Minga Agreement Upheld, Pension Reforms Struck From Duque Plan; FARC Deal Sent to High Court

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court was forwarded to the high court to rule on the legality.

Late Thursday, Colombia’s House of Representatives finally approved the National Development Plan (PND) 2018-2022 which targets education, employment, environment, safety, equity and entrepreneurship in the Latin American country.

RELATED: Colombia: Police Gun Down Ex-FARC Guerrilla, Community Enraged

Several important amendments were made to the PND prior to eventual approval of the controversial plan during its subsequent tumultuous vote. The Congress eliminated 51 articles of the bill or 15% of the total 349 articles. 

Chamber representative Oscar Dario Perez disclosed that there were 4,043 proposals, 3,411 changes to the articles and 167 amendments to the plan before the 349 agreed articles were submitted in the project process.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) court, which was created as part of a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members, was forwarded to the high court to rule on the legality of a Senate vote on the matter of making changes to the agreement.

"There was no qualified majority to sink the objections ... so we are in the hands of the Constitutional Court and we are confident that everything will go well for the country," Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez posted to her Twitter account.

Notably, the articles related to the problematic and widely rejected pension reforms were discarded; and a paragraph was added that compels the government to honor agreements, reached with the Indigenous Minga, regarding hundreds of millions of dollars designated for investment across several sectors.

Director of the National Planning Department, Gloria Alonso, assured that with the approval of the PND "the national government will fulfill the commitments with the Indigenous peoples, just as it has been done with the Campesinos."

Perez, of the ruling party Democratic Center, added that "this plan is not miraculous but it is a route in the right direction to meet the needs of the community."

The original initiative was presented by President Ivan Duque, last February.

"A final text that is immensely better than what came (to the House) has been released," Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla remarked and admitted that the "contributions" and criticism of the parties allowed to improve the project.

President of the House of Representatives, Alejandro Carlos Chacon, commented, to reporters, that the revised plan was "well thought out."

In February, Duque put forward a new plan, "Pact for Colombia, Pact for Equity," which he stated aims to remove 1.5 million Colombians from extreme poverty in four years, improvement of 600,000 homes for the most vulnerable and achieve 60 percent coverage of higher education.

One of the initiative’s key goals is "that nearly 300,000 small producers enter the scheme of Agriculture by Contract." The development plan also challenges micro, small, medium and large companies to transform society by creating of quality jobs.

The PND will now be sent to the Senate plenary for review before the May 7 deadline.

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Washington uses Colombia for ‘cheap spectacles’ against Caracas – Venezuelan FM

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of using the tensions on the border with Colombia to stage a publicity stunt as part of a smear campaign against Caracas.

The US and Colombia turned the beleaguered Colombian border town of Cucuta into a “regular stage for their most decadent and cheap spectacles,” Arreaza tweeted on Sunday in response to Pompeo’s visit in the area.

The consequences of the criminal blockade imposed by his [Pompeo] government on Venezuela are too grave to count. It has created death, suffering and need.

Earlier, Venezuelan migrants living in camps on the Colombian side of the border rioted over food rations and clashed with local police. Towns on the Venezuelan side also saw clashes between law enforcement and protesters.

The unrest was exacerbated by the opposition’s attempts to drive trucks filled with US-sponsored aid into Venezuela. The authorities refused to let them pass, denouncing the move as a “PR stunt,” and citing suspicions that Washington might use the trucks to smuggle in weapons.

As tensions mounted, US officials and some in the Western media accused the Venezuelan government of setting one of the trucks on fire during a dramatic confrontation at a border bridge with Colombia, but footage from the scene and additional reporting revealed that the truck was in fact set on fire by opposition activists.

Nevertheless, during his stay in Cucuta, Mike Pompeo met with a group of Venezuelan migrants and once again urged Caracas to accept the US-sent “humanitarian aid.”

Venezuela for its part stated that it will only accept aid sponsored by the UN and global relief organizations like the Red Cross, which Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro struck a deal with earlier this week.

On Sunday, Pompeo further blasted Maduro from Colombia, saying the US “will continue to utilize every economic and political means at our disposal to help the Venezuelan people.” He mentioned economic sanctions and visa revocations for Venezuelan officials among the means to pressure the government into succumbing to the opposition.

