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Chronicle of Resistance in Colombia, October 8-10

Police Brutality, Military Offensives and Government Intimidation as Protests Break Out Across the Country


By the Human Rights Commission
National Coordination of Agrarian and Popular Organizations of Colombia

October 12, 2007

Bulletin #1

From the Human Rights Commission of the National Coordination of Agrarian and Popular Organizations of Colombia

To the National and International Community

In the departments (states) of Tolima, central Colombia; Putumayo, southwestern Colombia, and Arauca, eastern Colombia,

The Colombian state, as part of its strategy of military and paramilitary terror, is illegally and arbitrarily imprisoning, accusing, stigmatizing, terrorizing and attacking humble rural citizens, the indigenous, Afro-Colombians and students – as well las their organizations – who have been taking part in the national agrarian and popular mobilization that will take place on October 10, 11 and 12, 2007, throughout Colombian territory.

All these acts of state terrorism are meant to affect the process of mobilization against the current regime of terror and misery to which the great majority of Colombians are subjected. The state is using both legal and illegal actions toward this end.

This information is based on reports from the affected communities

Events:

Tolima Department

On October 8, in the municipality (county) of Rioblanco, the High Mountain Infantry Battalion #17, under the command of General José Domingo Caicedo, detained brothers Manuel Hernández and Anselmo Hernández as they were driving in a private car. The army claims the detained youths must stay with the battalion for their obligatory military service.

On October 9, in the municipality of Prado, at approximately 12:30 p.m., members of the Root Battalio detained Hernando Hernández, Edgar Ruiz, Wilfredo García and Dani González, claiming the young farmers all needed to report for military service. At a point on the road to the municipality of Cajamarca known as La Cuchilla, members of the Root Battalion also detained peasant farmers José Ocampo and José Miguel Quevedo for the purpose of drafting them. Hours later, the two were released on the condition that they not participate in the mobilization.

The municipality of Santa Isabel has been completely blockaded and left incommunicado. The people are unable to leave the municipality, and the bus and taxi companies have express orders not to provide service. In the municipality of Saldaña, at 3 p.m., four cars were detained by soldiers from the 6th Brigade. A similar situation exists in the nearby indigenous reservation, where young men are also currently being drafted into military service. In the municipality of Venadillo, at 4:49 p.m., military forces have blockaded the roads from the villages of La Argentina, La Esperanza and El Salto to the main city of Ibaqué.

In the road between Caparral and El Limón municipalities, members of the Caicedo Batallion detained two cars transporting several peasant farmers to the mobilization. The number of people detained and arrested now stands at approximately 200. In the municipality of Coyaima, in the indigenous reservation of Guayaquil, members of the 6th Brigade of the National Army are carrying out a food blockade of that community.

Two cars were detained at 5:00 p.m. on the road between Castilla and Coyaima by soldiers drafting young men who are participating in the mobilization. The detained were indigenous men from the reservations of San Jabonda, Ilarquito, San Diego, Cacique and Calarca. The army also retained several townspeople’s identification papers.

In the municipality of Purificación, a military roadblock has been set up and the police are threatening demonstrators talking of a supposed investigation against them. There is also a military roadblock in the municipality of Cajamarca, with the intent of blocking the farmers from leaving. The community of San Juan de la China, in the municipality of Anzuategui was intimidated by the army and told not to participate in the mobilization. This act was directed most of all at the leaders. In the village of Honduras, members of the army confiscated food and supplies for the mobilization from the townspeople.

Putumayo Department

On the morning of October 8, in the village of Siberia, Orito municipality, mayor Berta Ligia Pantoja expressed to the peasant-farmer leaders that she was ‘receiving pressure to forcibly remove the peaceful concentration of peasant farmers” there. She offered to wait until Wednesday, October 10, for a meeting between national and local government spokespeople and delegates of the protesting communities, hoping to find a way to reach agreements to solve the economic and social crisis in the area.

At the school in the village of Santa Lucia, also in Orito municipality, the peaceful rural protest was, beginning at 2 p.m., brutally suppressed by special forces of the anti-narcotics police, counter-insurgency forces, and ESMAD riot police. Arriving by both land and helicopter, they attacked the community using tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds against the demonstrators. This caused an unknown number of injuries, including both rubber and live bullet wounds, gashes from machetes, broken bones and injuries caused by clubs wrapped in barbed wire.

