Javier Francisco Parra Cubillos, environmental director of Cormacarena, the government body responsible for managing Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park on the eastern slopes of the Colombian Andes, died in a local hospital Dec. 3 after receiving multiple gunshot wounds from a pair of presumed sicarios (hired assassins) who fired on him from a motorbike. The area of fragile cloud-forest, in a remote part of Meta department, has long been the scene of armed conflict and coca cultivation, and has recently seen a surge in illegal logging. Parra Cubillos won brief national attention in 2017, when he accompanied Colombia’s then-president Juan Manuel Santos on a visit to a scenic site within the park, Caño Cristales (Cyrstal Canyon), to raise awareness about the need to preserve the zone. The government has offered a reward of 40 million pesos (about $11,500) for information leading to the apprehension of the assailants.
Cormacarena tweeted in response to the assassination, “Nothing will deter the work we carry out to combat deforestation in the south of Meta.”
In September, Colombia’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology & Environmental Studies (IDEAM) issued a report finding an astonishing 83% increase in deforestation in the adjoining departments of Meta, Guaviare and Caquetá, with an estimated 64,000 hectares cleared. (El Tiempo, El Tiempo, El Espectador, El Espectador, Semana, Semana, EFE)