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Six social leaders have been killed in 2019. All were community leaders or were fulfilling key aspects of the peace process until they were gunned down.
At least six social and Campesino leaders have been murdered in Colombia during the first days of 2019, prompting the senate’s peace commission to request the state for protection to prevent more cases of lethal attacks.
Gilberto Valencia, Jesus Perafan, Wilmer Miranda, Wilson Perez, Maritza Quiroz, and Salomon Pulido were all recognized as leaders in their communities or were fulfilling key aspects of the peace process until they were gunned down.
On Tuesday, the peace commission issued a public statement addressing the alarming trend and demanding the state to fulfill the guarantees and measures established in the peace accords, signed between the Colombian state and former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016.
“We consider this as an attack on the peace process, given that it is hurting and seeking to eliminate in a systematic way those who are participating in the implementation of the peace accords,” Ivan Cepeda, member of the peace commission and of the Alternative Democratic Pole party, said Tuesday.
The trend is clear. Maritza Quiroz was murdered in the land she had recovered as part of the peace process. Her family’s victory to undo the forced displacement they were a victim of was short. Her husband was the first to be killed by hitmen for successfully reclaiming their land.
Wilmer Antonio Miranda a trade unionist and peasant leader was an active supporter of the crop substitution program, another key aspect of the peace process and a political victory by FARC to avoid the criminalization of Campesinos forced to plant marihuana, poppy, and coca who need to transition into legal crops.
The peace process has succeeded in demobilizing the FARC and incorporating their members into political life but it has failed to keep their members safe. Salomon Pulido was the first FARC member to be killed in 2019 but, according to local rights group Indepaz, at least 80 have been killed since the peace accords were signed.
Rural Colombia is far away from real peace despite the end of the conflict. Many NGOs and human rights group have revealed that the withdrawal of FARC from many territories have paved the way for far-right paramilitary groups in the face of an overall state absence.
“We especially warn of the grave situation of threats in the territories of the department of Cauca, where there are already 46 murders between Campesinos and Indigenous people; Choco, Caqueta, Norte de Santander, Antioquia, Cordoba, Cesar, Meta, Nariño, Sucre, and Putumayo, which merit a report and an efficient response plan of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Defense, and other government and state bodies,” the statement reads.