On July 27, Colombian organizations including the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz), the Marcha Patriótica (the Patriotic March) platform of social movements and the Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic and Popular Summit, a platform of Indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant organizations, held a press conference to denounce the growing violence against Colombian movements. They denounced that almost 1,000 social leaders have been killed since the signing of peace agreements in 2016 between the former government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.
According to a report prepared by the three organizations and released on July 15, between November 2016 and July 14, 2020, 973 social leaders and human rights defenders were assassinated. In addition, during this period, 220 ex-combatants of the FARC in the reincorporation process were also killed.
The report seeks to draw the attention of the national government led by President Iván Duque to the alarming reality of social leaders in the country and to demand measures to protect leaders and stop the aggression against them.
The leaders of the organizations emphasized that the government records are partial and fail to describe the seriousness of the situation. In this regard, Cristian Delgado, the national coordinator of human rights defenders of Marcha Patriótica, stressed that the report released by the organizations, establishes this number based on the recognition of people considered social leaders. They do not include only people who are linked to organizations but all who worked to raise awareness to the problems of their communities.
The report complied by these organizations contains the name of the leader who was assassinated, the place where it happened, date, type of leadership exercised in the community and the source reporting the murder. The organizations informed that they will hand over the report to the Prosecutor’s Office and the National Commission for Security Guarantees for proper investigation. The organizations also said that they will share this information with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) as well as the United Nations Security Council.
The killings mainly took place in the departments of Cauca, Antioquia, Córdoba, Nariño, Huila, Chocó, Valle del Cauca, Putumayo, Córdoba, Meta, Norte de Santander and Caquetá. Factors such as disputes over land and natural resources, illicit crops, drug trafficking and mining activities in these territories aggravate the problems of social leaders and organizations. The presence of drug traffickers and paramilitaries, which has increased significantly after the disarmament of the FARC guerrilla fighters, has become an additional factor.
For the last month, a broad coalition of social organizations from across Colombia organized a “Dignity March” in defense of life, land and rights. A group of activists departed from the city of Popayán on June 25 and after walking hundreds of kilometers and visiting a number of municipalities on the way, arrived in Bogotá on July 10. Two other marches, part of the broader Dignity March, departed from Saravena and Barrancabermeja on July 13 and arrived to Bogotá on July 19. The Dignity March was carried out to raise awareness and manifest indignation to the systematic extermination of social leaders and the escalation of violence against the Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant communities.