On December 23, 34 members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlining the priority issues the U.S. should support in Colombia in 2023. Led by Representatives Jim McGovern (MA) and Mark Pocan (WI), the letter refers to the Secretary of State’s recent trip to Colombia and notes “we anticipate seeing these commitments reflected in increased resources and concrete proposals in the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Proposal.”
The issues requiring consideration from the members of congress include implementation of the 2016 peace accord, security strategies to tackle corruption and break links with violent actors, the total peace effort as well as issues around migration and refugees. On the peace accord, special attention is paid to advancing rural reform, the ethnic chapter, transitional justice, drug policy and the security of social leaders.
Given USAID and the State’s long engagement on rural reform, the Secretary of State is asked to find more resources to support its progress. More support is also needed for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, JEP) and the Unit to Search for the Disappeared. Additionally, the representatives state that “the Biden administration should give a swift and positive response to the Truth Commission’s outstanding requests for declassification of U.S. documents related to human rights abuses and the U.S. role in the conflict, including documents from U.S. intelligence agencies.”
The signers state that they are strong supporters of the ethnic chapter, and they expect that the U.S.-Colombia Racial Action Plan (CAPREE) is invigorated. Also, that areas the U.S. should help strength “include advancing law 70 of 1993 of the Black communities, the prior consultation process, fortifying ethnic communities’ efforts to protect the environment, and addressing negative impacts from climate change.” Durable solutions are required to tackle the drug trade. Rural farmers are asked to be made the center piece of anti-narcotics efforts. The need to protect social leaders and guarantee justice in the cases of murdered social leaders is reiterated in this letter. Many of the signers have raised this issue with the Secretary of State in prior letters.
On total peace that includes negotiations with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN), the Representatives “encourage the State Department to offer political support to preliminary ‘humanitarian accords’ that commit armed groups to respect and safeguard the rights and integrity of civilian non-combatants. Finally, we emphasize that any focus on demobilizing these current armed groups must build a comprehensive state presence in their territories if a ‘total peace’ is to provide a lasting solution.”
Our organization strongly agrees with the comprehensive roadmap that Members of the US House of Representatives present to the State Department. We are grateful for their ongoing interest and support of human rights, peace, security and drug policy reforms and migration issues in Colombia. It urges Secretary of State Blinken to adhere to these suggestions and to move them forward in 2023