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Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Colombia ignorance abounds because people are not taught, in context, how things work

(Translated by Deryn Collins, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a
CSN Volunteer Editor.)

"In Colombia ignorance abounds because people are not taught, in context, how things
work. From infancy they acquire useless and trivial bits of knowledge piecemeal, which
creates a limited form of thinking which serves only to look at their real world and
creates a marked inability to think."

This statement, by one of the most important neuropsychologists in the world, the
Colombian Rodoflfo Llinás, is the same thought of the indigenous people and in their
words when we talk of ethno education. We understand that appropriate education such
as the formation of individuals is determined by the expectations of each community,
under the principles that rule the indigenous movement (Unity, Land, Culture and
Autonomy). Education should be not to serve corporate interests but should include the
feelings and thoughts of the elders of the community, which are transmitted by word
of mouth from one to another. And in the words of the rector of what is considered to
be the best school in the country, that improving education does not mean making a
one-storey school into a four-storey one but instead improving human processes to a
high standard.¨ In schools colleges and universities human beings are not created, but

Education has become an efficient machine whose goal is to produce massive quantities
of doctors and high school graduates, to impress with quantity regardless of the quality,
for each child that repeats a year the state has to reinvest the cost of the subsidy,
930,000 pesos. Reducing the number of repeat years to the minimum is to save money
and resources, rather than be based on academic results and improving the deplorable
quality of education that results when students automatically move up" a journalist in
the El Espectador said on the subject. 

Now, apparently, the quantity before quality strategy does not work out well –
the recent PISA results from the last average of 65 countries (eight of them Latin-
American) showed that our country is in pathetic 52nd place in the world education
ranking, which measures quality of education. At all costs, and contrary to our decision
we mean to stop this education system that makes humans docile and deaf now that the
time has come to demand respect. From Bogotá teachers, coordinators and academic
thinkers are imposed. First the responsibility of education was given to the priests
who tried to evangelize us, then the traditional families of Cauca wanted us to submit
(remembering that the ex governor Chaux was tried for parapolitics) and now they
want to privatize us, according to President Santos. All this contrary to the will of the
indigenous people - those who should be the front line in the education our people. We
can and need to educate people to work for the multi nationals and at the same time
respect their rights... From the town council of Cerro Tijeras we ask –Up to where do
they wish to take us with the education we receive? We know if we can understand
the why of the thing we see there is no reason to comply with mandates veiled behind
hidden interests. We will continue to protect our own education because it is inspired
by the spirits and nature, creating proud, dignified and honest individuals, who have
a sense of belonging and community. Therefore, we invite Colombians that before
thinking 'what am I going to study, the first question should be who is the puppet
moving the strings? What game are they playing with us? Think…..act…..

CABILDO INDÍGENA CERRO TIJERAS (Indigenous Lobby of Cerro Tijeras)

[This content may be reprinted as long as the 
content remains unaltered, and the source, author, 
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The Assassination of Francisco Villalba, Alvaro Uribe and the massacre of El Aro

(Translated by Rachel Jacobs, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN
Volunteer Editor.)

For Guillermo González Uribe- Magazine "Number"

His name was Francisco Enrique Villalba Hernández, alias "Christian Barreto." He was
condemned along with two of the biggest paramilitary bosses, Carlos Castaño and Salvator
Mancuso, for the massacre of El Aro; the last two [men] for 40 years in prison and Villalba for
33 years and 4 months. Alias Christian Barreto surrendered himself up to justice February 13,
1998, three months after the said massacre, in order to relieve his conscience. After from the
testimonies he offered last year before the General District Attorney of the Nation and Congress
of the Republic, he was assassinated April 23, 2009.

The massacre of El Aro has been one of the cruelest committed by the paramilitaries: during
one week they fought freely in the zone, committing outrages against its inhabitants and their
possessions: "With all the parsimony of the case, how they knew full well that no one would
stop their calculated carnage, they caught, tortured and humiliated 17 victims, burned 42 of the
60 homes, robbed 1,200 animals and forced 702 people to flee in order to save their lives. The
accounts of the acts are horrific: Dismemberment, rape, looting. Marco Aurelio Areiza (64 years
old), the shopkeeper of the town, was tied up, tortured, and his eyes, heart, and testicles were

The initial testimony of Villalba and others corroborated more with the sentence of the
Interamerican Court of Human Rights, which condemned the Colombian State for the facts,
in a rebellion that summarized the horror of the paramilitary violence in the country. Even
this sentence signals that "Colombia renounced its international responsibility…in view of the
participation of their agents and their actions".

The cited texts that reconstructed the events talk about how the government of Antioquia lost
support, as well as the military and the police, but the authorities don't help the poor, and
even "Members of the army have been driving cattle," robbing the peasants. That fact formed
part of the bloody paramilitary strategy in order to combat the guerilla, to divest goods and land
to peasants, to protect the landowners and take control of regions full of drug trafficking. The
massacres of the townships of El Aro and La Granja, municipals of Ituango, were committed
in development of Antioquia and the regions that were under the influence of the guerilla,
according to the renounced paramilitary leader Salvator Mancuso. He also admitted that the
paramilitary fighters are sons of the Colombian state, and that they received training and
weapons by part of the general forces of the State. This strategy found a fertile plot of land
for the development in the private cooperatives named Coexist, legalized and supported in the

department of Antioquia and the 1990's, during the government of Alvaro Uribe.

Francisco Villalba, the protagonist of this story, studied until the fifth grade. As a child of 10
years old he met Dandenys Muñoz Mosquera, alias La Quica, who would arrive to be the most
powerful gangster deputy that has existed in Colombia, Pablo Escobar Gaviria. When he was 16,
La Quica demanded him to work with Fidel Castro, one of the cruelest paramilitary men. From
there forward the story of Villalba is similar to that of other paramilitary men: Assasinations,
massacres, torture, betrayal.

Despite what was recounted, the news of the assassination of Villalba did not have better
transcendence in a country filled with violence. What is peculiar is that in his testimonies he
connected today's president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Velez, with the massacre.

Villalba affirmed it before the prosecutor in February of 2008 and ratified it later before the
Commission of Accusations of the Chamber of Representatives, in November of the same year.
April 22 2009, some months after his testimony before the Republican Congress, and when
he spent barely days in prison, hit men using weapons with silencers killed him in front of his
house, in the municipal of La Estrella, attached to Medellín, when he was with his wife and their
4-year-old daughter.

Villalba said in his testimony before the Republic Congress that in the meeting that he planned
the action about El Aro "Alvaro Uribe and Santiago Uribe, Mr. Mancuso, Cobra, Noventa,
Carlos Castaño, my person, Junior and 22 men that I had under my command" were present.
He added that after the slaughter another meeting was celebrated in which more paramilitary
bosses, like Mancuso and Carlos Castaño, Alvaro and Santiago Uribe, and that the then-governer
of Antioquia "celebrated each and every one of us." He added that the operation was fulfilled
in order to liberate various kidnapped people, between them Mario, cousin of Alvaro Uribe. He
talked further about how a governmental helicopter flew over the zone during the massacre. He
affirmed that Alvaro's brother, Santiago Uribe, is the boss of the paramilitary group The Twelve
Apostles. He later referred to an alleged letter to president Alvaro Uribe, in which he retracted
his accusations, but he indicates that the letter is false: "I never am going to retract, I said I am
going to stay there, if they are going to kill me then they'll kill me…" He also talked of another
letter directed to president Uribe, in which the paramilitary man Junior says that Villalba was
not the intellectual author or material of the massacre. On the subject, alias Christian Barreto
responded that in prison they proposed various ways to deny his accusations and that the only
person that he accepted was Junior.

