Colombia: As FARC lays down arms, number of activists murdered rises

Friday, September 8, 2017

More than 100 community and social activists were assassinated in Colombia between January 1 and August 18 this year, according to a new report released by the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz). The report showed that a further 194 activists received death threats during this same time.

The report also found that 12 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were assassinated between April 14 and August 17, as were 11 relatives of FARC members.

These targeted killings occurred as the FARC was finalising the process of laying down its arms and transforming itself into a political party to participate in next years’ national elections.

The move is part of a historic peace agreement reached between the FARC – which renamed itself the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons at the end of August – and the Colombian government, putting an end to more than 50 years of civil war.

With right-wing paramilitary forces identified as the culprits for many of these assassinations, the report exposes one of the many difficulties facing the FARC as it attempts to enter the political arena.

The last time the FARC attempted this by forming the Patriotic Union following peace negotiations in 1985, 2000 to 3000 of its members were assassinated, ultimately forcing the group to take up the armed struggle again.

The Indepaz report comes as pressure mounts on the government to deal with the legacy of the 50,000 Colombians who disappeared during the civil war.

Reuters journalist Anastasia Moloney reported on August 29 that the Colombian government was facing increased criticism for failing to do enough to find the disappeared.

Moloney wrote: “Government efforts to increase searches and offer compensation to relatives of those who disappeared during five decades of armed conflict have been slow and must be stepped up, critics and families say”

While the government has offered the relatives of victims some monetary compensation and talked of setting up a special search unit, no concrete steps have been taken in this direction.

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