On the evening of 8 January 2020, human rights defender Arturo Tovar Collazos was at home in the village of Buena Esperanza, in the area of Puerto Guzman, when 4 men on two motorbikes rode into the village and he became aware that his house was under surveillance. He hid and when the men came up to the house pretending to need assistance he realised what was going on and managed to escape to the local army barracks. Arturo has since had to abandon his farm and seek refuge in Ecuador.
Half an hour later the same men arrived in the village of El Caño Sábalo and went up to the house of Oscar Quintero Valencia. Unfortunately he didn’t have time to get away and he was dragged out of his house and shot dead in front of his wife, without a word being said.
The killers then drove on a few kilometres to the village of El Mango where they shot Gentil Hernández Jiménez dead. He was also at home at the time.
All three were targeted because of their role as community leaders in promoting the programme for the substitution of coca production with other crops.
Putomayo is one of Colombia’s main coca producing areas and since the start of 2020 there has been a steady increase in the number of killings of community leaders and human rights defenders. The violence has reached such a level that the state seems almost paralysed by fear.
The north east of Putomayo and the area of Puerto Guzman are also the focus of a territorial dispute between dissident elements of the FARC and the mafia “Clan de Sinaloa” for control of the drug trade. To date there appears to have been no effort by the national and local state agencies to combine forces to deal with this armed struggle which has resulted in so many murders
In a statement, the Human Rights Network of Putumayo called on the authorities to “guarantee the right to life and personal integrity of social leaders of Puerto Guzmán, especially our colleague Arturo Tovar Collazos whose life and that of his family is at serious risk and who are currently facing conditions of displacement due to violence.”