Human rights Temistocles Machado assassinated in Buenaventura

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Don Temis


The social organisations and human rights organisations of the Inter-organisational Committee of Buenaventura, along with social movements from across Colombia, denounce the assassination of community leader Temistocles Machado, defender of human rights and member of the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) and the Inter-organisational Committee of Buenaventura. The murder took place in the Isla de la Peace area of the city of Buenaventura during the afternoon of 27th January 2018. 

Established facts

The 27th January 2018 At 5:10 pm, two men on a motorcycle approached Temistocles in a parking lot, located in the Isla de la Paz neighborhood, shooting him three times, once to the head and twice to the body. 

This tragic event happens despite repeated warnings and calls from national and international organisations to protect the lives of threatened leaders in Buenaventura who participated in the last civic strike. So much so that the Defensoria del Pueblo (state human rights ombudsman) emitted an early warning report (report number 047-17) on the imminent danger posed by the resurgence and strengthening of armed groups in Buenaventura. 

“Don Temis” 

"Don Temis", as he was known in the neighborhood, was one of the most committed leaders in the defense of their territory and their community in Isla de la Paz neighborhood of Buenaventura. Isla de la Paz is mostly composed of people who were forcibly displaced from rural areas by the political violence of the late 1990's and early 2000s, primarily from the Naya, Raposo and Yurumangui river communities, after the occurrence of barbaric acts such as the massacre of the Naya. 

With an incredible levels of commitment, Don Temis defended his community and resisted the expansion of port installations in Isla de la Paz, as well as infrastructure mega-projects and the pressure of armed groups to control the territory. He was a business administrator who had lived with threats against his life since the 1960s; one of the leaders who played an important role in the historic Buenaventura Paro Civico in May 2017; but above all, a man who fought for the dream of seeing his people live in peace and with dignity. 

"Going away would be like forgetting myself, my history. The needs I have suffered since childhood, I cannot just forget about them. It was the same for my father and he never left, he was always in the territory, he was not afraid. If I were to leave, the young people who listen to me will say that I became scared of the threats against me, of the armed groups. I never would.

The organisations defending human rights in Buenaventura reject this violent fact that brings grief to our hearts, and we call upon the competent organisations to investigate and find those responsible for this murder. 

We reject and describe as disrespectful and irresponsible the declaration of the Mayor of Buenaventura through his secretary of government Luis Fernando Ramos Carabalí, who in his statements to local media stated in the immediate aftermath of the murder: “The investigations permit us to discard two things: firstly, that this homicide had any relation with this leader’s role in the civic strike of Buenaventura, we have discarded this possibility. Secondly: it is also ruled out that this homicide has anything to do with the victim’s role as a community leader. There is a hypothesis that is being investigated at this moment, according to the information that we have on the part of the SIJIN police intelligence staff, SIPOL, with information collected in the neighborhood, apparently there was a situation with particular land titles which he was disputing and was involved in litigation with some third parties, and we are clarifying this issue to define if it has any link to regrettable incident”. 

As is commonly known in Buenaventura, the litigation referred to is in defense of the territory and the right to housing in the community of Isla de la Paz, led by Don Temis against Mr. Jairo Arturo Salamando Ochoa and Los Games: it is a litigation of a communitarian and collective nature, not a personal litigation case as was irresponsibly suggested by the District government secretary. The purpose of the litigation is to prevent the systematic dispossession of the community’s territorial space and guarantee the restitution of the territorial rights of the community. In this context, this murder cannot be viewed as an isolated event, when viewed in relation to the frequent denunciations, demands and actions of territorial defense led by the Interorganisational Committee, of which Don Temis was a key part. We therefore demand that the mayor retract the hasty and malicious declaration, because the government secretary is not responsible for the investigation of the crime and has no competence on this matter. 

Given the statements of the government secretary, we demand that the attorney general's office initiate investigations into the policy of protecting leaders and human rights defenders and the actions that said secretary has undertaken to prevent human rights violations. 

We also once more call upon the international community, including the countries who have acted as observers in the peace process and those who have stated their commitment to the resolution of the conflict (Cuba, Norway, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Switzerland and Holland) to recognise the need to generate security and protection measures with regards to the grave risks facing the population of Buenaventura, in order to retain the trust which the population of Buenaventura have put in the peace process. 

We call upon the commission of security guarantees to prioritise Buenaventura in designing a policy for the dismantling of the criminal organisations that threaten the lives of the inhabitants and especially social leaders. We demand that peace does not endanger the lives of the survivors of the war. 

Finally, we emphasise that the commitments acquired by the national government in the last civic strike of Buenaventura must be fulfilled in the agreed times. In particular, the security guarantees for the strike leaders must be respected and implemented by the Colombian State, which must take the necessary measures to do so. The delay in the fulfillment of the agreements exacerbates the social and humanitarian crisis that the population of Buenaventura is experiencing. 

We call upon the national and international community to accompany this request and urgently demand guarantees for life and for the exercise of the defense of human rights.