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