WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

23 Dec 2020 | News

Massacres and Killings of Social Leaders Impede Peace in Colombia: Second Alert

As per our prior December 16 urgent action, below you will find concerning rights situations requiring your attention and action. 

Black U.S. Actor and Activist Assaulted by Police in Cartagena (Bolívar)
On December 15, police officers in Cartagena, Bolívar department assaulted Kendrick Sampson—a Black U.S. actor and Black Lives Matter Activist. A video of the incident circulated through social media, which showed a uniformed officer harassing Kendrick, punching him in the face, and pulling a gun on him. The police officers then withheld Kendrick’s documents and detained him at a police station for several hours. 

The Afro-Colombian Labor Council (Consejo Laboral Afrocolombiano, CLAF) denounced the incident on December 17 and noted that it draws attention to systemic racist policing and an excessive use of force by the police against Black Colombians, including individuals like lawyer Dr. Alcides Arrieta; physician Dr. Benjamín Luna; community leader Miguel Salgado; and young athlete Harold David Morales, who was killed. The statement also indicated that racist mistreatment and abuse is prevalent among police ranks in Colombia. The CLAF called for a national dialogue to address and transform this systemic racial abuse and violence.

On December 17, WOLA published a Twitter thread addressing this episode of police brutality. It discussed how disproportionate and sometimes lethal use of force by Colombian police—especially against Black Colombians—is a structural problem. To take a basic first step in supporting police reform in Colombia, and to better protect Black and Indigenous Colombians, the United States should place a moratorium on sales of crowd control weapons until the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios, ESMAD) has either been replaced or undergone a full overhaul.

Female Afro-Colombian Displaced Leaders at Risk (Valle del Cauca)
On December 22, WOLA, the National Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), and the International Institute for Race and Equality urged U.S. policymakers to guarantee the safety and security of AFRODES leaders in Cali. Among the targeted are Silvia Helen Rodríguez Quintero and Ruby Cortes Castro. 

Quintero is the president of the Community Action Group in the Villa San Marcos neighborhood of Cali and the legal representative of the Arts and Trades Foundation for Vulnerable Afro-descendant Women (Fundación de Artes Y Oficios para Mujeres Vulnerables Afrodescendientes), one of AFRODES’ member organizations. On December 10, Silvia suffered an attempt on her life at the Foundation’s soup kitchen, narrowly surviving a bullet wound to her neck. She is now recovering at a secure location provided by the Secretary for Public Security and Justice of the Office of the Mayor of Cali. The Secretary’s office provides such protection for 15 days, with the possibility of another 15 days’ extension; however, the level of protection offered is not sufficient given the immediate threat to Silvia’s life. 

AFRODES leader in Cali, Ruby Cortes Castro is the mother of Jair Andrés Cortes, who was killed along with four other young men in the August 11 Llano Verde massacre. After speaking out, Ruby received a death threat on September 4 in the form of a pamphlet at her home warning her to “keep her mouth shut” and stop seeking justice for her son. Ruby reported the threat to the Attorney General on September 5 and requested protection from the National Protection Unit on October 1st. To date, she has received no response from the Unit. Please read the full letter for recommendations made on steps required to provide both women with protection to guarantee their safety. 

Defend the Peace Coalition Urges UN Security Council to Advance Peace
On November 24—four years after the signing of the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—Defend the Peace Colombia (Defendamos la Paz Colombia, DLP) published a statement addressed to Ambassadors before the United Nations Security Council. DLP, a broad coalition composed of many sectors of Colombian civil society and of which WOLA forms part, urged the Security Council to demand a greater commitment by the Colombian government to the peace accord’s implementation.

