de cooperación entre Colombia y la OTAN. Este acto, que pudiera parecer una deslealtad colombiana, debe ser analizado a la luz de factores estructurales que están modelando la actitud de los estados en la política internacional.

Las políticas de cooperación de seguridad de Colombia con fuerzas extranjeras son particularmente controversiales en América del Sur. Sus lazos con el Pentágono, incluso antes la puesta en marcha del "Plan Colombia", fueron un catalizador clave en el nacimiento del CDS. El acuerdo de facilitar el uso de siete bases militares a los EE.UU. y la crisis después de la "Operación Fénix" fueron argumentos de peso esgrimidos por Brasilia, Buenos Aires y Caracas con el objetivo de lograr la disminución de la resistencia colombiana a un tratado de seguridad regional. El acuerdo con la OTAN trae de vuelta las ideas acerca de Colombia como un socio no comprometido con la seguridad regional.

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Tags: Colombia, NATO, OTAN

Santos to Continue Peace Process in Second Term

August 8, 2014

by AQ Online

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos began his second term yesterday after winning reelection in the second round in June, defeating Óscar Iván Zuluaga who was backed by former President Álvaro Uribe. Santos based his campaign on the promise of a peace, with the hope of coming to an agreement the left-wing guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC).

When Santos initiated the process of peace talks with the FARC in 2012, he broke with Uribe, his former mentor, who had a military-based approach toward dealing with the guerrilla groups. In response, the FARC announced a cease-fire—though the group has engaged in some acts of violence since this announcement—and the Colombian government began peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba in November 2012.

The Corte Constitucional de Colombia (Constitutional Court of Colombia) decided on Wednesday that it will allow guerrillas who give up their arms to participate in politics, unless they have been accused of committing crimes against humanity or genocide. This is seen as another victory for Santos, as Rafael Guarín, a former vice minister of defense and uribista, had previously challenged Santos peace reform in court, attempting to block any future political participation of guerrillas in the Colombian government.

Santos will face an uphill battle, with 61 percent of Colombians skeptical that FARC is interested in peace, and 50 percent disapproving of Santos’ approach towards peace. He also has faces opposition from Uribe, who now serves as a senator, and his allies in congress, as well as a smaller guerrilla group, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional, (National Liberation Army—ELN), who have recently been stepping up attacks on infrastructure.

Tags: Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia, FARC

Mexico’s Energy Reform: Lessons from Colombia and Brazil

August 4, 2014

by Christian Gómez, Jr. and Sophia Sciabica

In the early 2000s, Colombia’s oil industry was weakening. There had been a decrease in new discoveries, followed by a decline in production from a peak of 800,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 1999 to nearly 550,000 b/d in 2004. Exploration and production had moved to increasingly remote areas with higher security risks and risky geology, requiring more capital and technology. As such, the Colombian government remained dependent on Ecopetrol, the state oil company, which represented the entirety of the Colombian oil industry.

Today, Mexico’s oil industry stands in a similar state of decline, as described by a recently released Americas Society/Council of the Americas white paper, “Mexico: An Opening for Energy Reform.” Oil production in Mexico as a whole has fallen from 3.8 million b/d in 2004 to 2.5 million b/d in 2013. Production of the Cantarell oil field, the most lucrative of Mexico’s shallow water reserves, peaked in 2003 at 2.1 million b/d, and is now producing less than one quarter of that.

Just as in Colombia, the problem in Mexico does not lie in a lack of resources, but rather in a lack of capital and technology. Mexico in particular maintains extensive shale deposits that remain largely untapped. The roots that bind Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, and the Mexican government run even deeper than those that once bound Ecopetrol and the Colombian government. Mexico’s state oil enterprise pays for approximately 40 percent of the country’s budget—and since the government acts as both a regulator and an owner, transparency and accountability suffer.

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Tags: Mexican Energy Reform, Colombia, Brazil

Abuses Against Afro-Colombian Communities in Tumaco

July 30, 2014

by AQ Online

Human Rights Watch released a report today that documents killings, disappearances and sexual violence against Afro-Colombian communities in Tumaco, a city in southwestern Nariño department. The abuses were reportedly committed by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–FARC).

