On 7 January armed gunmen arrived at the farm of 71 year old Virginia Silva, where she was at home with her husband, and without saying a word shot her dead.
Virginia lived in the indigenous village of El Canelo Resguardo Indígena de Belalcazar-Páez, where she was a well respected community leader and traditional medical practitioner. Dissident members of the FARC are active in the area and target anyone who doesn’t follow their orders or whose behaviour they don’t like.
The armed groups justify the murder of Virginia because of her activity as a traditional wise woman. According to Sonia Hurtado Ducue of the Asociación indígena de Cabildos Nasa Cxha cxha del Cauca “she was an older woman from the indigenous community and had knowledge about spiritual rituals that are normally used to maintain stability and peace in the community; however, apparently she performed rituals that according to some people caused family and territorial disputes in the reservation, and the dissidents didn’t like that”.
Virginia had received several threats from armed groups prior to her death.
The Asociación indígena de Cabildos Nasa Cxha cxha del Cauca, said in a statement that, “ We continue to be victims of this outrage caused by armed groups who disturb the tranquility of the inhabitants, causing conflict and generating the wave of violence that is spreading across the country, and to which the national government has paid little attention. ”
The climate of violence is also exacerbated by the presence of the army in the area. They have taken over an area of land that the community regard as sacred and have felled timber and scattered rubbish.
The community believe that, “our problems are not solved either by the army or the dissidents: we have rituals for resolving issues, such as those carried out by Silva. The real conflict is caused by their violence, against the people and nature.”