Juan Pablo Prado Bolaños was a member of the Kokonuco people, but for many years he had lived with and defended the rights of the Awá people. For twelve years he was a teacher on the Piguambí reservation in Palangala, Tumaco and worked with the community to develop supports for primary school education for indigenous children. He was also a member of the Guardia Indigena, (Indigenous Guard.)
On the evening of 3 September, 2020, Juan Pablo was leaving the school when he was approached by several men who shot him multiple times. He was badly injured and died from his injuries on the way to hospital. He had previously reported having received death threats but no action had been taken.
Awá leaders issued a statement following the killing.
“Juan Pablo, known in the communities as Kokonuco, came to our land many years ago and with his love and sacrifice for the Awá People he became one of us. A native of the Kokonuco Cauca people, an Indian of warrior blood, he dedicated his life to be a guide and counsellor of the little ones, sharing with primary school children the different stages of their own education. Today the children of the Piguambí Palangala Educational Center have lost their teacher, and with a shattered soul we are forced to say goodbye to a great colleague, a teacher, a guard, our brother.
JUAN PABLO was threatened, like other leaders of the council, for working as a teacher, for acting as an Awá indigenous leader and guard, defending the rights of our communities. He was attacked for speaking out on behalf of the Indians, for defending their rights and for defending our territory.
In the face of these threats, he had requested protection from the National Protection Unit, which never provided him with the required protection. The gunmen who are hunting indigenous leaders, teachers, Awá indigenous guards and our traditional authorities, no longer care who they murder, and it seems that the national authorities don’t care either. The passivity of the national government and the Attorney General’s Office is scandalous. How many more have to die under the merciless fire of murderous bullets for the Colombian state to do something to prevent this ethnocide.”
At the time of writing fourteen indigenous leaders had been killed in the first 9 months of 2020.