The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is deeply concerned about the persecution faced by organizations in Colombia who document police violence and represent the victims of the abuses that took place during April’s national strike and its subsequent social protests. We strongly encourage that U.S. policymakers make recommendations to the Colombian government to implement every possible action to guarantee the safety and security of individuals working for the Association for Research and Social Action (Asociación para la Investigación y la Acción Social, Nomadesc), Temblores ONG, Defend the Liberty Campaign (Campaña Defender la Libertad, un Asunto de Todxs), the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners (Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos, CSPP) and Senator Alexander López Maya’s office.
Nomadesc and its president Berenice Celeita have suffered various incidents of surveillance, threats, and attacks since April. Most recently, they evidenced the National Police’s use of electronic surveillance devices against the organization, drones hovering over Nomadesc’s office to record videos of their activities, and armed men hijacking and stealing a car from a trusted service they hired to transport staff members conducting documentation work.
On December 6, Temblores ONG received trusted information that the state is conducting illicit surveillance on members of its organization. Given the fragile security situation in Colombia, the Temblores ONG staff members fled the country to raise alarm on the Colombian state’s conduct.
On December 1, at gunpoint, an unknown man threatened Juan David Rivera—a member of CSPP—as he walked his dog. The man intimidated Rivera for the work he carries out. Since September 22, six members of the CSPP throughout the country—Walter Agredo, Adriana Lizarazo, Devi Flores, Maria Cedeno, and Flor Munera—have received death threats via pamphlets.
We also ask that special attention be given to the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination (Coordinación Colombia-Europa-Estados Unidos, CCEEUU), a platform that groups over 285 human rights organizations. The coalition reports that Alberto Yepes—a leading advocate for families of victims of extrajudicial executions—as well as its offices have been subject to illegal surveillance and espionage in the past couple months. Disturbing incidents include a drone flying around their office in Bogotá on November 30 and Yepes’ bodyguards discovering an unauthorized phone in the car assigned to him by the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP).
We share with you concerning situations we’ve received that require your attention:
Afro-Colombian Leaders Disappeared (Valle del Cauca)
On November 28, the Black Communities Process of Colombia (Proceso de Comunidades Negras de Colombia, PCN) and the National Afro-Colombian Peace Council (Consejo Nacional de Paz Afrocolombiano, CONPA) alerted of the disappearances of two prominent Afro-Colombian leaders—Abenecio Caicedo Caicedo and Edinson Valencia García—from the ancestral Yurumanguí River territory, a rural region on the outskirts of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca department. Caicedo is a delegate of the Governing Board of the Community Council’s Conflict Resolution Team. Valencia García is the Control and Surveillance Coordinator of the Ethnic Territorial Organization, APONURY Yurumanguí. PCN and CONPA appealed to any responsible actors who kidnapped these social leaders to return them to their territory. The organizations also pleaded to all state institutions and international organizations to take urgent action in ensuring the safety of these leaders by activating all available protocols.
On December 1, the Peace, Conscience, and Heart Human Rights Corporation published an S.O.S. alert about the ongoing situation experienced by the community of the disappeared Afro-Colombian leaders, now assumed to have been assassinated. The organization stressed that dissidents of the FARC and other criminal bands have continued to operate in their territories, even after the signing of the 2016 peace accord, fomenting fear among the locals. Many community members have internally displaced because of the tremendous insecurity. The armed groups have harassed the population for years and locals are too afraid to speak out in fear of retaliation. The relatives of the disappeared Afro-Colombian leaders have pleaded with the armed groups to receive the bodies of their loved ones to no avail. The Yurumanguí community urged the Attorney General’s Office to carry out thorough investigations into the disappearances and asked the international community to accompany them during this difficult time.
Report Indicates Increased Risks for Human Rights Defenders in Colombia
In December, the We are Defenders (Somos Defensores) program released its quarterly report about the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia. This latest report covers the period between July 2021 and September 2021 and documents at least 222 aggressions against 209 human rights defenders, a 21% increase from the same period last year. Although this is a considerable number of violent acts for a quarter, the organization recognizes this data is underreported, due to the difficulties that persist in collecting data in the territories marked both by the pandemic and Colombia’s National Strike.
