While the peace process in Colombia has been welcomed by broad sections of Colombian society, the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has brought with it the swarming of paramilitary groups to rural regions the rebels left behind.
According to Leon Valencia, director of the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, there are whole families who are currently at risk due to the expansion of right-wing military groups who had once been deterred by the presence of the left-wing guerrilla group.
A month ago, the FARC handed in the last of its weapons to United Nations officials effectively ending 53 years of military war with the state. Many expected the demobilization of the country’s largest and most influential rebel group to mark the end of the devastating violence that has ravaged the country for decades.
However, the reality is that right-wing criminal bands continue to operate throughout the country inflicting terror on social and political movements, as well as on the civilian population in general.
According to Periodistas en Español, for example, paramilitary groups have only recently re-entered San Jose de Apartado, a village that 10 years ago was the victim of one of Colombia’s worst modern day massacres at the hands of armed right-wing groups. Their presence in the area has been attributed to the FARC’s demobilization.
What’s even more concerning is that local military forces have been seen acting in cooperation with the paramilitaries with local residents reporting “commonplace meetings” between the two forces.
At a press conference Monday, FARC leader Ivan Marquez warned that the government’s lack of commitment to security protocols established in the peace accord was giving way to a resurgence of a “dirty war” by the ultra-right.
Since the demobilization process began, six demobilized rebels have been assassinated by paramilitary forces raising the concern of a repetition of the violence inflicted on the Patriotic Union party in the 1980s and 90s.
Juan Manuel Santos' government, which has previously denied the existence of paramilitary groups in the country, could eventually seriously dent or even lose the hard won peace agreement due to its failure to act to stop these increasingly destructive terrorist elements.