The resurgence in violence has put a spotlight on the ruling Democratic Center Party, which opposes the peace deal with left-wing militants.

A string of murders in various parts of Colombia this month has raised concerns that the South American country is once again on a slow descent into violence. 

In what are being termed as massacres, more than 23 people, some of them minors, have been killed in mob-like hits in separate attacks.  

The violent cycle started on August 11 when police found the bodies of five teenagers bearing signs of torture and gunshot wounds in the southwestern city of Cali. 

The victims were Afro-Colombian teenagers who lived in a neighbourhood populated by families displaced by the years-long conflict between government forces and left-wing guerrillas, according to the WOLA human rights group. 

Days later, eight young people who had just graduated from school, were ambushed and killed at a party in Narino province. Bodies have turned up elsewhere - such as in a field where farmers were killed for unknown reasons. 

Authorities are clueless about who is behind these acts, however a dozen paramilitary, left-wing and criminal groups operate in the country. 

The deteriorating situation has shone a spotlight on the government of President Ivan Duque who has made matters worse by engaging in wordplay. 

Duque and his officials have been using the euphemism “collective homicide” to describe the massacres, something which Colombian news outlets see as an attempt to cover-up the security lapse. 

The sudden spike in such brutal killings - one young man had his throat slit - comes after a relative calm. Last year saw some of the lowest homicide figures in decades, partially as a result of the 2016 peace deal between the Colombian state and the left-wing guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). 

The United Nations commission for peace, which was set up to monitor the peace deal, says 33 massacres have been recorded this year so far, and the murders of more than 90 human rights activists have been recorded. 

Forty-one former FARC combatants have also been killed, taking the number of ex-combatants killed since 2016 to 215. 

Duque’s far-right Democratic Center Party opposes the peace deal with FARC that his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, had signed. 

Far-right paramilitary groups formed to counter the Marxist militants. 

The country’s second-largest left-wing outfit, the National Liberation Army’s (ELN) leadership, has blamed the right-wing paramilitaries for the rise in violence.

There are fears that some disgruntled members of the FARC armed group have joined criminal syndicates. 

The killings this year bring back memories of the 1980s and 1990s when violent drug smuggling syndicates were battling in turf wars. 

The infamous Colombian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, used to battle the Cali Cartel - named after the same city where the five teenagers were recently killed. 

Duque has blamed the drug gangs in a country which is a major centre for the production of coca, the primary ingredient used to make cocaine. The country's coca production is still at a record high despite eradicating over 100,000 hectares of the plant in 2019.

With schools closed due to the pandemic, children have become particularly vulnerable as targets by the groups who are looking for a constant stream of new recruits. 

Miguel Ceballos, the Colombian government's peace commissioner, estimates that the armed groups have forcibly recruited around 14,000 girls and boys over the past 20 years, according to German publication Spiegel.  

Source: TRT World