So far this year, WOLA has registered at least 105 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.
Alarming Security Crisis Facing Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Leaders
The Consultancy on Human Rights and Displacement (Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento, CODHES) documents attacks against human rights defenders. This month, it report that so far in 2018, 35 percent of social leaders murdered in Colombia belong to ethnic minorities that can be broken down into 19 percent Afro-Colombian and 16 percent indigenous. Out of a total of 38 murdered, 21 were Afro-Colombians and 17 indigenous. Approximately 50 percent of the victims were authorities or representatives of ethnic territories and organizations. Another 36 percent were community or union leaders, 8 percent land rights claimants and 6 percent are members of the family of women social leaders. The worst affected regions in order of total numbers were Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Chocó, and Córdoba.
Six Massacred, Three Disappeared, Two Injured in Armed Conflict (Cauca)
The Coordination of Community Councils and Grassroots Organizations of the Black People of the Pacific Coast of Cauca (Coordinación de Consejos Comunitarios y Organizaciones de Base del Pueblo Negro de la Costa Pacífica del Cauca, COCOCAUCA) reported that a massacre took place on October 29 in the San Antonio de Garamendi Community Council located in López de Micay. The result was six killed, three disappeared, and two wounded. The first person to be killed was allegedly a member of one of the armed groups fighting with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de la Liberación Nacional, ELN). Four of the six fatalities were identified to be Erika Riascos Suarez, Ester Jovani Valencia, Junio Renteria and Paola Hermann. Neifer Samuel Riascos and Laura Riascos Suarez were injured.
Five ASCAMCAT Leaders Murdered This Year (Catatumbo)
On November 8, the Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyer’s Collective (Corporación Colectivo de Abogados Luis Carlos Pérez, CALCP) reports the killing five social leaders of the Peasant Farmer Association of Catatumbo (Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo, ASCAMCAT).
Social Leader Murdered (Norte de Santander)
On October 13, the murder of Dioselí Noriega, community leader, was reported in Convención, Norte de Santander. He was ambushed and shot to death by an unknown actor while taking his children home from a birthday party. Dioselí was the president of the Community Action Board of La Laguna (Junta de Acción Comunal y ASOJUNTAS de la Laguna).
Nasa Indigenous Activist Assassinated (Cauca)
On October 15, the Organization for Indigenous Persons of Colombia (Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia, ONIC) reported the murder of Celmira Chilhueso Hilamo in the Huellas Caloto indigenous reserve. Celmira, a mother and indigenous activist, leaves behind three children: Katherine Mildrey Mestizo, Carol Michel Ocampo Chilgueso, and Juan David Ocampo.
Nasa Indigenous Member Assassinated (Cauca)
On October 22, the ONIC and the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Northern Cauca (Asociación Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca, ACIN) reported the murder of Jose Domingo Ulcue Collazos. Jose was a community teacher at the Munchique los Tigres indigenous reserve in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca. He was attacked by a group of unidentified persons who shot him several times while Jose was riding his motorcycle in the Las Quince Letras area.
Indigenous Social Leader Murdered (Cauca)
On November 1, Radio Súper Popayán reported the murder of Javier Ancizar Fernandez in Suárez. Javier was the director of the Association of Teachers of Cauca (Asociación de Institutores del Cauca, ASOINCA) and received death threats not long before his assassination. He was shot to death while driving home from work.
Palm Oil Worker Murdered (Meta)
On November 4, the National Labor Union for Food Workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Productos Grasos y Alimenticios, SINTRAIMAGRA) reported the murder of Edilberto Niño Cristancho. Edilberto was discovered at work by neighboring farmers and was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital. He was an Aceites Manuelita oil palm worker for 28 years and was on the Board of Grievances for the Villavicencio Chapter of SINTRAIMAGRA. The oil palm sector is one of the five priority sectors of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action.
