WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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23 Oct 2018 | News

October Update: Colombia Must Act as Assassinations Continue

So far this year, WOLA has registered at least 92 assassinations of Colombia human rights leaders or members of vulnerable ethnic communities in the country. Below is a list of the incidents that have occurred since our last monthly update. Together, we stand with our partners in Colombia in calling for justice.


Assassination of Three Inga Indigenous Youth (Putumayo)

The National Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (Organización Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Colombiana, OPIAC) reports the assassination of three Inga indigenous youth, Armando Mutumbajoy Muchavisoy, Jaime Alirio Becerra Chindoy and Elkin Farid Sigindioy Chindoy, on October 6 in Mocoa, Putumayo. The three youth reportedly left their community to buy guarapo (sugarcane juice) around 10 p.m. and never returned. The following day their bodies were found with various bullet wounds as far as three kilometers away from where they were last seen. All three individuals served as assistants to the Governor of Cabildo.


COCCAM Substitution Leader and Two Sons Tortured, Assassinated (Cauca)

El Espectador newspaper reports the torture and assassination of illicit crop substitution leader Jaime Rivera and his two sons, Jaime Reinel Rivera and Jeison Mauricio Rivera, at their residence on October 6. Rivera and son Jaime were two crop substitution leaders in Rodeo, Bolívar and led resistance movements against forced eradication implemented by the military. Jaime was the substitution committee coordinator of the National Coordinator of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana (Coordinadora Nacional de Cultivadores de Coca, Amapola y Marihuana, COCCAM).


Embera Chamí Woman Murdered (Antioquia)

On September 9, the National Organization for Indigenous Persons ((Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, ONIC) reported the murder of Marta Carolina Cañas Yagarí outside the Karmata Rúa reservation in Antioquia. Marta was last seen alive at 9 p.m. that night walking from the reservation back to her community. Local authorities later found her body with stab wounds. Although the motives of the crime are unknown, indigenous authorities reported seeing pamphlets, allegedly circulated by an armed group, threatening individuals who use hallucinogenic substances. Marta was 23 years old.


ADISPA Social Leader Assassinated (Putumayo)

The Inter-Ecclesial Peace and Justice Commission (Comision Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, CIJP) reports the assassination of Association of Sustainable Integral Development of the Amazonic Pearl (La Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Sostenible de La Perla Amazónica, ADISPA) member Ottos Valenzuela on October 8 on a reserve in La Perla Amazónica. His body was found by locals after they heard a shot fired around 6:30 p.m. Valenzuela actively participated in ADISPA meetings and on August 24 he participated in a meeting which highlighted the National Government’s breaches of the agreement for the termination of the armed conflict in the territories and return plan of the communities of La Piña and La Frontera after the displacement in 2013.


Misak Professor Murdered (Cauca)

On September 21, the Association of Educators and Workers of Cauca (Asociación de Institutores y Trabajadores de la Educación del Cauca, ASOINCA) reported the murder of Miguel Antonio Morales Calambas, a member of the Misak indigenous community. Local authorities report that Morales was traveling via motorcycle to Suárez when a group of men approached and killed him. The men also stole the belongings of the woman traveling with him. Morales is among the six ASOINCA professors murdered this year.


Indigenous Person Murdered Near Huellas Caloto Reserve (Cauca)

On September 23, the ONIC reported that Janer Ulpiano Ul Calambas was shot and killed by an alleged FARC dissident member following a dispute. The whereabouts of the perpetrator remain unknown. This act of violence puts the authorities of the indigenous communities of the Northern Cauca region on high alert. Mr. Janer was the brother of an indigenous authority and the son of a leader on the Huellas Caloto reserve.


Indigenous Person Gravely Injured in FARC/ELN Conflict (Cauca)

On September 16, ONIC reports that indigenous member Domingo Largo Hibito was gravely injured after an armed conflict between the FARC and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) guerrilla group in Corinto, Cauca. ONIC calls for a formal investigation in order to identify and prosecute Domingo’s attackers.


