WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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6 Jul 2021 | News

Protests and Human Rights Violations in Colombia: Second Alert

We would like to thank the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for holding a hearing on July 1 about Colombia’s protests. We expect that members of the U.S. Congress will act on the recommendations made by the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Ahead of this hearing, Colombian civil society organizations from the Campaign Defend Liberty an Issue for All (made up of 63 organizations and the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisonersand the Colombian NGO Temblores sent information to the U.S. Congress. 

The Campaign “Defend Liberty an Issue for All” recommends that the U.S. Congress: 

  • Promote security and biosafety guarantees to the entire population to exercise their fundamental right to protest. 
  • Promote respect for the life and integrity of women and sexual diversity, even if they are outside the framework of social protests, and promptly initiate the respective criminal and/or disciplinary investigations of multiple recorded attacks. 
  • Be agents of pressure for the National Government and local governments, so that they provide complete, timely, and truthful information on cases where injured, detained, and disappeared people appear in the framework of the mobilizations to provide the required attention (medical, legal, and psychosocial). They must clarify appearances of murdered and dismembered people. 
  • Demand that people in government positions cease stigmatization with their hateful pronouncements and speeches, which confuse and hold the social protest responsible for the violent acts presented in the country. 
  • Be agents of pressure towards the National Government, so that it meets the just demands of the population, which are not limited to the withdrawal and postponement of the tax reform bill, but also refer to issues of national importance such as health, decent food, employability, environmental justice, and social justice. 
  • Promote a structural reform of the National Police that includes the total dismantling of the riot police unit (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios, ESMAD) and that involves the whole of society, academics, human rights organizations, and movements of victims of the aggressions carried out by the Police, among others. We must foster a progressive and necessary transformation of a historically violent institution, at the service of war and not peace. It is urgent that we promote the construction of peace and non-violence as the pillars of a society that respects human rights, particularly the peaceful social protest of all citizens. 

Temblores, recorded at least 4,687 cases of violent acts (not including cases of disappearance) on the part of the public forces between April 28, 2021 and June 26, 2021. Within such cases, it was possible to identify: 

  • 44 homicides of whose alleged offender is a member of the Public Force. 
  • Another 29 homicides currently undergoing a verification process: 
    • 13 are in a clarification process to determine whether the alleged offender belonged to the Public Force 
    • 4 are attributable to armed civilians in whom there are indications of possible involvement of members from the Public Force. 
    • 9 are in a verification process for the setting and context of events 
    • 3 are in a complaint verification process 
  • 617 victims of physical violence 
  • 82 victims of eye assaults and injuries 
  • 228 gunshot victims 
  • 28 victims of sexual violence 
  • 9 victims of gender-based violence 
  • 2,005 arbitrary detentions against demonstrators 
  • 784 violent interventions in the context of peaceful protests 
  • 35 cases of venom weapons use by the ESMAD 
  • 48 cases of respiratory ailments due to the release of tear gas 

In addition to the above, WOLA received the following reports: 

Journalists Suffer Attacks amid Coverage of National Strike
Between April 28 and June 10, the Freedom of Press Foundation (Fundación para la Libertad de PrensaFLIP) documented 235 cases and 268 victims of different types of aggressions suffered by journalists, reporters, photojournalists, and media outlets that covered the demonstrations within the framework of the national strike. The FLIP clarified that this national strike has seen the greatest violence against the press amid social protests in the last decade. With the visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to Colombia, the FLIP submitted a report on the escalation of violence suffered by the press in recent weeks. Of the 235 cases of aggressions against the press, 129 cases were allegedly committed by the security forces, making up 55% of the cases. The report also included the differentiated risk that women journalists have, since both the security forces and private individuals frequently use threats of gender violence against them as a strategy of harassment, causing journalists to desist from their work. The FLIP included evidence of direct intent to cause harm despite the fact journalists had been identified with their helmets, vests, and other badges. They also stressed that institutional violence against the press has been normalized and intensified, supported by a permissive discourse and a complicit silence of the abuses by authorities. Of great concern is the lack of coverage about these cases on national media outlets and how this may also become normalized. The FLIP further emphasized how rather than guaranteeing the ability to practice journalism, the Colombian state is attempting to control the public debate through the criminalization of online expressions. 