"There is a contradiction of Mr. Junior. He says that I did not participate in the massacre of El
Aro. If I did not participate, then why am I detained, first of all because they made me recognize
the family members of the victims…", he explains. When they told him in the questioning
that there is no record of the governmental helicopter flight in the zone during the paramilitary
actions, he responded that this comes from "the monopoly of the country, the monopoly that

they want to darken things and leave it to a liar that is throwing lies, I always have lost an
international oversight…". One last quote of this document; after affirming that he had been
object to various terrorist attacks, Villalba adds: "…They kill me because they achieve to make
what they are doing to be quiet but the proof will come out after…There is a lot of proof that
they are doing hidden things that very soon is going to come out".

It is not easy to believe Villalba's testimony, but the facts generate at least various questions:

If he was such an exceptional witness, what would have been the object of the attacks and affirm
that they were going to kill him, why was he given prison time without being offered protection?

If he believed Villalba when he confessed to the massacre of El Aro, and for that the Colombian
justice sentenced him, together with Mancuso and Castaño, why now does he give credibility
to the letter of the other paramilitary in which he asserts that Villalba did not command or
participate in the acts?

Why does it quickly appear, in the Republic Presidency, a letter supposedly from Villalba in
which it assures that he was lying when he told the president , but the own Villalba emphasizes
that he did not write it?

Why does he give ample diffusion and credibility to that letter, following investigation of News
One, and report of a graph, Villalba did not write it without another prisoner that was the person
that came to the President of the Republic?

Why does the defense say that there was no record of the government helicopter that was in El
Aro during the massacre because it did not appear in the government records, but from Villalba's
testimony, the paramilitary boss Salvator Mancuso supported in his free version of November
18, 2008 that "a government helicopter from Antioquia flew over El Aro during the massacre".

Why in the declaration Mancuso affirms that "…the then secretary of the Governor of the
government of Antioquia, Pedro Juan Moreno, entered what was going to be El Aro in a meeting
that he had with Carlos Castaño that Salvator Mancuso attended in Tierralta, Córdoba, previous
to the massacre. Moreno had been personally asked by Castaño for an appointment to talk about
the Coexist of Urabá, one of the defenses of Antioquia"?

The massacre of El Aro is a case splashed with facts, coincidences, interrogations, and
worrisome behavior.

In defense of human rights Jesús María Valle Jaramillo, who had been denounced on repeated
occasions the paramilitary work connected to the army in La Granja and El Aro, signaled
the then governor Alvaro Uribe Vélez as "enemy of the armed forces", and the IV Brigade
denounced criminally.

In his defense, Valle Jaramillo indicated:

"I always saw, and so I'll reflect on it, that there was an unspoken agreement or an ostensible
omissive behavior, skillfully warped between the major of the IV Brigade, the major of the
Antioquia police, the doctor Alvaro Uribe Vélez, doctor Pedro Juan Moreno and Carlos Castaño.
All the power of the groups of self-defense has been consolidated by the support that the group
has had with people connected to the government, military class, police class and rancher
borrowers and bankers of the department of Antioquia and the country".

A short time after making this declaration, Jesús María Jaramillo was killed.

Finally, besides to signal that Salvator Mancuso, one of the implicated men in Francisco
Villalba's testimony, and who was extradited by president Uribe one year ago to the United
States, in an interview with the magazine "Change" entitled "With me they Extradited the
Truth," he says, "If the self help, that supposedly were friends of the government, and to
Mancuso, the personal friend of Uribe, they do this (they extradite), that they will not do this to
FARC, who killed the president's father." Mancuso's own words, citing the same in third person
as a friend betraying president Uribe. That relationship of "personal friend" from the major
leader of the paramilitaries with the president has not been recognized until now by either the
president or Mancuso.

Macuso gives further support in the said interview, talking about the presidential election of
Alvaro Uribe: "The grand majority of us support Uribe because we received instructions from
the commanders and so we did it in all the departments with influence from the North block".

To the question about the reason of his extradition, Mancuso responded: "The government was
scared of the activities of some majors and because we were reconstructing the truth."

In his vote reasoned about the massacres of El Aro and La Granja, the judge of the Interamerican
Court of Human Rights Antônio Augusto Cançado Tindade wrote, citing Lonesco:

"We are now subjugated by the reason of State that permits everything: the genocides, murders,
prosecution of the intellectuals…The State is the defense of crime. The State propels crime,
justifies crime…The culture, that is unique and could leave a man breathing and give him a little
freedom, is devoured by the State."

1. Fiscalía General de la Nación, boletín de prensa, abril del 2003, "http://
2. «Uno se aburre de tanto entierro», entrevista de Villalba con Carlos Giraldo y Miguel
Garrido, El Colombiano, 24 de agosto del 2006, reproducida por la página de la Fuerza

3. «Las cicatrices de El Aro», Javier Arboleda García, revista Semana, 31 de octubre del
4. «Un alivio para la pesadilla», Carlos Alberto Giraldo, El Colombiano, 18 de diciembre
un_alivio_para_la_pesadilla.asp?codSeccion=59" http://www.micolombiano.com/
5. Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Caso de las masacres de Ituango vs.
Colombia. Sentencia de 1° de julio de 2006, "http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/casos/articulos/
6. «Un alivio para la pesadilla», ob. cit.
7. «Las cicatrices de El Aro», ob. cit.
8. Mancuso: «El paramilitarismo de Estado sigue vivo», 3 de abril de 2008, entrevista
9. Debate de Gustavo Petro en el Senado: «Siendo gobernador de Antioquia, Uribe autorizó
varias Convivir a paramilitares», "http://www.polodemocratico.net/Uribe-autorizo-varias-
10. «Uno se aburre de tanto entierro», ob. cit.

11. «Detalles del testimonio que involucra a Uribe y a su hermano en una masacre», Gonzalo
Guillén y Gerardo Reyes, El Nuevo Herald,

12. «Francisco Villalba, un testigo que sabía demasiado», Desde abajo, http://
13. «Francisco Villalba, quien denunció a Uribe, advirtió que lo iban a matar», El
14. Cámara de Representantes. Testimonio que rinde el señor Francisco Enrique Villalba
Hernández. Expediente 2394. 12 de noviembre del 2008. Fotocopia de la declaración que reposa
en los archivos del Congreso.

