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News > Colombia

Colombia Mourns 8th Indigenous Leader Killed in 2019

  • The leader survived the attack. He was hospitalized due to a gunshot wound.

    The leader survived the attack. He was hospitalized due to a gunshot wound. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 14 January 2019

A report indicates that 34 Awa indigenous leaders were killed in 2018 prompting an immediate government response.

Leonardo Nastacuas Rodriguez is the first indigenous leader of the Awa ethnic group that has been murdered in 2019, and the 8th indigenous leader alone since the turn of the year.

Study: Killing of Colombian Social Leaders Is 'Systematic'

The 36-year-old Leonardo Nastacuas, the father of a 2-year-old girl, was shot and killed by “various” assailants who entered his home, according to preliminary media reports.

The national police are investigating the murder, while indigenous authorities are conducting their own research to try to determine the identity of the assailants.

Last year, 34 leaders belonging to the Awa ethnicity were murdered by armed groups in their territory. The Awas have decried the violence and reiterated their demands to the State of Colombia to take action to protect their territory from violence.

This is the third murder of an Awa in the span of a few months. Another two men from the same ethnicity, Ramiro Garcia and his son Braulio Garcia—who had recently been elected governor of Palmar Imbi—were also killed in Nariño. 

In the face of the rampant killings of indigenous leaders perpetrated in Colombia during 2018, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC for its acronym in Spanish) denounced the government’s lack of guarantees for indigenous leaders to demand the protection and defense of the country’s ancestral lands.

There have been several cases lately involving attacks on indigenous leaders and their families.

Seven indigenous leaders have been massacred since the start of 2019, with arguably the most brutal the shooting of activist Maritza Quiroz Leiva, who was targeted for helping Afro-Colombian victims in the country's long-standing civil conflict

Towards the end of December, indigenous Senator German Valencia denounced an attack on his brother while at his home, by a group of six armed hooded men in the Vilachi Village, Valle del Cauca.

During the same month, the recently elected Awa Governor of the Pingullo Sardinero community Alejandro Pascal Pai was attacked along with his wife.

The Colombian government has acknowledged the troubling situation regarding the murder of social leaders.

Indigenous people are often targeted by criminal organizations such as paramilitary groups. These groups have become stronger in the absence of the former guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC for its acronym in Spanish) in the aftermath of the 2016 peace accords, and continue to gain strength in the already existent void of government control in mainly rural areas of Colombia.

Referring to a recent study, Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez said that the greatest number of Colombians murdered over the past two years since the peace agreement was signed are social leaders who serve on Communal Action Boards (JAC). 

Indigenous people made up 13 percent of those killed and farmers 10 percent. Union leaders and social leaders, Afro-Colombians and the LGBTI population were the other main murder victims.

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