BOGOTA, Colombia — An explosion Friday afternoon killed eight police officers heading to a social welfare event in the Huila neighborhood of southern Colombia, according to authorities.
Colombia has faced a surge in violence over the past five years, including attacks on police, as promises of a landmark peace deal with the country’s largest rebel group The country has largely faltered. More than 40 policemen have been killed in Colombia this year.
The National Police said that the officers killed Friday were on their way to San Luis, a small town in Neiva, a municipality of 350,000 won people, when an explosion went off in the town of Corozal. The youngest of the officers was 18 years old, police said.
President Gustavo Petro, who took office last month, has campaigned on a commitment ends cycles of violence have ravaged the country, an ambitious promise of “comprehensive peace”. In addition to negotiating with the country’s armed groups, he said his plans for taxation and agricultural reform would tackle the poverty and inequality that fueled the conflict.
On Friday night, he condemned the attack on Twitter. “United with their families,” he wrote about the officers being killed. “These facts show a clear subversion to complete peace.”
Pictures of the scene shows a truck loaded with ammunition with punctured tires, with the bodies of men lying on the ground and in the vehicle.
Petro and the commander of the military forces, General Helder Giraldo, arrived in Neiva on Friday evening to attend a meeting of the security forces, the defense ministry said.
In a joint statement, the Defense Department and the peace commissioner’s office said “complete peace” means not remaining silent in the face of crime. “This act of terrorism is an act of vandalism aimed at redressing this violence to serve the interests of the few, who lived and have lived after the war,” the statement said.
Dissident groups of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are known to be present in Huila. The town of San Luis, which has a history of conflict, has in recent years tried to remake its image by painting its streets with Stunning color, aiming to become “the largest mural town in Colombia.”
The FARC, the country’s largest rebel force, signed a landmark peace accord in 2016 with Colombian authorities and agreed to disband and hand over its weapons.
But the agreement does not represent an end to the country’s decades-long armed conflict, which has kill 450,000. When the government failed to deliver the job opportunities and reforms promised in many places, armed criminal groups fill the vacuum, competing for territory formerly controlled by the FARC. The conflict is a complex war involving the army, left-wing guerrillas like the FARC, and right-wing paramilitaries. Billions of dollars in aid from the United States have poured into this country but have failed to stop the drug trade.
Mass murders, mass displacements and murders of social leaders in progress since 2016, according to the United Nations.
Petro promised to prioritize the peace agreement on the campaign roadmap and has called for a change in the military. The president, a longtime senator and former rebel, won this year’s election by a narrow margin amid highly polarized politics. His history in the M-19 rebel group, demobilized in 1990 and became a political party that helped rewrite the country’s Constitution, left many Colombians distrustful.
His longstanding criticisms of the military and its connection to human rights abuses, as well as his past as a guerrilla, have caused deep insecurity within the armed forces. He has proposed trying soldiers accused of human rights abuses in civil courts, separating the police from the Ministry of Defense and abolishing compulsory military service.
In July, the United Nations urge Petro’s incoming government prioritizes stamping out the violence. In a report, they said Colombia’s “primarily military response has failed to stop” the expansion of armed groups and organized crime, with many engaged in drug trafficking and exploitation. illegal mining.
The UN Human Rights Office in Colombia said it verified the killing of 100 human rights defenders last year and received information about the killing of 114 more activists in the first six months of this year. The then UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, noted that indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities were particularly affected by the violence.
“I urge the authorities to listen to the voices of all segments of society,” she said in a statement in July. “Those living in rural and remote areas have suffered the most from this violent scourge but are also best positioned to help chart the path towards a peaceful future. than.”