Sixth teacher assassinated this year in Colombia

A sixth teacher has been reported murdered in Colombia this year on Sept. 2, highlighting continuing challenges for President Juan Manuel Santos’s promise to make Colombians "the most educated in Latin America." Joaquin Gómez Muñoz was murdered by a masked assassin at his home in the southern department of Cauca. He was the sixth teacher to be killed this year, according to FECODE, Colombia's teachers union. Gómez, 54, was born and raised in Cauca. He worked as a math teacher at the school of the Huella indigenous reserve, and was also a community leader a member of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC). This was the second murder of a teacher at Huella in less than six months. Epifanio Latin Ñuscue was tortured to death on March 3. Ñuscue had been previously threatened by FARC guerillas that operate in the region for "defending the autonomy [of] the indigenous government," the community said in a statement. Physical security for educators was one of the main issues in last month's country-wide teachers' strike last month. (Colombia Reports, Sept. 2)

On Aug. 15, Juan Pablo Gutiérrez, a Colombian-French photographer who works closely with indigenous groups in Cauca and elsewhere around the country, was approached by an unkown man near his home in Bogotá and given an envelope that contained a death threat. The letter, signed by the Capital Bloc of the Aguilas Negras paramilitary group, accused Gutiérrez and his indigenous friends of collaborating with the FARC. It named both the CRIC and allied National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), reading: "[W]e remind the snitch son of a bitch Juan Pablo Gutiérrez and his ONIC and CRIC comrades manipulating the country's indigenous peoples that Colombia must be respected! Those who dishonor the brave national state must be eliminated. It does not matter if the bastard son of a bitch is protected. In Colombia or elsewhere he has little time left." (Amnesty International, Aug. 21)