Andean Theater

COLOMBIA: PEASANT ACTIVISTS ASSASSINATED, U.S. TROOPS BUSTED

by Weekly News Update on the Americas

SOLDIERS KILL MORE CIVILIANS

On March 27, relatives found the bodies of Colombian campesinos Javier Alexander Cubillos, Wilder Cubillos and Heriberto Delgado at the morgue in Fusagasuga, Cundinamarca department. The army had apparently taken their bodies there, claiming they were guerrillas killed in combat. The three men were Communist Party activists from the community of San Juan de Sumapaz, in the federal district of Bogota, just north of Fusagasuga. They had been missing since March 18, when they went to the community of La Hoya del Nevado to inspect some of their family's livestock. Several days later, the media published reports that three guerrillas had been killed in combat in the area. The Neighborhood Association of San Juan de Sumapaz and the Union of Agricultural Workers insist that the three men were not guerrillas and did not die in combat, but were murdered by the Colombian army. (Red de Defensores no Institucionalizados, March 30)

A coalition of community groups and trade unions in the region released a public statement saying that the three men were well-known political and campesino activists in the region who were leading members of both their trade union, the National United Agricultural Union Federation (FENSUAGRO), and the local branch of the Colombian Communist Party. Messages of protest can be sent to Vice President Francisco Santos at fsantos@presidencia.gov.co; Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe at siden@mindefensa.gov.co, infprotocol@mindefensa.gov.co; and Carlos Franco, head of the president's human rights program, at cefranco@presidencia.gov.co. (Justice for Colombia, UK, March 30)

FENSUAGRO's secretary of organization, Luz Perly Cordoba, was released on March 16 after spending more than a year in prison in Bogota. Cordoba, also president of the Campesino Association of Arauca (ACA), was arrested on Feb. 18, 2004, along with another ACA leader, Juan Gutierrez Ardila. Both are now out on bail; they are still facing charges for "rebellion," and their trial has been transferred to Arauca. A "drug trafficking" charge against Cordoba--for her outspoken opposition to the government's policy of aerial spraying of herbicides on farmland--has been dropped. (Prensa Rural, Feb. 18, March 19; Movimiento Social de Catalunya y Valencia, Feb. 1, via Colombia Indymedia)

For more on Luz Perly Cordoba, see WW4 REPORT #97

U.S. SOLDIERS IN DRUG BUST

Five US Army soldiers were detained on March 29 for allegedly using a US military plane to smuggle 35 pounds of cocaine from Colombia into the US, the US Southern Command announced on March 31. The soldiers' identities, hometowns and duties in Colombia were not released. Air Force Lt. Col. Eduardo Villavicencio, a spokesperson for the Southern Command, would not say whether the five had been officially charged or whether they are officers or enlisted personnel. The soldiers had been under surveillance by US and Colombian investigators for "some time," a Colombian defense ministry spokesperson told the Miami Herald. Officials waited for the soldiers to attempt to enter the US with the drugs before arresting them. The US has 500 soldiers in Colombia as part of a multibillion-dollar "anti-drug" and counterinsurgency effort. Many of these soldiers are Special Forces personnel who train Colombian military personnel in anti-narcotics operations. (Miami Herald, April 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 3

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #107

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, April 10, 2005

COLOMBIA VS. VENEZUELA: Big Oil's Secret War?

by Bill Weinberg

"Oilmen are like cats; you can never tell from the sound of them whether they are fighting or making love."

--Calouste Gulbenkian

COLOMBIA: PEACE COMMUNITY UNDER OCCUPATION

President Uribe Threatens San Jose de Apartado Following Massacre

by Virginia McGlone

After eight years of existence, the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in Antioquia, Colombia, continues to stand strong in the midst of a war that they do not want to be part of. But in the wake of the Feb. 21 massacre of community leader Luis Eduardo Guerra together with his eleven-year-old son and six close friends and relatives, the community faces the gravest crisis of its history.

