Colombia: terror continues against social leaders

Even as the FARC guerillas begin the disarmament process under Colombia's peace plan, the ongoing wave of deadly violence against social leaders remains unrelenting. On March 5, a brother and sister who were both local leaders in the Independent Agrarian Workers Syndicate of Meta (SINTRAGRIM), José Antonio and Luz Ángela Anzola Tejedor, were slain in attacks two hours apart by unknown gunmen in their village of Mesetas, Meta department. (Contagio Radio, March 6) Both were also followers of the Colombian Communist Party, which issued a statement calling the double murder part of a "counterinsurgency" plan being carried out against social movements in Meta by right-wing paramilitaries with the complicity of authorities. The statement said the terror campaign is aimed at destroying organizations seeking a just social order after implementation of the peace plan. (Prensa Rural, March 8)

On March 1, Alicia López Guisao, a regional leader of the Agrarian Summit organization and the Inter-ethnic Agro-ecology Association (ASOKINCHASA) in Chocó department, was assassinated by gunmen on a motorbike while riding in a taxi during a visit to Medellín. (Contagio Radio, March 2)

More controversy surrounds the January slaying of Afro-Colombian activist Emilsen Manyoma in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca department. The bodies of Manyoma and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega were discovered by police Jan. 17, two days after they went missing. Both bodies were found with bruises, stab wounds and gunshot wounds. A prominent leader in the Bajo Calima region of Valle del Cauca, Manyoma was affiliated with the national network Communities Building Peace in the Territories (CONPAZ), and played a key role in documenting human rights abuses as part of Colombia's recently created Truth Commission. (TeleSur, Frontline Defenders, Jan. 18)

However, weeks after the slaying, Manyoma's own brother was arrested for the crime along with a suspected collaborator. The brother, Marco Antonio Manyoma AKA "Camilo Robledo," is named as a deserter from the FARC's 30th Front. (El Tiempo, Feb. 11)

Buenaventura has long been under a reign of terror by paramilitary bands who control cocaine exports from the port city.