Hundreds of former FARC guerrillas forced to flee their homes due to death threats

Over 300 peace signatories and their families have left Vista Hermosa after being threatened by dissidents. Two members of the community were murdered in May

Excombatientes FARC Colombia
FARC ex-combatants and their relatives leave the territorial area of Vista Hermosa, in Meta (Colombia) on July 2, 2023.ARN COLOMBIA
Juan Miguel Hernández Bonilla

The former combatants of the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continue to receive death threats. Last weekend, the families of the ex-guerrillas — who signed the 2016 peace agreement with the government — were forced to flee their home and leave behind their livelihoods due to fears that their lives were at risk.

In a message on Twitter, CSIVI, the Colombian agency responsible for ensuring the peace accords are upheld, confirmed the “forced displacement of more than 300 peace signatories and their close relatives.”

On Sunday morning, 99 women, 214 men and 51 children fled the territorial area of Vista Hermosa, where they had been living since December 2016, when they handed over their weapons, demobilized, and began a new life. In photos of the scene, trucks are seen filled of sacks with clothes, mattresses and pillows, old furniture, boxes with tools, kitchen utensils, toys and non-perishable food. “They are leaving behind their dreams, their social community, their productive projects such as panela, ecological tourism, livestock and crops of various kinds,” said CSIVI in the message on Twitter.

Excombatientes de las FARC y sus familias abandonan el espacio territorial de Vista Hermosa, en Meta (Colombia) en julio de 2023.
Residents load their belongings onto trucks, on July 2.ARN COLOMBIA

The caravan made up of 57 trucks arrived Sunday night at a sports center in the municipality of Granada, several hours away from Vista Hermosa. The ex-combatants were accompanied by the police, the army, an ambulance, as well as delegates from the United Nations, the Ombudsman’s Office, the Organization of American States (OAS). “We accompanied the Vista Hermosa peace signatories who, together with their families, relocated to a provisional location for security reasons. Comprehensive reintegration with security and sustainability is essential to consolidating peace,” the U.N. mission in Colombia posted on Twitter.

The Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN) also said that it was helping to provide logistical support. “From the ARN, in coordination and accompaniment with other national and municipal entities, it was possible to provide 170 tents, 20 portable toilets, two bathroom batteries, 14 showers, 13 toilets, a kitchen and a community dining room, which guarantees temporarily, a stay suitable for families,” it said in a press release.

The former FARC guerrillas in this region — who remain firm in their commitment to build peace despite the violence and persecution they have suffered in recent years — will have to spend several days in tents while the government is able to hand over a new plot of land. Last week, for example, the government gave 188 hectares of fertile land to a group of peace signatories in the municipality of Fonseca. According to ARN, the government is committed to providing the former combatants with fertile and safe land, with which they can continue to reincorporate into civilian life.

The former FARC guerrillas decided to leave Vista Hermosa after receiving several threats. In May, two peace signatories who lived in the area — Henry “Miguelito” Buitrago and Alfonso Correa Zapata — were also killed. At a recent press conference, a spokesperson from the community announced that it was no longer safe for them to live at Vista Hermosa. “Our departure is imminent. We are leaving because they are threatening us and they are killing us. To date, there are two murders, nine direct threats, the displacement of many families,” said the spokesperson.

Excombatientes de las FARC, Colombia
Former FARC combatants and their families prepare to leave the Vista Hermosa territory.ARN COLOMBIA

In a press release issued after the murders, the community warned: “The sons and daughters of Georgina Ortiz [the name of the protected area in Vista Hermosa] are at risk, they are being threatened, and they are being murdered. They took two sons, brothers and companions from two families who had had the chance to get them back thanks to peace.” It added that the killers had targeted the peace signatories.

According to the NGO Indepaz, which has been monitoring the murder of the signatories of the peace agreement since 2016, Henry Buitrago was an ex-combatant who was cultivating crops in the area where the Gulf Clan and the 7th Front of the FARC General Staff, one of the most powerful FARC dissidents, operate today. Since the beginning of this year, 19 peace signatories have been killed. A total of 375 have been murdered since the peace agreement was signed in 2016. The most recent murder took place in Dabeiba, Antioquia on June 30, when armed men murdered Luis Aníbal Martínez Higuita, a community leader and ex-guerrilla.

The ex-guerrillas at Vista Hermosa are not the first to come under threat. In March, close to 200 families in the ETCR Mariana Páez territory, in the municipality of Mesetas, were also threatened by FARC dissidents. The government has promised to find land, so they can safely leave the area. Back in 2020, peace signatories were also forced out of Ituango, Antioquia.

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