Throughout decades of armed conflict and organized crime, Colombia has become tragically associated with the brutal terror tactic of the massacre. A new investigation tracing the history of massacres offers a vision of its evolving use by armed groups, reflecting changes in the nature and motivations of violence in the country.
The project “Rutas de Conflicto” (Routes of Conflict) is the result of work carried out by the Centro Nacional de Memoria Historica (National Center of Historical Memory), a body dedicated to the right to truth of victims of the armed conflict, and investigative website Verdad Abierta.
Although Colombia has a long history of massacres dating as far back of the 1899 – 1902 Thousand Day War, the project focuses on the period 1982 to 2013. It documents fully 728 massacres that took place in that time, although this only represents around a third of the total massacres covered in the statistical database, which includes hundreds of massacres for which complete details have yet to be collated.
Over the total time period covered in the database, paramilitary groups were responsible for the overwhelming majority of deaths — committing 1,166 massacres in total. This was followed by 295 massacres at the hands of unidentified groups, 238 by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and 139 by the security forces.