YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK : READ HOW THE COLOMBIAN ARMY BEHAVES
(Translated by Deryn Collins, a CSN volunteer translator)
We are not dealing with isolated or sporadic incidents. The number of troops that are behaving in this way, the amplitude of the geographic areas they operate in, the repeated and seasonal persistence of the same behavior, cannot be spoken of as exceptional cases but as systematic conduct. The other thing is that the judicial goods that are destroyed or put at high risk must not be catalogued as second degree acts. This is attacking ‘in esse’ (in existence) the right to integrity, the right of ownership, the right to eat, the right of the presumption of innocence, the right to humane and dignified treatment, the right to work, the right to freedom, the right of just process, the right to education, the right of association, the right of good name, and after all these rights, the inalienable right to the most elemental human dignity.
Bogotá, May 22, 2007
Doctor JUAN MANUEL SANTOS
Ministry of National Defense
In all consideration.
Through the medium of this writing, afforded me by the Constitutional Right of Petition, consecrated in Article 23 of the National Constitution and in article 5 and subsequent articles of the Code of Contentious Administration, I wish to make known what I know of the grave situation lived by the rural people and communities of the department of Caquetá and solicit an urgent solution to these within the framework of your ministerial competence.
On Saturday 7 April 2007 (Easter Saturday), between 13:00 and 16:00 pm, troops of the Battalion Cazadores, with headquarters in San Vicente del Caguán, entered the street Villanueva, in the town of Aguililla, in the municipality of Puerto Rico (Caquetá). Units of these troops went to the house of the couple Libardo Guzmán and Disney González, who they did not find home at that time. The military men broke the locks and proceeded to loot the house, destroying the mattresses, the family’s clothes, the kitchen utensils, and household equipment. They took over the kitchen where they cooked the chickens the family had. That night they used the beds to sleep in and under a mattress even left a military cap, which was subsequently taken to the regional authorities. When they left, on Sunday 8 April, they took the food provisions that the family had (rice, sugar loaf, beans, chocolate, coffee, eggs, soft drinks), a lamb they had been given, lots of clothes, the jewellery they found, a camera, two radios, videos and music CDs, other domestic implements, family photographs and the children's’ schoolbags, meanwhile destroying their schoolbooks.
On the way they encountered the worker Juan Bautista Villada, who was on his way to the looted house and said to him they had been waiting all night for the owners of the house to massacre them because they ‘are guerrillas’, they showed a photograph of Disney they had stolen from the house and said they would wait for them in the store. The worker was grabbed, threatened, and submitted to humiliation for thirty minutes.
In said house worked one of the 80 Community drug-stores set up by the Vicariato Apostólico de San Vicente / Puerto Leguízamo and financed by international organizations, the militia also broke the locks of the medicine cupboards and looted boxes of medicines, surgical instruments and nursing tools, taking many medicines and destroying some instruments. They also took documents that pertained to the authorizations of the Vicariato and the Army for the transport of medicines, as well as the account books and the register of credits of the inhabitants of the zone. Overall, the stolen goods were valued at one million, one hundred thousand pesos.
It appears that, with the troop that arrived in the area of Villanueva was Señor Jesús Arnulfo Gómez, an old member of the Community Action Group of this rural neighborhood, but who had retired two months earlier, threatening the other members because he owed 140.000 pesos for drinks consumed at a party. According to information from the population, his feelings for revenge led him to pretend to be ‘reinsertado’ ( NOTE inserted by CSN : individuals who leave an illegal armed group and become again a part of society after an agreement with the government) falsely affirming that he ‘belonged to the FARC’ and offering himself as an informant to the Army, to present false information so that the community would be considered sympathetic to the guerrilla and win his revenge.
On Saturday 14 April 2007, because of the general alarm of the population on account of the attacks by the Army, the local population people called a reunion in the school of Villanueva, at which there were also locals from the hamlets El Cóndor, El Retorno, and La Nutria. The majority of the participants complained of the humiliation they were subjected to by the Army, such as threats, the most gross verbal insults, looting and pillaging of their homes and psychological accusations to oblige the population to bring them food, domestic fowl, eggs, and soft drinks. So as not to pay for this, they call them ‘guerrillas’, as a form of intimidation and blackmail. From the stores they looted the merchandise and only left a quantity of food equivalent to one hundred thousand pesos, alleging that ‘the food is for the guerrilla’ the rest they stole.
At the same time of Holy Week, the Army carried out attacks against the families of Doña Carmen Rosa Cabezas, Doña Mariela Lasso, Don Ancízar García, Don Arbey Rivas and Don Hubert García. All of these families were mistreated and intimidated with weapons to gain information they did not have.
