The mining of rich agricultural lands in Colombia has led to the destruction of communities, disruption of traditional ways of life and the empowerment of paramilitaries protecting the interests of powerful local elites and international companies. Human rights defenders like Teófilo Acuña, leader of the agro-mining federation FEDEAGROMISBOL, are at the forefront of protecting land and community rights, and face serious threat as a result.
Dear Mr. Carrillo:
I am writing to express my concern for the situation facing the Federation of Agro-Miners of Sur de Bolivar, FEDEAGROMISBOL, particularly that of Teófilo Acuña, the founder and leader of the Federation and that of other agro-miners in Sur de Bolivar. He represents thousands of peasants who are dependent on gold-mining and agricultural work. Mr. Acuña has previously received threats from paramilitaries seeking to displace peasants from their lands.
Though Mr. Acuña represents some of the poorest people in the country, and though they have faced ongoing displacement and destruction of their lands, he and his colleagues face severe ongoing threats and harassment. The murder of his colleague Alejandro Uribe Chacón, who was killed by the Colombian Army on 19 September 2006, remains unpunished, and other acts of violence against the community are similarly conducted with impunity.
Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Colombia face ongoing harassment and attack, and are in need of greater protection from the state, which should include pursuing justice and accountability for those who attack and threaten HRDs and other civilians.
As Colombia seeks to move forward from decades of violence and war, it is imperative that human rights defenders be afforded the maximum effort to ensure their safety and that of their families. I urge you to take further steps to investigate and pursue the perpetrators of these threats and planned attacks before more human rights defenders are injured or killed.