SANTANDER DE QUILICHAO, Colombia (Reuters) – Indigenous leader Edwin Mauricio Capaz pulls on a bulletproof vest every day before getting into the armored car he uses to travel around the restive part of southwest Colombia he calls home.
Despite this protection, the 34-year-old worries he could soon join hundreds of human rights activists and community leaders assassinated since a 2016 peace deal, many of them for confronting drug trafficking or illegal mining.
Day - Day - Lives - Risk - Capaz
“If they haven’t threatened us already we are certain that one day they will – or that one day our lives will be at risk,” said Capaz, who lives in the Pacific province of Cauca and has been getting threats from different armed groups since 2014.
The 2016 peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels ended more than 50 years of war between the government and the group. But though violence fell overall after the deal, so-called “social leaders” continue to be threatened, attacked and killed – many in cases which remain unsolved.
Murders - Headache - President - Ivan - Duque
The murders have become a political headache for right-wing President Ivan Duque, who is coming under pressure internationally to stop them.
The government attributes the killings to still-active National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels along with crime gangs and dissident FARC guerrillas who refused to demobilize after the peace accord. All are fighting for control of lucrative drug production and illegal mining areas previously ruled by the FARC.
Community - Leaders - Activists - Efforts - Environment
Community leaders and activists involved in efforts to protect the environment, stem illegal mining, oppose the presence of armed groups or promote the eradication of coca – the base ingredient in cocaine – risk the ire of multiple armed groups, human rights organizations say.
“The drug trafficking economy is very powerful and is the principal threat because they’re using indigenous land,” said Capaz, the father of a 9-year-old son, as he...
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