Global Exchange has been observing elections and monitoring the human rights in Colombia since the end of the 1990s. Twenty-five years ago, the country was immersed in one of its bloodiest periods of violent armed conflict, causing millions of people to flee their homes in rural areas.  Fast forward to today and a peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla group has been signed, bringing the world’s longest running internal armed conflict to a close. And in June 2022, the country elected Gustavo Petro, former Mayor of Bogotá and ex-M19 guerrilla member, as its first ever left-wing president.   

Despite the more optimistic human rights and political situation, Global Exchange continues to send regular international delegations to Colombia in order to monitor elections and take the temperature in regions dominated by dissident guerrilla and powerful narco-trafficking groups. Global Exchange collaborators are also on the ground supporting a new generation of citizens who are working to build a more peaceful, egalitarian and democratic country.

Historic Elections in 2022

Last year, Global Exchange organized a delegation of Latin America journalists to cover the presidential elections and report on ordinary people’s hopes and aspirations in Colombia’s most troublesome regions.  Gustavo Petro, leader of the Historical Pact movement, won a narrow victory to become the country’s first ever progressive president. Thanks to Manuel Ortiz and colleagues’ on-the-ground reporting and analysis, Global Exchange supporters got an accurate, front seat perspective on these historic events.

What’s Next for Colombia:

A year on and negotiations are underway with the ELN, Latin America’s last active guerrilla movement. Petro’s audacious Total Peace initiative seeks to put an end to all armed conflict in Colombia by simultaneously negotiating the voluntary dismantling of Colombia’s narco-trafficking groups. At the end of April this year, Global Exchange and civil society allies delivered a methodological proposal to the High Commissioner for Peace on how ordinary citizens could play a more active role in this process.

President Petro’s self-denominated “government for change” took important steps to fulfill its electoral promises during its first 100 days in office. In addition to organizing more than 50 Binding Regional Dialogues for citizens to contribute to the four-year National Development Plan, the president negotiated the formation of a governing majority with Colombia’s traditional political parties. This so-called “bull-dozer coalition” proved fundamental for passing key legislation during his first semester, including an ambitious tax reform to close the budget deficit, pay for increased social spending, and invest in progressive reforms.

This major achievement contrasted sharply with the previous government’s proposal to tax poor people and the struggling middle class more. That fiscal plan was finally aborted, but not before provoking Colombia’s biggest ever social protests. National strikes and violent clashes between citizens and police caused scores of deaths and cost billions of dollars to Colombia’s economy and infrastructure. (Watch Global Exchange’s webcast about the protests and government crackdown.)

Citizen Dialogues for the National Development Plan

Last November, Global Exchange supported the national network of community and alternative media – Sípaz – to report from the citizen dialogues organized by the government to inspire its four-year plan.  In addition to reporting live from the events, Sípaz carried out real-time interviews and polled participants about their expectations for Colombia’s first ever mass experience in bottom-up policy making. Their report, “Binding Regional Dialogues: Lessons Learned from Citizen Participation in the National Development Plan”, contains important insights into this national experiment in popular deliberative democracy. Check out this executive summary of the report in English. A full version of the report is also available in Spanish if you are interested in taking a deeper dive.

Colombian civil society think tank, Ideas for Peace Foundation, evaluated an even larger sample of the dialogues (20 out of the 51 events). We have translated the executive summary of their report into English for those who are interested. The full version is available in Spanish on their website.

Petro Faces Political Challenges

Shortly after approving the National Development Plan, the national-unity coalition collapsed as parties argued over the details of Petro’s social reforms. The resulting gridlock has effectively disenfranchised the 70% of Colombians that rejected the status quo by voting for change in the presidential elections (see Global Exchange’s election report here).

