Brings Back Memories of ‘UP Genocide’: Killings of Activists Continues as News of Rising Death Toll Reaches International Media (E)
News like the one belowcould damper the international community’s good will toward the unfolding peace process, as they bring back ominous memories of the killings in the 80s of Union Patriótica leaders and activists. From The Guardian:
There is little clarity about who is behind the killings, but areas once held by guerrillas are often places where illegal mining or farming of coca – the raw ingredient for cocaine – make a tempting target for armed gangs or dissident rebels who refused to hand in their guns.
And the pace of the killings is feeding fears here that a government which battled long and hard for a peace deal is being dangerously lax about making paper plans a reality.
“They are leaving a power vacuum, even though this was anticipated. The government said they were going to move the armed forces into these zones and they haven’t. And the people in these areas are very concerned,” said Marc Chernick, director of the centre for Latin American studies at Georgetown University in Washington.
Hanging over the country is the memory of another peace deal and another massacre 30 years ago. Around 3,000 members of the leftwing Unión Patriótica were murdered, effectively sinking that agreement and leaving a deep scar on the national psyche.
Human rights groups are certain the killings are intended to “intimidate society as the peace process advanced in Colombia, and political alternatives increase,” the Centre for Historical Memory noted in a response to a round of killings in November, including a grandmother gunned down on the school run.
The headline of their statement bluntly spelt out worries that another peace deal could be at risk. “Don’t let a genocide like the UP killings happen again,” it warned.
At the heart of much of the violence are land rights and the country’s multi-billion-dollar cocaine industry, which for years helped fund the Farc. During the years of war large swaths of land were seized by ranchers, drug traffickers and armed groups themselves, who have little interest in relinquishing it.
The government has promised to send nearly 70,000 troops to areas once held by the Farc. But it is still not clear when they will be deployed and in the areas at risk there is a sense that time is running out.
“Ultimately the problem is one of time, and a question of who has more initiative. While the government forces are adapting to the new situation, armed groups are in an atmosphere conducive to growing their thriving illegal businesses,” the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation said.
“Either everything that sounds so good on paper must be put into practice, or it will be too late for many areas, where a new enemy is lurking.” The Guardian