Arauca Department

On October 8, in the village of Aguachica, Arauquita municipality, at 3 a.m., unknown assailants working in coordination with the 18th Brigade took brothers José Aurelio Beltran, 23, and Pedro José Beltran, 24 from their homes. According to members of the community, the assailants were driving a truck. At 5:15 a.m., the brothers were brutally murdered. The same day, at 1:30 p.m., assassins from the same group that killed the Beltrán brothers murdered Mr. Gratiniano Argote, founder of the village of Aguachica, who had always been known as a humble servant of the community and for his gift for talking to people. These crimes in the department of Arauca are added to the more than five extra-judicial executions perpetrated in the town of Pueblo Nuevo and neighboring villages in the municipality of Tame, murders denounced in a timely fashion by the communities and human rights organizations. The authorities and oversight agencies have done nothing to prevent them. These events have occurred in a department with major military presence (including the 18th Bridage) and the policy of “Democratic Security.”

Faced with the pressure and attacks of state military and paramilitary groups who apply repressive measures with the goal of affecting the organizational process and political action that the organizations in Tolima, Putumayo and Arauca have been preparing – and with the fact that today, like yesterday, the exercise of civil and political rights will provoke a violent reaction from the Colombian state – we hope that today, unlike yesterday, the peoples of the world break the silence and join in all forms of solidarity available to them against the actions this regime has historically taken against the Colombian people.

WE DEMAND

OF THE OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS:

  • That it carry out its mandate as overseer of the Colombian state’s fulfillment of its constitutional obligations and International Human Rights Law;

OF THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT

  • The immediate fulfillment of the repeated recommendations on respect and observance of International Human Rights Law as formulated by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, and other international organizations,
  • That it cease the repressive measures and attacks to which the communities of Chaparral, Prado, Santa Isabel, Boqueron, Coyaima, Purificación, Castilla and Anzuategui, in the department of Tolima, are being subjected by the regular and irregular forces of the Colombian state,
  • That it guarantee the rights to life, physical and psychological integrity, free movement, free association and protest of the citizens of Tolima;

OF THE DEPARTMENTAL GOVERNMENTS OF TOLIMA, PUTUMAYO AND ARAUCA

  • That they cease the repressive measures and attacks to which the communities of Chaparral, Prado, Santa Isabel, Boqueron, Coyaima, Purificación, Castilla and Anzuategui, in the department of Tolima, are being subjected by the regular and irregular forces of the Colombian state,
  • That they guarantee the rights to life, physical and psychological integrity, free movement, free association and protest of the citizens of these departments;

OF THE OFFICE OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN

  • That it fulfill its institutional role as overseer of respect by the regular and irregular forces of the Colombian state for the constitutional rights to life and legitimate protest of the communities of the mentioned departments and municipalities.

WE REQUEST

OF THE OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS:

As part of the fulfillment of its mandate, that it take all action possible to ensure that the actions of the Colombian government comply with the internal and external norms that it has committed to respect, and that it begin all necessary investigations into volations of these norms.

We appeal to the human rights groups and popular organizations, that they remain ready and alert with respect to the critical human rights situation faced by the Colombian people, and especially to the immanent repression and risk to the communities, organizations and leaders who are participating in the national agrarian and popular mobilization of October 2007.

Human Rights Commission of the National Coordination of Agrarian and Popular Organizations of Colombia

October 10, 2007

DIRECT YOUR COMMUNICATIONS TO THE FOLLOWING INSTITUTIONS

ALVARO URIBE VELEZ
President of the Republic
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Nariño Bogotá
Fax. +57 1 5662071
auribe@presidencia.gov.co

FRANCISCO SANTOS
Vice President of the Republic
Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C.
fsantos@presidencia.gov.co

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS
Minister of Defense
Avenida El dorado con Carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.
siden@mindefensa.gov.co
infprotocol@mindefensa.gov.co
mdn@cable.net.co

CARLOS HOLGUIN SARDI
Minister of Justice and the Interior
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.
Fax. +57 1 2221874
ministro@minjusticia.gov.co

