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  • Since January 2016, 156 social leaders have been killed and another five were forcibly disappeared.

    Since January 2016, 156 social leaders have been killed and another five were forcibly disappeared. | Photo: EFE

Published 20 June 2017

In the final week of the rebel group's demobilization, a third FARC member who benefited from the 2016 peace deal is found dead.

During the final week of the FARC's disarmament as part of the historic peace deal in Colombia, a member of the rebel group has been murdered while in the process of reintegrating into society, casting a shadow over the final days of demobilization.

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Rigobel Quesada Garcia, 27, had benefited from amnesty for political crimes committed by FARC members, outlined in last year's peace deal, and had been released from prison a month and a half ago. He was shot while walking down the street in a deserted area of San Vicente del Caguan, a town in southern Colombia that became a demilitarized zone during a failed peace process between 1998 and 2002.

Quesada was transferred to San Rafael Hospital, where he died.

The director of the prosecutor’s office in Caqueta, the department where San Vicente del Caguan is located, Luis Alexander Bermeo, announced an investigation into the motives behind the murder.

“ Yesterday a homicide occurred in San Vicente del Caguan, apparently of a person pardoned under Law 1820 and who had been released about a month and a half ago. Staff of the (Technical Investigation Team) has been deployed to the site in order to learn the facts first hand to allow progress with the investigation,” Bermeo said.

Quesada's death follows the murder earlier this year of two other FARC members, Commander Jose Huber Yatacue, shot dead outside a hospital in Toribio, and Alvaro Ortiz Cabezas, murdered outside a bar in Tumaco near the Ecuadorean border.

All three had benefited from the amnesty law, which was passed as part of the historic peace deal signed last year by the left-wing guerillas and the Colombian government. The three rebel fighters were also murdered in rural areas, outside the designated transition zones where the rebel army has gathered to demobilize and hand over its weapons to a United Nations monitoring mission.

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The murders of FARC members — despite the country’s budding new era of peace — comes amid growing concerns over systematic attacks and assassinations of social leaders together with a resurgence of paramilitary activity, especially in rural areas previously controlled by the FARC.

According to a report from Colombia's Ombudsman office, the FARC members are but a few of the activists to have been killed in the final months of the peace negotiations and first months since the signing of the historic accords. At least 156 social leaders were killed between Jan. 1, 2016 and March 1, 2017. The report continued to state that in addition to those killed, there were also five forced disappearances and another 33 reported attacks on activists. The attacks by armed groups, including paramilitaries, took place in 23 of the country's 32 departments.

Social movements and human rights activists have been calling on Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to do more to address paramilitary violence targeting social and left-wing leaders.

The landmark peace deal signed by FARC leaders and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos last year brought an end to more than half a century of internal armed conflict that claimed the lives of some 260,000 people. FARC members are set to finish the process of laying down their weapons once and for all on June 27, paving the way to reorganize as a political party that will debut in the country's 2018 elections.

The peace deal also included measures to pardon rebels for political crimes committed in the context of the armed conflict, encouraging their reintegration into civilian life. Members of the FARC, military and other armed groups will be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity through special peace jurisdictions focused on reconciliation and transitional justice.

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