Washington openly backed opposition leader Juan Guaido when he declared himself ‘interim president’ of Venezuela in January. The US slapped Caracas with a number of economic restrictions and urged others to follow suit. US President Donald Trump refused to rule out military intervention should the other methods to oust Maduro fail.

Maduro, meanwhile, vowed to continue to defend the nation’s sovereignty against any foreign attack. He has repeatedly slammed the US for plotting to launch a coup to topple him. That aside, officials in Caracas also accused Washington of having a hand in the country’s recent major blackouts.

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Colombians March Grows As More Activists Join Cauca Protests

Campesino and Indigenous organizations from five departments join the 5,000 activist in Cauca demanding the implementation of Peace Accords.

Now in its 17th day, Colombia’s Indigenous and Campesino National March For Life is growing in numbers and momentum.

RELATED:  Colombia: Indigenous Protest Enters 6th Day in Cauca

The march, organized by National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), is gaining support as other land and human rights organizations from the departments of Cauca, Nariño, Antioquia, Choco and Putumayo demand the full implementation of the country’s 2016 Peace Accords signed between the government at the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares) reports that the Indigenous Unit of the Awa People (UNIPA), the Ingas Indigenous of Putumayo, and Kamentza communities from Nariño are all joining the march that has shut down major highways south of Cali and affected traffic and transportation as far south as the border with Ecuador.

The activists are demanding that the Peace Accords signed in Havana, Cuba be fully implemented. This includes the protection of the Campesino and Indigenous social movement leaders whose lives are continually threatened by paramilitary groups and hired gunmen for their land.

"More than 420 Awa Indigenous people have been killed in recent years, more than 800 displaced between 2016 and 2019 and 64 have been threatened,” UNIPA said in a statement. “Our children suffer from malnutrition and our young people are threatened by armed groups present in the area," the Awa communique read.

Between November 2016 and 2018 over 420 activists were murdered, according to the Colombian government. The Colombian army said on Tuesday night it had found a total of four bodies that day in Buenaventura where the march is taking place.

The groups are also collectively demanding an additional US$1.46 million from the Colombian Congress that is currently debating the National Development Plan, according to El Tiempo. ONIC and CRIC say that the extra money would go to CRIC and land rights organizations in the Huila and Risaralda departments.

| "Solicitamos respeto al tratamiento de Autoridades Indígenas y la Jurisdicción Especial Indígena.": Soraya Gutiérrez - Coalición Colombia-Europa. .

CRIC announces a press conference for Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Since the march began some three weeks ago the Colombian military has attacked demonstrators several times. On March 19 the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) and the National Army opened fire on protesters in La Augustina, south of Cali injuring at least three people, according to CRIC.

The organization says security forces have fired tear gas, grenades, bullets and short and long range weapons at the march participants.

"To date, more 35 criminal reports have been made, including against the detainment of 13 marchers,” said CRIC in a communique. At least 10 Indigenous community members have been murdered by the state forces that have injured another 15.

Colombian President Ivan Duque who currently trying to amend and weaken the accord through a legislative process, has said he won’t meet with the more representatives of the now more than 5,000 marchers until they reopen the highway.

CRIC leader Aida Quilcue responded Monday saying, "We have been clear. If you tell us when the president will arrive, we’ll consider opening the road."​​​​​​​

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Colombia's Teachers Begin 48-Hours National Strike Against Duque's Neoliberal Reforms

The "Occupy Bogota" demonstration demands that the Colombian educational project be reviewed.

The Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Fecode) announced Tuesday a two-day strike to protest for a constitutional reform which guarantees adequate public funding for infrastructure, transportation, and feeding. This measure is accompanied by “Occupy Bogota” (La Gran Toma), a massive march called for Wednesday which demands improvements in the teachers' working conditions.

RELATED: Indigenous Protesters Injured: Police Ambush Peaceful Protest

Fecode seeks the fulfillment of the agreements signed with the National government in December 2018, which were aimed at improving the Colombian teachers' working conditions by providing salary bonuses and improving teacher evaluations. They also demand timely compliance with health contracts for teachers and their families.

