Mass displacement, massacres and homicides: the red numbers of violence in Colombia | International
Only 11 days in January had passed and two massacres had already been recorded in Colombia. In 2021, there were 94 with more than 300 victims. The last one occurred on the night of December 26 in Casanare, in the east of the country. Three peasants, members of the same family, were shot dead near their home. A few hours earlier, in a neighboring region, another massacre had left four wounded and three dead. The previous afternoon, on the 25th, an armed group broke into an indigenous reserve in Putumayo and murdered seven people. The community reports that there are as many missing people and that 35 families have been forced to move. Five years after the agreement with the FARC, Colombia still does not live in peace.
Since the signing in 2016, between 4,000 and 6,000 lives of former guerrillas, public forces and civilians have been saved, according to Cerac, a conflict research center that monitors acts of violence in the country. About 13,000 guerrillas demobilized and rejoined civilian life. The agreement worked, but not entirely because its implementation was incomplete. “There is an increase in indicators of violence such as massacres, homicides, forced displacement, which can be explained by a combination of factors: poor government security policy, slow implementation of the peace accord and the pandemic, which gave it the opportunity for armed groups to spread, ”says Juan Pappier, Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher for America. “2021 will probably be the year with the highest homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Colombia since 2013,” Pappier warned in recent days. According to the Ministry of Defense, last November there were 12,787 homicides. For seven years there had been no similar figure. In 2014, the closest was 12,060.
“The peace agreement has a clear component to deal with the violence of groups that would form after the demobilization of the guerrillas, but this has been forgotten by the government,” adds the HRW researcher. He refers to points 3 and 4 which speak of the State’s obligation to offer guarantees for the reintegration of demobilized persons, to generate a policy of confrontation with other armed groups and to change the drug policy for favor those who have been affected for decades. for illicit cultivation. Colombia is not the same as it was before 2016, but the way the government deals with crime seems the same, says the researcher.
“The panorama was different. The country was experiencing an armed conflict dominated by the FARC, with a clear structure and ideology. This no longer exists, there are at least 30 dissidents, in addition to the ELN guerrillas and other groups. All, challenging illegal savings in front of a government that has not understood that the dynamic has changed, ”he said. President Iván Duque tried to repeat the “strong hand” speech of his mentor Álvaro Uribe, but hitting the heads of armed structures was not enough to stop the war. Two months ago the government celebrated the capture of Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias Otoniel, as the “most important coup of this century against drug trafficking”. Later, the capo, who had around 3,000 men under his command, said he had accepted his surrender, which the government denied. In the areas where the Clan del Golfo, the structure headed by Otoniel, operates, the violence does not stop.
This same armed group was responsible for one of the largest mass displacements this year. In Ituango, north of Antioquia, at least 4,000 natives and peasants were forced to flee. “This responds to a certain dynamic of old actors with new names, but with the same objectives that the groups pursued in the 50s, 80s and 90s: control and appropriation of the territory”, explained the sociologist Nubia at the announcement. of the news. Ciro, in an interview with the University of Antioquia.
Carlos Medina Gallego, professor and member of the National University’s Center for Reflection and Monitoring of Peace Dialogue, says there is a government simulation regarding the implementation of the agreement. “There is no real peace policy. The discourse continues to be that of security policy which points only to war, ”explains the academic. “The government is not interested in complying with the deal and has been more concerned with showing a repressive policy and talking about a war on drug trafficking, which seems to be a simulation.” , said Medina Gallego.
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According to the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), until last October, there had been 136 mass displacements in Colombia. Entire families have been harassed by violence and had to leave their homes. The victims remain the same: indigenous and Afro-Colombian. “The biggest threat has been the stigma, the denial of the importance of peace and the implementation of agreements as a priority. Not only do social leaders risk death because there are armed groups in their territories, but also because there are alliances that do not want to accept the transition from war to peace, the transition to peace. post-conflict ”, explained Camilo González, President of Indepaz. , in a video on violence in Colombia. This year alone, 168 social leaders and 48 signatories to the agreement have been assassinated. There are more than 1,200 since the signing in 2016. Although at least 95% of ex-FARC guerrillas are complying with the peace process, the slow implementation of the agreement has left them in the middle. a dispute between armed groups that threatens their lives.
Cities, another front to frequent
If in the regions peace does not finish arriving, in the cities life is not calm either. In large capitals, taking your cell phone out in the street is putting your life in danger. Reality showed again last week that it is not just a matter of perception as local leaders are trying to show.
Natalia Castillo, a 32-year-old journalist linked to the UN office in Bogotá, was the latest victim of insecurity that the mayor, Claudia López, was unable to stop. The woman was murdered on the night of December 23 in the street in an attempt to steal her cell phone. The crime came weeks after the national government announced that it was reinforcing more than 1,000 police officers with whom the executive hoped to reduce rates of violence in urban areas. But crime, which ends up costing lives, doesn’t just need uniforms to tackle it. Analyst and professor Carlos Medina Gallego points to several factors that must be addressed as a priority: poverty, unemployment, migration. Colombia has been a country with doors open to Venezuelan migrants, but with few opportunities for them to lead a decent life with a formal job and the social benefits that that entails. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Colombia ends the year with more than three million people looking for work.
The solution to the violence does not come only through the police presence, whose image this year is eventually deteriorating. The UN confirmed police responsibility for the murder of at least 28 people during protests against Iván Duque’s government just days ago. The same entity had confirmed a few days before the murder of 11 young people, also at the hands of the police.
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