Since demobilising in 2017, former insurgent fighter Manuel Antonio Gonzalez has confronted quite a few loss of life threats and misplaced his son in a bloody homicide.
Part of the now-defunct Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgent group, who signed a peace take care of the federal government of Juan Manuel Santos in 2016, Gonzalez, 54, lives in fear, not just for his personal life however for the 1000’s of different former fighters who signed as much as the settlement alongside him.
The FARC, who’ve been accused of significant struggle crimes, handed greater than 7,000 weapons to a UN peace mission in 2017, ending a five-decade-long battle that left 260,000 lifeless.
Since the deal, 253 former fighters have been killed, in accordance with numbers compiled by the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ). It is unclear who the perpetrators are.
The present right-wing authorities of President Ivan Duque Marquez – which got here to energy in 2018 – has unsuccessfully fought to alter the peace deal’s lenient punishments for former FARC fighters.
Ex-figher Ricardo Bolaños exhibits off his outdated FARC gear on the Pondores reintegration camp in La Guajira, Colombia [File: Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera]It blames dissident teams and drug gangs for the killings, whereas the ex-fighters blame state actors and paramilitary teams.
“They’ve killed four already this year, it’s very concerning,” mentioned Gonzalez, who joined the insurgent group in 1991, he says, out of necessity when paramilitary teams had been taking management of the realm the place he lived.
Gonzalez is now based mostly in Medellin and works as a coordinator for the FARC political celebration. He regularly travels to the varied former insurgent communities across the Antioquia area, the place he says 27 have been killed.
“We always knew peace wasn’t going to come easy, that it’d be a struggle,” he advised Al Jazeera. “When we signed up, we never imagined something like this would happen … that they’d start killing us.”
Gonzalez’s 31-year-old son, who was within the FARC alongside him, was killed in December 2019. His physique was discovered on a roadside, riddled with bullets.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) repeated its name for extra consideration to the safety points affecting former rebels and human rights activists being killed in rural areas in a report (PDF) launched this month.
Manuel Antonio Gonzalez pictured in a facemask that reads: ‘They_re killing us’. His son was killed in 2019 [Courtesy of Manuel Antonio Gonzalez]Who is accountable?
One of the most important challenges is figuring out these liable for the killings.
Tatiana Pradas, researcher at Bogota-based think-tank Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP), says when the FARC left rural areas 4 years in the past, the federal government didn’t take management and put safety measures in place.
“There are many areas facing very complex security issues, with disputes between various armed groups, some of them well-known, like the ELN (National Liberation Army), others are dissident groups, and others which are much more informal with drug trafficking structures, and other groups that even operate without names, that perhaps don’t have any political ties, but more related to illegal activities,” she advised Al Jazeera.
“It makes it really difficult to attribute a killing of an ex-combatant to just one specific group.”
A authorities official rejected claims there was little impunity for the killings of former FARC members saying 50.2 % of the 291 circumstances being investigated have “suspected” perpetrators.
Emilio Archilla, the presidential adviser for stabilisation and consolidation, mentioned prosecution delays are as a result of the circumstances “are very complicated”.
He mentioned the navy is consistently combating legal parts the federal government claims is liable for the deaths of the previous fighters, however was unable to call particular teams.
View from above a FARC reintegration camp in Icononzo, Tolima [File: Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera]Archila advised Al Jazeera the federal government has regularly offered safety within the reintegration camps the place former fighters reside, “which guarantees that there are no killings inside them”, and that there are plans to extend safety on the camps.
However, there have been no less than three remoted circumstances of former fighters being killed on the grounds of reintegration camps, in accordance with FIP.
The camps differ nationwide of their safety protocols. Some have police and military forces based mostly on website or close by, whereas others have much less safety.
Vladimir Rodríguez Valencia, excessive counsellor for Victims’ Rights, Peace and Reconciliation within the Bogota district, mentioned if there have been extra political will, the federal government might establish the perpetrators.
“There are territories in Colombia ruled through economic interests, with mafias that mainly use violence as a mechanism to take territorial control. If the lack of determination continues on the government’s behalf to reinforce peace in Colombia’s rural areas, threats and killings will continue,” he mentioned.
Former fighters attend a course in plumbing at a reintegration camp in Pondores, La Guajira in August 2019 [File: Steven Grattan/Al Jazeera]Rodríguez says the judicial system, the general public prosecutor’s workplace and the federal government have to move quicker with their investigations.
“We can’t allow ourselves to move backwards on a deal that meant the demobilisation of the oldest guerrilla group on the continent by allowing the continued killings and threats against these men and women who left behind their weapons to commit themselves to a democracy.”
At the Pondores reintegration camp in Colombia’s arid northern La Guajira area, near the Venezuelan border, Ricardo Bolaños, 66, says former fighters within the area obtain fixed threats.
“The worry got so bad over the Christmas period that many left and went to other areas and for those of us who are here, we protect ourselves by not leaving here and staying isolated.”
Bolaños says security considerations imply former fighters barely go away the reintegration camps in any respect for the time being.
“What we have been hearing has awoken a lot of fear and worry. Here on the coast, four comrades have been murdered. A woman and three men,” he advised Al Jazeera.
One of the latest killings was of two girls aged 17 and 22 on January 1, whereas leaving a New Year’s Eve celebration within the Antioquia area.
They had been sisters, and one had been within the armed group. Another three former FARC members have since been killed in numerous elements of Colombia.
And some former fighters who determined to reside independently of communal reintegration camps additionally face threats. Álvaro Guazá, also called Kunta Kinte, is considered one of them.
Álvaro Guazá pictured in a T-shirt that reads ‘for life, for peace’ [Courtesy of Álvaro Guazá]“Reintegrating has been very difficult. You could even say it’s been a failure … our people have been killed, displaced and threatened,” Guazá mentioned, from an undisclosed location someplace in Colombia’s western Valle del Cauca area. He declined to establish the place he lives for his security.
“The current government is going to keep treating us like guerrilla fighters and not like people in a reintegration process. They will keep seeing us as their enemies.”
In August 2019, some distinguished demobilised FARC leaders introduced a brand new period of the FARC and a return to weapons.
“We have to ask ourselves why did these ex-combatants go back to arms? They didn’t see any commitment on behalf of the government!” Guazá mentioned.
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, a human rights advocate on the Washington Office on Latin America, says safety for the demobilised fighters isn’t a precedence for the Duque administration.
“It [the government] is more concerned about how it is appearing to the international community than what it has actually done, or how things are really faring inside the country in terms of peace,” she mentioned.
But ex-fighters like Bolaños and Gonzalez are holding steadfast to their hopes for a extra equal and peaceable Colombia.
“I’m still very optimistic in spite of everything right now. I’m going to keep moving forward with peace, because it’s what Colombia needs,” Gonzalez mentioned.
“I think if there is a change in government … I’m not saying there needs to be a revolutionary president put in place, but just one that at least promises to move peace forward and one that is willing to reinitiate talks with other groups, so that there’s real peace, one with social justice.”