Colombia: displaced activists murdered

On Jan. 31, rightwing paramilitaries murdered community activist Yolanda Izquierdo in the city of Monteria, capital of Cordoba department in northern Colombia. Izquierdo had been receiving death threats since December, when she attended the first preliminary hearing where paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso was testifying about his crimes. The local prosecutor had requested protection for Izquierdo after the threats against her were reported in the Bogota daily newspaper El Tiempo. Mancuso is one of the top leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC); leaders and members of the group are testifying about their crimes in exchange for leniency. The paramilitary hearings were established in negotiations over an alleged demobilization process, criticized by human rights groups as a sham and a coverup of massive rights violations.

Izquierdo represented a group of at least 700 campesinos who had organized to demand the return of their lands, which they had been forced to sell under pressure from the AUC. The plots of land had been distributed in 1990 by Funpazcor, a group created by paramilitary leaders Carlos and Fidel Castano Gil, in response to the demobilization of the leftist rebel Popular Liberation Army (EPL).

The National Movement of Victims of State Crimes reports that in the two weeks before Izquierdoþs murder, Freddy Abel Espitia, president of the Committee of Displaced People of Cordoba, was killed, and an arson attack was carried out on the offices of the League of Displaced Women of Turbaco, in Bolivar department. (Comite Nacional de Impulso, Movimiento de Victimas de Crimenes de Estado, Feb. 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 11

See our last post on Colombia.