Nasa Indigenous Governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué shot and killed

ABColombia expresses its great sadness at the killing of Nasa Indigenous Governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué. We express our solidarity with the Nasa Indigenous Peoples and call on the Colombian Government to take firm and decisive action to objectively and thoroughly investigate those responsible and bring them to justice.

ABColombia rejects and condemns the killing of Nasa Indigenous Governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué of the La Laguna-Siberia resguardo (reserve) Sat’h Tama kiwe” in the municipality of Caldono, Cauca, Colombia.  Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué, Indigenous Governor, Ancestral Authority and Environmental Human Rights Defenders was shot and killed on 20 April 2021 in Cauca, Colombia. As governor of the La Laguna- Siberia resguardo she worked to clear it of illicit crops.

Governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué a few days prior to being shot and killed had spoken out against the increase in illicit crop cultivation. Following this public denouncement, she received threats, of which the authorities had been informed.

Also seriously injured was the  indigenous  guard  Avelino  Ull,  a  member  of  the Indigenous Guard of the Sat’h Tama Kiwe Territory, who was transporting the Governor, as both were due to address a session of  the  “Mixed  Commission” made up of members of the national  government and the CRIC.

Members of the Nasa Indigenous communities in Cauca face constant attacks by armed actors in their efforts to keep their territories free from coca crops. The lack of civil state intuitions in the area leaves communities feeling abandoned.

Following her death 127 Indigenous Authorities called a “Minga Hacia Adentro” to clear the territory of coca crops. The indigenous peoples engaged in the eradication of the illicit crops were shot at by the illegal armed groups whilst they were in the process of destroying these crops. This attack left at least 31 indigenous people seriously wounded; they were transported to hospital. According to a statement issued by the Regional Council of Indigenous Peoples in Cauca (CRIC), the Indigenous Guard have detained five of its attackers. Indepaz a national Colombian Think-Tank, pointed out that there are about 7,500 soldiers present in this area. Cauca is the worst department in the country for the killings of human rights defenders, it is also where Indigenous peoples face a severe human rights crisis as they seek to care for and protect their territories and their cultural way of life.

Governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué worked tirelessly as a leader to protect the autonomy and ancestral culture of the Nasa Indigenous Peoples and the recognition of the role that women were playing in indigenous resistance. She bravely defended the territory, rejecting threats and pressure from armed actors who promoted the expansion of illicit crops, illegal mining, and actions that impacted Nasa collective and territorial rights and culture. She was committed to building peace in Nasa territories and upholding the rights of indigenous peoples.

These tragic events take place in the context of an upsurge in violence due to the increasing disputes for territorial control by armed actors, and a worsening humanitarian situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in the departments of Cauca and Choco.

Outraged and sadden, 127 Traditional Indigenous Authorities and the 10 Indigenous Tribes belong to the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca-Cric issued a public statement condemning and repudiating the vile murder of their Ancestral Authority Sandra Liliana Peña.

The indigenous authorities are calling for the Colombian Government, National and International Human Rights Organisations, the Ombudsman’s Office, Mapp OEA, UN, and  State Institutions responsible for the preservation of life and territory for a timely, consistent and responsible follow-up and accompaniment to clarify what happened and find those responsible for these criminal acts perpetrated against the Ancestral Authority, the indigenous Guard and the indigenous territory.

ABColombia calls on the Colombian State to

  • Take immediate measures to address the structural causes behind the threats, killings and attacks faced by those who defend human rights;
  • Adopt all individual and collective protection measures to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of indigenous communities and their leaders;
  • Carry out an immediate, exhaustive and impartial investigation into those responsible for the killing of Governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué and to bring them to justice
  • Request the competent authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of the relatives of Governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué and the Nasa Indigenous Peoples including undertaking an immediate risk assessment for the community.
  • Together with all members of the National Commission of Security Guarantees establish and implement policies for the dismantling of the neo-paramilitary and other criminal groups, and identify and prosecute the intellectual authors and financiers of these groups

Read Public Statement in full supported by ABColombia as a member of Oidhaco