Category Archives: Risks, threats and attacks

Cahucopana and the Mining-Peasant Communities Will Not Give Up, They Resist for Peace

One of Northeastern Antioquía’s (Nordeste Antioqueño) most emblematic human rights organizations is the Humanitarian Action Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in Northeastern Antioquia (Cahucopana). Since its foundation, in 2004, its main aim has been to defend the rights of peasant and miner communities and to generate protection mechanisms to live in peace, amid an armed conflict that has been perpetuated over time.

In 2022 several human rights organizations raised the alert to the humanitarian crises that are ravishing the territories. As in many regions of Colombia, in Northeastern Antioquia, it is not only the inhabitants who face risks but also those who speak up to defend minimum guarantees for life and to remain in the territory. This is the case of Cahucopana president, Carlos Morales, who suffered a serious attack on 27 February when armed men shot at him, his partner, and his son—a minor—while they traveled by motorcycle in the city of Barrancabermeja[1]. Morales, a recognized peasant leader for the last 16 years, choose to resist displacement despite the attacks against him and the serious threats against other members of Cahucopana, an organization that continues to stand alongside the communities of Northeastern Antioquia.

Carlos Morales is resisting forced displacement “to continue denouncing what is happening due to state abandonment and human rights violations resulting from the National Government’s non-implementation of the Peace Agreement”.

According to the emblematic peasant leader, the dispute for this region is due to all of its natural wealth, such as lumber, gold, and fertile soils with big landowners wanting to implement large-scale cattle ranching. “All this wealth calls the of armed actors” where “major state abandonment” can also be seen, in the sincere words of human rights defender. A return “to the time between 2004 and 2008” is a real fear. This was an era when extrajudicial executions and mass displacement were daily events in Northeastern Antioquia. It is worrisome, as Morals explains, that since the Peace Agreement, there was a return “to confrontations between the armed groups, aerial bombings, murders, and an increase in human rights violations suffered by peasant communities”.

Given the lack of institutions that guarantee minimum protections for the communities, for decades Cahucopana has promoted collective protection measures, such as humanitarian actions. These actions can be used not only by community leaders but also by the peasant and miner communities who are exposed to serious risks in a conflict-ridden territory. These humanitarian actions aim to accompany and make visible, nationally and internationally, the serious human rights violations experienced by the communities, who resist the armed conflict amid oblivion and state abandonment. Attending a doctor’s appointment, filing a complaint at the Prosecutor’s Office, or registering to vote can be extremely complicated and, sometimes, even unattainable tasks for the communities. To complete these common tasks, the rural inhabitants of Northeastern Antioquia must travel to the village of Remedios on exhaustingly long trips over roads that lack adequate infrastructure. Additionally, traveling these roads can signify serious risks due to the presence of multiple armed actors.

Humanitarian Action, collective measures to reach the areas forgotten by the state

At the end of March 2022, we accompanied a humanitarian action convened by Cahucopana in Carrizal, township of Remedios. There was participation from institutions such as the National Ombud’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Antioquia, the Ministry of the Interior, the Inspector General’s Office, and the Civil Registry Office; as well as members of the international community, including MAPP-OAS, UNHCHR, and UN Mission II.

The most notable aspect of this humanitarian action was the participation of approximately 2000 people who traveled from Tamar Alto, Panamá Nueve, El Piñal, El Carmen, and other rural areas to participate. These are likely places that are unknown to the readers, they often do not even appear on a map, but this mass participation exceeded expectations. Trucks, cars, and motorcycles started arriving in the morning. Despite the early morning rains—which had raised concern among the organizers—the participants were able to reach the village of Carrizal.

Carlos Morales stated that an essential piece of the collective protection measures,[2] is the international community’s role in “supporting the communities and organizations so that they can continue defending the territory”. Fortunately, incidents such as the attack against the leader and the recent threats against members of Cahucopana—which seek to impede the efforts of the human rights organization—have not produced the effect sought by the victimizers. Instead, it has led to a series of responses[3] and actions from the international community to back the organization.

Thanks to Cahucopana’s work, more and more leaders are taking on a protagonist role in the defense and protection of the territory. Nevertheless, as Carlos Morales notes, it continues to be essential that “the Colombian state safeguard the communities’ security and ability to remain in the territories. It must recognize these protection mechanisms from the differential, gender, and cultural perspective of the mining, peasant, Indigenous, and Afro communities because we are the communities who truly live the conflict”. What is clear is that Colombia’s historic debt continues with the communities, and with human rights organizations like Cahucopana, that preserve life, protect the territory, and resist for peace, in the middle of recurrent attacks and threats.

