By VF - 26. December 2019
Christmas in Colombia left a painful history: the murder of two social leaders on December 24 and 25 and a married couple, whose bodies were found on December 23.
Social leader Lucy Villarreal was assassinated by armed men, in the Llorente Commuity, Tumaco municipality (southwest Colombia).
The sad announcement was made by the Indo-American Cultural Foundation, among other cultural and Indigenous organizations.
The cruel murder occurred in Llorente, an hour from Tumaco, at the very moment when the artist and Indigenous leader had finished conducting a workshop for children in the municipality.
So far around 160 activists have been murdered in Colombia in 2019 alone and 578 leaders have been killed since January 1, 2016 in Colombia - a state under a killer-governance that is fed by the USA.
On Wednesday, December 25, the Indo-American Cultural Foundation released the sad news on the murder of Lucy Villareal, social leader of Tumaco, in Nariño.
Local sources stated that those who decided to kill the leader did so on December 23 after the leader left a workshop she gave for children and coordinated the exhibition "«Mujeres sur y vida» Women, South and Life", which highlights women leaders and defenders of human rights in the region. Initial news stated she was killed by a hitman. Now fear has gripped the region. This assassination occured after over a month of anti-government protests, against violence and for peace in the country.
The death was confirmed on the Twitter account of the governor of Nariño, Camilo Romero, who also expressed his outrage at this case and his solidarity with Lucy’s family:
“There cannot be so much infamy! In #Tumaco they murdered #LucyVillarreal, leader, carnival artist and defender of life. They did it when a workshop for children ended. The sadness is immense. This news stains Christmas. Solidarity with their relatives. #Nomás!”, Said Camilo Romero.
¡No puede ser tanta infamia!
Asesinaron en #Tumaco a #LucyVillarreal, lideresa, cultora del carnaval y defensora de la vida.
Lo hicieron cuando terminaba un taller con niños. La tristeza es inmensa. Esta noticia empaña la navidad.
Solidaridad con sus familiares.#Nomás!
Lucy Villareal was full of life and good spirit.
Leader Lucy Villareal was the mother of two small children, and part of the Pasto Indoamericanto Cultural Foundation, which is dedicated to community development through artistic expressions of Andean-ancestral origin.
For its part, the public foundation onDecember 24, decried this heinous murder in a tweet, stating: “Eternity is reserved for people of great works. Forever Lucy Villarreal great minguera #NiUnaMenos”.
La eternidad está reservada para las personas de grandes obras. Por siempre Lucy Villarreal gran minguera #NiUnaMenos
One of Lucy’s daughters wrote on her Facebook profile a few words for her mother: “You are becoming the best person, the one who filled the soul of any person with her smile. I miss you so much, my beautiful mother, beautiful and lovely woman. Today you leave great pain, we will miss you”.
She was part of the Colectivo Indoamericano in Pasto, and many expressed their condolences to her relatives, and in addition, remembered all the positive impact she had in the world of art and dance:
“You were my inspiration, I was fascinated to see Indo and I watched your presentation with admiration of an imposing, smiling woman. A dancer who conveyed joy, proud of her carnival, participated in Indo for 25 years and we were both there establishing your legacy of inheritance,” said Nancy Lopez.
“Forever you will be in our hearts my Lucy Villarreal, thank you for your teaching, for your beautiful way of being, for your joy, for that immense love you gave and you will continue to give your family and friends from heaven,” said Jairo Cuastumal.
So far it is not clear whether the murder was an “isolated case” or if it is related to the work she was doing.
José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch's director for the Americas, spoke about her death, noting that violence in the area continues despite the death of alias "Guacho" a year ago.
La violencia no cesa en Tumaco, aunque el gobierno crea que todo terminó con la muerte de Guacho.
Qué desolador el asesinato de la lider Lucy Villareal.
Debe haber justicia y sobre todo medidas serias para que esto deje de ocurrir. https://t.co/Fwxzqos8PI
— José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) December 25, 2019
At this time, the vigil is being held for her in the Memorial Rooms, in the central area of the Llorente district.
Natalia Jiménez and Rodrigo Monsalve
Natalia Jiménez and Rodrigo Monsalve
Natalia Jimenez was an ecologist. She worked with Fundación Natura, one of the oldest environmental foundations in Colombia. She was part of a project for the conservation and recovery of the Cauca and Magdalena river beds. Her husband, Rodrigo Monsalve, was an anthropologist and worked as a DJ in Santa Marta.
