POPAYÁN, Colombia—The death threat to Jorge Sánchez came by phone. The caller identified himself as a commander with the Army of National Liberation (ELN), Colombia’s largest active guerrilla group since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached a ceasefire with the government at the end of 2016. The self-proclaimed comandante told Sánchez—a 47-year-old former governor of the indigenous reserve of Ambaló in the southern state of Cauca—that he had just 48 hours to leave the area. Or else.
“The comandante said he was assuming military control over this zone, and that he would be implementing certain rules for the general populace,” Sánchez told The Daily Beast. “I said, ‘I’m in my territory, and I don’t have to go anywhere.’ But he said the ELN was taking over now.”
Sánchez had made a name for himself as governor by staunchly defending the rights of the ambalueños against incursions by armed groups, and that reputation is likely what made him a target. After the threat against his life the father of two sought sanctuary in the office of the Indigenous [Native] Regional Council of Cauca (CRIC), in the state capital of Popayán.