Burial of assassinated peasants in Tumaco massacre, in Nariño department, Colombia. Photo: Mateo Rueda, via ¡PACIFISTA!. All rights reserved.
This article is being published as part of the partnership between ¡Pacifista! and democraciaAbierta. You can read the original article here.
The first year of implementation of the agreement signed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government has shown that the post-conflict path is a turbulent one. In 2017, some cases of violence in Colombia have recalled that of the times when the drug cartels ruled the country and the FARC and The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas were in full swing. The following are the most violent acts recorded in 2017.
The Magüi Payan massacre
On November 27, a clash between dissident FARC members and ELN forces resulted in 13 people dead in Magüi Payán, in the department of Nariño. The dissidents were having a birthday party in the village of Pueblo Nuevo when they were attacked by the guerrillas. The attack, apparently, was motivated by some territorial dispute. Historically, the region has been an important corridor for illegal activities such as drug trafficking. Due to the fact that it is quite an inaccessible place, the massacre was only known 40 hours after it happened. For obvious reasons, the villagers felt intimidated and refused to talk to the authorities. To this should be added the little diligence with which the authorities conducted the lifting of the corpses and carried out the autopsies.
Some 80 people who lived there fled in fear from their homes. The local official, Wilson Angulo, confessed to El Espectador that "in this place there is total absence of the State. Farmers have no specific programs for crop substitution, there are no job offers, there is nothing". Besides the dead, several people were injured, including two minors. After the attack, the ELN left behind its flag on the banks of the Patía River, which runs through this area, formerly under FARC control for decades.
The Tumaco massacre
An image of the burial of the peasants assassinated in Tumaco, Nariño, Colombia. Photo Mateo Rueda. ¡PACIFISTA! All rights reserved.At the beginning of October, Colombians realized beyond any doubt that post-conflict had just not yet reached Tumaco, a small municipality in the same department of Nariño. A clash between the Army, the Antinarcotics Police and coca farmers from the Alto Mira community council resulted in nine dead and more than 50 injured. This still unclear episode occurred in the midst of an operation for eradicating coca crops. Tumaco is the municipality with the most illicit hectares in the country: some 23.000 - which is about 16% of the total coca crops in Colombia.
The massacre impressed the fact that Tumaco is one of the post-conflict’s most pressing challenges: it is the epicenter of drug trafficking in the Pacific coast area, one of the most violent cities in the country (137 homicides in 2017 – that is, 15 per month), more than 80% of its inhabitants live below the poverty line, and it is third in the ranking of municipalities with the highest number of victims of the armed conflict: 134.000.
The Gulf Clan’s “Pistol Plan”
A member of GAULA ( Unified Action Groups for Personal Liberty) from the National Army of Colombia deployed in Quibdó, in Chocó department, Colombia, after a grenade attack to a police patrol in the area. Photo: ¡Pacifista! All rights reserved.By mid-2017, in nine departments of the country, the Gaitanista Self-defense, also known as the Gulf Clan, launched their so-called "Pistol Plan" against members of the National Police. In a style reminiscent of Pablo Escobar’s, they set out to avenge the death of Efrén Vargas, the brother of Gavilán, their organization second in command. They distributed a pamphlet in which they announced that police officers would be targeted and "discharged", and warned civilians not to go anywhere near them. Their systematic offensive left nine policemen dead and 15 wounded. Later, on September 1, Gavilán was killed by members of the intelligence agency of Colombia’s national police (Dipol) in La Cuarenta, a region in Urabá.
The bomb in the Andino shopping mall
People gathered at Centro Andino shopping mall in Bogota, Colombia, after a bomb explosion in June 2017. Photo: Twitter via ¡PACIFISTA!. All rights reserved.Bogota seemed to be safe from the violence that was hitting the country’s most remote places. This changed dramatically when on Saturday, June 17, in the afternoon, a bomb went off in the women's restrooms at Andino, one of the capital city’s most exclusive shopping centers. The explosion left three people dead and 10 injured. At the time of the explosion, the place was crowded, since it was the eve of Father’s Day. President Juan Manuel Santos labeled the blast a "terrorist attack". In November, control of guarantees judge 47 ordered, as a precautionary measure, the arrest of nine people who the Attorney General had identified as participants in the bombing. After some speculation, the Attorney General, Néstor Humberto Martínez, attributed the facts to the People's Revolutionary Movement (MRP).
More than 1.000 natives displaced from Alto Baudó
This was the biggest massive forced displacement of the year and the first one in the post-conflict period so far. It happened in March, after a clash between the ELN and the Urabeños drug-trafficking neo-paramilitary group. An estimated 1.142 natives fled from Alto Baudó fearing to get caught in the crossfire. Some 248 families from 18 communities moved from the western department of Chocó to Alto Baudó’s municipal capital, Pie de Pató. The displacement produced massive overcrowding at the families’ makeshift shelters, especially in the sports center, one of the few cement buildings in the municipality. An emergency situation ensued, not only due to the lack of space, but to the shortage of food and the limited health services. A high concentration of illicit crops is to be found in Alto Baudó, due to its closeness to the Pacific coast - which makes this territory one of the illegal armed groups’ favourites. To this should be added the established practice of forced recruitments along the Baudó river basin, which the Indigenous Regional Council of Chocó has been denouncing for years before the Ombudsman's Office.
54 social leaders killed in 2017
Counter of civil society leaders assassinated in Colombia since the Peace Agreement signature in late November 2016. Image: ¡PACIFISTA! 66 social leaders have been murdered since the implementation of the agreement with the FARC began, 54 of them in 2017 - which comes to show that, up to now, the security promised to social leaders in the peace agreement seems to be only a theoretical one. To this should be added the apparent lack of interest with which the Minister of Defense, Luis Carlos Villegas, has described the murders - according to him, they are related to "affairs with women, or personal retaliations" and he refuses to acknowledge their systematic nature.