The comments come as protests are planned in 58 cities around the world, against the mass killing of Colombia’s social activists.
Luis Guillermo Echeverri ran the 2018 campaign for right-wing President Duque’s and spoke to Blu Radio on Wednesday, saying without evidence activists are killed because they’re criminals.
“The thing with social leaders is very relative. There are good ones and there are others who die because of scores settled between them, for messing with the wrong things and [they are murdered] generally by people who are violent and it’s the people who have been armed in this country, more than anything, those who have been involved in drug trafficking.”
“Unfortunately, those who use violence and have been involved in illegality do a lot of the killing of social leaders and that hurts me a lot, but what hurts me more is that they are killing people who claim to defend the people, but what they do is being involved in illegal businesses.”
Between April 2016 and April 201, 479 social activists have been killed in Colombia. These include human rights defenders, land reform activist, indigenous leaders.
Furthermore, a large number of former FARC combatants have been murdered despite agreeing to lay down arms as part of the 2016 peace deal. Between 2016 and January 2019 85 have been killed.
The violence is part of the general breakdown of Colombia’s peace process. As leftist guerillas laid down arms and gave up territory they held, the state and right-wing paramilitaries have failed to live up to their end of the deal, continuing campaigns of violence against social leaders.
A U.N. report from January points out that the bulk of these killings have taken place in areas where the FARC withdrew from, causing many to question the effectiveness of the 2016 peace accords.