Three peasant farmers working to implement peace process killed in paramilitary attack

Paramilitaries killed three people and wounded at least six others in an attack on a rural community in Tarazá in the department of Antioquia, northern Colombia. The attack took place on Monday 30 September.

All the victims were working on programmes to substitute illicit crops for traditional ones under the terms of the 2016 peace agreement. The three young men killed were named as Alberto Armando Sánchez, who was 21 years old, Fernando Salcedo and Cristian Sánchez, both 27. A girl under the age of ten was among those receiving treatment in hospital.

‘The attacks on these people are not coincidental, this is something systematic and even more so when these groups have a permanent intention towards drug trafficking as a source of financing and other forms of territorial control’, said a local human rights spokesperson. He added that paramilitary groups were highly active in the region and were targeting people working on illicit crop substitution programmes.

The 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian state and the FARC stipulates that communities which depend on coca farming must be provided with support to develop alternative forms of economic sustenance. Trade deals left many agricultural communities unable to compete with multinationals, forcing them to turn to coca farming for survival. Under the agreement, these communities voluntarily and manually substitute coca and other illegal crops for legal alternatives. However, tensions have risen after security forces have continued forcibly removing coca plantations in certain regions.

Many people working on crop substitution programmes have been violently targeted. More than 30 members of the COCCAM coca farmers association have been murdered since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016. Other rural and indigenous activists and community leaders have also faced high levels of violence. Overall, more than 500 social activists have been murdered during this period.