Stories written by Helda Martínez

Colombia’s Breadbasket Feels the Pinch of Free Trade

“Things are getting worse and worse,” Enrique Muñoz, a 67-year-old farmer from the municipality of Cajamarca in the central Colombian department of Tolima, once known as the country’s breadbasket, said sadly.

Nationwide Protests Rage against Colombia’s Economic Policies

A strike declared nearly two weeks ago in Colombia by farmers and joined later by truck drivers, health workers, miners and students spread to include protests in the cities before mushrooming into a general strike Thursday, demanding changes in the government’s economic policies.

Civil Society Trial Finds Oil Corp Guilty in Colombia

An “ethical and political trial on pillaging of natural resources” in Colombia condemned three foreign corporations, including Canada’s Pacific Rubiales Energy, which has dozens of oil and natural gas operations around the country.

Despite Peace Talks, Forced Displacement Still Climbing in Colombia

Drugs and arms traffickers are muscling in on Colombia's Pacific coastal region, forcibly displacing local people, according to a new report by the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES).

Rural Colombia Takes Its Place on the Agenda

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) initiatives working to overcome poverty and improve food security in the Colombian countryside can make a positive contribution to government efforts to tackle some of the most neglected problems facing this South American country.

Agriculture Still the Cinderella of Colombia

Wearing a dusty hat and a smile that lights up his face, the septuagenarian José Alicapa does not shrink from the overwhelming bustle of the Colombian capital, which he reached after a 13-hour bus drive from the western province in Caldas.

Building Beaches Against the Sea

The government of this historic walled city, a bastion of tourism on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is widening beaches and building dual carriageways on its north side to protect against the ever-worsening impacts of climate change.

Controversy Brews Over Climate Change Adaptation Project

An ambitious programme of infrastructure works to overcome the risks of climate change in Cartagena de Indias, a city on the Caribbean coast in northern Colombia, has generated controversy, with authorities predicting benefits while parts of the affected population voice criticisms.

Colombians Hope for Peace, But Are Sceptical

Scepticism, fear of expressing an opinion and a dash of hope make up the cocktail of responses from Colombians asked about the possibility of the decades-old civil war finally coming to an end as a result of the peace talks between the government and the FARC guerrillas, which began Monday in Havana.

Legislator Gloria Stella Díaz. Credit: Helda Martinez/IPS

Colombia Tightening Laws Against Acid Attacks

Nobody will ever know if Jhon Jairo Echenique decided to take his own life out of remorse, fear or mental illness. But the suicide followed his arrest for the stabbing and burning with acid of his 19-year-old former girlfriend Angélica Gutiérrez.

Enrique Daza: "It is easier to list the sectors that won’t be hurt by the FTA." Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

COLOMBIA-U.S.: Trade Deal “Throws Country into Jaws of Multinationals,” Critics Say

The entry into force of Colombia’s free trade agreement with the United States was met by student protests and opposition from a segment of the business community, small farmers, and trade unionists.

Messages of Peace in Colombia

Analysts in Colombia have varied in their degree of optimism, but they generally agree that the release of the last 10 police and military hostages held by the FARC guerrillas, some since 1998, was a peace signal.

Community Radios in Colombia Tune In for Peace

Cleaning up a stream that used to be a garbage dump and restocking it with fish, or helping demobilised far-right paramilitaries reintegrate into society by returning to school, are some of the early outcomes of a project involving community radio stations in a remote area of northwest Colombia.

Mines Test Colombia’s Commitment to Sustainable Development

"In the Andes, and all over the world, mining on mountains should be banned. Distinguished scientists and papers in the most prestigious journals are saying this," a regional planning expert in Colombia told IPS.

RIGHTS-COLOMBIA: Int’l Mission Says Dire Situation Getting Worse

The human rights situation in Colombia is extremely serious, and getting worse, reported an International Verification Mission made up of 40 delegates from 15 countries who visited the country this week.

Protesting in the rain in Bolívar Square.  Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

COLOMBIA: Student Protesters Demand Quality – and Equality

The "occupation" of Bogotá by students, backed by parents and professors as well as social and cultural sectors, is continuing even after the Colombian government offered to withdraw its controversial bill to reform education if the protests were called off.

COLOMBIA: Election Campaign Marred by Violence

"Political power will be fought for metre by metre in the Oct. 30 local and regional elections in Colombia, because this is a country imbued with violence, with different armies disputing different parts of the territory," said Alejandra Barrios, director of the election observation mission (MOE).

Sandra Sánchez, right, with a group of seniors at lunch time in the Oasis.  Credit: Helda Martinez/IPS

COLOMBIA: Women Make an Oasis in Violence-Wracked Neighbourhood

In one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Colombian capital, 26-year-old Sandra Sánchez has created an oasis that offers meals, recreational opportunities, company and much more to hundreds of children and elderly people, in an example of solidarity and leadership that has transcended borders.

Street vendors are the main beneficiaries of micro-loans in Colombia.  Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

COLOMBIA: Microcredit Growing Steadily at 15 Percent a Year

The more than 1.2 million microenterprises operating in Colombia are responsible for around 50 percent of all employment. And many of these small businesses owe their existence to the microfinance system, according to a report by Visión Económica, a local business research group.

Emberá craftswomen on a street in Bogota.  Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

COLOMBIA: Displaced Embera Indians a Long Way from Their Land

"I give something, you give something," an Emberá indigenous craftswoman displaying her beautiful handiwork on a sidewalk in the Colombian capital told this reporter, saying she would pose for a photo in exchange for selling a pair of earrings.

Marco Romero, president of the Consultancy on Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES).  Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

Q&A: “Full Reparations Must Be Guaranteed” for Displaced Victims in Colombia

Human rights groups and small farmers' associations will keep close watch in Colombia to make sure the new Victims' and Land Restitution Law, signed by President Juan Manuel Santos Friday, is effectively implemented.

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