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[csn-web] Colombian Vice-president to Sen Feingold, Dodd and Leahy
Diocese of Tumaco
(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Communiqué to National and international Public Opinion from the Diocese of Tumaco
“Blessed are those who work for peace, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 5, 9)
As the Diocese of Tumaco, like other organizations and institutions, we have made known on repeated occasions the critical situation of anxiety, fear and insecurity that people have been living through on the Pacific Coast of Nariño for several years now. The foregoing is made clear by, among other things, the murders, massacres, intimidation, extortion, displacements, indiscriminate fumigations and territorial control by the different armed groups, many times linked to the illicit economy [i.e., drugs—SC]
Currently we are especially worried about and want to make known the situation that has been becoming more acute in the last n umber of months, according to the statements of the community, in the Municipality of Olaya Herrera. Bocas de Satinga, that is to say the municipal capital of this municipality, because of the opportunities offered by the growing wave of narco-trafficking, has grown rapidly, to the point of currently having a population of more than 25,000 persons. But side by side with this “economic growth” insecurity and terror have grown. Every kind of armed group is present in the streets. In broad daylight, and even in illegal checkpoints across from public offices they have intimidated the population with pistols held to their temples and threatening words, demanding their identity documents.
At night masked people come out, and shots are heard, so that from 7 PM on practically no one walks in the streets. There is also fear over the possibility of a repetition of guerrilla attacks, like what already happened on May 8, 2009, with a canoe-bomb.
It is very worrisome that in the last number of months at least 30 people have been murdered in the municipality of Olaya Herrera, and the wave of violence does not cease. Here we remember some of the victims:
April 23, 2009:
John Ever Sinisterra Celorio, 21 years old, murdered by firearm just a few steps from the police station of Bocas de Satinga, immediately after being set free.
April 25, 2009:
Unnamed person, an Afro male, his body discovered in the Sanquianga River, at the urban perimeter of Bocas de Satinga, murdered by a knife stab in the nack, and with an ear cut off.
May 13, 2009:
Jesús María Franco Ortiz, adult, and
Jonathan N., 14 years old, murdered with fire arms on the dock of Bocas de Satinga
June 2, 2009:
Dagoberto Rosales Guevara, 35 years old, murdered
June 24, 2009:
Bolívar Cuenú Parlaza, 41 years old, murdered and his body found in the ocean district of the municipality of Olaya Herrera
July 22, 2009:
Cristóbal García, fish peddler, and
Gerardo Ruíz, fisherman, both murdered with firearms, machete and stick blows, their outboard motors robbed, in the rural community of San José Calabazal
August 2, 2009:
Fiver Perlaza Cortés, aka “El Chivo,”[“the Goat”—SC] head of the criminal gang of the same name
Florentino Sinisterra Cortés, aka “Tocayo” [“Namesake”—SC]killed in a joint operation of the Armed Forces with armed civilians, Barrio El Bajito, Bocas de Satinga
August 5, 2009:
Jairo Fredy Lerma Salas, murdered with fire arms in the barrio La Pista, Bocas de Satinga
Luis Gervis Hurtado Sinisterra, wounded in the same attack, died while being moved to Tumaco
September 2, 2009:
Unnamed person, 15 years old, disappeared and found dead September 7 in the municipality of Olaya Herrera
September 15, 2009:
M. Perea Vargas, 30 years old, murdered in the rural community Boca de Prieta
September 22, 2009:
Unnamed person, aka “Pico de Loro” [“parrot Beak”—SC]
September 23, 2009:
Juan Valencia Bonilla, 34 years old, wounded by a firearm and killed by his attacker while a stretcher was being sought to take him to the hospital
September 28, 2009:
Rubén Darío Guisamano Yesquén, 23 years old
Jesús Alberto Mancilla Valencia, 25 years old
Luis Hurtado Sinisterra, 30 years old, two of them murdered by firearm, La Langosta Roja [“the Red Lobster”—SC] Restaurant. Bocas de Santinga, the third was seriously wounded and died during the trip to Tumaco
October 1, 2009:
Álvaro León N., murdered by a firearm a 11 AM in the brrio La Pista
October 28, 2009:
José Oney Vivas Ortiz, 23 years old, murdered by firearms at the Sports Center, Bocas de Satinga
October 31, 2009;
Eugenio Martínez Hurtado (father), 52 years old, and
Luis Carlos Martínez Perlaza, 24 years old (son), both murdered as they traveled in a private boat between Bocas de Satinga and Iscuandé
November 4, 2009:
Ovisio Lodoño Vélez, father
Maricela Castro, mother
Verónica Lodoño Castro, 3-4 years old, murdered and cut to pieces with a machete on the road from La Loma to Altos de Guandipa (Río Patía)
December 24, 2009
Unnamed person, a youth, a soldier on leave, murdered b y gunshots at 4 PM in the bariio San Martin, Bocas de Satinga
February 3, 2010:
Unnamed person, murdered, Bocas de Satinga
Gerardo Perlaza Orobio, 36 years old and with 14 children, brother of the municipal treasurer, murdered at night in Bocas de Satinga.