Paramilitary Threatens Civil Society Activists (Cundinamarca)
In early December, in a widely-circulated pamphlet, the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras) paramilitary threatened to kill several civil society activists it deems as “communists.” Those threatened in the pamphlet include Alirio Uribe, Carlos Medina Gallego, Victoria Sandino, Carlos Antonio Lozada, Heidi Sánchez, Jairo Estrada, José Luis Mayorga, Gloria Flores, Iván Cepeda, William Parra, Jahel Quiroga, Francia Márquez, Gustavo Petro, David Florez, José Manuel Arango, Maria Jose Pizarro, Hollman Morris, Áriel Avila, Jorge Enrique Botero, and Diogenes Orjuela. It also targeted the organizations Andas, José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, CAJAR), the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movimiento de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, Movice), and all the participants of the front line national strike protests.
Armed Actors Assassinate Social Leader, Community Council President (Chocó)
On December 10, armed actors assassinated Fredy Pestana Herrera, a social leader and community council president in Acandí municipality, Chocó department. The Community Council of Northern Acandí decried their leader’s assassination. Community members noted how Herrera’s work helped support migrants en route to Panama through the Darien Gap. CONPA also published a statement condemning the leader’s assassination.
Civil Society Decries Ongoing Persecution Against Social Movements (Cauca)
On December 8, the People’s Congress—a human rights collective—decried the Colombian state’s ongoing persecution of human rights and social movements in the country. They called on the National Government to cease all hostilities against social and popular movements, to respect human rights defense work and community organizational processes, and to provide real and effective guarantees to protect the life, freedom and integrity of social leaders. The People’s Congress underscored the recent surveillance and intimidation by state security forces of social leader Andrés Maiz from Popayán, Cauca department. The People’s Congress notified the international community that the Colombia government continues to carry out neoliberal and extractive policies that dispose and further submit communities to poverty, generating social and armed crises in the territories.
Hitmen Assassinate LGBT+ Leader (Magdalena)
On December 7, hitmen assassinated LGBT+ social leader Cristina Isabel Cantillo Martínez in Santa Marta, Magdalena department. The Inter-Ecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, CIJP) mourned her assassination as a great loss to the LGBT+ rights movement in Colombia.
National Government Fails to Comply with Agreements Made with Indigenous Communities
On December 8, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, ONIC), on behalf of the Permanent Working Group for Consultation with Indigenous Peoples and Organizations (Mesa Permanente de Concertación con los Pueblos y Organizaciones Indígenas, MPC) made up of 2,172,904 people from 115 Indigenous communities, published a statement alerting of the national government’s non-compliance to agreements made on the Good Living (Buen Vivir) fund. This agreement was achieved in a 2019 minga [a collective Indigenous protest movement] and designed in a prior consultation to the ethnic chapter of the National Development Plan 2018 – 2022 . The MPC called on all Indigenous peoples and organizations in Colombia to defend their institutionality at the national, regional, and territorial levels and to enforce respect for prior, free, and informed consultation in honor of their historical processes of struggle and resistance. They claim the national government has ignored the functions of the CPM, contemplated in Decree 1397 of 1996.
Paramilitaries Generate Insecurity in Peace Community (Antioquia)
On December 4 and October 26, the San José de Apartadó (SJA) peace community circulated two different bulletins outlining reports of ongoing paramilitary activity in Apartadó, Antioquia department. Much of this activity is allegedly supported by political and economic interests, which is why this paramilitary violence is left unchecked. The SJA peace community was created in April 1997 when rural leaders came together to implement international humanitarian law and the principle of distinction for non-combatants in the territory, designating the area free of all armed groups, including legal public security forces. Local forums helped establish rules that asked community members to disengage from violence, and also leaders began to form communal projects. Despite these mechanisms, paramilitary—and alleged collaboration by state forces—continues to plague the region. In these latest bulletins, the SJA peace community detailed 14 instances of paramilitary activity in the region. Of particular concern, the SJA peace community noted how the national government has used the capture of alias ‘Otoniel’ from the Gulf Clan paramilitary as a front to mark the end of paramilitarism in Colombia, when the reality in the territories is dire.
