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  • Campesino leaders say the government is criminalizing their movements and does not protect their rights.

    Campesino leaders say the government is criminalizing their movements and does not protect their rights. | Photo: @marchapatriota

Another 7,000 campesino leaders have been jailed for defending their land, or for mobilizing against the exploitation of their natural resources.

At least 300 campesinos leaders have been killed in Colombia in 2015, according to Andres Gil, human rights leader and spokesperson of the Marcha Patriotica.

Many of these deaths have come as campesino leaders are attempting to defend their land and their natural resources.​

Land distribution in Colombia is extremely unequal. Less than 1 percent of the population owns roughly half of the land, and 70 percent of the population owns only 5 percent of the land. Campesinos who fight for their land are often risking their lives.

At least three campesinos leaders where killed just in the last two weeks, including the young Afro-descendent leader Jhon Jairo Ramirez Olaya in the Valle region; the environmental and campesino leader Daniel Abril, in the Orinoquia region; and the representative of Afro-descendent victims from Cordoba, Luis Francisco Hernandez Gonzales.

Another young campesino leader allegedly killed by the armed forces last Friday, according to Marcha Patriota.

According to Verdad Abierta — an investigative project on the armed conflict of Colombia’s Semana magazine — Abril accused various state officials of corruption, and was fighting against multiple oil corporations with extensive land interests.

RELATED: 728 Human Rights Activists Killed in Colombia Since 1994

Feliciano Valencia, another indigenous leader from the region of Cauca who was controversially sentenced to 18 years in jail, was also victim of a homicide attempt on Tuesday, as four men opened fire on his home, according to local social organizations.

Still in Cauca, in the end October, the armed forces were recently involved in the murder of indigenous leader Alfredo Bolaño, the 58th victim from security forces in the region, one of the most affected by violence because of its highly fertile lands.

On Friday, the Colombian army killed one campesino and wounded five others after it raided a rural area in what military officials said was an effort to “manually eradicate” illegal coca crops.

According to the local community, the armed forces opened fire on a peaceful march last Thursday in Argelia, Cauca.

The country's ombudsman Fabian Laverde told teleSUR that this issue was rooted in several causes.

“First, the national government refuses to recognize the existence of paramilitarism. Second, the complaints from the social movements made about situations of threats or concrete actions against residents of these territories have been completely ignored,” he said.

teleSUR
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