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Despite talks and truces, Colombia armed clashes worsen: Red Cross

In 2023, The ICRC recorded 444 alleged violations of international humanitarian law, including threats, sexual abuse, recruitment of minors and the use of explosive devices (JOAQUIN SARMIENTO)
In 2023, The ICRC recorded 444 alleged violations of international humanitarian law, including threats, sexual abuse, recruitment of minors and the use of explosive devices (JOAQUIN SARMIENTO)

Clashes between armed groups in Colombia have intensified and civilians are "paying the price", despite a variety of peace talks and ceasefires implemented by the government, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Wednesday.

"Despite the hope and optimism generated by the ongoing negotiations, the humanitarian situation has not significantly improved," said Lorenzo Caraffi, head of the ICRC delegation in the country, as he presented a report on violations of international humanitarian law in 2023.

Leftist President Gustavo Petro has sought to end six decades of conflict between the country's security forces, guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs as part of his "total peace" plan.

Since 2023, he has been in talks with several of these groups, including guerrillas who broke off from the Marxist group after it signed a 2016 peace deal.

However, ceasefires with far-right paramilitary groups, the Clan de Golfo drug cartel, and the main FARC dissident faction have since faced suspensions by the government due to violence, particularly involving civilians.

Clashes between these groups and security forces have "drastically" reduced, according to Caraffi.

At the same time, fighting has worsened between armed groups who are often fierce rivals and compete for territory for drug trafficking end illegal mining, he said.

"Clashes between armed groups for control of territory have intensified and it is the civilian population who are paying the price," said Caraffi.

In 2023, the ICRC recorded 444 alleged violations of international humanitarian law in Colombia, including threats, sexual abuse, recruitment of minors and the use of explosive devices.

Incidents in which fighting between rival groups left communities trapped and unable to move freely increased 19 percent, and displacement of individuals increased 18 percent, according to the report.

However, the number of victims of explosives decreased 27 percent.

The opposition criticizes the slow pace of the peace negotiations and says the government is giving too many concessions to the armed groups.

Rights groups also accuse the guerillas of taking advantage of various ceasefires to expand their influence, seize more territory and recruit new members.

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