Miguel Lapo (center).
We are enormously saddened to learn of the murder, by unknown assailants, of two Ecuadorian community leaders along the border with Colombia last week.
CIP staff met one of the two, Miguel Lapo, last November when we accompanied Rep. Jim McGovern’s (D-Massachusetts) visit [.pdf] to the Ecuador-Colombia border region. Mr. Lapo was a founder of the border town of Barranca Bermeja, SucumbÃos, Ecuador. Barranca Bermeja is right on the border: one can look across the river from the center of town and see see Putumayo, Colombia.
Though we only spent a couple of hours with him, it was clear that Mr. Lapo had the respect and affection of hundreds of people living in a zone battered by the conflict in nearby Colombia – a conflict that many had come to Barranca Bermeja to escape.
Here is a statement about last week’s murders released today by Rep. Jim McGovern. We join in Rep. McGovern’s strong call on the Ecuadorian (and, if relevant, the Colombian) authorities to identify, prosecute and punish those who ordered and carried out the killings.
Statement by U.S. Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA-03)
On the murders of community leaders Miguel Lapo and Miguel PinzÃ³n in SucumbÃos, Ecuador
October 9, 2009
It is with deep sorrow that I learned of the recent deaths of two prominent community leaders on the Ecuadorian border with Colombia.Â Miguel Lapo and Miguel PinzÃ³n were murdered by unknown perpetrators on September 28th and September 29th.
Mr. Lapo was killed in Barranca Bermeja, Ecuador – a town just across the river from Colombia that he helped found 20 years ago. Mr. PinzÃ³n was assassinated in the nearby town of San MartÃn.
I met Mr. Lapo in November 2008, when I traveled to Barranca Bermeja to learn more about the spillover effects of Colombia’s armed conflict into Ecuador. Â Mr. Lapo had organized a community meeting for my visit, at which I heard heartbreaking testimonies of the challenges faced by Colombian refugees and Ecuadorians living in the border region – the people Mr. Lapo dedicated his life to protect.
Although my visit with Miguel Lapo was brief, it was clear to me that he was a dedicated, intelligent, and caring man who fought for peace and the rights of both Colombian refugees and Ecuadorians living in his community.
While we don’t yet know the killers’ identities, I fear that these murders are part of an effort – whether by Colombian armed groups or narco-trafficking organizations – to intimidate all independent social organizations in the region.
I call on the Government of Ecuador to fully investigate the deaths of Miguel Lapo and Miguel PinzÃ³n. The Government of Ecuador has recently taken important steps to provide legal recognition to the hundreds of thousands of Colombians seeking refuge within its borders. Identifying and prosecuting those responsible for the recent murders is essential if Ecuador is to achieve its stated goal of protecting vulnerable refugee communities and encouraging good governance and development in border communities.
At this moment, my thoughts, prayers and most sincere condolences are with the families, friends and colleagues of Mr. Lapo and Mr. PinzÃ³n, and my attention and solidarity are always with the many Ecuadorian border communities that have so generously provided shelter and welcome to so many refugees from Colombiaâ€™s violent conflict.
For more information, contact:
Michael Mershon, Press Secretary
Cindy Buhl, Legislative Director
Phone: (+1) 202-225-6101