The persistent failures of Colombia’s President Ivan Duque to implement a peace deal with demobilized FARC guerrillas has strengthened illegal armed groups and increased violence against social leaders, according to a study.
A collection of think tanks and human rights organizations including Indepaz issued a blistering report on Thursday, in which they blamed security forces, and the governments of the United States and Colombia for the worsening security situation in the countryside, and in particular that of community leaders trying to implement the 2016 peace deal.
According to the report, Duque’s “subordination to the policy on drugs and illicit crops, and the war on drugs of the DEA and the Trump administration” contribute to the violence.
Attempts by the President’s far-right party, the Democratic Center, to sabotage the process and stigmatize social leaders and press have had a devastating effect on rural communities. His approach has also increased risks for those trying to implement the peace process and promote the voluntary eradication of coca.
Duque’s “subordination” to the Trump administration and the failure of both governments to effectively support the peace process and counternarcotics efforts, led by the United Nations, have strengthened illegal armed groups and organized crime, and have allowed guerrilla group ELN to continue sowing terror, the NGOs said.
This is aggravated by the fact that security forces and civilian authorities have failed to assume control over territories abandoned by the FARC when they demobilized in 2017. Military force has been used to repress social protest and have actively taking part in the stigmatization of social leaders.
Since Duque took office in August last year, 236 community leaders and human rights defenders have been killed. Despite multiple promises to act, no effective action has been taken by the government.
The government has also consistently misinformed the public about why social leaders are getting killed, claiming that the violence is related to drug trafficking. In the vast majority of cases the homicides are related to land disputes.
Since the presidential inauguration of Mr. Ivan Duque, in 154 homicide cases the victims were part of peasant, indigenous, Afro-descendant, environmental and communal organizations. Agrarian conflicts over land, territory and natural resources represent 79.79% of homicides.
As they have done on multiple occasions, the think tanks and social organizations urged the government to implement a number of measures in order to curb the ongoing violence.
A number of these request the effective implementation of the peace process, in particular in regards to the UN-monitored counternarcotics program, rural development and the development of a legal rural economy that benefits small and medium-sized farming businesses.
Furthermore, the organization asked the government to “end the reiterated stigmatization and criminalization of social protest, and social leaders and human rights defenders by state officials.”
Additionally, the organizations want the government to stop misinforming the public about the humanitarian crisis in the countryside and effectively prosecute corrupt government officials and others who are suspected of being behind the killing of social leaders.
Last but not least, the organizations want the government to resume talks with the ELN, the country’s last-standing guerrilla group, and “urgently seek an agreement to cease hostilities and effective measures to de-escalate the conflict with guarantees for the civilian population and the participation of society in the construction of peace.”