Sad Christmas: Assassinations of social leaders in Colombia
Christmas in Colombia left a painful balance: the murder of two social leaders on December 24 and 25 and a married couple, whose bodies were found on December 23.
The violence in Colombia did not end with the signing of the 2016 Peace Agreement, although it is true that during the years of negotiation there was a very sensitive decrease in violence against civilian populations (given that the FARC guerrilla was not the only group outside the law).
On the other hand, given that the social factors that caused the violence have not been resolved, it is relatively "normal" that it should continue. Especially as the end of the FARC guerrillas created a power vacuum that other groups dedicated to drug trafficking have come to occupy, as a recent Al Jazeera documentary explains.
However, since the signing of the Peace Agreement, there has been a continuous and intense violence against social leaders throughout the country. These are people who in the regions work for causes such as the defense of the environment, the restitution of land left behind by the violence of the armed conflict, the search for people who have disappeared and the sustainability of peasant projects, among other objectives.
According to the data recorded in Líderes-sociales.datasketch.co, 578 leaders have been killed since January 1, 2016, with data updated to December 4, 2019. Here are the names of each one of them, with the causes they defended until giving their lives.
That is, on average, from 1 January 2016 to 4 December 2019, one leader has been killed every 1.8 days.
The Colombian government, represented by two former ministers of defense, has made unfortunate and controversial statements, such as saying that the killings are caused by "skirt messes" or because the leaders are linked to drug trafficking.
On December 17, current Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo was in Tumaco, Nariño, to present the Zonas Futuro plan, which would seek to strengthen security in the areas most affected by drug trafficking today. That day, a president of a community action board asked the minister to strengthen the security of community leaders in the face of threats and the abandonment of the state. Seven days later, Lucy Villareal was murdered in the same municipality.
Today, December 26, the Presidential Advisor on Human Rights and International Relations, Francisco Barbosa, made his assessment of the year, in which he declared that it is not possible to speak of a systemic approach to the assassination of social leaders in Colombia. According to him, rather "what exists is an action of crime, of criminals, of drug trafficking, of people who practice illegal mining, of those who are fighting to take over the drug trafficking routes in some of these areas where there has been an increase in illicit crops. More than systematization, what exists is an action against our leaders for various causes.”
Natalia Jimenez was an ecologist. She worked with Fundación Natura, one of the oldest environmental foundations in Colombia. She was part of a project for the conservation and recovery of the Cauca and Magdalena river beds. Her husband, Rodrigo Monsalve, was an anthropologist and worked as a DJ in Santa Marta.
On Friday, December 20, they were on their way to Palomino, where they would celebrate their honeymoon. On the way they were approached by strangers. At that moment, the communication that Natalia had with her father was cut off. On December 23rd their bodies were found.
On Wednesday, December 25, one of those involved in the murders turned himself in to the authorities, thanks to whom it became known that the drug trafficking group "Los Panchencas" was involved in the events.
Lucy Villareal was the mother of two children, an artist, and a social leader who was a member of the Indoamericanto Cultural Foundation, which is dedicated to community development through artistic expressions of Andean-ancestral origin.
On December 24, Lucy was killed by armed men, as yet unidentified, as she left a workshop for children in the village of Llorente, in Tumaco, Nariño.
José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch's director for the Americas, spoke about her death, noting that violence in the area continues despite the death of alias "Guacho" a year ago.
La violencia no cesa en Tumaco, aunque el gobierno crea que todo terminó con la muerte de Guacho.
Qué desolador el asesinato de la lider Lucy Villareal.
Debe haber justicia y sobre todo medidas serias para que esto deje de ocurrir. https://t.co/Fwxzqos8PI
— José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) December 25, 2019
Reinaldo Carrillo belonged to the National Association of Peasant Users, in the Huila section, an association that seeks to group, train and represent peasants as interlocutors with the government and society.
Reinaldo was murdered in the early morning of December 25 at his home, in front of his family, by men on motorcycles who shot him numerous times. There is still no information on who was responsible.
Christmas, which every year
It reminds me of those who died
The ones on my side are gone forever
Not to return,
The Venezuelan Pastor López sang and today, once again, we remember his words.