Colombia: still no peace for social leaders

Colmbia's highest judicial body, the Fiscalía General, has opened investigations into the slaying six demobilized FARC fighters and nine family members of demobilized guerillas in apparent reprisal attacks since the peace accord took effect late last year. The attacks took place in the departments of Caquetá, Antioquia, Putumayo, Tolima, Cauca and Valle del Cauca. (El Espectador, July 27) But the wave of deadly attacks on social leaders across Colombia has also persisted, in spite of the peace process. Human rights group Global Witness, which annually releases a report on the world's most dangerous countries for environmental defenders, this year names Colombia as second only to Brazil. The group counts 37 environmental activists slain in Colombia in 2016, compared to 26 in 2015. In the first six months of 2017, the figure was already up to 22. (El Colombiano, July 19)

In one horrific case, the body of Idaly Castillo Narváez, a social leader in the municipality of Rosas, Cauca department, was found Aug. 9 with signs of torture and sexual abuse. She had been a member of the Rosas Communal Action Junta, a body seeking to redress land claims and rights abuses  in the municipality. (El Espectador, Aug. 9)

The popular network Marcha Patriótica conintues to be especially targeted by presumed paramilitary assassins. On Aug. 6, local Marcha Patriótica adherent Nidio Dávila, who was also leader of the Nariño Campesino Workers Association (ASTRACAN), was slain in the vereda (hamlet) of Piedra Grande, El Rosario municipality, Nariño department. He had reportedly refused to pay a "tax" demanded by Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC)—a paramilitary network informally known as the Urabeños for their origins in the Urabá region of Colombia's north but now active nearly throughout the country. (TeleSur, Aug. 8)

On July 18, local Marcha Patriótica adherent Ezequiel Rangel, who was also leader of the Catatumbo Campesino Association (ASCAMCAT), was found killed by a gunshot wound in his vereda of Vegas de Aguilar, El Carmen municipality, Norte de Santander. (El Espectador, July 18) On July 14, another Marcha Patriótica leader, Héctor William Mina, was gunned down while eating in a restaurant in Caloto, Cauca department. The restaurant was just 100 meters from the town's police station. (El Espectador, July 14)