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Colombian Government Faces Scrutiny For Murdered Landowners

Shedding new light on the concealed practice of "false positive" killings

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Autumn Spredemann
Autumn Spredemann
I´ve traveled the world working as a freelance journalist, blogger, and English teacher. I specialize in remote travel, obscure cultures, and politics.

COLOMBIA. Bogota.  Residents in the capital continue to protest police brutality along with the murders of indigenous leaders and environmentalists. They are also speaking out against the well-established practice of killing landowners under the guise of fighting revolutionaries.

Guerillas take the blame for military killings

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) is the oldest active guerilla army in the world. It was originally founded in 1964 as the militant arm of the Colombian Communist Party. The rebels have been responsible for thousands of acts of violence including kidnappings, bombings, and murders. This tragic legacy persisted until a peace agreement was reached with the government in 2016.

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Last year, the FARC made accusations of government transgressions that violated the 2016 peace treaty and threatened a return to arms. Nevertheless, the Colombian government has used the notorious rebel group as a scapegoat for the killing of small farmers and landowners since the early 2000s.

As of February last year, 55 members of the armed forces testified about their roles in “false positive” operations.

The army acts as the muscle behind the murders.
Photo credit: Colombian military command

Land ownership disputes are the underlying factor

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At the heart of this struggle lies the unequal distribution of land ownership in the country. According to the UN Development Programme, land inequality in Colombia is among the worst in the world. Back in 2011, upwards of 52% of the nation´s farms were owned by a little over 1% of landowners. It was this very issue that gave rise to the FARC nearly six decades ago. They believe that the wealth of Colombia´s land belongs in the hands of its people, not the government or wealthy elite.

In more recent years, the need for land resources in the country has continued to grow. Because of this, the corrupt alchemy of agendas was formed between the government and the military. They quickly realized an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

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When independent landowners and small farmers resist the acquisition of their assets, the military gets involved. They have murdered many while pointing a guilty finger at the FARC. These aptly named “false positive” killings give justification to an increased budget for the military, who claim they are fighting hostile revolutionaries. It also creates an effective solution for the government, who seeks to redistribute shrinking land resources as they see fit.

Small farmers have been under attack for decades. Photo credit: Free Pik

Colombians will not stand idly by as their people die

One activist in Bogota spoke to Transcontinental Times about the killing of 18 innocent people in September 2019. She explained that the government quickly tried to justify the attack as they always have, with ardent claims of retaliation against FARC rebels. However, after further investigation by a local human rights organization (Indepaz), it was revealed none of the victims had any connection to the guerilla organization.

The local activist was adamant in her description of the enduring government-sanctioned murdering of small farmers, which has continued to play out over the course of two decades. The source elucidated this is one of the key factors behind the recent protests in the nation´s capital.

Also read: The Untold Story Behind Colombia´s Explosive Protests

Human rights watchdogs are keeping score

Both the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Global Witness have been involved with tracking the astonishing number of “false positive” killings. The OHCHR stated in their 2019 report on Colombia that they´ve seen an increase in human rights violations that were not being addressed to a satisfactory level by the government.

While pressure from outside organizations increases, the attorney general´s office continues an investigation into 2,000 unlawful killings. The case was opened in September of 2019 and is currently ongoing. To date, there has been little progress in bringing accused members of the military and government to justice.

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