© ShahBlogger. Duberney Lopez, former guerrilla and signatory of the peace settlement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian authorities, wears a t-shirt with the portrait of Jorge Santofimio, murdered environmentalist and former guerr


By Oliver Griffin

PUERTO GUZMAN, Colombia (ShahBlogger) – Darkness had descended on Colombia’s southern Putumayo province one February night time final 12 months when gunfire roared by way of the air, shattering the peaceable nightfall.

Villagers attending a gathering scattered and fled. Leidy Mendoza watched in horror close by as her teenage son rushed to save lots of his five-year-old brother, who ran off when the capturing began.

“Hit the ground!” Mendoza shouted as bullets slammed into the buildings. However it was too late – one hit her oldest boy’s leg.

Mendoza, a former fighter for the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, dragged her kids again inside the home.

“I began screaming like a mad lady, ‘assist me, Jorge!'” Mendoza advised ShahBlogger. “I did not know they’d killed him already.”

Her husband, Jorge Santofimio, an environmentalist who led a community of tree nurseries throughout Colombia’s Amazon (NASDAQ:) area, was shot a number of occasions within the stomach from shut vary and died immediately, in line with no less than three witnesses and Colombia’s legal professional basic’s workplace. His killing stays unsolved.

In response to ShahBlogger questions on Santofimio’s demise and different killings, the Atmosphere Ministry mentioned conservationists are sometimes focused as a result of their work poses a risk to unlawful actions and acknowledged that environmental tasks “will be affected and slowed down because of safety dangers.”

Globally, no less than 1,910 environmentalists had been killed for his or her efforts to guard nature towards enterprise and prison pursuits between 2012 and 2022, in line with British advocacy group World Witness. Final 12 months, Colombia had the heaviest toll, 60 killings.

Colombia’s authorities is working to guard environmentalists, Atmosphere Minister Susana Muhamad advised ShahBlogger in an interview this month, describing every killing as a tragedy.

“Previously they had been stigmatized,” mentioned Muhamad, who took workplace in August 2022 as a part of Colombia’s first left wing nationwide authorities. She mentioned environmentalists had usually been painted as obstacles to growth.

“No person deserves to die for safeguarding life,” she mentioned.

ShahBlogger examined the aftermath of Santofimio’s capturing and the murders of two different environmental activists – one in 2020 and 2021 – to evaluate the affect on their work to preserve and restore rainforest, in addition to defend wildlife, drawing on testimony from three dozen sources, together with activists, scientists, lenders, advocacy teams and authorities departments.

In interviews with ShahBlogger, these folks recounted how the assaults left conservation tasks adrift, with conservationists withdrawing from environmental safety works due to concern of extra violence. Safety points additionally prompted delays to disbursements of funds, they mentioned.

Municipal information from native environmental authorities and the Colombian Institute of Meteorology (IDEAM) additionally confirmed that within the 12 months after every killing, deforestation at an area degree was worse than nationwide traits.

Any pause in conservation tasks tipped the steadiness in favor of deforestation and destruction, environmentalists mentioned.

“They preserve logging with out pause,” mentioned Armando Aroca, who now leads the community of tree nurseries that Santofimio headed. “They preserve mining.” Aroca did not specify to whom he was referring.

Santofimio’s killing introduced his hard-fought conservation undertaking to a halt. Funding was delayed, a tree nursery was pressured to shut, and workers deserted important work like gathering seeds within the jungle and planting saplings.


Like his spouse, Santofimio was a former FARC insurgent. The group relied on Colombia’s lush jungle for security when it fought the federal government and, after a 2016 peace deal, Santofimio turned to defending his former dwelling – main a community of tree nurseries throughout Colombia’s Amazon, together with one run by Comuccom, the settlement he referred to as dwelling.

Santofimio, referred to as Jorgillo by buddies, had obtained a number of threats, he advised ShahBlogger in August 2021, with out disclosing who made them.

“Right here, they will not kill you for being a peace signatory,” he mentioned, six months earlier than his demise. “They’re going to kill you for wanting to construct peace.”

His killing was designed to terrorize the group, Duberney Lopez, president of the Comuccom cooperative, based by former FARC fighters, advised ShahBlogger in June. He mentioned attackers had loads of probabilities to kill Santofimio extra discreetly on his motorcycle rides by way of the area.

“There are pursuits that do not need us to remain right here,” Lopez mentioned, declining to establish who could have been behind the assault, citing safety considerations.

Colombia has struggled to finish some six many years of battle between the state, leftist guerrillas and prison teams descended from right-wing paramilitaries, which has left no less than 450,000 lifeless.

The 2016 peace take care of the FARC got here with environmental prices as territory beforehand managed by the group was opened to cattle ranching, unlawful gold mining and drug crops like coca, the chief ingredient in cocaine, sending deforestation hovering.

“It is no coincidence that the primary assaults on environmentalists happen the place there may be coca,” mentioned Kevin Murakami, Director of the Worldwide Narcotics and Legislation Enforcement Affairs on the U.S embassy in Bogota.

