At least four social activists have been murdered in separate attacks in the first eight days of 2020. The killings continue the wave of violence that has impacted many regions of Colombia since the peace agreement between the Colombian state and the FARC was signed in November 2016. More than 600 social activists have been murdered in the subsequent period.
Three of the killings were carried out in the same zone of southern Colombia. On 6 January, 37-year-old Gloria Ocampo was killed in the Puerto Guzmán zin the department of Putumayo. She was murdered at her home alongside 69-year-old Heladio Moreno, who was there at the time of the attack.
Gloria was secretary of the local community council and coordinated voluntary crop substitution programmes, one of the core elements of the peace agreement, under which coca-farming communities replace illegal crops with traditional ones. Putumayo is one of Colombia’s main coca-producing zones. Gloria had previously received threats over her work.
Two days later, a group of armed men killed two more social leaders in Puerto Guzmán. First, they shot dead Óscar Quintero Valencia in front of his wife after dragging him from his home. The same group subsequently murdered Gentil Hernández Jiménez at his home nearby.
A third potential victim, Arturo Tovar Collazos, managed to escape with his family after being warned the men were looking for him. Arturo is a community leader in the village of Buena Esperanza.
In a statement, the Human Rights Network of Putumayo called on authorities to ‘guarantee the right to life and personal integrity of social leaders of Puerto Guzmán, especially our colleague Arturo Tovar Collazos whose life and that of his family is at serious risk and who are currently facing conditions of displacement due to violence’.
Also on 8 January, Mireya Hernández Guevara was murdered in Algeciras in the southern region of Huila. Mireya was a rural activist and the treasurer of her community council. She was shot while travelling by motorbike with her husband and was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead.
According to Colombian human rights organisations, more than 200 social activists were murdered and 600 threatened in 2019. The United Nations, the European Union, Colombian opposition political parties and the trade union movement are among those to say that full implementation of the peace agreement is the most effective means of tackling the endemic violence.