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said that “the FARC has a tight grip over the lives of many Tumaco residents, who are forced to keep silent as the guerrillas plant their fields with landmines, drive them from their homes, and kill their neighbors and loved ones with impunity.”

In addition to the crimes committed by FARC, the report highlights abuses by neo-paramilitaries and police, and the general atmosphere of crime in the state. Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch believes that of the 17 killings that took place in 2013 and 2014, 12 are likely to be attributed to FARC.

Despite the high levels of crime, an increase of 200 policemen in Tumaco has reduced the level of homicides by 41 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to El Espectador. The city has created a five-year plan from 2014-2019 that proposes infrastructure investments such as power plants, improving the port and airport, and building 200 interest-free housing units.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos threatened on Tuesday to halt peace negotiations with FARC after continuing attacks—including an attack on the Ariari aqueduct on Saturday, which left around 16,000 people without water in the Colombia state Meta, and an attack on an electrical tower in Buenaventura on Monday, leaving 450,000 without power. After the attack in Meta, Santos stated, “They are digging their own political grave because this is exactly what makes people reject them.”

Santos will begin his second term on August 7, after a competitive election that showcased many Colombians’ skepticism towards achieving peace with the FARC. Out of 17 countries in the hemisphere, Colombia ranked 11th overall in Americas Quarterly’s 2014 Social Inclusion Index, which was released on Tuesday.

Tags: Colombia, FARC, Juan Manuel Santos

El fútbol que nos hace soñar (y matarnos)

July 3, 2014

by Jenny Manrique

Cerca de 57 mil colombianos han acompañado desde las tribunas a la Selección de fútbol y se han deleitado con los 11 goles que tienen al país en los cuartos de final de la Copa del Mundo, mientras un sentimiento de euforia e histeria colectiva inunda a la patria. Grandes empresarios y grandes endeudados que empeñaron hasta la casa para poder ir a Brasil, se encuentran entre ese público futbolero conocedor o ignorante del deporte de masas, pero capaz de aglutinarse ante ese proyecto de nación en que se ha convertido el fútbol.

Hasta el presidente Juan Manuel Santos, quien decretó el viernes como día cívico para que los empleados públicos puedan ir a su casa a ver el decisivo partido Colombia-Brasil, se aseguró un lugar en el estadio Castelão, en Fortaleza, junto a la presidenta del equipo anfitrión y rival, Dilma Rousseff. También millones seguiremos el partido por televisión, mientras un nombre memorable que vitorearía fielmente desde las tribunas, será el gran ausente de esta fiesta: Andrés Escobar.

A 20 años de su absurda muerte ocurrida el 2 de julio de 1994 en Medellín, cuando no habían pasado ni 10 días del autogol que el delantero hizo en el partido contra Estados Unidos, su nombre y los 6 tiros que lo extinguieron, retumban en la memoria de una sociedad testigo de los tentáculos criminales del narcotráfico. El último mundial al que había ido Colombia, no solo dejó un sabor amargo por su descalificación, sino por acto criminal que como ningún otro (ni siquiera las muertes de ministros, candidatos presidenciales, bombas indiscriminadas) hizo sentir a los ciudadanos indignados y avergonzados.

El asesino Humberto Muñoz pagó solo 12 años de cárcel. Era escolta de los hermanos Pedro David y Santiago Gallón Henao, reconocidos narcotraficantes de Carlos Castaño y luego socios del Chapo Guzmán, quienes en este caso solo pagaron 15 meses de prisión domiciliaria por el delito de encubrimiento y US$750 de fianza. Fueron los Gallón Henao quienes increparon a Escobar en una discoteca por el autogol, pero que gracias a su poder dentro de la Medellín de sicarios en moto, nunca fueron juzgados como determinantes del crimen, ni se esclareció del todo su relación con las jugosas sumas que la mafia se jugaba en las apuestas del mundial de entonces.