15. «Antes de morir, Villalba dijo que nunca se retractó de acusaciones contra Uribe», informe
de Noticias Uno reproducido por Terratv,


17. «Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos condena al Estado por masacre de Ituango»,
El Tiempo, 28 de julio del 2006, reproducida por Acnur,

18. «¿Qué fue lo que dijo Jesús María Valle?», revista Semana,

19. «Las responsabilidades en la masacre de El Aro: una verdad por desentrañar», Comisión
Colombiana de Juristas,

20. «Conmigo extraditaron la verdad», entrevista con Salvatore Mancuso, Cambio, 28 de mayo
del 2009,

21. Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, ob. cit.

Guillermo González Uribe. Journalist and editor. He was coordinator of the "Sunday
Magazine" of the newspaper "The Spectator" in the 1980's, director of the
magazine "Colcultura Gazette" in the early 1990's and has been the director of the
magazine "Number" since its creation in 1993. He won the Planet Prize of Journalism 2002 for
his professional work and his book Children of War: Media Prize 2001 of Lasa, Latin American
Studies Association, Washington; medal of critical culture work, International Festival of
Californian Art, 2001.

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Senator Robledo denounced the privatization of Colombian military bases as another hidden agenda in the Plan for Development

Press Office of Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo
Bogotá, February 28, 2011

(Translated by Richard Henighan, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh,
CSN Volunteer Editor)

Foreign mercenary businesses will be able to stay. A brazen violation of national
sovereignty. Santos is worse than Uribe. We're overrun with plutocrats.

Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo described Article 112 as a hidden rider among the
170 articles in the "Plan for Development." This rule will permit the government "to
relinquish the administration of strategic military and police infrastructure," a process
that will privatize law making. Thus, explained the legislator, they will turn over to private
businesses, national or foreign, nothing less than the administration of "the strategic
military and police infrastructure."

This road leads to many military operations becoming large private businesses which
operate with mercenaries, like in the United States. This has been denounced by the
United Nations itself.

According to the Senator, who belongs to the Democratic Alternative Pole, the
Colombian situation is complicated because of the inexorable tendency for the
military and police infrastructure" to remain under the control of foreign businesses,
such as DynCorp. These actors already operate in Colombia under the pretext of "Plan
Colombia," and monopolize the mercenary trade on a global scale, violating our national
sovereignty. Robledo added that the amount of power on military and police bases that
will be awarded to these private businesses is obvious.

As would be expected in the government of Juan Manuel Santos, this "dirty trick"
produced the CONPES 3615 of 2009, approved by the Government of Alvaro Uribe
(CONPES is the Social and Economic Political Council).

"How far will the unaudited abuses committed by our native plutocrats go, while they
misgovern Colombia for their own benefit?" Jorge Enrique Robledo wondered.

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

Friday, April 29, 2011


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a
CSN Volunteer Editor.)

Since we reported the murder of Bernardo on March 23, there have been continual
attacks. They are trying to kill us off. The attack by the paramilitaries with the very
evident complicity of the armed forces just demonstrates their strategy of destruction of
our way of life. We are making a record of these events in an ethical manner, so that
some day humanity will bring all the government's impunity and brazenness to justice, a
government that tries to pose as a mere spectator.

* On April 4, 2011, at 8 a.m., paramilitaries gathered in the town of Murmullo. They told
the people that they would have to do work for them any time they were ordered to do so.
They said that anyone who didn't would have to pay a fine of 50,000 pesos (about $28)
for the first offense and if they refused a second time they would be killed. Besides that,
they said they were going to station armed paramilitaries in civilian clothes in all of the
towns. They would have radios and they would be ordered to watch the actions of every
individual and report it if any stranger entered the town. Finally, they said that no one
would be allowed to be part of the Peace Community. Anybody who did would be killed
and they would begin to kill the leaders of that community, whose names they already
had on their list. After making these statements they ordered the people to work on the
road. The paramilitaries walked brazenly and undisturbed in Batata right in front of the
armed forces who are stationed there, just as they do in Nueva Antioquia.

* On April 4, 2011, at 3 p.m., Uber Areiza, a member of our community and Alcides
Usuga who was with him, were stopped by Army troops in the town of Las Nieves. They
were going to work in the town of La Esperanza. The soldiers told them to get off the
horses they were riding and show them the things they were carrying. They refused and
the soldiers immediately brought two men wearing masks and left the two alone with
them. The two masked men attacked them, throwing them off their horses and scattering
their things. They pushed machetes up against their throats, telling them they would cut
their throats if they ever saw them again. Then they let them go.

* On April 5, 2011, around 9 p.m., Sr. Jesús López was killed by masked men using
machetes. He had just left a religious service in San José and he was going home when
he was attacked. He was still alive when he got there and people in the community tried
to help him but it was hopeless and he died in a few minutes.

* Between April 3 and April 6, 2011, in the town of Mulatos, signs were posted on walls,
houses and trees. The signs say that the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia are
coming to kill us. People have also seen evidence that there are troops of armed men
lurking around, but not going where they can be seen.

There has been an accumulation of attacks against the life and the integrity of our
community and against the farmers who live in the area. They are trying to impose the
orders of the paramilitaries. In spite of the fear and the anxiety that they have spread, we
will not give in. Our response in favor of life in our community is stronger than ever.
We believe in the peace of our daily lives, in totally peaceful actions opposing any armed
actor. All of these attacks are just trying to destroy our principles. But their murderous
efforts are useless in the face of the absolute decision we have made in favor of human


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April 4, 2011

 Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN volunteer translator



". . . They are trying different ways to finish us off.  Now they are trying to DISPLACE us, but our stubbornness in pursuing life won't let us give in to them . . ."
We have already filed complaints about the threats by the spreaders of death to kill members of our Community and the people who live around here.  In spite of that, one day after our complaint was filed, the murderous bullets cut off the life of Bernardo Rios.  His memory and that of so many other murder victims will give us the light to continue on our path of hope and dignity and meaning in our lives. Now they are trying to DISPLACE us, to finish us off in a different way, but our stubbornness in pursuing life won't let us give in to them.
The events we want recorded before the whole world are as follows:
Wednesday, March 23, 2011.  Thirty paramilitaries wearing camouflage and carrying rifles were at the edge of the town of La Resbalosa, part of our Community.  They told a member of our Community that that sonofabitching guerrilla Community would have to get out of the area and, if they didn't, the murders would continue.  They said that, together with the Armed Forces, they had already planned a "clean-up" in the area and they would exterminate  our Community.
Friday, April 1, 2011.  At about 5:30 a.m., there was combat between the paramilitaries and the guerrillas in the town of Arenas Altas, according to the people who lived around there.  Some of the paramilitaries were killed.  Because events like this put those families of our community who live there at risk, as well as the civilian population in general, the Community tried to get the Regional Public Defender's office to help the families.  But the Public Defender's office said they couldn't do anything and to stop bothering them and to disconnect our telephones.
Saturday, April 2, 2011.  A military helicopter flew over the area several times while the paramilitaries collected the bodies of the paramilitaries killed in the combat and took them away.  This same group of 25 paramilitaries had gone around the town of Arenas Altas in the morning, threatening that that sonofabitching Community was a gang of guerrillas and we would pay dearly for it. They would not allow it to continue.  They said this in spite of the presence of the armed forces in the town, which did nothing.
Sunday, April 3, 2011.  Alias Samir, using telephone calls, threatened the farmers of the whole district of San Jose.  He invited those who work in the zone covered by the 17th Brigade to become informants, and if they refused they would be killed or brought up on false criminal charges.  Alias Samir is a FARC deserter who lives at the Brigade headquarters.  The government of Colombia has appointed him as a promoter of peace, so that he could attack our community with threats and blackmail against members of our Community and against the people who live around here.
These events continue to demonstrate vividly the continuous persecution of our Peace Community by the Colombian Government.  They want to create destruction and displacement of the farming population and impose the systems of the armed actors.  Throughout all of these fourteen years, it has been made clear that the huge paramilitary organizations that move freely in the vicinity of Nuevo Antioquia and often travel around Playa Larga and other towns have the full support of the armed forces and the tolerance of all of the other governmental institutions.  They have reports of all their crimes for decades, without doing anything.
We beg for national and international solidarity to demand that the Colombian government cease all of these operations of death, displacement and stigmatization.
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Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
Phone:  (608) 257-8753
Fax:  (608) 255-6621
E-mail:  csn@igc.org