These crimes have left widows, orphans, mourning, anger and sadness, and have remained in complete impunity, which increases the danger of new violent acts.
Based on all the foregoing and especially with the two most recent murdered, committed in the night of the past February 3. The following day, Bocas de Satinga was paralyzed: businesses did not open their doors, the schools did not function, the institutions stayed closed, the streets empty. The traditional carnivals were suspended and there is a great uncertainty and a lot of fear about what might happen.
The constitutionally established security forces, like the National Police and the Marines are there with big contingents, but they have not guaranteed peace, nor security nor [protected] the life, honor and goods of the inhabitants. The law that rules most is the law of silence.
In the rural population of the municipality the same situation prevails: it has been a long time since anyone has been able to travel along the rivers.
Also, recently several communities of the Satinga River suffered two massive displacements: the first took place on October 10 because of a confrontation a 4 PM between the FARC-EP and the marines in the village of Pueblo Nuevo. This initially affected eight Afro and indigenous communities, and two months passed before their return.
In the second massive displacement, of January 31 of this year, some 300 Eperara Siapidara Indians had to leave their three villages: La Tórtola, Casa Grande and Robles, taking refuge in a temporary place 10 minutes from Boca Satinga. In a communiqué published on February 2, the indigenous organization ACIESNA denounced the fact that their general assembly carried out in the village of Tórtola was not respected by either the FARC-EP or the Marines, in open violation of International Humanitarian Law. First, four uniformed and armed members of the FARC-EP broke into the site of the meeting, took the floor against the of the indigenous people and put everyone present in danger. Twenty minutes later the Marines arrived and entered threatening and shooting, with the goal of capturing the guerrillas, without considering the presence of more than 80 civilians, men, women and children, at the meeting and more than a hundred Indians in the immediate surroundings.
This situation that the Municipality of Olaya Herrera is going through puts in serious doubt the guarantees of exercising freely and without pressure the rights of citizens to vote in the elections the coming March 14.
In the face of this very critical general panorama we want to alert the authorities and national and international public opinion, so that what happens in the municipality of Olaya Herrera does not remain invisible, but rather that it be known and that a sustainable solution be sought.
We ask that all the responsible authorities carry out their constitutional duties and take efficient measures to guarantee the civilian population a social state of law, security, tranquility and a dignified life.
We exhort the legal and illegal armed groups that they not involve the civilian population in the armed conflict, and that they respect their community spaces.
We urgently ask national and international organizations to continue accompanying and strengthening the bonds of solidarity with this region.
Diocese of Tumaco, February 5, 2010
To the Public Opinion
Departmental Committee of Victims of the Armed Conflict in Antioquia
(Translated by Emily Hansen)
Medellin, February 5, 2010
To achieve reconciliation in this country, it is necessary to speak of truth, justice, reparations, and the prevention of repetition. It is because of this that we, the victims of Antioquia, raise our voices to demonstrate what these rights have signified for us.
The truth is the opportunity for the rights that we as victims possess to become reality. The national government has failed this truth when it turns its back on fact, authorizing the extradition of the Paramilitary ringleaders and thereby trying to silence their participation and responsibility of the acts of victimization of the Colombian population. These acts make it clear that neither the national government nor the North American governments are disposed to help clear up the truth.
Today, in the Department of Antioquia, the work of armed groups is latent and the authorities strive to be unaware of the actions of the Paramilitary groups making these acts look like those of emergent and delinquent groups, when the actions were really part of a process of very unclear and partial demobilization that benefit the victimizers more than the victims and the society of this country. Because of this we believe that the law of justice and peace is a law of impunity where until today not even one single person has been condemned for these acts. Some even continue to commit criminal offenses from inside prison as part of alliances with corrupt officials, not to mention the criminals who are free and unreachable by the victims because of a lack of resources. Those victims that do persecute the criminals have no form of security. Moreover, the system has failed – the victims inquire and the victimizer evades the answer, or on the contrary re-victimizes the victims, making the victims feel responsible for the deaths of their loved ones and making the perpetrators look like heroes.
