Prominent human rights defender abducted in Cauca

Colombian political organisations and social movements have expressed alarm following the abduction of a prominent human rights activist from her home in the village of Desiderio Zapata, department of Cauca, on Saturday 20 October. María Caicedo Muñoz, 62 years old, was abducted by two armed men who entered the family home at around midnight and took María away after bounding her and her two daughters, who are also human rights defenders.

According to reports, the kidnappers said they would return María the following morning. However, her whereabouts remain unknown.

María belongs to the ASCAMTA peasant farmers association, which is affiliated to the FENSUAGRO agricultural trade union, and is a member of the National Coordinator of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana Growers (COCCAM). The latter two groups have faced high levels of repression in recent years, with at least 30 COCCAM members killed since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016. Most of those targeted were working to implement the agreement’s chapter on voluntary substitution of illicit crops.

Among those to call for María’s safe return was FARC senator Victoria Sandino, who Justice for Colombia brought to Britain last month to attend the 2018 Labour Party conference. In a tweet, she said ‘Where are the institutional actions so that María Caicedo returns alive and safe?’.