Ivan Duque’s triumph in Colombia’s presidential elections last year predicted a worsening of the war, just as it happened during the term of the former president and now Senator Álvaro Uribe. Although more than 15 years have passed since the class faction Uribe represents burst into the highest spheres of political power, the cruelty of the war that characterized his 8 years of government continues, despite the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC in 2016.
Since Duque’s inauguration, not only the peace accords, but also the human rights situation in general, have deteriorated sharply. In 2018 alone, 126 social leaders were assassinated,1 and so far in 2019, 29 leaders have been assassinated, according to the United Nations.2 Despite the national government’s denialist stance regarding the nature of these assassinations, their systemic nature is evident, as the profiles of the victims are those of rural community leaders, indigenous leaders, militants of political movements, land claimants or defenders of victims of paramilitarism and state violence. The political motive behind these murders seems to be the same: the demand for the fulfillment of basic rights, as basic as the right to life itself.
These figures do not include the murders of former FARC combatants, who, in an act of compliance with the agreement, laid down their arms, hoping that the State’s (not the government’s) commitment to give full guarantees for their insertion and compliance with the agreement would be genuine. However, the prospect for thousands of ex-combatants seems to be crumbling, not only because the new government ignores the peace agreements, or at least essential parts of them, but also because, in April alone, several ex-combatants suffered armed attacks or were killed.
The first case is that of Carlos Enrique González and Sandra Pusaina, a couple of ex-combatants who, on April 15, were visiting their families in the department of La Guajira (border area with Venezuela) and were assaulted by a group of unidentified armed men. The attack resulted in the death of the couple’s son, Samuel David, who was only 7 months old. The other case occurred last April 25 in the department of Norte de Santander (border area with Venezuela), when Dimar Torres, another ex-combatant, was intercepted by the army while moving along a highway and was brutally tortured and killed.
Despite the execrable nature of these crimes, because there is no other adjective to describe them, not only the silence of President Ivan Duque and his government is striking, but also the complicity and apparent endorsement of Colombian society as a whole. Counting Dimar’s assassination, 127 former guerrillas have been assassinated since the peace accords were signed, and no one is indignant. So close to Venezuela, but so far from having the same indignation that one has with what is happening in the neighbouring country.
But political violence and its normalization is not only expressed in the murders of civilians and ex-combatants, but also in the acceptance of institutional manoeuvres, which are used by the most backward sectors to disable the political participation of the opposition. In the same month of April, two members of the opposition, Senator Antanas Mockus and Angela María Robledo, both from the Green Party, lost their seats in Congress. According to a ruling by the Council of State, Mockus had violated the law of guarantees and Robledo had incurred in double militancy, despite the fact that his seat was assigned to him by the provisions of the opposition statute. On the one hand, both congressmen had supported Gustavo Petro’s candidacy in last year’s presidential elections and, on the other hand, both congressmen were among the most successful in electoral terms. Mockus was the second most voted senator with half a million votes, so his dismissal constitutes an ignorance on the part of a good part of the electorate, while Robledo, as vice-presidential formula of Gustavo Petro, had the backing of 8 million of ballots and the corresponding right to that seat according to the statute of the opposition.
Finally, and no less important, is the symbolic violence exerted through official statements of the governing party, and its officials. Less than a month ago, a tweet from former president Uribe encouraged and justified the perpetration of massacres at the hands of the army, provided that they had a “social criterion”, the same social criterion that justifies acts of social cleansing, where spurious elements such as social leaders and former guerrillas must be eliminated.
Nobody is indignant at the murder of a 7-month-old baby because he is the son of former guerrillas, just as nobody is indignant at the murder of a human being called Dimar, who was raped, castrated and assassinated by agents of the State, those same agents who in theory are there to safeguard life, only they do it with the social criterion proposed by Uribismo.
April ended, and the news reports speak of a murder with the same characteristics as those that occurred in the so-called period of La Violencia, which detonated in April 1948 with the Bogotazo and from which the country has not recovered, because, as sociologist Daniel Pecaút would say, repetition is the only adjective that can describe the phenomenon of violence in Colombia, repetition that shakes everything but at the same time seems to leave everything intact; perhaps that is why nobody is indignant, because apparently everything remains the same. Violence that, destined to repeat itself, reminds me in its form of the end of a hundred years of solitude, when the onslaught of the wind in Macondo turned into a whirlwind that little by little was destroying the whole town, while Aureliano Babilonia read in the parchments of Melquíades that races like his did not have a second chance on earth.
Vannessa Morales, Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the University of Buenos Aires, Master in Latin American Social Studies. Member of the Electoral Observatory of Latin America. FSOC.
Translation by Internationalist 360°