Between communes and conflict

Laura Fonseca, Colombia

It is no secret to anyone that Colombia is one of the most unequal countries in Latin America. Factors such as war, social injustice, corruption and the abandonment of the State have contributed to the decline and lack of opportunities that allow better social development and decent living conditions. With all that, the true wealth that the country possesses is not in the natural resources or in the taxes that citizens pay; It is in the younger generations, who for some time now have been able to take the situation in their hands and seek through culture, the arts and alternative education to work for community development, seeking with this that ordinary people They can access different tools that help them lead a more dignified life. Sadly, for some time now, these young leaders have been threatened both by armed groups and by the State itself. This situation has triggered the murder, disappearance and exile of two hundred and eighty-one social leaders throughout the Colombian territory so far in 2020; that is, 971 murdered from 2016 to September 2020, a figure that increased in the last two months, according to the Observatory of Conflicts, Peace and Human Rights of the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz).

To begin, we can talk about the leaders who are threatened from the struggle to heal and recover the territory due to radical political groups. Much of the work that is done with young people tends to come from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) that create alternative education initiatives as a way to compensate somewhat for the lack of educational and work opportunities. In the development of their community activities, they have become the target of far-right armed groups that label them “guerrillas or revolutionaries” who are “against the state.” As an example of this, we find “Las Águilas Negras”.

« Las Águilas negras  arise as a result of the failures in the demobilization process that took place in Colombia between 2004 and 2006, whose objective was to disarm the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). » Insight crime.

Las Águilas Negras  (the Black Eagles in english) are an extreme right-wing group that emerged in response to the demobilization of the paramilitaries (AUC) in 2006, it is assumed that since then some former members joined to form this criminal organization that is dedicated to threatening, extorting and assassinating leaders social, rights defenders, organizations and any group or individual that they consider “leftist guerrillas.” Despite the hundreds of threats made by this criminal network, the authorities deny the existence of said organization and find no trace of those who, according to them, would be the true perpetrators of the threats and murders.

But it is not only the illegal armed groups who hunt our youth, but also the State and the institutions of the public force threaten the life and well-being of human rights defenders in this country. We can mention different cases against the soul of the youth movements: the students. Due to how difficult it is for us Colombians to access education due to lack of opportunities, student groups organize regularly to fight for the right to public education, improvements in study conditions and the expansion of quotas. However, the Colombian public force has responded to what begins as a peaceful protest with violence without measure and abuse of power, often resulting in the death of the protesters. Such was the case of Dilan Cruz, an 18-year-old student, killed by an agent of the ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Riot Squad) who shot him with a 12-gauge shotgun in the head, this event occurred on November 23, 2019 after a protest in which the participants sang the national anthem with one voice. There was no real reason to use physical force, as the day passed quietly. The case is still under investigation and although it is said that the person responsible for this crime will be brought to justice, the people ask the government for a restructuring and deep investigation within the public force, both police and military, because it is neither the first nor the The last time those who are supposed to protect the people, abuse their power, commit crimes that go unpunished and inspire fear in civilians, while the State defends them and covers all their misdeeds.

To conclude, the murder of young people who seek to generate change is a violation of Human Rights, and since the Government has shown itself incapable of dealing with the situation effectively, these acts should be condemned before the entities and mechanisms international organizations to find a solution. In the same way, we demand that the Colombian State improve the conditions regarding the guarantees and the defense measures that it must take to prevent the number of victims from continuing to increase, which is one more cause that is added to the list of problems that shakes our country and the young people who day by day struggle to generate change in Colombian society and in the lives of millions of people.