Having failed to prevail in congress, Petro called for mass pro-government demonstrations.  On the 7th of June, however, only his most ardent supporters turned out to support the reforms. Hundreds of thousands of citizens who took to the streets two years ago or voted for alternative candidates stayed at home. Two weeks later, the conservative opposition persuaded four and a half times more people to oppose the reforms than Petro had mobilized to support them, creating a major legitimacy crisis for the government.[1]

The approval rating of the presidency fell sharply from 50% in October last year to only 35% eight months later. Other state institutions have fared equally badly or worse:  congress (33.8%); judicial system (27.2%); political parties (19.1%). In the latest opinion poll in June, presidential approval fell another two percentage points (now 33%), while the favorable opinion of congress collapsed, from 33.8% to only 19%.[2]  The message is clear: Colombians are deeply distrustful of their political institutions, with those expecting change particularly disillusioned.

[1] https://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/otras-ciudades/cuantas-personas-asistieron-a-marchas-en-favor-y-en-contra-de-las-reformas-779497

[2] https://www.elespectador.com/politica/la-aprobacion-de-la-labor-de-gustavo-petro-ha-disminuido-de-35-a-33-invamer/

Deliberative Democracy & Citizen Assemblies

Global Exchange and allies are working in Colombia to strengthen democracy by promoting innovative strategies to involve everyday citizens directly in public decision-making.  This means exploring international experiences in deliberative democracy such as citizens’ assemblies that give every day citizens a greater opportunity to influence public decision-making peacefully between elections. To do this, we are gathering lessons from successful pilot experiences from around the world, including Europe and the United States, so that they can be adapted to Colombia. These experiments have been highly effective in empowering every day citizens to fix polarizing problems that politicians have failed – or are simply unwilling – to address.

The citizens’ assembly methodology is simple yet highly effective. Chosen at random from the general population via a process called sortition, participants receive objective information from experts and presentations from interest groups before deliberating in small groups and plenaries to produce recommendations for decision-makers. Citizens’ assemblies are part of a silent but growing global revolution that seeks to revive democracy by complementing, strengthening or even replacing existing political institutions altogether.  From Ireland to Chile, hundreds of gatherings have shown that ordinary people are much more effective at resolving intractable problems than politicians – all they need is a constructive attitude, access to accurate information, and a methodology that empowers their conversations.

Ireland is the country that has advanced the most in formally incorporating the citizens’ assembly methodology into its political decision-making. Last year, Global Exchange lobbied the Irish embassy to provide technical support to Colombian civil society organizations so that they could design and implement their own pilot experiences.

In November, Art O´Leary, the Secretary General of Ireland’s Electoral Commission, and one of the world’s leading citizens’ assembly experts, visited Colombia to share his own experience with government officials and civil society activists.  Following this trip, the embassy organized a delegation of Colombian NGOs to observe Ireland’s most recent citizens’ assembly on the future of drug policy. Thanks to these exchanges, Global Exchange allies are now benefitting from more than a decade of Irish experience in successfully resolving deeply polarizing issues, such as the right to abortion, same sex marriage and divorce.

Will Gustavo Petro regain control of the political agenda and get his progressive reforms through congress? Or will ordinary Colombians lead the way through the organization of citizens’ assemblies? Either way, Global Exchange will continue to keep you posted as our efforts to strengthen participation and empower ordinary citizens in Colombia take shape.


We are devastated by the news that 54 migrants lost their lives and more than 105 were seriously injured last night when the trailer in which they were traveling overturned in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. This tragedy is a direct consequence of the anti-immigrant policies – put in place by Trump and continued by Biden – that put already at-risk populations (families and individuals fleeing violence, persecution, and poverty) at even greater risk.

The Biden administration has failed in its promise to reverse the worst of Trump’s draconian, anti-immigration policies – not only by continuing, but also expanding Title 42 and the Remain in Mexico Program to deny entry and due process to those seeking safety and refuge in the United States. 

We know these policies violate the human rights of migrants and refugees and put these already vulnerable populations at grave risk of further persecution and violence. 

Governments must end these deadly policies and focus their efforts on protecting the life and rights of everyone, but particularly of vulnerable populations that seek refuge from violence and poverty.

Global Exchange is continuing our work to advocate for an end to Title 42, the Remain in Mexico Program and all “Safe Third Country” agreements. (Watch my recent interview with Marc Lamont Hill on UpFront.)

But today, right now, we are asking you to help us protect those who face the gravest risks as these policies continue. Please make a gift to our Migrant and Refugee Relief Fund; 100% of the funds raised will go to frontline shelters and legal aid organizations across Mexico working to protect and support migrants and refugees.

