Social leader and nephew murdered after opposing mega-project

The social leader Hugo Albeiro George Pérez and his nephew Domar Edigio Zapata were killed on Wednesday in the town of Puerto Valdivia, department of Antioquia. According to reports, two unidentified men on a motorcycle shot the victims as they were sitting in a cafe.

Hugo was a member of the local Victim’ Association and of the Affected by Megaprojects group which opposes large-scale extractive projects that it says displace communities and cause environmental damage.

Hugo’s family was among 500 affected by construction of the Hidroituango dam under construction on the Cauca River. The unfinished road connecting the dam to Puerto Valdivia was planned to pass through farmland cultivated by local communities. Hugo had been coordinating community efforts to oppose the negative impact of the project.

Plans were underway to stage a mobilisation in opposition to the dam at the time of Hugo’s murder. Residents said there were widespread fears over unstable earth and the potential for landslides caused by the project development.

The Colombia NGO Somos Defensores recently released a report finding that 46 social leaders were murdered in the first three months of 2018. Several more murders have occurred in the weeks since then.