With just a few shots, they have taken Mario Castaño’s life away

After a month and a half we return to the community of La Madre Unión, in the La Larga and Tumaradó river basins. The community receive us with the same warmth as on the day they commemorated their return,[1] when they recalled the difficulties they had overcome in the last few years and celebrated their achievements for life and dignity and the possibility of growing their crops.

Today, people’s faces are serious. Something tragic has just happened. On 26 November at 7pm, Mario Manuel Castaño Bravo was killed. He was a community leader and land claimant from La Larga Tumaradó.[2] This is a severe and unexpected blow of the community. However, at the same time, this is something that they have been warning about for some time and the measures taken to protect them were unfortunately not enough to prevent this from happening.

Mario was one of the first people to return to La Larga Tumaradó and was one of the most visible leaders who worked tirelessly to defend the rights of the communities. His murder shows how the problem of land in Colombia is directly linked to violence against human rights defenders, social leaders and land claimants, and how the lack of progress in land restitution can lead to a lack of security guarantees for these people.

Returning to their lands, planting their seeds and rebuilding the social fabric are long processes which take years. These processes are necessary to heal the wounds left after the violence in the 1990s, so that pain can be converted into strength and fear into resistance. These are small steps in the long road to peace, reconciliation and social justice. Everything that they have built with such great effort over a long period of time can be taken away, in seconds. Like those few shots that took away Mario Castaño’s life, took him from his beloved family, injured the spirit and strength of the community of La Madre Unión, and wiped the joy and hope from their faces.

Today, the desolation and pain are tangible, but the community will go on. Because there is no turning back from this process that they started when they returned to La Larga Tumaradó in 2014. And the community is not alone. Through PBI’s accompaniment to the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz), we aim to contribute to physical, political and emotional support for the community, so that they can start walking along the road to peace again, strengthening their social fabric and continuing the struggle for their rights to be respected.



[1]     PBI Colombia: Return to La Madre Unión, 18 October 2017
[2]     CIJP: Asesinan al líder Mario Castaño Bravo, integrante de Conpaz en Chocó, 26 November 2017

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