A surge in attacks on community leaders and human rights defenders that followed the sinking of Colombia’s peace deal with Marxist FARC rebels is leaving a new generation of widows and orphans.
Just this past weekend, three social leaders were killed and two gravely injured in attacks carried out by paramilitary-like forces, adding to several deaths earlier this month.
President Juan Manuel Santos denounced the killings and called a meeting of a high-level human rights commission “to take actions against the crimes and aggression against social leaders. Peace does not wait.”
In the meantime, the violence is targeting mainly social leaders who have nothing to do with the armed conflict.
John Jairo Rodriguez – assassinated in Cauca
Born in Corinto, Cauca, John Jairo Rodriguez lived with his family for the past 30 years in the small village of El Palo, in the Caloto municipality in northeast Cauca.
He was active in his community, and one of the leaders of an organization called the Peasants’ Association.
He appeared dead on November 1 with bullet wounds in a rural area of Caloto. He was 33 years old and a father of four.
Jose Antonio Velasco – assassinated in Cauca
After visiting his mother in the village of El Pilamo, in Caloto, Cauca, Jose Antonio Velasco was found on a bridge severely wounded from a gunshot.
The locals who had found him took him to a health center, and from there he was sent to a clinic in Cali.
The shot, however, had caused him to go brain dead, and two days later doctors disconnected him from life support.
A social leader in his community, he died at the age of 22 on November 11. He had six brothers and a wife.
Erley Monroy – assassinated in Caqueta
Erley Monroy was an environmental activist who stood up to oil and mining companies arriving in the territory between Caqueta and Meta.
He was a leader of the Losada Guayabero Environmental Peasant Association, ASCAL-G.
He was 54 years old and was married with a daughter.
He was killed in the town of San Vicente del Caguan, in the department of Caqueta on November 18.
Didier Losada Barreto – assassinated in Caqueta
Didier Losada Barreto was murdered on November 18 when two men stormed his house and shot him at point-blank range. He was 28 years old with a wife and kids.
Barreto was the president of the Communal Action Board of the village of El Platanillo, which is two-and-a-half hours away from San Vicente del Caguán.
He was also a representative of the environmental peasant association, ASCAL-G.
Rodrigo Cabrera – assassinated in Nariño
On November 19, Rodrigo Cabrera was shot 16 times when in a taxi in Nariño, headed to his home in the village of Rosales, Altamira.
He was a peasant leader dedicated to agriculture and livestock, and a member of the Patriotic March movement.
His brother is the leader of a group of war victims in Nariño.
Dead at 39 years old, he is survived by his wife and two daughters, 16 years old and 7 months old.
Danilo Bolaños Diaz – attacked in Nariño
Danilo Bolaños Diaz is a community leader in Nariño. He is the communications representative of the Association of Peasant Workers of Nariño (Astracan) and secretary of his municipality’s sub-directorate.
On November 19 he was attacked when traveling to La Union, Valle Cauca after attending a town hall for peace.
Six shots were fired at him, but he was able to escape unharmed.
He is now in Pasto, Nariño, waiting for security protection to be assigned to him.
Víctor Hugo Cuellas – attacked in Meta
At 50 years old, Victor Hugo Cuellas is the president of the Community Action Board of La Victoria, La Macarena.
He is also a member of the Foundation for the Defense of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of Central and Western Colombia (DHOC).
He was shot last Saturday after attending his cousin, Erley Monroy’s funeral, and is currently in intensive care.
With the revised peace deal to be signed Thursday in Bogota, many are anxiously awaiting its implementation so that the security measures included within can be put into effect.
So far this year, 70 community leaders have been assassinated; 21 suffered attacks and 232 community leaders have been threatened, according to the Standing Committee for the Defense of Human Rights,