They arrived at the house of Doña Carmen Rosa asking for her ex-husband Pedro. When she explained that they had separated some time ago, they began to loot the house; destroying almost all of the clothes they found and some clothes they put them on her head to humiliate her. As she was building a new house, they said when it was finished they would come and burn it. They interrogated her about the guerrilla’s radio and for coca leaves and money, as she did not know anything; they threatened to take her captive and showed her handcuffs
On 1 April from Don Ancízar García they took the goods that were in the store at Rancho Quemao; because he was going to protest at the military base, they returned them incomplete and some of the soldiers stole some crops and the school children’s sweets.
From Don Arbey $ 150.000 pesos was stolen.
They entered the house of Don Hubert and locked him in a room. While asking for a ‘the guerrilla’s radio’ they kicked him and threatened him with weapons, they looted the house leaving everything all over the floor.
On Thursday 5 April 2007 (Easter Thursday), at 7:15 am, while Señor Luis Gabriel Bonilla was going along the hamlet of El Cóndor to his residence in Aguililla, he was detained by a military group who treated him as a “FARC militiamen”, they punched him, threatened him with guns, grabbed him, noted the number on his identity documents and insulted him.
On Sunday 8 April 2007 (Easter Sunday), at 12:00 pm, while Señor Isidro Vera was on his way from San Vicente del Caguán to his hamlet of El Cóndor, he was detained at the top of the hamlet El Retorno, he was subjected to insults and humiliation and had women’s underwear that the soldiers were carrying put over his face. For three hours they forced him to sit in a well of dirty water. Around 5.00 pm they made him sign a ‘good treatment’ document, took photographs and left. When he got home the following day, he found out that the day before the militaries had taken his 16 year old son Alexander to a ravine where they forced him to stay on his knees, but he refused and told the soldiers that that if they were going to kill him, they should go ahead and kill him right away. The soldiers then took him to his home and looted it, destroying all they did not take. When they found a little canna flour, they said it was ‘the shrapnel used to make bombs for the guerrilla’. They took food, clothes, tools, and toiletries.
On the same day Sunday 8 April 2007 (Easter Sunday)) at 4.00pm, militaries entered the house of Doña Inés Narváez, who was there with two other family members, and they asked about the guerrilla. Amongst other things one of the soldiers stole 150,000 pesos that were hidden.
On Wednesday 11 April 2007, around 9:00 am, in the hamlet El Retorno, Don Efraín Ávila was detained by the Army, while on his way home. With their weapons aimed at him, asked for information about the guerrilla, but as he knew nothing, they submitted him to humiliation until 2.30 pm, when they forced him to sign a ‘good treatment’ document and let him go.
The same day Wednesday 11 April 2007, around 9:30 am, also detained by the Army was Don Libardo Urriago, in the rural neighborhood of El Retorno, when he was going to work. He was interrogated about the wherabouts of the guerrilla and seeing he did not know, subjected him to psychological torture until 2.00pm, pretending they were going to kill him. They put combs and rulers at his neck threatening to cut his jugular vein, pointed their guns at him forced him to put his knees to his chest and finally took photos and forced him to sign a ‘good treatment’ document.
The same day Wednesday 11 April 2007, the Army detained Don William Peña while he was walking along the road. The soldiers made him strip naked and sit on an anthill, making him sit there a long time. They later let him go on his way.
In the community assembly held on the 7 April 2007, in which the population of the rural hamlets of La Unión No. 2 and Alto Avance, in the town of Guayabal, in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán, serious acts perpetrated by Army troops present in the aforesaid rural neighborhoods between the 21 and 27 of March 2007 were denounced.
On Wednesday 21 March 2007, at 12.00pm the same troop detained a woman and her 12 year old son, threatening them with death with the machetes they carried if they did not reveal where the guerrilla was. The boy was threatened with being hung by his testicles and castrated and both were threatened with having their heads cut off. At the same time three locals were detained as they passed by and subjected to insults and threats, photographs and notes of their identity documents were taken. The same day they broke into a house, without judicial order, destroying all the children’s and lady owner’s clothes.
On Thursday 22 March 2007, at 8.30 am, the militaries detained two other people accusing them of being ‘guerrillas’ or ‘bandits’. They were also grabbed, insulted and threatened, and had the numbers of their identity documents taken. One was taken to another place and were forced to lie on the floor face down, while being threatened with death and was told that if in future something happened to him, he would know why, and that one day they would take him to lay deeper and would leave him ‘with the mouth open’. (Colloquial: dead).
