Despite the coronavirus pandemic, violence escalates in several areas of Colombia with the civilian population as a target

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The reasons are the increasing influence of illegal armed groups in various areas of the country. At least 234 demobilized former FARC combatants have already been killed.

The Colombian armed conflict has flared up in several regions of the country due to the coronavirus pandemic that also hinders the implementation of the peace agreement that the Government and the FARC guerrillas signed in November 2016.

This is stated in the report “The impacts of covid-19 on security and the implementation of the peace agreement” by the Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP), which analyzed the situation in four of the regions hardest hit by the armed conflict.

“In Catatumbo, south of Córdoba, Bajo Cauca and northeast Antioquia the health emergency caused by the covid-19 pandemic has had negative impacts, direct and indirect, on peacebuilding efforts “, warned the IFJ in the document, whose preparation was supported by the Government of the United Kingdom.

Likewise, “it has created, directly and indirectly, conditions for armed violence to continue and even increase“.

The reasons for this, the Foundation added, are increased influence of illegal armed groups, “the strengthening of the measures aimed at exercising social and territorial control by these factions” and “the strengthening of the mechanisms of the public force in the territory as a mechanism to comply with quarantine and combat crime.”

According to information collected on the ground by the IFJ, in the four regions “quarantine measures they have not been an obstacle so that the illegal groups maintain their armed actions. “

As an example of this, he mentions that Antioquia, where Bajo Cauca is located, and Norte de Santander, where Catatumbo is located, “were two of the three departments that in the first four months of 2020 concentrated 72% of the fighting of the public force against organized armed groups “.

In Catatumbo, located in a border area with Venezuela, security risks have remained, even when the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) made a unilateral ceasefire throughout April.

“In fact, during the first four months of the year, 29% of the actions of the organized armed groups were concentrated in Norte de Santander. The clashes between the ELN and the EPL (Popular Liberation Army), as well as the influence that began to exercise various dissident structures of the FARC they continue to lead to violent events directed against the civilian population “, detailed the IFJ.

On the south of Córdoba, the report mentions that during the health emergency the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) – known by the government as Clan del Golfo -, the Los Caparrapos gang and a FARC dissidence “have maintained and increased their armed activity through assassinations, massacres, forced displacement, recruitment of minors and intimidation “.

“In Bajo Cauca and northeast Antioquia, although there has been a significant decrease in homicides – close to 28% compared to the first half of 2019 – it is presumed that the Clan del Golfo and the Caparrapos, as well as the ELN and the dissidents of (…) the former FARC continue to carry out hostile actions against the State and affecting the civilian population “added the information.

In the four regions, the illegal armed groups “would maintain actions of control and restrictions mediated by coercion “, thus justifying “the imposition of standards of conduct and sanctions during the health emergency.”

There is also a “high risk of contagion for the actions of the Police and the Military Forces for being in the first line of the State’s response to the health emergency and, on the other, to the social conflicts that could arise around forced eradication. “

In this regard, a study by the NGO Doctors without Borders (MSF) published this Wednesday concluded that four years after the signing of the peace agreement, the resurgence of violence has chronic effects on the health of excluded populations of medical attention due to clashes between armed groups.

“For a few months in various regions of Colombia violence has reached peaks that recall the worst times of the armed conflict in the country, “said MSF, according to which” this situation generates a high level of stress, concern and fear, which lead to diagnoses of anxiety and depression. “

The NGO referred to the restrictions to mitigate the pandemic and said that the only “relative respite for the population during these last three years (since the signing of the peace agreement) it was during the first months“of the health emergency, after which” violence has again reached very high peaks of intensity. “

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