Civil Society Organization Denounces Illicit Surveillance of Human Rights Work (Cundinamarca)
On December 2, the CCEEU denounced the repeated acts of illicit intelligence and espionage to which its headquarters, and particularly the coordinator of its Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Observatory Alberto Yepes Palacio, has been subject to in recent months. Unknown actors and allegedly the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP) are responsible for this illicit surveillance. On November 30, a remote control drone was placed near a window of the CCEEU office where the Human Rights Observatory operates and circled around the headquarters several times. After a few minutes the drone moved away when it detected that it was being filmed by a CCEEU staff member. Additionally, since early September, Yepes has uncovered several devices placed secretly in his protection unit and designed to record his conversations and movements.
The CCEUU called on the Attorney General’s Office for prompt and effective investigations of those responsible for ordering and carrying out these illegal practices. They also asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to accompany all stages of these investigations and demand that the Colombian State provide information on the progress of these investigations. There must be concrete measures to guarantee the work of CCEEU, its Human Rights Observatory, and Coordinator Yepes.
Youth Social Leader Murdered (Valle del Cauca)
On November 29, the Center of Popular Investigation and Education (Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular, CINEP) and the Program for Peace (Programa por la Paz) mourned the murder of youth social leader John Alexander Sierra in Tuluá municipality, Valle del Cauca department. Sierra participated in rural, territorial peace initiatives. These organizations called on the state to investigate his murder.
Armed Actors Threaten Union Leader (Cesar)
On November 27, armed actors circulated pamphlets in San Alberto municipality, Cesar department that threatened a social cleanse of individuals on a list— including Edwin Paternostro Mora, a union leader from the National Union of Workers of the Oil and Vegetable Crop and Processing Industry (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Cultivos y Procesamiento de Aceites y Vegetales, SINTRAPROACEITES)—if they failed to leave the region in 24 hours. SINTRAPROACEITES heavily denounced the threat and also raised concerns with the stigmatization of their leader using unfounded claims of being a “guerrilla collaborator.” The Institute of Development and Peace Studies (Instituto de estudios para el desarrollo y la paz, INDEPAZ) reinforced calls for thorough investigations into these threats against social and union leaders.
Social Leader Faces Stigmatization (Antioquia)
On November 23, “Wake Up Then” (Despertá Pues), a human rights committee in Antioquia department, publicly condemned Julián Esteban Cataño—the Tourism Coordinator and the Secretary of Agriculture, Climate, and Economic Development—for his discriminatory behavior against human rights defender and Wake Up Then’s Departmental Director Juan Camilo Tobón Olarte. The organization also asked that authorities begin formal investigations into this stigmatizing behavior and take action to protect the human rights defender.
Paramilitary and Guerrilla Violence Places Ethnic Communities at Risk (Valle del Cauca)
On November 24, confrontations between the Gulf Clan paramilitary and the ELN guerrilla continued to terrorize Black and Indigenous communities in Valle del Cauca department. As reported by the CIJP, on November 22, the Gulf Clan paramilitary invaded the Black community of San Antonio de Guadual, forcing the community to cross the Calima River to the Santa Rosa de Guayacán Reserve of the Indigenous Wounaan Nonam. The Gulf Clan and ELN guerrilla continued to engage in armed confrontations around the Reserve, placing the Black and Indigenous population at grave risk. The Wounaan Nonam have demanded the ELN withdraw from the area surrounding their reserve to no avail. The ethnic communities are considering internal displacement as an immediate alternative, given the imminent risks against their peoples.
Armed Groups Threaten Indigenous Leader for Gender Equality Work (La Guajira)
On November 24, paramilitary groups operating in Riohacha, La Guajira department threatened Wiwa Indigenous leader Ena Loperena for her community leadership role working to promote gender equality. The paramilitary groups placed a gift-wrapped package outside her home that contained a Barbie doll with a bullet in its head and a hostile note. The note advised Loperena that if she does not stop promoting her work in the community, she will end up dead like the previous person who held her role and will die in the same way as the Barbie doll. Loperena filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s and Ombudsman’s Offices. The Self-Defense Conquerors of the Sierra Nevada (Autodefensas Conquistadoras de la Sierra Nevada) and the Self-Defense Forces Gaitanistas of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, AGC) have a growing presence in the region. The government must take immediate measures to ensure Loperena’s and her community’s safety throughout the investigation process.
