Left-wing politician Aida Avella warned that Colombia could be witness to the kind of targeted killings of political activists like those seen in the 1980s and 1990s that saw an entire political party be virtually wiped out.
Avella is the president of the Patriotic Union, a party that saw no less than 5,000 of its supporters, including sitting politicians and presidential candidates, killed by the state and its paramilitary allies in what was deemed a political genocide.
“I don’t think another genocide is starting, rather it is a continuation of the genocide against opposition sectors. That’s because the paramilitary structures have not been dismantled, they are completely intact,” Avella told Contagio Radio.
Despite the much-heralded signing of a peace agreement between the state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, the country has been experiencing a wave of killings of left-wing activists and social movement leaders.
The political movement Marcha Patriotica has received death threats directed at a number of the organization’s members including student and campesino leaders, as well as prominent Senator Piedad Cordoba.
A slew of murders of rural and social activists in recent weeks has sparked alarm over systemic violence against human rights defenders, left-wing political activists, and supporters of the peace process. The FARC itself has not begun its demobilization process over concerns about the safety of the rebels.
Avella said the people behind the targeted assassinations of supporters of the Patriotic Union are also behind the recent wave of killings.
“There is a big plan against Marcha Patriotica – that is to say, there are intellectual authors and there are financiers – and since there are such things, the state can not relent from punishing this sort of thing,” said Avella.
The peace agreement includes a section that makes it incumbent on the Colombian state to guarantee the safety of political activists.
Rights defenders have drawn parallels between the barrage of attacks on the Marcha Patriotica and the systematic extermination of the Patriotic Union over the course of the last century. The attack on the party is seen as one of the reasons a previous effort to secure peace failed.
Leftists fear a repeat of the same scenario would mean peace would once again slip out of their hands.
“I think we are going to need to get used to the idea that the life of a campesino is as important as of a minister,” said Avella.