Disappeared Afro-Colombian Found Dead (Chocó)
On October 17, the Inter-Ecclesial Justice and Peace Commission (Comision Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, CIJP) reported that the body of Juan David Hurtado Mosquera who disappeared on October 17 was found. Juan was last seen on a bus traveling from Pereira to Cali. He disappeared after he was followed by a group of unidentified men who stole his cell phone. This group allegedly drugged him. After he regained consciousness, Juan unsuccessfully attempted to escape. The men kept Juan captive claiming that he owed them money. They forced him to sell illicit substances in order to pay this “debt.” His mother, Stella, is a social leader and participates in the Chair of Territorial Subjects of Peace with Justice (Cátedra Sujetos Territoriales de Paz con Justicia).
Kidnapped Social Leader Found Dead (Cauca)
On October 27, Zona Cero newspaper reported that the body of María Caicedo Muñoz was found in an Argelian river. Maria was kidnapped from her home on October 20 by two unidentified armed men. She was an activist with the Women’s Committee of the Association of Peasant Woman of Argelia (Comité de Mujeres de la Asociación de Mujeres Campesinas de Argelia) and the Peasant Association of Workers of Argelia (Asociación Campesina de Trabajadores de Argelia).
SINALTRAINAL Leader Suffers Assassination Attempt (Valle del Cauca)
On October 30, Omar Rengifo Rojas, President of the National Union for Agri-Food System Workers (Sindicato National de Trabajadores del Sistema Agroalimentario, SINALTRAINAL) in Bugalagrande for Nestlé Colombia suffered an assassination attempt. Unknown persons on a motorcycle fired three shots at Omar’s home while Omar was inside with his wife and daughter. The bullets shot through the front door and hit the walls. Fortunately, no one was harmed in this attack. Prior to this on October 21, Omar received a suspicious call at his home requesting that he go to a remote location and collect paperwork belonging to a friend. He refused the request and reported the incident to local police. This is the third attack this year against members of SINALTRAINAL in Valle del Cauca where three persons were assassinated.
CSIVI Lawyer Targeted by Paramilitaries (Bogotá)
On October 16, People’s World reported that human rights lawyer Diego Martinez is declared as a military target. Martinez found an undetonated bomb in the parking lot where he works after receiving multiple death threats. Martinez, the former executive secretary of the Permanent Committee for Human Rights formed part of the legal commission representing the FARC peace negotiators in Havana. At present, Martinez is the Technical Secretary of the Commission for Monitoring, Impulse and Verification of the Final Agreement (Comisión de Seguimiento, Impulso y Verificación a la Implementación del Acuerdo Final, CSIVI). An attack against him is an effort to sabotage advancement of peace accord implementation.
Alleged FARC Dissidents Attack Indigenous Person (Caquetá)
On October 9, the ONIC reported alleged FARC dissidents attacked Uitoto indigenous member Carlos Garay Martínez. Starting in August, Carlos received a series of death threats targeting him and his family. Fortunately, he was not harmed in this attack.
SINTRABIOFILM Counselor Declared Military Target (Bolívar)
On October 26, Biofilm Workers Union (Sindicato de Trabajadores de Biofilm, SINTRABIOFILM) reported that unionist Edwin Molina and his family received a death threat. SINTRABIOFILM’s secretary received a call declaring Edwin to be a “military target,” declaring him a guerrilla and extending the threat to his son. Edwin is a SINTRABIOFILM union counselor and president of the Cartagena chapter of SINALTRAINAL.
Family of Indigenous Leader Threatened by Armed Individuals (Florencia)
The National Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (Organización Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Colombiana, OPIAC) reported that on October 23, two armed men interrogated the nephew of indigenous leader Timoleon Bautista. The men were trying to determine the whereabouts of Timoleon. Timoleon is displaced in a unknown location. He moved once the death threats were extended to his entire family.
Afro-Colombian Leaders Remain Detained (Valle del Cauca)
On October 30, the Municipal Association of Women (Asociación Municipal de Mujeres, ASOM) reported that Afro-Colombian leaders, Sara Quiñones and Tulia Maris Valencia, of the Black Communities Process (PCN) remain in detention. For seven-months they have been in prison without revision of their case. ASOM claims that this extended detention amounts to torture. In September 2018, the organizational process these two women belong to Alto Mira y Frontera (Nariño), was awarded the Colombian National Human Rights Defenders Prize.
