Land-rights activist missing in Colombia

CURVARADO, Colombia, March 28 (UPI) -- A body matching the description of a missing land-rights campaigner has been found in Colombia, a non-governmental organization said.

The Interecclesiastical Commission of Justice and Peace said the land-rights campaigner, Manuel Ruiz, and his 15-year-old son, Samir, were last seen Saturday when two paramilitary members forced them out of their car in northwest Colombia, Colombia Reports said.


Hours later, Justice and Peace said, Ruiz, a community leader in the Pacific coastal department of Choco, and his son contacted their family and said they had been taken to a bridge by paramilitary members demanding money for their release.

The NGO said family members and police found a trail of blood Sunday and a local resident Monday reported a body matching the description of Ruiz was found washed up near the bridge. Police did not take action or inform the family, Justice and Peace said.

Ruiz had campaigned for return of land to a poor black family that had been displaced. He had been scheduled to meet with government officials Tuesday to review a list of people or businesses illegally occupying land in Curvarado, the NGO said.


Colombia Reports said Ruiz's name appeared on a list of 37 threatened land-rights leaders distributed in the area anonymously last year.

Dozens of land-rights activists have been killed since President Juan Manuel Santos introduced a law that would allow displaced families to reclaim land stolen by illegal armed groups, Colombia Reports said.

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