On August 11, five Afro-descendant underage teens between the ages of 13 to 16 were found brutally tortured and murdered in the southwestern city of Cali. According to local press reports, the teens killed were Jair Andrés Cortés (14), Jean Paul Cruz (16), Luis Hernando Preciado (14), Arturo Montenegro (13) y Leider Hurtado (14). According to preliminary police reports, four of the victims were shot in the head, while one of the victims’ throat was slit.
This occurred in the low-income neighborhood of Llano Verde, where a majority of residents were forced to leave their lands as a result of the country’s bloody armed conflict. For years, local activists and organizations have been calling for social investment that would help provide young people a pathway out of poverty and deadly violence.
This year, those pleas have become more urgent as criminal organizations and right-wing paramilitaries have stepped up their efforts to forcefully recruit young people in poor neighborhoods across the country. Violence by armed groups has disproportionately impacted low-income and Afro-descendant communities like Llano Verde. Today, these communities also face existential threats to their health as well as economic and food security as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the start of the confinement measures enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, civil society groups and ethnic communities have pleaded with the government to call for a multilateral ceasefire among all armed actors, to no avail. These calls were renewed following the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2532 on July 1 demanding a worldwide ceasefire in all armed conflicts for at least 90 days amid the pandemic.
Afro-descendant communities continue to call on the government and the international community to value the lives of the Afro-descendant and Indigenous people who bear the brunt of the country’s systemic violence. The Colombian government needs to implement the 2016 peace process and guarantee the rights to life, justice, and peace for ethnic communities victims of the armed conflict.
Peace is not possible without listening to the communities most affected by violence. For years, the Colombian government has faltered in its efforts to implement the 2016 peace accords. It continues to turn a blind eye as hundreds of community organizers and human rights defenders are brutally murdered by illegal armed actors. Nowhere is that failure more evident than in Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities who have suffered far too many tragedies like the one in Llano Verde.