On Friday, an attack involving explosives killed seven police officers in western Colombia, according to the government. This is the deadliest attack on security forces that has occurred in Colombia since President Gustavo Petro took office, and he campaigned on a platform of putting an end to the country’s nearly 60-year conflict.
Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerilla, has promised to pursue “complete peace” by resuming discussions with the Marxist rebels of the ELN, implementing a peace pact from 2016 to former FARC guerrilla combatants who reject it, and negotiating the surrender of criminal groups in return for lower penalties.
Petro issued the following statement on Twitter: “I vehemently oppose the assault with explosives in San Luis, Huila,” citing an initial dead toll of eight, which was subsequently amended.
Late on Friday, the national police and the attorney general’s office announced that eight law enforcement personnel had been slain, including three who were under the age of 20. One officer sustained injuries.
After the incident, Petro, together with his defence minister and other officials, travelled to the regional seat of Neiva for a conference about the state of regional security.
According to a statement released by the national police, an explosive device was detonated near the car in which the officials were driving.
Petro did not identify the individuals who carried out the assault; but, according to sources in the security industry, those operating in the region are referred to as “dissidents”.
According to the government, there are around 2,400 combatants in the ranks of dissident organisations, and these groups do not accept the peace pact that was negotiated by their previous leadership.
Recent months have seen the deaths of a number of prominent dissident leaders, many of whom were killed in conflict on the Venezuelan side of the border.
It is estimated that at least 450,000 people were murdered as a direct result of the violence in Colombia between the government, leftist insurgents, right-wing paramilitaries, and drug trafficking organisations between the years 1985 and 2018.