Colombia: Duque sworn in amid terror, massacre

Colombia's newly-elected right-wing President Iván Duque took office on Aug. 7, pledging to unite the country. As he was sworn in, thousands marched in Bogotá to demand that Duque respect the peace pact with the FARC, and address the ongoing assassination of social leaders—now thought to number some 400 since the peace deal was  signed in November 2016. (BBC News, TeleSur, Aug. 8) Exemplifying the depth of the crisis facing Duque, on July 30, a group of 10 armed men opened fire in broad daylight at a pool hall in the town of El Tarra, in Norte de Santander department near the Colombia-Venezuela border. Among the eight slain were at least two demobilized FARC fighters and a local community leader. (InSIght Crime, Aug. 2) Demobilized guerillas have been repeatedly targeted for attack since the FARC laid down arms. Before leaving office, outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos promised to bring those responsible for the massacre to justice. (El Espectador, Aug. 1)

Also July 30, Raúl Buitrago Perdomo, vice president of the Communal Action Junta in San José del Fragua village, Caquetá department, was shot dead by two unknown gunmen outside his home. (El Espectador, July 30)

Aug. 7, the same day Duque was inaugurated, saw the assassination of Uriel Rodríguez, a leader of the crop substitution program for coca-growers in en Cajibio, Cauca. Rodríguez was shot by unknown gunmen in the vereda (hamlet) of Altamira. He was a local leader of the National Coordinator of Coca, Opium and Marijuana Producers (COCCAM) and the National Unified Agricultural Union Federation (FENSUAGRO). (Contagio Radio, Aug. 8)

On Aug. 9, another leader of the crop substitution program was assassinated—Alejandro Jacanamejoy, president of the Communal Action Junta in Piñuña vereda, Puerto Leguízamo, Putumayo. (Contagio Radio, Aug. 10)

In recent weeks, the Black Eagles paramilitary network has been issuing leaflets at various places around the country naming local social leaders and journalists as "military objectives." (Prensa Rural, Aug. 1; La Silla Rota, July 17)

July 29 also saw two armed confrontations in different parts of Colombia. A shoot-out broke out in a rural area od El Tambo, Cauca, leaving community residents wounded. While details are unclear, the town's mayor, Celio Urresty, pointed to the presence of ELN guerillas in the area. (El Tiempo, July 29) In Tumaco municipality, Nariño, near the Ecuador border, security forces killed two in a conforntation with a "dissident" FARC unit that remains in arms despite the peace deal. (Semana, July 29)