We have been able to send critical support to shelters that provide humanitarian assistance to the migrant population in Mexico. With your contribution, we can continue to support these vulnerable populations who face increasing hardships and dangers that threaten their lives.

Thank you for supporting the Migrant and Refugee Relief Fund.

Never another night like last night.

Support Haiti’s Campaign for Dignity! Help Build UNIFA’s New Teaching Hospital

Mildred Trouillot Aristide, former First Lady of Haiti, is an attorney, author and a member of the Board of Administration of the Université de la Fondation Dr. Aristide (UNIFA). Mrs. Aristide will discuss the current health crisis in Haiti, including the impact of COVID-19, and will report on the remarkable work of UNIFA. Since reopening in 2011, UNIFA has graduated 230 new doctors, 78 new nurses, 8 physiotherapists and 30 lawyers, providing young people in Haiti with the skills and knowledge to lead their country forward. Now UNIFA is launching its most ambitious project to date, a Campaign For Dignity to construct a new medical center and teaching hospital.

Also presenting:
Danny Glover – Actor and activist; has visited Haiti numerous times and has been a steadfast supporter of the work of UNIFA.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Laura Flynn – Author and educator who lived in Haiti from 1994-2000. Ms. Flynn remains deeply involved in Haiti’s struggle for democracy and human dignity. She now works as the Minnesota State Advisor for the Movement Voter Project.

Henri Ford, MD, MHA – Dean and Chief Academic Officer of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. A Haitian-born pediatric surgeon, Dr. Ford returns regularly to Haiti to provide medical care.

Ira Kurzban – Civil rights and immigration attorney who has spent decades fighting for the rights of immigrants and refugees, including those from Haiti. Mr. Kurzban was counsel for the Government of Haiti from 1991–2004.

K’Ronna Harmon – Umoja Scholar, president of the Black Student Union at Foothill College and a member of Students for Haiti Solidarity.

Learn more  and make a donation at www.haitiemergencyrelief.org


On March 19, 2020, shortly after international institutions made known that millions of dollars would be available to impoverished countries with COVID-19 cases, Haitian authorities finally addressed the coronavirus pandemic by declaring that there were two cases in the country.

People in Haiti were outraged by the silence and inaction of the authorities as news spread of preventative measures being implemented in the neighboring Dominican Republic and other countries. Since the initial declaration, the number of cases in Haiti has remained in doubt, with grassroots health workers and activists distrusting any government figures and demanding action to prevent a catastrophic spike in infections and deaths.

The government of the U.S.-imposed Haitian president Jovenel Moise, together with the U.S.-led Core Group consortium of foreign governments ruling UN-occupied Haiti, have been oblivious to the need to prepare the nation for the COVID-19 calamity. In a video message widely circulated on social media and broadcast on Radio Tele Timoun (Youth RadioTV), a Haitian medical student trained in Cuba charged that the necessary mobilization of hundreds of young trained health care professionals is not taking place. Photos and videos showing dirty rooms, filthy beds and rat-infested trash in the two largest public hospitals in Port-au-Prince have added to people’s outrage.

Summing up the sentiments of the general public, a woman trader in an open-air market commented that, “The authorities care only about lining their pockets…”, “They will not do anything for us; the choice I have is to die of the corona virus or starvation; dying by the corona virus will take me out of this misery…”

A raging discontent with the deepening misery is at the core of the nation-wide grassroots movement. On-going peaceful protests against corruption have been met with brutal repression, long detentions in filthy overcrowded prisons and killings by a deadly security apparatus. These forces, consisting of the UN-trained police, the restored Haitian military and paramilitary groups, have also been responsible for massacres in the impoverished neighborhoods of Granravin, Site Vensan and Lasalin among others.

