Memoria Viva trade unionist murdered amid lack of action to improve security

A trade unionist in the Memoria Viva union, which represents bodyguards providing security to former guerrillas in the peace process, was murdered in La Plata, Huila, on 18 June. Like the majority of the union’s members, Hover Hernán Esquivel Tapicero was himself a former FARC guerrilla and is the tenth Memoria Viva member killed since the union was founded in late 2017 to represent bodyguards in the peace process. He was 42 years old.

Union members have faced attacks from the police and armed groups. In May 2023, during a JFC delegation to Colombia, Memoria Viva officials told delegates that members are targeted due to their roles both as trade unionists and former guerrillas. The union also met with JFC delegates in May 2022.

Last August, in response to violence against Memoria Viva, the transitional justice court, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), instructed authorities to implement special protective measures for the union, setting a deadline of 20 days for the state body responsible for security for at-risk individuals and organisations, the National Protection Unit (UNP), to comply. However, Memoria Viva has repeatedly warned that the JEP instructions have not been met and that it remains exposed to high levels of threat.

British trade unions ASLEF and the POA have recently contacted the UNP over the issue yet so far little action has been taken. New episodes of violence against Memoria Viva, such as the murder of Hover Hernán Esquivel Tapicero, emphasise the urgent need for protective action. Former FARC guerrillas in the peace process continue to face horrific levels of violence, with more than 370 now killed since the signing of the peace agreement in November 2016.