[News] Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of Genocide

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 14 10:48:20 EST 2016


  Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of Genocide

by Dan Kovalik <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/dan-kovalik/> - 
December 14, 2016

After the first Colombian peace agreement was narrowly voted down in a 
nation-wide referendum in October, the Colombian Congress approved a 
revised peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC 
rebels.  While the extreme right-wing in Colombia has tried to stir up 
fear about the peace process, arguing that it gives too much amnesty to 
the left-wing FARC combatants, and while Human Rights Watch has 
amplified these concerns 
it is indeed the left which is being threatened and attacked in 
Colombia.  Specifically, the left is being attacked by the right-wing 
paramilitaries who see the peace between the government and the FARC as 
both a threat to their alleged /raison d-etrê /of allegedly fighting the 
guerillas/, /as well as an opportunity – to wit, the opportunity to wipe 
out the left as the FARC disarms.

Anyone who knows about Colombia is painfully aware of the historical 
precedent for such attacks upon the left during the cessation of 
hostilities between the government and the FARC.  As /The/ /Miami 
Herald/ explains 

    For many in Colombian politics, the recent spate of killings seem
    depressingly familiar. In the 1980s and 1990s, anywhere from 1,000
    to 3,500 members of the Unión Patriótica party were assassinated.

    That political group drew followers from across the left, but its
    primary purpose was to give the FARC, which had signed a ceasefire
    at the time, a vehicle to participate in politics. In the succeeding
    years, however, UP members were indiscriminately murdered, including
    presidential candidate Jaime Pardo in 1987. The ceasefire collapsed,
    the FARC resumed fighting, and most of those murders were eventually
    pinned on right-wing paramilitary groups.

Others put the death toll of the assault against the UP (Patriotic Union 
in English) at well above that estimated by /The Miami Herald/.  Thus, 
as /Telesur/ recently reported 

    [Aida] Avella is the president of the Patriotic Union, a party that
    saw no less than 5,000 of its supporters, including sitting
    politicians and presidential candidates, killed by the state and its
    paramilitary allies in what was deemed a political genocide.

    “I don’t think another genocide is starting, rather it is a
    continuation of the genocide against opposition sectors. That’s
    because the paramilitary structures have not been dismantled, they
    are completely intact,” Avella told Contagio Radio.

Avella makes a good point about the persistence of the paramilitary 
assault on Colombia’s “opposition sectors.”  Just this year alone, 72 
social activists have been murdered in Colombia 
And, in the four years of its existence, the peace movement known as the 
Marcha Patriotica has lost 125 members to assassination by the 

Such violence has only accelerated in recent months as the peace process 
has approached final agreement. Thus, in November alone, at least 12 
leaders from the peace, indigenous and labor movements have been 
murdered. And, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t hear of more death 
threats and attempts against leaders of organizations I work closely 
with in Colombia. Meanwhile, as the Washington Office on Latin America 
has reported, “the neo-paramilitary group Autodefensas Gaitanistas de 
Colombia (AGC) circulated a flyer warning of a major ‘cleansing’ in 
December of the very leaders who will be key to achieving peace in 

Colombia does not receive near enough attention in the press as it 
deserves, especially given its dire human rights situation and its being 
the recipient of nearly $10 billion in military assistance from the U.S. 
since 2000.

In terms of human rights, Colombia is now the Western Hemisphere’s 
leader in disappeared persons with well over 92,000 persons disappeared 
– this according to the International Committee of the Red Cross 
(ICRC) back in 2014.    This is over three times the figure for 
Argentina – the country which usually comes to mind for most people when 
thinking about the phenomenon of disappearances in Latin America.  And 
yet, when did you last hear of the disappearances in Colombia?  It is 
the almost complete news blackout on Colombia which allows the 
unprecedented political violence there to continue.  Indeed, as the head 
of the ICRC himself decried, “[t]he problem of missing people in 
Colombia is as widespread as it is silent.”

Those of us who want peace for Colombia cannot remain silent as the 
number of victims continue to mount even as our tax dollars continue to 
support a military which is still entangled with the paramilitary death 
squads committing the lion’s share of that country’s violence.

/*Daniel Kovalik* lives in Pittsburgh and teaches International Human 
Rights Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law./

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