A leader and spokesman of some 1,200 Urabá farmers who demand the return of land that was stolen by paramilitary groups was assassinated Saturday.
Gil Benigno, who represented the farmers since June, was shot dead by unknown men in Chigorodó while he was in a car. Two people that were inside the same care were injured and taken to hospital, newspaper El Colombiano reported Monday.
The murder means a serious blow to the hundreds of families that want the return of their rightfully owned land that had been stolen by paramilitary group.
He was one of the founders and most active board members of the ‘National Farmers’ Board of Work for the Reclamation of Lands’, founded by him and other despaired farmers who didn’t see their lands returned to them after the demobilization of the AUC, despite a promise made three years ago.
Many of the lands stolen by the AUC in the 1990’s en 2000’s are still in the hands of middle men of the demobilized paramilitary organization’s leaders.
Gil led a group of impatient farmers that weren’t willing to wait for the government any longer and advanced to occupying farms and lands that illegally had been taken by the AUC when the paramilitaries — financially supported by multinationals like Chiquita Brands — ruled Antioquia‘s banana region.
The “unlawful” occupation of land by the farmers led to angry reactions of the demobilized leaders’ middlemen and the farmers who had taken back their lands before the official returns started receiving death threats.
Gil joins several community leaders who were killed while trying to press the government for a quicker return of land to its rightful owners.