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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Communiqu é from the Bishops of the Pacific Region

Communiqué from the Bishops of the Pacific Region
August 9, 2006
( Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Translator)

The Ecclesiastic Jurisdictions of Tumaco, Guapi, Buenaventura, Istmina and Quibdó are informing public opinion about our concerns about recent violations of human rights and infractions of international humanitarian law against the Afro-Colombian people and the indigenous peoples of the Pacific basin.

The recent coincidental events on July 12, 2006, where there were confrontations of the public security forces with guerrillas in the indigenous reserves of the Awa people in Ricuarte, Nariño; as well as confrontations between guerrillas of the FARC and AUC paramilitaries of the Elmer Cárdenas Bloc in indigenous territory in Rioscucio, Chocó, have once again raised the question of respect for the civilian population in the midst of the armed conflict.

In both cases the civilian population has been exposed in the middle of the firing. In the case of the Awa this has produced a massive displacement to seek refuge in a school. In the case of Riosucio woodcutting peasants who were exploiting the forest in violations of the regulations in an indigenous reserve were victims of a mass kidnapping by FARC guerrillas, and later several of them showed up murdered. This has also caused a mass displacement toward the urban center of that municipality.

In the month of April of the present year FARC guerrillas murdered two indigenous teachers in the area of the Medio San Juan, Chocó. The result of this was a mass displacement of these communities towards Istmina. Fortunately, this population has now returned but a group of fourteen were forced to accept the role of international refugees in order to save their lives, since they were in the same list of persons accused of being informants of the public security forces.

In the month of June, 2006, there was a massacre of eleven Afro-Colombian persons in the rural area of Satinga in the municipality of Olaya Herrera in Nariño. This presumably was owing to the impact of illicit crops that are present in the region.

In the are of Medio Atrato, in the municipality of Bojayá, the last half-year ended leaving an growing environment of discomfort in the Black and indigenous communities in the face of continuous confrontations between Guerrillas of the FARC and the public security forces. These military encounters have produced continuous displacements in the rural area towards the urban center.

In many places in the Pacific region civilians continue suffering abuses by the public security forces and the guerrilla armies who confiscate food and medicines from them or restrict their movements to their agricultural labor, fishing or hunting. They always do this accusing them of being intermediaries for their enemy.

All of these incidents and others that often do not get a public complaint, and much less a judicial complaint powerfully attract our attention and make us cry out to heaven for justice. Therefore we make the following call:

To the civilian population, that they continue exercising their autonomy in the face of the armed conflict

To the public security forces, greater transparency in their behavior so that they will win more respect from society.

To the State structures of control, that they act quickly and diligently following their constitutional mandate to make sure that public functionaries fulfill their responsibility of protecting, guaranteeing and carrying out human rights.

To the paramilitary groups, that they undertake the demobilization process honestly, that they not continue withy covert actions where the victim is the civilian population, and particularly the poorest people. That they let themselves be guided by the principles of justice, truth and reparation, with the goal of consolidating a peace process.

To the FARC guerrilla army that they not involve the civilian population in their war actions and that they not delay any further the steps for beginning a just and negotiated peace process.

To the international community, particularly to the United Nations structure, that they continue supporting the efforts of our society to resist the prolonging of the armed conflict that is bleeding us dry.

+ Gustavo Girón Higuita
Obispo de Tumaco

+ Hernán Alvarado Solano
Bishop of Guapi

+  Héctor Epalza Quintero
Bishop of Buenaventura

+ Alonso Llano Ruiz
Bishop of Istmina

+ Fidel León Cadavid Marín
Bishop of Quibdo



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