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Colombia human rights update April 2024

Killings of social activists, trade unionists and former guerrillas continued throughout April. In total, January-April 2024 has seen 59 activists and ten former FARC members in the peace process killed. 21 massacres have also been committed in the first third of the year.

While the government continues making important efforts to contain violence through dialogue with armed groups, the ongoing human rights crisis reflects the size of the task at hand.

Here is JFC’s monthly update on the human rights crisis for April 2024.

N.B. This article does not provide a definitive list of all human rights violations committed in Colombia. Various others are likely to have been committed during the period. 

1 April – The 40th murder of a social activist in 2024 was committed in Araquita, department of Arauca. Ever Albeiro Espí Hernández was president of the Community Action Council (JAC) in the district of Beisal de Maporal. Armed assailants took him from his home at night and subsequently killed him. JAC council members have been particularly targeted by violence, with a number of killings each month in recent years. Ever was also the fourth activist murdered in Arauca in the space of a week.

5 April – At least seven explosions were reported in the zone of Toribío, department of Cauca. Communities in north Cauca continue to face very high levels of violence.

5 April – The CONPAZCOL human rights organisation, which represents African-Colombian, indigenous and peasant communities, warned that the families of Wounaan Nonam indigenous leaders had been forcibly confined to their homes for at least 12 days due to the presence of armed groups in the zone of Córdoba, Buenaventura. It began on 24 March when an unidentified man was seen acting suspiciously. A drone flew over the area soon afterwards. Over the following days, several more unknown men entered the community, generating fear among residents. CONPAZCOL urged authorities to take action to address the situation.

5 April – In Miraflores, Guaviare, three men were killed in Colombia’s 16th massacre of 2024. Two of the victims were indigenous members of the Lagos del Dorado reservation and the other was a peasant farmer who worked with the community. They were named as Roel Iván Pulido Pineda, who was 58 years old, Miguel Ángel Cururú Ardila, 28, and Miguel Pulido.

7 April – Five people were killed in Toro, Valle del Cauca, when armed assailants opened fire in a bar. The victims were identified as Daniel Valderrama Jiménez, who was 33 years old, Jair Hernández Ramírez, Jhon Fredy Loaiza Romero, Duherney Cárdenas Castro, all of whom were 49, and 36-year-old Álvaro de Jesús Vanegas Guevara. Another four people were injured.

7 April – A Conservative Party councillor in the town of Viterbo, Caldas, Bryan Duván Medina Ospina, was shot dead in the pharmacy that he owned. The 31-year-old was elected in last October’s municipal elections and promoted local sports activities.

9 April – Armed assailants abducted a councillor in the Indigenous and Social Alternative Movement (MAIS) political party in Manaure, department of La Guajira. Juan Ricardo Martínez Alvarado is of Wayuu indigenous heritage and works in local associations that promote community rights.

13 April – Armed assailants killed three people in a bar in Cucuta, a city on Colombia’s eastern border with Venezuela. Two died at the scene, while the third was taken to hospital but died soon afterwards. It is the 18th massacre of 2024.

14 April – The day after a massacre killed three people in Cucuta, lawyer and social leader Jaime Alonso Vásquez was killed in the city after being attacked in a public establishment. He had conducted investigations into alleged corruption in municipal institutions.

15 April – Social activist and youth worker Yoiner Gómez Burbano was killed in Patía, Cauca. He represented young people on a local committee. After being attacked, he was taken to hospital but died shortly afterwards.

16 April – Heavy clashes between security forces and members of an armed group were aggravating security risks for local communities in Jambaló, Cauca. The Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca (CRIC) warned residents to avoid unnecessary travel, to ensure they were sheltered, to avoid standing by windows and to protect children and the elderly. The CRIC also called on authorities to implement security measures in the zone.

17 April – Former FARC guerrilla Carlos Garzón Noscue was killed in Puerto Guzmán, Putumayo. He was transitioning to civilian life at ETCR transitional zone Heiler Mosquera and was a member of the COMUCCOM cooperative network set up by former guerrillas. He is the tenth former FARC member killed in 2024.

17 April – A well-known LGBTQ activist, Manuel José Bermúdez, was identified as the person found dead on a riverbank in Santo Domingo, Antioquia, the previous week. The 58-year-old was a professor at the University of Antioquia and promoted initiatives around grassroots media and citizen participation. It was the 45th documented killing of a social activist in 2024.