On Monday 26 March 2007 the troop entered the area of the rural neighborhood of La Unión No. 2 forcing one of the doors. They shared out the broom handles that were there and they stole mattresses donated by Red Cross International.
On Tuesday 27 March 2007 the troop entered another house in the same neighborhood, breaking the locks, and stealing pots donated by Red Cross International, work and carpentry tools and domestic fowl that were part of a breeding project the family administered.
In the previously mentioned community assembly of 7 April 2007 citations sent by the Brigade IX (10th Army Brigade) headquartered in Neiva, requesting that all declarations be made there. The population declared they did not have the economic resources to go to Neiva, but at the same time asked why they had to make declarations in a military jurisdiction, being a civilian population and knowing that the military were the ones accused of all these crimes.
Previous Incidents: January 2006 – February 2007:
Unfortunately, Minister, the crimes perpetrated between March and April 2007 by the troops billeted between the Departments of Caquetá and Meta, do not constitute isolated or sporadic incidents but have equally serious precedents.
In effect, before national and international organizations, serious allegations have arrived, that I had occasion to prove in conversations with direct witnesses and it reveals systematic and institutional conduct:
In January 2006 the population already had proof of an intense military presence of Army troops in the region of El Pato, bordering the departments of Meta and Caquetá, under the command of a Mayor with the surname CADENA. Said troops entered into 25 communities of El Pato and in 11 communities in the Inspection de Guacamayas, of San Vicente del Caguán. Since then reports began of attacks, humiliation against the people, many of whom prefer to run away from their farms, which causes enormous damage to the agricultural production that is the means of survival for the rural population.
In the second half of July 2006 an Army patrol assassinated a young milkman on a farm and took the body to Neiva saying he had ‘died in combat’.
On the 15 August 2006 troops under the command of Mayor Cadena arrived in the rural neighborhood of La Unión No. 2 and Alto Avance where they illegally detained 16 people, subjecting them to degrading treatment and falsely accusing them of being ‘guerrillas’.
On the 28 August 2006 the same troops executed 24 year old local man JAIME AMARILES; another called ENRIQUE, 45 years old, and a young man called JABER ESAÚ ANGRINO POLO, who was 19 years old and suffered from mental retardation. When Mayor Cadena violently burst into a community assembly, in the school of La Unión No. 2, on the 1 September 2006, and was asked to report on these crimes, he affirmed that Jaime Amariles “was a bandit who died in combat and his body could be reclaimed in Neiva.” The population knew that he was not a guerrilla nor had he died in combat. With respect to Mr Enrique, the Mayor affirmed that it ‘was a confusing case’. And about the disappearance of Jaber Esaú Angrino, he first replied that ‘he knew nothing in respect to that’ but when family members and neighbors insisted he told the truth and did not lie, he then recognized that he had Jaber Esaú in his power, under the pretext that the young man ‘had asked for the protection of the Army’ and assured then that he ‘was already free’, which would prove false. Later, thanks to witnesses, it was established that Jaber Esaú had been taken by military helicopter to Neiva and the military wanted to use him as a ‘witness’ (even though, or because, he had mental retardation) to accuse Señor Henry García, widely known as a meat seller in the area, who the troops wanted to make out was a ‘guerrilla’. In effect, midway through September, when members of his family and local people of the zone went to have an audience with the Fiscal of Neiva against Señor García, travelling to Neiva to see if the said Fiscal would give reason for holding Jaber Esaú. With amazement they saw the military entering the audience accompanied by Jaber Esaú, who had to act as a “witness”. When he saw his father at the hearing, he stayed inhibited and silent, and Señor Garcia had to be released because of the break down of the ‘proof’. However, the young Angrino was not returned to his family and his whereabouts continue to be a mystery.
On the 1 September 2006, troops, at first under the command of an official of dark complexion with the surname RENTERÏA and then under the command of Mayor Cadena, interrupted the assembly of the communities of La Unión No. 2 and Alto Avance, registering all the participants through shouts and insults and treating them all as ‘guerrillas’. For an hour and forty five minutes Mayor Cadena shouted ‘to give themselves up’ and ‘surrender their arms’. He affirmed that in 15 days of operations, ‘many guerrillas had been killed’ The communities reprimanded him for the death of locals known to have nothing to do with the guerrilla, as well as the detention of locals who had their crops stolen while the militiamen alleged they were taken ‘in battle’ . The false explanations that were given in face of concrete acts left it clear to the community that said official used lies and sham to present positive ‘war’ results before the Government, that in reality were treacherous crimes. They asked for guarantees that they could work their land without the worry that these operatives were causing, but he responded that ‘not even his mother could be given those guarantees’. The local population folk then resolved to stay together in the La Unión School to protect their lives. 125 people lived here from the 1 September until the 20 January 2007, suffering hunger and illnesses and seeing their crops ruin and losing their belongings.