DLP’s statement expressed deep concern with ongoing threats against the physical and legal security of FARC ex-combatants, the assassinations of social leaders, and a disturbing trend of massacres. Rather than taking the measures in the accord to prevent and condemn violence in the territories, the government uses the violence as an excuse to deepen its campaign to discredit the peace process. The coalition notes in international settings like the UN, the government sustains a pro-peace discourse while simultaneously engaging in anti-peace discourse inside Colombia. The window of opportunity for peace remains open. DLP trusts in the Security Council’s cooperation to use existing mechanisms to verify and defend human rights throughout this path to peace and to demand the Colombian government hold to its commitments.

Ethnic Commission Demands Implementation of Peace with an Ethnic Focus
On November 24, the Colombian Ethnic Commission for Peace and Defense of Territorial Rights (Comisión Étnica para la Paz y la Defensa de los Derechos Territoriales) urged for the full and comprehensive implementation of the 2016 peace accord with a focus on the Ethnic Chapter. Armed actors have assassinated over 1,065 social leaders since the accord was signed, of which 287 were Indigenous peoples and 75 Afro-descendants. Over 850 of these assassinations occurred under the Duque administration, and as of the publication of this statement, over 77 massacres have taken place in 2020. Different paramilitary groups continue to execute systematic threats and enjoy impunity.

The Commission pleads with all sectors of civil society to pressure the government to resume the Ethnic Chapter’s implementation framework. According to the Commission’s latest report, only 10% of implementation indicators have been fully complied with. Though the government claims differently, its data does not reflect the realities on the ground. The Commission asks for the international community’s accompaniment to ensure peace reaches the communities most affected by violence.

Communities Affected by Violence Reiterate Call for Global Humanitarian Accord
On November 25, the Inter-Ecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, CIJP), alongside urban and rural communities that form part of the #SomosGénesis movement, reiterated their call for a Global Humanitarian Accord and welcomed the Putumayo Regional Table of Social Organizations (Mesa Regional de Organizaciones Sociales, MEROS) to the peace movement. Since March, the organizations have urged for a humanitarian accord, which was initiated in the face of a peace process in crisis due to the government’s failure to comply with implementation and further dialogue. As violence continues to increase in the territories, the communities plead for humanitarian efforts and plan to coordinate communication with the United Nations Security Council.

Killings of Human Rights Defenders in 2020 Exceed Total in 2019
On November 26, Somos Defensores, a non-governmental organization that documents attacks and killings of human rights defenders and social leaders, reported on its July to September 2020 data. The organization’s data reveals 40 human rights defenders were killed, in 15 departments of Colombia, between July and September. The number of murders stood at 135 by the end of September. Somos Defensores’ tally surpassed its figure for all of 2019, 124, in August. Counting all types of aggression for which a responsible party can be alleged, neo-paramilitary groups are believed responsible for 54 attacks, FARC dissidents for 20, the ELN for 11, and the security forces for 8.

Social Leader Killed in Home (Antioquia)
On December 17, armed men assassinated social leader Alirio de Jesús Serna Sierra, a community projects manager in Andes, Antioquia department. Caracol Radio reported Alirio had not received prior threats before the armed men arrived at his home and shot him dead. The attack also injured an elderly person. His wife, President of the La Esperanza hamlet community action board, was not home at the time of the attack and currently fears for her life.

Afro-Colombian Female Social Leader Assassinated (Cauca)
On December 16, as reported by Communities Constructing Peace in Colombia (Comunidades Construyendo Paz en Colombia, Conpazcol), armed men assassinated Afro-Colombian female leader María Adriana Díaz León. The armed men ambushed and shot her dead as she climbed onto a motorcycle in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca department.

Female Defender Killed, Another Eight Female Defenders at Risk (Antioquia)
On December 11, Elizabeth Betancur, a rights defender with the National Network of Community Women of Colombia (Red Nacional de Mujeres Comunales de Colombia), was killed in El Atajo located within the municipality of Yolombo in Antioquia department. The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) condemned her death. The regional organism urged the Colombian State to investigate both the material and intellectual authors of this crime. 