Motorcycle Bomb Assassination Attempt Targets Ombudsman in Corinto (Cauca)

The National Federation of Ombudsman of Colombia (Federación Nacional de Personerías, FENALPER) reports an assassination attempt on October 3 in Corinto, Cauca. This attempt involved a motorcycle bomb that exploded near the residence of the mother of Víctor Manuel Salaz Flores, Ombudsman of the Municipality of Corinto. Ten people were affected by the explosion. In August, another motorcycle bomb exploded on a property belonging to Flores.


Assassination Attempt on Indigenous Human Rights Defender (La Guajira)

ONIC reports that on September 27, a group of four males attempted to assassinate indigenous human rights defender Matilde Leonor López Arpushana in Riohacha, La Guajira. After an exchange of gunfire, López’s security team shot at the group and injured one of the attackers by the name of Marcos López. In July, Matilde received a suspicious note in a bouquet of flowers after she was awarded for her work and dedication to human rights. Matilde was awarded the national human rights prize in 2014 due to her outstanding work. According to the Church of Sweden and Diakonia: she “is an Indigenous leader, representing 145 local communities from the Wayuu Indigenous peoples group, working to protect and defend boys, girls and women’s rights in Riohacha, in the department of Guajira. Her work is carried out within the framework of the Consejeria de la Mujer, Familia and Generacion of the ONIC.”


Assassination Attempt on Wayuú Indigenous Leaders (La Guajira)

ONIC reports an assassination attempt on Wayuú indigenous leaders Ramón Vieco Ariza and José Silva Duarte on October 1 in Riohacha, La Guajira. On the way to Vieco’s residence, Silva, accompanied by his bodyguard, noticed the presence of several individuals carrying firearms. The bodyguard fired at the attackers. Luckily, Silva and Vieco were not harmed.


Two Human Rights Leaders Kidnapped in Eastern Colombia (Arauca, Casanare)

Contagio Radio reports the kidnapping of two social leaders, Hermes José Burgos and Alix Miriam Aguilar, on September 30 and October 1 in Eastern Colombia. Burgos was captured in Arauca in response to an order from the Attorney General’s office for alleged crimes of delinquency and rebellion. Aguilar was captured in Casanare when members of the police force raided her property for the second time since 2015. Both individuals are members of the Political Movement of Social and Popular Tables of the Middle East of Colombia (Movimiento Político de Mesas Social y Popular del Centro Oriente de Colombia) and their captures are allegedly aimed at breaking down the organizational capacity and communication channels of the movement.


Son of El Carmen Mayor Who Was Abducted is Found (Norte de Santander)

El Tiempo newspaper reports that Cristo José Contreras, son of Edwin Humberto Contreras the mayor of El Carmen was returned home on October 9 after being abducted a week earlier on October 3. Cristo was abducted on the way to school by two armed men in the village of Guamalito, El Carmen. He was found alone and crying in the jungle by a military search group and reunited with his with family later that day.


Intimidation of Displaced Human Rights Leaders (Putumayo)

CIJP reports that on September 24, two men were seen loitering at the residence of human rights leaders Hugo Miramar and Jani Silva, directors of ADISPA. Human rights defender Viviana Martínez from Justicia y Paz was also present. The men reportedly observed who was inside the residence and recorded its security measures. The two men were seen at the residence the following day and fled by vehicle after they were approached by the security force. Due to previous threats, Jani and Hugo are currently displaced and living in Puerto Asís since January 2018.


Indigenous Person Followed and Threatened (Cauca)

ONIC reports that on September 18, José Hildo Pete Vivas was followed and threatened at gunpoint by two men on a motorcycle in Pueblo Nasa, Cauca. The men followed José near indigenous reservation Coheteando and pointed a firearm at him before he was able to accelerate on his own motorcycle and escape.


Bonaverenses on High Alert Due to Threats (Valle del Cauca)

On October 8, the Afro-Colombian National Peace Council (Consejo Nacional de Paz Afrocolombiano, CONPA) and the Black Communities Process in Colombia (Proceso de Comunidades Negra en Colombia, PCN) announced a state of high alert due to the presence of two armed groups, the FARC and United Forces of the Pacific (Fuerzas Unidas del Pacífico), in the southern district of Buenaventura near the Naya and Yurumanguí rivers. As a result of this presence, the mobility and day-to-day activities of Afro-Colombian communities are severely restricted. The alert calls for humanitarian accompaniment on October 25, 26 and 27 to bring the necessary support to communities, organizations and their leaders.