"We require a greater political will from the National government to find timely solutions in the negotiation process," Fecode said in a statement and added that "the delay will aggravate the already critical problems within the country's public education system."

| against the policies of President in

The teachers' mobilization also rejects the National Development Plan proposed by President Ivan Duque administration because it harms the future of the public system.

In this regard, Carlos Eduardo Vasco, a physicist who coordinated the 'Mission of Sages' formed in 1994, criticized Duque's Plan for lacking consistent objectives on scientific education.

Source: TeleSUR

"Where are the main goals of the old Mission of Science, Education and Development?," Vasco asked and added "where are the funding guarantees for the December agreements, which [President Duque administration] reached with college students, professors and rectors?"

Today's mobilization is the second strike that Fecode carries out so far this year. On Feb. 14, the Colombian teachers staged another national strike demanding improvements to the provision of health services for teachers and their families.

 
 
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Warning About False Flag Operations Against Venezuela

Colombia is preparing further false flag operations with plans to blame Venezuela, Socialist Leader Freddy Berna said.

Together with Venezuela’s opposition, the United States government is planning a new false flag operation along the Colombian border, socialist leader and protector of the Venezuelan state of Tachira, Freddy Bernal, said Sunday.

RELATED: Who Is US Intelligence Official Advising Guaido on His 'Regional Tour'

"I have direct information from officers of the Colombian National Police that other attacks are coming along the Colombian-Venezuelan border and they are trying to twist the false flag by saying that Venezuela is going to attack Colombia," Bernal said during a televised interview with HOY.

The socialist leader told journalist Jose Vicente that the false flag operation will be bringing troops to the border for military exercises like those prevented from entering Venezuela over the last weeks.

Mercenaries and defectors from the Bolivarian army will be receiving training and equipment in preparation for the alleged attack, similar to the one executed Feb. 23 when ex-militants and members of the opposition attempted to transfer U.S.’”humanitarian aid” to Venezuela from Colombia.

Bernal said, "They are already arming and are going attack our Venezuelan military and our political leaders here on Venezuela's side of the border, of course.

"I want to warn the international community that a mode of war is being prepared against Venezuela aimed at causing internal chaos through the incursion of paramilitaries, mercenaries and some traitors," he said.

Bernal warned that the danger has not passed, “We can not be naive and we must be alert, "he emphasized.”

During the interview, Bernal reiterated the denouncements made by Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, and Ambassador of Venezuela to the U.N. Samuel Moncada in which they warned of the creation of a so-called “army of liberation” by the Venezuelan right-wing opposition.

Bernal’s appointment as a protector of Táchira by President Maduro year ago made him head of the security staff at the state’s border region with Colombia given that it is an unstable border area due to smuggling and drug trafficking.

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Venezuela closes border with Brazil, may do the same at Colombia border – Maduro

Starting Thursday evening, Venezuela is closing its border with Brazil, President Nicolas Maduro has announced. He added the same measure may apply to the border with Colombia, though he does not want to order it.

The Venezuelan military was ordered to enforce the travel ban in airspace and on the sea until further notice, Maduro said  during a televised address from a military headquarters.

Also on rt.com Venezuelan military rejects Trump threats, reiterates loyalty to Maduro...

Speaking about possible cut of border travel with Colombia, Maduro said he didn’t want to take such a decision but was considering it.

The restrictions come amid a tense stand-off over US attempts to deliver what Washington describes as humanitarian aid into Venezuela in defiance of the wishes of its government. The US considers Maduro usurper and recognizes as the head of state the self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido, whose opposition group is the designated receiver of the ‘aid’.

Also on rt.com Hands off ‘our hemisphere’ or Venezuela pays the price: US Senator warns Russia...

Earlier on Thursday Guaido said he will personally go to the border with Colombia to get the shipment from the US, urging drivers to go with him and defy the border guards ordered to prevent the delivery.

Maduro’s government is suspicious of the US stated plan to provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan opposition. US envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams has a record of using humanitarian convoys to smuggle arms to Latin American countries targeted for regime change by Washington, and Caracas says he is now trying to follow the same script in Venezuela.

BREAKING: and just disrupted Carlos Vecchio, illegitimate Venezuelan “president” Juan Guaido’s envoy to the US. The US is facilitating a coup that may very well lead to a civil war. We say: no coup, no civil war, no imperialism!

