U.S.-based NGO the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) says it received a second death threat in as many months from Colombian paramilitary group the “Aguilas Negras.”
WOLA, whose focus is on redirecting U.S. policy in Latin America towards goals of “human rights, democracy, and social and economic justice,” announced on Tuesday that they had received another email, signed by the Aguilas Negras, threatening them with death because of their human rights work in Colombia.
According to a statement from WOLA, the threatening email identified them and “70 Colombian organizations as ‘military targets,'” threatening to “kill and disappear without a trace human rights defenders and activists for displaced communities.”
WOLA senior associate Gimena Sanchez expressed alarm at the new warning, saying that since the first threat was issued in May, “two prominent defenders of the rights of victims and internally displaced persons were murdered.”
The statement also urged “the U.S. State Department not to certify that U.S. human rights conditions for military assistance have been met until the current wave of killings and threats against human rights defenders, Afro-Colombian, indigenous and internally displaced persons’ advocates are fully investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
In May, WOLA received a near-identical email from the Aguilas Negras, warning that “as so-called human rights defenders, don’t think you can hide behind the offices of the [Colombian] inspector general or other institutions… we are watching you and you can consider yourselves dead.”
In late May, NGO worker Rogelio Martinez was shot dead while traveling in a moto-taxi in the northern Caribbean town of San Onofre, and Marco Romero, the director of prominent NGO CODHES, survived an assassination attempt in which he was stabbed repeatedly by a group of men in Bogota.
During 2009, it was reported that in total 32 human rights defenders were murdered, while a further 142 faced various forms of aggression and oppression.
In April, WOLA, which argues that U.S. policy in Colombia is wreaking havoc in a myriad of ways, sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives in support of a bill that asks the Colombian government to make good on Constitutional Court mandates to protect the rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
Last year, the Aguilas Negras reportedly threatened human rights advocates, public officials and other citizens in the department of Cuaca.