Afro-descendent rural leader Nestor Ivan Martinez was shot twice and killed at his farm on Sunday night, according to social organizations from the central province of Cesar—the fifth rural leader killed in Colombia since the beginning of the cease-fire between FARC rebels and the government.
According to the communique issued by the Peoples' Congress, a group of hitmen went to his farm in La Sierra town, in the Cesar province, tying up the farm's manager as well as Martinez' wife. When Martinez finally arrived home, they shot him twice in the head.
Martinez was leading the defense of the territory against mining projects carried out in the province at the Community Council of Black communities in La Sierra, El Cruce, and La Estacion, or CONESICE, in the center of Cesar province.
In July, he led a protest against the decision to shut down the public hospital San Andres, in the rural town of Chiriguana, which was followed by the assassination of Neiman Agustin Lara, a fellow-member of the Community Council of La Sierra.
The Dialogue Commission of the Center and South of Cesar province, where Martinez worked as a spokesperson, warned that their members were in a position of great danger, claiming that leaflets signed by the “Armed Group of Social Cleansing” were spread around in various towns of southern Cesar on Aug. 25.
The leaflets claimed that the Dialogue Commission had “guerrilla origins via (progressive Senator) Ivan Cepeda” and disagreed with the occupation of various farms—which were not economically exploited—by hundred of families of the victims of Colombia's armed conflict.
“The situation is very concerning,” added Elias Nahum Quintero from the Movement of Campesinos Workers and Cesar's Communities. “These facts violate our right to protest ... In Chiriguana we were demanding our right to health care, this is why we protested, and this is why a comrade died,” he told Colombia Informa.
According to Quintero, these groups of social cleansing are just an expression of paramilitarism: “they are reorganizing in the region, they have reappeared in all regions, threatening leaders who demand respect for life, land, work... Mining exploitation is escalating to the detriment of the people.”
Paramilitary groups are still active despite the formal demobilization carried out under Alvaro Uribe's presidency in 2003, added Quintero. More concerning, “they are already organized now, not like before when they were scattered.”
The campesinos leader also expressed doubts about the recently-signed peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, saying it failed to include the whole society: “In our opinion, peace is much more than an agreement, it has to be built with the people in all districts and lanes, peace is made with real changes for the country.”