The troops began to steal work tools from the farms and consume what little food had been grown. The crops of coffee, beans and corn, that were the base of livelihood for the people, were ruined and what little could be gathered the soldiers ate.
In October 2006, two other people, whose names it has not been possible to register, were assassinated by the troop, not in combat. This time, the troop started asking the local people the day after, if they knew who had killed them. The locals knew it was the same troop but understood the bad intentions in this intimation and so as not to become victims of repressions, said nothing.
On Wednesday 6 December 2007, troops identified as the Battalion de Contraguerrilla No. 55 Taironas, executed three workers 1500meters from the hamlet La Sombra, in the street San Francisco de la Sombra, in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán. When the workers GERMÁN ECHEVERRY MEJÍA and LEIDER ADÁMEZ RODRÍGUEZ returned to work in a farm in the sector, the soldiers, seeing them ride by on Leider’s motorbike, shot them. Moments later, when the militiamen were moving the bodies, they saw the cowboy MAURICIO ROZO coming down the road on a horse, who they also shot, seemingly because he was a witness to the other assassinations. The military took the horse and a mule Mauricio was leading, as well as his tools, money and all the victim’s things. They also took Leider’s motorbike and his wallet containing all his documents and made it look like his was yet to be named. At 3.45 pm of the same day, the military forced a Transyarí bus driver to take the bodies to San Vicente, then took his keys and threatened him, the 13 passengers that were in the vehicle subscribed a document that described the incident. The body of Mauricio had to be buried at the same farm as the military would not let it be moved. Those of Germán and Leider were buried as unidentified and when on the 26 December their families saw DIJIN* photos they asked for the bodies to be exhumed to move them to Puerto Rico, where the funerals were held. The military made it appear that in face of public opinion that they were ‘guerrillas who died in combat’.
*Direccíon Central de Policia Judicial e Inteligencia – directorate of the Colombian Police that deals with certain judicial intelligence tasks.
On 9 February 2007, the same troops who had perpetrated the previous crimes in the rural neighbourhoods of La Unión No. 2 and Alto Avance burnt the two-story house of Don Isaac Pinto Pulido, in the street La Abeja, in the Inspección de Guayabal. The following day they woke him before dawn to sign a document affirming that his house was burnt down by the guerrilla, a document he refused to sign.
The same day, 9 February 2007, coincidentally when there was a massive presence of troops under the command of Mayor Cadena in the rural neighbourhoods of El Oso and Rovira, in the Inspección de Guayabal, graffiti appeared on many houses and public places , announcing the presence of ‘Águilas Negras” (Black Eagles) in the area. Every time the people in the area have gone to complain to Mayor Cadena about the crimes, he responded what good would it do to go and denounce them, because he “already knew how to handle the office of the Attorney General” ( the Fiscal).
Another serious antecedent in the region was the robbery in 2005, by Army troops, who this time came from La Macarena, of a microscope which was used to test blood for the diagnosis of malaria, from the drug-store in the rural neighborhood of Brasilia del Losada, in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán. The harm to the health of the people in this zone has been enormous.
In spite of the seriousness of the acts, up to now no denouncement made to the authorities of the State has served to protect life, integrity and the other rights of the local population. All of the declarations, testimonies and interposed petitions, equally at the local level as well as at the national level, have had the same luck of absolute impunity on the part of the official institutions and the absolute lack of protection on the part of the entities that have a constitutional obligation to protect the lives and rights of the citizens. For example, while the City Clerk of San Vicente refuses to give copies of denouncements to the complainant and alleges that they have been submitted to the Procuraduría Nacional (National Procurator), the locals can prove that on 16 February 2007 that nothing had arrived there. It is difficult to know, in each case, if such absence of justice and protection is due to complicity with the perpetrators or a fear of reprisals. As has been seen, the only declarations that arrive come from the Brigada de Neiva, which, in place of calming the victims, constitute an additional motive for worry, as who can see as legitimate an investigation carried out by the institution responsible for the crimes, where the information collected only serves as a basis for repressions against the denouncers, the ones who have proved the crimes, throughout the length and breadth of the country.
