On Friday 9 February, two social leaders, Jhonatan Cundumi Anchino and Jesus Orlando Grueso Obregón, were murdered in the Guapi region of Cauca, western Colombia.
Both men were members of the National Coordinator of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana Growers (COCCAM), which has been organising crop substitution programmes stipulated in the 2016 peace agreement. They are the 22nd and 23rd members of COCCAM to be murdered since the deal was signed.
In a statement, the Cauca branch of COCCAM said, ‘We offer our solidarity to the communities of the Caucan Pacific, especially with their families, and we forcefully reject these types of actions which are presenting in departamental and national territory, NOT as isolated cases, but systematic ones which aim to eliminate social organisations and the struggle for the rights of African-descendants, peasant farmers and indigenous groups, as well as the defence of territory.’
29 social leaders have been murdered so far in 2017, a surge on 2017 when around 170 were murdered. The killings have escalated since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016.
The Juan Manuel Santos government denies that the killings of social leaders in Colombia are systematic in nature, even though they bear the hallmarks of paramilitary executions.