On September 3, in a forum organized by the Democratic Center on the peace plebiscite in Buenaventura, social leader, rapper, and Afro-Colombian leader Leonard Martin Renteria Vallecilla, exercised his right to free speech and gave an impassioned speech in favor of “Yes” to the peace plebiscite. Mr. Renteria Vallecilla, a survivor of war and violence where his family has suffered attacks and murders, advocated respectfully for a more inclusive society where different opinions are respected. Unbeknown to Mr. Renteria Vallecilla, his presentation was filmed by promoters of the “No” vote at this event, where former President, and now Senator, of Colombia Alvaro Uribe was present.
A video of Mr. Renteria Vallecilla’s presentation went viral on social media including on Facebook and WhatsApp. Immediately he was bombarded with death threats and racist comments via telephone for expressing his opinion. On Facebook persons posted his whereabouts so that others could cause him harm. These threats include racist derogatory remarks including “negro SOB” and warnings that he would soon face his death. Mr. Renteria Vallecilla’s colleague was followed by men in motorcycles who made signals of shooting a gun at her. It is particularly problematic that several members of the Central Democratic Party stated from their Twitter and Facebook accounts that Mr. Renteria Vallecilla was being supported by guerrilla and the so-called “castro-chavismo”. Others blogged that Mr. Renteria Vallecilla is part, or has been part, of an armed group. These types of labels put him in great risk, given the highly polarized and violent situation in Colombia.
Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN) strongly condemns the threats, intimidation that Mr. Renteria Vallecilla is experiencing. We call on the U.S. and Colombian authorities to immediately provide Mr. Renteria Vallecilla, his family and members of his organization, Asociacion Cultural Rostros Urbanos, with all the protective measures necessary to guarantee their safety. The Colombian authorities must publicly condemn these attacks and take action to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these actions.
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