In Colombia there is a new generation of armed groups

“You know this shouldn’t be,” he said recently, rocking a rifle in his lap. But after he left the military, he said, it was difficult for him to make ends meet. Then he was offered a salary of $500 a month, almost double the monthly minimum wage in Colombia.

Now, “my children are in better shape,” he said, “because I do have something to eat.”

The Colombian peace accord, signed in 2016 by the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, would usher in a new era of calm in a country that has endured more than five decades of war. The deal was that the rebels would lay down their arms, while the government would flood the conflict zones with jobs, reducing the poverty and inequality that led to the war.

Thousands of FARC fighters laid down their arms. But in many places the government never came. Instead, many rural areas of Colombia have returned to killings, displacement and violence that in some regions is now as bad as, or worse than, before the agreement.

Massacres and killings of human rights defenders have exploded since 2016, according to United Nations. And displacement remains alarmingly high, with 147,000 people forced to flee their homes last year alone, according to government data.

It is not because the FARC, as an organized force, has returned. Rather, the territorial vacuum left by the old insurgency and the absence of many promised government reforms have unleashed a criminal quagmire as new groups form and mutate old ones in a struggle to control the nascent illegal economies.

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