March 6, 2021

US Senator expresses concern about the murder of social leaders

US Senator Bob Menéndez told Colombian President Iván Duque that his country's Congress was concerned about the murder of social leaders in the Andean nation, which according to some data, totals more than 700 since 2016.

"My message is that social leaders, human rights leaders, the State should not consider them enemies, they are friends of the State, they are part of the civil development of the State and President Duque I think he recognizes that," Menéndez said. this Wednesday to journalists in Bogotá.

The legislator, a Democrat from New Jersey and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Duque last Saturday in Cartagena to discuss bilateral issues, including the murder of social leaders, a topic that also dealt with other Colombian authorities.

He said, Duke spoke "deeply of statistics" when he wanted to find out "who is considered among civil society in that sense."

Menendez also talked about this problem with the attorney general in charge, Fabio Espitia, who gave him "a detailed explanation of what they are doing" to clarify the crimes.

"I also had the opportunity to meet with social leaders and human rights defenders," added the senator, who said he was especially impressed by "listening to women," the stories of "what they have suffered" and "their spirit and conviction." to push forward, it's an inspiration what they're doing. "

He affirmed that "within this process" he also met with the Colombian Foreign Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, as well as with the Police, trade unionists and representatives of the private sector.

"We are a good ally of Colombia and the Colombian people but the interests of human rights, of civil society are of the utmost importance for the United States Senate," he said.

The senator referred to the case of María del Pilar Hurtado, a 34-year-old woman and mother of four who was murdered in front of one of them, just 9 years old, on June 21 in Tierralta, municipality of the department of the Caribbean. From Cordoba.

The heartrending images of the child crying desperately in front of his mother's corpse moved the Colombians and attracted the attention of the senator.

"It's a difficult situation in the country as we saw recently in the video in the department of Córdoba," he added.

Although the mayor of Tierralta assured that Hurtado was not a social leader and was not threatened by the Águilas Negras, an inheriting group of the paramilitaries, the Cordoberxia organization affirms that her murder may be related to a land dispute, specifically with the invasion of a property owned by the mayor's father, Fabio Otero.

Just this Wednesday, the Attorney General (Public Ministry) ordered the suspension for three months of Mayor Otero as part of the investigation for alleged irregularities in the control of public order related to the occupation of land "that would have resulted in the killing" of Hurtado .

In Colombia there is no single register of murdered social leaders and the figures vary according to the body that accounts for them.

A recent report by the NGO Institute of Studies on Peace and Development (Indepaz) and the political movement Marcha Patriótica pointed out that there are more than 700 social leaders and 135 ex-combatants of the FARC assassinated since 2016, the year in which the peace agreement was signed. with the government.

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