Afro Colombian Activist Francia Márquez Mina Survives Attack

Award-winning Afro Colombian activist Francia Márquez Mina survived an assassination attempt on May 4 as she prepared to meet with government officials to discuss a treaty established with the Minga Indigenous people. Márquez Mina, who won the Goldman Environmental Prize award in 2018, was with a group of activists in the northern Cauca region of Colombia when four armed assailants attacked them with guns and grenades. “We are okay and the injured are receiving medical attention,” the environmental activist tweeted.

Pablo Elías González Monguí, the director of the National Protection Unit (UNP), praised the team that protected Márquez Mina and other activists during the attack. Three UNP escorts were injured during the ambush but not severely so, the organization said in a statement.

Colombian President Iván Duque said he ordered authorities to find the men responsible for the attack, CNN En Español reported. Duque told reporters on May 5 that it was time to reject organizations “behind those crimes” because “we cannot allow our country to continue to threaten the freedom of expression of socialist leaders and the freedom of expression of any citizen.”

However, Duque was criticized for failing to attend the meeting with Márquez Mina due to safety concerns. Márquez Mina noted that the president would not risk his life, despite his people facing death threats. In April, Colombia's attorney general said armed groups had planned an attack on Duque as he met with leaders of indigenous communities, Reuters reported. Duque opted to continue the meeting, but in a location approved by his security staff.

“President Ivan Duque says he won’t come to the Cauca region for security reasons, but we the people are condemned to be assassinated because the government does not show its willingness to guarantee our rights in an integral way,” Márquez Mina tweeted.

She added that Duque would be responsible for anything or anyone who threatens activists’ lives and “territorial integrity.” American activist and Civil Rights icon Angela Davis denounced the attack in a statement to the Afro Colombian Solidarity Network.

“Brazen acts of targeted violence against Afro Colombian activists like these call into question the implementation and legitimacy of Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord,” Davis said. “I express my outrage and deep concern that this could happen, especially when we consider that the gunmen had to make it through at least two government checkpoints in order to reach this meeting.”

Davis continued, “The right to life is the fundamental basis of all other human rights, and it is being systematically violated in Colombia even in the aftermath of the Peace Accord. These armed actors feel emboldened to continue to target Afro Colombian leaders because they know there is impunity for such actions.” Davis urged the Colombian government to investigate the attack and to guarantee the implementation of the Peace Accord, “including its commitments to Afro Colombian communities.”

“As long as Afro Colombian leaders are being threatened, attacked, assassinated, and imprisoned, there is no peace in Colombia,” Davis concluded. “The international community is watching closely and we will continue to work in solidarity with leaders in these communities.”

Márquez Mina is a known economic and human rights activist who was displaced from her home in 2014 and was threatened when she fought against illegal gold mining in Afro Colombian communities. She was invited to participate in the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group.

According to the Associated Press, attacks on leftists have risen in Colombia since the peace talks. Watchdog group Somos Defensores reported that 155 activists were killed in 2018, up from 106 the previous year.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.