The peace accords signed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016 have not resulted in the beginnings of a demilitarisation of Colombian society but, on the contrary, have been accompanied by new processes of militarisation.
A new military doctrine called the Damascus Doctrine envisages the strengthening of the armed forces as the principal interlocutor with civil society. There is a new national police code (código nacional de policía). This code attacks the right to protest with prior authorisation being required in order to be permitted to demonstrate. There is an increasing control over the citizenry with a series of limitations and punishments relating to public space affecting freedom of expression, such as fines for graffitiing. The police are permitted to enter buildings in order to carry out their duties but in practice interpret this as meaning that they are free to enter any building whenever they choose.
At the same time, compulsory military service continues uninterrupted and recruitment levels remain the same as in times of war. The more than 50,000 soldiers who have been trained in counter-guerilla tactics are being retained.
All this is part and parcel of the structural reform of the military sector (carried out in cooperation with Canada, the United States, Chile, Spain, the United Kingdom and NATO amongst other actors). It is clear that the state is not only preparing itself against external threats but for internal control.
The state has long used its security forces and their paramilitary proxies to suppress dissent and to protect the interests of the foreign companies that exploit the natural resources of Colombia. There is a high correlation between the locations of killings and of the extractive industries. Under the new militarisation, the state continues to use a highly-militarised internal security appartus to maintain the status quo. In 2016, 6,476 young conscripts were assigned to battalions protecting mining and energy interests.
Militarised policing is used to brutally repress protest and silence demands for social justice. In May and June of 2017, not only the police but the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios or ESMAD) and even the marine infantry, part of the navy, were used to respond to a strike in Buenaventura, Colombia’s principal port, where black communities were demanding their rights to healthcare and education.
Since the peace accords were signed, over 100 leaders from a range of social movements and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have been assassinated.
Free trade treaties, such as the one between Colombia and Israel, are an integral part of the peace accords and the Damascus Doctrine. The military sector is the third biggest beneficiary of the trade agreement between Colombia and Israel through trade with Israeli state businesses that offer a range of armaments and security services. It is of concern that this will be the impetus to invest in military intelligence which will then be used to enhance the persecution of social movements.
Organistions such as Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia de Bogotá (ACOOC) and Colectiva la Tulpa are working to disseminate the message that conflicts are not resolved through violence and to build bridges between social movements and other sectors of Colombian society in the hope that one day, daily life will no longer be militarised.