With regard to International Human Rights Day, commemorated on December 10th, what can be observed in our country is a disheartening panorama of their violation. A State which in its discourse promises to guarantee life and the integrity of critical thought has been incapable in 2016 of keeping these promises for those Colombian women and men most affected by the political and social conflict. Social leaders murdered, the criminalization of popular forces and repression against communities are the reality of Colombia.
In 2016, by August 35 social activists had been murdered and 279 had suffered some kind of aggression, according to the organization “We Are Defenders”. By December the number of murders had risen to 70, with a peak of 13 activists murdered after the signing of the agreement with the FARC, 279 threats and 28 assaults with no investigation concluded. The majority of them were defenders of their territory, peace advocates and members of grass-roots organizations.
If this is happening with social organizations, the safety of the FARC combatants in the implementation of the agreement to abandon arms and to be able to enter legal political activity is threatened by paramilitarism, which the government has no intention of confronting. A peace based on the death of those who want to transform the country shows the regime’s lack of will to exclude violence from politics.
Along with the paramilitary phenomenon, the State apparatus has undertaken the intensification of Human Rights violations in the country’s most remote communities. Continued use of aerial spraying against coca plantations implies the criminalization of Colombian peasants, with no priority given to crop substitution and overall assistance as a plan for the anti-narcotics struggle. Thus imperialist interests in maintaining the drug and glyphosate business take precedence over the security of the peasantry.
In the same way repression by the militarized police (ESMAD) is intensified against the social protests caused by the development model as imposed on local communities, as for example in the casual eradication of illicit crops and the mining and oil conflicts. We should draw attention to the casualty list from the agrarian strike held in June, which came to 3 murdered, 203 injured and more than 100 subject to legal processes, and also the dozens of injured because of the struggle against illegal mining with the miners’ strike of Segovia in Antioquia, while the government grants mining concessions to transnationals throughout the country.
The regime is also aggravating the problem of forced displacement, one of the country’s worst Human Rights dramas. According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Colombia has 6.9 million displaced people, more even than countries like Syria. Dispossession of peasants, native people and those of African descent who oppose mega-projects is characteristic of the Santos Government’s policy, which implies a threat to the territorial integrity and culture of ancestral peoples who see their territories turned into strategic mining areas. Also the promised Restoration of Land is still ineffective when faced with the terror tactics of landlords, cattle ranchers and paramilitaries who refuse to return the land they have seized.
The political solution of the conflict must prioritize the defence of life and of the Human Rights of the Colombian people, especially of those who have been excluded from decision-making about the country’s direction. Murder, criminalization and dispossession as warlike practices against the people are contrary to a transformative political solution. We hope the Colombian regime is willing to accept its responsibility with regards to Human Rights violations and to guarantee the life and integrity of Colombian women and men, as a demonstration of political will to permit the building of a new nation.