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09 September, 2017

Right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia responsible for the largest internally displaced population on Earth

History and current facts show that it may get worse after FARC disarmament


A year ago, the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the country's left-wing FARC rebels announced a final peace accord in Havana. Yet, a year later, the situation in Colombia doesn't look pretty. In fact, it seems that the void left by FARC has been occupied by new paramilitaries on behalf of big corporations. Atrocities, assassinations and human rights violations continue against anyone who dares to question the corporate authority.

While Colombia is known for one of the worst human rights records in the world, it remains a top recipient of US military aid and enjoys uncritical press coverage in Western media--all while Trump threatens military intervention against Venezuela over unsubstantiated allegations.

Abby Martin spoke to human rights attorney Dan Kovalik, who has recently returned from both countries. Among many interesting aspects, Kovalik gave also a brief background on FARC's origins. He revealed that this is not the first time that FARC gave up weapons and that atrocities and violence by right-wing paramilitaries increased, a story which seems to be repeated today.

Specifically:

FARC had its origins in the peasants. Before they were the FARC they were, essentially, these independent peasants co-ops in Colombia. In fact, they were viewed by the Colombian and the US government as a threat, not because of violence, but because they were seen as these kinds of independent states within Colombia.

In truth, Colombia has not even had a central government for the whole country till very very recently. So, they filled this vacuum and they basically had their own kind of communistic society, which was a threat, not because of violence, but because it represented a different alternative economy to the prevailing capitalist economy.

The real beginning of the civil war and of the FARC was a combined US-Colombia assault on these independent republics, where these peasant communities were bombed with Napalm by the United States. And that took place in 1964 that led to the creation of FARC.

One has to give credit to the FARC for being willing to take that chance because we know in the 1980s they also disarmed and they were allowed to form a political party, called the UP, and three to five thousand of their leaders were murdered. That's what sent them back into the mountains.

The violence is actually started to increase since the signing of the peace process. What we see, is that these right-wing paramilitary groups still exist, despite the US and Colombian denial.

So, these paramilitaries now control 74 of about 250 municipalities. They essentially moved in, now that the FARC has retreated. They're taking over land, they're taking over towns, and in the process, they're killing peace activists, trade union leaders, human rights leaders, indigenous leaders, Afro-Colombians. And that's why you have seven million people internally displaced in Colombia. Largest internally displaced population on Earth, more than even Syria.


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