Yaneth Alejandra Calvache Viveros lived in Balboa (Cauca, Colombia), where she worked with the Association of Balboa Peasant Workers. She was also a member of the National Federation of United Agricultural and Livestock Trade Unions. She took part in the Southwest Colombia Process of Popular Unity and the Patriotic March Movement. Besides her activities as a social leader, Alejandra covered her personal expenses by selling mobile phone calls. On December 30, 2016, while working from home, unknown men entered her home acting as “customers” and murdered her.
In Colombia, social leaders like Yaneth, who work defending the rights of peasant communities and nature, face unusually harsh circumstances and high levels of violence. Colombia has the most unequal land distribution globally. Two-thirds of productive land is concentrated in the ownership of 0,4% of the farmland-holders, which has historically been linked to the armed conflict and deep socio-economic inequalities.
This is why the Peace Agreement signed by the FARC-EP and the Colombian government in 2016 also calls for an ‘integrated rural land-reform’ in its first point. This reform aims to guarantee restitution and fair distribution of land, among most vulnerable populations, such as indigenous and Afro-Colombians communities, and women. Sadly, up to date the Colombian government has demonstrated lacking commitment to the implementation of the Peace Agreement.
Like many other social leaders, Yaneth was killed in the new wave of violence that followed the signing of the Peace Agreement.
As the FARC laid down their arms, human rights and territorial defenders became increasingly targeted by paramilitaries and criminal organisations trying to gain control of strategic territories and illegal economies across the country. In the Cauca, where Yaneth lived, more social leaders have been killed than in any other department of the country.
According to VerdadAbierta, such high levels of violence also reflect the need to silence a particularly active civil society in the region. Given the long history (and presence) of violence and the neglect of the state, peasant organisations and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in the Cauca have developed strong leaderships, and strategies of resistance. They have long been the forefront defenders of peace, territory, human rights and the environment, and have the capacity to denounce illegal actors.
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There are sources of information and organizations that work with victims of the conflict in Colombia.
For example check out: "Somos Defensores"
If you want to make a portrait and know about the life and social struggles of one of the Colombian Social Leaders, contact us.