According to the Memory and Conflict Observatory of the National Center for Historical Memory, 82,998 people have been disappeared in Colombia between 1958 and November 2017. The report published earlier this month shows the main perpetrators are paramilitary groups, followed by Colombia’s armed insurgency and state forces.
Andres Suarez, the Observatory’s coordinator, explained: “Of the cases for which we have knowledge of the perpetrators, 52 percent, the distribution is as follows: paramilitary groups 26,475 (62.3 percent), guerrillas 10,360 (24.3 percent), demobilized groups 2,764 (6.5 percent), state agents 2,484 (5.8 percent), and state agent-paramilitary groups 388 (0.9 percent).”
The report is an update of a 2016 investigation titled Until We Find Them, which registered 60,630 disappearances between 1970 and 2015. The new number comes as a result of broader time frame and a careful analysis of sources.
“There was a source we didn’t work in depth, and they were the victims’ testimonies presented to the Justice and Peace Information System of the Prosecutor’s Office which had been partially analyzed,” Suarez said.
The new information did not alter the existing data. Paramilitary forces remain the main actors responsible for disappearances. A troubling finding is that paramilitary groups have acted with state forces to conduct these disappearances.
A reality denounced on Tuesday by presidential hopeful Gustavo Petro. Via Twitter Petro, who is leading the polls, criticized Ivan Duque (former president Alvaro Uribe’s candidate) for celebrating an endorsement by Luis Alfredo Ramos, a Colombian politician prosecuted by the Colombian justice system for links with paramilitary groups.
"For those who don't mind para-politics. And they don't care because they are in solidarity with the politics that originated and strengthened narco-paramilitarism and its link to the state and politics: the Convivir developed by Uribe," Petro posted via Twitter.
Information on the victims of Colombia’s armed conflict is vital to the peace process initiated by the peace agreement signed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government in November 2016, which established a Search Unit for Disappeared Persons.
The peace deal has not stopped other politically-motivated crimes. According to the Institute of Studies on Development and Peace (Indepaz), in the past 15 months 205 social leaders, mainly campesinos and human rights advocates have been murdered.
Indepaz’s director, Camilo Gonzalez, explains the increase in murders is are due to paramilitary actors who seek to take over territories previously held by FARC.