At the same time, activists involved in the Ríos Vivos Movement reported increased threats against eight female environmental defenders in the areas affected by the Ituango hydroelectric dam in particular the municipalities of Valdivia, Tarazá, Nechí, and Cáceres where armed groups have a strong presence. According to Isabel Zuleta, the President of the Ríos Vivos Movement, threats against female leaders are particularly aggressive. The increased insecurity faced by these leaders is due to advances made by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, JEP) in attempting to clarify what occurred to potential victims of forced disappearances whose remains are buried in the area under Hidroituango’s influence. The week of December 11, five bodies located in the Orobajo de Sabanalarga cemetery with signs of violence were transported to a lab for forensic analysis. In 2020, eight bodies in similar conditions were found. 

Social Leader Murdered in His Home (Valle del Cauca)
On December 6, Joaquín Antonio Ramírez, leader with the Community Council of the Pacific Cimarrones (Consejo Comunitario Pacífico Cimarrónes Cisneros), died due to bullet wounds fired at the hands of armed men. This occurred in El Credo near Cisneros in Buenaventura municipality. 

Indigenous Governor Assassinated by Paramilitaries (Chocó)
On December 3, alleged Gulf Clan paramilitaries kidnapped, tortured, and later killed Indigenous Governor Miguel Tapí Tito in Bahía Solano municipality, Chocó department. Ombudsman Carlos Camargo Assis denounced the assassination and incursion and noted that authorities have been unable to recover Governor Tito’s body due to conditions in the area. Earlier this year in April, the Ombudsman had issued an alert about the critical situation of Indigenous communities in the region, and as of then, over 195 families—more than 900 people—have been internally displaced.

Armed Men Kill Indigenous Man (Cauca)
On November 30, the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca, ACIN) condemned the assassination of Romelio Ramos Cuetia, a 31-year-old Indigenous resident, father with two children, and farmworker of the Alejandría village of the Cerro Tijeras reservation. A group of armed men shot and killed Romelio in a rural area of the Suárez municipality. Authorities ruled out the crime as a theft gone wrong since his motorcycle and belongings were found at the scene. ACIN reiterated the critical humanitarian crisis occurring in Cauca department and appealed to human rights organizations for urgent action.

Man Assassinated by Alleged Paramilitaries (Sucre)
On November 24, unknown armed men on motorcycles assassinated Jorge Armando Tous with a gunshot to his forehead. The crime occurred in the Toluviejo hamlet, Sucre department, which borders Montes de María. Members of the community believe the Gulf Clan paramilitary group, known to conduct its operations in this region, were responsible for Jorge’s assassination. Human rights organizations and leaders in the region demand investigations, as well as truth, reparations, and justice in the face of persisting violence and impunity.

Social Leader and Family Internally Displaced After Murder Attempt (North Santander)
On December 7, Caracol Radio reported social leader Alexander Donado Quintero and his family were internally displaced following an assassination attempt. Alexander is a member of the Movement for the Popular Constituent (Movimiento para la Constituyente Popular, MCP), Vice President of the Brisas del Porvenir neighborhood in the El Tarra municipality, and member of the Alternative Indigenous and Social Movement (Movimiento Alternativo Indígena y Social) political party. He fears for his life because of the work he has developed as a social leader in the region and pleads to authorities to investigate the sources of the threat, as he has no personal issues with people or armed groups. With little protection from state authorities for social leaders, Alexander felt forced to flee.

Paramilitaries Threaten Environmental Defenders in Magdalena Medio (Antioquia)
Between November 4 and 5, using widely-distributed pamphlets, the Magdalena Medio Bloc of the Black Eagles paramilitary group threatened to assassinate over 18 environmental defenders giving them 24 hours to flee the area. The defenders are engaged in raising awareness of environmental damage and its links to corruption in the Magdalena Medio, a resource-rich region. 

