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  • Colombia's Ombudsman Carlos Negret at a conference in Salamanca, Spain, June 17, 2018.

    Colombia's Ombudsman Carlos Negret at a conference in Salamanca, Spain, June 17, 2018. | Photo: EFE

Published 7 June 2019

Colombia's weak implementation of the 2016 peace accords is allowing Mexican drug traffickers to operate in the country, leading to social leader murders.

Colombia's highest prosecutor and oversight official, Carlos Negret denounced the presence of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel in southern Colombia, in the department of Caqueta, one of the areas most affected by armed violence for decades.

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"I am worried about extortion, illegal roadblocks and recruitment of minors in Caqueta, as well as drug trafficking, growth of dissent and the presence of the Sinaloa cartel," Negret said at a public hearing held in the city of Neiva Thursday.

"The prosecutor has made a serious denunciation ... and I believe that it's an urgent warning to the attorney general's office and the security forces," Colombian Congressman Harry Gonzalez commented.

Mexican traffickers have been operating in the Tumaco municipality in the Nariño Department, which has the largest number of coca production, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime ( UNODC).

"It has been reported a new killing of a Colombian social leader, Julian Quiñones, who denounced corruption acts in public works carried out to build a sports center in Coveñas. So far, more than 60 social leaders have been killed in 2019."

Negret spoke about the Sinaloa cartel the same day Colombian President Ivan Duque signed the Statutory Law of the Special Jurisdiction of Peace, which was one of the last legal instruments to implement the 2016 peace agreement signed between the previous administration and the former Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia (FARC) that has since formed its own political party under the same acronym.

The statute further allows the Special Jurisdiction of Peace (JEP), a temporary tribunal that is judging cases of former FARC and other guerilla members that fought in the country's 50-year conflict with the state and cartels, to be fully operational.

"The JEP now has all the constitutional and legal instruments to carry out (cases) with respect to those who had a decisive role in the most serious and representative acts of the armed conflict," said the president.​​​​​​​

But the new measure may be too little too late as far-right politicians blocked the peace process and protection of social leaders in rural areas once protected by FARC, leading to the assassination of social, environmental and Indigenous leaders in the swaths of regions the state has abandoned.

On Thursday, community leader Julian Quiñones, who had denounced a corruption case in the Coveñas municipality, was shot to death while riding on a motorcycle.

FARC Senator Julian Gallo said Friday 114 former guerrillas and 31 of their relatives have been assassinated since 2016.

United Nations, the European Union and other international organizations continue to pressure Duque to do more to protect social leaders and former guerrillas and to protect the hard-won peace agreement signed in Havana, Cuba.

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