MARCH 23, 2011

 Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN volunteer translator


All of our community has been reflecting on the fourteen years that we have accomplished and on our alternatives, where we have said yes to life and no to killing.  In the midst of that, we find ourselves with a new murder carried out by the paramilitaries, with the complicity of the armed forces.  The brazenness of everything that has been going on is so evident that anyone with even minimal moral principles cannot help but feel rage and intense pain in the face of so much hypocrisy by a government and a country that talks a good talk, but the reality is totally different.
The events that we are proving to the world are so clear that they do not require any kind of commentary or analysis.  What we described a few days ago is being carried out.  We described all of these "deaths foretold" carried out by the paramilitaries in close cooperation with the armed forces, using, as they have always done, lies to erase everything.
We believe that the people who come from different places to be part of our community will refute this horror and believe, just as we do, in building our lives without any kind of backing down.
            *On March 22, 2011, at 6:20 p.m. a motorcycle carrying two armed paramilitaries was following the car Jesús Emilio Tuberquia was driving from Apartadó.  They came up close to look at him several times.  They saw that he was accompanied by some internationals and they stopped at Tierra Amarilla.  There they waited for BERNARDO RIOS LONDOÑO who had been with Jesús Emilio a few minutes earlier in the Apartadó bus terminal.  He was riding a bicycle.  The paramilitaries stopped him in Tierra Amarilla and they killed him there at about 6:30 p.m.  At that time they were five minutes away from an Army checkpoint, as well as two other checkpoints set up by the armed forces on the highway.
            BERNARDO was 27 years old.  He had been in the community a few months earlier and he had left to go and live in the town of La Miranda where he was living and working in a sawmill.  His wife and children live in and are part of our community.
            When the community found out about the murder, we went to retrieve his body so that we could hold a wake and bury him in our community.
Those who are spreading death have tried to finish us off in these fourteen years.  Because of our adamant insistence on life, we have refused to give up.  Even with the fear, the impotence, the rage at so much impunity and the complicity of the government in the face of so much horror, we stand for building a different life for our present and for our community.  In Bernardo's funeral, we celebrated these fourteen years of choosing civil resistance and we celebrated his memory and that of so many other murder victims.  They will give us the light to follow our path of hope, not commercialized with rewards, but with dignity and unity for life.

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

Please be generous - Support our work! Click "Make a donation" from our home page: http://www.colombiasupport.net

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
Phone:  (608) 257-8753
Fax:  (608) 255-6621
E-mail:  csn@igc.org

Thursday, April 28, 2011

More restitution victims

[Judicial Edition of El Espectador on line]- Friday, 03/25/2011- 1:06

[Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa
Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.]

David de Jesús Góez, in Medellín; Bernardo Ríos Lodoño, in Apartadó and Éver
Verbel Rocha, in Sucre, are the first victims this year. The three were working
with people who are reclaiming their land.

The restitution of their land is part of the promise that the government made to
the peasants who were victims of the AUC ["United Self-defense of Colombia,"
the paramilitaries—SC], but the violent forces continue sowing terror to prevent
this from being carried out. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Juan
Camilo Restrepo, between Wednesday and yesterday, they killed three leaders in
Antioquia and Sucre.

This Thursday they killed David de Jesús Góez Rodríguez, 70 years old, a leader
of the Fundación Forjando Futuro ["Forging the Future Foundation"—SC], an
organization that advises the people who are reclaiming their land in the Urabá
of Antioquiá [the area in the north of Antioquia that provides access to the
Caribbean, a major plantain-growing area, and the scene of much violence against
the inhabitants by paramilitaries over the years—SC]. To this crime is added that
against Bernardo Ríos Lodoño, a member of the Peace Community of Apartadó,
and that against Éver Verbel Rocha in San Onofre (Sucre).

The threats and attacks against persons dedicated to the process of recovering land
has been a source of preoccupation for the authorities, who committed themselves
to guaranteeing their security. The three murdered leaders are the first victims this
year, and with their deaths the number of deaths in the midst of this process rises
to 11 in the last 12 months.

What is paradoxical is that these crimes occurred just a week after the government
inaugurated the so-called Centro Integrado de Inteligencia para la Restitución
de Tierras (C12) [Integrated Intelligence Center for the Restitution of Land],
made up of the prosecutor's office and members of the judicial police, with the
objective of providing security to the beneficiaries of the land return, detecting the
places of greatest risk and designing security and protection plans. These murders
have become the first challenge for the nascent institution.

According to the Fundación Forjando Futuro, Góez Rodríguez had been
threatened two years ago; because of that he had to leave for Medellín. This was
no impediment for the criminals who wanted to end his life. The victim's work
was concentrated on recovering land usurped by the AUC in the town of Tulapa

in the north of Urabá, a place where the paramilitary forces of Carlos Castaño

The Minister of Agriculture rejected the crime, lamented the seriousness of what
had happened and called an extraordinary meeting of the Intelligence Center.

The government of Juan Manuel Santos has committed itself to returning around
two million hectares [nearly five million acres—SC] to peasant victims of the
violence in the areas where the AUC had influence. They even included an article
in the Victims Law to speed up and simplify the process. The most recent case
was that of Chivolo (Magdalena), where INCODER [Instituto Colombiano para
el Desarrollo Rural-The Colombian Rural Development Institute, a government
agency—SC] restored ownership of nearly 40 parcels that were in the hands of
people fronting for Jorge 40 [alias of Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, leader of the AUC's
Northern Bloc—SC]. It is estimated that there are 500 thousand people reclaiming
their land in the country.

In Uraba alone, up to the end of 2010, the Asociación de Víctimas para la
Restitución de Tierras [Association of Victims for Land Restitution] reported that
behind the return of 184 properties (4,000 hectares) have been the deaths of seven
persons, one assault and dozens of threats.

