In the first nine days of this year, four massacres have been perpetrated in different departments of Colombia according to the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ).
In the early hours of January 9, INDEPAZ reported that three members of a family, a man, his pregnant wife, and their 17-year-old son, were shot dead in their home by unidentified armed men in the Zona Bananera municipality, in the Magdalena department, the night before. Later in the evening, the INDEPAZ denounced that another massacre had taken place the day before. The organization reported that three people were killed and four others were injured in an indiscriminate shooting by paramilitaries in a park in the Colón Genova municipality, in the Nariño department, on January 8. The three mortal victims of the attack were between 19 and 22 years of age.
According to the data collected by the INDEPAZ, at least 12 people lost their lives in the four massacres recorded so far in 2022. In the year’s first massacre on January 3, three Venezuelan construction workers, who had lived in Colombia for five years, were assassinated in the Jamundí municipality, in the Valle de Cauca department by members of an irregular armed group operating in the region. In the second massacre on January 6, three members of a family, including a 17-year-old minor, were murdered in their home heavily armed individuals, in the Maní municipality, in the Casanare department. In the assault, one person was also injured.
Numerous social and political leaders have rejected the massacres and criticized the unprecedented increase in paramilitary violence under the rule of far-right president Iván Duque. Leonardo González Perafán, coordinator of the Human Rights Observatory and member of the INDEPAZ, condemned the fact that only 9 days in January have passed and already four massacres have already been carried out, and added that “210 days” of Duque’s mandate are still left.
Likewise, Jorge Rojas Rodríguez, a journalist, human rights defender and founder of the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), condemned the grave situation of paramilitarism in the country. “2022 began and the modus operandi is the same: hitmen kill 3 people in their homes, in the streets or in the squares, amid the State’s inability to protect people’s lives. One massacre succeeds the other because there is impunity,” he tweeted.
It is important to note that in 2021, Colombia registered a record number of 96 massacres, in which 335 people were slaughtered. In addition, 171 environmentalists, land defenders, human rights defenders, Afro-descendent, Indigenous, peasant and social leaders, and 48 ex-combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla group, who were in the reincorporation process, were also murdered.
Last month, on December 22, CODHES, had reported that between January and November 2021, 82,846 people were forcibly displaced from their homes and territories due to paramilitary violence, a figure that represented an increase of 169.3% as compared to the same period in 2020. CODHES further reported that a total number of 167 massive and multiple displacement events were recorded in these eleven months, which represented an increase of 65.3% in relation to the same period in 2020.
On January 6, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also released their statistics on forced displacement in Colombia. It reported that between January and November 2021, 72,388 people were forced to abandon their homes in 159 mass displacement events as a result of armed conflicts, violence and threats. The UN agency also reported that the number of victims of mass displacement increased by 196% and the number of displacement events increased by 62% as compared to the same period in 2020.
While this violence continues seemingly unchecked by the National Government, Duque’s administration continues to repress and persecute those who take to the streets in social protests against its neoliberal plans. Last week, on January 5, the agents of the National Police and the Anti-Disturbance Mobile Squadron (ESMAD) brutally repressed dozens of citizens in the south of Bogotá, who were peacefully demonstrating in rejection of the increase in the fare of the Transmilenio transport system.
The INDEPAZ also, in its annual report on violence in 2021, included and highlighted the victims of state violence. The organization reported that during the national strike against Duque’s austerity policies, between April 28 and June 30, 2021, 79 people were killed, 44 at the hands of security forces, 90 suffered eye injuries, 35 were sexual assasulted, 833 reported violent interventions, 661 suffered physical violence, and 2,005 were arbitrary arrested. The institute said that in total 4,687 cases of police violence were registered.