Barrancabermeja Team

PBI Colombia.

[1]FIDH: Colombia: Ataque armado contra presidente de Cahucopana Carlos Morales, 10 March 202

[2]SCRIBD: Handbook: Mecanismos de Autoprotección, 9 February 2022

[3] Llamado de Acción Urgente de OMCT: Colombia: Ataque armado contra presidente de Cahucopana Carlos Morales, 9 March 2022.

Carta de la Taula Catalana al Presidente Iván Duque: La Taula Catalana envia una carta al president Iván Duque contra l’atemptat del defensor de drets humans Carlos Morales, president de CAHUCOPANA, 11 March 2022.

European parliamentary question (Euro parlimentarian Miguel Urbán Crespo): tweet, 10 March 2022.


Threats and attacks against Aheramigua

In 2009, Aheramigua’s current president, Mauricio Sanchez, was arrested in Montecristo for alleged links to the FARC.

He was then released because there was no evidence to support charges against him. Many of Aheramigua’s members have suffered this kind of prosecution after being consistently targeted by unfounded smear campaigns.  The defamation by members of the Security Forces continues to this day in the territories where the association works.

In 2014, Aheramigua’s members, Jeimy Rodriguez and Victor Trujillo were under intense surveillance, were threated in El Bagre, and left the area under PBI’s protection.  Returning is still not an option, and they spent several months in Ecuador with the help of Frontline Defenders.[1] They are both back in Colombia, but have not been able to return to El Bagre.

During the paramilitary takeover of El Bagre in 2016, several of Aheramigua’s members had to leave the area and could not return because there were no genuine security measures.[2]  The members in Puerto Claver and Puerto Lopez have been verbally attacked and directly threatened by the illegal groups who took control of the areas.  The members receive direct threats, as well as being threatened in leaflets.

All of Aheramigua’s members are from the region.  The danger has affected their families considerably and many of them have had to move to Medellin for their own security.

List of Threats

  • 5 November 2010: Mauricio Sanchez, president of Aheramigua, was detained in El Bagre municipality, for twelve hours. After having witnessed an operation by Special Energy and Highways Battalion no.5, the Judicial Police first took him to the installations of the Junin Battalion of Monteria, and then to another Battalion, without telling him where they were taking him (he subsequently found out that it was Infantry Battalion No.34 Rifles, in Caucasia municipality). They had to give all their personal details and make declarations, and were only allowed to leave after 12 hours. It is worrying that under Colombian law and the right to due process, the declarations should be taken on the scene of the incident where they could also have corroborated his judicial record if necessary.[3]
  • 29 November 2010: attempted killing of Mauricio Sanchez, president of Aheramigua, in El Bagre, by two men on a motorcycle who tried to shoot him; fortunately the gun did not go off, and Mauricio Sanchez was able to escape.[4]
  • May 2014: intimidation and death threat against Jeimy Rodriguez and Victor Trujillo, members of Aheramigua from El Bagre. They were forced to leave the area under PBI protection. Unable to return, they remained in Ecuador for several months with the help of Frontline Defenders.[5]
  • December 2014: the Inspector General’s Office in Magangue (Bolivar) issued an order for the mayor of Montecristo, Richard Deivis Rios Amaris, to protect all of Aheramigua’s members, but this has not happened.
  • 10 November 2015: surveillance by unknown people who were taking photographs of Aheramigua’s office in Medellin.[6]
  • 7 March 2016: murder of William Castillo, treasurer for Aheramigua. Castillo had previously been detained in El Bagre on 26 March 2014.
  • 11 May 2016: there was an attempt to break into the office, to ram open the door, the supply room was burgled and doors and windows were broken.[7]


[1] Protection International: Death threats against human rights defender Ms Yeimy Rodríguez, 2 May 2016
[2] El Espectador: El Bagre, epicentro de ataques a defensores de derechos humanos, 12 July 2016
[3] Prensa Rural: Detención ilegal de Mauricio Sánchez, presidente de AHERAMIGUA, 20 November 2010
[4] Prensa Rural: Intento de asesinato contra Mauricio Sánchez, presidente de la Asociación de Hermandades Agroecológicas y Mineras de Guamocó, 29 November 2010
[5] Prensa Rural: Preocupante intimidación contra la defensora de derechos humanos Yeimy Rodríguez, 22 May 2014
[6] Prensa Rural: Sede de Aheramigua en Medellín asediada por desconocidos, 4 December 2015
[7] Prensa Rural: Asaltada oficina de Aheramigua en Medellín, 12 May 2016