Web address of the source: http://www.elespectador.com/impreso/judicial/

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Colombian State Ombudsman promises to request that El Quimbo hydroelectric dam construction in Huila be halted

A resistance group forum against energy mega-projects meets as the mining community
of Briceno (Antioquia) stops Hidroituango dam construction indefinitely

March 16, 2011

(Translated by Rolf Schöneborn, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN
Volunteer Editor.)

Festivities celebrating 'National Day in Defence of our Territories' (Jornada Nacional por la
Defensa del Territorio) began on Monday March 14, 2011, in various parts of Colombia.
A roundtable on the environmental impact of mega mining and hydroelectric projects on the
surrounding areas and the question of sustainable development took place in the Congress of
Colombia (Congreso de la República /Bogotá) on March 16, 2011, which was attended by
14 affected communities and social organizations from all over the country. The objective
was to plan further meetings, dialogues and communication between communities already
affected and communities about to be affected by these mega projects and the government,
the Ministry of Public Affairs and representatives of Congress so that the demands of
communities and social organizations could be heard and processes found which would allow
citizens and government to outline a work agenda for the issue at hand. This meeting showed
already one positive result because state Ombudsman for the Environment Óscar Amaya
promised to ask the Ministry of the Environment to halt the El Quimbo hydroelectric power
plant construction in the Huila Department, located in the southwest of Colombia. Amaya
also promised to visit the area in April and hold community meetings in order to analyze
the situation. This commitment was made in response to charges made by Miller Dussán,
a professor at the University Surcolombiana and member of an Association for People and
against the hydroelectric project El Quimbo (Associación de Affectados). Dussán charged
that the state ombudsman had presented a plan so that the needed environmental licence could
be granted as of the end of last year. The Association filed an action for the annulment of
an extrajudicial conciliation, which according to Senator Jorge Robledo would decrease the
amount to be paid for social and environmental damages by more than $100 million. This
conciliation was asked for by the Colombian subsidiary Emgesa of the Spanish energy giant
Endesa charging that "if the excessive environmental burdens that had been imposed were not
lessened the project would definitely have to be given up." This conciliation also diminished
the acreage which would allow for forest exploitation, decreased the environment protection
perimeter and resulted in smaller compensatory payments for the so-called 'occupants' who
live next to the highways and along the Magdalena river. The initial environmental licence
that stipulated that all owners, current holders and occupants would be given housing was also

This extrajudicial conciliation was stayed by the Cundinamarca Court which ruled among
other things that in this type of conciliation the patrimonial interests of the Republic,
the region and the communities involved should be defended and not the interests of
multinational companies. Miller Dussán confirmed that the State ombudsman for environment
sent a letter to the Ministry of Environment indicating that the environmental licence could
be changed in accordance with the administrative resolution 2820 of August 5,2010, that is to
say two days before President Uribe Vélez finished his second term in office. This resolution
changed the environmental law (La LeyAmbiental) and determined that the environmental
licences could be adjusted in keeping with the environmental realities of the country. Dussán
and Robledo assert that the resolution 1814 of September 17, 2010, that changed the El

Quimbo environmental licence is illegal.

Coordinating the resistance

There had been a similar meeting prior to this one in Santa Cruz de Lorica (Córdoba) in
July of 2008 named 'IV Meeting of the Latin-American Network against Repression and for
Rivers, their communities and Water' (IV Encuentro LatinoAmericano contra Represas y
por los Ríos, sus Comunidades y el Agua'). The meeting was called because of the Urrá Dam
megaproject, Department of Córdoba, in the Colombian Atlantic Region. It was attended
by representatives from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panamá,
Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Urugay, Paraguy, Brasil, Italia, and the United States.

States who exchanged information on how to resist

repression and suggested strategies on how to resist land encroachment and defend, water,
a way of life and culture given the problems and threats the South American continent is
facing. This time a great number of organized resistance groups from all over the country
that oppose energy mega projects met and according to Isabel Christina Zuleta, member of
the Hidroitungo Citizens' Roundtable (Mesa de Debate de Hidroituango)" organizational
pressure is increasing given that the politics of energy and minerals is playing an ever more
significant role with the continuing growth of multinationals. Hydroelectric companies will
be more and more influential with the Santos government economic locomotive under full
steam which means that the conflicts will be even more severe in the future." Topics at the
conference were land grab threats, organizational progress and the continuing problems
communities encounter that live around completed reservoir projects such as the La Salvajina
Dam, located in the Cauca Department. Social, political and judicial actions needed to be
coordinated with the people and organizations in attendance.

This year's forum was an occasion for organized resistance to make its demands public in
regard to the impact of mega mining and hydroelectric projects, to condemn environmental
licence violations and that requests made by multinationals have been met. The forum looked
in greater depth at environmental infractions and it was announced that various civil and
criminal law suits would be filed with different control agencies. The new government and
the national development plan (Plan de Desarrollo Nacional) with its plans for additional
electric power projects as engine for economic development eliminate the problems these
megaprojects might encounter and clear the way "since it is very simple to say that it is in the
public interest to use up our water resources."
Also, these megaprojects cannot be seen in isolation and it needs to be clarified what the
connection actually is between the fact "that the richest regions of the country are also those
that are known for the most violence" and that "these energy projects are located in very
violent regions of the country as for example the Hidrosogamoso dam and its connection to
the history of violence in Barrancabermeja/Santander."

The future and nonviolent resistance

Miller Dussán saw the forum as a success because for the first time a majority of the
resistance organizations against mining and electric projecs as well as against agribusinesses
managed to attend. "This coordination effort is extremely important because it allowed
to discuss and analyzedifferent demands in such a way that they helped to strengthen the

empowerment of the communities and the struggle in defence of the land, biodiversity and
generics. What is also extremely significant is the fact that the resistance groups were able to
show that their arguments are serious and solid not from an academic or scientific point of
view but also because they mirror the experiences of the communities they are a part of."

An itinerant panel is being planned for the different regions affected like the one that took
place in Bogotá at the beginning of March. The objective would be to have nonviolent
resistance organizations and academia find common ground, that is to say with academic,
state and civic perspectives. Millar Dussán finds "most important what's to come now."
The forum produced a mission statement for the coordination of all the resistance movements
that will take to the streets in support of the 1st of May Demonstrations in defence of the land.
Dussán says that "we will demand from the multinationals and private capital that spoil the
environment and above all ruin our communities to get out."

