Colombia: Right-wing groups threaten victims, undermine peace talks

Representatives of victims of Colombia's decades-long civil war, who are taking part in the peace talks in Cuba, issued a statement on November 2 requesting more protection from the Colombian government. They were responding to death threats and warnings from right-wing paramilitary groups.

The talks are taking place between the Colombian government and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Lineth Bedoya, a journalist who suffered sexual abuse by paramilitary groups when being held hostage and is a victims' representative, said: “On their return to Colombia, some of them [victims' representatives] have appeared on [death] lists promoted by criminal gangs and other groups.”

The United Nations delegate for the peace talks, Fabrizio Hochschild, confirmed this and warned about the importance of providing safety to the victims.

“The vast majority of the threats come from ... groups which basically are based on the old paramilitary structures,” he added.

The threats openly call on the victims to be considered the groups' targets as legitimate war objectives. “This implies death threats,” said Hochschild. “These threats in Colombia have to be taken very seriously.”

So far this year, 47 social movement leaders and human rights activists have been killed. More than 60 members of the left-wing group Marcha Patriotica have also been killed this year.

Bedoya said: “The Colombian state must bring every guarantee for the 60 people who have already been and who will be going to Havana, to be able to come back to their communities, their territory, or their towns without harassment and intimidation.”

The threats to victims' representatives come as the Colombian right wing, led by former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, is fiercely opposing the peace process.

Hochschild confirmed that the UN and local authorities are working to provide the security necessary for the victims' delegations.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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