The death and suspected murder of a land restitution leader on Wednesday has shone a spotlight on the dangers faced by Colombian land reform activists.
The body of Hermes Vidal Osorio was found in a remote part of the northern department of Cordoba, after the man went missing on Thursday. Vidal was reportedly a member of the victims board of Valencia municipality in Cordoba. Preliminary information indicates that Vidal may have been approached by two men on a motorcycle and later killed.
This is just the latest incident involving the death or disappearance of a land restitution activist. On Friday, a prominent land and peasant rights activist associated with leftist social movement Patriotic March, Alonso Lozano, reportedly disappeared after meeting with rural groups.
Members of a civic agrarian group subsequently claimed to have reported threats made against Lozano and other peasant leaders on Wednesday, March 20, just two days before his disappearance.
Additionally, the leader of a peasant worker’s association in the southern department of Cauca, Gustavo Adolfo Pizo García, was assassinated on Monday while walking through the street with his brother. A group of men reportedly attacked and killed Pizo with “short, sharp weapons.”
The incidents come just days after 54 judges, specialising in land restitution, requested government protection to allow them to safely continue their work, as well as to reinforce the security measures for those seeking land restitution.
The head of the National Protection Unit, Andres Villamizar, responded in Colombian newspaper “El Tiempo” that officials were not being threatened and that they have been protecting those involved in each stage of the land restitution process.
The security of human rights activists continues to be a difficult issue for the Colombian government, which has been criticised for failing to provide adequate protection.
- Un líder campesino fue asesinado y otro desaparecido (El Espectador)
- Asesinan líder de restitución de tierras en Córdoba (Caracol)