Black Eagles Threaten Human Rights Defenders (Cundinamarca)

On October 3, the Black Eagles issued a death threat containing a list of prominent human rights defenders and social leaders. Among those listed are Marco Romero of the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), who just visited DC in a delegation supported by WOLA.  Also listed were Jose Humberto Torres and Claudia Lopez. Jose Humberto, human rights lawyer, recently published a piece about the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Claudia Lopez, a former Senator and VP Candidate now social leader, will be speaking at WOLA’s Colombia conference on October 16 at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace.


Paramilitaries Send Out Mass Death Threat (La Guajira)

ONIC reports on October 10 the Black Eagles circulated a death threat pamphlet targeting them along with another 50 human rights organizations and all organizations directly with the Wayuú indigenous population. The pamphlets describe human rights defenders as “impeding the progress of the country” and threaten to “cleanse the department of these scumbags” and were found circulating the railway line of El Cerrejón in La Guajira. The threat occurred just two days before the Day of the Peoples’ Resistance.


U ‘t Wala Vxic Indigenous Authority Threatened by FARC (Cauca)

ONIC reports that U ‘t Wala Vxic indigenous authority Guillermo Zambrano was threatened on September 26 by the FARC via a pamphlet ordering him to flee the territory in 24 hours or be declared a military target. On August 30, threats were made towards Pioyá governor Ovidio Hurtado Pito and former governor Fredy Alexander Campo Bomba by the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces, ex members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC). Starting in July, this group declared all social and rural farmers’ organizations to be military targets. Among them the ONIC, the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca, ACIN) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca, CRIC).


Threats against ORIVAC Indigenous Leaders (Valle del Cauca)

On September 11, ONIC and the Regional Indigenous Organization (Organización Regional Indígena Valle del Cauca, ORIVAC) reported threats against the following indigenous leaders in Valle del Cauca: Enelio Opua Burgara, Alex Lúlico Fernández, Ronald Gutiérrez Cortez, Cristian Andrés Rivera Guejia, Arelis Juliana Cortes Vitonco, Julieth Cuchillo Pérez, William Escobar Gutiérrez, Jorge Chiripua Chamarra, Fanory Mestizo Mera, James Ordoñez, María Raquel Trujillo, Aldiver Dagua, Enelia Mestizo, Diego Pinzón, Ernesto Dagua, Emilio Valencia, Jhon Dagua, Nilson Guainas, Mario Guegia, Wilson Lulico, Luis Horacio Dagua, Julio Lulico, Alirio Ipia, Milton Conda and Nelson Chocue Dagua. After receiving the threats, the named individuals requested protection from the National Protection Unit (UNP). ONIC requests a criminal investigation against the perpetrators of these threats.


Second Threat against ORIVAC Indigenous Leaders (Valle del Cauca)

On September 27 ONIC reports various threats toward indigenous leaders and authorities Luis Horacio Dagua, Maria Raquel Trujillo Mestizo and Nelson Chocue Dagua of Indigenous Regional Organization of Valle del Cauca (Organización Regional Indígena del Valle del Cauca, ORIVAC). On this day the threats were received via text message from an unknown party. Earlier in September, pamphlets circulated by the Western Bloc of the Black Eagles declared ACIN indigenous leaders and leaders from Pradera and Florida a military target. In July, Indigenous and Social Alternative Movement (Movimiento Alternativo Indígena y Social, MAIS) leaders received similar threats accusing them of collaborating with guerrillas.


Reprisals against Trade Unionists (Antioquia)

On October 11, Fabian Jaramillo of the Medellin chapter of SINTRACARCOL (the Colombian trade union for cardboard workers) was notified that disciplinary actions would be taken against him. Fabian, along with SINTRACARCOL and SINTRAPULCAR are engaged in a civic protest against Smurfit Kappa Company for having arbitrarily fired trade union leaders.  The trade unions have filed a legal suit against the company for anti-unionist activity.


We thank you in advance for your attention to these important matters. Please contact us for further details if needed.



Gimena Sanchez

Director for the Andes