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  • The Colombian National Liberation Army

    The Colombian National Liberation Army's chief negotiator Pablo Beltran speaks to teleSUR's EnClave Politica show. | Photo: teleSUR

Published 12 September 2017

Armed strife remains a reality for many communities as right-wing paramilitaries seize land abandoned by the FARC.

In an interview with teleSUR's EnClave Politica show, the Colombian National Liberation Army's chief negotiator Pablo Beltran, has urged the government to end the killings of social leaders.

101 Social Leaders Killed in Colombia in 2017: Report

A bilateral cease-fire is due to begin on October 1 between the ELN rebels and and the Colombian government.

But Beltran said the murders are contradictory during the peace process.

A recent report by the political platform Patriotic March and the organization Indepaz said 101 social leaders and defenders have been killed between January and August 2017.

In addition, 194 others received threats and 484 violations of human rights were reported during the same time period, the investigation found.

"If this continues, we are going to have more than 200 leaders killed by the end of the year ... The peace process has no meaning and is contradictory... We demand that the government stops the political persecution," Beltran said.

Recent figures released by the ELN indicate that every week, 165 armed confrontations take place between its fighters and the Colombian army in addition to skirmishes and battles with paramilitary forces.

Communities have witnessed an uptick in right-wing terror operations committed by non-state actors such as the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym AGC, especially in contested regions like the state of Choco.

Armed groups have been fighting for crucial routes which had been controlled by the former FARC rebels, especially those granting access to ports and the Pacific Ocean drug trafficking routes groups which the AGC depend on.

Beltran said many of the areas are now occupied by paramilitaries and the fighting is continuing.

Colombia Takes Another Step Towards Peace After Ceasfire Agreement With ELN

Under the terms of the truce between the ELN and the government, he said there are two key points.

The first is the suspension of offensive operations and secondly each party must undertake to reduce the intensity of the conflict's impact on Colombians. "That is the main and fundamental message of this cessation. The first ones that will benefit are the people affected by these conflicts."

Official statistics show that despite last year's peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian state, armed strife remains a reality for the people of region.

The Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace, Inter-Ethnic Forum and several nongovernmental organizations recently raised concerns over the displacement of Choco's Indigenous communities, where the AGC have sought to gain control of strategic locales in areas abandoned by the FARC that are fit for mechanized small-scale gold mining, the processing of coca leaves into cocaine paste, and other illicit operations.

Civilian paramilitary groups like the the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia – which eventually spawned the Gaitanistas – stocked their arsenals thanks to Plan Colombia, a bilateral 1999 counterinsurgency initiative that saw the U.S. pour billions of dollars into the country, militarizing the region during the height of conflict between the state and the FARC.

In May, the AGC released a pamphlet declaring war on “all human rights organizations, unions, land activists, defenders of FARC and ELN prisoners, those who do reports on human rights, members of political organizations of the FARC, the congress of the people, Patriotic Union, Patriotic March,” raising the specter of further violence.

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