Bogota Colombia – More than 100 Colombian human rights groups from remote Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities have written to the new US administration asking for help with the ongoing violence and murders they face.
“Our black, indigenous and rural farming communities living in remote areas of Colombia have lived in the midst of armed conflict for over 40 years … and today we continue to suffer,” reads the first paragraph of the letter to US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
“Persecution, torture, murders, enforced disappearances, displacement, violent land expropriation, sexual violence, stigmatization and silence we must go through in our territories, otherwise we will be killed,” it said.
In 2016, the Colombian government signed a controversial peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that ended five decades of conflict.
But the country continued to grapple with violence.
The reintegration of demobilized combatants has not been fully implemented by the current right-wing government of Ivan Duque. In the areas left behind by the FARC, new armed groups have emerged, fighting violently for control of valuable areas for illegal economies such as gold mining and drug trafficking. Hundreds of human rights defenders and hundreds of ex-combatants who signed the agreement have been killed since the peace agreement.
Those worst affected include people in rural communities, many of whom continue to live in fear four years after the deal was signed.
The letter written by the communities through various organizations asked the US government for help in ensuring compliance with the measures agreed with the FARC. This was a restart of the peace talks with the existing rebel group ELN (National Liberation Army) from rural areas, land reforms, illegal substitution of crops and a stronger presence of the institutional state in remote areas.
The letter is due to be delivered to the US Congress next week.
A caravan with around 5,000 indigenous people left the city of Cali in October for the capital Bogota to protest against the massacres and murders of social leaders [File: Fernando Vergara/AP Photo]On the first day of the new administration, Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at reversing some of the Trump administration’s most controversial directives, addressing immigration reforms and stopping the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Some human rights groups see these steps as a positive sign and hope that the new administration will pay more attention to human rights issues not only in the US but also in Latin American countries.
“It is hoped that the Biden administration will prioritize peace, the protection of social leaders, and the rights of Afro-Colombians in US foreign policy towards Colombia,” said Gimena Sanchez, Andean director at the Washington office for Latin America ( WOLA).
“Leaders and communities across Colombia are writing to Biden calling on his government to make Duque feel that those affected by violence and conflict enjoy peace, dismantling illegal armed groups, engaging with the ELN, providing effective protection, respecting ethnic rights and unity Stop wanting to the anti-peace efforts that his government has undertaken, “she said.
Sergio Guzman, political analyst and director of Colombian risk analysis, said the Biden government will likely focus more on the peace agreement and the situation with Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities than the previous government.
“[This is] partly because of the leadership in Congress. Gregory Meeks of the Foreign Affairs Committee has long been a champion of Afro-Colombian rights, ”said Guzman.
The cultivation of coca, the raw material for cocaine, is still widespread in many rural areas, and Guzman expects the new US administration to prioritize promoting measures such as plant substitution in its relationship with Bogota.
“In contrast, in the Trump years the issue was much more focused on numbers, and reducing the Colombian numbers was the be-all and end-all of the relationship. I think we are facing a much broader approach to the drug problem, ”he said.