MARIO IGUARAN
Attorney General
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 570 20 00
contacto@fiscalia.gov.co
denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co

WOLMAR ANTONIO PEREZ ORTIZ
National Human Rights Ombudsman
Calle 55 No. 10 – 32 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 640 04 91
defensoria@defensoria.org.co
secretaria_privada@hotmail.com

EDGARDO JOSE MAYA VILLAZÒN
Solicitor General
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.
anticorrupción@presidencia.gov.co
reygon@procuraduría.gov.co

CARLOS FRANCO
Presidential Program for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
Clle 7 N° 5 – 54 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 337 46 67
cefranco@presidencia.gov.co
fibarra@presidencia.gov.co

NOTE: Please alert the following email addresses to whatever actions are taken based on this information: Comisiondhmovilizacion2007@gmail.com, derechos_fensuagro@yahoo.es, cahucopana@gmail.com, colectivopardoleal@yahoo.es , asociacioncampesina@gmail.com, redfcifuentes@gmail.com, redfcifuentes@yahoo.es

Bulletin #2

URGENT

To the National and International Community

THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF THE NATIONAL COORDINATION OF AGRARIAN AND POPULAR ORGANIZATIONS OF COLOMBIA PRESENTS A DAILY REPORT ON THE VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW ON THE PART OF THE URIBE REGIME AND ITS DEMOCRATIC SECURITY POLICY, IN THE CONTEXT OF THE NATIONAL AGRARIAN AND POPULAR MOBILIZATION

INCIDENTS BY DEPARTMENT

October 10, 2007

Tolima

In the municipality of Rovira, members of the Colombian Army, in contradiction to the decision taken in the security meeting the day before, placed spikes in the road, attempting to impede the mobilization of cars toward Ibagué, where the people demonstrating in the department are concentrated. In the township of Gaitán, Rioblanco municipality, and in the outskirts of Cajamarca municipality, in the villages of La Colonia and San Lorenzo, the people have not been able to travel to Ibagué, due to the blockade by the army.

In the community of Santa Rita, in the municipality of Planadas near the border with Huila department, the people who were going to mobilize have not been able to leave get through, and are having problems leaving the town center. The military also stopped 30 busses on their way to Ibagué. Also, in the municipality of Puerto Colon, between the villages of Santa Isabel and Venadillo, the army met with the Rapido Tolima bus company and prohibited it from taking people to Ibague, thus causing problems for the day’s events.

Cauca

In the cemetery of Mondomo township, municipality of Santander de Quilichao, a group of rural, indigenous and Afro-Colombian citizens were repressed by army counterinsurgency special forces, military police and ESMAD riot police, who shot tear gas, explosive devices and both rubber and real bullets from the ground and from helicopters.

Among the wounded are Evangelista Taquinas, José Eduardo Tombe and Juan Guillermo Marin. The latter two lost several fingers due to a non-conventional explosive device filled with glass and metal, launched from a mortar at the demonstration by members of the military police. This caused health problems because the men were bleeding for approximately three hours but could not get help due to the military and police activity that prevented a medical team from getting through. The men were finally taken to the municipal hospital of Santander de Quilichao, and then to the Valle del Cauca departmental hospital in Cali. Edgardo Muñoz was also injured, with second-degree burns and shards in his body.

The actions of the combined military and police forces, in addition to impeding ambulance access for approximately three hours on four separate occasions, detained Victor Coicue, Eliver Cuetia and Jose Norvey Yule, all peasant farmers peacefully accompanying the injured to the ambulance, despite having agreed on a truce. They were later released.

Samuel Ocue, Luis Enrique Castrillon and Amadeo Largo were also detained under the same circumstances, but are now being held in Santander de Quilichao, under investigation for terrorism charges.

The defenseless peasant farmers, indigenous and Afro-Colombian from the municipalities of Miranda, Corinto, Caloto, Jambalo, Toribio and Caldono are currently maintaining their demonstrations, while an AC-47 Spooky plane flies overhead.

Nariño

On the road to Tomaco, the armed forces are preventing people from traveling to the demonstrations, searching and stigmatizing the demonstrators. In the municipality of Altaquer, 400 people are demonstrating and a bus carrying 30 was detained. The passengers’ food was confiscated.

