Christmas Eve in Colombia stands out as one of the most violent nights of the year, with a 12-hour period between December 24 and 25 last year – the most recent statistics available – marred by more than 7,000 fights and 21 murders.
As the liquor begins to flow and seasonal tempers threaten to flare, Colombian authorities are asking citizens to remain calm and try to maintain the Christmas spirit.
"I want to call all citizens to reflect on violence and have end-of-the-year festivities in complete peace and harmony," said Carlos Eduardo Valdés, director of the National Institute of Legal Medicine. "We all need to work for peace, but peace comes from our attitude, from our hearts."
According to the insitute, 21 people were murdered between 6pm on December 24 and 6am on Christmas morning in 2016. Police reports indicate that there were more than 7,000 fights, 70 percent of which were related to alcohol consumption.
The plea comes at a particularly violent time in the country, where more than 100 human rights defenders have been targeted and killed over the last year. Hundreds more have been kidnapped or have reported harassment and death threats within their communities.
Most recently, Colombian leader Guillermo Javier Artuz Tordecilla was found dead on a riverbank in Tierralta, Cordoba, after being reported missing.
Artuz worked as cocoa and honey farmer, spending his free time as a member of the Association of Peasant Producers of La Ossa District (Ascaprodesa).
Police are currently conducting investigations into his death along with those of two other trade unions killed in Tierralta municipality this month.