Colombia: Armed groups engaged in illegal mining exploit COVID-19 outbreak to kill community leaders

Author: Joe Parkin Daniels, The Guardian, Published on: 24 March 2020

"Colombian death squads exploiting coronavirus lockdown to kill activists", 23 Mar 2020

Death squads in Colombia are taking advantage of coronavirus lockdowns to murder rural activists, local NGOs have warned. When cities across the country introduced local quarantine measures last week, three social leaders were killed, and as the country prepares to impose a national lockdown on Wednesday, activists have warned that more murders will follow. Marco Rivadeneira, a high-profile activist, was murdered,... [as well as] Alexis Vergara...and Ivo Humberto Bracamonte...  Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries...for activists and community leaders, who often fall foul of armed groups fighting for territory. “I’ve been getting more death threats since... coronavirus,” said Carlos Paez, a land rights activist in a cattle-ranching region... [Armed groups] all make their money in drug trafficking, illegal mining and extortion rackets, and all view social leaders as an obstacle to those lucrative economies... And as the government focuses its resources on stemming the coronavirus outbreak... normal security protocols have been thrown into disarray. “They are playing with our lives because they know that our bodyguards, the police and the justice system are going to be even less effective they usually are,” said Paez. "...A coalition of local NGOs and over 100 rural communities called for a ceasefire...during the outbreak...

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