Bogota, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Colombia has been witnessing its most violent period since the signing of a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels almost four years ago, as a string of killings have left more than 30 dead in the last two weeks.
Three of these massacres, termed as “collective homicides” by the government, occurred between Friday and Saturday in remote areas of the country and where armed groups are known to clash for control over drug trade and other illegal activities.
“What has happened in these areas of Colombia is the result of a lack of state presence in the departments of Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Arauca and Nariño,” said Ombudsman Carlos Negret in a video released by his office.
Negret said that what the country has been experiencing was the result of a “war” for control over illicit drug trade, as well as illegal mining.
In the first of the recent massacres, five teenagers aged 14-15 years were killed on Aug.11 in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Cali, capital of Valle del Cauca.
A week ago, eight people aged 19-25 years, some of them university students, were found murdered in a rural house in the municipality of Samaniego in the department of Nariño.
A few hours earlier, a 26-year-old woman was murdered, a crime that – like that of the other eight people – remains without any progress in the investigations.
On Tuesday, news came of the killing – which had occurred a few days earlier – of three indigenous people of the Awa community at a village in the municipality of Ricaurte, also in Nariño.
On Friday, the authorities confirmed another two killings in El Tambo, in Cauca department, with six dead, while another five were reported from the city of Arauca, capital of a department with the same name.
In the most recent incident on Saturday, six people were killed in the town of La Guayacana, in Tumaco area, in the department of Nariño, bordering Ecuador.
In this regard, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia said Saturday that it was “deeply concerned” about the news of the massacres, and condemned “all violence”.
President Ivan Duque on Saturday visited Cali and promised strong measures against organized crime and speedy investigations of the recent murders.
“We, representing the government, are here to reject the violence and have said that we will be delivering results quickly (…) that justice be done,” he said on his first trip to one of the places where the killings have been perpetrated.
“These acts are committed by organized crime (…) and can also be the product of criminal groups such as dissidents from the FARC, the ELN (guerrillas), the Gulf Clan, Los Caparros, Los Pelusos and other gangs in the service of drug trafficking and illegal mineral extraction,” Duque added.
When the president visited the town of Samaniego, he was subjected to strong criticism after earlier claiming that the recent incidents in different parts of the country were not “massacres” but “collective homicides”.
“Many people have said, ‘the massacres are back, the massacres are back,’ let’s first talk about the precise name: ‘collective homicides’, and sadly it has to be accepted as a country, it’s not that they are back, it’s that these ‘collective homicides’ have not left sadly,” he said in the city of Pasto, capital of Nariño department.
In Samaniego the president was greeted with jeers and cries of “justice.” In videos posted on social media, Duke is seen walking on the streets amid cries from the locals demanding peace.
Duque, whose government blames the current situation partly on his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, insisted that the massacres have always occurred in the country.
“From 1998 to today, 2020, 1,361 incidents of ‘collective murders’, ‘collective homicides’, have occurred in Colombia,” the president underlined.
Following the recent killings, the Attorney General’s Office has sent special investigative teams to each of the affected departments.