Leader for the displaced killed in Cordoba, northern Colombia

Colombia News - Land

A leader of a group of peasants reclaiming land they were forced to leave by illegal armed groups, was assassinated in northern Colombia said the human rights ombudsman Wednesday.

“[Martha] Gaibao, the spokesperson in a process of resettlement of 17 families displaced in the municipality of La Apartada in the department of Cordoba, was shot several times by unknown perpetrators who subsequently fled” said Volmar Perez, Human Rights Ombudsmen, reported news agency AFP.

This homicide raises the number of displaced landless leaders assassinated to 10 since August 2010 when President Juan Manuel Santos took office. The head of state proposed a law in September 2010 to compensate the victims of internal armed conflict and return land to peasants displaced by the violence.

In March, three displaced land leaders were assassinated within 24 hours.

Perez said that Gaiboa’s murder “appears to be a form of armed pressure aimed at impeding the land restitution process and an act of intimidation to people who are demanding respect and their right to land.”

Perez urged authorities to increase security and to take effective measures against risks in the region. Cordoba was the scene of intense violence last year, and in the first two months of 2011, there were two high profile cases of murdered students.

Congress is currently debating the Victims and the Land Restitution Law, through which the Santos administration aims to give back to peasants almost 5 million acres over four years.

According to estimates from officials and NGOs, in the last 15 years between 3 million and 13.5 million acres were stolen in Colombia. Furthermore, close to 3 million people have been displaced by violence since the 1950s according to figures from the UN Refugee Agency.