Colombia witnesses one of the worst killing-sprees of 2022

According to the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ), 20 citizens were murdered in six massacres in the past 10 days. Five social leaders and five ex-combatants were also assassinated in the same period

August 04, 2022 by Tanya Wadhwa
Colombia massacres
According to INDEPAZ, 59 massacres have been perpetrated and 110 social leaders and 31 ex-combatants of the FARC assassinated in 2022 so far. (Photo: Radio Nacional CO/Twitter)

Paramilitary violence continues to spill blood and wreak havoc in Colombia. Reports from human rights organizations indicate that massacres, systematic assassination of social leaders, and genocide of former combatants of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group continue at a horrifying rate. In recent days, the country witnessed one of the worst killing-sprees of the year and of the rule of the outgoing government of far-right President Ivan Duque.

According to the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ), 20 citizens were murdered in six massacres between July 24 and August 2. Five social leaders and five ex-combatants were also assassinated in the same period. The alarming number of deaths is one of the highest death tolls registered during a week this year.

The most recent massacre was perpetrated on August 1 in the rural area of Mercaderes municipality in the Cauca department where three young men were reportedly killed after being held for sometime by an illegal armed group.

According to INDEPAZ, this was the 59th massacre of the year. In these massacres, at least 208 Colombians have been slaughtered.

On August 2, INDEPAZ reported the assassination of peasant leader José Luis Quiñones in the Tamalameque municipality of Cesar department. According to reports, he was killed in his home by unknown armed men who forcibly entered it in the afternoon of August 2.

Quiñones was a member of the Dialogue Commission for South Bolívar, Central and South Cesar, South Magdalena and Processes from Santander (CISBCSC), an organization affiliated with the National Agrarian Coordinator (CNA) and the People’s Congress (CdP). He was engaged in the process of recovering land on the Matarredonda rural estate just before his death.

The CNA condemned Quiñones’ murder and held the conservative government responsible. “This vile act was perpetrated by undercover agents of the State acting on behalf of paramilitaries and in favor of the landowners in the area,” said the CNA in a statement.

The CNA also denounced the “various acts of persecution, stigmatization and assassinations of social leaders have been carried out in a systematic way” in the Cesar department. It recalled that renowned peasant and political leaders Teófilo Acuña and Jorge Alberto Tafur, who were members of the same process, were also assassinated earlier this year.

The CNA called on national and international human rights organizations “to speak out against these abuses and demand that the Colombian State and the incumbent government guarantee the protection of communities and our leaders.” It decried that the authorities “have denounced those responsible for these brutal acts without carrying out corresponding investigation and prosecution processes against them.”

According to INDEPAZ, Quiñones was the 110th social leader to be assassinated in 2022, and the 1,337th since the signing of Havana peace agreements in November 2016.

On August 2, INDEPAZ also reported the murder of ex-FARC guerrilla fighter Rigoberto López Vallejo in the San Miguel municipality of Putumayo department. He was killed by armed individuals on the night of July 31. López was part of the reincorporation process and was registered in the government’s Yarí Territorial Space for Training and Reincorporation (ETCR) program. 

The Comunes Party, which emerged after the disarmament of the FARC as a part of the peace agreements, condemned his murder, stating that it was “clearly part of a systematic plan to exterminate peace signers. It is no coincidence that in one month, 10 of them have been murdered.”

Hours before condemning López’s murder, the Comunes Party had denounced the assassination of another peace signatory, Idelber Gómez Solano, who was also in the reincorporation process. He was killed in the Puerto Caicedo municipality in Putumayo. “Duque’s last week in office begins with the assassination of Idelber Gómez Solano, the 259th victim of the government’s sabotage of the implementation of the Peace Agreements. What a pain to continue saying goodbye to human beings, with families and dreams, who wanted Colombia to live in peace,” tweeted the party.

In the early hours of August 1, the Comunes Party reported and criticized the assassination of ex-combatant Wiston Antonio Mosquera in the Bello municipality of Antioquia department. “Stop the killings! Three murders in one day…Duque is guilty by action and omission!,” said the party.

Later, in a statement, the Comunes Party called on “the international community, the UN, the IACHR and the human rights organizations in Colombia and in the world to denounce the extermination to which peace and its defenders are being subjected, and to show solidarity in the demand for urgent measures to stop this state of permanent massacre.” It also called on the incoming left-wing government and President-elect Gustavo Petro “to prioritize the integral protection of the life of peace signatories and social leaders.”

According to INDEPAZ, with López’s assassination, the number of ex-combatants killed in 2022 reached 31, and 337 since the signing of peace agreements. The Comunes Party reported that 342 ex-combatants had been killed since the signing of peace agreements.

INDEPAZ published a report on August 2 detailing figures that show the worsening of the situation in Colombia with the rise of violence during the past four years of the Duque government.

INDEPAZ reported that between August 7, 2018 and August 1, 2022, 957 Afro-descendant and Indigenous community leaders, environmentalists, human rights activists, land defenders, and peasant and social leaders were assassinated in different departments by paramilitary and drug trafficking groups operating in the country. Additionally, during this period, 261 peace signatories were murdered. In addition to these assassinations, 1,192 people were killed in 313 massacres.

The institute reported that during the said period, 2,366 people were threatened and 555 were kidnapped. It also reported that during the Duque administration, 220 cases of forced disappearance, 446 incidents of confinement of civilians, 545 events of massive forced displacement, and 29,634 extortion cases were recorded. The Ombudsman’s Office issued 178 violence related early warnings in various parts.

INDEPAZ also presented in numbers how state violence intensified in the country during Duque’s rule. The organization reported that the national police committed 421 homicides during the Duque tenure. It also detailed that during the national strike against Duque’s austerity policies, between April 28 and June 30, 2021, 83 people were killed – 44 at the hands of security forces, 96 suffered eye injuries, 35 were sexual assaulted, 66 were judicially framed, 898 reported violent interventions, and 1,747 suffered physical violence.