Alleged Corruption Practices in Infrastructure Projects (Bolívar)
On November 27, the Municipal Council of Altos del Rosario in Bolívar department submitted a formal complaint before the Prosecutor’s and Comptroller’s Offices about alleged corruption practices involved in infrastructure projects in their city. The complaint outlines four different contracts signed with the city for public infrastructure to improve the city’s sewage system. The contracts total to about COP 878,500,000, approximately USD $219,593.00. The complaint evidences how each of the projects remains extremely incomplete and there is no transparency into how funds were used. The Municipal Council called on these relevant state institutions to carry out pertinent investigations and charges against those responsible for these corrupt practices.
Norwegian-Owned Manufacturer Allegedly Violating Labor Laws (Bolívar)
On November 16, the National Union of Workers of the Chemical and/or Pharmaceutical Industry of Colombia (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Química y/o Farmacéutica de Colombia, SINTRAQUIM) privately reported the unlawful firing of Darly Martínez Coquett by Yara S.A., a Norwegian-owned manufacturer in pesticides, fertilizers, and other agricultural chemicals in Cartagena, Bolívar department. The company allegedly fired Martínez Coquett for affiliating with SINTRAQUIM. The organization underscored how union-busting and any discriminatory conduct is outlawed in Colombia’s legal system as well as in international humanitarian law. SINTRAQUIM notes that the Norwegian diplomatic mission in Colombia led by Ambassador John Petter Opdahl has actively supported and defended human rights in the country. However, according to SINTRAQUIM, as a Norwegian multinational, Yara S.A overshadows these important diplomatic efforts when it undermines labor rights. SINTRAQUIM called on Ambassador Opdahl to help ensure Yara S.A. respects labor rights and re-employs Martínez Coquett.
Indigenous Leaders and Community Threatened (Putumayo)
On November 12, a Facebook profile named Fernando Edwin sent death threats to community leaders and authorities of the Jerusalem, San Luis Alto Picudito Indigenous reservation in Villagarzón municipality, Putumayo department. The Indigenous Nasa community rejected the unfounded and defamatory accusations that individuals are part of a dissident front. Rather, the community advocates for enforcing ethnic rights and implementing the 2016 peace accord. However, intimidations against Indigenous communities in the region only continue to rise, particularly with the presence of the Commanders of the Border (Comandos de la Frontera, CDF), an armed group made up of guerrilla and paramilitary dissidents; the military’s 27th Jungle Brigade; and the National Police. The Duque administration’s failure to commit to a comprehensive Humanitarian Agreement demonstrates the government’s apathy to protecting Indigenous communities from the threats of armed actors.
Government Official Threatens to Revoke Indigenous Land Title (Magdalena)
On November 11, ONIC warned against the Deputy Minister of the Interior for Participation and Equal Rights Carlos Alberto Baena’s intention of revoking the land title of the Kankumo Indigenous Reservation in Santa Marta, Magdalena department. ONIC requested that the National government respect the autonomy of the Kankuamo people, who have protected the environment in the region and were victimized throughout Colombia’s internal armed conflict. Additionally, the organization rejects the Duque administration’s complacency in the physical and cultural extermination of Indigenous peoples.
Human Rights Defender Threatened (Antioquia)
On November 10, an unidentified man arrived at the home of human rights defender Ayineth Perez Galán and intimidated her, claiming she had 48 hours to part ways with her organization the Land and Peace Association (Asociacion de Tierra y Paz) or face the consequences. As President of the Land and Peace Association, Perez Galán has helped with numerous land restitution cases. In recent years, she has assisted the 2016 peace accord’s transitional justice system in advancing its work. A variety of organizations denounced this threat, calling for an end to the criminalization of social leaders and demanding that local authorities address the situation.
Assassination Attempt Against Indigenous Leader (Cauca)
On November 8, two armed individuals undertook an assassination attempt against Ovidio Hurtado, shooting at the vehicle of this former Indigenous governor while he traveled with his family to the Caldano municipality, Cauca department. Following the attempt, the Indigenous Guard of Sath Tama Kiwe began searching for the responsible actors. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca, CRIC) publicly denounced the increasing acts of violence, citing that thus far in 2021, 81 community members and leaders were murdered in Cauca department.