Attack on Kankuamo Community (Cesar)
On October 18, the Human Rights Commission of Indigenous Peoples (Comisión de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos Indígenas) reported that the Atanquez Kankuamo community was attacked while the men were engaged in a traditional ceremony. The national police, Jhon Robert Torres and Amilcar Arias alerted the community that unknown actors had started a fire. The community was able to put out the fire before it spread to the women’s meeting house. Indigenous authorities, along with the rest of Kankuamo community, express that this attack threatens security and development, especially given the frequency of similar events in three of the twelve communities that form part of the Kankuamo reserve. The following day the La Mina community held a security council, establishing that these attacks threaten their “right to life, territory, autonomy, self-determination, and self-government.”
Indigenous Authority Reports Illegal Armed Group Increase (Amazonas)
The National Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (Organización Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Colombiana, OPIAC) reports that in September there was an increased presence of armed actors in Mirití and Puerto Alegría municipalities, Amazonas. Mamurá authority Luciano Yacuna Matapi reported that the “suspicious movement” of armed actors within their territories was due to drug trafficking. Since October 8, suspicious activity has taken place in these municipalities, preventing transit through indigenous territories and halting communities’ ability to harvest raw materials. The increased presence of armed groups threatens the safety of indigenous and social leaders and community members.
Illegal Armed Group Occupying Embera Katío Territory (Córdoba)
On November 3, Verdad Abierta reported that the AGC and a group known as “Los Caparrapos” had encroached into Embera Katío territory in San José de Uré. These illegal actors are impeding the indigenous from fishing. The community does receive any protection from the State and is at high risk of harm. Between January 2016 and July 2018, 13 indigenous members were killed in this same area.
Paramilitary Presence and Threats Surrounding Indigenous Reserve (Chocó)
The Human Rights Commission of Indigenous Peoples reported that armed combat between the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, AGC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) has taken place in Carmen del Darien municipality since October 19. They state that the AGC and ELN are threatening to bomb the indigenous communities of the Unión Chogorodó Río Domingodó reserve on October 22. These communities are surrounded by illegal armed groups and unable to move out of the area due to restrictions imposed upon them. WOLA has not received further information on what has transpired since.
Resource Extractions Endanger Indigenous Communities (Amazonas)
The Human Rights Commission of Indigenous Peoples finds that the increased and “uncontrolled” exploitation of resources in Caño Pupuña over recent years by outsiders in the Predio Putumayo reserve is endangering the lives of the indigenous peoples living in this area. Community members are scared to denounce the situation because they fear for their lives. Beyond the security concerns, the pollution generated by these extractions puts at risk the health and food security of the community.
Attacks and Threats against the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartadó (Antioquia)
On November 6, 71 international human rights organizations, platforms, networks and cooperation agencies sent a letter to the OAS’s InterAmerican Commission and Court of Human Rights (IACHR) regarding a legal filed by the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army against the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. The letter urges the OAS to investigate certain cases in order to prevent further harm from taking place against this community.
The Peace Community reported that it experienced a long list of security incidents from late September and early October that are concerning:
-On September 16, an unidentified man with the alias “René”, allegedly ex-FARC arrived at the Caracolí ranch and declared himself the “paramilitary commander of the zone.”
-On September 18, paramilitaries called a village meeting in La Cristalina, demanding that all persons register their activities. A young man, Guisao, who left the meeting and refused their requests later received death threats.
-On September 20, a paramilitary from the Cardona family visited a leader of the Peace Community and informed him that the paramilitary intend to assassinate three community leaders before the end of 2018. According to this source, the paramilitaries plan to progressively eliminate the Peace Community. The threat currently targets: Germán Graciano, legal representative of the community; Gildardo Tuberquía, member of the Internal Council and coordinator of the Middle Peace Village of Mulatos; Hugo Alberto Molina, member of the community.
-On September 20, paramilitary member John Edison Góez was detained on a road between Apartadó and San José and later set free.
