The five massacres perpetrated in Colombia in less than 11 days, with a balance of at least 30 deaths, have forced President Iván Duque to react to a problem that, until now, he had tried to minimize. Although international organizations and the Ombudsman’s Office had been warning of the upward trend of massacres and murders of social leaders, the president has spent a semester focused on addressing the coronavirus crisis, and recently he had been more concerned about defending his mentor, former President Álvaro Uribe, in house arrest.
The bloody episodes peek Colombia, once again, into its darkest past. A week late, and after an avalanche of criticism for a general feeling of deterioration in security, the president traveled for the weekend to Cali and then to Samaniego, in the southern department of Nariño, two of the places where groups As yet unidentified armed groups have perpetrated massacres against young people in events that have yet to be clarified.
Those reactive raids, while the country learned the details of three other massacres, were far from appeasing the criticism. Duque not only walked the streets of the town surrounded by officials and promised to “leave” a football stadium for Samaniego, which has suffered more than 20 homicides in the last month, but responded with a raised fist, as if he were being cheered, to the song of some residents who asked him for justice in this case not yet clarified. “We want peace,” they shouted at the president who came to power as a staunch critic of the agreement that his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, sealed with the extinct FARC guerrilla.
Duque, who has been presenting a daily television program on the coronavirus for six months, already faced growing criticism throughout the entire week that it took him to travel to Samaniego, where on August 15 eight young people gathered in a house in an area were murdered. rural. In the meantime, he summoned the mayor, Óscar Pantoja, to Bogotá, who said that he had to travel by road of about 16 hours to meet with the president, since air transport is still suspended due to the pandemic. That was the prelude to the security council that Duque headed in that region nestled in the Nariño mountains on Saturday, the same day that the country woke up with the news of three new massacres in different parts of Cauca, Nariño and Arauca.
Before landing, Duque tried to appease the claims with a message accompanied by a graphic on his account Twitter. “The deaths caused by violence caused by drug trafficking and terrorism hurt us. Between 2010 and 2018, our country experienced 189 collective homicides, and between 2019 and 2020, 34 events of that nature. We will continue fighting the FARC, ELN, Gulf Clan, cartels and others dissidents, “he wrote. Almost immediately, and from various sectors, it was considered a euphemism to avoid the word massacres, it was interpreted that it tried to minimize the problem and that arbitrary use of figures was received with indignation, which compared the massacres of the two periods of Santos with the two years he has been in power.
“The government continues to blame Santos and the peace process. They have not been able to understand the new reality of crime and since they do not understand, they do not know what to do. That is why many more months of this situation await us, “said analyst Ariel Ávila, a columnist for this newspaper, for whom this lack of guidance stems from an” ideological and politicized reading of security. “
Among the indicators of violence, that of massacres, in particular, may have different criteria depending on the source, but the deterioration is evident. “Denying it will not solve it,” said researcher Juan Carlos Garzón, from the Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP), when correcting the comparison with the figures from the Ministry of Defense, to show that between 2015 and June 2017 there were 29 massacres with 120 victims, in contrast to 41 massacres with 210 victims between 2018 and June 2020. The UN Human Rights office, which received the latest news with “deep concern”, recorded 36 massacres in 2019, the highest number of his count since 2014, and this year he had already documented 33 before the three killings over the weekend.
From Pasto, the capital of Nariño, after the security council and while many saw a lack of empathy in the images of the raised fist and the promise of a new stadium in Samaniego that flooded social networks, Duque maintained that the precise name it was “collective homicides”, which the Ministry of Defense has used during several governments. “Sadly you have to accept it as a country, it is not that they returned, it is that these acts of collective homicides have not sadly gone away,” he defended, without delving into the increase that is drawn in his mandate.
One of the greatest promises of the peace agreement, signed at the end of 2016, was to bring the state to remote regions. But three the vacuum left by the disarmament of the FARC, the string of massacres hints at a new stage of armed violence, more fragmented, with a proliferation of illegal armed groups in contrast to the dominant actors that were once the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), or the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). Even in the midst of the pandemic, armed groups remain active in many regions, and alerts have even abounded about the increase in forced recruitment or the strict social controls imposed on the population.
The National Liberation Army (ELN), considered the last active guerrilla in the country, has been strengthening to become the most active group, followed by the FARC dissidents, the Gulf Clan that emerged from the remnants of the paramilitary groups– , according to the X-ray of the dynamics of the armed confrontation of the IFJ for the first four months of 2020. Then comes a wide archipelago of gangs. The increase in massacres comes to add to the incessant murder of social leaders and ex-combatants who signed the peace that had already set off all the alarms.
Although the pandemic has given a story to the Government, in the absence of his own on security issues, Duque encapsulates what has been happening under the umbrella of drug trafficking. The president has said that “the monstrosity of drug trafficking” is the cause of the homicides in recent days. However, various analysts coincide in warning that this is a reductionism that does not contemplate the territorial or social organization logic of the places where the massacres have occurred and does not contribute to stopping the crimes. In addition, relatives of victims like those of Samaniego consider that they are being stigmatized by being under this logic.
Others warn that this insistence on drug trafficking actually allows the Government a way to reinforce its prohibitionist vision of the anti-drug policy, which favors forced eradication accompanied by the public force and the return to spraying with glyphosate, to the detriment of the agreed substitution with the farmers who contemplate the agreements. During his visit to Arauca, where 5 people were killed, the Minister of Defense, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, assured that “today aerial spraying is more necessary than ever before to put an end to illicit crops. With it, many more hectares are eradicated daily (on average 400), it is safer and cheaper and, above all, it avoids damage to the Public Force and the civilian population ”.
Faced with a dark week for Colombians, President Iván Duque announced the creation of a Special Unit against Collective Homicides, which recalls his announcements of in-depth investigations or special commissions in response to the events that affect the civilian population. Meanwhile, details of another massacre of three people begin to appear, this time in Venice, Antioquia.