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Threatening Lives, But Not Silencing Voices

Maria Paula Unigarro Alba

Posted on May 13, 2019 21:03

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In a context of systematic assassinations of social leaders in Colombia, members of the Force of Wayuu Women have received death threats. They are raising their voices to call for the protections they deserve.

Social leaders are facing a violent scenario in Colombia. Since 2016, when a peace accord was signed with the FARC guerrillas, more than 400 local leaders have been assassinated in the country. This number is absolutely upsetting. What is even more disturbing is acknowledging that this number represents individuals and families who are living a real hell. The reason: standing by their ideas.

One case illustrative of this is what has been happening to the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu – FMW-SJW movement (Force of Wayuu Women). It is rooted in La Guajira department, a strategic zone due to its border condition and the location of Cerrejón, Colombia’s largest coal producing mine. This region is a vivid example of violence generated by economic interests where there’s no control by a legitimate State. Its inhabitants have been victimized by illegal armed groups and have been displaced from their territories for years.

The FMW-SJW movement was created in 2006. Their main objective has been to make visible the Human Rights violations they have suffered. They have also been critical of the development of mining and energy megaprojects on their lands. In recognition of their efforts, they were awarded the National Award for the Human Rights Defense in the category of collective experience in 2017.

Maybe it is precisely because of their well-known tenacity that they have received intimidations during the past weeks. Pamphlets containing death threats against FMW-SJW have been posted on a fake Facebook profile named “Pedro Lastra.” Some mention exclusively six of its members: Karmen Ramírez, Miguel Ramirez, Jakeline Romero, Deris Paz, Luis Misael Socarras and Dulcy Cotes. They are horrified.

In the past, the movement has reported treats like these to the National Protection Unit. Nevertheless, no effective measures have been implemented to protect them. Recently, they posted a statement about the situation in their official blog. They request four specific measures to be taken:

1. That the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights grants them precautionary measures.
2. That the national government initiates an immediate action plan to prevent the extermination of indigenous communities.
3. That Missions and Diplomatic Corps accredited in Colombia monitor the security conditions of Human Rights Defendants from the Wayuu community.
4. That the National Protection Unit reevaluates the protection plan for the FMW-SJW.

Additionally, they call for the civil society to demand the clarification of the facts surrounding the assassination of social leaders in Colombia.

In this regard, it's worthwhile highlighting that several citizens’ initiatives have already taken place. Marches have occurred in the country and abroad. Non-governmental organizations have continuously reported violent events. Even national Youtubers have denounced the situation. In fact, in a very creative song video, they join social leaders to sing together about these threats and assassinations.

We civilians are doing our part. Now the national government and international organizations must to do theirs. They must guarantee that nothing happens to the Fuerza Mujeres Wayuu members or to any other social leaders in the country.

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Source: Al Jazeera

The Colombian social leader, known as an 'untiring fighter' for human rights, was killed last week at her home.

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