Five social activists murdered in first six days of 2019

The start of 2019 has seen high levels of violence against social activists and human rights defenders in Colombia, with five people killed in the first six days of the year.

Gilberto Valencia was the first person murdered in 2019. He was attacked after leaving new year celebrations in Suárez, department of Cauca. Working primarily with young people, he organised music workshops to promote peace and was a member of the group Los Herederos, whose activism was recognised with an award in 2015. Gilberto was also the president of the Community Action Board (i.e. community council) in Pueblo Nuevo, Suárez.

Also murdered on 1 January was Jesús Perafán, who, like Gilberto, was president of his local Community Action Board, in this case in Caicedonia, department of Valle del Cauca. Jesús was recognised for his commitment to fighting corruption and poor social conditions.

José Rafael Solano González was murdered on 4 January in the village of Puerto Jobo, department of Antioquia. The 60-year-old was a rural activist for peasant farmers and a member of the community council. According to human rights organisations, 31 social activists were murdered in Antioquia in 2018.

Wilmer Antonio Miranda was also killed on 4 January, in Cajibio, department Cauca. Wilmer was a trade unionist in the FENSUAGRO agricultural trade union, the ANZORC organisation for peasant farmers and the COCCAM association for coca, marijuana and poppy farmers. He also belonged to the Patriotic March political organisation.

On 5 January, Maritza Quiroz was murdered in San Isidro, department of Magdalena. She was on the conflict victims’ committee in Santa Marta and coordinated African-Colombia women victims of displacement. Armed attackers killed Maritza at the home provided by the government to her and nine other women displacement victims.

The shocking start to 2019 comes shortly after the United Nations said that 164 social activists were confirmed murdered in 2018, while it had also received reports of 454 murders since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016.