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Colombia

Bogotá's Business District

S&P, a global credit rating agency, recently downgraded Colombia’s credit rating to a non-investment grade, implying that Colombian government bonds are now high-risk financial assets. The downgrade hit the country amid a wave of mass unrest. For over a month, Colombians spanning all strata of society protested in large numbers. Sparked initially by opposition to a government-proposed tax reform, which President Ivan Duque soon retracted, protesters expressed diverse demands, including calling for the Duque administration to resign, a series of social and economic reforms, a thorough implementation of Colombia’s 2016 peace agreement, and an end to police brutality. Protesters thus have called for nothing less than a complete overhaul of Colombia’s political and economic system. The protests form part of …
Policía Nacional de los Colombianos

Times are grim for human rights and the rule of law in Colombia. Since the end of April, tens of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets after President Iván Duque announced a controversial tax reform. While the government has withdrawn the reform proposal, protests are ongoing as citizens express their frustration over structural inequalities. Discontent is high across the country, especially among lower- and middle-class Colombians who have experienced increased hardship while enduring the COVID-19 pandemic. By 22 June, 83 people were killed and over 1,600 wounded, with much of the violence attributed to the Colombian National Police. The police’s anti-riot unit, known as ESMAD, has become a symbol of disproportionate policing based on the excessive use of force. The Constitution …

In a farewell speech to Colombia’s armed forces last year just prior to leaving office, ex-president Juan Manuel Santos boasted: “Today we have the best armed forces in our history.” Proudly, he added: “We’re a global reference!” And indeed, it seems as though Colombia had opened a new chapter. Since the 2016 peace accords with the country’s largest guerrilla organisation, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the nation appears to be on an uphill climb.  With the FARC at the negotiation table, the story goes, the country was finally able to look ahead and dedicate its resources to transition and reconstruction: the reintegration of former combatants, the redistribution of formerly occupied territories, and the recovery of an economy weakened by decades …

Anette Idler summarizes some of the findings from her new book Borderland Battles, which reveals how violent non-state groups compete for territorial control, co-operate in illicit cross-border activities and replace the state in exerting governance functions in borderlands. Borderlands are like a magnifying glass on some of the most entrenched security challenges of the world. In unstable regions, border areas attract violent non-state groups ranging from rebels and paramilitaries to criminal organisations who exploit their neglect by central governments. These groups compete for territorial control, cooperate in illicit cross-border activities, and substitute for the governance functions usually associated with the state. Studying the Colombian borderlands where armed conflict and organised crime converge demonstrates that the gap between state-centric views on …

As Venezuela’s crisis continues, so too do its serious repercussions for neighbouring countries. Of the four million Venezuelans that have left the country – the largest migrant crisis in the region’s recent history – more than 1.3 million have arrived in Colombia, on Venezuela’s western border. But this comes at a time when Colombia itself still faces high levels of violence. Though its government signed a peace deal with the FARC guerrilla group in 2016, their counterparts in the National Liberation Army (ELN) have yet to give up arms. Elsewhere, the number of FARC dissidents is rising, and other violent non-state groups – from right-wing paramilitaries to Mexican drug cartels – are jostling for position in the race to fill the void created by demobilisation of …

Only days after the people of Colombia voted to reject a historic peace deal he spent years negotiating, the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the country’s decades-long war with the FARC guerrilla movement. The no vote came a week after the government and the FARC had signed a peace deal, and after they had declared a bilateral ceasefire and the end of all hostilities at the end of August. Nevertheless, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has given Santos and his fellow negotiators a vote of confidence – one that they have earned through years of dogged and determined work. Santos became president in 2010 after serving as defence minister under his presidential predecessor Alvaro …

On Sunday, the Colombian people rejected the recent peace deal that the Colombian government had reached with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after 52 years of civil war. The plebiscite narrowly failed: 50.2 percent rejected the peace accord, while 49.8 percent were in favour. What, exactly, were Colombians voting on? Colombians cast votes on whether they support the peace agreement, reached in August and formally signed on Sept. 26. The content of the 297-page peace accord had been made public before the vote. Who voted no? The “no” vote is not representative of all Colombians. Less than 40 percent of Colombians voted in the plebiscite, leaving many voices unheard. This was partly related to weather conditions; the Caribbean …

On Aug. 29, 2016, the Colombian government and the leftist insurgent group FARC initiated a cease-fire. The two parties had reached a remarkable peace accord a few days earlier, hoping to end 52 years of civil war. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the peace deal will be formally signed Sept. 26, which would trigger the 180-day demobilization of the FARC. Colombia’s armed conflict, the longest-running in recent global history, left more than 220,000 people dead and about 6.7 million displaced within the region. The cease-fire formalizes the end of combat activities between state forces and the FARC, formally known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — and all hostilities against civilians. After decades of brutal violence and several failed peace processes, this …