PBI-Colombia visits Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Humanitarian Zone
On June 13, the Peace Brigades International – Colombia Project posted on their Facebook page that, “After several months suffering a situation of insecurity, confinement and humanitarian crisis, we celebrate the visit of different embassies and international organizations to the Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Humanitarian Zone.”
Nueva Esperanza was established in the department (state) of Chocó in north-west Colombia in 2003 by 47 families.
It now has about 75 families.
Humanitarian zones are clearly demarcated areas where armed forces of any kind (the army, right-wing paramilitaries, left-wing rebel armies) are not supposed to enter.
The embassies that visited Nueva Esperanza represented the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.
The organizations that visited were the Organization of American States Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS), the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, the Colombia Human Rights Committee and Christian Aid.
They met with the different leaders of the Jiguamiandó river basin to hear their testimonies first hand.
In April it was reported that the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AGC), one of the largest paramilitary groups in Colombia, have been patrolling the area surrounding the village for several months.
In April, the research and advocacy group Washington Office on Latin American (WOLA) also reported, “Leaders of the New Hope Humanitarian Space, a peace community protected by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, reported that nearly 100 members of the AGC passed through the town on their way to Las Menas.”
In February, Contagio Radio reported that paramilitary forces had tried to assassinate Luis Cogollo, the leader of the humanitarian zone.
There have also reportedly been clashes in the area between National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and either the Colombian Armed Forces or the AGC paramilitary.
As noted above, Nueva Esperanza is located in the state of Chocó.
It has been noted that Chocó has strategic importance because it passes through several smuggling routes for drugs and weapons.
In addition, gold deposits are suspected there, and the precious woods, which are found in the higher rainforest regions, arouse the interest of national and international corporations.
PBI-Colombia has also noted on their website that the AGC and the ELN are fighting to control the region and that on December 6, 2018 the Colombian Armed Forces carried out an aerial bombing against an illegal group near Nueva Esperanza.