Three displaced land claimants have been killed within a 24 hour period, EFE reported Friday.
Bernardo Rios Londoño, and Ever Verbel Rocha were killed on Wednesday in the departments of Sucre and Antioquia respectively while David Goez Rodriguez was killed on Thursday in the capital of Antioquia, Medellin.
Rios Londoño, was a member of the Community of Peace of San Jose de Apartado, a peasant rights organization. According to the organization, Rios Londoño was killed by two neo-paramilitaries on a motorcycle who lay in wait for him in San Jose de Apartado, an Antioquian town.
Verbel Rocha was killed by hitmen on motorcycles in San Onofre, in the department of Sucre in front of his brother and 8 year old son. His brother was injured in the attack but his son was unharmed.
Another of Verbel Rocha’s brothers, Guillermo, was assassinated in 2005. Demobilized AUC member Jose Manuel Rivera, alias “El Begueta” has since been detained as the suspected perpetrator of the assassination.
Goez Rodriguez assisted with the claims of several people for the restitution of lands near the coastal town of Turbo in Antioquia. The founding member of the Association of Land and Life, was shot dead by two men on motorcycles outside a mall. The assailants have not been captured.
Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzon and Minister of Agriculture Juan Camilo Restrepo, expressed their solidarity with the families and communities affected by these recent attacks and said that they “share the concern for safety and that measures to protect families reclaiming land must be implemented.”
Restrepo has called an urgent meeting of the Integrated Center of Intelligence for Land Restitution, stating emphatically that the government will not allow acts of violence to impede the reclamation of land by nearly 500,000 families who were driven from their properties by force and threats, reports Caracol Radio.
The Sucre chapter of the National Movement for Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) said the murder of Verbel Rocha in the rural southern region of San Onofre is representative of a pattern of systematic assassinations against the organization and is demanding civil and military authorities adopt security measures to protect the lives and property of the Verbel Rocha family and other members of its organization.
This recent spate of murders may be related to the theft of a USB memory from the NGO Association of Victims for the Restitution and Access to Lands in Apartado in January 2011. The USB memory contained the details of people nominated for the return of lands forcibly taken from them.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos pushed forward a programme of land restitution which will last four years from 2010 until 2014 and give back to peasants and displaced people nearly 6.2 million acres forcibly taken by paramilitaries, guerrillas, drug traffickers and corrupt politicians.