AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Between violence and reconciliation

Thursday, 12 October 2017 armed groups   politics   peace   violence

Chocò (Agenzia Fides) - Despite the ceasefire, attempts of pacification and the steps towards national reconciliation, violence continues in the southern part of Colombia. About half of the people who were forced to move to Colombia in 2017 were from the department of Chocò (southwest): said the director of the National Secretariat for Social Pastoral, Mgr. Hector Fabio Henao. "There were 11,000 displaced and nearly 5,000 of these people came from Chocò", said Mgr. Henao speaking to the local radio "La FM", and added that "the department is going through a critical moment".
Although the Catholic Church had previously informed that the ceasefire between the government and the guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN) has been proceeding since 1 October, Mgr. Henao said that the situation in Chocò is critical, because in that area there are other criminal organizations that attack the civilian population. In this sense, he considers it necessary for the government and ELN to meet in order to improve the situation of this population.
On several occasions, Fides informed of the complaint made by Mgr. Juan Carlos Barreto, Bishop of the diocese of Quibdo, who called for "social investments to stop the violence" (see Fides 1/9/2017). The ceasefire between the army and the police and ELN, agreed by the parties (see Fides 2/10/2017), will continue until 9 January 2018 and includes the commitment of the guerrilla to suspend seizures and attacks against oil infrastructures in the country. However, acts of violence that occur in the countryside and in places far from the city are always more frequent.
Only two days ago the Bishop of the diocese of Neiva, Mgr. Froilán Tiberio Casas Ortíz, denounced the murder of 6 peasants in the area of Tumaco. On October 5, during a police intervention to eliminate coca plantations, there was a clash between peasants and law enforcement, which resulted in the death of 6 peasants and 20 were wounded. The authorities are taking action, but the situation remains tense in the area. The first reaction of the population is helplessness, followed by escape.
While in some areas of Colombia the population continues to suffer, an effort to continue on the path of peace comes from the Catholic Church which in these days in Bogota, is holding the seventh National Congress of Reconciliation promoted through the Secretariat of Social Pastoral. The Congress, titled "Colombia is capable of reconciliation", is held a month after the historic visit of Pope Francis at a time characterized by the process of implementing the peace agreement with former Farc guerrilla and the phase of ceasefire between the government and ELN guerrillas. The purpose of the Congress, which will continue until Friday 13, is to gather proposals from international peace building experiences, to analyze the state of progress, challenges and opportunities on observing and implementing peace agreements. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 12/10/2017)