Violations against Demonstrators by Security Forces and Paramilitaries (Antioquia)
Between April 28 and May 3, in the context of the national strike, the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination (Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos, CCEEU); the Social Process of Guarantees for the Work of Leaders, Women Leaders, Human Rights Defenders (Proceso Social de Garantías para la Labor de Líderes, Lideresas, Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos); the Defending Freedom Campaign (Campaña Defender la Libertad), and the No to Rights Violated by the Uniformed Campaign (Campaña No por los Derechos Vulnerados por los Uniformados)denounced 1,024 violations and aggressions by security forces and paramilitaries in Antioquia department. The bulletin includes detailed numbers on the types of abuses and the number of incidences. According to the organizations, the national government’s decision to repress the right to social protest has been fully complied with by local administrations. The organizations heavily condemned the behavior of security forces, which includes the National Police, the ESMAD, and the Military; reports of forced disappearances of demonstrators; arbitrary detentions with no documentation; obstruction of the work by human rights defenders and journalists; presence and alleged collusion with paramilitaries, and lack of action by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The organizations pleaded with the IACHR, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and other international mechanisms to demand that the Colombian state guarantee human rights and not militarize social protest. They also asked the IACHR and the United Nations (UN) to create a special follow-up mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in Colombia. They reiterated the urgent need to put an end to Colombia’s counterinsurgency doctrine, to reform the National Police Force, to dismantle the ESMAD, and ensure the independence of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. 

Paramilitary Group Threatens Human Rights Defenders During National Strike (Cundinamarca)
On June 6, El Espectadorreported that the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras), a paramilitary group who state authorities have claimed does not exist, distributed pamphlets through social media threatening participants of the national strike and human rights defenders in Facatativá municipality, Cundinamarca department. Apart from the Black Eagle’s threats, the Facatativá municipality has also dealt with police abuses including arbitrary detention and torture targeted at young demonstrators and young men walking along the road. Rioters burned the police station and the courthouse, and as a result, through a Presidential Order, Facatativá is one of two municipalities that remains militarized. 

Dozens of Human Rights Abuses Reported at Humanitarian Space for Demonstrators (Cundinamarca)
On June 3, organizers and participants of the Transitory Humanitarian Space “In the Heat of the Pot” (Espacio Humanitario Transitorio “Al calor de la olla”)—a community-based initiative in Bogotá that helped support the national strike demonstrations—reported on dozens of human rights abuses against them in the context of the protests. Since April 28, the humanitarian space reported the following cases: 20 episodes of torture, 8 officially documented; 12 episodes of sexual violence reported, 3 documented; 1,425 episodes of people injured by state security forces; 2 murder cases attributed to state security forces; 18 episodes of improper prosecution accompanied by Immediate Reaction Units (Unidades de Reacción Inmediata); 68 illegal captures that had yet to be reported to the authorities; 10 days of electricity shortages; 8 episodes of threats, harassment, and persecution; and 3 people working in health positions helping protestors harassed and followed by drones or by cars. The humanitarian space reported these human rights abuses to the IACHR; the Diplomatic Commission composed of the Norwegian, Swedish, Swiss, and German Embassies; and the United Nations Security Council. 

