Colombia’s human rights watchdog is reporting that 215 human rights advocates were killed last year, the highest death toll since a peace accord was signed with leftist rebels in 2016.

José Ricaurte Quintero, who founded the Maná Survivors Association, was one of the last victims of 2022. He was assassinated in the street in Armenia in December. His group supported families of people who disappeared during more than five decades of armed conflict in Colombia.

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Colombia’s human rights watchdog reported that 215 human rights defenders were murdered in 2022. This is the highest death rate in Colombia since 2016. 

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The ombudsman’s office says the murders coincide with places that are strategically important to organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking, illegal mining and contraband.

The government of Gustavo Petro — Colombia’s first-ever leftist president — has proposed in his “total peace” policy to initiate peace talks with armed groups such as the ELN guerrillas and to reach out to FARC dissidents who refused to sign the peace accord, as well as the Gulf Clan cartel, with whom the government announced a truce.

Ombudsman Carlos Camargo expressed hope that such talks would lead to a reduction in actions against leaders of human rights groups.

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