Lisa Haugaard

Corruption, Human Rights Scandal Rocks the Colombian Armed Forces

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Colombia’s Semana magazine revealed in February a massive corruption scandal involving the top ranks of Colombia’s armed forces.  Officials were skimming up to 50 percent off of lucrative military contracts.  “Give us 5 billion [pesos] and give the other companies 3.  If we are all eating, no one will pick a fight,”   said one colonel. 

Top military commanders, as well as personally benefitting from this corruption, were steering contracts to officers and soldiers under investigation and detained in military garrisons for involvement in extrajudicial executions. According to Semana, “this was a system to buy their silence and ensure that they did not implicate higher-level officials in the sadly famous practice of false positives.”

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In their Homes, in their Work, Colombia's Human Rights Defenders Remain at Risk

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In their houses, in front of their children, in the middle of meetings, while taking their children or grandchildren to school, while eating in restaurants, while walking to or from work:  these are some of the places in which 78 Colombian human rights defenders were assassinated in 2013.

Community leaders, representatives of poor farmers and victims, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, land rights champions, union leaders, LGBTI and women's rights defenders, youth leaders:  these are some of the kinds of defenders assassinated in 2013.  Most were poor, from far-flung parts of the country.

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Honduran Elections: No Cause for Celebrations

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The November 24, 2013 elections in Honduras and their aftermath are a critical moment for the direction of the country.  In June 2009 a coup overthrew the elected president, Liberal Party member Manuel Zelaya.  In this month´s election, Zelaya´s wife Xiomara Castro de Zelaya under the new Libre party banner ran against the National Party´s Juan Orlando Hernandez, the traditional Liberal Party, a new Anti-Corruption Party and several others. 

The Supreme Electoral Council declared the National Party’s Juan Orlando Hernandez the winner, followed by Libre, with the Liberals, and the Anti-Corruption Party also receiving a significant share of votes.  The newer parties’ significant vote count has altered the traditional two-party (National, Liberal) Honduran political scene.

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Yes to Peace in Colombia

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As Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met this week with President Barack Obama, it’s time to say, Yes to peace.

In November 2013, the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group signed an agreement, the second of five agreements which together will make up a final peace accord.  With this second agreement, two of the most difficult topics, land and political participation, have been negotiated, showing that this peace process has a real chance to end a fifty-year war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, kidnapped and disappeared, and some 6 million people have been forcibly displaced.  

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Colombia´s National Human Rights Prize: A Celebration of Determination and Spirit

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"I am happy to have this honor,¨ said one of the finalists for Colombia´s second annual National Prize for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia. "But I am torn, because while I am here, I am thinking about my community, which is still at risk." Despite peace talks, despite the Colombian government´s optimistic picture of an improved Colombia, the war grinds on, and the threats continue from paramilitary groups, army, guerrillas, mining companies, lumber, and palm plantations.

But the prize offers a moment of celebration of the creative, indomitable and collective spirit of Colombia's human rights community.

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