A few weeks ago at the International Critics’ Week of the Cannes Film Festival, after the release of the Colombian movie Litigante, it’s director, along with the lead actress, it’s producers and the Oscar award nominee Ciro Guerra, held signs on the red carpet that made strong allegations regarding the situation that Colombia is facing after the 2016 peace agreement. This was only 9 months after the party that was actively opposed to the Accord won the Presidential Elections. The signs made references to the death of the young director Mauricio Lezama, who was killed while preparing a documentary on the victims of the armed conflict that the country held for more than 50 years. “We demand justice,” “162 leaders murdered in less than a year” and “peace” were also messages that the Colombian delegation in Cannes displayed.
On May 18th, 2019, the New York Times exposed the orders given by the commander of the Colombian army, Major Gen. Nicacio Martínez Espinel, where the officer demanded from his troops an increase in the number of killings, captures or surrenders. The officer was appointed by the new Colombian administration despite allegations of his links with extrajudicial executions. The command he gave is particularly serious since during the presidency of Alvaro Uribe, Columbia faced a major crisis in which the army and many top officers were involved in a huge and well-planned operation that killed civilians in such a way that made them look like combatants. These practices led to the assassination of at least 3000 civilians, which were presented as deaths in combat. Furthermore, as one of the major threats to national security, the conflict with The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is no longer active, the number of confrontations has naturally decreased and consequently also the number of casualties, which makes the new directive virtually impossible to fulfil. However, as a result of the New York Times article, the instruction has been withdrawn.
According to the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the implementation of the obligations agreed to under the peace agreement is currently at 68% of compliance, that is just 7% more since May last year. That means that since President Duque began his administration, the implementation activity of the accord has slightly slowed. Within these measures, 23% of the provisions have already been implemented; 12% are moving as originally planned; 34% are in a very early stage of their fulfilment; and 31% of the arrangements have not started to be implemented. The Kroc Institute also recognizes that the main threat to the accord is related to the security guarantees for the human rights defenders and social leaders who are being murdered at unthinkable rates. According to some social organizations, 837 people have been assassinated since January 2016. From that number, 702 are social leaders and 135 are former FARC combatants. Since the new president has been in office, 236 leaders have been killed.
The deaths of social leaders and the hostility of some high-ranked officers and politicians towards the accord reflect some of the many obstacles that the implementation of the peace agreement is currently facing. Other major barriers in the achievement of a state of full peace include the discredit of The Peace Tribunal, which is predominantly but not exclusively due to critics of the agreement opponents; 2000 ex-combatants that have left their transition process; the constant attempt by the government party to reform and abolish the regulatory apparatus designed to support the peace process; the inability of the State to occupy the territories left by the former criminal groups; the growth of coca crops; and the state’s lack of capability to fulfil its obligations with respect to former FARC members.
Social leaders and human rights promotors are particularly important as their presence in the territories is essential to build and assure trust-based relations between the authorities and the communities. They are human beings, family members and victims of the heinous conflict that Colombia is trying to stop. Their lives are precious and their deaths may lead to the failure of the peace process.
Please stop the atrocity!