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
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.
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.
Geography, economics and migration patterns dictate that Colombia and Venezuela, which severed diplomatic ties in 2019, will confront the coronavirus pandemic together. The two countries should temporarily mend their relations, and the Venezuelan factions should pause their duel, to allow for a coordinated humanitarian response.
Three years after the FARC peace deal, Colombia’s Pacific region has seen surges of both dissident guerrilla activity and drug-related crime. To better aid this historically neglected area, the state should expand its presence, speed up development projects and improve educational opportunities for all.
Talks in Havana with the ELN, Colombia’s last insurgency, are advancing at a slow pace. Backed by international actors, the current government and guerrilla negotiators should aim for rapid progress in negotiations to minimise the chance of a sceptical incoming president abandoning the peace process.
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.
The history in Colombia is when you start a wave of violence it accelerates and it’s very hard to stop.
The string of assassinations of indigenous leaders in Cauca illustrates some of the fundamental tensions at the center of the debate about protection for human rights defenders in Colombia.
As long as each side [in Venezuela] pursues a winner-take-all approach, they are less willing to make concessions and a deal will remain elusive.
This week, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Beth Dickinson, Crisis Group’s Colombia expert, about the violence in Colombia’s countryside over coca production and why the government’s forced eradication of coca is making things worse.
Coca crops have set record yields in Colombia since the 2016 peace accord with FARC guerrillas, persuading the government to expand its forced eradication campaign with the backing of U.S. authorities. Bogotá claims that eliminating the plant will reduce rural violence.
Online event joining together experts on drug policy from the Washington Office on Latin America's (WOLA), field-level expertise from Corporación Viso Mutop and Crisis Group senior analysts to discuss our new report: "Deeply Rooted: Coca Eradication and Violence in Colombia."
Throughout Colombia, social leaders are a staple of community life, providing services and defending rights that the state does not. But these activists face growing dangers from the criminals, ex-paramilitaries and self-styled guerrillas whose rackets they disrupt. This is one woman’s story.