Indigenous leader assassinated in Colombia

On Oct. 11, unidentified gunmen shot dead Francisco Antonio Cuchillo Baltazar, a 57-year indigenous governor of Ginebra municipality of the southwestern Colombian department of Valle del Cauca, the authorities said. Cuchillo was hit by three bullets when he was waiting for a bus to return home. His daughter, Lili Cuchillo, said her father “was shot three times, one in the head and two in the chest, by an assault rifle. To this moment we do not have information about which armed group committed this crime.” She said this murder “represents an attack on our communities. They took a leader away from us.” On Sept. 5, Jorge Eduardo Cuchillo Baltazar, the governor’s brother, was kidnapped and shot dead. His body was found near Ginebra. (Xinhua, Oct. 13)

Cuchillo was a leader of the Guambiano (Misak) indigenous group. The paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) has recently been leaving threatening graffiti in the central Gaumbiano village of Silvia, in the neighboring department of Cauca, where the inhabitants are petitioning Colombia’s agragian reform agency, INCODER, for recovery of 12,500 hectares of traditional indigenous lands from local big landlords. (Letter from Silvia indigenous governor Misael Velasco, Oct. 18, via Red de Defensores)

See our last post on Colombia’s ongoing human rights crisis.