Six people were murdered in a town in central Colombia in a place that the government just months earlier hailed as “far from the associations to the armed conflict and violence.”
For years, it was known as the home to a grizzly 1997 massacre in which paramilitary death squads butchered between an estimated 13 and 77 people with machetes and chainsaws. Though that number is likely higher as bodies were thrown into the river and never found.
But the President’s Office in June held the area up, calling its consolidation of peace a “rebirth of hope” as the country works to end a half-century of armed conflict.
“We turned a page,” said Fredy Patiño, coordinator of the municipality’s victims’ unit, in a June release. “Mapiripan is completely different. Today we open ourselves to the world of opportunities to bring progress and peace. The rest is past.”
But the recent resurgence of bloodshed in the area tells a different story.
Tuesday morning, the Colombian Army confirmed that six people were murdered between the rural hamlets of San Luis and La Realidad.
Colombian President Ivan Duque was quick to denounce the violence, tweeting around 4:30 am, “We condemn the murder of six people in Mapiripán, Meta. I’ve given instruction to the commander of @FuerzasMilCol, General Luis Fernando Navarro, to travel immediately to the area and make a security council in order to take action to clarify the facts.”
Also present in the area are dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), guerrillas who have increasingly been rearming as the Colombian peace process continues to crumble.
A number of social leaders in the area have faced threats in recent months as a wave of massacres continues to surge in rural areas of the country.
In July, 12 armed men in black clothes and face masked detained indigenous leader, Juan Ladino, and his wife for hours, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). The men interrogating him about his work with the indigenous community and told him if he returned to Meta he would be killed just like his father.
Even more recently, Aguilas Negras – a far-right extremist group that has made headlines for sending threats to activists, journalists and opposition leaders – sent out a threat through social media targeting three women’s rights activists in Meta, one of which already survived an assassination attempt earlier in the year.
Armed men and women have also been spotted in the area asking locals about indigenous community leaders, according to WOLA.
And as the Colombian army and police officials investigate the recent continue to investigate the deaths, that violence may only continue to tick up.