Over 7 social leaders assassinated in Colombia just in December

The rampant assassination of Colombia’s social leaders continues with impunity

December 14, 2018 by Tanya Wadhwa
After Awá leaders Braulio Arturo García and Héctor Ramiro García were assassinated the community authorities held their funeral on the Panamerican highway to highlight the grave threats to the Indigenous communities in Colombia. Photo: ONIC

Social leaders continue to be brutally targeted by state and paramilitary forces in Colombia. Many organizations estimate that over 400 social leaders have been assassinated since the Colombian government signed the Havana peace accords with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

On December 6, several Colombian human rights organization denounced to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) about the lack of guarantees to life and human rights for social leaders in Colombia and the systematic impunity around these crimes. They denounced that 109 social leaders were assassinated between January and September 2018 alone. Despite the alarming figures, the National Government lead by Iván Duque since August 7, under the guidance of Alvaro Uribe Vélez, has taken no firm measures to protect social leaders and ensure their safety nor combat the paramilitary structure responsible for these crimes.

Last week, one peasant leader, one social leader, three indigenous leaders, two indigenous community representatives were assassinated and one indigenous leader suffered an assassination attempt.

Gilberto Antonio Zuluaga Ramirez, a 55 year old peasant leader and a member of Marcha Patriótica (a left-wing political and social Colombian movement), was assassinated on December 9. He was shot in the head and killed by an unknown man while he was waiting at a bus stop in Corinto municipality in the Department of Cauca, Colombia.

Authorities also reported the death of a young social leader, Víctor Hernández Chávez, who suffered an attack in the village of El Tablón in Corinto. He, too, was shot in the head and died immediately.

On December 7, Edwin Dagua Ipia, a 25 year old indigenous leader and the governor of Indigenous Huellas reservation in the Caloto municipality, Cauca Department, was also assassinated on the sidewalks of La Buitrera in Caloto. He reported receiving death threats but was not given any kind of protection.

The same day, also in the municipality of Caloto, another community representative and a resident of San Francisco reservation, Luis Neider Prado Medina was also gunned down.

On the early morning of December 8, Lidia Gomez, an indigenous leader of the Awá community and the governor of Santa Clara reservation in the Ricaurte municipality in Nariño Department was attacked by armed men. She was working at her home when the armed men fired at her multiple times. Fortunately the governor escaped the deadly attack and was unharmed. Four days ago, Gómez had demanded guarantees in a security council for her people, following the murder of two of her companions, Héctor Ramiro García and his son Braulio Arturo García.

Edison de Jesus Naranjo Navarro, the son-in-law of the governor of Cañamomo Lomaprienta reserve, was murdered on December 4 in the municipality of Riosucio, in the Caldas Department. Naranjo was 41 years old and had already received death threats. He was a peasant and was also serving as an indigenous guard.

On December 2, Héctor Ramiro García and his son Arturo García of Awá indigenous community were shot and killed by heavily armed men in the municipality of Ricaurte, Nariño. Héctor was the leader and founder of Camawari organization and Arturo García was elected as the governor of the Palmar Imbi reserve for the year 2019.

The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) announced that since August 7, under the governance of President Iván Duque, the attacks against indigenous people have aggravated. According to the statistics of the ONIC, 36 indigenous leaders have been killed, 61 threatened, 20 attacked and 1 injured so far. The ONIC laments and condemns this strategy of extermination of the indigenous people of Colombia.

The human rights organizations pointed out that one of the factors that has increased the risk for social leaders is “the negation tendency of the state”, referring to the insistence on not recognizing that paramilitarism persists, or the systematicity in the murders. This tendency is “hindering the advancement of justice”.

In the face of these developments, social, political, indigenous and human rights organizations and activists across Colombia are demanding justice, a thorough investigation of the events that have taken place and an end to violence in Colombia.