Colombia commemorates 8.8 million victims of armed conflict

World Today

Since 2011, Colombia has marked April 9 as its National Day to Commemorate Victims of the Armed Conflict. The largest rebel group – the FARC – signed a peace deal with the government over two years ago, but victims say the battle is far from over.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports.

Colombians across the nation commemorated the nearly 9 million victims of armed conflict – those killed, injured, displaced and impoverished during the country’s long history of violence. They held somber memorial services, demonstrations and artistic performances.

A performer that goes by the name “Plaza Bolivar Dancer” told us after her performance that she is also a victim and prefers for security reasons to remain anonymous. “I am dancing because I can’t be happy seeing so much social injustice,” she explained. “Many people suffer, not just the victims of the armed conflict, but many people in general.”

It has been more than two years since the leftist guerrilla group known as FARC signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government, ending a 50-year war. But victims like Wimar Gomez still feel justice hasn’t arrived.

“Not only was I displaced but then I lost a brother. The military killed him wrongly and to this day it has remained an impunity. No one answers to the injustice,” he said.

Some believe instead of entering a post-conflict era, Colombia is now seeing a war reinvented. According to a report by the International Red Cross, four armed groups remain active in the country, including FARC dissidents, the ELN guerilla group and two far-right paramilitaries.

Numbers tracked by a victims’ advocacy group show people impacted by the conflict rose last year for the first time since 2013: more than 111,000 cases, it said, including a spike in people injured by mine explosions and displaced from their homes.

Colombian activists and social leaders are also at risk. Local government reports show that between March 2018 and February of this year, 160 activist leaders were targeted for assassination. That’s an average of a murder every other day.

Jose Angel Perez, a Victims’ rights advocate said, “We are asking for reparations as victims, and as social leaders we want protection because we continue to be threatened by these illegal organizations.”

In a video posted to his Twitter account Tuesday, President Ivan Duque reaffirmed his commitment to all victims of the armed conflict. He also defended his government’s compensations dispersed so far, claiming “no other country in the world has been able to economically compensate one million survivors.”