FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of Genocide

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 paramilitaries.

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.”

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.

More articles by:

Dan Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  His latest book is No More War: How the West Violates International Law by Using ‘Humanitarian’ Intervention to Advance Economic and Strategic Interests.

August 05, 2020
Roy Eidelson
Black Lives Matter: Resisting the Propaganda of Status Quo Defenders
Melvin Goodman
The Department of Homeland Security: the Ideal Authoritarian Tool
Paul Street
Misleaders at a Funeral: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Eulogizing Racial Justice in the Name of John Lewis
Seiji Yamada
Hiroshima, Technique, and Bioweapons
Vijay Prashad
How Trump Managed to Lead the World with the Worst Response to the COVID Pandemic
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Alternative
Jonas Ecke
The Worst Hunger Season Yet to Come: Global Moral Failure in the Time of Covid-19
Rafiq Kathwari
The Battle for Kashmir
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Arch-Kleptocrat is Found Guilty
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
 U.S. Cold War China Policy Will Isolate the U.S, Not China
Lee Camp
Why Housing Is a Human Right
Sam Pizzigati
For Egalitarians, a Sudden Sense of Possibility
Jonathan Cook
Can Israelis Broaden Their Protests Beyond Netanyahu?
Thomas Knapp
Ten Years After Lieberman’s “Internet Kill Switch,” the War on Freedom Rages On
Binoy Kampmark
Staying on Message: Australia, the US and the AUSMIN Talks
Elliot Sperber
The View From Saturn 
August 04, 2020
John Pilger
Another Hiroshima is Coming…Unless We Stop It Now
Dave Lindorff
Unsung Heroes of Los Alamos: Rethinking Manhattan Project Spies and the Cold War
Kenneth Good
Escalating State Repression and Covid-19: Their Impact on the Poor in Kenya
Dean Baker
We Need an Economic Survival Package Not Another Stimulus
David Rosen
Globalization and the End of the American Dream
John Feffer
The Pandemic Reveals a Europe More United Than the United States
Patrick Cockburn
The Government’s Failed Track-and-Trace System is a Disaster for England
Ramzy Baroud
‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Yale Faculty on Hydroxychloroquine and Its Use in COVID-19
Manuel García, Jr.
Ocean Heat: From the Tropics to the Poles
Sonali Kolhatkar
Why the Idea of Jobless Benefits Scares the Conservative Mind
Greta Anderson
Framing Wolves in New Mexico?
Binoy Kampmark
Pulling Out of Germany: Trump Adjusts the Military Furniture
Shawn Fremstad – Nicole Rodgers
COVID Stimulus Checks Shouldn’t Penalize One-Parent Households
Adam Shah
The 1 Percent’s Attack on Unemployment Benefits is a Sign of Our Broken Democracy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
On the Beauty of Life
B. R. Gowani
Mohammed Rafi: Singer and Human Par Excellence
David Krieger
Eight A-Bomb Haiku
August 03, 2020
Linda Pentz Gunter
The Resistible Rise of Nuclear Gangsters…and Their Downfall
John G. Russell
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Cal Winslow
Their Heroes and Ours: California’s Health Care Crisis
David Barber
Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Linda G. Ford
Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
Prabir Purkayastha
Trump’s Withdrawal From WHO: a Cover-Up for His Abject Failure on COVID-19
Dean Baker
The Plunge in Consumption of Services Leads to a Record 32.9 Percent Drop in GDP
Ramzy Baroud
Human Rights Defenders: Palestinian Eyewitness Testimony of the Execution of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif by Israeli Soldier, Elor Azaria
Karen J. Greenberg
Accountability is Gone in America
Cesar Chelala
A Wrong Message for the Pandemic
Jonah Raskin
Chesa Boudin: Reformer in the San Francisco DA’s Office
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail