Colombia: The Genocide Hidden Behind the War

ELN Editorial N.607 / Insurrection Magazine
Translated by Internationalist 360°

These are difficult times for the popular movement amidst Colombia’s changing political trends. Despite the expectations generated by the benefits that peace agreements would bring for communities historically neglected, the extermination campaign against organizations and leaders of those communities continues. Worse, it increases at an alarming rate, aggravated by the efforts to present victims as potential actors in the armed conflict. Are social leaders, political activists, unionized workers, human rights defenders, disputing parties to the armed conflict? Clearly not!

It is clear that the armed conflict in the decades it has existed, has left thousands of victims. What cannot openly be said, what is hidden, is that they are victims of state crimes and their numbers are much higher than the casualties of parties to the armed conflict. Researcher Javier Giraldo says that:

“80% of victims of repression have nothing to do with the armed conflict, even if the state tries to make it appear otherwise. The only way for state officials to lend an appearance of legitimacy to forced disappearances, extra judicial executions, slaughter and bombing of civilians, etc., is to present the victims as “combatants”.

Javier Giraldo refers to the extermination of political leaders, trade unionists, peasants, afro and indigenous movement members, political opponents, social activists, human rights defenders, all of them non – combatants. Thus we are witnessing an ongoing genocide in Colombia by the regime.

Violent acts considered as genocide highlight concepts behind statistics of deaths, threats and persecution. A crime against humanity that seeks to destroy the identity of groups is genocide. To destroy the national identity of the oppressed group and impose the national identity of the oppressor on survivors,  is genocide. Another feature of genocide is  that violent acts are planned, purposeful and systematic.

Another source that helps  define genocide are the judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) , which goes beyond immediate perpetrators to State crimes because:

“It is essential to analyze the knowledge of the structures of power that allowed, designed and executed intellectually and materially, as well as individuals or groups that were interested or would benefit from crimes (…) Therefore, it is not just about analysis of a crime in isolation, but embedded in a context (…) “.

In relation to the above study the most recent cases of repressive mechanisms against mobilization involves identification and stigmatization  of individuals, organizations  and groups which are in turn transformed into state policies.

In the recent Indigenous Minga protests that took place in 22 regions of the country, 41 Indians were wounded by the army and police . According to Todd Howland of the Office of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner:

“They’re trying to create an understanding that indigenous people are the same as an illegal armed group, and this is ridiculous, inappropriate and stigmatizing” (…) “There is need to address the social protest as a social protest of civilians . This is very different to when we are in the area of armed conflict. We’re talking about people who have no weapons, they are civilians, and that the police have the jurisdiction to deal with social protests in Colombia. We are asking, please follow the Constitution in regards to these protests”.

The Center for Research and Popular Education -CINEP – in its report “Tumaco: Victim who” says that in the first half of 2017,  a total of 389 deaths  is attributed to paramilitaries and 484  to unidentified armed groups. Compared to the first half of 2016, there is an increase of 26 percent in victimizations committed by paramilitaries.

The Data Bank CINEP classified as political and social violence, crimes committed against persons while participating in political and social processes , but whose alleged perpetrators are unknown.  In the first half of 2017 a total of 482 victimisations of this type were recorded.  The Mobile Riot Squad  (police) in the first quarter of 2017, perpetrated 273 attacks against social protest.

This data are examples of the actual genocidal project that victimizes the social opposition,  unlike the killings 30 years ago against leftist movements and the Patriotic Union and the Popular Front. Actions that have a systematic pattern  require immediate neutralization.

Father Giraldo warned the in the latest installment of the Night and Fog Magazine :

“We live in the same genocidal country of yesteryear and the poisoning of the mass media against insurgencies and social political ideologies; against ‘the left’; against social movements; against any social protest and against grassroots organizations, is perhaps more refined but equally hopeless”.

In this regard, we insist that it is “a primary objective to improve the humanitarian situation of the population” during and after Bilateral Cease-fire. Therefore we demand that the regime cease aggression against the popular movement and political trends that are changing in Colombia and take concrete steps against the commanders of the security forces who are allied with the paramilitaries.