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News > Colombia

Colombia: Over 8 Million People Have Been Affected by War

  • Colombian young woman at a photographic exhibition on the armed conflict and its victims, Bogota, Colombia, August 23, 2019.

    Colombian young woman at a photographic exhibition on the armed conflict and its victims, Bogota, Colombia, August 23, 2019. | Photo: EFE

Published 29 August 2019

President Ivan Duque's delay in the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement increased the statistics of violence.

Up to August 1, 2019, the Colombian armed conflict had generated 8,874,110 "registered" victims, according to the National System of Attention and Reparation for Victims (SNARIV), an official policy instrument created in 2012 to comply with the Land Restitution and Victims Act (Law 1448).


Minority Faction of FARC Leadership Take Up Arms

Among the accumulated historical national data, there are also 7,535,682 people displaced from their homes, 1,009,990 homicides, 416,463 people threatened, 173,066 people missing, 115,413 people who reported property losses, 82,380 victims of attacks, 36,980 kidnappings, 28,641 crimes against sexual freedom and integrity, 28,096 people in confinement, 8,169 persons with permanent physical injuries, and 7,583 violent acts directly related to children and adolescents.

The number of victims of Colombian violence, however, could be much higher if one considers what happened before the launch of the SNARIV information system.

During the 20th century, Colombia went through several periods of inner armed conflicts. Among the most remote antecedents for the armed conflict in rural areas is the disputes between farmers for the control of coffee lands in the 1920s, which ignited long-lasting differences between liberals and conservatives.

Later, in 1948, the assassination of liberal politician Jorge Eliecer Gaitan caused the "Bogotazo", a massive urban riot in the capital city during which 4,000 people were killed. This marked the beginning of "The Violence" (La Violencia), a 10-year armed struggle, which took over 200,000 lives throughout the countryside.

In the early 1960s the Colombian rural armed conflict decreased in intensity as Liberal Party supporters began to demobilize. However, in a country where agrarian reform has never been carried out, traditional landlords and business groups continued trying to control the best farmland by force.

As a result, small farmers, former liberals and communists created the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 1964, a mostly rural guerrilla which aimed at establishing a non-capitalist state.

Subsequently, the Colombian domestic armed conflict intensified with new revolutionary groups, which the 1970s U.S.-backed counterinsurgency strategies tried to eliminate by deploying state violence and fostering right-wing paramilitaries.

Between the 1980s and 2010s, some insurgent groups abandoned their armed struggle; however, "The Violence" continued practically up to 9 years ago.

In 2012, the FARC, which at that time was the country's largest guerrilla, initiated a dialogue process which led to the signing of the Peace Agreement on Nov. 2016.

Immediately after this event, Colombian armed violence decreased relatively. The number of displaced persons, for instance, was reduced from 103,500 in 2016 to 96,898 in 2017. Something similar happened with the total number of victims, which decreased from 112,841 in 2016 to 103,487 in 2017.

In the midst of these small but significant achievements, Ivan Duque campaigned as a presidential candidate in 2018, a year in which the number of victims increased again to 147,435 and the number of displaced to 129,496.

After taking office on August 7, 2018, the far-right president delayed the implementation of the commitments made by the Colombian State in the context of the peace agreement.

Insecurity for social leaders and former guerrilla fighters has worsened since then. For 6,845,336 victims across the country have yet to receive state support, according to official figures.

In 2019, the Colombian departments having the most victims are Antioquia (6,191), Choco (5036), Northern Santander and Arauca (4,588) and Uraba (4,148).


Ivan Duque
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