A leading Colombian opposition senator told Spanish news agency EFE that the mass killing of his country’s community leaders and human rights defenders are a “systematic action” that seeks to end Colombia’s peace process.
“These killings clearly show an established pattern,” Senator Ivan Cepeda told EFE, “the people who are confronting those who hold the lands that have been usurped from the peasantry are being killed.”
Cepeda is a left-wing senator and longtime human rights activist whose father was killed by paramilitaries in 1994 who has denounces President Ivan Duque and his administration’s handling of the violence.
President Ivan Duque and his far-right Democratic Center party have been accused of ignoring the rules of a peace agreement between FARC guerrillas and the government which mandates a process for which peasants can return to their land.
During the armed conflict, tens of thousands of Colombians have had their land stolen from them after being forced out of their homes by paramilitaries. Often times, this land was “purchased” by wealthy landowners and politicians for well under market value.
The community of Maria del Pilar Hurtado, whose murder on Friday triggered a wave of indignation, was involved in a land dispute with the father of the mayor of the town of Tierralta, who has been sentenced to return land he dispossessed from displaced farmers.
The Tierralta city hall has publicly denied that Maria was a social leader or had been subject to death threats against her signed by paramilitary group AGC.
In addition to blasting President Duque’s policies, Cepeda took to Twitter to publicly dispute the mayor’s claims.
Not content with denying Maria de Pilar Hurtado’s status as social leader, the mayor of Tierralta now threatens legal actions against human rights defenders in the area. Do you want to use the mantle of impunity to cover up a murder?
Outraged citizens, social leaders and politicians have called for a national strike on August 7, the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of Duque.
In Medellin, local peace organizations announced a vigil in honor of the country’s community leaders and human rights defenders on Tuesday.