Two more social leaders have been murdered in Colombia as thousands of people protested the ongoing violence in simultaneous demonstrations around the world.
The latest murders bring the number of Colombian social leaders assassinated since January 1 this year to 125, just hours after the release of a report detailing the 123 victims that had been killed up until July 4.
Jose Fernando Jaramillo Oquendo, of Pascuita's Community Action Assembly, was murdered July 6 in Ituango, Antioquia. Local reports say armed people came to Jaramillo's house and shot him dead.
His murder is the third reported in Antioquia in the past two weeks and the 16th since January. Jose Abraham Garcia, his brother-in-law and president of the same assembly, was murdered late June.
The region of Ituango is threatened by the presence of several armed paramilitary groups, such as the Gulf Clan, which targets local people and community leaders.
In Caqueta, Cartagena del Chaira, Alexander Castellano was murdered by men wearing balaclavas and riding a motorcycle while he was on his way to a meeting. The second social leader murdered in the town in one week, he was vice president of the Campesino Asociation for Environmental Protection.
"He was a well-known campesino in the region... he was in talks for possible agreements with the national government to make viable some projects promoting investment in remote communities... looking for alternatives to cutting down tress in the jungle," said Luis Francisco Vargas, mayor of Cartagena del Chaira.
#Colombia | 125 social #leaders have been killed so far this year. Until Friday there were 123 but on Saturday the deaths of Alexander Castellano in #Caqueta and Jose Fernando Jaramillo Oquendo in #Antioquia were confirmed.https://t.co/kD3yKESIxh pic.twitter.com/FULFw6rhwa— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) 7 de julio de 2018
Jaime Gutierrez, of the National Confederation of Community Action, told El Espectador: "Why do they kill leaders? Because we're against illegal mining, because it's us who denounce the drug routes."
The confederation asked outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos and President-Elect Ivan Duque for a meeting to discuss how to halt the murder of social leaders in Colombia. Several human rights organizations called for a vigil late July 6 to reject the systematic killings.
"We scream in silence that we don't tolerate one more murder, no more violence, no more aggression against our human rights defenders, no more paramilitary structures trying to silence us. #TheyWon'tSilenceUs #TheCountryFirst @CountryFirst," activist Mafe Carrascal tweeted.
The protests were organized after a particularly deadly week, during which at least seven social leaders – including Ana Maria Cortes, coordinator of Gustavo Petro's presidential campaign in the city of Caceres, Antioquia – were assassinated.
The global vigils were held in Paris, Valencia, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, London, New York, Rome and Buenos Aires.
The number of victims differs depending on the source. According to the Ombudsman's Office of Colombia, 311 leaders have been killed since January 2016.
The Institute of Studies for Development and Peace has registered 385 murders since the Colombian government signed a peace treaty with the demobilized FARC in November 2016. If the 20 murders since May 2018 are added, the total death toll now stands at 405.
According to the 'All The Names, All The Faces' report published on July 5, 123 leaders and human rights defender had been murdered in Colombia between January 1 and July 4 of this year. Adding the two most recent killings, that total is now 125.