Colombia’s government on Thursday said that 2,202 former members of now-defunct paramilitary organization AUC were assassinated. Last year, this number was 3,656.
The numbers were released while the government of President Ivan Duque is under pressure over a similar wave of killings former FARC guerrillas, who demobilized in 2017 and fear they await the same fate as their former enemies.
Despite the fact that these killings and those of social leaders are being considered the biggest threat to peace in Colombia, Duque has gone out of his way to to prevent the alleged masterminds of these homicides to be called to justice.
The cooking of the books on homicides appears to be his latest trick.
Did Duque cook the latest numbers?
The report of the National Reintegration and Normalization Agency (ARN) covers the assassination of demobilized AUC combatants since 2003 when the first of approximately 31,000 people joined the demobilization program of Duque’s political patron and alleged war criminal, former president Alvaro Uribe.
Twenty-eight were murdered since President Ivan Duque took office in August last year and more than 3,000 have received death threats, according to the agency.
Sources from within the agency told newspaper El Tiempo that the real number of murdered former AUC members is much higher. The ARN only looked at the number of canceled identity papers at the National Registry without checking with, for example, the Prosecutor General’s Office or the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Former AUC commanders told the newspaper the government has always tried to conceal the mas killing of former combatants, which has traditionally been one of the main reasons for them to rearm.
The murders began the first moment the blocks began to demobilize. The situation is not new, it dates back 13 years. We have always informed and denounced this, but they have never paid attention to us.
Former AUC commander Ivan Laverde Zapata, a.k.a. El Iguano
This was confirmed by think tank Fundacion Ideas Para La Paz (FIP) last year already. The AUC largest dissident group, the AGC, has been using the mass killings of demobilized AUC members as their main argument to justify their rearmament.
Peace advocacy group Defendamos la Paz warned the United Nations Security Council that the repetition of the mass killing of AUC commanders poses the biggest threat to the country’s peace process.
Last year’s numbers
Before Duque took office last year, the ARN reported a significantly higher number of assassinated former AUC members, some of whom were key witnesses in the criminal cases against top politicians like Uribe, members of the security forces and the country’s economic elite, Duque’s primary allies.
Demobilized former combatants who were assassinated
Maintaining terrorism by replacing the terrorist groups
According to former AUC ideologue Ivan Roberto Duque, a.k.a. “Ernesto Baez, Colombia’s criminal elites have continued their terrorism activities by replacing the AUC that had been deemed a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.
“What happened was a demobilization of an armed wing of the paramilitary system, but as a political, social, economic, almost ‘cultural’ phenomenon it has not disappeared,” said Duque last year.
Colombia’s ongoing peace process, and particularly the war crimes tribunal, seeks to dismantle these structures, but does not have the authority to call the so-called “non-combatant third party actors” to court.
I believe that what is happening to a large extent is the consequence of a mistake that was made in the peace process, a mistake that was made by the parties, of leaving out third parties, of underestimating the problem of the relationship of third parties with paramilitary groups in many regions of Colombia.
Liberal Party President Cesar Gaviria
The solution is there, but it could make Duque’s party a thing of the past
The National Commission on Security Guarantees that is in charge of designing the legislation that would dismantle these powerful criminal structures accused of killing social leaders, and former AUC and FARC combatants was rejected the president the minute he took office last year and hasn’t met since.
We remain concerned that the Commission itself has not met for many months. Its mandate –the design and implementation of a public policy to dismantle criminal organizations– is essential to put a stop to these killings.
UN mission chief Carlos Ruiz
Experts, political parties, the UN, victims and the demobilized terrorist groups all agree that the only way to stop political violence, terrorism and the armed conflict in Colombia is to dismantle the power structures that use violence for their political and economical gain.
The problem is that everything indicates that Duque’s political party, the Democratic Center, is one of those structures that benefits from terrorism and political violence.