The High Commissioner for Peace of Colombia, Danilo Rueda (i) and the spokesperson for the delegation of the FARC Central General Staff, Andrey Avendaño (d), participate today along with other representatives in the installation of the peace dialogue table in Tibú, Norte de Santander (Colombia). EFE/ Mario Caicedo

85 human rights defenders murdered in Colombia in the first half of 2023

Bogotá, Oct 19 (EFE) – At least 85 human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia during the first half of 2023, according to the Somos Defensores program, which represents a 14% decrease compared to the same period in 2022 (14 cases less).

However, the program says it continues to be “the manifestation of a terrifying reality.”

For the same period, Somos Defensores information system recorded 466 violent attacks committed against 438 people, “a worrying 6% increase,” the organization’s semi-annual report revealed Thursday.

In 25% of the attacks and 18% of the murders, the victims were women. According to Somos Defensores, which underscored that murders of women have increased by 50%.

The paramilitary Clan del Golfo, also known as Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC), is the main perpetrator of the attacks, with 31 attributed to them, followed by the Central General Staff (EMC), the main dissidents of the FARC.

The most significant increase in violent attacks occurred in the first six months of 2023, when 52 were committed or attempted, compared to 27 in the same period of 2022.

The number of forced displacements also increased, from 14 to 21.

Somos Defensores began counting kidnappings, with five in the first half of the year.

Cauca, in the southwest, is the most violent department for defenders, with 127 attacks, followed by Santander (northeast, with 45) and Antioquia (northwest, with 44).

Hopes for peace

“The hope for peace has marked the first half of 2023,” says the mentioned NGO, alluding to the government’s steps towards what it calls “total peace.

In recent months, the government has reached out to several armed groups, such as the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN); the EMC; the criminal gangs of Medellín; the Shottas and Spartans gangs in Buenaventura; the FARC dissident group called Segunda Marquetalia; the AGC; and the Pachenca criminal gang.

“However, just as hope was raised, questions were also arose about the relevance and capacity of the government to advance these simultaneous processes with groups that currently have great military capacity, control in different areas, and in some cases, influence and considerable resources,” the report points out.

This hope has been diminished by several events, such as the mining strike in the Bajo Cauca region (northwest) in March, which the government accused the AGC or Clan del Golfo of instigating and broke the ceasefire with the group.

The process with the ELN, the most advanced of all, has also suffered more than one setback.

“Acts of war as a show of force have been constant,” recalls the NGO, noting that an intelligence report counted up to 137 armed actions by this guerrilla between January 1 and May 10.

“Despite this, the hope remains that after decades of failed attempts to negotiate peace with this armed group, this time it will finally be possible,” the report states.

Somos Defensores also notes the delays in the start of formal negotiations with the EMC, the FARC’s main dissident group, which finally began on Monday along with a three-month bilateral ceasefire.

In the meantime, serious events have occurred, such as the murder by this group of four indigenous minors who had previously been forcibly recruited.

This complex panorama leads the NGO to affirm that “it is not an easy path, especially because of the number of different groups with which it is trying to reach agreements simultaneously.

Moreover, all of them have, to a greater or lesser extent, a high capacity for control and contention, which has caused the humanitarian crises that the country has faced in recent years.

But he reiterates that “peace is the only possible solution to put an end to the suffering of millions of people in the country who live in different areas with the threat of war, since many communities even have to live with the armed actors with whom they fight.” seeks to reach an agreement and submit to its power in the absence of the State. EFE ime/mcd