Social Leader Assassinated (Córdoba)
On November 8, the Southern Cordoba Farmers’ Association decried the assassination of one of its members Luis Alberto Ramos Vertel, an active social leader in the region. Ramos Vertel was the President of the Community Action Board for the San Antonio neighborhood.
Paramilitary Threatens to Kill Social Leaders (Valle del Cauca)
On November 6, the Gulf Clan (Clan del Golfo) paramilitary threatened to kill eleven social, ethnic, union, and human rights leaders in Valle del Cauca department via emails and other obscure mediums. Among those threatened by the armed actors are the Regional Coordinator of the Human Rights Network “Francisco Isaías Cifuentes” (Red de Derechos Humanos “Francisco Isaías Cifuentes”) and members from the Campesino Coordination of Valle del Cauca (Coordinación Campesina del Valle del Cauca, CCVC), the Popular Unity Process of Southwestern Colombia (Proceso de Unidad Popular del Suroccidente Colombiano, PUPSOC), the Social and Political Coordination of the Patriotic March party (Coordinación Social y Política Marcha Patriótica), the Departmental Peace Council, and a spokesperson for Valle del Cauca department’s territorial guarantees working group. Those affected urged national, departmental, and municipal state institutions to take action to ensure the safety of these leaders from the violence of successor paramilitary groups.
Armed Actors Masacre Three Civilians (Putumayo)
On November 5, armed men massacred three civilians in Puerto Leguizamo municipality, Putumayo department, two of them by entering their homes and another by tracking him by boat. The victims’ identities were not confirmed. The CIJP has continued to denounce these harmful actions, as this massacre marks the 85th of the year across the nation, according to INDEPAZ. The Commission also supports the over 120 communities throughout the country that have collaborated to introduce a Global Humanitarian Agreement that seeks to protect civilians from armed confrontations. The National Government and armed actors should take heed to the proposal.
Armed Men Attempt to Kidnap Girls in Humanitarian Zone (Valle del Cauca)
On November 5, two armed members of the local criminal structure “La Local,” attempted to kidnap two girls near the Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space entrance in Buenaventura municipality, Valle del Cauca department. The two girls were able to escape and report the situation to the police. However, their security situation remains vulnerable, compounded by the fact that their families were already forced to flee their territories and seek shelter in this humanitarian space. Police only captured one of the armed men responsible for the attempted kidnapping. Following his arrest and in retaliation to it, there were alleged death threats to assassinate a leader of the Humanitarian Space. The city of Buenaventura and its outskirts have seen an increase in violence, mainly as criminal groups use intimidation tactics to forcibly recruit the youth population.
On November 8, the community reported new threats against José Rentería, who was riding a motorcycle and was approached by the recognized paramilitary alias Harri. The paramilitary threatened to kill the mothers of the two girls who were almost kidnapped.
Armed Group Kills Three People (Putumayo)
On November 3, in an Awá Indigenous territory in Orito municipality, Putumayo department, four armed and hooded men affiliated with the Comanders of the Border (Comandos de la Frontera, CDF) murdered Ricardo López Quintero and his sons César López and Victor López. The CDF assassinated the men under the accusation they sold coca leaves to buyers that were not associated with or approved by the armed actors. The armed forces remain dominant in the region despite the presence of the Colombian military’s 27th Jungle Brigade and the National Police in the region. The Duque administration continues to ignore proposals for a Global Humanitarian Agreement as well as other actions to address the humanitarian crisis experienced by communities in Putumayo department.
Indigenous Community Pleads to International Community for Protection (Magdalena)
On November 2, the Indigenous Kankuamo peoples in Santa Marta, Magdalena department issued a statement urging the international community to help ensure the protection of their communities from the activities of armed actors in the absence of any effective response by the Colombian state. On October 29, Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office had issued Early Warning 026- 21, which ordered state authorities to take action on the dire security situation in the region. Despite this alert, the state has failed to take action; previous actions by state authorities have violated legislation that upholds the ancestral norms of the Indigenous community. The Kankuamo peoples are requesting protection from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to safeguard the rights and urgently protect the ethnic and cultural integrity of its people.