Successive governments have blamed Colombia’s armed teams, which embrace the leftist Nationwide Liberation Military (ELN) guerrillas, a insurgent group based by Marxist clergymen in 1964, and the Clan del Golfo crime gang, for killing environmentalists. ShahBlogger was unable to succeed in these teams for remark.


Santofimio had been working with the UN Growth Programme (UNDP) to construct a community of tree nurseries within the provinces of Putumayo, Caqueta, Meta (NASDAQ:) and Guaviare. Below his management the community expanded to greater than a dozen nurseries and aimed to rear as much as 1 million bushes over two years.

After the killing, the disbursement of funding price $149,000 – a princely sum in Colombia – by the UNDP was delayed for six months, members of Comuccom mentioned. The setback was because of administrative delays arising from Santofimio’s demise, the UNDP mentioned in an announcement.

Elsewhere in Putumayo, a tree nursery with a capability to rear 150,000 bushes per 12 months closed because of concern amongst staff and the absence of Santofimio’s management, a undertaking chief who requested to not be recognized advised ShahBlogger.

Progress in different areas stalled as effectively, Aroca mentioned.

Tree manufacturing throughout the community over two years was round 250,000, Aroca added, only a quarter of Santofimio’s aim.


Two years earlier than Santofimio’s killing, forest ranger Javier Franciso Parra was working within the city of La Macarena one December morning in 2020 when a gunman shot him a number of occasions by way of an open window. He died ready for a medical evacuation.

“Francisco could not maintain on any longer,” mentioned Andres Felipe Garcia, the then-director of Cormacarena, the native environmental regulator the place Parra had labored.

The homicide was ordered by a faction of former FARC rebels who reject the peace deal, in line with Colombia’s legal professional basic’s workplace. The dissident faction tried to extort Parra and Cormacarena for greater than $14,000 per thirty days for entry to close by protected reserves, prosecutors mentioned in an announcement, including that when the cash was not paid, the group ordered Parra’s homicide. Two folks have been charged within the case.

ShahBlogger was unable to succeed in the suspects, their attorneys or the FARC dissident faction for remark.

Each native and nationwide forest companies withdrew workers from the realm, Garcia mentioned. Parra’s killing “stopped [conservation] work being achieved with, for example, the identical vitality as earlier than,” he added.

Seventeen rangers from the nationwide parks company (PNN) have been murdered since 1991, PNN director Luisz Martinez advised ShahBlogger.

“I’ve rangers who’ve safety measures – bodyguards, bullet-proof vests, and others have needed to be moved from one place to a different,” Martinez mentioned. “We even have circumstances of rangers in exile.”

Efforts to revive two nationwide parks in Meta, together with La Macarena, are working three years not on time, Martinez mentioned. The efforts are funded with a part of a €35 million ($37.5 million) bundle from German state financial institution KfW.

Implementation of the undertaking “is delayed significantly,” KfW advised ShahBlogger, including that setbacks had been brought on by safety points, in addition to the coronavirus pandemic and adjustments to staffing.

Environmental advocacy group the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has additionally struggled with a proposed $1 million, five-year undertaking in La Macarena municipality, citing safety points, it advised ShahBlogger.

Safety points disrupt tasks throughout Colombia. Amazonia Mia, an environmental undertaking from USAID, has modified areas for 2 or three tasks after communities warned of safety considerations in areas the place they had been first deliberate, group director Roberto Gomez advised ShahBlogger.


Municipalities affected by the three environmentalist murders noticed elevated deforestation versus ranges nationally, authorities information confirmed.

Following Parra’s homicide, deforestation in La Macarena municipality elevated by 14% in 2020 to simply over 13,000 hectares, rising by almost twice the nationwide charge that 12 months. A lot of the destruction occurred within the weeks after Parra’s capturing in December, Garcia mentioned.

Likewise in Putumayo in 2022, whilst deforestation declined 29% throughout Colombia versus 2021, partly as a result of wetter La Niña climate phenomenon, deforestation in Puerto Guzman, the place Santofimio’s undertaking is predicated, rose 0.6% to 4,645 hectares. That was the very best degree of Putumayo province’s 13 municipalities – in line with IDEAM.

The third case ShahBlogger examined was that of conservationist Gonzalo Cardona who labored with hen advocacy group ProAves to guard the endangered Yellow-eared Parrot and was killed in 2021. No person has been charged within the case. “It was an enormous blow,” mentioned Sara Ines Lara, govt director of ProAves, including that 4 park wardens resigned after deciding it was too harmful and the group needed to spend extra on safety.

Santofimio’s colleagues have progressively gotten again on their ft.

Within the tree nursery, which stopped work after Santofimio’s killing, saplings bask within the dappled daylight beneath protecting nets. Able to rearing 30,000 bushes a 12 months simply earlier than Santofimio’s demise, the nursery now boasts a capability of 100,000 a 12 months, Lopez mentioned.

Wandering among the many rows of younger crops, Lopez mirrored on Santofimio’s legacy.

“That is Jorgillo’s overcome demise,” he mentioned.

#campaigners #slayings #harm #environmental #safety #Colombia #ShahBlogger

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