UN denounces murder of 86 human rights defenders in Colombia

United Nations, December 12 (RHC)-- At least 86 human rights defenders have been murdered so far this year in Colombia, according to a report released this week by Alberto Brunori, the country's representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Brunori stressed that the defense of human rights in Colombia is "a high-risk activity.   "I have to say with sadness and indignation that at least 86 human rights defenders have been murdered in Colombia so far in 2019. We knew many of them, we knew of their courageous work," he said.

According to the UN delegate, these figures reveal "the lack of integral presence of the Colombian state.
"The strengthening of democracies of equality and dignity is failing because the right to life and human rights are not being protected," he said.

According to Brunori, the crimes against defenders occurred in a context of "stigmatization of their work and their claims," and in remote places where "the exercise of the right to justice and to economic, social and cultural rights is precarious.

Likewise, the diplomat, who participated in a forum held on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, pointed out that 22 of the 86 leaders murdered were members of Community Action Boards (JAC), grassroots organizations that promote community processes mainly in neighborhoods and rural areas.

According to the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace, since the signing of the agreement between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and May of this year, 837 social leaders and human rights defenders and ex-combatants have been assassinated throughout the country.

Edited by Ed Newman
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Disapproval Rating for Colombia's Duque Reaches 70 Percent

The survey highlighted that 79 percent of respondents believe that the situation in the country is getting worse and only 11 percent feel optimistic about the government measures.

The disapproval towards the government of Colombian President, Ivan Duque, has reached 70 percent, a survey from the Invamer group read on Wednesday.

RELATED: Colombians Make Third National Strike in Less Than Two Weeks

The survey, made at the end of November, highlighted that 79 percent of respondents believe that the situation in the country is getting worse and only 11 percent feel optimistic about the way the government has handle the crises inside the South American nation.

The Duque administration is also not saved in terms of handling international relations since 49 percent believe that it is getting worse and only 30 percent believe it is on track.

Against the issues that most concern Colombians, 88 percent pointed to citizen insecurity, followed by corruption with 84 percent and the economy with 78 percent.

The national strike that has been carried out by workers' centrals and various social sectors in the country since November 21, on which an agreement for its termination is not glimpsed for now, had a decisive influence on this study, given the zero governmental capacity to meet the demands popular.

Further adding to the problems in Colombia has been Duque's crackdown against former FARC members, with many being killed by forces loyal to the president. 

While Duque denies playing any role in these kilings, his administration has done little to protect these former FARC personnel, despite the wide-spread attacks against these men and women. 

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Venezuelan FM Condemns New Sanctions Imposed by TIAR Nations

Jorge Arreaza recalled that several of the countries that support the U.S are currently mired in popular mobilizations against neoliberal policies.

Venezuelan Foreign MinisterJorge Arreaza condemned on Tuesday the activation of measures on sanctions against officials of the Venezuelan government during the meeting of the Inter - American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance ( Rio Treaty ), which was held in Bogotá, Colombia on December 3.

RELATED: With Climate Change the Victims Are Always the Poorest: Venezuelan Gov't

Arreaza said that some of the allied regional governments of the United States seek to push for war against Venezuela by "inventing lists" aggressors, he said.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister recalled that several of the countries that support the U.S. in their aggressions against Venezuela are immersed in popular mobilizations against the neoliberal policies applied by their presidents.

The TIAR is a mechanism that the administration of Donald Trump has tried to apply against Venezuela to try to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution and thus justify all the sanctions and economic blockades that apply to the South American country.

The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago.

TIAR Rejection

However, Mexico and Panama refused to join the measures against the Government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The representative of Panama before the OAS, María Roquebert said that: “Panama requests that the legal systems of each country be followed”, and in its specific case, “the necessary documentation and evidence on those designated by the competent authorities must be received to that, according to Panamanian legislation, investigations can be expedited, and thus establish the corresponding sanctions and consequences. ”

“The list of people who are asked to apply sanctions was prepared by a group of countries such as Colombia and Brazil, of which Panama was not part; therefore, like other delegations, we have requested to receive the proper documentation that supports the inclusion of the members subject to sanctions, which so far has not been received,” details a statement from the Panamanian Foreign Ministry.