Guerra and his comrades were massacred on their way to his cocoa grove, near Mulatos, one of the outlying settlements that dot the hills around San Jose de Apartado. An outspoken leader of the community who had traveled to participate in international human rights forums, Guerra had been receiving death threats for a year. In December, he was detained at a local army checkpoint and briefly interrogated by troops of the 11th Brigade. In August, his wife and young daughter were killed by a grenade left behind by the Army's 11th Brigade following a battle with guerillas in their settlement of La Union. Over the summer, two local campesinos at San Jose, Leonel Sánchez Ospina and Joaquin Rodríguez David, were assassinated by paramilitary gunmen who operate on village lands with the connivance of the army.

For months before the massacre, campesinos traveling from San Jose Peace Community settlements towards Apartado, the municipal seat some 20 kilometers away, were routinely harassed by soldiers, held at roadblocks and interrogated about their supposed support of the FARC guerillas. After denying any knowledge, they were accused of covering for the guerrillas, then sent back with a warning to the rest of the Peace Community threatening reprisals for guerilla collaboration.

In the days following the massacre, San Jose's settlements of Bella Vista, Alto Bonito and Buenos Aries came under indiscriminate machine-gun fire and bombardment by military helicopters, forcing some 200 campesinos to abandon their homes and groves.

Things have only deteriorated since then. An April 1 statement from the Peace Community reported a "massive displacement" of residents from various settlements as well as San Jose's central village towards the hamlet of La Holandita, where a refugee camp has been established. The mass flight, both from sporadic aerial bombardments and the military occupation of the villages, has prompted the attention of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has sent a team to San Jose.

The Peace Community had planned to celebrate its eighth year on March 22 by officially declaring seven of the settlements as Peace Zones, and demanding recognition by the government, paramilitaries and guerillas alike as communities of conscientious objection. Instead, they are alerting international human rights organizations of the dire emergency they face. The community's March 22 statement said that the government has made clear its "plans to do away with the Peace Community."

On March 15, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, meeting in Costa Rica, issued an urgent statement calling upon the Colombian government to comply with earlier orders to assure the safety of San Jose de Apartado's communities.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's response was to accuse the Peace Community of collaborating with guerrilla forces. In a speech delivered March 20, following a meeting of his Security Council in Carepa, Antioquia, Uribe said: "The peace communities have the right to establish themselves in Colombia thanks to our regime of liberties. But they cannot, as is practiced in San Jose de Apartado, obstruct justice, reject the Public Force... In this community of San Jose de Apartado there are good people, but some of their leaders, sponsors and defenders are seriously signaled by people who reside there as auxiliaries of the FARC, and they want to use the community to protect this terrorist organization."

Rights groups protest that Uribe's statement puts the community of San Jose at risk of another massacre by the army or paramilitaries. Uribe also criticized Peace Community members for their unwillingness to collaborate with the military investigation into the massacre. Peace Community leaders counter that they have every reason to mistrust the military. They point to the experience in 2000, when a similar massacre occurred at the settlement of La Union; when residents testified to authorities about the involvement of the military, many were threatened and some others were assassinated.

The Peace Community maintains that the government is working in bad faith as long as their village and settlements remain under military occupation. The community's March 22 statement cited the Colombian constitution's guarantee to self-determination and international law in support of their right to non-involvement in the war.

Meanwhile, human rights organizations within Colombia and around the world are waiting for Uribe to issue a formal reply to the demands of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. Stateside peace groups which support the community, such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation, are struggling to give a public voice to San Jose de Apartado as the world's attention is elsewhere.

RESOURCES:

Fellowship of Reconciliation on the San Jose massacre

Genocide goes better with Fuji-Cola

Disgraced former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori—now hiding from corruption charges in Japan, and officially barred from seeking office until 2010—hopes to run for president again in 2006, and is promoting his campaign with a new soft-drink, Fuji-Cola, a fizzy product he says "will quench the thirst of popular discontent." (BBC, March 22)

COLOMBIA: MASSACRE AT PEACE COMMUNITY

Peasant Pacifist Leader and Family Killed by Army at San Jose de Apartado

by Virginia McGlone

Less than a month away from the eighth anniversary of the founding of the
Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, in Colombia's violence-torn
Antioquia department, a campaign of intimidation by the Colombian army in
collaboration with paramilitary forces has left several dead at the
village. The community had planned on using the occasion of the March 23
anniversary to officially declare seven more of its outlying settlements as
Peace Zones, or areas of non-cooperation in the war.

