BOGOTÁ, Colombia – More than 100 human rights activists have reportedly died in Colombia so far this year in escalating violence fueled by emboldened Marxist guerilla groups, benefitting from the 2016 peace deal the nation’s former president won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
The latest massacre resulted in the discovery of three young men on the road outside the city of Ocaña, located close to the country’s eastern border with Venezuela.
On Saturday, six people were also killed in Tumaco, a port city near the southern border with Ecuador; three people were shot dead near Medellín; and another three were murdered in the eastern region of Arauca.
The killings add up to seven massacres in the space of two weeks; there have been more than 46 massacres (defines as the murder of three or more people at once) so far this year.
Among those most severely affected by the violence have been human rights activists and community leaders, more than 100 of whom have been murdered so far this year. The pandemic has also led to armed groups (including drug cartels, Marxist guerillas, and alleged right-wing paramilitaries) exerting greater control over nearby territory, with at least 30 people murdered simply for breaking quarantine rules.
Addressing supporters this weekend in the department of Nariño, President Iván Duque attempted to play down the use of the term “massacres,” instead describing them as “collective homicides.”
“Many people have said: ‘the massacres returned, the massacres returned,'” he explained. “First let’s talk about the precise name: ‘collective homicides’, and sadly we must accept it as a country, it is not that they returned, it is that these events of ‘collective homicides’ have not sadly gone away.”
Such figures continue to undermine the alleged success of the government’s 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which was supposed to bring an end to the decades-long war between the state and the Marxist terror group and usher in a new area of peace in a country so long plagued by violence.
The 2016 deal, which gave amnesty to FARC leaders and guaranteed them uncontested seats as lawmakers, was forced through the Colombian Congress by former President Juan Manuel Santos despite its rejection in a nationwide plebiscite. The Colombian constitution requires a national vote to approve such a move, rendering the peace deal unconstitutional. Santos nonetheless won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
FARC has repeatedly violated the terms set out in the agreement, while many of its militants have defected to other far-left terrorist groups such as the People’s Liberation Army (ELN), which has carried out multiple terrorist attacks over the past four years. Duque, who took office in 2018, has since set about unraveling parts of the deal which were opposed by a majority of Colombians when the referendum was held.