Union Leader and His Family Flee Country Amid Death Threats (Santander)
On June 21, Nelson Alarcón, the ex-president of the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Federación Colombiana de Trabajadores de la Educación, FECODE) and a spokesperson for the National Strike Committee (Comité de Paro Nacional, CPN), fled Colombia with his family after receiving over 1,200 death threats via text and social media a week prior. He was attacked after an informal video was shared to social media in which Alarcón shared his personal opinions defining the protests as a means to beat President Duque and his Democratic Center (Centro Democráticoparty in 2022. Alarcón was also blamed for a rise in COVID cases following mobilizations for the national strike. The President responded to the video by calling it embarrassing, which led to an uptick in threats, but Alarcón has stated that he holds the President responsible should any harm befall him and his family. FECODE has clarified that the views of Alarcón expressed in the video do not represent that of the union. 

Alleged Paramilitaries Hold Hostage Local Government and International Human Rights Officials Participating in National Strike Dialogues (North Santander)
On June 14, alleged paramilitariesheld hostage several high-profile individuals at an educational institute in Sardinata municipality, North Santander department. The hostages included North Santander Governor Silvano Serrano, spokespersons of the Unity Committee of Catatumbo (Comité de Unidad del Catatumbo), human rights defenders from the Peoples’ Legal Team (Equipo Jurídico Pueblos), and delegates from the UN and MAPP-OAS. The hostage victims were convening a meeting with local leaders and campesinos when the alleged paramilitaries raided the facility, wired shut the doors, and blocked access to food and water. The Peoples’ Legal Team claimed that police officers were able to freely enter and exit the building, raising concern about their role in the hostage situation. The Peoples’ Legal Team also noted the kidnappers kept calling themselves “good people” (gente de bien), a term that has been used since the start of the national strike to differentiate individuals from protestors, as well as to stigmatize the latter. The hostage victims were eventually set free after 13 hours, but suspect the action was undertaken to further subvert the right to protest and pressure the government to further militarize the region. 

Hundreds of Protestors Missing amid Colombia’s National Strike
On May 13, Opovo Online—a Brazilian media outlet—reported on the hundreds of missing protestors in the context of Colombia’s national strike. After more than a month of protests and violence, Colombians still do not know exactly how many protestors were disappeared. The Duque administration has failed to establish a bridge of understanding with the representatives of the demonstrations, civil society, and the international community. Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office says that “authorities are still searching for 129 people who were reported missing during the protests of recent weeks.” The NGO INDEPAZ says it has managed to consolidate “a list of 346 names of people who have been reported missing directly to the entity.” On May 26, Colombian Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez said in Washington DC that only one person in Colombia had been formally reported missing in the clashes, and that it was unclear whether the others should be classified as missing. According to WOLA, the Colombian government has put people in charge of the Comptroller’s Office, the Ombudsman’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office who are not interested in fulfilling the mission of the entities they command, as evidenced by the lack of progress in the investigations of disappeared protestors. 

Medical Personnel, Human Rights Monitors, and Independent Journalists Targeted amid National Strike (Valle del Cauca)
On May 29, the Alliance for Global Justice (ACJ) published an article by James Patrick Jordan that evaluates the effects of the national strike following a month of social uprising. Jordan recognizes the movement is not new, but rather a continuation of mass struggles that have continued and grown over years. In September 2020, the ACJ, in partnership with several domestic organizations, established the Pacific Center for Human Rights (Centro Pazífico) in Cali, Valle del Cauca department. The organizations created the Center to protect threatened and displaced social movement leaders, and to help provide national and international accompaniment both in the context of ongoing armed violence and during social protests. At the start of the April-May 2021 protests, the ACJ raised funds to provide supplies to street medics in Cali treating the injured, help monitor human right abuses, and stock up on supplies. Every partner organization they work with has recently been threatened by police and/or paramilitary agents. The ACJ expressed deep concern about this targeting by police and death squads of medical personnel, human rights monitors, and independent journalists, many of whom have been killed amid the repression. 

