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Amnesty International Criticizes Colombian Government Over Violence Against Land Defenders
Again the most dangerous country in the world for land defenders, report shows disproportionate violence against indigenous communities
This week’s feature is by Adriaan Alsema, editor-in-chief of Colombia Reports.
Colombia was the deadliest country in the world for environmental activists in 2022 with 60 land defenders murdered — accounting for a third of killings of land defenders globally, according to a September report from NGO Global Witness.
And a new report out this week by Amnesty International sheds new light on details of persecution, threats, kidnappings and killings of social leaders and environmentalists.
Amnesty sharply criticizes the Colombian government for failing to stem the rising violence and calls for an end to impunity in a country where only 1 out of 10 murders result in an arrest.
“Once again, Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant communities, small-scale farmers and environmental activists have been viciously targeted,” the report read.
Promises from the county’s leftist president Gustavo Petro to put an end to the killings of social leaders and environmental activists have not translated into action on the ground— and violence in rural areas long plagued by conflict is also rising more broadly.
Indepaz, a Colombian human rights watchdog, reports 140 killings of social leaders so far in 2023, and 80 mass killings nationwide. According to police data, kidnappings are rising as well. During the first 10 months of 2023, police have registered a more than 70% increase compared to the same period last year.
Rural residents who strongly supported Petro in presidential elections in 2022 have grown increasingly frustrated with a lack of progress in his “Total Peace” plans, which promised to negotiate directly with armed groups in return for their disarmament.
So far, however, not a single group has accepted his offer, and ceasefires have yielded mixed results, with some suffering strain, and others collapsing completely.
Talks with left-wing rebel group EMC were suspended last week, and despite a ceasefire with the government, ELN, the largest remaining leftist armed group in the country, has continued kidnapping and criminal activity— a phenomenon highlighted by a case of the kidnapping of the father of one of Colombia’s biggest football stars two weeks ago.
In a press statement, Amnesty’s Americas director Ana Piquer said the NGO’s research in Colombia “makes clear the need for a strong, integrated and coordinated institutional response.”
Amnesty International has received countless reports of human rights defenders in Colombia being threatened and attacked because of their work. Between 2020 and 2023 we witnessed how the authorities failed to adopt state measures to guarantee the collective protection of human rights defenders, particularly those defending the land, territory and environment in various parts of the country.
Amnesty Americas director Ana Piquer
Amnesty published statistics by human rights NGO Somos Defensores that showed that deadly violence against social leaders sustained between 2019 and last year.
Piquer urged authorities to “adopt collective protection measures in order to address the structural causes of the dangers faced by defenders and their communities, especially in the cases of those defending the land, territory and environment.”
We welcome the government’s announcement to strengthen the strategy to adopt collective protection plans in recent months, but we ask that state intervention be complete, comprehensive and coordinated.
Amnesty Americas director Ana Piquer
Colombia has for years been among the most dangerous countries in the world for social leaders who have been victims of structural violence because of land and political disputes that often turn violent, or for opposing the aims of criminal groups.
But proclamations by the government for decades have not translated into concrete improvements on the ground. And over a year into his presidency, the Petro administration seems to be no exception to that trend.
The Big Headlines in Latin America
Guatemala continues to reel with protests against the actions of government elites to undermine president-elect Bernardo Arévalo. We feel like every week we mention this, but it’s only because, amazingly, things seem to keep getting worse.
But you’re in luck! The Buenos Aires Herald (edited by our very own Pirata Amy Booth) did an explainer Friday that brings you everything you need to know. We highly recommend checking it out.
Last week we talked about the kidnapping of Liverpool footballer Luis Diaz’s father in Colombia. After two weeks of public outrage and negotiation with ELN, the guerrilla group responsible for his abduction, the elder Diaz was released on Thursday.
Upon his release, Diaz thanked the public for their support, saying in his first public appearance “I love you all, your support meant the world to me.
Joshua wrote about the story, and the rise in kidnappings more broadly, for the London Sunday Times.
Spanish Word of the Week
Irse por las ramas
Literal translation: To go through the branches
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who talked for 10 minutes about minutiae for ten minutes before getting to the point? Perhaps someone who wanted to tell you about a long lost friend they saw at the market, but first told you ever detail of their morning and the trip downtown?
Chances are they were “going through the branches”. This expression refers to avoiding the point of a story, or request, sometimes because the situation is difficult or unpleasant, but other times simply because they love to talk. It’s very similar to “beating around the bush” in English.
They never talk about their problems at school, they’re always beating around the bush — Ellos nunca hablan de sus problemas en la escuela, siempre se van por las ramas
Here at Pirate Wire Services, however, we like to get right to the point. Please consider signing up for a paid membership to help us continue bringing you quality on-the-ground journalism.
We’d be deeply grateful. Hasta pronto piratas!