In September 2020, to determine its environmental impacts and viability, the Colombian government began a process to select companies and grant contracts for fracking pilot projects in the Magdalena Medio. ECOPETROL, in alliance with ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, PAREX, and the mining company Drummond, expressed interest in the projects. As this process proceeds, environmentalists have continued to indicate that fracking will cause serious social and environmental problems. The recent threats by the Black Eagle paramilitaries coincide with the civil society decision-making processes that will affect the interests of extractive companies planning to undertake significant operations in the region.

 The international community is called upon to urge the Colombian State to: 

  • Fulfill its responsibility in protecting environmental defenders
  • Guarantee ethnic communities’ right to prior, free, and informed consultations
  • Effectively dismantle paramilitary groups and clarify potential ties with extractive companies
  • Ratify the Escazú Agreement as a show of political will to acknowledge and protect those who defend the environment 
  • Maximize political and financial support for transitional justice mechanisms 
  • Encourage the National Protection Unit to grant the necessary measures that they agreed upon for at-risk environmental defenders

Paramilitaries Threaten to Kill Social Leaders Promoting Coca Crop Substitution (Chocó)
On December 11, CIJP confirmed the existence of plans by Gulf Clan paramilitaries to assassinate social leaders Argemiro Bailarín and Jaime Mecheche. According to CIJP, on December 5, community members who live along the Jiguamiadó river basin in Chocó department spotted 15 paramilitaries with large weapons inspecting the area. The paramilitaries approached a resident and announced their intention to enter the Embera Indigenous Peoples’ Alto Guayabal reservation to assassinate leaders who approved the eradication of more than 150 hectares of coca crops in August 2020. On December 8, Jaime received a phone call from the paramilitaries threatening to kill him and Argemiro. Strategic and appropriate protection measures are needed for Colombian social leaders, especially amid the pandemic.

Social Leaders Arbitrarily Detained by State Authorities Granted Freedom by Judge (Bolívar, Meta, and Nariño)
Between December 15 and 16, state authorities arbitrarily detained three prominent social leaders—Teófilo Acuña, Adelso Gallo, and Robert Daza Guevara—in the Bolívar, Meta, and Nariño departments, respectively. The three men are social leaders who have dedicated their lives to defending their territories through grassroots advocacy. According to the statement published by the People’s Congress (Congreso de los Pueblos), the Colombian government uses state institutions to undertake unfounded prosecutions of social leaders, who then have to defend themselves against trumped-up charges for carrying out their community-building work. Armed actors continue to assassinate social leaders in various regions of the country, and rather than protect their at-risk lives, the Colombian government stigmatizes and criminalizes their work.

National and international civil society organizations joined in solidarity to call for their freedom and to redirect the government’s efforts to effectively address the killings and massacres of social leaders. On December 21, the judge presiding over the case granted the three defendants their freedom, ruling they are not threats to society. The judge also ordered an investigation into the irregularities carried out by Duque administration officials in the case.

Armed Group Intercepts and Steals Vehicles of Black Community Leaders (Cauca)
On November 28, an unidentified armed group with large weapons intercepted two protection vehicles assigned to directors of the Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca (Asociación de Consejos Comunitarios del Norte del Cauca, ACONC). The bodyguards driving were stripped of their weapons and forced to hand over the protection vehicles, identified by license plates GCT465 and GLM275, to the armed men. Fortunately, no one was harmed. However, ACONC vehemently rejects these violent actions that threaten the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of ACONC members and Black people in general. They are calling for an investigation into this incident and that authorities provide adequate guarantees for protecting the life and ancestral territory of the Black People of northern Cauca.