The professor of the Universidad Surcolombiana also stated that if that should not happen
the people would initiate nonviolant actions given that "the land is ours and the State has
surrendered it to the interests of the multinationals and it no longer serves the interests of
our Nation." Just as these words were spoken at the end of the march through the streets
of Bogotá to the Ministry of the Environment about 300 people from rural districts such as
Orejón, Buenavista, La Calera and Chiri have brought the machinery of the Hidroituango dam
project, finca Caparrossa, to an indefinite halt starting March 15. This action was provoked
by numerous reported acts of violence and by a possible contamination of the community
water supply which is needed for the local artisanal and small-scale mining of gold (ASM).
The local people have called on Hidroituango on numerous occasions since the beginning
of the year to be adequately compensated and to have their problems be resolved as soon as
possible because of the danger of landslides as a result of the construction of the road below
which miners have to work. The community will be on strike indefinitely unless the company
responds to its petitions. As this article goes to press neither Hidroituango nor the police have
been seen at the site of the demonstration.
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remains unaltered, and the source, author, and
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Cúcuta-Norte de Santander, February 27, 2011
Written by Capitulo Norte Santandar

(Translated by Janelle Nodhturft, CSN, Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer

The region of Cataumbo-Norte de Santander in Colombia has been brutally hit by a paramilitary
incursion, leaving in its wake a total of more than 10,000 civilian peasants assassinated and massacred,
130,000 forcibly displaced, along with 800 disappearances. These acts were committed at the hands of
paramilitary structures that were reported as dismantled through the demobilization process.

However, social organizations and human rights groups present in this region have demonstrated and
refuted the fact that the structures of paramiliarism disappeared with the demobilization and that to
the contrary, paramilitary groups continue to generate terror through death threats and threats of
extermination. They now operate under the names Águilas Negras (Black Eagles), Rastrojos, Comando
Escorpión (Scorpion Command), etc.


_On Thursday February 17, 2011, approximately 50 uniformed individuals, heavily armed, came to Las
Veredas el Rancho and to Quebrada el Cancho located in the Guamalito section of the municipality of El
Carmen-Norte. In front of the populations of these towns they identified themselves as paramilitaries.

_At 3 p.m. on February 20th 2011, along the road that connects Las Veredas el Rancho and Quebrada el
Cancho, men with firearms that identified themselves as paramilitaries approached a peasant who lives
in this zone and robbed $800 from him.

_On the night of February 20th 2011, pamphlets were thrown along the stretch of road known as
SOCUBADO in the municipality of Tibú-Norte de Santander. The pamphlets presented an "ultimatum" to
the local peasants, implicitly accused them of being "drug sellers, whores, misers, rapists, drug addicts,
fake guerrilla fighters, and informants" and stated that "social cleansing is necessary…." It was signed
by "The Scorpion Command and the townspeople."

- On Monday Feburary 21st these same pamphlets were thrown all along the township of la Gabarra in
the municipality of Tibú Norte de Santander.

These incidences have created terror and uncertainty in the community. In response we call for the


We call on the relevant authorities to intervene immediately to investigate, sanction and dismantle in a
real, effective way the paramilitary groups in the Catatumbo region.


We call on regional, national and international human right organizations to demonstrate and
denounce this grave situation and the risk the civilian population faces. We must assure that the
death, devastation, and displacement the region has suffered for the past 11 years at the hands of the
paramilitaires, who operate in a context of impunity, doesn't repeat itself.


Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo-ASCAMCAT
Movimiento Nacional de Victimas de Crímenes de Estado Capitulo Norte de Santander-MOVICE
Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos Nodo Nororiental-CCEEU
Corporación Colectivo de Abogados Luis Carlos Pérez
Coordinación de Organizaciones Agrarias y Populares de Colombia-CONAP

Link: http://www.movimientodevictimas.org/index.php?

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Press Release

                                                                                                Bogotá, February 23, 2011
The Rural Community of Tame in Arauca Is Intimidated With Illegal Interrogations and False Testimony
(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)


The community in the neighborhood of Caño Camame and Caño Temblador in the rural area of Tame, Arauca, told Humanidad Vigente [Humanity in Action] of their concern and fear due to the presence of people escorted by military personnel who, since the end of January 2011, have been going door to door conducting interviews in the name of the Defensoría del Pueblo [People's Defender's Office], without presenting identification.
Towards the end of January, persons dressed as civilians arrived in the area in a military helicopter, escorted by the military personnel attached to Mobile Brigade 5, who are quite visible and who patrol this place. They visited several houses in which people who had given interviews to the Fiscalía General de la Nación [federal Attorney General's office] and who are potential witnesses to what occurred on October 2 and 14, 2010: that is, two girls were raped by a soldier and one, along with her two brothers, was assassinated. These facts are still being investigated.
These people, dressed as civilians and wearing camouflage jackets, told the people of the town that they were from the Defensoría del Pueblo in Bogotá. However, they refused to show identification that would prove that they were officials of that office.
Following that, the supposed officials of the Defensoría began to take exhaustive and incisive testimony regarding what the people knew of Jenny's rape and her subsequent murder, as well as the murders of her brothers Jimmy and Jefferson. All three were minors. These interrogations were recorded, some on tape and others in writing.
At the same time, during the interviews these people constantly asked about one of the direct victims of this incident, the girl who testified to being raped on October 2 and whose testimony led to the identification and capture of sub-Lt. Raúl Muñoz. He is currently being investigated by the Prosecutor's Office 51, a branch of the office of Human Rights.
In addition, the people of the townships testified that several soldiers who patrolled the area during the time that the two girls and two boys became victims, in October of 2010, continue to be seen in the [same] neighborhoods, making comments and giving false testimony about the crimes against the boys and girls of Tame, creating confusion in the inhabitants of the affected communities.
Humanidad Vigente calls on the Defensoría del Pueblo to respond to the formal complaints made by the communities in this area. It is essential to find out if those men were truly officials of the Defensoría. Even before this, the reason should be clarified as to why they were not clearly identified, with the blue vest with the logo of their agency; why they were travelling in military vehicles; and above all, why they conducted intimidating interviews with the community.
If the name of the agency has been abused by military personnel dressed as civilians, we demand that the Defensoría del Pueblo make a strong statement and take all necessary measures to ensure that the Army does not carry out the functions of the Judicial Police, illegally interrogating people in the communities.
Finally, we demand that the other judicial agencies, such as the Procuraduría[federal internal affairs agency] and the Fiscalía, as well as the international community, mass media, human rights organizations, and public opinion in general, investigate and make statements that would prevent the peasants of Tame from continuing to be victims of abuses carried out by state institutions, especially the Armed Forces.



This project has the support of the European Union

The content of this comuniqué is the responsibility of the author and may not represent the position of the European Commission

Human Vigente Judicial Corporation / Carrera 28 # 47A-84 / T 268 12 93 – 335 02 11 / Bogotá / Colombia www.humanidadvigente.net / Follow us on Facebook:



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Asociación de Campesinos del Tolima [The Association of Peasants of Tolima—SC] confronts persecution and transnational interests

The peasant leaders Héctor Orozco and Gildardo García are murdered after denouncing harassment by the Army.
(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)
FENSUAGRO-CUT [Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria-Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia—National Confederated Agricultural/livestock Union Federation-Confederation of Workers of Colombia—SC]
Agencia Prensa Rural [Rural Press Agency—SC]
La Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Tolima – ASTRACATOL [The Association of Rural Workers of Tolima—SC], an affiliate of FENSUAGRO-CUT, denounces before national and international public opinion, institutions, governmental and non-governmental human rights organizations, the murder of the peasants Héctor Orozco, vice-president of the ASTRACATOL section in Chaparral and Gildardo García, which took place on March 30, 2011 in the rural community of La Marina, in the municipality of Chaparral.