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the deteriorating living conditions in Haiti. The ever-present crisis in the healthcare system is experienced by women laying on the bare floor of non-equipped maternity wards, and by men and children with various ailments unable to get care. According to recent studies, only about 30 percent of the population has direct access to potable water. In this situation, how are people going to wash their hands frequently? The lack of basic sanitation services, including trash and waste removal in densely populated cities, is exacerbating the crisis. The slashed health care budget has resulted in decreased services and closing of a number of health care centers and hospitals. There are now only around 124 intensive care unit beds and less than 100 ventilators for a population of about 11 million.

Medical professionals are bringing these conditions to light, frequently protesting to demand personal protective gear and basic medical equipment and to address the unsanitary conditions in a number of institutions in the country. Sanitation workers, teachers, students, farmers, market vendors and even members of the police who are facing similar working conditions have protested and gone on strike.

While many healthcare workers go unpaid, public funds continue to be lavishly squandered on bogus multi-million dollar projects and the ostentatious lifestyle of government officials and foreign Core Group consultants. Reports of misappropriation and theft include about $4.2 billion stolen from oil sales as part of the Venezuela PetroCaribe program.

Haitians can see through the lies broadcast by those that rule the country. They know that the vast majority of the money raised around the world after the devastating 2010 earthquake, estimated at $11 billion, never reached them. They know that the United Nations denied its responsibility for the cholera epidemic and, after finally admitting culpability, has refused to pay reparations for the over 15,000 Haitians who have died. They have no faith in a government that has stolen elections and then ramped up repression even as the coronavirus has begun its deadly march.

The struggle against the coronavirus is a world-wide fight. It demands that we stand in solidarity with each other, across all borders. Despite the lack of coverage, the people of Haiti are confronting a dual crisis. Their struggle against a corrupt and repressive system and now COVID-19 demands strong advocacy and support. It is essential that we see their struggle as our own.

Written by Pierre Labossiere,  co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee and a Global Exchange board member.



The United States exports a growing number of weapons to Mexico with almost no controls on where they go. These gun exports, together with massive illegal trafficking from U.S. retail gun sales, are part of the growing human rights crisis that is devastating migrants as well as Mexican communities.

And Trump wants to make it even easier for weapons manufacturers to sell and export firearms in Mexico and other countries. “Semi-automatic weapons, flamethrowers and even some grenades will become easier for U.S. weapons manufacturers to export overseas under new rules being put in place by the Trump administration and obtained by NBC News.”

View our webinar to learn more about this issue and how you can join a growing movement working to stop U.S. guns from getting into the hands of human rights abusers.

Hear from expert panelists including:

  • Eugenio Weigend is a senior policy analyst [2] at the Center for American Progress and author of numerous articles on U.S. gun trafficking to Mexico. [3]
  • Jessica Molina is a human rights defender from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas whose husband was disappeared by Mexican Navy troops in March 2018. Jessica has become a leading spokesperson for dozens of family members of disappeared people in Nuevo Laredo. [4]
  • Yanira Arias is the National Campaigns Manager for Alianza Americas, where she has coordinated actions in response to the detention and stigmatization of thousands of Central American children and their families. A Temporary Protected Status holder from El Salvador, she brings expertise on health disparities and community participation.
  • John Lindsay-Poland coordinates the Stop US Arms to Mexico project [5] of Global Exchange, and also has written extensively about the U.S. gun trade and its impacts in Mexico. [6]
  • Moderated by Janice Gallagher, assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, Newark. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Mexico and Colombia and wrote “Tipping the Scales of Justice: The Role of Citizen Action in Strengthening the Rule of Law.” A true public intellectual, Janice also recently led an international elections observation mission in Tamaulipas, Mexico’s most dangerous border state.

[1] “Trump Administration Eases Regulations on Gun Exports, Raising Concerns,” The New York Times, January 31, 2019.
[2] Eugenio Weigend biographical page 
[3] “Should Mexico Adopt Permissive Gun Policies: Lessons from the United States,” Mexican Law Review, January 24, 2019. 8
[4] “Will Mexico’s New President Seek Justice for the Disappeared?” The Nation, January 28, 2019.
[5] Stop US Arms to Mexico web site
[6] “How U.S. Guns Sold to Mexico End Up with Security Forces Accused of Crime and Human Righhts Abuses,” The Intercept, April 26, 2018.

