One of Colombia’s largest peasant organizations said Sunday that 94 of its regional leaders have been assassinated so far this year, a 49% increase compared to the same period last year.
The Cumbre Agraria that reported the staggering increase is a syndicate of dozens of small, regional peasant organizations.
The United Nations last week already expressed its concern over the spike in killings of rights and community leaders, with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights claiming 57 social leaders were killed and 35 survived assassination attempts.
The Marcha Patriotica, a conglomeration of mainly leftist social organization, said late last month that 70 of its members have been murdered this year, while another 232 received death threats.
According to the Cumbre Agraria, its organization has not been subject to so much deadly violence since 2010, the year President Juan Manuel Santos took over the presidency from his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe.
Seventy-three of the killings were carried out by paramilitary death squads, four by the police, three by the army and 14 by unknown actors, the group said.
The situation in Colombia’s countryside is volatile as the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, is in its process of demobilization and disarmament, leaving behind vast swaths or national territory and lucrative criminal enterprises like drug trafficking and illegal gold mining.
The UN urged the government to assume control of these territories as agreed in the peace deal with the FARC to prevent a criminal power vacuum that appears to be forming in the countryside.
Additionally, said the UN, the absence of authority, be it government or guerrillas, is causing situations where people take justice in their own hands, which in turn adds to the violence.
To further complicate the matter, self-proclaimed “anti-restitution armies” have been attacking some of the approximately 8 million displaced farmers who are trying to reclaim the land that was stolen during the country’s 52-year war.