1.              La Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Tolima – ASTRACATOL, an affiliate of FENSUAGRO-CUT, recognized legally in 2007 as a result of important processes of peasant mobilization in the department, is an agrarian and union organization made up by peasants and rural workers of Tolima who have organized to demand the democratic construction of an agrarian policy, as well as to guarantee their permanence in their territory and effective defense of their rights.


2.              One of the Sectional chapters of ASTRACATOL is located in the municipality of Chaparral, where both the peasant organizing process and its leaders have been victims of accusations, hostility and human rights violations by troops of the National Army who are present in the region.


3.              The military presence in Chaparral increased significantly in the last three years, with a strong accent in the most recent period. The concentration of troops of the National Army has as its goal guaranteeing the presence of transnational companies interested in exploiting the natural resources of the region, which abounds in sources of water and watersheds. Currently, ISAGEN [a mixed private-public corporation affiliated with the Ministry of Mines and Energy—SC] is carrying out the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Amoyá River; two high mountain battalions were created to protect it in the Las Hermosas Canyon.


4.              Added to the foregoing is the creation of the Southern Task Force in April of 2010 which has meant an increase in the levels of persecution of the rural population of the area and the leaders of ASTRACATOL, as well as ongoing violations of International Humanitarian Law by the troops of the National Army, which put the lives of the civilian population at risk.


During recent months, the life of the peasants of the rural community of La Marina has been carried out under this panorama. The population center of the community, its surrounding area and access routes have been militarized by troops of the National Army, generated heavy restrictions on transit and in the development of rural daily life, and involving the civilian population in the dynamics of the armed conflict.




1.              On March 30, 2011, at approximately 6 in the afternoon, the peasants Héctor Orozco and Gildardo García were going home on motorcycles on the road that runs between the urban center of Chaparral and the urban community of La Marina; they were murdered near the community of Espíritu Santo-Albania by firearms. There are no witnesses to the deed. However, we must mention that this area is fully militarized and less than 400 meters from the place where this happened there is a permanent presence of troops of the National Army near what is called the Espíritu Santo crossing.


2.              Once the lifeless bodies of the peasants were found, the competent authorities (the mayor's office of Chaparral, the prosecutor's office and CTI [Cuerpo Técnico de Investigación, the crime scene investigators—SC]) were alerted so they could begin the process of removing the bodies. However, the response was negligent, and the removal of the bodies could only be carried out at 11 in the morning of the 31st of March, more than twelve hours after the murders had occurred. During this period, the bodies of the victims were exposed to the weather, and their families were confronted with a period of suffering without being able to recover their loved ones.


3.              Right now the autopsies are being performed. This has also been delayed; the families are waiting for the bodies to give them Christian burials.

Héctor García was a peasant from the settlement of San Fernando in the rural community of La Marina. As a distinguished leader of the community he functioned as vice-president of the Junta de Acción Comunal [Communal Action Board—the elected leadership body of the community—SC] and vice-president of the Chapparral Chapter of ASTRACATOL. He was 35 years of age. He was married and had 3 minor children.
Gildardo García was a peasant from the settlement of Florestal-Ambeina in the rural community of La Marina. He was a member of the Junta de Acción Comunal of his community. He was 32 years of age. He was married and the father of 4 minor children.
The Asociación de Trabajadores Campesina del Tolima – ASTRACATOL rejects the murder of these peasants that occurred in the rural community of La Marina, as well as whatever other type of violation that would affect the rights of the peasants and/or that is aimed that persecuting the grassroots organizing processes that we have built in defense of our territory.
We therefore demand:
Of the State: that it guarantee and make effective the human rights of members of the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesina del Tolima – ASTRACATOL, as well as guaranteeing the right of free association and opposition.
Of the national government: that it take appropriate measures to assure the lives, honor and personal integrity of the members of the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesina del Tolima – ASTRACATOL, and of peasants in general.
Of the Office of the Vice-president of the Republic: That it make a commitment to guarantee the human rights of the members of the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesina del Tolima – ASTRACATOL.
Of the Inspector General: that he investigate the facts explained here to the extent that it fits within his responsibility.
Of the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation: that they investigate and clarify the facts mentioned here and move forward the appropriate actions in the face of this case, guaranteeing Truth, Justice and Reparations for the victims and their families.
Of the United Nations: that they make a pronouncement about this situation.
Of the Defender of the People [government agency charged with defending the legal and human rights of citizens—SC] that they make a pronouncement and take action in the face of possible violations of the human rights of the members and leaders of the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesina del Tolima – ASTRACATOL, which will continue developing its work in the department.

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(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN Volunteer Editor.)

" . . . The Community had insisted to the Public Defender's Office that the appropriate authorities ought to carry out the judicial inspection of the bodies, but they paid no attention.  According to the Public Defender's Office, the Army had carried out exercises in that area and they stated that the Community was lying about the bodies.  They said there had not been any combat and that there were no dead bodies in the area; nor were there any paramilitaries . . ."
Our Peace Community decided yesterday, April 11, 2011, that we would go to recover the remains of the two paramilitaries who lay unburied in the town of Arenas Bajas after the combat that took place on Friday, April 1 between the guerrillas and the paramilitaries.  The Community had insisted to the Public Defender's Office that the appropriate authorities ought to carry out the judicial inspection of the bodies, but they paid no attention.  According to the Public Defender's Office, the Army had carried out exercises in that area and they stated that the Community was lying about the bodies.  They said there had not been any combat and that there were no dead bodies in the area; nor were there any paramilitaries. 
In spite of that, the people in the area had seen how on April 1 a group of 25 paramilitaries entered the area to inspect the bodies of their comrades, but they did not take them away.  Meanwhile a military helicopter was protecting them from the air.  Our Community by now is accustomed to hearing falsehoods from the Army and other government institutions, so this kind of lying and hiding of the raw reality of events is not surprising.
Many people who do not know us, who have not walked with us, ask how it is possible that these paramilitaries who have threatened us, who have frequently warned us to abandon our land and who have taken part in a multitude of crimes against us, working with the armed forces, we now treat in a humanitarian way, to the extent that we even went to recover their remains and bury them with a little dignity.  Within the criteria of the system of death and inhumanity that surrounds us, that is not understood.  Rather, in their society, the principle of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" rules.  In their speeches, our presidents incite us to take revenge against the insurgency.  They use barbaric language, language that makes you shiver. 
But we do not share those principles.  Our battle for justice is completely alien and contrary to feelings of revenge.  We demand justice; we say NO to the armed actors.  We demand their respect; we do not give in to their demands.  We will not surrender to their threats and their acts of barbarity.  They certainly generate fear in us and intense pain with their criminal acts, but what they have never been able to do, nor will they be able to do, is to generate hate in us.  Our hearts throb with life and they will never beat for death.  That is exactly why we seek justice, not revenge.  We believe that the dignity of any human being is more important than the conflicts and that is why our Community has made the choice to recover the remains, bury them and/or turn them over to their families.
We risked our own lives to go looking for these remains.  We wanted to demonstrate that life could only be fulfilled and expressed when the ideals of justice are carried out.  We are in contrast to those who spread death.  They only create pain and death with their weapons, even though they will never kill civilian resistance.  That is what builds and gives meaning to a world that will be free of oppression, of impunity, and of injustice.
We turned the bodies over to their families and they expressed to us their gratitude.  They had experienced the dehumanization of a government that lies and toys with the families' grief in such a repugnant manner, after having destroyed the conscience of those whom they have bound and trained to do the most horrible crimes.
We reaffirm our principles that are based in solidarity and we will continue with the firm defense of our land, and we will continue to make a truthful record, and we will not retreat even one millimeter in the face of the deadly actions of the armed actors.
April 12, 2011
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Return has been on our minds since the day they kicked us out

