Colombia’s authorities seem unable or hardly interested to curb the wholesale slaughter of the country’s social leaders that has skyrocketed since a peace process came into force.
The most recent victims fell on Tuesday while most in the country were watching their national team’s soccer match against England at the World Cup in Russia.
In Quibdo, the capital of Choco, local community leader Santa Felicinda Santamaria was assassinated, according to her neighbors.
Neighborhood representatives, community leaders and human rights defenders are terrorized; nobody seems to care they are being assassinated on a scale unseen in Latin America in decades.
We are taken aback by the silence of the National Government in the face of this problem that we leaders live day after day.
Risaralda community leader Jaime Gutierrez
In the last week of June alone, nine social leaders and human rights defenders were assassinated, according to crime analysis website Analisis Urbano.
The state is not acting decisively to stop this indolent bloodshed… It does not protect these activists, nor does it investigate, let alone search for those responsible for the killers.
Human rights defenders were always the target of far-right death squads defending the interests of land and business owners, and drug traffickers.
The demobilization of the FARC, which effectively policed many parts of rural Colombia until mid 2016, seems to have worsened this age-old practice where the law often only exists in theory.
Despite efforts, the military and police have grossly failed to assume control over regions previously controlled by the FARC, which triggered a wave of violence in which all kinds of disputes appear to be settled with deadly force.
The murders registered in the last week of June all took place in former FARC territory. Many of them took place in areas where coca cultivation is rife.
However, not all the murders can be attributed to drug traffickers trying to prevent farmers from removing their coca crops to make the transition to the legal economy.
The owners of land that was stolen during the war use sometimes use deadly force to prevent returning properties to their rightful owners.
Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera on Tuesday said “we are beginning to implement a collective protection model for social leaders,” but the government has been saying that for months.
President-elect Ivan Duque has consistently ignored the biggest human slaughter in South America. Vice-President-elect Marta Lucia Ramirez told her predecessor, Vice-President Oscar Naranjo, that “it is urgent to reinforce the system of early alerts to protect” social leaders.
This system of early alerts is the part of the collective protection model Rivera said he was beginning to implement.
Meanwhile, nobody feels that the authorities are protecting the country’s leaders. The fact that the prosecution has yet to arrest the first mastermind of such a killing worryingly indicates that those receiving state protection effectively are the ones ordering the assassinations.