Activists in Colombia, including a prominent Indigenous leader, are still being murdered at an alarming rate less than two months after the signing of peace accords, according to observers.
In the two months since the signing of the peace accords between the government and the FARC rebels, 15 activists have been murdered; meaning that a leader from indigenous, community, labor, environment, or LGBT groups was killed every three and a half days say various sources.
One of the other characteristics the victims had in common was that they would have been involved in the implementation of some aspects of the accords, according to The Pacifist, an anti-war project in Colombia; leading some to speculate that paramilitary groups that were opposed to the accords had a role in the murders.
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However, according to a comment from the Colombian Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas on a national radio show on January 11, the murders “were not systematic” and that allegations that paramilitary groups were involved were not true.
“There are no paramilitaries…,” Villegas asserted. “There are murders but they are not systematic, and if they were I would be the first one to accept it.”
In the same week as the Minister’s comments, officials announced that the Indigenous leader who was murdered on January 8, Olmedo Pito, was killed by Jesus Armando Troches. Troches was arrested by Indigenous guards from the reserve in northern Cauca after he allegedly stabbed Pito to death.
Local government officials said that Troches murdered Pito after a “heated discussion” and that the killing was not connected to the activist work of Pito who was a leader in The Landless Grandsons of Manuel Quintin Lamé (LGMQL) movement, and he was a participant in the nationwide Patriotic March protests of 2016.
Not long after the official declarations were issued, the LGMQL noted that paramilitaries had been active recently in the Indigenous territories. They also pointed out that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had expressed concern on the increase in assassinations of Indigenous, Rural and Afro-Colombian activists in 2016.
As of press time officials had not made any more announcements regarding the investigation into Pito’s murder.