There’s a term for for the mass killing of Colombia’s social leaders, ethnic minorities, women and opposition activists: “necropolitics.”
The term was coined by Cameroonian scholar Achile Mbembe in 1983 to describe “the use of social and political power to dictate how some people may live and how some must die,” which is particularly common in post-colonial societies.
Necropolitics basically justifies the application of double standards in the use of deadly violence to maintain the social or political order that was legal in colonial times.
The institutional use of deadly force
All democratic governments use force, including deadly force, to uphold the law, and guarantee public safety and the rights of citizens.
Those engaging in necropolitics, however, propose to abandon the rule of law and apply a double standard that allows the killing of some and prohibits the killings of others.
In the times of slavery, for example, a slave owner in either Colombia or the US was allowed to use all kinds of violence against his slaves while a slave was not allowed to use any violence against his master.
After abolition, the social order in both countries continued to permit the killing of former slaves and their descendants.
Black Lives Matter activists may argue this exact double standard still applies in the United States. I believe this double standard still applies in Colombia.
Committing massacres to maintain public order are obviously against the law. However, in a necropolitical system, the law is applied selectively in order to maintain the social and political order that was legal under colonial rule.
The social use of deadly violence
Duque’s political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, introduced the term “a good dead,” presumably as opposed to “a bad dead,” and “massacres with social criteria” as opposed to massacres that fail to meet these undefined criteria.
Curiously, the “good dead” referred to of a former paramilitary fighter who told the court that the former president’s allies were drug trafficking associates.
The “massacres with social criteria” referred to the police killing of three indigenous protesters demanding respect for their rights.
The former president has long propagated that the rule of law ought to be subjected to the “rule of opinion,” which would allow the majority of the public to overrule the rule of law.
In short, if the majority of the public believes killing ethnic minorities is okay, any law preventing ethnic cleansing can be overruled.
This line of thought obviously threatens women, members of the LGBT community, opposition activists or young people because it legitimizes violence against anyone deemed, among other things, “subversive.”
The convenient terror
To aggravate the terror, authorities neglect to act against the mass killing of social leaders, femicides, and the random assassinations of young people.
Colombia’s estimated 95% impunity rate implicitly tells women reporting domestic violence, or students and ethnic minorities demanding the respect of their rights that they will have to deal with the consequences.
As the defense minister made clear, the police and the prosecution are not meant to impose the rule of law, but to use “legitimate state force” to protect the government.
I have revealed evidence indicating Trujillo ordered a massacre and that the president has ties to drug traffickers. My friends obviously wouldn’t throw rocks when marching for peace and an end to police brutality.
According to the government, however, we are “vandals,” “terrorists,” “FARC youth” and “neo-communists.” Our demand to apply the rule of law instead of the double standards of necropolitics is “promoting class hatred,” according to the minister.