Credit: 'Nino" Eugene La Pia.

The last several weeks have seen the worst wave in years of murders of social leaders, indigenous leaders, land-rights activists, and human rights defenders. The renewed violence casts doubt on whether space for non-violent political activity will truly exist in Colombia’s “post-conflict” period.

By one count, 71 "social leaders" in Colombia have been killed this year, with another 17 attempts.
↩︎ Washington Office on Latin America
Dec 23, 2016

We are tired of being tricked. [The government] are the ones who don’t want to make things work, but they can.

Colombia's cocaine growers are caught in a strange limbo after the failed referendum.
Oct 31, 2016

A prominent political website calculated how many votes were lost in each departamento, or state, either because of the torrential rains brought by Hurricane Matthew, or by the lack of mermelada that is ordinarily distributed to local politicians at election time. The marmalade, or under-the-table money, is used to buy baseball caps or construction materials for voters—and to hire the buses needed to transport rural voters to the booths. The difference between the votes cast…and the usual number of votes produced by Santos’s Liberal Party operators in any major coastal city would have produced a victory for Yes.

Mechanics of how the peace referendum lost in Colombia.
↩︎ The New York Review of Books
Oct 11, 2016

But You Know They Had to Be A Little Bummed

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for trying to end the country's 52-year war with FARC—a peace plan that his citizens ultimately rejected. From the committee's statement:

The civil war in Colombia is one of the longest civil wars in modern times and the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas. It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee's firm belief that President Santos, despite the 'No' majority vote in the referendum, has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution, and that much of the groundwork has been laid for both the verifiable disarmament of the FARC guerrillas and a historic process of national fraternity and reconciliation. His endeavors to promote peace thus fulfil the criteria and spirit of Alfred Nobel's will.

FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez also offered his congratulations:

Oct 7, 2016

​Santos’s decision to start negotiations with the FARC did not come exclusively from an interest in further opening the Colombian economy to global capitalism and attracting FDI into extractive sectors, low-wage services, and labor-intensive industries. It also reflects changing dynamics of power and a break in the elite bargain between the traditional, now-transnational elites and the narco-capitalists.

As Colombia became more globalized, legitimate business interests decided they'd had enough of the narco-wars. But will the drug trade merely leave FARC to form another front?
↩︎ Jacobin
Oct 7, 2016

One Percentage Point

Colombian voters declined to approve a referendum that would have ratified the government's peace agreement with the country's oldest and largest armed militia, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, by a margin of less than one percentage point. The turnout for the referendum was extremely low, under 40 percent, and an analysis of the geographic distribution of the vote showed that Colombians who deal directly with FARC—poorer, rural descendants of slaves brought from Africa, who live in the outskirts of the country—voted for the deal, while the better-off central urban parts of the country voted against it.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos had been negotiating with FARC since 2012, and successfully convinced the jungle-based armed militia to disarm earlier this year—if the referendum had passed.

Both the Colombian government and FARC have reaffirmed their commitment to not take up arms against each other again even with the referendum results.

Oct 3, 2016

Sterile & Covert

Colombia's armed conflicts with various militias began with La Violencia, a 1950s civil war between armed conservative and liberal peasant groups that claimed 300,000 lives. After the government attacked a small village—that had declared itself independent from the country in 1964—the US got involved. Kennedy ordered US troops to train the Colombian military to invade the largest armed peasant enclaves. An Army official later wrote that, "In order to shield the interests of both Colombian and US authorities against 'interventionist' charges any special aid given for internal security was to be sterile and covert in nature."

As FARC and other rebel groups began taxing the drug trade in the 1980s and '90s, US involvement got even more pronounced. Money began funneling from various government agencies to the Colombian government to stop drug trafficking. Multiple reports will also point out that the Colombian military was just as involved in the drug trade as rebel groups. Eventually, after years of kidnappings for ransom and extortion, FARC was designated as a terrorist group by the US, leading even more money to be spent fighting it, often by covert means.

Oct 3, 2016

How do you fill the vacuum in these areas where the criminal economy makes up 70 percent of the whole economy?

With FARC (potentially) going legit, what will happen to Colombia's massive cocaine trade?
↩︎ The Atlantic
Oct 3, 2016
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