Indigenous Working Group Distances Itself from Coal Mining Strike Organized by Regional Union (Chocó)
In October, the Permanent Working Group of Dialogue and Concertation with the Indigenous Peoples of Chocó asserted their non-participation in a strike against coal mining operations in the region. While they respect the decision of CONAMINERCOL-FEDEMICHOCÓ—a coal mining union—to go on strike, and even share the common interest of protecting the ancestral territory and environment, these Indigenous groupings would like to distance themselves from the strike effort, as Indigenous peoples are frequently stigmatized for social protests and demonstrations. The union did not consult the Indigenous Working Group when convening this strike. While the union is within its right to strike, as stipulated in Colombia’s Constitution and legal frameworks, these Indigenous communities would like to note that unions in the region have historically failed to support Indigenous social movements, even having advanced initiatives that work contrary to protecting the territorial rights of Indigenous peoples.
Court Charges Former Security Service Agency in Illicit Surveillance Case (Cundinamarca)
On October 27, the Administrative Court of Cundinamarca sentenced the Colombian state for the illicit surveillance that was conducted by the state’s now-defunct security service agency, the Department of Administrative Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, DAS). The agency had conducted illicit surveillance on the Popular Research and Education Center (Centro de Investigaciones de Educación Popular, CINEP). Researchers from the CINEP filed the complaint back in 2011 when the DAS was dissolved following serious revelations that the agency was not only spying on, but also carrying out dirty tricks and even death threats on major players in Colombia’s democracy. This recent sentence recognizes that these think-tank researchers were persecuted for their work as informants and analysts of the Colombian context, on issues such as conflict, violence, human rights, development, social movements, and popular education.
Civil Organizations Denounce Colombia’s Failure to Comply with IACHR Recommendations
On October 26, civil organizations held a hearing denouncing the Colombian state’s failure to comply with the 42 recommendations made by Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, IACHR) following the National Strike protests that began in late April 2021. WOLA provided a summary of this hearing in our previous urgent action.
Beer Brewery Owned by U.S. Company Accused of Anti-Labor Union Practices (Atlántico)
On October 26, the National Union of Workers in the Agriculture, Beverage, Food, and Related Industries of Colombia (Sindicato Nacional de Industria de Trabajadores de las Ramas Agroalimentarias, Bebidas, Alimentos, y Afines Similares de Colombia, SINALTRAEMSICOL) uncovered the anti-labor union practices of Bavaria S.A.—a beer brewing company located in Barranquilla, Atlántico department and owned by Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC, which is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. According to information provided privately to WOLA, Bavaria S.A. in Colombia has attacked the right to union association, hindered union growth, and sidelined collective bargaining attempts. The company allegedly persecutes and even threatens to fire workers who join autonomous union organizations that seek to improve the working conditions of their members.
In a case with SINALTRAEMSICOL, Bavaria S.A. fired Carlos Alberto Ramírez Ruiz for having joined the union. Ramirez Ruiz’s ongoing health complications put him at serious risk, given the multiple illnesses and medical procedures that he is unable to attend to due to his unemployment from the union busting. Additionally, the company allegedly carries out constant profiling and monitoring of union leaders and their families, as it deems such efforts as “far left.” Union leaders like Jorge Mejia Cervera, Hector William Loaiza, and Alexander Castillo Cortes have received death threats because of their union organizing work.
SINALTRAEMSICOL seeks to engage in dialogue with Bavaria S.A.’s U.S.-parent company Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC to address these anti-labor union practices in Colombia. It would like to meet with the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá and a representative from the U.S. Department of Labor to put an end to these violations, protect those affected, and help re-employ those wrongfully dismissed.
State Protection Scheme Agency Allegedly Collecting Sensitive Information on Journalists (Cundinamarca)
On October 25, the Freedom of Press Foundation (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, FLIP) publicly denounced the National Protection Unit’s unauthorized surveillance of journalist Claudia Julieta Duque. The FLIP alleged that the UNP collected highly sensitive data on the journalist, and also expressed concern it may be occurring to other reporters. Between February 2021 and August 2021, the UNP installed a GPS device in the journalist’s car, tracking her every movement. Her family members began receiving threatening phone calls with details that included whereabouts only the UNP would know. The UNP has denied any accusations about the collection of sensitive information, claiming the device installed on journalist Duque’s car was only intended to measure the vehicle’s speed, not record its location. The situation is deeply troubling since the now-defunct Administrative Department of Security (Departmento Administrativo de Seguridad, DAS) had previously threatened and tortured journalist Duque, and she is a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. The FLIP requested transparency from the UNP about its monitoring tactics. It also urged the UNP to detail all the data it has collected from the individuals who receive its services. Finally, the FLIP demanded that the UNP uninstall and remove the GPS device from journalist Duque’s car.
