A Racial Analysis of Colombia’s Peace Plebiscite

Stalled Peace Deals, New Threats and the Commitment of Civil Society in Colombia

After four years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the FARC finalized a peace agreement in August of this year. The agreement was signed by both sides in a public event in Cartagena on September 26th in front of a number of heads of state and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The last hurdle, as previously agreed, was a national plebiscite on the agreement with a YES or NO answer. It was generally seen as a formality. On October 2nd, Colombians went to the polls, but the result was completely unexpected by any party: with a low voter turnout of a little over 13 million people (37%) the NO vote won by a mere 60,000 votes, a margin of 0.4%.


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Bridging the Americas: Black Lives Matter Everywhere

In April 2014, a courageous Afro-Colombian community took a stand against violence that had controlled their lives for 15+ years, transforming their neighborhood into a peace zone. That same year, the Movement for Black Lives ignited in the United States, vividly drawing national attention to an epidemic of state violence against Black communities. This November, join critical conversations with Black community leaders from Colombia and the U.S. demanding respect for their lives, lands, and rights.

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Communities in Cesar struggle to be heard in public hearing on coal mining

Written by Thomas Power, FOR Peace Presence accompanier. Para la versión en español, haz clic aqui.

We were mistaken in the past. We no longer exchange life for money.” Community members from Boquerón, in central Cesar, Colombia, directed these words at the Colombian environmental licensing agency (ANLA) and transnational coal-mining companies during public hearings on January 28th and February 5th 2016. The multinationals Drummond and Glencore are planning to expand operations, and have solicited ANLA for a modification to their environmental license. In response, affected communities petitioned to hold public hearings on the proposed expansions to make their preoccupations heard.

Boquerón is a traditionally Afro-descendant community. As such, in Colombia the community has the right to prior, free and informed consultation, a process in which the community based on reliable information either refuses or grants its permission to carry out the proposed mining projects. However, as only the departmental and not the national government, has recognized Boquerón’s status as an Afro-descendant community, this right has consistently been denied. Many believe that the government has denied the community this recognition precisely because the right to previous consultation would complicate mining activities in the region, which is an important economic engine in the national government’s eyes and the region’s principal economic activity.


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Comunidades en Cesar luchan por ser escuchadas en audiencias públicas sobre la minería del carbón

Escrito por Thomas Power, acompañante internacional de FOR Presente por la Paz. For the English version, click here.

“Nos equivocamos en el pasado. Ya no damos más vida por plata.” Esas son unas de las palabras de miembros de la comunidad de Boquerón en el departamento de Cesar, Colombia, dirigidas a la Agencia Nacional de Licencias Ambientales (ANLA) y a empresas transnacionales de carbón en audiencias públicas, los 28 de enero y 5 de febrero del 2016. Las transnacionales Drummond y Glencore están preparándose para aumentar sus operaciones y han solicitado a la ANLA modificar sus licencias ambientales. En respuesta, las comunidades afectadas solicitaron audiencias públicas sobre las propuestas de ampliación para hacer escuchar sus preocupaciones.

Boquerón es una comunidad tradicionalmente afrocolombiana. Como tal, tiene derecho a la consulta previa, un proceso en el que la comunidad basada en información fiable se niega o concede su permiso para llevar a cabo las propuestas de proyectos mineros. Sin embargo, ya que sólo el departamento y no el gobierno nacional ha reconocido Boquerón como una comunidad afrocolombiana, este derecho ha sido constantemente negado. Muchxs creen que el gobierno ha negado a la comunidad este reconocimiento precisamente porque el derecho a la consulta previa complicaría las actividades mineras en la región, que son un motor de crecimiento económico importante a los ojos del gobierno nacional y la actividad económica principal de la región.


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A Racial Analysis of Colombia’s Peace Plebiscite

written by Chris Courtheyn, FOR Peace Presence Board member

I offer the following analysis of the recent Colombian plebiscite as a political geographer from the United States, currently working in Colombia, who has worked in solidarity with Colombian human rights organizations since 2008. On Sunday, October 2nd, 2016, a slim majority of Colombians, 50.2%, voted to reject the peace accord between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas. Written to end 50 years of armed conflict, it included agreements on rural development, political participation of opposition parties, illicit drugs, victims, and disarmament. Signed by both parties in September, the accord was the outcome of five years of negotiations and reflected concessions from both sides, especially by the FARC, who eventually agreed to disarm and face potential prison sentences for their crimes against humanity.

Click here to read the entire article