An elder of a native Colombian people in southwest Colombia was assassinated on Sunday, days after the appearance of a pamphlet signed by Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel threatening indigenous authorities.
The victim, Enrique Guegia, was the sheriff and one of the “ancestral wise men” of the Tacueyo indigenous council in the Toribio, a municipality in the troubled Cauca province.
Three assassinations since Thursday
The assassination comes three days after the a group identifying themselves as the “New Generation Sinaloa Cartel” threatened to kill any member of the indigenous authorities and the indigenous guard in the north of Cauca.
An indigenous guard was assassinated on the same day, amid growing tensions between indigenous and farming communities and illegal armed groups involved in drug trafficking.
According to the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC), Guegia was assassinated by two men on a motorcycle inside Tacueyo territory.
The CRIC said that the indigenous guard, who impose law and order within indigenous territories, were investigating the homicide.
Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez expressed her regret about the murders of the indigenous elder and that of the indigenous guard assassinated on Thursday.
“We will convene a human rights and security meeting on Tuesday to take immediate action in the face of this alarming situation,” Gutierrez said on Twitter.
A farmers representative and human rights defender from the nearby municipality of Caloto was assassinated on Saturday.
Narcos vs native Colombians
The demobilization of the FARC guerrilla group in 2017 created a major power vacuum in northern Cauca, one of Colombia’s most troubled provinces.
The native Colombian peoples living in the region are caught in the middle of turf wars between groups trying to fill this vacuum as they try to protect their territories from invaders.
According to the Colombia chief of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Pierre Lapaque, the Cauca province has seen an increase in coca cultivation between 2017 and 2017.
The northern Cauca region specifically has seen an increase in concentrated coca cultivation, Lapaque said Friday, implying that illegal armed groups have been accumulating territory for the large-scale production of cocaine.
The local indigenous historically used coca leaf to chew on or for tea, but are fiercely opposed to drug trafficking or outsiders invading their territory.
According to the CRIC, “the indigenous authorities and guards in the north of Cauca, as well as the farming communities who seek the well-being of Colombian society” have increasingly become victim of “continuous and systematic threats.”
A national phenomenon
The increase in assassinations of community leaders and human rights defenders during Colombia’s peace process has been most intense in Cauca, but is a national phenomenon.
According to think tank Indepaz, at least 229 social leaders have been assassinated since President Ivan Duque took office last year. Sixty-six of the victims of these homicides were indigenous leaders.
Colombians took to the streets massively little more than a week ago to reject these mass killings and demand Duque and his cabinet to take effective action to curb the violence.