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News > Latin America

Colombia: Another Social Leader Killed Amid Gov't Slow Response

  • Workers who collect coca leaves, known locally as

    Workers who collect coca leaves, known locally as "raspachines," carry bags with harvested leaves to be processed into coca paste in Guaviare province in Colombia. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 February 2018

More than 20 human rights defenders have been killed so far in 2018 as the government kicks off an investigation into the killings.

Flover Sapuyes Gaviria, another Colombian social leader and human rights defender, was killed Friday according to Francisco Isaías Cifuentes Human Rights Network and the National Human Rights Commission of Patriotic March.

Colombian Campesino Leader Murdered, Paramilitaries Implicated

The attack took place Friday afternoon at Gaviria’s home in the Cauca department of Colombia when a gunman on a motorcycle fired a the social leader, who then tried to run for his life but the attacker continued shooting at him before killing him at the scene. He received five bullets according to the reports.

Sapuyes was the treasurer of the Promotion Committee of the National Coordinator of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana, COCCAM, in the village of La Esperanza, a member of the Peasant Workers' Association of Balboa, ASCATBAL, and a member of the Patriotic March movement.

Last week two human rights defenders Orlando Grueso, a former guerrilla, and Jonathan Cundimi, a local activist, were also assassinated by gunmen in the Cauca department.

They were working to help campesinos transition from growing coca crops to alternative crops in the region. The were also members of Coccam, and the Political and Social Movement of the Patriotic March in Cauca.

Ever since the launch of the government's national substitution program in May 2017, conflict over cultivating coca leaves, the base ingredient for cocaine, has escalated as the government has mounted pressure on campesinos to stop the practice altogether and replace it with growing cocoa, coffee or banana.

Earlier this month the Colombian government announced the creation of research and technical panels to investigate the killings of social leaders and human rights defenders, which so far this year claimed more than 20 lives.

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