Hundreds of Families Evicted by State Security Forces (Santander)
On October 21, according to the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (Corporación Regional para la Defensa de Los Derechos Humanos, CREDHOS), state security forces and the District Mayor’s Office’s Undersecretary of Citizen Security Jimmy Picon evicted over 670 families settled in commune 3 of Barrancabermeja, Santander department. These security forces included the National Police, the riot police ESMAD, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (Dirección de Investigación Criminal e INTERPOL de la Policía Nacional, SIJIN), and the National Army. Many of the evicted families consisted of vulnerable populations like victims of the internal armed conflict, pregnant and single mothers, individuals with disabilities, and LGBT+ people. Community leaders contend that the public officials, in the presence of the Mayor’s Office, threw away belongings that people had in their huts, without giving them sufficient time to vacate. CREDHOS called on the Mayor’s Office and state institutions to uphold Colombian law and ensure the rights of these vulnerable families.
Three Killed in Massacre (La Guajira)
On October 26, unidentified hitmen on motorcycles massacred three people in Maicao municipality, La Guajira department. INDEPAZ identified these killings as Colombia’s 81st massacre this year, warning of the growing threat of various armed groups and illegal operations along the Venezuelan border.
Political Party Members Threatened
On October 26, the International segment of the Humane Colombia (Colombia Humana) party denounced threats made virtually and in-person to a Colombia Humana Switzerland node while holding a political meeting on October 21. Several members in Swiss territory have faced direct persecution, including Karmen Ramirez Boscan—a social and environmental leader, who is now a pre-candidate for the International representative of Humane Colombia in the House of Representatives for Colombians abroad. Humane Colombia rejected this persecution of social leaders as well as the Colombian government’s neglect in fulfilling the 2016 peace accord. This insecurity has caused Boscan to exile in a European country to escape what they characterize as a “new stage of genocide in Colombia.”
Armed Actors Murder Infant in Raid (Putumayo)
On October 19, armed actors raided a home and shot bullets indiscriminately, with one shot hitting ninth-month-old baby Derly Yuliana Ducuará, who died on impact in the Puerto Leguizamo municipality, Putumayo department. This tragic event has caused waves of anxiety and fear in the region. Different accounts of the raid and the infant’s murder exist, since these acts occurred in a disputed territory between the Carolina Ramírez Front of the FARC’s dissidents and the CDF. Incidents such as this raid occur amid the presence of Colombia’s 25th Jungle Brigade. Since March 2020, the Duque administration has ignored calls for a Global Humanitarian Agreement, leaving over 120 communities in the region vulnerable to relentless violence.
Armed Conflict Spurs Humanitarian Caravan (Chocó)
On October 11 and 12, two humanitarian caravans departed from the San Juan River in the Chocó department, fleeing extreme violence in their territories caused by armed conflict among state security forces, guerrillas, paramilitaries, and other armed actors. This violence includes indiscriminate shoot-outs, bombings, internal displacement of entire communities, and the killings of social leaders. In order to support the internally displaced persons of the affected communities, the humanitarian caravans consist of four commissions for human rights, communications, logistics, and methodology.
Assassination Attempt Against Social Leader (Córdoba)
On October 7, two armed men entered the residence of social leader Arnobis Zapata, in Motelíbano, Córdoba department, in an attempt to assassinate him. The armed actors physically shoved his 14-year-old son and another girl who was present to enter the residence and then proceeded to fire shots towards the social leader. Zapata is a recognized social leader from the Association of Southern Córdoba Campesinos (Asociación de Campesinos del Sur de Córdoba, ASCUSUCOR) and the Association of National Campesino Reservations (Asociación Nacional de Zonas de Reserva Campesina, ANZORC). He is highly active in defending the rights of coca growers and advancing illicit crop substitution programs stipulated in the 2016 peace accord. ASCUSUCOR publicly denounced this assassination attempt and demanded that the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP) provide security for his family. Unfortunately, this was not the first assassination attempt against Zapata, as he suffered in attempt in 2016 and had to internally displace as a result.