On Friday, December 20, they were on their way to Palomino, where they would celebrate their honeymoon. On the way they were approached by strangers. At that moment, the communication that Natalia had with her father was cut off. On December 23rd their bodies were found.
On Wednesday, December 25, one of those involved in the murders turned himself in to the authorities, thanks to whom it became known that the drug trafficking group "Los Panchencas" was involved in the events.
Reinaldo Carrillo belonged to the National Association of Peasants, in the Huila section, an association that seeks to group, train and represent peasants as interlocutors with the government and society.
Reinaldo was murdered in the early morning of December 25 at his home, in front of his family, by men on motorcycles who shot him numerous times in the neighborhood of Los Pinos, in Pitalito municipality, in Huila Department (south)..
According to authorities, there is still no information on who is responsible.
Carrillo was a member of the Peace Committee of the organization and worked on agriculture-related issues, local media reported.
The Venezuelan Pastor López sang
Christmas, which every year
It reminds me of those who died
The ones on my side are gone forever
Not to return,
and today, once again, we remember his words.
Since the peace agreements was signed between the guerrilla group FARC and the government in November 2016, threats, attacks, kidnappings, and murders have been continuous, targetting especially indigenous communities, social leaders, and former guerrilla fighters.
The violence in Colombia did not end with the signing of the 2016 Peace Agreement, although it is true that during the years of negotiation there was a very sensitive decrease in violence against civilian populations (given that the FARC guerrilla was not the only group outside the law).
On the other hand, given that the social factors that caused the violence have not been resolved, it is relatively "normal" that it should continue. Especially as the end of the FARC guerrillas created a power vacuum that other groups dedicated to drug trafficking have come to occupy, as a recent Al Jazeera documentary explains, visiting the peace community of San José de Apartadó.
Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó. Tomado de caracol.com.co
However, since the signing of the Peace Agreement, there has been a continuous and intense violence against social leaders throughout the country. These are people who in the regions work for causes such as the defense of the environment, the restitution of land left behind by the violence of the armed conflict, the search for people who have disappeared and the sustainability of peasant projects, among other objectives.
According to the data recorded in Líderes-sociales.datasketch.co, 578 leaders have been killed since January 1, 2016, with data updated to December 4, 2019. Here are the names of each one of them, with the causes they defended until giving their lives.
That is, on average, from 1 January 2016 to 4 December 2019, one leader has been killed every 1.8 days.
The Colombian government, represented by two former ministers of defense, has made unfortunate and controversial statements, such as saying that the killings are caused by "skirt messes" or because the leaders are linked to drug trafficking.
On December 17, the current Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo was in Tumaco, Nariño, to present the Zonas Futuro plan, which would seek to strengthen security in the areas most affected by drug trafficking today. That day, a president of a community action board asked the minister to strengthen the security of community leaders in the face of threats and the abandonment of the state. Seven days later, Lucy Villareal was murdered in the same municipality.
Today, December 26, the Presidential Advisor on Human Rights and International Relations, Francisco Barbosa, made his assessment of the year, in which he declared that it is not possible to speak of a systemic approach to the assassination of social leaders in Colombia. According to him, rather "what exists is an action of crime, of criminals, of drug trafficking, of people who practice illegal mining, of those who are fighting to take over the drug trafficking routes in some of these areas where there has been an increase in illicit crops. More than systematization, what exists is an action against our leaders for various causes.”
Indigenous protesters in Colombia have toppled a statue of Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in the south-western city of Popayán.
Police looked on as members of the Misak community used ropes to tear down the equestrian figure of de Belalcázar, who founded the city in 1537.
Indigenous leaders said he represented five centuries of genocide and slavery.
Popayán's mayor said it was an act of violence against a symbol of a multicultural city.
De Belalcázar led numerous expeditions in north-western parts of South America, founding also what is now Ecuador's capital Quito.
The Misak community blames the conquistador for the killings of their ancestors and land grabbing.
The toppling of statues associated with slavery and colonialism has been a prominent feature of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and Europe.
Protesters across America toppled statues associated with slavery
The movement has been at the forefront of demonstrations sparked by the death in police custody in May of African American George Floyd.
Mass protests have taken place across the US and internationally against police brutality and racial inequality.