The displaced rural community "Las Pavas" returns to its land for good

(Translated by Stephanie DeBello, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)

Today, April 4, at 7:10 a.m. Colombian time, more than 70 adults returned to the property Las Pavas (El Peñón, Southern Bolívar) from which they were removed in July 2009 after being previously forcibly displaced and having returned several times (1996, 2003 and 2009). These people demand that the Colombian State does not treat the practice of exercising the fundamental right to return as a crime and urges it to protect the life projects that have been historically built in the Southern Bolívar region, "respecting the environment, our rural economy and alimentary sovereignty which we wish to pass on to our future generations." The return to Las Pavas was initiated by a group from the community – which in the following days joined the rest of the community, comprising more than 100 families – with the support of different national and international organizations. A press release was circulated to clarify their reasoning and demands.

The community organized with the Campesino Association of Buenos Aires (ASOCAB) and walked from the sector of Buenos Aires accompanied by several national and international organizations. The community has autonomously decided that it will exercise its right as a displaced population to return to its land. In several public messages ASOCAB has declared its intention to peacefully return to those lands and remain there. At the entrance of the land there are 20 police officers with whom they are contending.

In Bogotá, this act of return will be reinforced by supporters in solidarity with the community who will go to the Ministry of Agriculture to demand fair living conditions and security guarantees for the community. The community, the protesters and the organizations that accompany them demand that the State refrain from using police measures to resolve the land conflict and that it immediately convene the Southern Bolívar Commission for Dialogue so that an agreement is made to guarantee that the community can stay in its territory.

Demands from the Community to Stay on its Land

Today, Monday, two members of the community are in Bogotá and will give a list of demands to the Ministry of Agriculture on behalf of the entire community. The community demands that the parcels of land named Las Pavas, Peñaloza  and Si Dios Quiere are returned to them and that the remaining 11 parcels of abandoned land that comprise the area of Las Pavas are adjudicated to them with the ongoing support of the offices of the Ombudsman, Attorney General, the Presidential Program for Social Action, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Agriculture. They also want the authorities to investigate the events that led to their forced displacement and the dispossession of their land that followed, as well as the, "possible links between Jesús Emilio Escobar Fernández and the companies CI Tequendama and Aportes San Isidro with paramilitary groups, and their relationship with Mr. Mario Mármol, who was one of the perpetrators of our forced displacement."

ASOCAB demands that the State investigate the supposed irregularities committed by the Prosecutor 39 of San Martin de Loba (Bolívar) and its jurisdiction in that region for the recent investigations opened against members of ASOCAB. Likewise, ASOCAB urges the Attorney General's Office to advance the necessary investigations to determine responsibility for the actions of Incoder officials, the Police Inspector of El Peñón, the judge of the First Circuit Court of Mompox, the Police Commander of Bolívar and the officials from the Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Agriculture that have intervened in the land conflict with the palm companies CI Tequendama and Aportes San Isidro.

Baseless Prosecutions and Threats

The return of ASOCAB occurs less than a week after the Prosecutor 39 of San Martín de Loba opened judicial proceedings against three of its members, accusing them of the alleged crime of attempting to invade land. That same day, March 30, one of them, Misael Payeres, was summoned for the alleged crime of slander as a result of a report from Mario Mármol, a person that the community affirms is part of the paramilitary structure that perpetrated their displacement in 2003 and that still works in the region in conjunction with the palm companies. Both denouncements were based on the February 14th interview on the radio station 'La W' where ASOCAB explicitly declared its right to return.

After publicly announcing its intention to return, the community has reported the presence of outsiders in the town of Buenos Aires who, "constantly follow the ASOCAB leaders," the pressure that certain members of ASOCAB  receive from members of the corporation Labrador, and the burning of the communal salon by unknown individuals. It is for these reasons that the community demands protection and accompaniment by the national and regional civilian authorities with the aim of guaranteeing their security as they return to their lands. In this regard they are asking the State to order the National Police to, "refrain from engaging in actions that may obstruct, hinder, or otherwise impede our return to these parcels of land and that they take the necessary measures to prevent any attacks from the illegal armed actors against our community". This demand was formulated based on the information ASOCAB says it has that, "the palm companies would be inclined to resort to collaborating with these delinquents in order to impede our return to the land from which we were displaced".

Lawsuit for Las Pavas and the Plan de Choque

The land of Las Pavas is part of a legal dispute for ownership between ASOCAB and the Corporation El Labrador – the current owner of a part of the parcels in use for palm oil production – which is formed by C.I. Tequendama (Daabon Group) and Aportes San Isidro S.A. This corporation caused the community's previous displacement in June 2009, when police removed people from their land in an act whose legality is still being considered before the Constitutional Court. Additionally, since September 2009 the Constitutional Court has been considering a case regarding the right of return and restitution for the rural population, but it still hasn't come to a decision.

The families of ASOCAB were included in the Ministry of Agriculture's plan for land restitution (Plan de Choque). On March 25, Ministry officials visited the community to inform them about the foreseen measures for ASOCAB. The rural displaced community denounces and rejects the government's attempts to "support those who have benefitted from paramilitarism and displacement in Colombia, specifically in Southern Bolívar". The state proposal involves the recuperation of abandoned national lands that does not include Las Pavas nor a contract of loan and restitution between the corporation Labrador and the community to ensure that the palm consortium cedes some of its land to the rural families.  ASOCAB affirms that, "this is not a restitution plan but a proposal in favor of the palm companies that is detrimental to our fundamental rights." 

Environmental Damage

The community also insists that the palm growers' consortium has caused environmental damage in the region that is documented in different reports such as the International Verification Mission on the Impacts of Biofuels in Colombia which was done in June 2009 and whose results were published by the Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN).

The November 2009 study of the Las Pavas case on the "environmental impacts of palm oil expansion in Magdalena Medio," carried out by organizations that accompany the displaced community, provide evidence of the environmental damage in the region essentially due to the cultivation of palm oil by the companies Aportes San Isidro and C.I. Tequendama. The Commission's visit affirms that, "during our inspection no readily available water source appeared to the naked eye to be suitable for human consumption." The development of palm oil in the zone negatively affects essential natural elements such as wetlands, rivers, forests, air, flora and fauna.

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