The Colombian activist and social leader Fernando Asprilla was murdered on Friday in the Cauca department, and was the third death of a social leader recorded in a 72 hour period.
The Ombudsman of Colombia, Carlos Alfonso Negret Mosquera, showed in a recent report that during the period between the first of January, 2016, and March 1st of 2017, at least 156 homicides, five disappearances, and 33 violent attacks against community and social leaders occurred.
According to the report given by Negret, one of the primary causes of the deadly trend is the continued operations of illegal armed right-wing paramilitary organizations that have occupied territory left behind by the disarming Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army (FARC – EP).
Human rights defenders and activists in the districts of Antioquia, Arauca, Atlantico, Bolivar, Caldas, Caqueta, Casanare, Cauca, Cesar, Cordoba, Cundinamarca, Choco, Huila, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Risaralda, Santander, Tolima and Cauca Valley have been assasinated since the FARC's demobilization process began.
As they have handed over their weapons and negotiated terms of peace with the Colombian government, FARC-EP has consistently demanded that the state works to dismantle paramilitarism in the country, saying its ongoing violence represents the greatest threat to the peace process.
The government however, has largely ignored the existence of paramilitaries, claiming that they were demobilized during Alvaro Uribe's presidential term between 2006 and 2008. FARC-EP leaders have pointed out that many of the groups have been reclassified as criminal gangs, but continue to represent the same threat as always by assasinating leaders who fight for human and land rights.