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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hooded Men Cause Terror in the Town of the Mining District of La Toma

Hooded Men Cause Terror in the Town of the Mining District of La Toma, Township of Suárez, Department of Cauca

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)


Once more we express our concern about the mining communities of the La Toma district, township of Suárez, Department of Cauca: the constant threats against and lack of guarantees for exercising community representation by Afro-Colombian leaders, miners, peasants, members of the Council of Community Action, and the Community Council of this place in the Northwestern part of Cauca.


Headed by President Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian government has reaffirmed to the nation and the international community its commitment to respect and ensure respect of the human rights of all its citizens. Nevertheless, these public statements are contradicted by the systematic violation of basic rights that continue against the Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and peasant communities in the southwestern part of the country, especially in the Departments of Cauca, Nariño, Huila, and Valle de Cauca. There, they deal with the permanent presence of armed groups that control the territory and flagrantly violate the basic rights of all inhabitants. These groups called themselves New Generation, Black Eagles, Remains, and/or Emergent Bands or Criminal Bands. Throughout the region, they continue to threaten inhabitants and perpetrate horrendous crimes.

The inhabitants of Northwest Cauca declare that the presence of these armed groups is evident in the region; they have assassinated several people, causing panic in the community. The people of the region add that these facts merit immediate action by the government, because of its responsibility to guarantee the human rights of the populace, among which are: remaining in the area, prevention of forced displacement, and guarantees of the right to association and representation.

The Facts

1. The people of the La Toma community in the township of Suárez, Deaprtment of Cauca, declared that they are afraid because of the presence of four armed unidentified men, who were seen behind the community center of this town on the night of Thursday December 23, 2010. According to witnesses, three of the men were hooded and the other looked more like a mestizo. All four carried 9 millimeter guns.


2. According to testimony, community members heard sounds behind the community center, so they decided to look. When they turned the light on, they found the four armed men. One asked them, in an upset tone, "What are you looking for, sons of bitches?" Faced with this aggressive behavior, one member of the community answered that when they heard noises, they had come to see who was there.

3. Faced with this aggressive stance, the members of the community backed off. They still do not know where the four men are, but they are very worried that they are still in the area.


4. In addition, members of the community declare that those armed men of unknown origin arrived on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 22, 2010, and remained hidden Wednesday night and Thursday during the daytime in an unoccupied house on the right side of the street just before the market plaza.

Persecution of the black, indigenous, and peasant communities, as well as human rights and social organizations that work toward respecting regional, environmental, and collective rights in the district, has intensified since October 22, 2010. On that day, a death threat arrived by fax, against all the persons and organizations that have denounced the irregularities carried out in the granting of mining titles to multinational companies and private individuals who do not live in the region and who are not part of the communities. During the year, ten more threats were received, simultaneously sent to all the organizations as text messages.

We emphasize that the communities of Toma, Suarez have repeatedly called for investigation by federal agencies such as the Attorney General's office and the federal Prosecutor's office. They have met numerous times with both Department and national government officials, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Vice-Presidency of the Republic, in hopes that they would obtain guarantees of remaining in the area, with no positive results.



Threats of Loss of Residence and Displacement: Two Strategies Against Community Rights


In this area, INGEOMINAS has expedited 39 titles to mines given to multinational companies and persons not from the communities. One of these titles is under the name of Mr. Héctor Jesús Sarria, who has the license to mine gold, BFC-021. This concession is located in the territory where the community of La Toma has always lived. Three times, governmental agencies have ordered the removal of the legitimate owners of these lands; the first and second time, under Resolution 2864-3-30, from April 30, 2010. These removals were suspended on May 21 and June 15, the former because of a petition by an interested party and the latter by a police petition that alleged that they had their hands full because of the presidential elections.

The third removal, based on Resolution 647/07 of July 31, 2010, due to be implemented on August 18, was suspended with Resolution 648/8 on August 17, 2010, by order of the regional defender of the people Víctor Javier Meléndez Guevara, who declared that under rule 2663 D. of the P.R. of the Civil Code 5006, Mr. Héctor de Jesús Sarria has not fulfilled the legal requirements of previous consultation with the black and indigenous communties—a law based on Agreement 169 of the OIT. He states that: 

"Mr. Héctor Sarria, through his representative, instead of fulfilling the omitted requirement, insists that there is no black community in his project, or in the area of the project. Stubbornly, he insists that the nearest black community is 18 kilometers distant. If that were true, whom do they wish to remove from their homes? And in addition: based on what has previously been declared and with the intent of protecting basic collective rights integral to the affected Afro-Colombian population, I request with special courtesy that the removal scheduled for tomorrow be suspended indefinitely, until such time as Mr. Sarria proves that he is duly authorized to receive the help of the authorities of the Republic… "

Aside from the validity of 39 titles to mines, two resolutions by the government of the Cauca and the Ministry of the Interior published on June 24, 2009 testify to the imminent danger of forced displacement in the townships of Suárez,  Morales, Cajibío, Piendamo, and Argelia. To this day, neither of the two government initiatives has given a satisfactory response to the rights of petition demanding substantive information about the motives that led the Cauca government and the Ministry of the Interior to approve these resolutions.


Because of the preceding, we request that you demand that the Colombian government preserve and defend the psychological and physical wellbeing of leaders who are threatened for defending the territorial, environmental, and collective rights of the communities of the northwestern part of Cauca. As well, [we demand that the government] carry out all necessary acts to judge those responsible for the violations of the individual and collective rights of those of the northwestern Cauca region affected by medium-sized and large mining projects. 



Your statements may be sent to:

Presidente de la República
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Nariño Bogotá
Fax. 5662071


Vicepresidente de la República
Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C.


Ministro de la Defensa 
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.


Ministro del Interior y de Justicia
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 2221874

Fiscal General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 570 20 00


Defensor del Pueblo
Calle 55 No. 10 – 32 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 640 04 91


Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.


This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited. 

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