The assassinations of Colombia’s social leaders saw a dramatic rise in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to two conflict monitors.
In its latest report on armed conflict, Fundacion Ideas de la Paz (FIP) said the killing of human rights defenders and community leaders increased 53%.
According to conflict monitor Indepaz, which uses a different definition of what is a social leader, killings went up 23% from 67 in the first four months of 2019 to 87 in the first four months of this year.
According to FIP, the deadliest provinces for social leaders continue to be Cauca and Antioquia. A turf war between FARC dissidents and narcos put the southern Putumayo province also in the top three.
Homicides in general dropped 16%, according to the conflict monitor. According to the Defense Ministry, this drop is almost entirely due a drop in homicides during a lockdown that has been in place since March 25.
The coronavirus pandemic that triggered the lockdown has not increased the safety of the social leaders, but allowed illegal armed groups to use the emergency situation to increase their territorial control, according to both the FLIP and Indepaz.
In some cases, illegal armed groups are using the absence of the state to impose their own stay at home orders, effectively demonstrating they are the authority.
Some illegal armed groups have ordered restrictions and reinforced isolation, on the grounds that they prevent the spread of the virus; in other cases, armed factions have increased their actions against leaders and communities.
Fundacion Ideas para la Paz
The most active of these groups were the ELN guerrilla group and dissidents of the demobilized FARC guerrilla group.
The security forces’ have not reduced their capacity to combat illegal armed groups, according to FIP, which also registered an increase in attacks by the military, mainly against the paramilitary AGC.
Despite the increase in combat, the military reported a decrease in combat kills, injured enemy combatants and demobilized members of illegal armed groups after the order to double these numbers was withdrawn.