Another social leader murdered in Colombia: William Castillo, from Marcha Patriótica

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News  / March 7, 2016. The community leader and defender of human rights William Castillo Chima, founder and treasurer of the Association of Agroecological and Mining Fraternities of Guamocó (Aheramigua) was murdered last Monday 7 in the afternoon, in the municipality of El Bagre, Antioquia.

William Castillo, member of the political movement Patriotic March and the National Coordination of Agrarian and Popular Organizations (CONAP) was shot by unknown men shortly after leaving a meeting at the City Hall, in Villa Echeverry (Antioquia).

williamcatillo

His murder is thought to be an act of vengeance by paramilitary groups against social leaders, because Aheramigua, Patriotic March, the Cahucopana Peasant Association and other social and political organizations have publicly denounced the violent actions of paramilitary groups in the area, which include forced disparitions, raids, lootings, threats and murders.

On January 9, the brother of a member of Aheramigua, Jaír de Jesús Suárez, was kidnapped and forcibly disappeared by the paramilitaries. According to the report of the Human Rights Verification Commission, in Puerto Claver, El Bagre, the house of Jaír Suárez was “destroyed by the paramilitaries, who left messages in walls and trees, that said ‘death to collaborators’, ‘death to guerrillas’ and other slogans”. They destroyed and looted the entire house. This evidences the political intention of the paramilitary and the persecution to social leaders of the area.

Furthermore, Aheramigua denounced the murder of a miner by the military last February 12. In a statement, they said: “The Association of Agroecological and Mining Fraternities of Guamocó denounces the serious situation of human rights in the municipality of El Bagre in the department of Antioquia. Communities in this municipality have their human rights constantly violated by several actors of the armed conflict in the region. Since November 2015, the combats between the FARC-EP and the ELN and the paramilitary group Autodefensas Gaitanistas have worsened; and the latter have constantly threatened the community and accused it of cooperating with the guerilla, they have made three people disappear and murdered others”.

membreteguamoco1

The persecution, harassment and murder of social and community leaders in Colombia has been common in areas with high presence of paramilitary groups, and the Public Forces and transnational companies have intervened in their territories, that are geographically strategic and have abundant natural resources, with the same violent methods. Most of these crimes, even though they are announced and denounced by communities and social organizations, still remain unpunished. The murder of William Castillo is one more in a series of recent murders of social leaders such as Carlos Pedraza, Daniel Abril and Klaus Zapata.

Recently, brother of Álvaro Uribe —former President of Colombia (2002-2010)—, Santiago Uribe, was found to be the founder and leader of the paramilitary group “Los 12 Apóstoles” (“The 12 Apostles”), which committed several crimes in the province of Antioquia. His brother Álvaro allegedly supported his activities.

Despite the peace talks that are being developed in Havana, persecution of social leaders still continues.