Mauricio Sandoval Lara was a leader of the peasant community in Baraya, Huila. He was also a member of the Asociación de Productores Agropecuarios de Baraya (Association of Small Farmers of Baraya) –ASOAGRO-PERLA, and the Asociación Campesina Departamental (Peasant Association of the Department).
In his work for these organisations Mauricio was responsible for the allocation of resources to fruit producers in the region and he was also an active campaigner in the struggle to defend the rights of peasant communities.
Baray is a very isolated area with poor infrastructure, cut off by bad roads and limited internet access. One of the issues Mauricio focused on was the bad condition of the roads and at one point he led a group of 800 peasants who blocked the road for a week to demand that the government take action.
As Mauricio said himself; “There is a lot of state neglect, there are no good access roads and support for the peasantry is needed in terms of projects and subsidies. Access to health is also very precarious, because, although there is a health center, there is no transport to get there. It is a truly forgotten community that has always been immersed in social and armed conflict.”
On the evening of 13 July, 2020, Mauricio was at home in the village of Las Perlas. He was doing some work to the outside of his house when armed men drove up and shot him dead.
Armed criminal and paramilitary groups have taken advantage of the lockdown and the closure of airports and motorways to entrench their control of the communities. One way to do that is by targeting community leaders.
One of the killers, Sebastián Cuervo Murcia, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison but as yet there is no clarity as to why Mauricio was killed, or who paid for the killing.