Human Rights Observatory Reports
Every other month the Arrupe Observatory publishes a report in which the news is condensed and contextualized. The Observatory also publishes statements, letters, and commemorations. You can read and download all the reports below.
The Colombian Peace Process
The Commission of Peace was enacted in 1994 as a way to facilitate the inclusion of civil actors in peace efforts, recruit international cooperation, and direct dialogues with armed groups.
The importance of this peace process is that it in itself is rooted in social justice by attempting to incorporate former Guerilla members into society once again and discontinue the cycle of violence that has affected Colombia for over 50 years. This process is also unique as being one of the most participatory peace processes in history where both parties acknowledged peace would not be attained militarily. While this framework could be used to end armed conflict in other parts of the world, it is vital for us to track its successes and failures.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS FROM USF’S HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATORY
• Media outlets haven’t say much about the Truth Commission and the peace process. We have also noticed that the few news that comes up are distorted by the traditional media outlets. This news are usually shaped to fit their own interests, so we are working with the Javeriana Universities to get direct access to the narratives of communities from the different regions. Our contacts: Manuel Ramiro (Javeriana Cali) & Aida Quiñones (Javeriana Bogota)
• Land displacement and land rights are key issues for the conflict.
• The “Ejercito de Liberación Nacional” (ELN) is having a parallel peace process with the government, but they are a guerrilla that are not well known outside Colombia. It is important to learn more about them because their process with the government is also very important for the country.
• Coercion has become an important tool for peace negotiations. President Duque threatened with ending the peace talks, but he continued the conversations after the ELN kidnapped members of the police and military.
• There is also growing suspicion that the Colombian government is looking to aid the US against Venezuela, and the internal stability is key to proceed with a military action outside Colombia.
We put together the following list of resources that provide a context to the conflict at hand:
I hope you are well. I want to share the following since I am part of the Arrupe Observatory at the University of San Francisco, which monitors the peace process in Colombia: https://myusf.usfca.edu/arrupe/observatory
As an observatory of the peace process in Colombia, we see with concern the increase in violence due to the events that took place on January 17, and the death of more than 400 social leaders since the beginning of the peace talks, and we want to extend our condolences to the victims and relatives of these events.
Even so, the Arrupe Observatory of USF believes that peace is still a possible goal, evidenced by all the advances that have been seen since the implementation of the agreements with the FARC in 2016. The dream of a Colombian society in peace is more strong that this episode of violence.
We would like our voices to have an echo in Colombia and for our message to be heard by the country and the government. That Colombians know that in San Francisco there is a support group that is betting on a negotiated solution to the conflict. And that those who feel isolated in the defense of peace know that they have this space that welcomes them and is interested in making their voices resonate.
We hope that Colombia continues to bet on peace.
The Arrupe Observatory at the University of San Francisco.
Luis Enrique Bazán, Mariana Plazas Jácome, Kerent Benjumea, Maria Nieves Autrey Noriega, y Laura Rocio Vesga Villalba
Colombia Peace Process Main Protagonists.
When the USF’s Human Rights Observatory started its press analysis and media search around peace dialogues in Colombia, it was evident that the ELN was not an important protagonist in the news about peace in the country. Since the new president Ivan Duque took office, uncertainty with regards to a peaceful future in Colombia has governed the nation. Without clear policies and with harsh pronouncements about the armed groups continuing their operations, the new administration in Colombia disregarded the conversation table established with the ELN. The media had been stagnant due to the lack of new facts or events about the fate of the dialogues that began with the guerrilla group.
This, however, changed dramatically on January 17, 2019, when the ELN guerrilla group became the main actor in the country's news. Unfortunately, this did not happen due to an advance in the negotiating table, but because of the attack, they perpetrated on the Police School General Santander that left around 21 dead and 60 injured. After this, newspapers, radio and television were flooded with images and stories about the car bomb that exploded in the Police school. The country was polarized again and the news about this situation focused on how this attack caused a step backward in the attempts to negotiate peace with the ELN and at the same time endangered the agreement already established with the FARC.
The media expressed how these events evidenced that Iván Duque’s government, which did not impel the negotiations until now, would possibly end them and concentrate on hardening the repression to the guerrilla leaders. At the same time, news revealed how tension was building between Norway and Colombia due to the protocols that were established in the negotiations were broken.
The press wasn’t the only agent revolutionized around the facts: academics and columnists also made several pronouncements about the meaning and consequences of this attack in the context of the peace process and at the end it was easy to conclude that the actors most harmed after the attack “were the people that fought to achieve peace in the country”.
Social Leaders in Danger.
