EL TIEMPO, September 20, 2020

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

According to a report by the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares in Spanish), the increase in the number of battles, massacres, displacements, selective murders, and other violent events in recent months is related to the build-up of the “Clan del Golfo”, the ELN, and the FARC dissidents.

Right now, the “Clan del Golfo” is the largest illegal armed organization in Colombia. With more than 4,000 combatants distributed in 211 municipalities, this group—inherited from the paramilitaries—controls nearly 45% of the drugs that leave this country. Pares points that out, and warns that this is not the only organized armed group (GAO) that has been getting stronger since the signing of the peace agreement.

“The post-FARC groups, or dissidents, the ELN, and the GAO have almost doubled their armed presence in the countryside in the last two years,” states the report “Security in Times of Pandemic”, published this week by the Foundation. It also contains evidence of the responsibilities that these groups have for the resurgence of violence in recent months, even in spite of the restrictions required by the pandemic.

With data equally alarming, the National Liberation Army (ELN) is the second strongest armed group in Colombia. According to the document, the ELN is made up of more than 3,000 guerrillas, and has grown from being present in 99 municipalities in 2018 to being in 167 municipalities at right now. There is even evidence that the ELN is present in Venezuelan territory, because it operates in the frontier provinces of Arauca and Norte de Santander.

Since 2016 “we have seen that these groups have increased their presence exponentially in different municipalities in this country,” states researcher Alejandro Restrepo, describing the worrisome growth of the FARC dissidents, also known as post-FARC armed groups (GAPF). They are not homogeneous groups and are not completely connected, but they are involved in the killing of social leaders and of former FARC combatants.

According to Pares, of the 81 selective murders registered between March and June of 2020, 23 have been identified as having been perpetrated by these groups. Along with that, during the national quarantine period there have been 64 attacks on human rights and 69 acts of war related to the GAPF, with Cauca, Antioquia, Nariño, and Putumayo being the territories most affected.

The expert emphasizes that the dissidents are not all made up of former combatants of the now extinct guerrillas. In fact, “94% of the former combatants in the process of re-incorporation are staying in that process after the signing of the peace agreement,” states the report. What that means is that the GAPF are mostly made up of former combatants that never entered the process, and they are also doing forced recruitment in the civilian population, along with their connections with people from other illegal armed groups.

In a recent event put on by the national government regarding the implementation of the peace agreements, the spokesmen for the United Nations (ONU) expressed their concern about the persistence of violence in this country. “We condemn the violence committed by illegal armed groups that have continued unceasingly, even in the midst of a world health crisis. The murders and threats against social leaders, former combatants, women, and young people are a threat to peace,” stated Rosemary DiCarlo, Adjunct Secretary General of Political Affairs for the United Nations.

At the same time, the special representative of the United Nations Secretary General and Chief of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, stated that: “The underlying causes of the violence are the presence of illegal economies and illegal armed groups, limited institutional presence, and reduced opportunities for development in the remotes areas of the country.” Because “the integrated presence of the government is necessary to consolidate confidence, governability, and the social Rule of Law.”

After the FARC were disarmed, the illegal armed groups began disputing the control of the abandoned territories that are key to the control of the illegal economies such as the drug traffic. According to the Pares report, these battles that leave the civilian population in the middle have led to displacements, disappearances, murders, and massacres, all of which have increased in recent months.

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