Here is the text of a letter to the editor, published in the March 3 Washington Post, that WOLA Director for the Andes Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli wrote in response to an earlier op-ed from Colombian President Iván Duque.
Helping Venezuela’s Refugees
Colombian President Iván Duque’s op-ed, and his subsequent meeting with President Trump, focused on calling on the international community to support efforts to alleviate the Venezuelan migration crisis. But the international community must also take note of a pressing issue conveniently not mentioned by Mr. Duque: the systematic killing of social activists and human rights defenders in Colombia.
More than 40 social activist leaders have been killed in Colombia this year, adding to the hundreds killed since the signing of the 2016 peace accords. These individuals are often the only people working to implement peace in the regions of the country where the conflict was most violent.
Mr. Duque’s administration has failed to address threats against social leaders, identify the intellectual authors of these killings and implement key points of the Colombia peace accords. The impact of these failures has been felt acutely in Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, which have experienced rising insecurity and forced internal displacement.AD
The Venezuelan migration crisis deserves attention and resources. But in providing that assistance, the international community must recognize that it simultaneously needs to pressure Mr. Duque’s administration to protect social leaders. After all, if Mr. Duque’s government can’t commit to protecting the very people it needs to sustain Colombia’s long-sought-after peace, how will it fare in providing for the security of Venezuelans in vulnerable situations?
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington
The writer is an advocate for human rights in Colombia.
March 4, 2020