Friends of the Earth International hereby expresses internationalist solidarity with the Colombian people, and demands an end to the systematic violence against social movements, organisations and defenders of peoples’ rights, human rights and territories. We are deeply concerned about, and condemn, the different types of violence and selective assassinations that have turned this South American country into a place where an architecture of impunity prevails and continues.

Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) has witnessed the brutality endured by social movements and organisations in Colombia. Despite repeated denunciations of this systematic violence both nationally and internationally, we must again state on the ethical and historical record our condemnation of the atrocities being perpetrated in this Andean country. We urgently call for redoubling internationalist efforts to coordinate and organise in support of the Colombian people.

As of November 2020, we have received alerts that more than 280 people have been murdered in 73 massacres. This dreadful escalation of violence has been exacerbated by confinement measures and by forms of control and repression by the right-wing government of Ivan Duque during the global health crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are greatly concerned these these acts of violence clearly and systematically target peasants, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant communities and grassroots organisations of women, youth and children.

On 29 April 2020, the Continental Platform for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism launched a call to the international community, which was signed and supported by more than 200 organisations in Colombia and around the world. This call denounced the assassination of 95 grassroots leaders and more than 100 demobilised guerrilla members of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) up to that date, and demanded protection for leaders of peasant, indigenous and black community organisations who defend peoples’ rights and human rights. Unfortunately, there was no effective response from the Colombian government. Also, as evidenced by these events that we again denounce, no security strategy or preventive measures were deployed to safeguard the lives of people who were subsequently murdered.

In the course of 2020, Colombia has returned to one of the worst periods in its history, with massacres taking place in territories that have historically been affected by armed conflict. These are territories with weak State presence that share common features such as illicit crop cultivation, control by paramilitary armed groups, and areas where illegal extractive activities take place, but also peoples’ organising to confront violence and the State’s absence. Since August, more than 24 young people between 15 and 26 years of age have been murdered in different parts of the country, both urban and rural. In addition, throughout the year organisations and the media have denounced the military and the National Police for alleged participation in several cases of physical and sexual violence against girls and women.

On top of that, following the murder of a citizen in Bogotá by proven excessive use of force by the National Police, a number of mobilisations took place on 9 September, where 13 more people were killed and the very same armed institution committed countless acts of repression and violence. Various organisations have denounced that these murders, which are currently under investigation, were perpetrated by the police and by civilians who were armed by the police force.

This appalling violence has been escalating every month, but the government has not recognised the systematic nature of the phenomenon nor implemented urgent measures to prevent it, as would be appropriate in a society governed by the Rule of Law, would comply with International Humanitarian Law, and would respect the memory of the victims. In the same vein, there is hardly any willingness from the Duque administration to the agreements reached and signed with the former FARC-EP insurgency, thereby echoing threats to shatter the mandate to build peace and social justice longed for by the Colombian people.

As a federation of organisations fighting for environmental, social, economic and gender justice, we vigorously denounce the systematic violence that is daily taking the lives of more and more decent working class men and women that defend their rights and territories in Colombia. We join the call by Colombian national organisations and invite social movements and organisations around the world to intensify internationalist solidarity and the demands to:

  • Investigate and clarify these acts of violence, under strict supervision of international institutions that are independent of Ivan Duque’s administration.
  • Prevent the repetition of these abuses, including by ensuring the effective participation of victims and affected people –and with monitoring by international human rights organisations— in the definition of concerted strategies for territorial protection, according to the local realities and vulnerability of the population at risk.
  • Fully and completely implement the peace agreements signed in 2016 by the Colombian State and the FARC-EP insurgency.
  • Fulfil the constitutional duty to protect girls, boys and young people, while pursuing their all-round balanced development and the full exercise of their rights, in accordance to article 44 of Colombia’s Political Constitution. Likewise, to comply with International Law regarding Human Rights, Children’s Rights and Women’s Rights.
  • Ensure that all violent actions by members of State institutions and paramilitary groups against peoples, their organisations and movements are immediately stopped.

Finally, we once again urgently call the international community, organisations and social movements around the world to add their voices of condemnation and closely monitor the development of these events. We stand in solidarity with all Colombian social movements and organisations, and will remain in internationalist solidarity until peace and a dignified life are achieved and secured.

Image credit: Contagio Radio

Hear an interview with Nury Martinez, Chair of FENSUAGRO in Colombia, on Real World Radio:
Death threats against CLOC-Via Campesina leader Nury Martinez. “It should not be a crime to be a social leader in Colombia.”