Human Rights Defender Temístocles Machado Assassinated in Buenaventura
In May of last year, FORPP accompaniers were present to observe a city-wide civil protest in Buenaventura, where thousands of residents in the port town flooded the streets in response to poor living conditions, a lack of social services, and some of the highest rates of violence of the entire country. After paralyzing the town for 21 days, an agreement was finally reached when the Colombian government promised to provide funding to improve conditions.
Throughout the year meetings were held between the Colombian government and the Buenaventura Strike Committee to address issues of healthcare, education, and water, amongst others. Finally, in December of 2017, President Juan Manual Santos signed into law an “autonomous fund” to the tune of US $560,000.
On Saturday, January 27th, Temístocles Machado, one of the key organizers in the Buenaventura protest, was shot twice and killed by unidentified gunmen as he entered the parking lot of his own home. Temístocles was known throughout Buenaventura for his involvement in civil protest and for his ongoing committment to land rights.
Increasingly, post-peace accord Colombia is becoming characterized by frightening levels of violence against human rights defenders and social leaders like Temístocles. Reports have indicated that assassinations of leaders have risen by 32% to 45% from 2016-2017. Not only have our own FORPP partners experienced greater risk and threats this past year, the continued trend of rising violence has spurred uncertainty and fear across the entire country.
FORPP expresses its deepest grievance at the loss of yet another leader during a time in which the work of peacebuilding is fundamental to the success of the peace accords. We will be sharing more information about the concerning rise in attacks and killings of human rights defenders and peacebuilders as the months go on. Please stay in touch.
The FORPP team
Dianna, Elliot, Emily, Irene, Kati, Pendle, Peter, and Tom