LGBT+ Community Target of Grave Violations (Nariño)
On November 26, Colombia Diversa—an LGBT+ rights organization—issued an alert to the international community about the grave human rights violations occurring against Afro-Colombian LGBT+ people, as well as the lack of security guarantees for armed conflict victims in Tumaco. The alert outlined incidents like extortions against LGBT+ business owners, threats against members of local LGBT+ organization Afro-Colombian Rainbow Foundation (Fundación Afrocolombiana Arco Iris), six beatings of gay men and trans women in public, and at least four homicides of LGBT+ persons committed by alleged members of illegal armed groups. Colombia Diversa noted that some victims of the recent spate of attacks have also suffered conflict-related violence in the past. 

This violence is not investigated, prosecuted, or punished, and LGBT+ victims receive no protection or support from authorities. Colombia Diversa expressed concern that the government’s inaction and the increasing militarization of the municipality could also hinder participation in the transitional justice system. The organization calls on the international community to incorporate an LGBT+ perspective with discussions and actions on human rights and peace accord implementation in Colombia and to press the government to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for these grave violations.

Southwestern Department Faces Increased Political Violence (Cauca)
On December 17, the Cauca Coordination of Social Organizations denounced the increased political violence occurring in Cauca department, located in southwestern Colombia. Of the 85 massacres and 291 assassinations of social leaders reported in Colombia this year, 25 massacres, 145 assassinations of social leaders, and 90 assassinations of FARC ex-combatants occurred in Cauca. The statement claims the Duque administration’s policies to address the armed conflict work against the people of Cauca; the government stigmatizes, persecutes, and imprisons people who defend human rights, and responds to the right to protest with increased militarization. It also made mention of the three social leaders—Teófilo Acuña, Adelso Gallo, and Robert Daza Guevara—recently detained with trumped-up charges. The coalition called for continued social mobilization, as well as solidarity to peacefully resist the government’s increased militarization and its legal prosecutions that attempt to instill fear.

Truth Commission Condemns Violence Affecting Ethnic Communities (Cauca)
On December 6, Colombia’s Truth Commission fervently condemned the violence affecting the livelihoods of Afro-Colombians, Indigenous, and campesinos in the northern region of Cauca department. Between December 5 and 6, in less than 12 hours, four violent incidents occurred including a massacre; two homicides of community members, among them the son of an Indigenous leader; an individual threat against an Indigenous Guard coordinator; and a collective threat against ACIN. As of the publication of the statement, 12 massacres have occurred in Cauca department this year, as well as the systematic assassinations of social leaders, human rights defenders, and former combatants participating in the peace process’ reintegration program. The Commission expresses solidarity with the entire population of northern Cauca. 

As part of its mandate to ensure non-repetition of the armed conflict, the Commission has gathered information that reveals the multiple alliances of armed, economic, and political actors in the region that go beyond issues of drug trafficking. As such, the Commission calls on state authorities at all levels to come together to protect the lives affected by ongoing violence by investigating and sanctioning all actors responsible.

Environmental Defender in Need of Protection (Putumayo)
On December 15, Peace Brigades International (PBI) issued a call to action to protect the life and integrity of human rights and environmental defender Jani Silva. Silva persistently fights for the conservation of the Amazon ecosystem and the rights of campesinos in Putumayo department. Oil slicks pollute the soil and drinking water of hundreds of farmers, animals, and plants, which is why Silva has campaigned for years against oil extraction. In 2017, as a result of death threats in response to this work, Silva and her family were internally displaced from their community. These death threats from illegal groups, the military, drug traffickers, and multinational companies have not stopped, underscoring how Colombia is the most dangerous place in the Americas to be an environmental defender. 

Paramilitary Group Threatens Environmental Defender (Santander)
On December 1, members of the ‘Caparrapos’ paramilitary group threatened environmental social leader Nini Johana Cárdenas of the El Carmen de Chucurí municipality. On two separate phone calls, Caparrapos paramilitaries, who identified themselves as Commander ‘Bajirá’ and ‘Michael Sierra,’ berated Cárdenas for her work as president of a regional village’s community action board. They informed Cárdenas that paramilitary members were ready to assassinate social leaders who did not comply with their policies, threatened her family, and advised that she leave the region if she planned to not comply. Cárdenas works to raise awareness about the effects of resource extraction in the region and also conducts research on bee pollination. Multiple human rights organizations in the region denounced the threats and urged Santander Governor Mauricio Aguilar and Secretary of Interior Camilo Arenas, the Attorney General, the Ombudsman’s office, the armed forces, and the police to provide effective protection to Cárdenas.

