WORKING IN THE NAME OF PARAMILITARIES IN ARAUCA
WORKING IN THE NAME OF PARAMILITARIES CONTINUES TO BE THE GOVERNMENT’S CENTRAL STRATEGY IN ARAUCA
Saravena, Arauca, 18 September, 2007
[Translated by Micheal O Tuathail, CSN, La Chiva]
In an attempt to avoid new violations of human rights, given our recent experiences and the incidents that we will detail below, we are sending this preemptive warning to the regional, national, and international community, insisting that the national government and institutions of control and justice activate the system designed to prevent and monitor such risks:
1. The civic councilor from the municipality of Saravena, ALGACEL NOVOA PARRADO, finds himself in imminent danger of death. This threat is related to some recent reports and disciplinary complaints he has filed regarding the irregular behavior of the municipal public administration and other incidents related to the participation of public servants in human rights violations. Their collusion in such activities is presumed through their participation as witnesses in precarious judicial processes, which have landed many social leaders and community members in jail and served the interests of paramilitaries, who have murdered, branded, threatened, intimidated and used extortion against members of the community.
2. Indeed, the town councilor and departmental assembly candidate for the Polo Democrático Alternativo (Polo), in a report made to the Attorney General of Colombia, describes the worrying events as follows:
“… On September 4, 2007, at 8:07am, I received a call from a private number on my cell phone (310 857 2053). I was told that there had been some disturbances at the Universidad del Valle and that some graffiti from the ELN had appeared on several walls. The person also said that, since I worked with human rights, I would be able to put that person in contact with the ELN. I responded that the person had better look again at the number he had dialed because it must be the wrong number. He responded that he meant to call Algacel Novoa. I told him that, indeed, he had, but he still must be wrong because I have nothing to do with the Universidad del Valle; I live in Saravena, Arauca. I told him that, if he had problems related to human rights violations, he ought to contact the Ministry of the Interior, who could better help him. Later, my wife, LUZ STELLA BARRIENTOS, told me that at 8:03am, she had also received a call from a private number on my line (310 238 8746) assigned to the Ministry of the Interior, which I had left at home to charge the battery. Upon answering, the person asked her for some one named ‘Gonzalo’ and hung up.
I am grateful to have had some contacts that helped me find out the owner of the equipment and the SINCARD I was called from. Since then, however, I have been followed by members of the SIJIN, the police, and the S2 of the army and suspected paramilitaries owing to reports I had made regarding various incidents involving the army and municipal administration, reports filed at the Attorney General’s Office (Nº 55782 dated 12-03-2007; Nº 16707 dated 26-01-2007; and Nº 244373 dated 19-10-2006), at the Office of the President (Nº EXT07-75203 dated 23-07-2007) and at the Municipal offices of Saravena (Nº 0736-04-06, 0736-0806, 0736-019-06 and 0736-024-06).
Since 2005, Saravena has seen the formation of a gang comprised of SIJIN members, S2 of the army, and former guerrilla members, who have used extortion against local merchants, robbed people leaving banks with their savings, and several selective murders. These suspects drive around town in motorbikes without number plates and in a Bucaramanga plated (RDD 979) dark red Mitsubishi. In 2006, sentry posts were removed from the town, presumably to permit extortion to be committed against local merchants that had once been protected within the urban security ring. This order is on record in the office of the Municipality (PMSA-1371 dated October 5, 2006) and is directed at the police commander, Mayor Carlos Arturo Cabezas, and Mayor Celis, commander of the EMCAR, Saravena.
Also, at 11:50am on 14 September, 2007, when I was crossing the street (between 27th and 28th streets), I stopped to greet Mr. Víctor Gutiérrez, owner of Gutiérrez Jewellers. I asked him Pastor Jerónimo Gereda was staying with him. He replied that he was. I informed him of reports that had been made against Gereda, that he was involved with paramilitaries, had committed homicides, and had extorted money from local businesses. Mr. Gutiérrez then threatened me. He told me that Pastor had come to do a job for some friends in prison and that I should not get involved. He also said that I should stay quiet, or “be ‘eliminated’; you know what I mean when I say ‘eliminated’”. I told him that he knows me well, reminding him that the guerrilla had killed my father. I complained that it wasn’t right that Pastor, who presumably worked for the guerrilla, had come now to extort money from merchants for the paramilitaries. Furthermore, since he had come back, several cases had been reported of deaths and robberies of people returning from taking their savings out of the bank.
