Colombia +20, EL ESPECTADOR, June 14, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
A report published by dozens of social organizations, under the group known as Coordination Colombia, Europe, United States, gave the Iván Duque administration a failing grade in human rights and implementation of the peace. With statistics from reports, multilateral organizations, and even the administration itself, the authors criticize the legacies of Iván Duque, one by one.
“You might say that the current administration really did act deliberately to tear the Peace Agreement to shreds.” That harsh sentence was signed by 275 social organizations, platforms that defend human rights, and more than 800 citizens, who on this June 14 published the report entitled “Hunger and War: the Legacy of the Apprentice; an Analysis of the Last Year of the Administration of Iván Duque Márquez”. The three platforms that signed the report are Coordination Colombia, Europe, United States (CCEEU), the Alliance of Social Organizations for Cooperation for Peace and Democracy in Colombia, and the Colombian Platform for Human Rights, Democracy, and Development.
The authors assert that the Iván Duque administration furthered the path of the war, destroying the notable advances by the previous administration in working for peace. This was evident in its positions “renouncing the peace dialogs with the ELN, putting aside the battle against the paramilitaries, and generating conditions that increased impunity and the presence of illegal armed actors throughout this country. The authors emphasize the accurate fact that in multiple declarations to the national and foreign media, Iván Duque referred to “the end of the Clan del Golfo” when events had contradicted that completely.
With regard to the recent clear fact of the rebound of the paramilitaries, the report points out (with the support of statistics from the Ministry of Defense and the United Nations) the incontrovertible expansion of the organizations tied to the paramilitaries. “His administration did not dismantle the Clan del Golfo, and, on the contrary, it is stronger. It was present in 170 municipalities on the date of the Peace Agreement, and there were 212 municipalities under its control in 2021,” state the authors. They also point to what they consider to be suspicious passivity by the Armed Forces during the Armed Stoppage that the AGC or Clan del Golfo decreed at the beginning of May in at least seven departments in this country.
Even data from the Ombudsman’s Office registered a higher presence of the Clan del Golfo. According to that Office, the illegal group maintains a presence in 253 municipalities. What’s paradoxical is that this data was reported by the Ombudsman barely a week before Iván Duque declared, on an international trip at the end of May, that the Clan del Golfo no longer existed in Colombia.
According to the authors, that was one more proof that the Iván Duque administration was “a period that was used to promote the expansion of paramilitary organizations and other illegal groups, as they were able to act with greater freedom to impose terror in communities and for social leaders in the areas that were previously controlled by the FARC, and in other new areas that had not been so much affected by the conflict.”
The shreds of the peace and the “devastation of the Agreements”
One section of the report is focused on documenting what the authors believe to be intentional and deliberate sabotage of the Peace Agreement signed by the Colombian government and the now-defunct FARC, an Agreement that President Duque never mentions by its name, as he prefers that his administration talk about its policy of “Peace with Legality.”
“The reactivation of armed control by illegal actors in the territories formerly controlled by the FARC,” reversed achievements by the signing of the Peace Agreement, such as the reduction in homicides, massacres, or victims of land mines, “allowing 2021 to be the most violent in the last five years, increasing from 12,298 homicides in 2017 to 14,159 in 2021.” The figures that support this statement come from the administration itself, as they are based on data from the Ministry of Defense.
All of this implies a powerful reversal, reaching numbers that are similar to homicide levels before the peace process was undertaken. For example, with regard to social leaders, 1,309 leaders have been murdered since the signing of the Agreement. Of those, 859 (two out of three) were killed during the Duque administration. In that same period, there was at least one massacre every three days during 2021. And the number of victims of land mines, which in 2017 had decreased to one of the lowest levels in the last two decades, with 57 victims, soared dramatically until it reached 486 in 2021.
“Neither is it true that the homicides of human rights defenders have diminished during his administration,” state the authors. “In reality, they increased, which you can see in the Conpes (National Council for Economic and Social Policy) Document 4063 of 2021, signed by President Duque. In November of 2021, it was verified that these homicides increased from 65 in 2015, to 108 in 2019, and to 129 in 2020.
In addition, the authors point out that Duque has gone to foreign countries promoting himself as the great booster of the Peace Agreement, when all of the statistics contradict that. According to the Kroc Institute, responsible for monitoring the Agreements, with regard to the point on land and countryside, there has been only 14% compliance and progress on political participation and advancing democracy in the countryside. The authors put special emphasis on the fact that it was the governing party that blocked and torpedoed the bill in Congress to enact one of the most important initiatives in the Peace Agreement, the one that has to do with the Special Transitory Congressional Seats for Peace.
They also stress the failure to carry out the National Program for the Substitution of Illegal Crops (PNIS) which, according to the report, signified a failure of drug policy by the current administration, as well as the generalized murders of former combatants and signers of the Agreement. According to the report, that has increased to a total of 315 signers murdered.
“One hundred percent of the international community supported the Peace Agreement, including the United States, which played a fundamental role in the international community,” stated Diana Sánchez Lara of the Minga Association during the presentation of the report. “When Iván Duque came to power, we warned that the situation was going to be critical with the humanitarian deterioration and the resurgence of violence, but the international community has been indulgent,” emphasized Sánchez.
Duque’s social and environmental legacy
The social crisis, aggravated, according to the authors, by the Covid-19 pandemic and the upturn in the armed conflict, has resulted in the degradation of the humanitarian situation in this country. “According to the United Nations Humanitarian Agency, 7.7 million people need humanitarian attention in Colombia. Of those, 5.8 million are in a critical humanitarian situation because they are living under the control of armed groups in 373 municipalities,” stresses the report.
In the face of the great social discontent generated by the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic, the authors insist, the institutional response was “repression” of the demonstrations and of the people’s complaints during the days of protests in 2019, 2020, and 2021. According to the report, during the Duque administration, there has been a 165% increase in prosecution of social leaders, in comparison with the previous administration.
In the press conference presenting the report, Ces Badillo Gutiérrez, of the Caribe Affirmative organization, one of the signers of the report, maintained that the administration’s dialog with the popular discontent was non-existent. “What did this administration understand about democracy? Ultimately, they understood it as an election campaign; after he was elected, he forgot who elected him,” emphasized Ces Badillo. “There’s no active participation beyond voting; during his term in office, there was no participation and with that, there was a concentration of power that undercut the very principles of democracy. The most telling example of that was the repeal of the constitutional protections law.
The legacy of protection of the environment, that Iván Duque used for self-promotion in different places overseas, such as the United Nations General Assembly, also receives a negative analysis by the authors.
According to the report, “Iván Duque deliberately obstructed the procedures undertaken during the Santos administration on climate change and the environment, and the participation by the Environment and Sustainable Development Section of the National Budget during the period of 2018 – 2020 was the lowest in a decade.” Besides that, they point out the “fierce opposition” by the government and the governing party as well as the trade associations, to the ratification of the Escazú Agreement by Congress. On the contrary, the administration launched a military operation to stop the deforestation, and it was marked by attacks on settlers and small campesinos in the areas bordering the big farms. “The Colombian Army also continues to treat the campesinos like an internal enemy and like second-class citizens,” reads the report.