As you can see Minister, we are not dealing with isolated or sporadic incidents. The number of troops that are behaving in this way, the amplitude of the geographic areas they operate in, the repeated and seasonal persistence of the same behaviour, cannot be spoken of as exceptional cases but as systematic conduct. The other thing is that the judicial goods that are destroyed or put at high risk must not be catalogued as second degree acts. This is attacking ‘in esse’ (in existence) the right to integrity, the right of ownership, the right to eat, the right of the presumption of innocence, the right to humane and dignified treatment, the right to work, the right to freedom, the right of just process, the right to education, the right of association, the right of good name, and after all these rights, the inalienable right to the most elemental human dignity.
The Constitution has designed the role of the public force, in harmony with all the guiding principals, as a protective force of these rights. Converting this public force in groups of assailants, thieves and outlaws who trample on the rights that are supposed to be protected, putting those responsible at the opposite end of legal constitution and profoundly illegal the State that guarantee with its authority the uniformed outlaws.
But given the rights damaged in a such a systematic way are at the heart of those that the international community has wanted to protect as a fundamental base of solidarity with the species, through numerous pacts, treaties and absolutely imperative principals of “ius cogens” which are above the internal legality of the States, the crimes here registered, Minister, interest the International Community and constitute an affront to humanity as such. Because of this your judicial treatment transcends in full the domestic and naturally, has to be open to suprastate scrutiny.
As much the extrajudicial executions as the threat of perpetrating them, the practices of physical and psychological torture, the illegal and arbitrary deprivation of liberty, as Crimes under International Law when systematic conduct is revealed or protected for political incentive or tolerated by the State authorities. The pillage of goods, this time not only of the dead but also the living, when trying to justify them as strategies ‘of war’, constitute a War Crime, clearly set out in International Law. The subjugation of entire populations by way of habitual co-action that stops the exercising of multiple rights, has been held as illegal since the principals of Nuremburg (1946) and no more explicitly in the Statute of Rome, as the Crime of Lesa Humanity of Persecution.
Therefore, Minister, without the need to become ‘Parte Civil” (Civil Part) in any process of the kind that has never produced protective effects or avoided new crimes being announced, appealing under the Constitutional Law of Petition, consecrated in Article 23 of the National Constitution and Article 5 and the following ones in the Administrative Contentious Code, I earnestly and urgently ask, in the name of humanity, the following:
1.) Provide the names of the officials, sub-officials and soldiers and their lines of command, that were present in the hamlets of Villanueva, El Condor and El Retorno, in the town of Aguililla, in the municipality of Puerto Rico, in the department of Caquetá, between Sunday 1 April and Wednesday 11 April 2007.
2.) Provide the names of the officials, sub-officials and soldiers and their lines of command, that were present at any time in the hamlets La Unión No. 2 and Alto Avance, in the Inspección de Guayabal, in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán, department of Caquetá, between the month of July 2006 and the month of March 2007.
3.) Provide the names of the officials, sub-officials and soldiers and their lines of command, that were present in the rural neighbourhoods of San Francisco de la Sombra and Playa Rica – La Ye, in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán, in the department of Caquetá, on 6 December 2006.
4.) Immediately remove from post and any military responsibility in the zone, all the afore-named without prejudice of absolute independent control of any military rank, and investigate individual responsibility in the aforementioned crimes.
5.) Inform the international community about the protection that the populations of the municipalities Puerto Rico and San Vicente del Caguán, in the department of el Caquetá, will be given so they can exercise their rights that the International Community and the Constitution of Colombia, in theory recognise.
6.) Create a highly credible ethical commission that evaluate the damage inflicted on the populations of the aforementioned streets and give immediate reparation based on the consecrated norms in Título II de la Ley 782 de 2002. (Title 11 of Law 782 of 2002)
7.) Replace, with the utmost urgency, the medicines stolen by the Army from the drug-store in the hamlet of Villanueva, as well as the surgical instruments and nursing tools and the microscope stolen in 2005 from the drug-store in the rural neighborhood Brasilia del Losada, used for the diagnosis of malaria.
Ask the International Penal Court to take upon itself the investigation into the extrajudicial executions, intentional homicide of protected persons, physical and psychological torture, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, rigged judicial processes, pillage of subsistence goods and crimes of persecution against specific populations, which constitute crimes of lesa humanity and war crimes perpetrated in said zone, since the control organs of the State do not show the minimum guarantee of a effective, impartial and repairing investigation.
I thank you before hand, Minister, for your attention to these requests and ask you to respond, within the legal terms.
Javier Giraldo Moreno, S. J.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621