At least 145 human rights activists were murdered last year in Colombia, a figure lower than that of 2020 but which shows the upturn in violence after the 2016 peace process, the Ombudsman’s Office revealed on Monday.
During 2021, “145 homicides against social leaders and human rights defenders” were recorded, the entity that watches over fundamental guarantees said in a statement.
The number is lower than that of 2020, when the Ombudsman’s Office identified 182 cases.
The state body established that among the dead there are 32 indigenous representatives, 16 peasant or agrarian leaders and seven trade unionists.
“We repudiate these events that occur mainly due to the criminal actions of illegal armed groups,” said the head of the Ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, without giving details about the alleged perpetrators of these attacks.
Since the signing of peace with the FARC guerrilla in 2016, homicides against the leaders have been recurrent. Social organizations denounce that guerrillas who are still up in arms, members of drug trafficking groups and state agents are behind the deaths.
The departments with the highest number of cases were Antioquia (24), Cauca (22) and Valle del Cauca (19), drug trafficking corridors.
The FARC operated in these three regions and the territories they evicted are in dispute due to the thousands of hectares of drug crops or illegal gold mines and other resources.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists, according to NGOs such as the international Global Witness, which indicates it as the deadliest for environmentalists (65 deaths in 2020).
The government of conservative Iván Duque accuses drug trafficking of being behind the murders.
Colombia, the largest producer of cocaine in the world, is experiencing the worst outbreak of violence after the signing of peace with the once most powerful guerrilla in the Americas.