Colombia: More than 60 activists assassinated this year

May 25, 2022
Indigenous protest in Colombia
More than 1500 members of various Indigeneous organisations demonstrated in the capital Bogota on April 28, to draw attention to the worsening armed conflict and paramilitary violence. Photo: CNA/Twitter

Paramilitary violence continues to take lives and wreak havoc in Colombia.

According to the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ), in the first four months of this year, 64 environmentalists, land defenders, human rights defenders, Afro-descendent, Indigenous, peasant and social leaders were assassinated in different departments of the Latin American country by illegal armed groups.

In early May, three social leaders were killed, one former combatant of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla group was murdered and one massacre was perpetrated.

Indigenous guard and environmentalist Luis Tombé was shot dead on May 1 in the Miranda municipality in the Cauca department, at the hands of police and officials of the Anti-Disturbance Mobile Squadron (ESMAD).

Police had arbitrarily arrested several members of the Çxhab Wala Kiwe Indigenous community, who were resisting the dispossession and displacement of Indigenous people from their ancestral lands on the Las Palmas community farm, which is occupied by sugarcane agribusiness interests.

In response to the arrests, members of the community went to the police station to demand their release. Security officials opened fire, killing Tombé and severely injuring two others.

The Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) rejected the attacks by public forces against the liberation process, demanding “respect for the life and rights of Indigenous people and cessation of such acts of state terrorism”.

Renowned Indigenous leader Yesid Caña was assassinated in the Caldono municipality in Cauca on April 30. Caña was a member of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC). He participated in various community activities and controls that allowed the seizure and destruction of several shipments of marijuana in the department, actions that made him an enemy of the paramilitary and drug-trafficking groups.

The president of the Community Action Board of the Esperanza village, Erminson Rivera, was murdered on April 25, in the Cantagallo municipality in the Sur de Bolívar department. Just after midnight, heavily-armed men entered Rivera’s home and kidnapped him and his brother-in-law, José Obdulio Sánchez, and later killed them.

The same day, ex-FARC guerilla fighter Juan José Chilito was also killed in the Puerto Guzmán municipality in the Putumayo department. He was part of the reincorporation process.

With his assassination, the number of ex-combatants killed reached 18 this year and 317 since the signing of the peace agreements in 2016. The Comunes Party, which emerged after the disarmament of the FARC as a part of the peace agreements, condemned his murder and emphasised that “the full implementation of peace agreements is vital”.

In addition to these assassinations, three peasant brothers were massacred in their home on April 30, in the Bolivar municipality of the Cauca department. It was the 37th massacre of the year. According to INDEPAZ, between January and March, more than 130 people had been killed in 37 massacres.

More than 1500 representatives of various Indigenous organisations from the Chocó, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Norte de Santander and Córdoba departments arrived in the capital Bogota on April 27. They came to draw attention to the worsening of the armed conflict in rural areas throughout the nation and the humanitarian crisis it causes. The representatives condemned the inaction of the right-wing government of President Ivan Duque.

On the anniversary of the April 28, 2021 national strike, they demonstrated outside the Ombudsman’s Office, demanding cessation of the paramilitary violence and the forced displacements of communities. They also marched to the United Nations Human rights office to call attention of the international community to their situation.

[Abridged from Peoples Dispatch.]

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