By Gustavo Gallón, EL ESPECTADOR, April 7, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The International Committee of the Red Cross (CICR) has been doing valiant humanitarian work in Colombia for fifty years. In 2021, it recovered and turned over the bodies of 22 disappeared persons, facilitated the liberation of 27 people who had been kidnapped, furnished physical and mental attention and assistance in earning income to 1,743 survivors of sexual violence, developed multiple additional activities in favor of victims of the armed conflict, as well as migrants, and also worked in response to Covid-19.
In the midst of its humanitarian labors, it has been able to perceive directly the problems of the crisis we are suffering. In its report on the year 2021, it identifies six of those problems, and it warns that “the majority of the effects of the armed conflicts and violence have reached their highest level in the last five years.”
Two of those are displacement and confinement, which were worrisome in 2020 and increased in 2021. According to official information, the massive displacement affected 52,880 people, and there were 45,108 individuals displaced.
The number of victims of explosive artifacts also increased; it was the highest number in the last five years: 486 in 2021, 392 in 2020, 353 in 2019, 244 in 2018, and 57 in 2017.
A third problem, the gravity of which also increased, is forced disappearance: 168 cases in 2021, 164 in 2020, 167 in 2019, 134 in 2018, and 128 in 2017. That means one disappearance every two days on average, (144 civilians and 23 members of the Armed Forces or of armed groups).
In the same way, the report registered the attacks against Mission Medica: 533 in 2021, “a historic increase for the third consecutive year, with a 70% increase compared to 2020.” Of the attacks, 66% were committed by civilians and the “officially reported attacks perpetrated by the armed actors have increased, and those represent 20% of the total number of cases.”
The report reviews sexual violence, although it does not quantify it, but it points out that, “This continues to be an invisible problem,” and “it’s not just used to intimidate and punish the people or the communities, but also to exhibit power and demonstrate territorial control.”
A sixth problem consists in the negative effects that the different aggressions have om the surviving population. Students stop going to school, or communities have experienced psychological, economic, and social effects from the persistent harassment.
The administration has not appreciated this diagnosis, which is a disinterested contribution. In their eyes, there is no increase, but rather a diminution of the problems produced by the “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces”, a name they don’t use, preferring “Clan del Golfo”. They were also annoyed that the CICR said that “in Colombia there are six armed conflicts”, and they argued that the violence was not caused by the government, but rather by the narcoterrorist groups.
But that’s not the dispute. What’s true is that in these five years, people’s insecurity has been exacerbated. This administration will pass into history as the most inept at preventing that, and for spurning the immense contribution to the peace process, and spurning the people that know the situation, like the CICR.