For his part, the Undersecretary for Latin America of the Mexican Foreign Ministry, Maximiliano Reyes Zúñiga, said that his government rejects any action taken within the framework of the TIAR.

Zúñiga recalled that the solution to settle differences between countries and governments has to be diplomatic and not coercive. 

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Colombia: 3 Dead, 122 Civilians Injured At Strike Against Duque

Colombia's Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo on Friday admitted that three people died and 122 civilians were injured during the nationwide strike against President Ivan Duque held on Thursday. 

In addition, he reported that 53 raids were made, 98 citizens were arrested and another 207 were "taken" to police stations. 

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Thousands of Colombians Demonstrate Amid Duque's Militarization

President Ivan Duque ordered the deployment of 4,000 additional police on the streets, aerial surveillance of protests and the closure of international borders.

As a response to the nationwide strike that thousands of Colombians are carrying out on Thursday, President Ivan Duque increased the number of troops patrolling in urban areas, which generated concern at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

RELATED: Colombia Scandal: Diplomats Evidence Plot Against Venezuela

"The Office notes with concern the issuance of several decrees and instructives which could allow mayors and governors to declare curfews and request military support for public order control," the UNCHR representative in Colombia Alberto Brunori said.

Since Monday, citizens have also expressed their surprise and anxiety over the presence of soldiers armed with combat weapons in Bogota, the capital of the country.

The government argued that the military presence in the streets does not imply a militarization of the country but "a support" to the Police's everyday tasks. This reasoning, however, has been criticized.

"States must limit and condition the use of Military Forces to control internal disturbances as much as possible, since military training, equipment, and perspectives are not adequate to guarantee the protection and control of civilians," Brunori explained.

Since Tuesday human rights defenders have been denounced that the Police raided homes of social leaders in Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali.

So far, according to UNCHR data, 27 raids have been carried out in Bogotá, five in Cali and four in Medellín to homes of activists, offices of social organizations and alternative media facilities.

Alleging the need to avoid possible excesses, the Duque administration also launched other security measures such as the closure of international borders, deployment of 4,000 additional police on the streets and aerial surveillance of protests.

Colombia's main organizations of workers, farmers, and students reject Duque’s neoliberal policy package, which seeks to eliminate the state-based pension fund, increase the retirement age and hire young people with salaries below the minimum wage.

Progressive parties and organizations also require the right-wing government to demonstrate a greater commitment to the implementation of the Peace Agreement and more protection to the lives of social leaders, who have been victims of selective killings executed by "unidentified" paramilitary groups.​​​​​

Since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016, at least 777 social leaders and 137 former guerrilla fighters have been killed in Colombia, according to the Institute for Development and Peace (Indepaz)​​​​​​.


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FARC party told world diplomats about problems in peace process

FARC (People's Revolutionary Alternative Force Party) President Rodrigo Londoño (Timochenko), Senators Julián Gallo, Griselda Lobo, Israel Zúñiga, Counselor Rodrigo Granda and Advisor Diego Martínez met with the ambassadors of the European Union, the Apostolic Nuncio, Switzerland, Sweden, Mexico, United Kingdom, donor countries and the Guarantor countries: Cuba and Norway.

The meeting took place at the headquarters of the Second United Nations Mission in Colombia and FARC executives were able to present their views and concerns about the critical state of the Peace Process and the dangers that loom over it, due to delays in implementation.

Such implementation, said the FARC executives, should have been "integral and harmonious in all the points agreed in Havana: the relative advances in reincorporation of former guerrillas, the short take off of the Land issue, lack of electoral guarantees, the murders of FARC members, as well as social leaders, the non respect of the economic commitments demanded by the implementation."

The FARC accused the government of "having a double discourse as it talks about its commitment to peace, but this talk is not reflected in practical results in the territories, where the presence of the State is Almost exclusively military."

The members of the FARC party answered some concerns and questions, while the diplomats pledged to continue supporting and accompanying the peace process, to make efforts in investment in productive projects in communities and to visit the Territorial Spaces where former guerrillas are living and trying to set up a new life.

