Colombia. In the Latin American country there is no end to the assassination of community leaders and members of the opposition. Silence, impunity and inaction to halt this tragedy are the constant reality. Now, it is not only modest community leaders who are being targeted – Alexánder López of the Alternative Democratic Pole and Jorge I. Ospina, President of the Green Party, are also on the blacklist.
Since 1 January 2018, 150 community leaders have been killed in Colombia.
Defending diverse causes, they were fighting for the environment, their communities and human rights, or were political leaders, with each one receiving a warning followed by a bullet.
The government’s pronouncements and measures seem insufficient against a wave of violence which has already lasted for more than three years.
Héctor Marino Carabalí is a lifelong leader in Cauca. Nobody can believe him when he says that he has been involved in community leadership since he was 9 years old.
Born into a family of three children, Héctor grew up in the area of Marilópez. He remembers getting up at 3 a.m. every day to go to school in the village of Timba, almost two hours away on foot, because there was no school in his neighbourhood. As a teenager he founded youth organisations for the protection of human rights, conflict resolution and the preservation of historical memory in the cities of Buenos Aires and Suárez.
His struggle, always based upon a tenacious devotion to his people, has seen him oppose all the armed groups operating in the region, decisions taken by the government and multinationals’ projects in the region.
He has worked as a teacher, founded various community councils, represented social organisations at the national and international levels and was a city councillor in Suárez y Buenos Aires. On five occasions he attended the peace negotiations with FARC in Havana as the representative of afro communities.
Héctor has lost count of the number of times his life has been threatened and the number of times he has been forced to move because of these threats.
His name appeared on the Águilas Negras’ latest flyer. Today, his life is once more under threat. “Despite the persecution of myself and my family, I will continue working for the benefit of my people with renewed strength,” pronounced Carabalí in defiance of those who wish him dead.
Following the end of the presidential campaign, Gustavo Petro’s movement, La Colombia Humana, has also found itself the target of illegal armed factions.
On the polling day of the second round, el Huila, one of the political movement’s regional leaders, was assassinated. The threats have now spread to target numerous politicians of national standing, including Senator Alexánder López of the Alternative Democratic Pole and Jorge Iván Ospina, President of the Green Party. The aforementioned Águilas Negras flyer, disseminated on the 22 August, declared that they would kill these men and more than 10 other leaders, including senior members of FARC and of the Colombia Humana movement, almost all based in the west of the country.
The municipality of Suárez, Cauca, has historically suffered greatly due to the war.
Although located only 40 minutes from Cali by car, the local’s appeal remains the same: for the attention and presence of the State. Due to a wealth of natural resources, the scourge of drug trafficking and illegal mining has always been present. In its time, the territory has been almost exclusively controlled by the guerrillas and, lately, has been racked by the paramilitaries.
This region has historically been home to coexisting afro, indigenous and farming communities, which have been dealt the hand of having to fight for everything, against everyone.
To fight for their water, their land, the air, preservation of memory, peace and destigmatisation; they have had to fight against guerrillas, paramilitaries, drug traffickers, the armed forces, multinationals, illegal mining and criminal groups.
Now, as the slow-moving peace process grows institutionally weaker and after an abrupt change in government, new armed agents are establishing a new order in these territories, but the representatives of the struggle have not ceased to be an obstacle for such illegal groups. That’s why the threats will not cease. (Text published by Las2Orillas)
(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – firstname.lastname@example.org)