Sir, it seems that there is a report Nº 5818 of October 2006 accusing ‘40 muelas’ and Pastor Jerónimo Gereda of being the authors of several murders. If the authorities have demanded the capture of ‘40 muelas’, also known as EDGAR GUIZA GAMBOA, they should also seek the capture of Pastor Jerónimo Gereda Rangel, who was once driven to the police station but has been released since 14 September 2007. I myself reported to the police, to Captain Cossio Arias Didlier, the station commander, that Pastor was living in the Gutiérrez’ jewelery shop. I took photos I had taken of Pastor Jerónimo Gereda to the police as proof.
On 17 September 2007, at 10am, I was in the Ética drugstore. While standing on the corner, men standing by an army motorcycle were talking amongst themselves and making gestures towards me. I went to the ‘El Paisa’ restaurant, and within a few minutes, the men with the motorcycle followed me. I again returned to the drugstore, and they followed me there again. A young man with a hat and a military haircut then took a document from a bag held by one of the uniformed men and entered the drugstore to watch me. He made a gesture as though he knew me and left. As he left, I took a picture of him and headed up the street, where I saw him get on a grey Kripton motorcycle with another man also with a military haircut. When they noticed that I had seen them, they quickly left on the motorcycle. Later, another man dressed in jeans, a black shirt, and sandals and with shoulder-length hair arrived at the drugstore. He seemed recently showered. He walked back and forth in the drugstore, watching me, and left towards the juice vendor. After this, I went home only to find this man following me. I also took a photo of him.
I pass this information on to you, so that these incidents are investigated promptly and so that corrective measures and sanctions are taken. From this point on, I hold responsible those who are intimidating me for anything that happens to me or my family. In the same place where Mr. Pastor Jerónimo Gereda Rangel stays today, there also once stayed the hired killers who caused, in the name of the paramilitaries, many deaths in 2003, among them those of Rito Hernández Porras, Marcos Medina, Uriel Ortiz Coronado, Argemiro
Bustacara Morantes, among others. Among these killers is included Nelson Londoño
Jiménez, also known as ‘el Paisa,’ who is currently detained and has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for one of the aforementioned murders…”
3. Since 2003, paramilitarism has been consolidated in Saravena by groups of assassins who stay within the cordons of the National Police. From there, with the accompaniment, logistical support, protection, and coordination of the public forces to carry out their operations, they have caused the deaths of many community members and social leaders, extorted local businesses, issued threats, etcetera.
4. Now, once again, the notice is being given that, in Saravena, there is a group of people working and issuing threats. One of these people is Mr. PASTOR JERÓNIMO GEREDA RANGEL, someone who has been reported in the past to have patrolled (using the uniform and arms of the public forces) the town and intimidated the local community, speaking for the paramilitaries. We make responsible the Battalion Commander, Revéiz Pizarro, Lieutenant Colonel Alejando Cortéz, and from the Police Station in Saravena, Mayor Carlos Arturo Cabeza, for the harassment and intimidation of Mr. Algacel Novoa. We demand that the institutions of justice and control take the necessary measures to protect and preserve the life and physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Novoa and the general community. We also demand that these institutions move forward with the investigations and disciplinary hearings of those responsible for these incidents.
To the national and international institutions that defend human rights, continue your accompaniment of the Araucan community, and continue to monitor the extremely grave human rights situation in the region.
FOR THE DEFENSE OF LIFE, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND PERMANENCE IN THE TERRITORY.
“JOEL SIERRA” HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION – OUR SOCIAL ACTIVISM IS LEGAL AND LEGITIMATE.