Colombia's inspector general, Fernando Carrillo, has accused elements of the country's police and military of collaborating with criminal organizations to assassinate human rights defenders and community leaders. “State agents are co-opted by criminal organizations that are eliminating social leaders,” the official said on Wednesday.
Carrillo's office is one of the state departments tasked with investigating the murders of at least 311 social leaders since 2016, according to Colombia Reports. That year was marked with the signing of the historic peace accord with the former guerrilla movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The group has since organized into a political party and, though maintaining the same acronym, has changed their official title to the Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons.
“Our call is primarily to mayors and governors to assume responsibility for the defense of the life and integrity of social leaders, and secondly to citizens to help us investigate, to denounce whether state officials and law enforcement agents, at any territorial level, are involved in the murders of social leaders,” Carrillo stressed.
His comments were rebutted by Colombia's defense minister, Luis Carlos Villegas. Having consistently downplayed the murders, and even going as far as accusing one of the slain victims just last week of having possible ties with the AGC, Carlos Villegas stated that “the Colombian Armed Forces have left behind any behavior that would betray their good relationship with the Colombian people.”
Meanwhile, a trio of non-governmental organizations has accused businessmen in northwest Colombia of conspiring with death squads to kill social leaders in order to prevent the restitution of vast swathes of land stolen during the country's civil war.
The IPC, Forjando Futuros and the Association of Land and Peace Claimants released a joint document in which they stated: “According to the information we have received, well-known businessmen Angel Adriano Palacios Pino, Jose Arley Muñoz, Luis Fabio Moreno Ruiz and Jaime Antonio Uribe Castrillon have been holding meetings … with the purpose of planning attacks that seek to halt the legal proceedings over land restitution that were taken against them as land thieves.”
In the 1990s and start of the 21st century, more than 800 businessmen and corporations aligned with death squads implemented a campaign to expand their property by displacing peasant farmers and indigenous and African-descendent communities.