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Driving to Colombia? New photos show Juan Guaido in car with ‘drug cartel gangster’

A Venezuelan official has published photos that he says are further proof of ties between the country’s self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido and a drug cartel member, who allegedly helped him sneak into Colombia.

In January, Guaido declared himself the rightful head of state in Venezuela and has since made several failed attempts to actually seize power in the Latin American nation, with Washington backing the effort. During one of them in February, he traveled to neighboring Colombia to attend a concert and lead a column of trucks containing US-provided ‘humanitarian aid,’ which was ultimately stopped by Venezuelan border guards.

Last week, a Colombian NGO published photos showing the would-be president and two other people, who were identified as members of Los Rastrojos, a paramilitary criminal organization operating on the border between Venezuela and Colombia. It was alleged that Guaido had crossed the border with the help of the gangsters.

On Thursday, more photos apparently confirming the theory were published in Venezuela. One shows a smiling Guaido hugging a bulky man identified as Jonathan Orlando Zambrano Garcia, aka ‘Patron Pobre,’ a Los Rastrojos mid-tier commander. He was driving Guaido, who could be seen sticking out of an open door of the car.

Guaido’s clothes in the photos are the same that he wore during his trip to Colombia in February. The images were first revealed by ‘Con el Mazo Dando,’ a TV program hosted by Diosdado Cabello, an influential Venezuelan MP.

Cabello also reported that Los Rastrojos had tried to kill a man known as ‘El Menor,’ one of the two cartel members shown alongside Guaido in photos that emerged last week. He said that assassins had failed to find him and instead killed his parents and two other family members in what he called an obvious attempt to cover up the scandal.

After the initial allegation emerged, Guaido denied that he had received any help from Los Rastrojos and said the two members were among hundreds of people with whom he posed for selfies after crossing the border. Colombian authorities, who support Guaido’s claim in Venezuela, confirmed that the two individuals were members of the organization, but said that the opposition leader was not accompanied by any criminal during his visit to the country.

The ties between the man in the new pictures and Los Rastrojos, however, are less clear. According to Colombian newspaper El Espectador, Colombian border guards don’t believe him to be part of the criminal organization.

Los Rastrojos are one of several paramilitary groups operating in the border area. They are involved in various crimes including illegal mining, racketeering, trafficking of drugs and gasoline, kidnappings and assassinations.

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Venezuela Sends 3,000 Soldiers To Colombian Border

Venezuela deployed more than 3,000 troops to its Colombian border on Thursday after the South American nation declared an orange alert.

“More than 3,000 men and women from the FANB (National Bolivarian Armed Forces) are in perfect operational readiness along the Colombian border,” said government representative Freddy Bernal in a statement, according to Cuban state news agency Prensa Latina.

On Tuesday, President Nicolas Maduro government declared the orange alert at Colombian border due to the ”threat of military aggression” from the neighboring country.

“It’s just one more tension,” Bernal evaluated on the current relations between two countries and added: “We won’t reach any kind of conflict.”

Maduro also announced Wednesday a military exercise called “Peace and Sovereignty” to begin on Sept. 10 until Sept. 28 throughout the western border of the country.

“It is an exercise for peace, for Venezuela to be respected. To say that we are not willing to be a colony (…) we have the highest quality technological anti-missile system in Latin America, that we have already deployed and in due course details will be given about this exercise,” Bernal said.

“Colombia does not attack anyone, this is a country that always respects the territorial integrity of other nations,” President Ivan Duque told reporters for his part.

Venezuela’s relations with neighboring Colombia has been undergoing a new phase of deterioration after the former second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced the rebel group’s rearmament in a video message last week.

Duque blamed Maduro administration for the sudden reappearance of FARC.

In July, Maduro praised former leaders of FARC Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich, saying that two “are welcome in Venezuela” and called them “leaders of peace.”

Colombia and FARC reached a peace deal in November 2016, ending more than 50 years of conflict between the two sides.

Duque threw his support behind Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido after the South American nation has been embroiled in political unrest as Maduro and Guaido engage in a power battle at the beginning of 2019.

Colombia also participated in the failed U.S. aid mission to bring truckloads of supplies from Cucuta, Colombia to Venezuela.

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