17 April – Community activist Jorge Navarro González was murdered in the Caribbean port city of Cartagena. He was a member of the JAC community council in the Nuevo Bosque neighbourhood. Armed assailants attacked the 52-year-old at around 10.30am. Paramilitary successor groups have long established a foothold in the Caribbean region.

19 April – Two employees at the Attorney General’s Office were abducted in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca. Bethy Amanda Mage and Gerson Rene Rivera, who are part of the Technical Investigation Body (CTI), are believed to have been taken by members of an armed group. The Attorney General’s Office said it ‘asks for respect for these two servants and justice and demands their immediate liberation’.

19 April – A particularly violent day continued with the double killing of two people, Carlos Arturo Londoño and Clarivet Ocampo, as they left a commercial centre in Tuluá, Valle del Cauca. Carlos was an activist in the Conservative Party and vice-president on the Tuluá council, while Clarivet worked in the local municipality to support people with disabilities, having worked for several years in various other community roles. Several armed groups are active in the vicinity of Tuluá.

19 April – The 19th massacre of 2024 claimed three people’s lives in the northern city of Barranquilla. Armed assailants opened fire inside a public establishment, killing 11-year-old José Angel Villarreal Morillo and two other people.

20 April – Three people died in a massacre in Urrao, Antioquia. They were attacked at around 9.40pm inside a public establishment in the El Pedrero neighbourhood. Two of the dead victims were named as 36-year-old Adenawer Beltrán Serna and Adrián de Jesús Guzmán Giraldo, who was 23. The third person killed was unidentified, while a fourth person was injured.

19 April – 22-year-old community activist Zayra Enciso Gómez was murdered in Miraflores, Guaviare, where she was well-known for her involvement in youth work and community sports. She promoted community access to health facilities. Reports said that an armed groups shot her in the zone of Los Lagos del Dorado.

20 April – Teacher trade unionist Luis Alfredo Leones Álvarez was killed in San Jacinto, Bolívar, where he was principal of the León XIII college. He was a member of the regional SUDEB trade union for Bolívar-based teachers, an affiliate of the national Federation of Colombian Education Workers (FECODE), one of the country’s largest trade union organisations. Luis Alfredo is the third FECODE-affiliated trade unionist murdered since March.

20 April – A former candidate for the progressive Historic Pact coalition was murdered inside a public establishment in Puerto López, Meta. Hilton Eduardo Barrios stood for the Historic Pact in last October’s mayoral elections in Puerto López. He was director of independent media outlet Ciudadanías, as well as a prominent defender of the rights of rural communities. Several Historic Pact candidates have been murdered since the coalition, led by Gustavo Petro, was elected to government two years ago.

21 April – Paramilitaries belonging to the Gulf Clan group killed community activist Narciso Beleño, who was president of FEDEAGROMISBOL, the federation for small-scale miners, inside his home in South Bolivar. His death came one day after social organisations had reported a paramilitary incursion into the vicinity. As a prominent activist, Narciso’s death provoked widespread mourning and condemnation across Colombian social movements.

25 April – Youth worker and activist Yarlinton Robledo Rentería was killed in Qubdó, Chocó. He was on the committee of the Association of Young Displacement Victims and studied law at the Chocó Technological University. Armed assailants killed Yarlinton and another young man in a public establishment.

25 April – Social activist Robinson Franco was murdered in Segovia, Antioquia, where he was a member of the JAC community council for the Carrizal district.

27 April – Four people were killed inside a home in Corinto, Cauca. Among them was José Sebastián Muñoz Majín, a popular folk singer in the region. The other victims were named as José Tapasco Jambuel, Jhon Villegas Saa and José Noscué Largo. It was the 21st massacre of 2024.

27 April – Political candidate John Freddy Gil Franco was murdered in Jamundí, Valle del Cauca, where he ran for the Alternative Indigenous and Social Movement (MAIS) party in last October’s council elections. He was attacked inside a food court.

28 April – Councillor and political activist Lelis Armando Santana Quenza was murdered in Cravo Norte, Arauca. He sat on the council in the same district. Armed assailants killed Lelis and his brother Hernando Santana in an attack at their home.

30 April – Social activist Antonio Montañéz Villazana was killed in Arauca, capital of the department of the same name. He was JAC community council president for the Bocas de Arauca district. He was also vice-president of the regional branch of the ASOJUNTAS federation of JAC councils. Antonio’s death came two days after Lelis Armando Santana Quenza was also killed in Arauca, which has seen several other killings of activists in recent weeks. He is the 59th social activist murdered in 2024.