Community leader Olga Lucía Hernández was shot dead in her home in the eastern department of Vichada on Thursday 21 May.
Olga was the president of the Puerto Nariño Community Council in the town of Cumaribo and last year stood as a candidate in Colombia’s regional elections. She was well-known for her work with rural and indigenous communities, such as coordinating food support for those who required it.
Although Vichada experiences relatively low levels of violence compared with elsewhere in Colombia, the mayor of Cumaribo, Juan Carlos Cordero, said that armed groups are becoming increasingly active amid a lack of security personnel. While Olga is the first social activist killed in Cumaribo since the signing of the 2016 peace agreement – with more than 600 activists killed nationwide in that time – the mayor said there were more than 18,000 victims of forced displacement in the zone, accounting for 40 per cent of the population.
Like Olga, a high number of post-agreement murder victims were members of Community Councils. The United Nations recently attributed the violence against them to these organisations’ work on implementing crop substitution programmes contained in the peace agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, coca-farming communities agreed to substitute the crops for legal alternatives. However, the government has continued using the military to forcibly eradicate the crops, while drugs trafficking groups target people working on the programmes.