Here is your chance to support limits on U.S. gun exports to Mexico that contribute to the unprecedented levels of gun violence there.

Call on your member of Congress to act and do the right thing.

Urge him/her to sign the “Dear Colleague” letter (text is below) circulated by Congressmen Grijalva and Lowenthal to prevent guns exported from the United States from getting into the hands of human rights abusers or organized crime, especially in Mexico. 

These legally-exported weapons have already been used in massacres, disappearances, and by security forces that collude with criminal organizations or those who have committed serious human rights violations.

Thank you for taking action.


Text of the letter open for Congressional signatures circulated by Representatives Raul Grijalva and Alan Lowenthal:

February 2019

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We are concerned that your department’s plan to aggressively promote American weapons exports without a proper tracking system for end users will continue to result in weapon transfers to Mexico that arm security forces with ties to criminal organizations or that have committed serious human rights violations. We call on you to implement a comprehensive and transparent tracking system that ensures these weapons do not end up stolen, lost or placed in unauthorized hands, and request information pertaining to current exports.

The legal export of weapons and explosives from the United States to Mexico reached more than $122 million between 2015 and 2017, more than 12 times the amount of those exports between 2002-2004.[1] Legally exported weapons from the U.S. have already been used in violence, disappearances and massacres against civil society. The local police who attacked and disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students in September 2014 were armed with AR-6530 rifles supplied by Colt Defense Industries.[2] The Mexican Army has disclosed that more than 20,000 firearms obtained by Mexican local and federal police went missing or were stolen since 2006.[3] These examples demonstrate the urgent need to ensure U.S. weapons do not land in the wrong hands.

We are concerned that an export license for the U.S. gun producer Sig Sauer to sell up to $266 million worth of firearms to the Mexican military, issued by the State Department in 2015, may reinforce the newly expanded role of the Mexican military in civilian law enforcement, or result in arming police or military units that are colluding with organized crime and have committed serious abuses. We request information from the State Department on how you will ensure this does not occur.

Firearm export controls should be subject to more rigorous oversight, tracking and accountability. This should include a policy to consult the Department’s existing INVEST database of alleged human rights violations by foreign security units, designed for use in implementing the Leahy Law, for license applications to export arms to foreign police and military units, and ensuring that such applications name all prospective end user units, not only central distribution units. Traditionally, the State Department has been tasked with reviewing and granting export licensing. Transitioning that task to the Commerce Department limits the ability to verify all prospective end user units, not only central distribution units.

We request that your department conduct an analysis to determine whether U.S.-manufactured firearms in the possession of Mexican police in Guerrero, Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, and Michoacán states were exported pursuant to a license that named these police as end users; if not, what steps is the Department is taking to address this issue.

Criminal organizations and human rights violators in Mexico and elsewhere should not be benefiting from a lax U.S. firearms export policy that puts civilians at risk. Every life lost is a tragedy and we must do everything within our power to ensure U.S. policies are not needlessly endangering lives around the world.

We look forward to your response.


Raúl M. Grijalva                          Alan Lowenthal
Member of Congress                      Member of Congress  

[1] Mexican Commission for the Defense of Human Rights and Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico, Gross Human Rights Violations: The Legal and Illegal Gun Trade to Mexico, August 2018, https://stopusarmstomexico.org/gross-human-rights-abuses-the-legal-and-illegal-gun-trade-to-mexico/.

[2] American Friends Service Committee, Where the Guns Go: U.S. Policy and the Crisis of Violence in Mexico, 2016.

[3] Mexican Commission for the Defense of Human Rights and Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico, Gross Human Rights Violations: The Legal and Illegal Gun Trade to Mexico, August 2018, https://stopusarmstomexico.org/gross-human-rights-abuses-the-legal-and-illegal-gun-trade-to-mexico/.

View this live streamed webinar (October 12, 2018) to hear a  discussion between leaders from the US and Mexico to learn about how people are organizing to defend immigrants in both of our countries. Hear about challenges, victories and new strategies from Bill Hing, Law professor and founder of the Immigrant Legal Resource; César Vargas, a national immigration reform advocate, co-director at Dream Action Coalition and New York’s first undocumented immigrant to practice law in the state and; and Gretchen Kuhner, director of IMIUMI, one of Mexico’s leading defenders of women and families. Moderated by Global Exchange’s Marco Castillo.


