DGR stand in solidarity with land defenders in the Philippines“ and Colombia, where we see the highest levels of murders of environmental activists.

“For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defence against climate breakdown. Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work.” Globalwitness.org

Colombia, is a country with amazingly diverse ecosystems.

There are also a huge diversity of cultures. In 2019, Colombia was the worst country to be an environmental activist. There was hope this would improve in 2020 but sadly this was not the case.  Worse still, Colombia started on new year’s day in 2021 with the murder of young people who were who fought with the guerrilla organization The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and had demobilized to return with their family after the peace agreement was signed in June 2016.  FARC  signed a ceasefire accord with the President of Colombia.  A year later, FARC handed over its weapons to the United Nations.  At this point it ceased to be an active, armed group.

The first day of this year started with the execution of a former member of the FARC, Yolanda Mazo aged only 22 and Reina her 17 year old sister. They were murdered in the early morning Friday, January 1st 2021. Yolanda is one of hundreds of activists who have been killed since the signing of the Accords between the Colombian state and the FARC. In addition to the deaths of two young women two union leaders have also been murdered.

Environmental activist found dead.

Most recently, Gonzalo Cardona, the first environmental activist and forest ranger who worked in the protection of the paramo ecosystem was murdered. These ecosystems are regions considered to be “evolutionary hot spots“. The ranger worked to protect this area and several endangered species of birds. He stood for the conservation of the habitat of the yellow eared parrot  “loro orejiamarillo” and for the preservation of the natural world from the mining the deforestation and the industrial agriculture.

The systemic and systematic violence on the land and towards the Colombian people is brutal. It is the consequence of the capitalist system, of greed and profit over the health of the natural world and the humans and non-humans that inhabit it. The dominant, violent system depends upon inequality, poverty and repression of social movements to remain in power and when the profit or the power is threatened, they remove the threat.

Who is responsible?

The Colombian government, the military forces, the paramilitary groups and other armed groups are responsible for these deaths,  for these murders.  All this violence has its roots in land control, exploitation of natural resources and silencing of social movements. The Colombian government, in collusion with national and multinational corporate interests, continue to profit from the destruction of the natural world. They gain political benefits through mining contracts, fracking developments and widespread industrial agriculture. Those in power ensure the elites own the land, reducing the power of the poeple to defend land.

The Colombian government and those who benefits on the land exploitation, continue to attack and discredit social and environmental movements and when they feel threatened people die.