CSN's statement on the murder of Yolanda Izquierdo
The Colombia Support Network was distressed to learn of the murder on January 31, 2007 of Yolanda Izquierdo in the city of Monteria, capital of Cordoba Department. Ms. Izquierdo was a leader of the Organizacion Popular de Vivienda (OPV) in Cordoba. She worked effectively to obtain housing for numerous displaced families. These families were displaced by paramilitary forces from lands where they had lived and worked. The lands had been provided to them by the Fundacion para la Paz de Cordoba in 1990. Through the years after 1990 paramilitaries forced many peasant families to abandon their lands or sell them for a pittance, taking over the lands for themselves.
Yolanda Izquierdo had courageously led a peasant movement to return to the lands and reclaim them from the paramilitaries in keeping with the Justice and Peace Law for paramilitary demobilization, which requires the return of lands obtained by force and threats of the paramilitaries to their rightful owners. As a part of her campaign to see that justice was done for the members of the OVP, Yolanda was one of the two leaders of a delegation of victims who attended a hearing at which testimony concerning the activities of the paramilitaries in Cordoba was being given by Salvatore Mancuso, who was for a long time a leader of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), the principal illegal paramilitary organization in the region.
It is clear that Yolanda was murdered because of her effective work to recover lands taken from OPV families by the paramilitaries. She reportedly had recently been seeking to obtain the certificates, maps and deeds which would show that she and at least 700 other persons were forced by the paramilitaries to sell their lands and abandon the area.
We call upon the Colombian government to investigate this heinous murder, and to bring those responsible to justice. We also call upon the government to protect the OPV and its leaders and acknowledge their right to return to the lands they were forced to surrender. The paramilitary demobilization must not be in name only.
We also call upon the Colombian government to protect effectively those who witnesses who, like Yolanda, wish to participate in the hearings being held at which paramilitary leaders are testifying as to their illegal actions. We pledge our solidarity to the members and leaders of the OPV who work to reacquire their lands and live on them in peace. We express our heartfelt condolences to the family of Yolanda and promise to keep alive the memory of her extraordinary work.
COLOMBIA SUPPORT NETWORK
Madison, Wisconsin U.S.A.
February 3, 2007
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621