Human Rights Advocates Under Attack in Colombia
On May 19, 1997, four men burst into the home of Mario Calderón and Elsa Alvarado and gunned them down. Elsa’s father, Carlos Alvarado, was also killed in the attack. The couple had worked for many years as researchers at one of Bogotá’s best known think-tanks and human rights organizations, the Jesuit-run Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP). Both participated in an environmental project in a town neighboring Bogotá and taught in local universities. Their deaths have left many — among them environmental activists, human rights defenders, community leaders, professors, and Jesuits — in mourning, and deeply frightened. Most see this killing as a clear warning of things to come. Indeed, in the months following the murders, there was a wave of death threats against human rights activists in Bogotá, forcing several prominent human rights defenders into exile.