Colombia's President Ivan Duque on Nov. 24 convened his National Labor Concord Commission (Comisión Nacional de Concertación Laboral) to begin the "National Conversation" he pledged four days earlier in a bid to quell a fast-mounting anti-government protest wave. Social leaders, mayors and departmental governors from across the country are to participate in the talks. The protests escalated Nov. 21 when trade unions, including the giant Unitary Workers Central (CUT), called a nationwide general strike, and repressive measures by the National Police only fueled the mass mobilization.
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the two remaining "dubia cardinals" who dissented from a perceived liberal tilt in the Catholic Church, praised the men who removed the controversial "Pachamama statues" from a church in Rome during last month's Amazon Synod and threw them into the Tiber River. The German cardinal hailed the perpetrators as "courageous...prophets of today" in an Oct. 29 interview with the conservative Catholic LifeSiteNews, adding: "These two young men who threw these tasteless idols into the Tiber have not committed theft, but have done a deed, a symbolic act as we know it from the Prophets of the Old Covenant, from Jesus—see the cleansing of the Temple—and from Saint Boniface who felled the Thor Oak near Geismar."
Indigenous leaders in Colombia are raising accusations of "genocide" following the latest massacre, in which five members of the Nasa people were killed in southwestern Cauca department. Cristina Bautista, a Nasa traditional authority, or neehwesx, was killed along with four members of the Indigenous Guard, an unarmed community self-defense patrol, on Oct. 29. The incident took place at the community of La Luz on the Nasa resguardo of Tacueyó, Toribio municipality. The Indigenous Guard tried to stop a car at a checkpoint maintained in the community. The driver refused to cooperate and a stand-off ensued, bringing Bautista and others to the scene. Eventually, the occupants of the car opened fire. In addition to five slain, several were wounded in the attack, and the assailants escaped. They are believed to be members of a "dissident" band of the FARC guerillas, which has refused to honor Colombia's peace accords. The Indigenous Guard carry traditional staffs, but not firearms.
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro failed to attend the summit of leaders of seven South American countries with Amazon Basin territory to address the devastating fires now consuming the rainforest. Duque claimed a medical emergency, and was represented by his foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, at the meeting in Colombia's Amazonian city of Leticia on Sept. 6. The presidents of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia as well as Araujo, the natural resouces minister of Guyana and vice president of Suriname agreed to form an "Amazonian cooperation network" to track deforestation across borders. Venezuela, despite having a large swath of Amazonian territory, was not invited, as Colombia does not recognize the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. Brazil has the largest share of the Amazon by far, and Bolsonaro's failure to attend was assailed by environmentalists worldwide.
Top FARC leaders Iván Marquez and Jesús Santrich appeared in a YouTube video on Aug. 29, alongside some 20 other veteran fighters, all in battle fatigues, to announce they are returning to guerilla insurgency and will launch "a new stage of armed struggle." Reading the manifesto, Marquez, standing beside notorious FARC rebel leaders such as "El Paisa," charged that "the state has betrayed the Havana Accords," the 2016 peace deal under which the FARC has laid down arms. "We announce to the world that the second Marquetalia has begun," he said, referring to the village in Tolima department where the FARC was founded in May 1964. He said they would seek to join forces both with the FARC "dissidents" who have remained in arms despite the peace deal, as well as the rival National Liberation Army (ELN).
The United States government is "committed" to "dismantle" Colombia's remaining significant guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said Aug. 8. The US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina made the comment after he and six other federal prosecutors met with President Ivan Duque on a visit to Bogotá to discuss cooperation "to fight narco-terrorism," as Terwilliger put it in a tweet. Terwilliger said the Colombian government "counts on the full support of the United States Department of Justice in the common cause to destabilize, decimate and ultimately dismantle the ELN." The guerilla group has been active since 1964 and is currently believed to have 4,000 fighters. The ELN was engaged in peace talks with Duque's predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but the talks were suspended by Duque when he took office a year ago.
The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Aug. 11 urged the government to effectively protect the lives and physical and cultural integrity of the Nasa indigenous people amid a wave of assassinations in their territory in the southern department of Cauca. The statement noted attacks on members of the Nasa Indigenous Guard over the past 24 hours, in which two were killed—Gersain Yatacué in the community of Toribio and Enrique Güejia in the community of Tacueyo. These brought to 36 the members of the Nasa people killed so far this year, according to Alberto Brunori, the UN human rights officer for Colombia. That is nine more than in the same period last year, which Brunori said points to an "alarming situation" in Cauca. (Prensa Latina, Aug. 11)