Campesino Murdered and Indigenous Leader Injured by Security Forces (Putumayo)
On May 31, in a confrontation between demonstrators and security forces at the Gran Tierra Energy’s (GTE) Costayaco camp property, Nasa Indigenous leader Victor Campo was injured with a gunshot wound and taken to a hospital in Villagarzón municipality. A little later in the morning of the same day, anti-narcotic police attacked the Indigenous and campesinos with tear gas and firearms, as ordered by Lieutenant Colonel Hernandez. In the afternoon, the anti-narcotics police resumed their attack and fatally shot a campesino named Yordan Rosero Estrella. He died by the time he arrived at the hospital. As reported by the Inter-Ecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, CIJP), protestors had arrived at the Costayaco camp property with the intent to block the operations of the GTE, an oil company in the Nasa region. After the first confrontation, demonstrators and human rights organizations met with Putumayo Governor Álvaro Arturo Granja Buchelli to negotiate a solution to the violence. They asked the Governor to remove the security forces, but he refused on the basis of the government’s 2021 575 decree, which limits human rights protections and the autonomy of different departments and municipalities. Dialogues were halted as the anti-narcotic police commenced their attack. 

 

Abuses Not Related to the Protests: 

Armed Group Threatens University Professor and Staff (Antioquia)
On June 18, Blu Radio reported that the Black Eagles paramilitary targeted 15 professors and staff from the EAFIT University in Medellín (Universidad EAFIT de Medellín, UEAFITM) for their “leftist” and “communist” leaning ideologies and threatened to kill them in a pamphlet circulated widely online. The pamphlet was signed by Central Command (Comando Central) and contained several grammatical errors. According to Blu Radio, the Mayor of Medellin, Daniel Quintero, has said that the Mayor’s Office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the Police are investigating the threats to ensure everyone’s safety. The University has condemned the threats and asked the authorities to accelerate their investigation. 

Lawyers Threatened for Transitional Justice Work (Cundinamarca)
On June 15, Peace Brigades International Colombia alerted the U.S. and UK embassies via Twitter of threats from unknown actors made against members of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (Colectivo de [email protected] José Alvear Restrepo, CAJAR), in particular against Yessika Hoyos, and the father of one of the victims of the Mondoñedo massacre. Hoyos is a lawyer who litigated against the authors of the Mondoñedo massacre, which was allegedly perpetrated by Colombian police, in front of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, JEP)—the transitional justice tribunal devised in the 2016 peace accord. CAJAR has condemned the threats directed at victims. 

Member of National Working Group on Victims Suffers Assassination Attempt (Huila)
On June 15, the National Working Group on Victims (Mesa Nacional de Víctimasalerted of an assassination attempt by unknown armed actors against Derly Pastrana, a member of the Working Group, in her home. The Working Group called on the authorities to investigate the incident and find those responsible. 

Social Leader Murdered by Unknown Armed Actors (Putumayo)
On June 14, unknown armed actors murdered José William Mayoral Castillo, a social leader from Valle del Guamuez, Putumayo department. The unknown actors shot Castillo outside the local hospital. According to the Institute on Peace and Development Studies (Instituto de estudios para el desarrollo y la paz, INDEPAZ) Castillo served as cultural director for the municipality, president of the community action board for the La Esmeralda neighborhood, and a member of the Alternative Indigenous and Social Movement (Movimiento Alternativo Indígena y Social, MAIS) political party. 

Prominent Activist Against Extrajudicial Killings Dies of COVID-19
On June 12, Don Raúl Carvajal—a prominent activist for seeking justice against extrajudicial killings—died from COVID-related complications. Carvajal devoted his life to demanding justice for the killing of his son Raúl Antonio Carvajal Londoño, an Army soldier who was allegedly killed by the military for refusing to commit extrajudicial killings, also known as the so-called false positives. The government version adamantly claims that Carvajal’s son died in combat with the guerrillas. Prior to his son’s murder, Carvajal recalled how his son expressed his desire to retire from the military because they were forcing him to kill children and pass them off as guerrillas. Carvajal became famous for a truck he travelled in and for his verbal confrontations with former Presidents Uribe and Santos. He passed away from COVID-19, waiting for the truth about his son’s death. 

