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  • Yolanda Maturana (R) was known for her stalwart position against illegal mining and water contamination in Colombia

    Yolanda Maturana (R) was known for her stalwart position against illegal mining and water contamination in Colombia's rural sectors. | Photo: @yolandamaturana

Published 3 February 2018

"It cannot be possible that people who devote their lives to service – with civility, community spirit and solidarity – are threatened and suffering," said Public Defender Elsa Gladys Cifuentes.

Yolanda Maturana had spent her life defending Colombia's wildlife, its forests and other natural treasures – and for that she has paid the ultimate price: her life.

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Late Thursday, a group of armed men burst into Maturana's home in the village of Santa Cecilia and shot her on sight, leaving her lifeless body to be found by her Indigenous neighbors.

"It cannot be possible that people who devote their lives to service – with civility, community spirit and solidarity – are threatened and suffering for their lives and that of their families," said Public Defender Elsa Gladys Cifuentes in an interview with RCN Radio.

The attorney confirmed the murder, revealing that she had received numerous complaints from Pueblo Rico Indigenous reservations reporting the arrival of suspicious people in the area in recent weeks.

"We proceeded to notify the authorities; this is already under investigation and in the morning today we will be receiving confirmation of these complaints which detail the mutual feeling of fear shared in these communities," Cifuentes said.

Maturana was known for her stalwart position against illegal mining and water contamination in the center and northwestern Colombian departments of Risaralda and Choco.

Neighbors described her as a caring environmentalist whose sole mission was to defend her native country's flora and fauna.

Violence against social, human and environmental activists has skyrocketed since the evacuation of guerilla groups from rural sectors. Paramilitaries have filled the void where former rebel groups once held sway and assault and murder have become almost daily occurrences.

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A recent report by the Institute of Studies for the Development of Peace (Indepaz) shows that since January 1 at least 23 community leaders have been murdered, five of them by the Colombian army.

This brings the estimated number of assassinations in the last two years close to 200, with Indepaz reporting about 170 murders in the past 12 months.

The most violent sectors are Antioquia, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Choco and Cesar, Somos Defensores Spokesman Carlos Guevara has said.

Social organizations predict continued growth in the level of violence if the national government continues to avoid its obligation to protect the poorer sectors and implement security measures in favor of social leaders according to the Colombian 2016 Peace Accord.


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