The confrontation over the shipment was also a major point of anti-Maduro media spin by Washington, which accused the Venezuelan president of barricading a border bridge only to stop aid from coming in. In reality the bridge was never operational, but the narrative was uncritically adopted by the US media.

Also on rt.com A bridge too far: US claims Venezuela blocked aid deliveries... at a crossing that was never open...

Both Brazil and Colombia serve as transit counties for Venezuela-bound American shipments. Sunday is the deadline given to Maduro by Guaido, presumably in coordination with the US, to allow the ‘humanitarian aid’ inside the country.

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US Senator Rubio Visits Colombia, Pushes Interventionist Agenda

Senator Marco Rubio does not have authority to demand actions from foreign governments, but does sit on key Senate foreign policy committees.

United States Senator Marco Rubio, visited the Colombia-Venezuela border Sunday, and made several comments against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

RELATED Opposition's Servitude to Foreign Interests Attacked

The senator was part of a U.S. delegation visiting the Colombian border city of Cucuta, where humanitarian aid is being stockpiled for planned delivery to Venezuela.

In a televised interview, Rubio declined to say explicitly if he would support U.S. military intervention against Venezuela.

The U.S. has continually tried to send humanitarian aid to Venezuela via its allies in the Caribbean and in Colombia, but is attempting to import the items without state approval under the guise of a philanthropic gesture. Last week, both the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent refused to participate in the operation which tries to circumvent Venezuelan leadership.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly stated that Venezuela requires no aid from the United States. It has, however, received some aid from other allies to offset the economic blockade being applied by the United States.

Last week, Cuba, China, Russia, Palestine, and Turkey all contributed to a shipment of over 930 tons of medical aid delivered to the Venezuelan port in Guaira.

The U.S. delegation included Carlos Trujillo, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, and Republican U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.

Rubio, a former presidential candidate, does not have the authority to call for specific actions but sits on the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women's Issues, which handles legislation related to Canada, Mexico and South and Central America.

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Moving Tribute in Colombia to Cuban Hero Jose Marti

Bogota, Jan 28 (Prensa Latina) Intellectuals, leaders politicians, cultural figures and a massive representation of the Colombian Movement of Solidarity with Cuba rendered a moving tribute to José Martí, on occasion of the 166th anniversary of his birth.

The evocation of the figure and trascendent legacy of the National Cuban Hero took place at the embassy of the island in Bogota, with the participation also of Cuban residents in this South American country, diplomats and workers of the Greater of the Antilles.

In name of the Colombian Movement of Solidarity with Cuba spoke Jorge Caceres, who highlighted the legacy of Marti in thought and action and extolled the significance of the Cuban Revolution for the peoples of Latin America and the world.

Jaime Caycedo, secretary general of the Communist Party of Colombia, stressed the infinite gratitude to the government and the Cuban people for their constribution to build peace in Colombia.

Jorge Rojas, leader of the movement Colombia Humana, reiterated the gratitude to the Caribbean nation and recalled that during the mayorship of former presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, an infant daycare was built named Jose Marti, guided by that beautiful Marti thought that 'children are born to be happy'.

Speakers at the event were also Jose Miguel Blanco, representative of the Association of Cuban Residents in Colombia, who referred to Marti's significance for Cuba;

Lina María Murcia, Colombian doctor graduated in ELAM faculty in Havana and Colombian intellectual Hector Arias

who stressed the ethic pillars of Marti's ideas and the need to return to Marti to find a way out of present problems in the world.

Artists from both nations performed and children placed a flower wreath before the bust of the Apostle in the Cuban diplomatic see and presented a much applauded review of Jose Marti's thoughts.

At the closing ceremony, Santiago Jaramillo, in the name of the Solidarity Movement, handed Cuban ambassador, Jose Luis Ponce, a banner illustrating a world map with Cuban flags in the numerous countries where solidarity aid from Cuba has been received.

The Cuban ambassador thanked the presence and love from all those present, concluding his words referring to the known chorus of the Singer-author of Argentina, Fito Paez, 'Who said that all is lost, Cuba comes to offer her heart'.

  • Published in Culture
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