Indigenous File Complaint Against Armed Incursion (La Guajira)
On December 15, representatives from the Porciosa and Damasco Indigenous communities filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office against an armed group made up of 17 Wayuu Indigenous men. The armed group entered the Porciosa community in the morning of December 15 and shot at homes. The incident ignited panic in the community, as a previous incident killed two people and hurt two others, among them an authority from the Porciosa community. The Colombian State has not responded despite numerous complaints spanning back several years, which Indigenous authorities continue filing for the government to grant appropriate protection.

Buenaventura Strike Committee Members at Grave Risk (Valle del Cauca)
On November 23, in a statement to President Iván Duque, the International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia (Oficina Internacional de Derechos Humanos Acción Colombia, Oidhacoissued an alert about the adverse security situation of at least three people from the Buenaventura Strike Committee including Leyla Andrea Arroyo—social leader from the Black Communities Process of Colombia (Proceso de Comunidades Negras de Colombia, PCN), John Janer Panameño—President of the Isla de La Paz neighborhood community action board, and Danelly Estupiñan—prominent social leader from PCN, as well as Adriel Ruíz Galván—Coordinator of the Foundation for Coexistence and Social Development (Fundación Espacios de Convivencia y Desarrollo Social, FUNDESCODES).

Arroyo recently received a death threat from unknown armed men at a restaurant she frequents often. Panameño has recorded surveillance against him and has received death threats to his phone. Estupiñan has also recorded persistent surveillance and threats, and as a result, has internally displaced. On November 2, Galván received death threats through the messaging application WhatsApp, among many threats since June. Deeply concerning, the Oidhaco statement noted that ethnic social leaders made up 65% of recorded assassinations in 2019, and this number has risen since. 

Oidhaco urges the Duque administration to:

  • Guarantee comprehensive and immediate investigations by the Attorney General’s office into these matters
  • Enforce comprehensive protection measures for the affected individuals
  • Implement the 2016 peace accord
  • Protect social leaders, especially women social leaders who face gender-specific risks
  • Implement the 2017 Buenaventura Strike deal
  • To halt the dredging of the San Antonio Estuary

Rights Organizations Denounce Controversial Ombudsman Appointment (Atlantic)
On November 24, several human rights organizations in the Atlantic department denounced the appointment of Carlos Julio Manzano as Ombudsman for the region and vowed to sever ties and communication with the office until his appointment is reversed. The organizations noted that Manzano’s involvement in various corruption scandals, such as the multimillion dollars embezzlement of FoncolPuertos, and his numerous entanglements with the Colombian justice system cast serious doubts on his ability to transparently take on the human rights work at the institution. His appointment not only demonstrates the national government’s intention to continue taking over all forums and institutions for the interests of the ruling party but also to continue weakening the rule of law. Following public outcry, Manzano submitted his resignation on December 4.

San José de Apartadó Peace Community Suffers Ongoing Violations (Antioquia)
On November 15, alleged paramilitaries—from Nuevo Antioquia, Turbo municipality—initiated a fight at a public establishment in San José. A Campesino community member was injured. Police officers stopped the fight and confiscated weapons from those at the scene. However, the weapons seized by the police officers were later returned to two well-known paramilitaries in the region, identified by aliases ‘Deiner’ and ‘Sebastian’. Witnesses and community members are deeply concerned about this close coordination between public forces and paramilitaries, which according to them, occurs often.

