25 men and women defenders of the territories have been murdered in Colombia so far this year, in less than 65 days. Added to the 80 people murdered in Colombia in 2016, according to numbers provided by human rights organizations, this is a spine-chilling situation. Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC), an organization based on the principles of environmental justice, condemns and expresses its deep concern over this series of deadly attacks that run counter to the peace processes announced in the South American country.

On 6 March, José Antonio Anzola Tejedor and his sister, Luz Ángela, activists with the communist party and the Union of Independent Agricultural Workers of Meta (SINTAGRIM) were murdered. José Antonio was the beneficiary of an Agrarian Summit project, a victory resulting from the 2015 peasant movement mobilizations. The Agrarian Summit (Cumbre Agraria) is well known internationally involving members of the Latin American Coordination of Countryside Organizations (CLOC- Vía Campesina).

Just a few days earlier, on 2 March, Ruth Alicia López Guisao, leader of the National Agrarian Coordination (CNA) and the Peoples´ Congress was murdered in Medellín. Her murder brings the total number of deaths in 2017 to 25, representing a real massacre.

Peace building in Colombia is impossible with such dire events taking place. It is fair to assume that the driving forces behind this current situation are interests that are opposed to environmental and social justice, and private and transnational agents that want to exploit our territories for the accumulation of capital. Under no circumstances can peace a neoliberal instrument for territorial control that allows a systematic attack on the lives and integrity of men and women historically committed to the promotion of dignified lives for the Colombian people.

ATALC calls on allied organizations, processes, social movements and the international community in general to urgently develop a strategy for the protection of the lives of the Colombian people. Although letters expressing solidarity and the widespread rejection of this situation shed light on it and bring to international attention, stronger actions are currently needed such as a dialogue with the Colombian government in order to put this brutality to an end. It is also necessary to establish concrete instruments and processes to safeguard the lives of the peoples’ defenders.

We respectfully demand, from the Colombian government and all relevant authorities, the implementation of all constitutional and legal mechanisms to stop these attacks on the physical and moral integrity of communities. These attacks are tearing apart the social fabric of communities in favor of capitalist extractive and green economy projects in the territories. The highest priority must also be given to identifying the physical and intellectual perpetrators of these selective murders, and avoiding the prevalence of impunity, which will only bring more devastation to human life and territories.

We stand with the people of Colombia and Latin America and the Caribbean who continue to face death in response to their struggles for justice. We are more than ready to join you in whatever you may need.