53 year old, Toribio Canas Velasco was an indigenous leader and a part of the Indigenous Guard in the Cauca region of Southern Colombia.
The killing occurred on Sunday night, 13th of October 2019, at approximately 10:30 pm in the urban area of Tacueyó, municipality of Toribío, where hooded men shot at the guard, killing him immediately.
The Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC) denounced the murder of another community leader in a rural area of that department and warned that Mexican cartels are threatening both local or indigenous people in that region.
The CRIC affirmed that it will continue to support the indigenous guard in its role as “defenders of life” and assured that it will not allow illegal armed groups to intimidate the indigenous people in their territory.
Source: Justice for Colombia
His murder came just days after the United Nations’ latest report on the Colombian peace process said the human rights situation facing indigenous communities in north Cauca, where Toribio was killed, was ‘dire’. The UN High Commissioner in Colombia recently said that 36 indigenous activists had been murdered in north Cauca in 2019, while at least 53 others have received death threats.
The National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), the largest such body in the country, says that between August 2018 and August 2019, at least 97 indigenous activists were murdered in Colombia. Many of the killings are linked to land disputes as indigenous communities resist paramilitaries and other armed groups entering their territories, which are often rich in natural resources and coveted by business interests.
Source: El Espectador
According to the Colombian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, since last September there have been at least nine murders of indigenous leaders in Cauca, one of the three departments with the most coca and marijuana crops in the country.
Cauca is one of the country’s departments hardest hit by the armed conflict, which thrives on drug trafficking, and in which dissidents from the FARC, the ELN guerrillas and criminal gangs commit crimes.
“We encourage those who continue to support these groups by providing illicit crops to become aware that this way of economy brings terror and death, and that it is affecting other neighbouring communities,” added the CRIC.
In addition, the council noted that on the morning of Monday, 14th September, leaflets were found in the Pel Cxhab indigenous reservation, in the municipality of Caldono (Cauca), in which a group claiming to be the “Sinaloa Cartel” threatened the indigenous guard, the Councilor of the association Ukawesx Nasa Cxhab Fredy Campo and the governors of Uswal Cxhab-Caldono and Pel Cxhab, Alfonzo Díaz and Ovidio Hurtado, respectively.
For these crimes, the CRIC made an urgent appeal to the Ombudsman and the Organisation of American States (MAPP / OAS) Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia, among other entities, to support the communities affected.
The murder and threats occurred a few days after hundreds of indigenous people gathered in Toribío to defend their autonomy from violence by different illegal armed groups. The meeting, which was called “Tejiendo resistencias para la vida”, was convened by CRIC as a demonstration of support for the indigenous guard and with the aim of preserving “la armonía territorial” (Territorial Harmony)