PERU: COCALEROS PROTEST SPRAYING, SHINING PATH ATTACKS

by Weekly News Update on the Americas

COCALEROS BLOCK ROADS

On Feb. 17, campesino coca growers (cocaleros) in the Peruvian district of
Tocache, in the Huallaga valley in San Martin region, began an open-ended
strike to protest the recent aerial spraying of pesticides by the Peruvian
National Police (PNP) over coca fields and other crops. Both the Interior
Ministry and the government's anti-drug office denied they had conducted
any such spraying as part of recent anti-drug operations in the zone. The
strike was called by the Committee of Struggle in Defense of the

COLOMBIA: MASSACRE AT PEACE COMMUNITY

Peasant Pacifist Leader and Family Killed by Army at San Jose de Apartado

by Virginia McGlone

Less than a month away from the eighth anniversary of the founding of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, in Colombia's violence-torn Antioquia department, a campaign of intimidation by the Colombian army in collaboration with paramilitary forces has left several dead at the village. The community had planned on using the occasion of the March 23 anniversary to officially declare seven more of its outlying settlements as Peace Zones, or areas of non-cooperation in the war.

In late February, troops began mobilizing to San Jose de Apartado's outlying settlements, especially Mulatos; several members of these communities have been detained and interrogated. The communities of Buena Vista, Alto Bonito and Buenos Aires have come under indiscriminate bombardment by helicopter, displacing some 200 peasants. Finally, one the founders and leaders of the Peace Community has been massacred together with his family and close friends.

Luis Eduardo Guerra, 35, was murdered on Feb. 21 by what area witness testimony confirms to have been an operative of the 11th Brigade of the Colombian army. Luis Eduardo's remains were found together with those of his son Deiner Andres Guerra Tuberquia, 11, and his companion Beyanira Areiza Guzman, 17. The bodies were found naked and partly mutilated, with signs of torture and beatings; Deiner's head was found several meters from his body. They were apparently detained while working their cocoa fields near Mulatos, and taken to the nearby settlement of La Resbalosa, where they were slain and left in a shallow grave.

Members of the community of Mulatos searching for Guerra also found the bodies of Alfonso Bolivar Tuberquia, 30, close friend of Guerra and member of the Peace Community council in Mulatos; his wife Sandra Milena Munoz Pozo, 24; and their children Santiago Tuberquia Munoz, 2, and Natalia Andrea Tuberquia Munoz, 6. This family was also found with signs of torture and partly mutilated.

The process of corroborating these events was a slow one due to negligence on the part of the national prosecutor's office (Fiscalia) commission that was sent to investigate the matter. After receiving the information from the Peace Community counsel, it took until Feb. 26 for the bodies to be officially processed, and another two days before they were returned to their relatives.

The world peace and human rights community have hailed San Jose de Apartado as a key player in the process towards peace in a country that has known almost half a century of war. In recent years, rights observers stationed at the village from Peace Brigades International and Fellowship of Reconciliation have helped restrain armed attacks on the community. The new killings represent a significant escalation.

The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado is demanding that the government punish those responsible for the massacre of Luis Eduardo Guerra, his family and his friends, and all human rights violations that have taken place in the area over the last eight years.

The Peace Community is also demanding that their initiative to declare themselves conscientious objectors as a whole community-a stance they call "active neutrality"-be respected as a constitutional right.

Luis Eduardo Guerra was a primary voice of these demands and initiatives, having been appointed by his community as interlocutor with the state and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which recently issued orders to the Colombian government to protect residents and leaders of the Peace Community.

Guerra had taken his community's message to NGOs and forums in countries like Germany, Spain, Italy and the United States, but always kept the focus on the struggle in his jungle village. As he told one international conference at the Social Forum of the Americas, in Quito in July 2004:

"Why so many meetings and events, if we are getting murdered, gentleman? Why expensive hotels, NGO experts and so many intellectuals-all of this for what, if what we urgently need is that you to helps to not die."

---

RESOURCES:

Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado:
http://www.cdpsanjose.org

State Department rights report reveals double standard on Venezuela, Colombia

On Feb. 28, the US State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, covering 2004. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) finds that some of the findings have been shaped by "political considerations":

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