While the total number of homicides in former heartland of guerrilla group FARC has been dropping since 2012, homicides not related to Colombia’s armed conflict soared last year, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
In its annual report, the office dedicated a chapter to an investigation of violence in 25 of 26 municipalities where the FARC has been demobilizing, many of whom located in what used to be guerrilla heartland.
The report shows a steady decrease in homicides, particularly related to socio-political violence or for unknown causes since peace talks began in 2012.
However, homicides linked to sexual violence, and economic, criminal and family conflicts have been rising since 2013 and shot up in 2016, the year the guerrillas stopped exercising control over their territories.
Homicides in FARC demobilization areas
According to the Medical Examiner’s Office, this increase in social violence is likely due to the power vacuum that was created after the FARC demobilized and the military failed to effectively seize territorial control.
This contrast can be explained by the changes in the forms of authority and social regulation exercised by the guerrillas over these territories and by the progressive dismantling of the systems of protection and authority that they established during the conflict and that in some way allowed them to contain expressions of violence.
Medical Examiner’s Office
While it said it had no instant proof of the exact causes of the homicides — this would be the task of the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate — the Medical Examiner’s Office said it is probable the absence of authority, imposed either by guerrillas or the state, was the root cause of the increase in deadly violence not related to the armed conflict.
The concentration of the FARC in the ZVTN and PTN camps as part of the process of demobilization, disarmament and reintegration may be creating conditions that are exploited by other illegal armed groups to establish a new order around criminal activities and through other types of violence.
Medical Examiner’s Office
The Medical Examiner’s Office said it assumed other illegal armed groups like the paramilitary AGC group or the smaller ELN guerrilla group were behind the killings considering the type of weapons used in the homicides.
The office registered a 113% increase in the use of firearms and explosives between 2015 and 2016 in the examined municipalities belonging to former FARC territory.
Homicides increased in three of the 25 examined municipalities; Tibu in the northeast, Tumaco in the southwest and the southern San Vicente del Caguan, all municipalities where a collection of armed groups, including dissident FARC guerrillas, are active.
These three municipalities are located in some of Colombia’s top coca growing regions.