Civil society ask U.S. State Department officials to take action over human rights defender attack in Colombia

Kimberly Breier, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs

Michael G. Kozak, Senior Bureau Official, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor


U.S. State Department

Washington, DC

May 15, 2019


Dear Ms. Breier and Mr. Kozak,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, activists, academics and others who follow Afro descendant concerns and the human rights situation in Colombia write to ask that you immediately take action to guarantee the safety of the Afro-Colombian victims of the May 4 grenade and gunfire attack that took place in the Department of Cauca’s Santander de Quilichao. Such an attack against Afro-Colombian leaders who are at the forefront of promoting peace, land rights, civil rights and respect for the environment must be publicly condemned.

The 16 persons targeted were members of the Black Communities Process (Proceso de Comunidades Negras, PCN), the Association of Afro-Colombian Community Councils (ACONC), and the Association of Afro-descendant Women of Northern Cauca (ASOM) and the Mobilization of Afro descendant Women for the Care of Life and Ancestral Territories (Mobilizacion de Mujeres Afrodescendientes por el Cuidado de la Vida y los Territorios Ancestrales). Among those present were human rights activists Carlos Rosero, Francia Marquez, Clemencia Carabalí, Victor Hugo Mina, and Sofia Garzon, international accompaniers and two children. Two bodyguards from Colombia’s National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Proteccion UNP) who responded during the assault were injured. All these leaders were instrumental in guaranteeing the inclusion of the Ethnic Chapter in the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Two members of PCN, most recently Francia Marquez in 2018, have received the Goldman Environmental Prize. In 2011, Clemencia Carabalí and Francia Marquez were featured in PBS’s “The war we are living,” episode of Women, War and Peace. Ms. Marquez was the 2015 National Human Rights Prize in Colombia. While such prizes are granted to individuals, the work done by these leaders is collective and in representation of thousands of Afro-Colombians in northern Cauca.

Sadly, the attack did not stop on May 4. Two days after, on May 6, several leaders who attended the meeting, received a menacing text death threat, alerting them that “what happened on Saturday was only the beginning of the extermination of all”. We, therefore, kindly urge you to do as follows:

-Strongly condemn this attack in a public statement circulated to the U.S. and Colombia press.

-Direct the U.S. Embassy to meet with the victims of this attack to determine a collective protections measures and other actions that guarantees their security, prevents further violence against them and justice for this attack. 

-Investigate as to why the perpetrators of this attack were able to pass several security checkpoints to reach the victims without being apprehended and determine whether or not the security forces involved receive financing from the United States. If so, funds to such security forces should be suspended in accordance with the human rights conditions pertaining to U.S. military assistance to Colombia.

-Urge President Ivan Duque to advance implementation of the 2016 peace accord and in particular to prioritize implementation of the Ethnic Chapter and all mechanisms pertaining to the dismantlement illegal armed groups and providing protection for civil society.

-Urge the Attorney General of Colombia to not only investigate but present the State Department with results (arrests and sanctions) of both the intellectual and material authors of this attack within three months of receipt of the request.

-Insist that the Ministry of the Interior provide the State Department with a detailed timeline containing steps on how they will implement the changes to the victims’ individual and communities’ collective measures that were agreed to with the victims’ representatives on May 8.

We thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.



Signers below:





Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)


RFK Partners for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights


Latin America Task Force of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)


Presbyterian Peace Fellowship


Oxfam America



Latin America Working Group (LAWG)


Institute of the Black World (IBW)


International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights


Global Witness


Global Exchange


Freedom House


Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence


Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA-US)



EarthRights International


Colombia Human Rights Committee


Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)


Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)


Amazon Watch


Africa World Now Project


Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES USA)


Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN)



Damani Aaquil, Co- Founder, Regional Council of Africans in the Americas (RCAA)

Gerardo Cajamarca Alarcon, Minneapolis, MN

Jaime Amparo Alves, Visiting Professor, Centro de Estudios Afrodiasporicos, Universidad Icesi

Willie L. Baker, Jr, Washington, DC

Eduardo Barada, Washington, DC

Prof. Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Boston University, Massachusetts

Roosbelinda Cárdenas, Assistant Professor, Hampshire College, Massachusetts

Laura Carlsen, CIP Americas Program

Karen Juanita Carrillo, co-founder, New York

Pablo Carvajal, Restorative Circles Facilitator, President. Claro KC, Inc.

Darryl Chappell, Board of Directors, WOLA

Dr. Ron Daniels, President, Institute of the Black World 21st Century

Anthony Dest, PhD, Coordinating Committee of ACSN, Atlanta, Georgia

Jen Deerinwater, Founder & Executive Director, Crushing Colonialism 

James Early, Institute for Policy Studies Board Member

Linda Eastwood, Board Chair of Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)

Arturo Escobar, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, UNC Chapel Hill

Eunice Escobar, Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Associate Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Justin Daniel Figueroa, Law Student, University of Massachusetts, USA

Stephanie Marie Figueroa, Real Estate Agent, New Jersey USA

Jorge Andrés Forero-González, Fulbright Humphrey Fellow 2018-2019

Prof. Jonathan Fox, Accountability Research Center, American University

Richard Garcia, Electrician, USA

Barbara Gerlach, Minister, United Church of Christ

Eleanor Goldfield, activist, Art Killing Apathy

Sandra GranoblesAfro-Colombian, Maryland

Rev. Denise Griebler, Pastor, Michigan Conference United Church of Christ 

Sheila GrunerAlgoma University, Canada

Frank Hammer, Board Member, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Detroit, MI

Kevin Healy, Georgetown University

Dr. Marcus A. Johnson, CUNY Baruch, New York

Joseph Jordan, ACSN, North Carolina

Oliver Kaplan, Professor, University of Denver, Colorado

Evan King and Samantha Wherry, members of the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective

Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor, International Human Rights, University of Pittsburgh, PA

C. Lawrence, Director, Swords into Plowshares Peace Center & Gallery, Detroit Michigan USA

Norma Lozano-Jackson, PhD, President, World Development Alliance, Professor, USA

Alysia Mann Carey, PhD Candidate in Political Science, University of Chicago, IL

Alexander Main, Director of International Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Yvette Modestin, Founder/Director of Encuentro Diáspora Afro, Massachusetts

Andrew MorehouseMassachusetts

Divalizeth MurilloAfro-Colombian, US Committee in Solidarity with the Buenaventura Civic Strike

M’bare N’gom, Prof. Morgan University, Baltimore, Maryland

Ofunshi Oba Koso, Minnesota Yoruba Association

Tianna Paschel, UC Berkeley, California 

Alison PaulWashington, DC

Euclides Rengifo CordobaUNIAFRO

Carlos Salinas, Washington, DC

Lisa J. Scott, co-founder, New York

Paige Shell-Spurling, Coordinator of the Colombia Section, Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC), Oregon

Frank Smyth, GJS

Lynn Stephen, Philip H. Knight Chair, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, University of Oregon

Yifat Susskind, Executive Director, MADRE

Monica Rizo, Afro-Colombian, Washington, DC

Prof. Verny Varela, Howard University

Mara Viveros Vigoya, Vice President, Latin America Studies Association (LASA), Escuela de Estudios de Género / Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Danielle Wegman, Omaha, Nebraska 

Coletta Youngers, Senior Fellow, WOLA

Crystal Yuille, Howard University