The following signatory organizations express their deep concern following the January 21, 2015 assassination of CARLOS ALBERTO PEDRAZA SALCEDO, teacher and community organizer from Bogota, Colombia. He was a member of the social organization The People’s Congress, as well the Movement of Victims of State Crimes.
On January 19, 2015, CARLOS ALBERTO PEDRAZA was traveling from his home in southern Bogota to join an agricultural cooperative meeting in the city center. His body was found two days later, 60 km away, in an area where he had never been, and over which paramilitary groups wield influence.
The autopsy report issued on January 26, 2015 states that the cause of Mr. PEDRAZA’s death was a gunshot to the back of the neck. The director of the Institute of Medicine and Judicial Forensics, Carlos Eduardo Vales, declared that the crime involved a, “violent death related to a lesion to the cranium caused by gunshots […] from a low-speed weapon”.
The forensic doctor plans to use chemical tests to determine the shooter’s distance, which will hopefully be used in an investigation.
CARLOS PEDRAZA was actively involved in social movements, including the 2013 and 2014 general strikes protesting the impacts of free trade agreements on the Colombian economy. These movements have led to formal negotiations between the government and a group of social organizations, called “the summit”, which includes The People’s Congress. Mr. PEDRAZA’s death illustrates how paramilitary groups are still active in Colombia, attacking social protest movements.
Since December 2014, members of The People’s Congress who were close to Mr. PEDRAZA had received multiple threats from paramilitary groups. On January 17, 2015, the Human Rights Commission of the Congress sent an official letter to the Colombian government, requesting state protection and security guarantees for social groups.
The Colombian government has not responded to the request for protection measures, nor has it released a public statement following the announcement of Mr. PEDRAZA’s assassination. This has raised fears that the crime will be forgotten and that no one will be held to account.
It is difficult to understand the Colombian government’s silence on this tragedy, as the killing could destabilize the country’s peace process. The FARC’s delegation to Havana has declared the assassination to be proof that civil society organizations still do not have guarantees for the exercise of their rights, making it difficult to imagine a return to civilian life for former combatants as part of an eventual demobilization.
It is essential that the Colombian government guarantee transparent and effective criminal procedure and judicial proceedings in order to end impunity and send a clear message that crimes against social movements will no longer be tolerated in Colombia.
Given this, we ask the Canadian embassy in Colombia to take all necessary measures to ensure that a thorough investigation sheds light on the facts surrounding the assassination of CARLOS ALBERTO PEDRAZA SALCEDO.
Moreover, in the context of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the Canadian government has committed to producing an annual report on the impacts of the agreement on human rights. We request that this case be included in that report.
Gerardo Aiquel, Responsable pour l’Amérique Latine à L’Entraide Missionnaire
Daniel Boyer, président de la Fédération des travailleurs et des travailleuses du Québec (FTQ)
Centre International de Solidarité Ouvrière (CISO)
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL)
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)
Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ)
Daniel Roy, directeur québécois du Syndicat des Métallos
Denise Gagnon, présidente du Centre international de solidarité ouvrière (CISO)
Groupe de recherche et d'intérêt public de l'UQAM (GRIP-UQAM)
Steve Mc Kay, Président du Syndicat du personnel enseignant du Cégep de Sherbrooke
Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie