But the principal conflicts continued, with devastating results, many of which are only now coming to light. Consider the “false positives” scandal between 2002 and 2010, when members of the military murdered 10,000 civilians whom they represented as guerrillas to improve their killing statistics and obtain US military aid. This figure is three times the number previously calculated by human rights organisations. There have also been untold massacres by paramilitary organisations made up of former and serving offices from the police and military.
The Peace Agreement signed with the FARC-EP in November 2016 brought hope to much of the population. But the violence has continued. The Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz) indicates that 971 leaders and human rights defenders were assassinated between the signature of the Agreement and July 2020. Conflicts associated with ownership of the land, drug trafficking, mining, and natural resources in general account for 70% of these homicides.
As reported by the BBC, armed groups have taken advantage of the limitations on mobility imposed by Covid-19 to attack social activists. 28 social and community leaders were assassinated during the first two months of confinement and there were seven massacres in less than two weeks during August.
Together with the high concentration of wealth and resources and a neoliberal economic model based on extractivism, corruption makes Colombia the most unequal country in Latin America and the seventh in the world. The richest 10% of the population has four times the wealth of the poorest 40%.
Colombians have lost confidence in their institutions as a result of centuries of corruption and patronage. The state has failed to respond effectively to the country’s social problems, while supporting supposedly illegal groups that operate in different regions of the country—so-called parapolitics.
According to the latest report from the Transparency for Colombia Corporation, obstacles to reporting acts of corruption in the country include popular ignorance of the relevant channels and procedures, lack of interest in public affairs, mistrust of authorities, and, especially, fear of retaliation.
Stereotyping and threats to journalism
It is common for people who demonstrate to be stigmatised in the media as vandals, guerrillas, communists or pro-Venezuelan. Social networks are frequent instruments of hate speech and sources of fake news. Their symbolic violence legitimises physical assaults and creates a feeling of impunity among perpetrators. For example, Juan Carlos Vélez, the campaign manager for ‘No’ in the 2016 plebiscite on the Peace Agreement, acknowledged that he manipulated public opinion by encouraging anger and avoiding serious discussion of the Agreement’s actual contents.