-On September 22, paramilitaries held a party in La Unión village where they became intoxicated in front of the memorial for the six who were massacred in 2004.
-On September 23, several paramilitaries were seen approaching the Peace Community of La Unión.
-On September 25, a soldier and a civilian jointly approached the San Josesito Peace Community.
-The first week of October, paramilitary brothers Cardona Borja were in San José village. Their they commented that a paramilitary raid will take place on December 29 where they will kill Germán Graciano Posso, Gildardo Tuberquia and Jesús Emilio Tuberquia. These men also affirmed that paramilitaries are gathering intelligence on the community and monitoring the targets they intend to kill.
-On October 5, Judge Mariela Gómez Carvajal issued an order protecting the honor of the 17th Brigade military personnel.
-On October 12, Francisco Luis Posada Úsuga was found dead in the Peace Community of La Esperanza.
Former Intelligence Director Wiretapped ACDAC Unionists (Cundinamarca)
Colombia’s Attorney General’s office reported that Laude José Fernández Arroyo was arrested on October 30 in Bogotá. Laude is accused of illegally wiretapping the WhatsApp and email communications of AVIANCA pilots including all of the members of the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (Asociación Colombiana de Aviadores Civiles, ACDAC). ACDAC is the union that was responsible for organizing a pilot’s strike in 2017. According to the AG, charges against Laude include the illicit use of communication networks, excessive abuse of a computer system, interception of computer data, use of malicious software and violation of personal data. Laude served as General Director of Intelligence and Head of Counterintelligence at the Administrative Security Department (DAS). The now defunct DAS agency was dismantled due to its abuse of power and illegal activities. Laude did not accept the charges at the hearing and was not declared a threat to society rather he was released from custody as the investigation continues.
Union Workers Arbitrarily Fired (Cundinamarca)
On October 24, the Labor Information Agency (Agencia de Información Laboral, AIL) reported that several union workers were arbitrarily dismissed. They note the particularly egregious case of Amarildo Maldonado Piñeros, treasurer of the Bogotá chapter of the National Union of Avianca Workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Avianca (SINTRAVA) and member Colombian Air Transport Workers’ Union (Sindicato de los Trabajadores del Transporte Aéreo Colombiano, SINTRATAC) who was fired without cause on October 11. Amarildo is awaiting his judicial proceeding.
Taghleef Industries/Biofilm Merger Leads to Firing of Unionists (Bolívar)
On November 12, SINTRABIOFILM reported that the merger of Taghleef Industries with Biofilm led to a “strict and violent” policy against labor unions. On October 29, a group of union leaders and activists were formally dismissed. Gloria Puello, the Head of Human Resources, allegedly refused to provide the unionists with written explanations for their dismissals. On November 6, the company fired two union executives, Alfredo Pernet Ayos and Giovanni Quiroz Amaya, vice-president, and member of SINTRABIOFILM after complaining about these illegal dismissals.
SINALTRAINAL Coca-Cola Strikes in Barranquilla (Atlántico)
SINALTRAINAL organized a strike on October 2 at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Barranquilla. This was to raise visibility to their employer discriminating against unionized and non-unionized workers throughout the country. The union claims that these policies undermine human dignity and that they “border on humiliation and cruel treatment” against members of the SINALTRAINAL union. The union is asking Coca-Cola bottle plant administrators to dialogue with them and to comply with agreements made in their contracts.
WOLA is also urging U.S. officials to take action to protect Afro-Colombian leaders Hector Marino of northern Cauca and Arley Estupinan of Buenaventura, both of whom’s security situation significantly deteriorated in recent weeks. Hector recently visited the U.S. on a tour to promote the documentary Nos Estan Matando, which features him and indigenous Senator Feliciano Valencia. The National Protection Unit (UNP) should implement all measures necessary to guarantee their safety. The U.S. Embassy must monitor these cases to make sure that Colombian authorities are acting to prevent further attacks against both activists. We thank you in advance for your attention to these human rights and labor rights situations. If further information is required please contact me at (202) 797-2171 or [email protected]
Director for the Andes
November 21, 2018