Rodrigo Salazar Quinoñes was a member of the Guardia Indigena of the Awa people, in the municipality of Tumaco, Nariño. He was also standing for election for the position of governor of the Awá indigenous reserve in Piguambí Palangala.
He had received numerous threats because of his prominent role in the community and had been offered state protection because of the risk to his life.
On the morning of 9 July, 2020, Rodrigo was on his way to take part in a virtual meeting with several other indigenous leaders when he was approached by several armed men who shot him several times, killing him instantly.
The meeting had been organised by the Procuraduría para Asuntos Étnicos (Agency for Ethnic Affairs) to discuss those sections of the 2016 Peace Agreement which relate to indigenous affairs.
The killing has been attributed to armed dissident group “Los Contadores” which has been responsible for other attacks on indigenous leaders in the area. A member of the group has been arrested for carrying out the killing on the orders of the group’s leader, Mario Mauricio Morán Guerrero, who uses the alias of Camilo 40.
It appears that as part of the community’s plan to prevent Covid spreading in the community Rodrigo had installed a roadblock to restrict movement in the area. This interfered with the movement of “Los Contadores” and Camilo 40 had warned Rodrigo to remove the roadblock or face the consequences.
The member of the group currently in detention is the head of a group of hitmen working for “Los Contadores.”
It is believed that the killing of Rodrigo is in violent response to the efforts by the community to combat the illegal activities of dissident groups in the area. Tumaco is the scene of a violent struggle between various armed groups for control of a strategic corridor for the export of cocaine to local ports and across the border into Ecuador.
The power of these criminal groups is so strong that indigenous, peasant and afro-descendant communities have been terrorised into silence in what they feel is a territory forgotten by the government.
Since then, Mario Mauricio Morán Guerrero (Camilo 40) has also been arrested.