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Amid high levels of violence, three former senior commanders of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced return to armed struggle. Group, including former chief FARC negotiator in peace process Iván Márquez, announced via video released 29 Aug their return to armed combat, highest ranking figures of ex-guerrillas to have reneged on 2016 peace accord; Márquez claimed video recorded in Inírida region of eastern Colombia, close to Venezuela border, but intelligence reports suggested group may be based in Venezuela. Other demobilised leaders of guerrillas distanced themselves from schism. In Pacific region, fighting continued to spread, particularly affecting indigenous communities with Public Ombudsman 8 Aug announcing seventeen armed groups fighting for control of region; unidentified attackers 10 Aug killed indigenous leaders Kedvin Mestizo Coicue and Eugenio Tenorio in Caloto municipality, Cauca (south west). Levels of violence against social leaders and activists remained high, including early Aug killings of community leaders José Eduardo Tumbó, also in Caloto, and of Enrique Güejia and Gersain Yatacué, coordinators of the indigenous guard in municipality of Toribío; indigenous communities in northern Cauca 11 Aug declared state of emergency. UN Office on Drugs and Crime 2 Aug released report detailing govt had reduced amount of land occupied by illicit crops by 2,000 hectares in 2018 after five years of reported increases, but stating that cocaine production increased in same period. U.S. 8 Aug certified Colombia as cooperating with counter-narcotic measures and said govt “leading efforts to restart a Colombian-led aerial eradication program”. Formal timeframe of existence of 24 reintegration camps for ex-FARC members ended 15 Aug; Colombian Agency for Reincorporation 6 Aug announced govt will continue providing security and financial support for additional year in order to support over 3,000 ex-combatants still in these zones. Amid regional concern over fallout of Venezuela crisis, govt 5 Aug passed degree granting citizenship to Venezuelan children born in Colombia after Aug 2015, giving 24,000 stateless children Colombian nationality.
Political tensions continued amid disappearance of ex-Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander, while violence between armed groups remained high. After former FARC commander and current Congressman Jesús Santrich went missing 30 June from FARC demobilisation zone on Colombia/Venezuela border, Supreme Court issued arrest warrant for Santrich 9 July, day he was due to attend court on charges of drug smuggling; President Duque 1 July claimed Santrich “wants to evade justice” while FARC 9 July released statement reiterating commitment to peace process. UN Security Council 11-14 July visited Colombia, calling on govt to protect FARC ex-combatants and community activists, move forward on transitional justice and promote rural reform; Duque 12 July asked for extension of UN Mission in Colombia. National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla-related violence continued; ELN 4 July bombed Attorney General’s Office in Ocaña (north east), on 55th anniversary of group’s foundation, and 18 July attacked army base in Samaniego, Nariño (south west) with improvised mortar, causing loss of power. ELN 4 July called on govt to restart negotiations; govt refused and said Venezuelan govt directly protects ELN and FARC dissidents. Dissident-related violence remained high; dissidents 10 July attacked police truck in Caquetá (south), injuring three soldiers. Dissident group Steven González Front 12 July clashed with army in Cumbitara, Nariño, reportedly killing several soldiers. Humanitarian groups early July said ongoing violence between FARC dissidents and ELN confined over 1,000 people in Chocó (west). Attacks on activists continued; unidentified attackers 3 July killed social leader Tatiana Paola Posso Espitia in El Copey, Cesar (north).
Violence between armed groups remained high, while political tensions continued over role of transitional justice mechanism of 2016 peace deal with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Ex-FARC commander Jesús Santrich, released from prison in May after Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP, created under peace deal to handle cases deriving from govt-FARC conflict) ruled against his extradition to U.S. on drug trafficking charges, took seat in Congress 11 June as part of peace deal; other legislators protested his swearing in, claiming incident undermined legitimacy of peace agreement. Despite previous objections, President Duque 6 June signed statutory law regarding functioning of SJP. Violence between armed forces and FARC dissident groups continued; military operation killed seven fighters from Seventh front dissident group in Meta (centre) 1 June, while one soldier died in clash with dissident group in Cauca (south west) 10 June. FARC dissident groups revealed proof of life videos for two people previously abducted: 9 June for soldier taken 5 March in Arauca (east) and 15 June for civilian kidnapped 10 June in Cauca. Dissidents 3 June attacked National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group unit, prompting displacement of over 400 people, in Litoral San Juan in Chocó (west); army 16 June killed regional ELN commander in Cauca. In north west, conflict between Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC, country’s main drug trafficking group) and AGC splinter group “Caparrapos” continued; gunmen killed four members of same family in Antioquia 4 June, with local media reporting killing was part of AGC-“Caparrapos” conflict. Attacks on activists increased including unknown assailants killing social leader María del Pilar Hurtado in Tierralta, Córdoba (northwest) 21 June.
