Conflicts & War

Violence persists in Colombia’s Putumayo 5 years after peace deal

By Laia Mataix Gomez

Mocoa, Colombia, Mar 2 (EFE).- Violence in the Colombian municipality of Putumayo continues to claim the lives of activists five years after a peace deal was signed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Last week one of the best-known former FARC leaders in the area, Jorge Santofimio, was killed last week when a group of armed men opened fire on a community meeting in the town of Puerto Guzmán.

Jorgillo, as he was known, was the second peace deal signatory to be murdered in less than a week in the area near the border wirh Ecuador and Peru. His 13-year-old son and a five-month-old baby were injured in the attack.

Jorgillo, a Putumayo native who served with the FARC guerrillas for 17 years, is remembered by his colleagues as the leader of environmental projects in the area, which are part of the reconciliation process. He was the community leader for Puerto Guzmán’s La Granja sector in the reconciliation efforts.

That same week, Fabián Alexander Rodríguez Suárez, known as Lorenzo Hidalgo, was also killed in the municipality of Valle del Guamuez, also in Putumayo.

Nestled in the Andean-Amazon rainforest, Putumayo has been neglected by the state and the November 2016 peace agreement was never fully implemented in the restive region.

Coca cultivation continues to fuel the local economy in a region in desperate need of social reform after decades of violence and bloodshed.

Mining and oil extraction are also part of the problem in the area which is home to 369,332 people.

Around 79% of Putumayo is dense jungle and 19% of its lands are protected. However, it is Colombia’s fourth municipality most affected by deforestation.

The Carolina Ramírez group and the Second Marquetalia, FARC dissidents who refused to disarm, operate in the area, threatening and persecuting peace signatories and community leaders.

Strategic corridors for trafficking of people, drugs and weapons make Putumayo a key location for armed gangs looking to smuggle between Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

Out of the six former guerrillas assassinated so far this year in Colombia, two have been in Putumayo while 305 demobilized fighters have been murdered since the peace agreement, according to the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz).

“Although the government has shredded the peace agreement, we collect the papers and put it together again,” the new leader of La Granja, Anselmo Ortiz, told Efe.

“From the bottom of our hearts we hope that there will be no more deaths in Colombia,” he added. EFE


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