A new wave of violence is again shaking Colombia. This time, seven people were killed in a rural area of the municipality of Algeria in Colombia’s southwestern Cauca state; two of them were dissidents of the FARC. Everything indicated that the massacre was carried out by paramilitary groups, however, this hypothesis was denied by the police and army authorities who identified the ELN guerrilla group as responsible.
This was confirmed by General Hugo Casas Velasquez, commander in charge of Police Region Four, who stated that the police had intercepted a communication from a radio operator of Popeye, leader of the Compañía Guerreros de Sindagua of the Frente Comuneros del Sur del ELN.
The ELN is historically Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, with strongholds along the Colombian-Venezuelan border, and in the southwest. They are currently investigating the possibility of following the path of the FARC and initiating peace talks with the government.
The identity of six of the victims of the latest massacre has been verified. Among them were Jefferson Leandro Sanchez Cuchillo, alias “Andrés” or “Carro Loco”, who was part of the dissident Eighth Front of the FARC, and Ever Alfarit Gómez Samboní, alias “Crespo”, former member of the Jacobo Arenas Mobile Column of the FARC. Alias ”Crespo” was in the Territorial Area of Training and Reincorporation (ETCR) of El Estrecho, Patía, in Cauca, and had received instruction from the National Protection Unit (UNP) as a body guard. Some time later he abandoned the peace process and joined the Eighth Front of the FARC.
A third victim was identified as Luis Aurelio Bermúdez was identified, who had a criminal record for arms trafficking. The remaining victims were identified by their relatives as Lisandro Muñoz Rombero, Fabián Guzmán, and Idelber Gómez. Currently, Colombian authorities are working to identify the seventh person.
In the wake of the deaths, rumors began to circulate suggesting the involvement of paramilitary groups created after the signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas. Some political observers have suggested that the new upsurge in post-conflict violence was due, in part, to the election of Ivan Duque as the new president of the country.
Leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, who lost last month to Ivan Duque in Colombia’s presidential election, was among those who fingered paramilitary groups as responsible. On his Twitter account, the leftist politician called for a mass social mobilization and shared a picture of the lifeless bodies on the ground.
“No more massacres in Colombia. No more the war. On August 7, I propose a great national mobilization in each city and in every country in the world,” he said.
Minutes later he added, “the paramilitaries have exploded in numbers, and the threat has spread throughout Colombia.”
Se ha disparado el.paramilitarismo y la amenaza se generaliza en toda Colombia. Creen que volvieron al Poder. Volvieron las masacres.
Es necesario acelerar el proceso de organización de la Colombia Humana y el Frente por la Vida y la Paz.
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) July 3, 2018
Petro disregarded the statements of the police and military, and instead relied upon information supplied by the FARC in order to assess the blame. It has been determined to be demonstrably false, however, that this was a massacre committed by paramilitary forces.
“We are concerned that at this moment, when the peace process is imperiled, that the military is using their communication apparatus to spread false news and put at risk the frameworks of dialogue and agreement that have been built up until now,” said the ELN in a statement.
To which Petro replied about the supposed authorship of paramilitary groups. “It was not the ELN that committed the Algerian massacre. The attempt to dispel responsibility shows a complicity of the State that can not be admitted. We are facing a new violence, “he said.
For his part, president-elect Iván Duque condemned the massacre of the seven people.
Condenamos el asesinato de siete personas en Argelia, Cauca. Esperamos que las autoridades capturen a los responsables y se garantice la seguridad de todos los ciudadanos, en cada rincón del país.
— Iván Duque ?? (@IvanDuque) July 4, 2018
“We hope that the authorities will capture those responsible and ensure the safety of all citizens, in every corner of the country,” said Duque.
According to information from the Attorney General’s office, there are at least four FARC dissident groups, as well as the ELN and drug trafficking networks, operating in the Cauca region.