Political tensions continued over role of transitional justice mechanism of 2016 peace deal with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), while violence between armed groups led to mass displacement. Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), created under peace deal to handle cases deriving from govt-FARC conflict, 15 May ruled against imprisonment and extradition to U.S. of ex-FARC commander Jesús Santrich, arrested on drug trafficking charges in joint U.S.-Colombia operation April 2018; SJP ruled evidence did not establish that Santrich had committed trafficking crimes after 1 Dec 2016, date FARC demobilisation began. Police 17 May re-arrested Santrich immediately after his release following attorney general’s office distribution of video allegedly showing Santrich committing crimes post-demobilisation date. Santrich released 30 May on Supreme Court’s order. Attorney general, deputy attorney general and justice minister resigned in protest at SJP’s decision to not extradite Santrich. Constitutional Court 29 May ruled Congress had rejected President Duque’s objections against SJP, obliging him to sign law regarding functioning of SJP. Duque 24 May announced appointment of independent commission to review military orders and operational instructions following New York Times report 18 May alleging military leaders had set targets for army including number of deaths or surrenders of enemy combatants. Conflicts between armed groups displaced or confined over 2,000 during month. FARC dissident groups 2 May clashed in Nariño (south west), displacing over 200 and putting Dec truce between various dissident groups under strain. In Juradó, Chocó (west), fighting between Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC, country’s main drug trafficking group) and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group displaced over 900 people and confined 800 within their communities between late April and mid May. Other violence continued; unknown attackers 14 May attacked judicial commission in Tibú, Norte de Santander (north east), killing two members of commission and wounding five policemen. Attacks on activists increased with almost ten killed during month, mainly in Putumayo (south west), Bolívar (north), Antioquia (north west) and Arauca (east) departments.
Congress rejected President Duque’s objections to transitional justice mechanism in show of support to 2016 peace deal with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), while violence between armed groups continued to cause mass displacement. Lower House 8 April rejected Duque’s objections and call for changes to Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), transitional justice mechanism created under peace deal to handle cases deriving from govt-FARC conflict, with representatives voting 110-44 against. Ruling Democratic Centre party successfully delayed vote in Senate, which is also expected to reject objections. UN Security Council 16 April gave unanimous support to SJP and asked Congress to immediately pass law outlining its working systems; U.S. voiced support for SJP at meeting, despite U.S. ambassador early April pressing MPs to approve Duque’s objections. Conflicts between armed groups including FARC dissidents and drug traffickers displaced or confined over 5,000 during month. Fighting between Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC, country’s main drug trafficking group) and AGC splinter group “Caparrapos” that began 22 March reportedly led to over 2,250 people fleeing their homes in Córdoba (north). In Chocó (west), fighting between AGC and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group moved toward town of Bojayá, trapping some 2,800 people. Clashes between FARC dissident group Oliver Sinisterra front and local drug trafficking group the “Accountants” in Tumaco (south west) 12 April displaced some 700, while 250 people were displaced by clashes between AGC and dissident Estiven González front in Nariño 16 April (south west). ELN 12 April announced unilateral ceasefire 14-21 April, leading to drop in violence, but bombed oil pipeline in Norte de Santander (north east) 13 April. ELN also clashed with dissident Carlos Patiño front throughout April in El Plateado, Cauca (south west), leading to deaths of six fighters. Army 16 April killed one FARC dissident in clash in Guaviare (south). Army also killed civilian and former FARC fighter in Norte de Santander (north east) 22 April, leading to widespread condemnation; army general 28 April apologised for killing.
President Duque’s objections to Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP), transitional justice mechanism created under 2016 peace deal with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to handle cases deriving from govt-FARC conflict, fuelled concerns over impact on wider peace deal, while violence along Pacific Coast continued at high levels, particularly involving National Liberation Army (ELN). Duque in live televised address 10 March announced objections to six articles from law establishing SJP. Congress due to consider Duque objections and vote on them or modify SJP; observers voiced concerns that objections could lead to changes to SJP that would overload it with cases or undermine former FARC members’ confidence in transitional justice, and ultimately boost FARC dissident group recruitment. Opposition responded with speech and protests in Bogotá and other cities 18 March, attended by thousands. Constitutional Court announced it will review objections 20 June, regardless of outcome in Congress. In north east, ELN guerrilla group continued attacks on security forces including ambush on soldiers in Catatumbo 9 March, killing three soldiers and two civilians. ELN 8 March carried out numerous attacks in Arauca (east) to coincide with Duque’s visit to region, including improvised explosive devices (IED) that wounded five soldiers, attack on police station in town of Fortúl, and reportedly killing an engineer it had previously kidnapped. Fighting broke out 11 March between ELN and Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC, country’s main drug trafficking group) in Chocó (west), trapping indigenous tribes in their territory, blocking access to food and leading to death of five children from starvation. High levels of violence along Pacific coast continued as clashes between armed groups that began 28 Feb caused displacement of 150 families from Tumaco into Ecuador. Political killings of community activists continued; armed group known as “Accountants” 17 March reportedly killed Argemiro López, local community leader of coca substitution processes, in La Guayacana, Nariño (south west).