SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 20, 2019

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):University of Antioquia

Region & Country:Americas | Colombia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 20, 2019, it was reported that unidentified individuals posted pamphlets on the University of Antioquia campus targeting six student leaders with violent threats.

The student leaders listed in the pamphlet actively participated in a national student movement responding to cuts to education funding that began in October 2018. The students contributed to negotiation efforts that, in December 2018, succeeded in procuring a larger budget for public higher education.

The pamphlets targeting the six students were emblazoned with the logo of Aguilas Negras, a loose network of far-right paramilitary and drug-trafficking groups that reportedly dissolved between 2009 and 2011. Over the years, however, the mark of Aguilas Negras has appeared on letters and pamphlets threatening journalists, political leaders, and other groups in Colombia.

Found posted around the university, the pamphlets called for “social cleansing” and described the six student leaders as “guerilla communists” and a “hindrance to the university.” The students listed in the pamphlets are Santiago Goméz, Santiago Valencia, David Reyes, Gabriel, Alejandro, and Dalp. The pamphlets contained a warning that the students in question should not enroll the following semester or risk becoming a “military target,” and suggested that its author(s) knew where the students lived.

In response to the news of the pamphlets, university vice-rector Élmer Gaviria Rivera denounced the pamphlets and expressed his support for the students. The university announced that it had filed a police complaint over the pamphlets and would organize greater security for the six students through the National Protection Unit, a national security agency that provides individual or collective protection for targeted individuals or groups. Metropolitan Police Commander, General Eliécer Camacho, reported there has been no evidence of the Aguilas Negras’ presence in the Aburrá valley, where the university is located. Camacho alleged the individuals who created the pamphlet wanted to create fear in the university.

As of this report, authorities have not identified the author(s) or distributor(s) of the pamphlets.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent threats made against students, in an apparent effort to retaliate against and restrict their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association. State authorities have an obligation to ensure the safety of students, investigate such threats, and hold perpetrators responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such threats undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.