The policy of the national government has been so contrary in the recognition of the rights of the victims of the Colombian armed conflict, and has been so in favor of the Paramilitaries and the perpetrators that it has done nothing positive: the government has not suffered one single political cost of its actions, and 14 Paramilitaries Chiefs have been extradited and will continue to evade telling the truth regarding the implication of politicians close to the government and its policy of democratic security.
Meanwhile, the government approves, through Presidential decree, the administrative reparation as a misleading distraction, using the situation of extreme poverty that the majority of the victims find themselves in to offer a sum of money for the forfeiture of our integral rights. In addition to the bad intention of dividing and stigmatizing the movement of the victims, the world of the victims was not included in the decree, and the victims of crimes of the State were radically excluded. As if this were not enough, the President of the Republic and his cabinet is striving to destroy the proposal of integral reparations of the victims: The Victims’ Statute, an essential proposal of reparation that generated real conditions for the fight for the restitution of lands and goods. Fundamental right – structural problem, because we are conscious that the lands and the goods are themselves the principle reasons we find ourselves involved in armed conflict, because behind every shot and every armed confrontation there are economic and political interests of territorial control.
It is not possible to talk of repetition prevention when the violent acts have not yet ceased and it is evident that the armed forces have control of our territories. While the truth still remains hidden and does not come to public light, while there is not true justice, while the state does not assume responsibility for this conflict, while there is not equality, the idea of preventing repetition becomes an imaginary one.
Today, speaking of reconciliation is difficult and unrealistic. If we take into account what is currently occurring in the country we begin see and feel the reconciliation as a very distant horizon. The government and its actions and proposals generate confusion, fear and distrust amongst us, the civil population, and create a supposed calm that oppresses us.
In the reconciliation it is not possible to realize processes of peace without justice, and the horrors of the war must be paid for. With out peace and accountability the door will be open for these acts to repeat themselves. How can we think of reconciling ourselves without transparency, without conditions and guarantees of protection in the middle of the lie that we are living, where the structures of war remain installed on our territories in new ways? Reconciliation is part of a process of recuperation of dignity, a personal option, where pardon is not imposition, nor an excuse to hide the pain, fear and resentment we have felt. We will continue relying on forgiveness because to do so is beneficial and healthier for our existence. This process can come to fruition or not depending on each person, and especially depending on the political and social wills that work to make our rights tangible.
The reconciliation should be recognized as a process that contemplates an integral vision of what is human and implicates the search for equality and social compromise, and the respect for the lives and integrity of others. In this way confidences between society, the victims, and the State can be constructed. Reconstructing confidence implies a change in the attitude of those involved (especially of those that have created the war) and requires counting on a true State of law that implies working for equality and inclusion.
In the future, if there are guarantees for talking without fear, without feeling ourselves used, deceived, pressured, without them buying our silence and offering our children to become involved in the conflict as informants, we will be able to approach the other face of the enemy and call for them to clear up these acts. This will only be possible if the will of change is acted upon and we do not continue responding to a structure of war. With such an asymmetric relationship between victims and victimizers in the middle of the lie and the impunity, reconciliation is unrealistic.
Men and women, we have the challenge of seeking strategies that bring us reconciliation and of fortifying the process of truth, justice and reparations. We demand that these events do not repeat themselves. All of this will ensure the beginning of reconciliation, and the right to enjoy dignified life.
A TRIBUTE TO HOWARD ZINN
February 8, 2010
We at the Colombia Support Network were very saddened by the news a few days ago that Howard Zinn had passed away. He was for many years a member of our advisory council and provided us with good counsel and support. One of our country’s great historians, he focused attention on the common man. His path-breaking book A People’s History of the United States directed attention to the importance of common people and social movements, in helpful contrast to the typical history told in terms of the role and influence of the “great man”. While so many historians concentrate on political leaders in explaining historical developments, Howard saw that everyday people and social movements contributed importantly to change.
He also spoke out against war as a means of achieving justice. In a marvelous speech at the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Progressive Magazine in Madison on May 3, 2009, a number of us were privileged to hear his compelling statement against war. He observed that “a just cause does not make a just war”. Referring to what he characterized as “Three Holy Wars” in U.S. history--- the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II--- he suggested that these wars, in the latter of which he served as a member of the Air Force involved in bombing runs, were “idealized” by those who did not measure the human cost of these conflicts, which when considered could not make them “just”. Since our organization focuses upon community organizations in peaceful resistance to the status quo in rural Colombia, and we and they oppose war as a means to change, we are especially appreciative of his perspective.
A couple of years ago we asked Howard to write a letter of support for our annual fund-raising efforts. He gracefully agreed and the letter he wrote on our behalf produced a tremendous response from our members and others who read it. We are very grateful for his encouragement and support. We will miss him greatly. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621