Two social leaders killed on Good Friday

Two social leaders were murdered in different parts of Colombia on Friday 30 March.

In the first case, rural organiser María Magdalena Cruz Rojas was murdered in the town of Mapiripán, department of Meta. She was shot by unidentified assailants in front of her husband and son.

María was a member of the National Coordinator for Coca, Poppy and Marijuana Growers (COCCAM), which has seen over 20 members killed since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016. Mapiripán, where the attack occurred, was the site of one of the worst atrocities of Colombia’s conflict, when paramilitaries murdered scores of local residents over several days in 1997.

In a statement, COCCAM said ‘We’re sorry to announce that our comrade Maria Magdalena Cruz of Mapiripan Meta was murdered last Friday March 30, 2018. Elena, as we used to call her in an affectionate way, was the head of the La Vereda Unibrisas del Iteviare substitution program’.

Also on Easter Friday, Belisario Benavides Ordóñez was murdered in Rosas, department of Cauca, while travelling by motorbike with his three-year-old son and 12-year-old nephew. As with María Magdalena Cruz Rojas, his killers escaped without being identified.

Belisario, who was 35, was a social organiser and member of the Rosas Committee for Victims, where he organised local victims’ rights movements. He had lived in Rosas for five years after being forcibly displaced from his home in El Patía.

At least 30 social leaders were murdered in the first three months of 2018. Around 170 were killed in 2017.