On November 18, the SJA peace community received the Constitutional Court’s ruling T-342/20. Judges Alejandro Linares, Antonio José Lizarazo, and Luis Guillermo Guerrero decided the final verdict. The ruling reviewed a lawsuit the community had filed two years prior—on September 28, 2018—against the Military’s XVII Brigade. The final ruling concluded that the lawsuit slandered the reputation of the XVII Brigade and the complaints “did not have the support of binding legal sentences.” According to the SJA community, this ruling goes against legal precedents that have previously defended victims’ rights and contradicts decisions made by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, declarations made in the United Nations General Assembly, and statements published by the United Nations Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. There is an abundant chain of complaints and convictions for human rights violations by the XVII Brigade, and the SJA community denounced the ruling as a blow to the credibility of legal institutions for victims. 

On November 21, SJA community members found Eliécer Morales badly injured on a road near the community, close to the La Victoria hamlet. Eliécer died in the hospital a few days later from the injuries sustained. Though some believe he fell off his mule, others allege he was attacked.

On November 22, Reinaldo Areiza David—a founding member of the SJA peace community— died in the village of La Union after drinking counterfeit liquor. Reinaldo had denounced the February 2005 massacre of SJA peace community leaders and children in the Mulatos and Resbalosa hamlets, and later endured attacks and slanders from congressional members and military leadership for this work. Reinaldo consistently resisted efforts to undermine the peace community and its grassroots work. The community deeply mourns his death.

On November 23, paramilitaries arrived in the villages of El Porvenir and La Nieves demanding 200,000 Colombian pesos from each Campesino family to give Christmas gifts to the children. The SJA peace community denounced this action as one of many that inflicts abusive control over the civilian population and its economy, using the fear of weapons. 

On November 27, paramilitaries unloaded electrical poles and materials from a helicopter near the La Resbalosa hamlet. In 2018, these paramilitaries forcibly installed electricity infrastructure using money taken from Campesinos in the La Resbalosa, Naín, La Resbalosita, Baltazar, and Alto Joaquín hamlets, as well as in other areas along the border between the Córdoba and Antioquia departments. Now, Medellín Public Enterprises (Empresas Públicas de Medellín, EPM), the residential public utilities company, seeks to legalize these electrical networks that paramilitaries installed using money that was forcibly taken. 

On November 28, SJA peace community members reported seeing a paramilitary group with large weapons in the Arenas Bajas hamlet. The group remained in the area for several days.

Over the course of the last week of November, information about paramilitaries allegedly coordinating with the Attorney General’s office circulated in the SJA peace community. This coordination is supposedly occurring to obtain information about individuals filing complaints against the paramilitaries at the Attorney General’s office. The SJA peace community explained that this is reminiscent of episodes in the past when many victims filed complaints at the Attorney General’s Office and the information was relayed back to paramilitaries who would retaliate. 

In the first week of December, reports circulated that paramilitaries in the region are implementing new plans to recruit members to their structure with the lure of higher payments. Aliases ‘René,’ ‘Jesusito,’ and ‘Samuel’ are actively trying to recruit new members in the La Unión, El Porvenir, Las Nieves, La Esperanza, Arenas Bajas, and Arenas Altas hamlets, as well as surrounding areas. According to the SJA peace community, the government attempts to hide paramilitarism, its criminal activities, and complacency by state forces.

On a more positive note:
Coal Mining Labor Union Successfully Ends Longest Strike (La Guajira)
On November 30, after a 91-day strike, the longest in its history, coal mining labor union Sintracarbón and mining company Cerrejón signed a new collective bargaining agreement that will run until December 31, 2023. According to the National Union School (Escuela Nacional Sindical, ENS), the agreement maintained historic benefits for the coal mining workers including education support, healthcare, vacation leave, and holiday bonuses. The coal mining company also converted 100 fixed-term contracts to an indefinite status, reinstated 200 workers, provided 700 housing loans, and will continue to provide daily transportation to all of La Guajira, Valledupar, and Barranquilla.