Las presiones que tenían los jugadores de esa icónica selección de ‘El Pibe’ Valderrama, Freddy Rincón, René Higuita y Leonel Álvarez, muy bien retratadas en el documental “Los dos Escobar” de los directores Jeff Zimbalist y Michael Zimbalist, distan mucho de la tranquilidad y confianza que se ve a los jugadores del equipo de hoy. Jóvenes como el crack James Rodríguez y el pase-gol Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, vivieron su infancia en la década de los 90, turbulenta pero quizá la salida a los peores años del narcoterrorismo. Se fueron a clubes europeos y aunque comenzaron de locales, no pertenecieron a esas plantillas financiadas por la mafia como el América de Cali y el Atlético Nacional de los 80s.

No obstante esa pasión desbordada y esa identidad—que en la Colombia de hoy no generan ni los políticos ni la mentada paz, pero sí el juego bonito de esta selección—no evita que dejemos de matarnos. Ya van 19 muertos y casi 4000 riñas tras las cuatro victorias, y cada vez que hay partido, las autoridades se desbordan en medidas de seguridad, imponen la ley seca (prohibición de venta de bebidas embriagantes) y hasta toque de queda para menores.

Como si fuera poco, por lo menos en Belo Horizonte, los colombianos han sido el grupo de extranjeros con más detenidos por delitos como entrar marihuana a los estadios, revender boletas y como no, emborracharse y pelear. Hasta el Ministerio del Interior lanzó la campaña “Fútbol en paz”, simplemente para que dejemos de matarnos.

¿Qué hay en la cultura colombiana que no nos deja llorar los goles y abrazarnos, en vez de salir a celebrar la victoria con balas y muerte? Son épocas más sosiegas como no, parece que ya no hay mafias ni narcos detrás de los equipos, y el resultado del campeonato ya es de por sí histórico para Colombia. Pero todavía no nos hemos desprendido de la violencia lastre que nos identifica, de la falta de cultura ciudadana, de las muestras de odio entre el que piensa distinto, y eso que aquí todos somos la misma hinchada.

“El fútbol es la única religión que no tiene ateos”, dijo el escritor uruguayo Eduardo Galeano. Ojalá que a diferencia de las religiones, dejemos de matarnos cuando nuestros dioses no ganan. Ojalá que gane Colombia este viernes.

Tags: Colombia, 2014 World Cup, Andrés Escobar

Colombians Accused of Murdering DEA Agent Extradited to U.S.

July 2, 2014

by AQ Online

Colombia extradited seven taxi drivers who were charged with murdering a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, on Tuesday. Special Agent James “Terry” Watson was stabbed to death after a botched robbery  on June 20, 2013. The alleged murderers will stand trial in Virginia.

The taxi drivers were members of a criminal band based in the Bogotá that targeted taxi passengers for robbery. On the night of the murder, the drivers attempted to take Watson on a “millionaire’s ride” or “express kidnapping,” a common scheme in Colombia in which the attackers force the victim to empty their bank accounts at an ATM machine before releasing them.

The alleged murderers were extradited after the U.S. government successfully argued that Watson, who served as an agent for the DEA for 13 years, was an “internationally protected person with diplomatic immunity” under the Vienna Convention and that the trial should take place in the United States.“These citizens were wanted via an Interpol Red Notice for the crimes of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime,” General Ricardo Restrepo, the Colombian anti-narcotics police chief, said. It marks the first mass extradition between the two countries that isn’t related to narcotrafficking.

Tags: Colombia, DEA

World Cup 2014: The "Zebras" of the Americas

June 23, 2014

by Flora Charner

When a soccer match ends in a surprising or unpredictable way, Brazilians often use the popular expression “deu zebra” ("it was a zebra"). The term applies to games where supposedly weaker teams beat stronger ones, or when key players are outperformed on the field. 

Like the animal, "zebras" are fairly rare. But in this World Cup, an incredible herd of surprises have come galloping in from the Americas to scare off the mighty lions during this group stage. 

In Recife's Arena Pernambuco, Costa Rica defeated the 2006 World Cup champs, Italy, 1-0. Costa Rican captain Bryan Ruiz scored in the 44th minute with a header into Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's arch. The ticos,who are ranked #28 in the world by FIFA, were considered underdogs in a "Group of Death" that also includes Uruguay and the now-eliminated England—but they lead the group and have secured a spot in the second round.

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Tags: 2014 World Cup, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica



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