In the capital city of Pasto, students from the University of Nariño held a demonstration against the antidemocratic policies of President Uribe. The student demonstration was also a show of support for the great national mobilization that began October 10. Shortly after the demonstration began, around 11 a.m., the armed forces arrived, occupied the university and began to repress the students. Two armored vehicles, 200 ESMAD riot police and four police squadrons attacked several people who had nothing to do with the demonstration. In addition, Elder Flavio Guerrero Vallejo, a first-year agricultural engineering student, permanently lost vision in his left eye and was taken to Cali for a medical exam. This illegal act was committed by the ESMAD riot police, as one of its members shot the gas cartridge responsible. Other students and community members were wounded in the face, arms and legs. When members of the Francisco Isaís Cifuentes human rights group arrived to find out what was happening, they were mistreated by the police.

The peasant farmers from the villages of the Nulpe and Mataje rivers who traveled to San Lorenzo, Ecuador, were forced to return by Ecuadorian police, who took them toward Labores, 3km from the Colombian border. Approximately 6,000 peasant farmers have mobilized in this part of the department. In Guayacana, approximately 300 farmers have camped out on the highway from Pasto to Tumaco for the days of the mobilization.

Putumayo

In the municipality of Orito, on the border with the Ecuadorian province of Sucumbios, thousands of peasant farmers have been protesting for more than two weeks against the forced eradication of illicit crops. During the whole day of October 10, both the governor and the military told the media that “the insurgency is forcing the peasants to march toward the border.” These accusations put the demonstrators’ lives in grave danger, as the army has been attacking them since late september. Fifteen people have already been injured, three of them seriously. Last week in Orito, the army and police fired on humble peasant farmers causing more than 10 injuries. As if the repression against the peasant farmers weren’t enough, the president’s “social action” advisor, Luis Alfonso Hoyos, claimed that “it is the FARC that’s telling the peasants to oppose [coca] eradication,” thus placing the life and safety of the rural organizers in these regions in danger.

Faced with such dangerous statements, we hold the national government and Dr. Luis Alfonso Hoyos in particular, responsible for the consequences that their slanderous claims could bring for the life and safety of the peasant-farmer organizations’ leaders.

Caquetá

In the department of Caquetá, in the municipality of Cartagena de Chaira, members of the “Fiscalía 10” (district attorney’s office) arrested rural community leader Isaac Lopez Lopez as he was headed toward the town of Florencia, to participate in the agrarian, worker and popular mobilization. Isaac is the Alternative Democratic Pole’s candidate for mayor in Cartagena del Chaira and a recognized community and agrarian leader.

THE STATE’S RESPONSE TO THESE NATIONAL DAYS OF PROTEST CARRIED OUT BY VARIOUS DIFFERENT SOCIAL SECTORS IN THEIR SOVEREIGN EXCURSIVE OF DEMOCRACY, HAS BEEN MILITARY ACTION, ACCUSATIONS, CRIMINAL CHARGES, AND PHYSICAL ATTACKS WITH THE MOST FLAGRANT DENIAL AND NEGLECT OF ITS RESPONSIBILITY, BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, TO BE THE GUARANTOR OF EFFECTIVE RESPECT FOR INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW. THE FALSE AND MALEVOLENT STATEMENTS TO THE LOCAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL MEDIA BY THE MILITARY, POLICE AND DEPARTMENTAL AUTHORITIES, THE SOCIAL ACTION LEADERSHIP THAT IRRESPONSIBLY CLAIMS THE EVENTS ARE SPONSORED BY THE FARC-EP INSURGENCY, CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT OF OF REPRESSION AND TREAT AN EXPRESSION OF SOCIAL PROTEST AS IF IT WERE A MILITARY ACTION.

WE DENOUNCE THE ANTIDEMOCRATIC CHARACTER OF THIS GOVERNMENT, OF ITS REPRESENTATIVES AND INSTITUTIONS, AND WE HOLD IT DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS SURROUNDING THE NATIONAL AGRARIAN AND POPULAR MOBILIZATION

October 11, 2007

Human Rights Commission of the National Coordination of Agrarian and Popular Organizations of Colombia

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