Human rights in Colombia have marked a grim milestone as the country’s Ombudsman – Defensoría del Pueblo – confirmed that 145 social leaders were assassinated in 2021, with the majority of crimes registered in the departments of Antioquia (24), Cauca (22) and Valle del Cauca (19). “We deeply regret each of the cases, due to the impact it has on communities,” stated Ombudsman Carlos Camargo. “We repudiate these facts that occur mainly due to the criminal actions of the illegal armed groups. (…) As an entity that ensures respect for human rights, it hurts us to report these types of figures.”
According to the entity’s most recent report, the most affected groups were community leaders (35 murders), indigenous representatives (32 murders), and rural or peasant advocates (16 murders). The victims are 120 men, and 25 women. Even though the numbers are alarmingly high, the numbers of deaths declines last year from 182 registered in 2020.
“We deeply regret each of the cases, due to the impact it has on communities” – Carlos Camargo
The most recent tragedy involves the death of 14-year-old Breiner Cucuñame, young environmentalist and member of the indigenous guard who was killed Friday during an attack by FARC dissidents in Mondomo, department of Cauca. President Iván Duque condemned the death of the youngster, stating on social media that “it fills us with sadness.” Cucuñame could be the first environmentalist killed in 2022, in a country ranked the second-most dangerous in the world for environmentalists. According the annual Global Witness report, in 2020, 65 environmentalists were murdered in the country.