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Saturday, October 22, 2016
CAFOD partner shot dead by Colombian paramilitaries
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¬†A CAFOD partner working with people forced to flee their homes in one of the most conflict-torn areas of Colombia has been shot dead. A group of armed men, believed to be paramilitaries, abducted Felipe Landazury from Candelillas de la Mar, in the diocese of Tumaco near the border with Ecuador, last Tuesday. Several hours later he was found dead with three bullets in his head. The armed men also rounded up the local community and threatened them, accusing them of passing on information to the Colombian army and guerrillas about their activities in the area. Felipe worked for a local Pastoral Border project which supports the needs of people forced from their homes and prevents human rights violations. The project was set up by the Catholic churches in Colombia and Ecuador and is funded by CAFOD. Barbara Davies, CAFOD Programme Support Officer for the Andes, said: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by Felipe's death. He worked tirelessly to help people affected by the Colombian conflict. His family and friends are in our prayers." More than three million people in Colombia have been forced to flee their homes during decades of fighting between guerrilla groups, paramilitaries and the army ≠ roughly equivalent to the total population of Wales. The south of Colombia is one of the most conflict-torn areas of the country and as the army and illegal armed groups fight for control of the land to grow African palm and coca crops, local people are caught in the middle. Local people are threatened and intimidated and farmers' crops are often ruined as the government fumigates land to stop coca growing, which provides the raw material for cocaine, leaving them without food or the means to make a living and forcing them to flee their homes. The Bishop of Tumaco and members of his diocese have repeatedly spoken out about human rights violations in their local community. Barbara added: "We want the Colombian government to investigate this incident and protect the local community, who are now at risk because they have witnessed this crime and have spoken out about the injustice they face on a daily basis." Paramilitary groups in Colombia were originally set up to protect rich landowners but they have now become heavily involved in drug trafficking and there is evidence of collusion with the armed forces. In 2005 a Justice and Peace law was passed to demobilise paramilitary and guerrilla groups, however it failed to dismantle the organisations' structures and many continue to commit horrendous human rights violations
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