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Massacres and police abuses in Colombia bring the Duque government to the brink of a political crisis

A woman displays a banner against the killings of civilians in Colombia during a demonstration in Bogotá in mid-September.Daniel Garzon Herazo / Europa Press

Two years after the arrival of Iván Duque to the presidency of Colombia, the constant murders of social leaders, the massacres and now the reports of abuses by the Loved Forces of civilians have the Executive on the brink of a political crisis. The president won the elections thanks also to the security flag that his party, the Democratic Center, founded by former president Álvaro Uribe. His strategy, however, has failed. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo was summoned by a dozen senators to give explanations for the more than 60 massacres that have taken place so far this year. Meanwhile, the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, has criticized the Government’s lack of empathy with victims of police violence and the Supreme Court of Justice ordered Duque’s cabinet to offer an apology for the excesses of the Police during the social mobilizations of 2019.

The controversy escalated after the minister’s elusive response to the court’s order. Trujillo said that “the Public Force, in particular the Riot Squad (Esmad), does not institutionally incur excesses” and that, if there were any, they correspond to “individual actions.” His words were interpreted by different political sectors as contempt. Now, in addition to the debate over the killings, a group of congressmen are promoting a motion of no confidence against him to force his resignation and the opposition wants to return to the streets. The environment of insecurity extends to political leaders. On Wednesday night the bodyguards of the former leftist senator Piedad Córdoba were shot and she announced that she fears for her life.

The Government has insisted that behind the September protests in Bogotá are the National Liberation Army (ELN), the dissidents of the former FARC guerrilla and other criminal organizations that “threaten Colombian society by taking advantage of the protection of the regime dictatorial of [Nicolás] Mature”. But that version does not convince analysts or political leaders such as the mayor of Bogotá, who has publicly confronted Minister Trujillo. “Does the defense minister candidate acknowledge that as a result of his incompetence, he gave the ELN and FARC dissidents re-entry to the cities?” Do you recognize that you failed as Defense Minister? By coincidence, did you only realize your failure along with the systematic police abuse? ”López replied on Twitter, referring to his presidential aspirations.

“There is an undoubted deterioration in security, the Government is cornered by police violence and its response is to show the flag of fear to make itself indispensable for the next elections,” explains analyst Ariel Ávila, deputy director of the Fundación Paz y Reconciliacion (Pairs).

The reappearance of Márquez

Added to the complexity of the panorama is the reappearance of the FARC dissidents and former peace agreement negotiators, Iván Márquez and Jesús Santrich, who represent a minority group that departed from the peace accords that are now four years old. . After a year of the launching of the so-called Nueva Marquetalia, this dissident group reappeared with a statement calling for the resignation of President Duque. The image of Márquez, Santrich and Hernán Darío Velásquez Saldarriaga, alias The Paisa, with long guns and new uniforms with some bushes behind them caused outrage in the citizens. “The declaration of the members of the self-proclaimed Nueva Marquetalia, with their threatening weapons, is cynical and offensive. They betrayed the peace agreement, their 13,000 comrades who meet today and the country. They must be persecuted with the entire military force of the state, ”said Juan Fernando Cristo, former Minister of the Interior of the Government of Juan Manuel Santos.

However, according to a report by the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, despite the fact that in the last two years the post-FARC or dissidence groups, as well as the ELN and the so-called Organized Armed Groups “have almost doubled their territorial armed presence” , analysts consider that the Nueva Marquetalia is the least strong. “It is the one that causes the most media and political impact because its members were negotiators, but it is the one with the least power,” Avila adds. Authorities believe their commanders are on the Venezuelan side of the border.

According to Pares, the FARC dissidents are 28 groups divided into three isolated sectors: a group made up of aliases Gentil Duarte, which operates in Putumayo and Vichada; another of the so-called isolated groups, such as the Oliver Sinisterra and the Contadores groups, located in Nariño, in the south of the country, and dedicated to drug trafficking; and the dissent of the Nueva Marquetalia, which has not been successful, according to analysts, in wanting to bring these factions together.

On the other hand, there is the National Liberation Army, the last active guerrilla in Colombia, which according to this report “went from being in 99 municipalities to more than 160 in 2020”; and the Clan del Golfo, a neo-paramilitary group that “currently operates in more than 200 municipalities.” All are financed by drug trafficking.

The Government has not yet provided detailed information on the dimension of the presence of these groups, but the debates in Congress will be the opportunity to learn about the magnitude of the deterioration of security in the Andean country. “We want the minister to tell us what is happening with security, why it has gotten out of hand; and, on the other hand, what is happening with the armed forces, why are they acting so erratically and shooting 10 people in Bogotá ”, he told the program Week live andhe congressman from the La U Party Roy Barreras, one of the speakers of the debates.