Colombia human rights update June 2021

While media focus on Colombia was directed largely at the ongoing National Strike protests – which have now lasted more than two months – many parts of the country continued to witness alarming levels of violence against social activists, community leaders and former combatants in the peace process.

Here is an overview of cases of human rights violations, which appear to have occurred outside of National Strike protests, in June 2021.

N.B. This article does not claim to provide a definitive list of all human rights violations committed in Colombia. Various others are likely to have been committed during the period. 

1 June – Colombia’s 41st massacre of the year so far was confirmed as having been committed the previous day, with nine people killed at a coffee farm in Algeciras, department of Huila. The victims were eight men and a woman. Among the dead was the farm’s owner, Álvaro Berrera, who was the father of a FARC former combatant and current bodyguard in the National Protection Unit, the official entity which provides security to at-risk persons. The attack was the third massacre committed at the farm in under a year. On 16 July 2020, four people, including a 16-year-old, were killed, with two more injured. Just over two months later, on 22 September, three people, among them a 17-year-old, were murdered there. 

4 June – FARC former combatant José Alonso Valencia was murdered in Tuluá, Valle del Cauca. The 56-year-old was president of the Community Council in the zone of La Moralia and coordinated sustainable economic projects. He represented the Comunes (formerly FARC) political party in Tuluá during 2018 municipal elections. According to INDEPAZ, he is the 276th former combatant killed since entering the peace process and the 27th so far this year.  

4 June – An attack in Cauca killed five people, the 42nd massacre of 2021, when armed assailants opened fire from a vehicle in the town of Santander de Quilichao. The victims were named as indigenous leader Juan David Guegue, Aleida Perafán and two police officers, Carlos Jiménez Delgado and María Isabel Angulo. Three days later, indigenous journalist Beatriz Caro died from her injuries, while her young daughter remained in a critical condition. Beatriz worked at the Cauca-based indigenous organisations ACIN and CRIC, which have both coordinated recent protests in the region and the city of Cali. 

9 June – In the early hours, indigenous leader and teacher Argenis Yatacué and her partner Marcelino Yatacué Ipia were murdered in Corinto, Cauca, statistically the most violent region of Colombia. Argenis was a traditional authority (known as Sa’t We’sx) in the Paéz community.  

9 June – Social activist Danilo Galindo and his son Andrés David Galindo were killed in Fortúl in the eastern department of Arauca. Danilo worked for the local council on indigenous equality issues. Armed assailants intercepted them in the village of Agua Viva and shot them dead. Danilo is the 70th social activist murdered in 2021. 

9 June – Lawyer Esperanza Navas was murdered in Tibú, Norte de Santander. Tibú has been badly affected by violence since the peace agreement, with several murders of social activists, as well as massacres, committed there.  

11 June – Renowned rapper, musician and activist Junior Jein was killed at an album launch in Cali on Sunday night. A committed human rights defender, Junior had joined the cultural resistance against state repression and inequality in recent weeks. Last year, Junior Jein and other Colombian musicians recorded the protest song ‘¿Quien Los Mató?’ (Who Killed Them?) which demanded justice for the many victims of ‘False Positive’ army killings. 

14 June – Community leader José William Mayoral Castillo was murdered in Valle de Gumuez, in the southern region of Putumayo. He was a cultural director for the municipal council, president of the Community Council in the neighbourhood of La Esmeralda and a member of the indigenous-focused MAIS political party. Armed assailants shot José close to the town hospital before escaping on motorbike. The National Ombudsman has issued warnings over the presence of paramilitary and other armed groups in the zone where the attack occurred. José is the 74th social activist murdered in 2021, according to INDEPAZ.  

15 June – Community leader Derly Pastrana Yara, 46 years old, survived an attack close to her home in Neiva, the capital of the department of Haila. She was taken to hospital after suffering gunshot wounds. Witnesses said that her assailants, who were riding a motorbike, had passed through the area a number of times before carrying out the attack. Derly is a coordinator for regional Victims’ and Women’s support groups. Her attackers have not been identified. 

18 June – Human rights organisations issued a warning over the disappearance of social activist Ángel Miro Cartagena in the Debeiba zone of Antioquia. 

18 June – African-Colombian community leader Gustavo Solis Ramos, 48 years old, was murdered in the major port city of Buenaventura, which has faced an escalating humanitarian crisis this year over the presence of armed groups and poor social conditions. Gustavo was a fisherman and campaigned for the rights of African-Colombian communities.

19 June – Three people were killed in Colombia’s 43rd massacre of 2021. The bodies were discovered in the Bello y Copacabana zone of Antioquia, which is subject to alerts from the Ombudsman’s Office over the presence of various paramilitary and armed groups. One of the victims was identified as community activist Diana Jaramillo, while the others were named as Wilson Alfonso Zapata and Nubia Isleny Pérez. 

19 June – Police killed 20-year-old Jesús Avilio Soto Guevara in Manaure in the northern department of César. He was taken to hospital but died shortly afterwards. 

20 June – Community leader Lucelia Solarte was killed in Manaure, reportedly after being police shot her during a demonstration over the police killing of Jesús Avilio Soto Guevara the previous day. Lucelia was a former local electoral candidate for the MAIS indigenous rights party.  

22 June – The Antioquia Indigenous Organisation (OIA) reported that 22-year-old Remilda Benítez Domicó and her baby daughter were killed after stepping on a landmine while tending to crops in the Murindó zone of Antioquia. The OIA said these were the ninth deaths, four of which have been children, caused by landmines in Antioquia since the start of last year. At least five more people have been injured. Several armed groups are active in the area, which has seen numerous killings, displacements and threats against indigenous communities in recent months.  

22 June – Three people were killed in Segovia, Antioquia. They were named as Nohelia del Socorro Muñoz Barrientos, Cristian Camilo Yali Montaño and Carlos Mario Viloria Albornoz. Segovia is subject to a National Ombudsman alert over armed groups in the zone. It was the 44th massacre of 2021. 

26 June – FARC former combatant Norelia Trompeta Hachacue and another woman were murdered in Buenos Aires, department of Cauca. 25-year-old Norelia is the 277th former combatant killed after entering the peace process. 

26 June – The 45th massacre of 2021 claimed the lives of five men in San Vicente del Caguán, department of Caquetá. 

27 June – Ismenia Barros Bravo and her partner Carlos Enrique Mendoza were murdered in Yondó, Antioquia, one of the zones designated as a priority for developmental programmes contained in the 2016 peace agreement but which have struggled to get off the ground. The Comunes political party called for faster implementation of the peace process to help prevent attacks on communities.  

28 June – Social activist Calen Álvarez López was murdered in Remedios, Antioquia. 

29 June – Human rights organisations issued a statement calling for the safe return of peasant leader Flavio Henry Riascos Sevillano after he was abducted by armed men in Tumaco, Nariño, one of the most violent regions of Colombia. ‘We need him to return home safe and sound, there are no reasons for his kidnapping nor for the harm it’s causing his family. Six young children depend on their father, they are waiting for him at home and they don’t want to spend another night without him,’ said the statement.