Bronx, NY – Today, Congressman Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade, and Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade, urged President Iván Duque of Colombia to ensure full investigations into the recent killings of five Afro-Colombian teenagers. In the letter, the lawmakers expressed alarm about this vicious killing and a series of other recent mass murders and noted the importance for Colombia of increasing its state presence throughout the country and investing in historically neglected Afro-Colombian communities.

“As longtime friends of Colombia, we write to express our deep concern about the recent murder of five Afro-Colombian teenagers in Cali and a series of other mass killings, and to urge your government to carry out a thorough investigation to ensure justice for the victims and their families,” the members wrote to President Duque.

“These and other recent murders highlight the consequences of the continued lack of adequate state presence in many parts of Colombia. The Cali murder in particular reinforces the need for greater investment in Afro-Colombian communities and serves as a reminder of the disproportionate impact of the country’s continued civil conflict on historically marginalized populations. While we recognize Colombia’s progress over the last two decades in reducing crime rates, strengthening its democratic institutions, and providing reparations to victims of human rights abuses, that progress has been unequal. In order to build on this progress in a more equitable and sustainable way, it is critical that Colombia fully implements the 2016 peace accord and works proactively to protect social leaders, activists, and human rights defenders.

“It is essential that the Colombian government carry out an exhaustive investigation to bring the perpetrators of these recent massacres to justice,” the members continued. “As members of Congress who have long championed robust U.S.-Colombia relations, we urge your Administration to honor the memory of these victims by redoubling efforts to invest in and support Afro-Colombian communities throughout the country.”

Full text of the letter can be found here.