We are facing a moral and humanitarian crisis.

The Trump Administration’s cruel and calculated decision to separate immigrant children from their parents is, without a doubt, the clearest display of the real intentions of this racist and heartless Trump led federal government, and evidence of its absence of ethics and morals.

It is estimated the more than 2,000 children, some as young just 12 months old, have been separated from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted the family separation policy in May. Children are left without rights to any legal council, and parents are being told they may never see their children again.

It is hard to imagine the terror and desperation these families face.

We must all stand up and stand against this horrifying action by our elected government.

Call on Congress to pass the HELP Separated Children Act. Take Action!

We at Global Exchange are outraged by this action, and we stand with the hundred of organizations and activists along the border and across the country fighting this decision.

Today we joined Families Belong Together at ICE’s San Francisco headquarters to protest this moral horror of family separations and imprisonment of immigrants and refugees.

But we won’t stop there!

We must make our opposition to these immoral and horrifying policies heard in D.C. (write to Congress and tell them to pass the HELP Separated Children Act), at the border (we are organizing actions at our Town Hall Summer events in Arizona and Texas this August), and at the ballot box in November (register to vote now).

Now is when we must stand together in defense of the most vulnerable and the values (human rights, justice, equity, peace) we share!

Today we ask you call on Congress to pass HELP for Separated Children.

This summer we ask you to help us build a united and mobilized electorate. Join Town Hall Summer, and help us build a people’s first agenda that protects immigrant families, workers, the climate, our environment, and our future.

P.S. Join us June 28th for our Town Hall Summer National Organizing Call. RSVP here.



Earlier this month, Facebook began introducing changes that will make it harder for you to see Global Exchange’s posts highlighting news and analysis on international human rights.

Good news, it’s easy to get us back:

1. Go to our Facebook page

2. Make sure to like us if you don’t already
3. Click the “Follow” button (if you’re already following us it will say “Following”) and choose “See First” from the dropdown menu.

And that’s all! Now Global Exchange posts will always be at the top of your News Feed, so you’ll never miss important human rights news and analysis.

You can use the “See First” setting for as many pages as you want.


Thousands took to the streets in Honduras, marking the start of a weeklong Nationalstrike opposing the January 27th“swearing-in” of  fraudulently “re-elected” President, Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) and the deadly repression that has followed.

More than 30 people have already been killed during protests against the disputed election. Hundreds of others have been arrested, injured, or tortured. Nevertheless, the Honduran people are resolute in rejecting both these government sanctioned attacks and the fraudulent results of the November 26 elections.

As thousands of Hondurans courageously take to the streets in protest of election fraud and government repression they are asking us to stand in solidarity with their fight for justice and democracy.

Ask your member of Congress to speak out against this crime against democracy and end U.S. aid to the illegitimate regime.

Explain to them the importance of speaking out in the face of this crystal clear example of election fraud — perpetrated against poor people in a country dominated by U.S. business and political interests and that has “hosted” U.S. military bases since the 1980s.

The US could easily influence Honduras to follow democratic norms, but it chooses instead to continue high levels of  military and police aid that strengthen the hand of the Honduran oligarchy.

It is hard to speak the truth about Honduras. There is a shameful bipartisan tradition of supporting repression in Honduras. Just as the Trump State Department is working to undermine international critics of the election (like the Organization of American States) just as the Obama State Department under Hillary Clinton did after the 2009 military coup.

We need to speak out, not just for the Hondurans, but for the sake of our own democracy.

Here is what we have planned:

  1. Join us on Wednesday to contact your Congress member to demand an end to U.S. financing of the illegitimate regime in Honduras. 
  2. Join us on Thursday for a Twitter Storm!
  3. Join us on Friday to take a Selfie in Solidarity!
  4. Join us on Saturday at one of these events around the country!

We are in close contact with our allies on the ground in Honduras. Follow us on Facebook for the latest updates.

And if you have other ideas or suggestions, please feel free to contact us.