A report by a human rights NGO collective found that an end to the violence in the north of Colombia is a long way off.
The report by the Latin American Working Group, called “No Relief in Sight,” found that neo-paramilitary groups have increased their control in the region through violence, that government policies to protect at-risk individuals and communities are inadequate and therefore the prospect of peace in the region is distant.
The findings are based on information gather during a trip to the departments of Cordoba Sucre and the city of Barranquilla in April 2011.
The neo-paramilitary groups Aguilas Negras, Rastrojos, Paisas, Urabeños and others have intensified violence in the area between 2008 and 2010, although the government did not start to tackle the issue until two students from Bogota were killed in January 2011.
A peasant told the author that 500 people were killed in Cordoba in 2010 but “They [the government] only care when it’s one of their own.”
There is lack of protection for returning land leaders. The author wrote that the problem is particularly acute in Cordoba. “Several of the more than dozen land leaders who have been assassinated since the start of the Santos administration have been from Cordoba.” The author cited the most recent killing of Martha Gaibao earlier this month.
The author also noted a lack of protection for human rights defenders. They are usually only offered relocation to big cities but many do not want to leave as this would leave the people they are trying to protect at even greater risk.
Among recommendations for the Colombian government, the report states that before passing the new Victims and Land Restitution Law that protection for those who have already returned been expanded. Also that members of the military and police who collaborate with neo-paramilitary groups should be prosecuted and an example be made of them.
It also recommends that the U.S. government should not approve the pending free trade agreement with Colombia as this will “exacerbate conflict and undermine small farmers and returning communities.”