Mayoral Official and Son Murdered (Arauca)
On June 9, unknown armed actorsmurdered Danilo Galindo and his son, Andres David Galindo. Danilo Galindo was a mayoral official in Fortul, Arauca department who was committed to equity and worked for Indigenous communities. He and his son were killed as they were on their way to the Esmeralda de Áraquita town center in a zone currently occupied by the National Liberation Army(Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN)guerrilla, as well as the FARC’s dissident groups, both the Second Marquetalia(Segunda Marquetalia, SM) and the 10th Front. The 10th Front is commanded by Jorge Elecier Jiménez Martínez, who goes by thealias of Arturo Ruiz, under the directives of Miguel Botache Santillana, betterknown as Gentil Duarte. The Ombudsman’s Office called attention to the dangers of the presence of armed actors in Early Alert 029-19. According to INDEPAZ, Danilo is the 70th social leader and human rights defender murdered in 2021, and one of the more than 1,186 killed since the signing of the 2016 peace accord. 

Catholic Dioceses and Ethnic Organizations Detail Effects of Humanitarian Crisis (Chocó)
On June 9, the Catholic Dioceses of QuibdóIstminaTadó, and Apartadó, as well as social and ethno-territorial organizations in the Chocó department expressed profound concerns about the humanitarian situation in the region. The ongoing violence exercised by armed and criminal groups is affecting the livelihoods of civilians in both urban and rural sectors. The effects of the pandemic continue to deepen with widespread contagion and a continued lack of proper hospital facilities and precarious infrastructure. Organized crime groups, coupled with private and state corruption practices, have systematically debilitated the medical mission established in the department, placing the lives of medical personnel and civilians at risk. Additionally, the education sector has suffered tremendously, and the Ministry of Education has failed to guarantee the necessary conditions for a safe return to the classroom. The poverty index continues to rise, making it increasingly difficult for 70% of inhabitants to survive. Without further delay, the Dioceses and organizations demand that the national government, the Governor’s Office of Chocó, the mayoral offices, and all state institutions attend to the demands that have historically been made by Chocó’s civil society: the implementation of the 2016 peace accord’s Ethnic Chapter, the T-622 Judgment of 2016, the Humanitarian Agreement Now!, the Civic Strike Agreements of 2017, Presidential Decree 749 of 2018, and Directive 002 of the Attorney General’s Office of 2021. In the context of the National Strike, the organizations invite all social actors, especially youth, to a process of regional dialogue that allows the department to find concrete ways to demand their rights. 

Civilians Endangered by Armed Confrontations (North Santander)
On June 8, armed confrontations among illegal armed groups imperiled the physical and psychological well-being of civilians in Hacarí municipality, North Santander department. The confrontations disrupted a medical brigade in front of the Emiro Quintero Cañizares Hospital, which sought to address medical staff shortages within the municipality. On June 9, the Municipal Council for Peace, Reconciliation, Coexistence, and Human Rights (Consejo Municipal de Paz, Reconciliacion, Convivencia y Derechos Humanos, CMPRCDH) condemned the armed confrontations and called on the International Red Cross and other international human rights organizations to monitor the situation. The CMPRCDH also urged state security forces and illegal armed groups to respect human rights and the International Humanitarian Law. Vivamos Humanos and the Humanitarian Roundtable of Catatumbo (Mesa Humanitaria del Catatumbo, MHC) supported the CMPRCDH’s statement by posting it on the Vivamos Juntos Twitter page and alerted the civilian population of the risks present in the Hacarí region given the events of June 8. 

Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Voices Ignored for Extractivist Interests (La Guajira)
On June 2, the Indigenous Wayuu and Afro-Colombian communities of La Guajira department condemned the Colombian state and the Cerrejón Coal Company (Carbones del Cerrejón) for diverting and destroying the Bruno Stream to establish a coal mine. The extractivist project continues to violate the communities’ rights to water access and food and health sovereignty. Despite the harassment faced for speaking up, the communities continue to demand their rights. In 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled in SU-698 that the Cerrejón Coal Company had violated the communities’ rights. Despite the ruling, the Bogotá court tasked with executing and enforcing the mandates of the sentence failed to do so and violations deepened. On February 1, 2020, the National Authority of Environmental Sciences (Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales, ANLA) announced that the Bruno Stream could remain diverted, and that no studies or investigations were needed to determine this decision, despite several environmental challenges posed by the stream’s divergence. Indigenous Wayuu and Afro-Colombians’ voices have been ignored, and state institutions have sided with the company, which is why these communities refuse to participate in any interinstitutional board with the Cerrejón Coal Company. They urge the Constitutional Court to listen to Indigenous and Afro-Colombians to enforce a sentence that would put a stop to violations. 

Aviation Union Members and Lawyer Receive Death Threats as Trial Nears (Cundinamarca) 
On May 24, the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (Asociación Colombiana de Aviadores CivilesACDAC) warned of death threats made against members of the Avianca Airlines union, their family members, and a lawyer representing the union in a high-profile case on illicit surveillance. The death threats continue to escalate, as trial dates near for the illicit surveillance allegedly carried out by the Berkeley Research Group (BRG)—a group contracted by the former management of Avianca to investigate plans by pilots who went on strike in 2017. The Association pleaded with domestic and international organizations to monitor the situation and help safeguard the lives of the union members, their families, and their lawyer. 

Armed Conflict Internally Displaces Thousands of Afro-Colombian Civilians (Nariño)
On May 13, Doctors Without Borders Colombia (Médicos Sin Fronteras Colombia, MSFC) published an infographic report about the humanitarian crisis in the Roberto Payán municipality, Nariño department—a region that has been greatly affected by the armed conflict. MSFC found that since May 7, in the rural areas of Roberto Payán, confrontations among armed groups has caused the internal displacement of thousands of civilians. Over 500 families belonging to the Afro-Colombian Community Council of the Cuenca Union (Consejo Comunitario de Unión de Cuenca, CCUC) have internally displaced and the mobility of 130 families has been restricted. Over 1,000 people have internally displaced, including many unaccompanied minors, and they occupy shelters in poor and unsanitary conditions. Some shelters are so overcrowded that people are forced to sleep on the floor or out on the street. People have no access to personal care supplies, and vulnerable families are especially affected by food shortages in the municipal capital. The population has also faced several mental health issues, but there has been a shortage of mental health personnel. MSFC called on departmental authorities to urgently address the crisis by establishing a humanitarian corridor along the Panamerican highway. 

 

We also share the following developments: 

Victims’ Organizations Present Reports on Sexual Violence before Transitional Justice Tribunal (Antioquia, Arauca, Cauca, Huila, and Putumayo)
On June 8, the Plantón Women’s Association (Asociación Mujeres del Plantón), the Organization of Men and Women Victims of the Armed Conflict (Organización de Hombres y Mujeres Víctimas del Conflicto Armado), and Women Drummers (Mujeres Tamboreras) submitted reports on sexual violence to the JEP. The German Colombian Peace Institute (CAPAZ) and the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS) assisted with the reports. For over a year and despite the difficulties imposed by the pandemic, survivors of sexual violence worked to gain access to transitional justice by documenting the crimes of which they were victims because of their gender. The Pantón Women’s Association submitted a report entitled “Anthurium of Memory,” (Anturio de la memoria), which documents 455 victims of sexual violence in the Urabá Antioqueño, a subregion of Antioquia department. The Organization of Men and Women Victims of the Armed Conflict submitted a report entitled “Report for Justice and the Rights of the Brave Women of Saravena Municipality,” (Informe por la justicia y los derechos de las mujeres valientes del municipio de Saravena), which accounted for 66 oral and written accounts in the Arauca department that spanned a period of 38 years from 1980 to 2018. The Women Drummers submitted a report entitled “Drums that Cry Out, Bodies that Express, Threads of Life,” (Tambores que clamancuerpos que expresanhilos de vida), which documents 23 cases of sexual violence by armed groups, mainly the former FARC guerilla. These incidents occurred in rural areas of Cauca, Huila, Putumayo, and Antioquia departments, and are intended to reconstruct the forms, temporalities, places, and information available on the perpetrators, both collective and individual, to contribute to establishing the truth. 

