On August 11, five Afro-Colombian teenagers were found brutally tortured and murdered in Cali, in southwest Colombia. According to press reports, they had left their homes that morning to go fly kites.
This occurred in Llano Verde, a neighborhood in eastern Cali where the majority of families were forcibly displaced as a result of the armed conflict. For years, local activists and organizations have been calling for resources that would help provide their youth pathways out of poverty and deadly violence. This year, those pleas have become more urgent as criminal organizations have stepped up their efforts to forcefully recruit young people in the neighborhood. Violence by armed groups has disproportionately impacted low-income communities like Llano Verde. Today, these communities also face grave threats to their economic and food security as a result of COVID-19.
Authorities must conduct a thorough investigation into the massacre and bring those responsible to justice. But that’s not enough. Since the start of the confinement measures enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, civil society groups and ethnic communities have pleaded with the government to call for a multilateral ceasefire among all armed actors, to no avail. These calls were renewed following the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2532 on July 1 demanding a worldwide ceasefire in all armed conflicts for at least 90 days amid the pandemic.
Afro-Colombian communities are calling on the government and the international community to value the lives of the Afro-descendant and Indigenous people who bear the brunt of the country’s violence. The Colombian government needs to make justice, peace, and rights-respecting investment for ethnic communities a national priority.
Peace is not possible without listening to the communities most affected by violence. For years, the Colombian government has faltered in its efforts to implement the 2016 peace accords. It continues to fail in establishing state presence in areas dominated by armed actors. Nowhere is that failure more evident than in Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities who have suffered far too many tragedies like the one in Llano Verde.
WOLA extends its solidarity to the families and community affected by this tragedy. May they find solace during this difficult time. The memory of the lives of Luis Fernando Montaño, Josmar Jean Paul Cruz Perlaza, Álvaro Jose Caicedo Silva, Jair Andrés Cortes Castro, and Leider Cárdenas Hurtado must live on. Black communities across the country like Llano Verde deserve peace and justice.