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News > Colombia

Two Colombian Social Leaders Lost in the First Days of the Year

  • The year started to a tragic start with the loss of two social leaders, musical activist, Gilberto Valencia (L), and aspiring council member, Jesus Adier Perafan (R).

    The year started to a tragic start with the loss of two social leaders, musical activist, Gilberto Valencia (L), and aspiring council member, Jesus Adier Perafan (R). | Photo: RECON.org/ Twitter: @hesanabria

Published 2 January 2019

The death of two social leaders have left communities calling for justice and police scrambling for answers.

Only the second day into 2019 and Colombia has already lost two social leaders, state officials confirmed this week.


Indigenous Awa Leader Survives Attack in Southern Colombia

The first community leader reported killed was Gilberto Valencia, a social entrepreneur, peacebuilder and cultural manager in the city of Suarez. Valencia was sitting with friends and family when an anonymous shooter fired his weapon, killing the activist on the spot.

Police believe the culprit may have had some connection to the victim, although their hypotheses are still inconclusive.

Valencia was well-known in his community for his leadership in a political band, “Los Herederos,” which he used as a platform to spread a message of peace through music, lyricism, and dialogue. The young social leader was applauded by national organizations and awarded a prize in 2015 from the Colombian activism organization, RECON.

“Gilberto was very dear to all, for his charisma, joy. He was a person who reached out with his art, precisely to mediate and end violence in his municipality, in his country,” said Alexis Lucumi, a resident of Suarez.

"We hope that the guilty person will surrender, because the citizens are pressuring for an arrest. The victim was highly esteemed; he participated in activities such as the prevention of drug use and violence," said police commander, Colonel Fabio Rojas.

RECON director, Andres Santamaria, denounced the senseless act, saying, “Violence and social decomposition are picking off the leaders and social managers, who through their actions seek to build peace and generate opportunities for social transformation. In our country every day we allow our social leaders to continue to be killed."

The region’s second death was a social leader and citizen of Caicedonia Jesus Adier Perafan who was gunned down on Wednesday while he was leaving a local grocery store, city authorities confirmed. The victim was transferred to a hospital in Santander where he later died.

Adier’s attackers fled the scene on motorcycles, however, the lack of witnesses has stalled investigations and left police without suspects.

The president of the community action board, founder of the political organization 'Courage Caicedonia,' and an aspiring council member, Adier was an ideal citizen who hoped to participate in the October municipal elections.

Calls for justice emerged from the National Electoral Council, after former magistrate Heriberto Sanabria denounced the crime and demanded police prosecute his attackers to the extent of the law.

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