Court Approves Case on Census Error of Afro-Colombian and Black Population (Cundinamarca)
On June 8, the Administrative Court of Cundinamarcaapproved a popular action case filed by the Racial Justice Collective (Colectivo Justicia Racial) against the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica, DANE) for its 2018 census, as it drastically undercounted Colombia’s Black population. The Racial Justice Collective will seek to order the DANE to prevent and correct the damages that would have been caused by the census omission and technical errors. The Collective considers the administrative error as a “statistical genocide of Black people,” because the data drastically reduced from 4,311,757 Black people in the 2005 census to only 2,982,234 Black people in the 2018 census. The DANE attempted to blame the Afro-Colombian population for the error, arguing alleged “barriers that influence ethnic, racial self-recognition.” The Collective notes that this excuse hides the fact that an investment of over 18.500.000.000 Colombian pesos was made with the purpose of guaranteeing the quality of the data generated by the Afro-Colombian population census. A census undercount would have massive implications for the design of public policies, projects, and programs. 

Victims of Land Dispossession and Business Entrepreneurs Sign Historic Pact (Antioquia)
On April 27, entrepreneurs of the Pisisí port project in Turbo, Antioquia department and six families signed a historic economic and integration pact. The pact recognizes that over 30 years ago these families suffered grave human rights violations and were dispossessed of their land when paramilitary groups entered the Urabá region, making it the first time the business sector in Colombia signs a pact that recognizes this dark history and seeks solutions to participatory development. While the Urabá Pisisí Port Society S.A. (Sociedad Portuaria de Urabá Pisisí S.A.) made clear they played no role in this past, as they were established after the fact, the company acknowledged the need for reconciliatory measures on housing, work, and pension solutions that make it possible for the company to work for the well-being and prosperity of the entire community, not just a select few. Though the families will proceed with their judicial trial before land restitution courts, in efforts to seek reparation and recognition by the Colombian state of this violence, they will request compensation instead of the material restitution of the land if a decision is made in their favor. 

In 1987, these six families settled on a 30 hectare-plot of land with a large outlet to the Caribbean Sea—known as El Trópico—where they made fish wells and planted papaya, rice, yucca, among other foods, in the Casanova hamlet in Turbo. The families established their lives in the region and actively participated in the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica, UP), a political party that emerged after a former peace agreement was signed between the Belisario Betancur administration and the FARC guerrilla. The UP was created to pursue political remedies to social grievances and disseminate ideology through non-violent means. However, the UP became victims of widespread political assassinations, many of which included these families. Candelario Pérez de la Rosa, secretary of the Turbo Council for the UP; Hoover Antonio Quintero, a former UP councilman of Turbo; and Luis Edward Cubides Vanegas, also a former UP councilman, were all assassinated for their work promoting the settlement and occupation of several land plots by campesinos and low-income families in Turbo and Apartadó. The paramilitary persecution and ensuing violence forced the families to sell their land and flee. Years later in 2014, through Law 1448 of 2011, known as the Victims’ Law, the families requested the restitution of their dispossessed lands. Despite initial tensions among the families and the company, as well as stigmatizing claims by the Democratic Center party, the historic pact was signed through the help of the CIJP to advance an ambitious project that promises the construction of a port that will leave great profits and job opportunities for the region.