A member of Colombia’s largest agricultural trade union FENSUAGRO was murdered on Tuesday in the town of El Carmelo, department of Cauca. Uriel Rodríguez was the second FENSUAGRO trade unionist murdered in less than a month in Cauca, following the killing of Luis Eduardo Dagua on 16 July. Reports said Uriel was shot dead in a shop.
In addition to being a trade unionist, Uriel belonged to a number of political organisations, including the Cajibío Association of Peasant Workers, the Patriotic March and the Process of Popular Unity of Southwest Colombia (PUPSOC). He also coordinated regional programmes around voluntary crop substitution, a core term of the 2016 peace agreement. Under the policy, coca-farming communities are responsible for removing coca plantations and replacing them with legal crops. Reports suggested his murder was linked to this work.
There has been a high number of murders of people working on the crop substitution programmes. The attacks are presumably carried out by paramilitaries, drugs-trafficking groups and others who seek to destabilise the peace process. Last week, another coordinator of these programmes, Raúl Buitrago Perdomo, was murdered in the department of Caquetá.
Since the signing of the peace agreement in November 2016, an escalation of political violence has spread across Colombia. Between 1 January 2016 and 30 June 2018, at least 311 social leaders were murdered in the country, with several more murders having taken place in the subsequent weeks. More killings have occurred in Cauca than anywhere else.