Plain text version:
A Colombian community leader known for fighting for the rights of subsistence farmers has been assassinated by paramilitaries while under the protection of the government.
Walberto Hoyos Rivas was well known for leading protests against the expropriation of farmers’ lands into industrial plantations and ranches. Just hours before his murder he had been called to give evidence at a trial of two paramilitaries accused of a similar killing in 2006.
In 2007 he was placed under the protection of Colombia’s Ministry of Interior and Justice following an unsuccessful assassination attempt. However at the time of the attack he was undefended as his bodyguard’s car had broken down.
Walberto is the most well known of three community leaders who were murdered during October, all of whom were active in fighting the continuing growth of agri-business in the country.
Paramilitary activity has increased in the two years since a Free Trade Agreement was reached between Colombia and the USA, despite the proposal receiving a 98% No vote in a referendum.
In early October farmers organised a mass march upon the capital Bogotá to protest against the agreement. This led to clashes with the police and in one incident several of the protesters were killed and over a hundred injured.