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New wave of political murders in Colombia undermines peace process

By Jim Byrne

Tucson, AZ – On July 16, Colombian paramilitaries with possible connections to the government murdered six social movement leaders. Two of those murdered were union leaders affiliated with the country’s largest union, FENSUAGRO, which organizes agricultural workers. They were brutally beaten to death with rocks. One of them was nearly decapitated and barely recognizable to family. These murders mark an escalation of violence against the left in Colombia since the election of Ivan Duque on June 17, as the political killings have averaged more than one a day. Ivan Duque is the protege of ex-Colombian President Uribe, who oversaw some of the worst state human rights abuses in the war against the FARC.

Many suspect Duque is a puppet of Uribe and will carry out the plan of undermining the Peace Process.

The murders, claims the Colombian Inspector General, are being coordinated with local and national levels of the armed forces and police of Colombia. Though the defense minister denies this, clearly these killings are not random, they are targeted. It can be assumed that the paramilitaries who carried out the dirty work of Uribe ten years ago feel emboldened by the election of Duque. The Inspector General connects the geography of many of the killings to land disputes stemming from the return of land to campesinos who had it stolen by large, private landowners during the war against the FARC. The transfer of land is one of the central tenets of the signed Peace Accord between the government and the FARC.

In addition to the failure to provide security for social movement leaders, the Colombian government has failed to ensure the safety of FARC leader Jesus Santrich. In April, the U.S. government used the DEA to cook up drug sale allegations against Santrich. They were going to extradite him until he went on hunger strike and the FARC demanded that the Special Judicial Court, created by the Peace Process, override the U.S. So far, this has succeeded in keeping Santrich in Colombia. But, since the Colombian government is not taking the proper steps to push the U.S. to drop their bogus charges, FARC leader Ivan Marquez will not be taking his seat in the Colombian senate. His protest clearly marks a challenge of departing President Santos and the rest of the Colombian government.

In response to the escalating levels of political killings against the left in Colombia, an International Day of Action has been called for August 7, the day Duque takes office.

Various groups including the Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos del Pueblo (People’s Human Rights Observatory), The Coordinadora Americana por los Derechos de los Pueblos (Americas Coordination for the People's Rights), Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ), School of the Americas Watch, and Camino Común (Common Path) are calling for August 7 to be an International Day for Peace in Colombia and against State and Paramilitary Terror. There are also calls that have been issued in Colombia for national mobilizations on that day.

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