In this testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson analyses the protests that have swept the streets of Colombia, fuelled by economic inequality, and urges the U.S. government to support Colombia in its pursuit of a peaceful resolution.
Originally published in House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
To accompany this month’s CrisisWatch, Interim President Richard Atwood looks at the dramatic turn of events in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the danger of new fighting and its implications for Horn of Africa geopolitics.
In Colombia’s history of protest, the 2021 mobilisations against inequality and police brutality stand out for their breadth and intensity. Unrest has quieted for now but could soon return. The government should urgently reform the security sector while working to narrow the country’s socio-economic chasms.
Coca gives Colombian small farmers a stable livelihood but also endangers their lives, as criminals battle over the drug trade and authorities try to shut it down. Bogotá and Washington should abandon their heavy-handed elimination efforts and help growers find alternatives to the hardy plant.
A study of social media content shows that Venezuelan opposition figures often take harder anti-government lines if they flee abroad. Exiles’ voices are important, but those trying to end Venezuela’s crisis should listen to others as well, recalling that compromise offers the only peaceful exit.
Following legislative elections, President Nicolás Maduro controls all of Venezuela’s major political institutions. Meanwhile, the country’s crisis deepens apace. An exit remains possible if the government and opposition adjust their zero-sum thinking to admit the need for compromise. The new U.S. administration can help.
The Colombian-Venezuelan frontier, long plagued by guerrilla warfare and organised crime, is now also the site of an inter-state standoff. The two countries should urgently reopen communication channels to lower tensions and lessen the suffering of migrants who cross the border, whether legally or otherwise.
Murders of Colombian grassroots activists are increasing at an alarming rate. The killers seek to sabotage the country’s 2016 peace agreement and the rural economic reform it promised. Bogotá should step up prosecution of these crimes while pushing to improve social conditions in the countryside.
Maduro is very isolated internationally. It's hard for him to trade. He can't renegotiate the massive debt that Venezuela has. So he needs some relief.
There is no armed or military solution to this crisis [in Colombia]. But agendas on all sides are increasingly tempted to look for one.
There is no way you could credibly claim that any armed or criminal group is motivating or coercing protesters to the street [in Colombia].
There’s a lot of work to be done to fix social cohesion [in Colombia] because violence is at times the default answer, which is a legacy of so many years of conflict.
Unless he [Guaidó] is able to reinvent himself in some way, I think the Guaidó plan has clearly failed.
The history in Colombia is when you start a wave of violence it accelerates and it’s very hard to stop.
The turmoil after Bolivia’s disputed 2019 election has subsided, but the country’s political wounds remain unhealed. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2021 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to keep up technical assistance to national and local electoral authorities, help foster local dialogues and encourage comprehensive judicial reform.
Every year Crisis Group publishes two additional Watch List updates that complement its annual Watch List for the EU, most recently published in January 2021. These publications identify major crises and conflict situations where the European Union and its member states can generate stronger prospects for peace. The Spring Update of the Watch List 2021 includes entries on Bolivia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Ukraine and Yemen.
A series of gestures from Caracas suggests that President Nicolás Maduro’s government might be more willing to negotiate with rivals and enact partial reforms. Washington should respond in kind with phased sanctions relief and diplomatic gestures that can be reversed if Venezuela backslides.
Colombia’s cities, towns and countryside are aflame with popular protests. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson traces the unrest’s origins to inequality, police impunity and the government’s seeming aloofness from the street.
In the jungle along the Colombian-Venezuelan frontier, guerrillas, criminals and shadowy state elements jostle for illicit profits. Venezuela’s campaign against one armed group has raised tensions. Bogotá and Caracas should temper their war of words and work to forestall an inadvertent bilateral escalation.