Another very relevant topic that also arose in Colombia’s press during January was the security of Social Leaders in the country. Before the start of 2019, there was already a toll of 400 social leaders that had been murdered since the beginning of the peace dialogues with FARC, which was not being discussed in the media; now, several press outlets are releasing news about this concerning situation. The Observatory intuits that these pronouncements and the awakening of the media about this topic may be linked to the current moment that the country is living after the ELN attack. Both this peak in violence and the murders of social leaders are factors that put at risk the already vulnerable and incomplete peace that Colombia has after the signing of agreements with the FARC.
Arrupe Observatory Honors the Bogotazo.
In Colombia, bipartisanship has been a notable source of violence. Today, April 9th, USF’s Arrupe Observatory wants to commemorate 71 years of the Bogotazo, when the clash of conservative and liberal parties in Colombia left Bogotá in flames. Violence was sparked by the murder of the liberal presidential candidate, Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, and led to the resurgence of urban violence in the capital, laying the road to an unsustainable struggle of bipartisanship in years to come, which came to be known as the years of la Violencia.
The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) later emerged as a result of the lack of representation for other voices that were neither liberal nor conservative, and the FARC lasted around 60 years in this struggle of having their voices heard. Today, Colombia has the privilege of saying that the peace accords ended a conflict that originated due to a bipartisan division. It is important to commemorate a day that unleashed excessive violence and be able to acknowledge that today this is a distant memory and not a reality.
The Observatory is certain that Colombia deserves a better future, in which the structural causes at the root of violence and wars are dismantled. We commemorate this day with the purpose of keeping the memory alive to prevent the repetition of these tragedies that emerged due to a division of thought. The Observatory believes in a country where the difference of opinion is not a cause of violence, but instead, a reason to achieve a more inclusive and humane society, that embraces the diversity of opinions and helps build a better future for all Colombians.
An uncertain future for Peace.
The month of March has been characterized by increasing tensions on different issues of the peace process. An aspect that’s worrisome for the future of the agreements, is the lack of financial resources destined for its implementation. Recently, Ivan Duque’s government has decided to reduce the financing for the peace process, which leaves an immense uncertainty for the planned projects stipulated in the agreements. This budget cut sends the message that slowly but firmly, the little remaining oxygen of the peace process (that is already very fragile) is being removed.
Another aspect that has increased tensions over the peace agreement is the current situation in Venezuela. The proclamation of Juan Guaido as the president of the Venezuelan nation has generated a big controversy. Some countries have supported Guaido’s actions and have acknowledged they recognize him as a president. Donald Trump has openly expressed his support to Guaido and affirmed that he would support the Venezuelan’s transition to a democratic government on the required terms, even if this means pressuring Nicola’s Maduro, the current Venezuela president more vehemently.
Mike Pence, United States Vice-President visited Colombia during the last days of February to discuss this situation and said that the US government is contemplating every option against Maduro. The message behind this declaration is that even if a more forceful approach is required it isn’t discarded. While Colombia is recovering from a long-lasting armed internal conflict, the current government is having meetings to discuss different strategies to out rule the president of a neighboring nation. This can be harmful to the peace process with the FARC because it reflects that the government agrees with using forceful approaches to address an international affair. The repercussions of this vision internally can put at risk the compliance of the agreements.
Rethinking the past
On the other hand, the recent appointment of Ruben Dario Acevedo as the Director of the Historic Memory center was unexpected and controversial. The historian has been known for being a "denialist" of the armed conflict in Colombia; he agrees with a political current of thought that states there wasn’t an armed conflict in the country, instead of a terrorist group that perpetuated attacks against the nation. This current of thought was most popular during Alvaro Uribe’s presidency (2002-2010), which was characterized by a democratic security and militarist approach to defeating the FARC. Putting Ruben Dario Acevedo in one of the symbolically most important institutions for peace in the country increases tensions. This strengthens the message that, in certain instances, the past continues to govern and a warmongering approach is present in key spaces for the peace agreements.
During February and March, the Special Justice for Peace organism had important advances and setbacks. During February, Pastor Alape a FARC commander gave testimonies to the JEP about kidnappings and disappearances. This contributes to the reconstruction of truth and brings the JEP closer to achieving reconciliation and reparation of the victims. Another positive aspect developed by the JEP is the gender approach, that’s currently being promoted by Patricia Linares, the first ever women to be in charge of this entity. Unfortunately, the JEP also suffered fundamental setbacks recently due to President Duque’s uncertainty of objecting the statutory law of this organism. If this aspect remains to be unclear, the peace process may be delayed, the victims and the judicial processes run the risk of being left in limbo and the perpetrators are left in impunity longer.