At midday on Oct. 16, Orlando Valencia, an Afro-Colombian representative of the Community Council of Curvaradó in the department of Chocó, was arbitrarily detained and “disappeared,” despite being protected by official measures of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The abduction took place immediately after the vehicle in which he was travelling with human rights observers and other members of the community, en route to a regional peasant assembly, was stopped by the National Police in the municipality of Belén de Bajirá. The police demanded the occupants’ documents at rifle-point and briefly detained them. On the way to the local police station, they passed a truck filled with men they recognized as paramilitaries. They were released after several hours of interrogation, in which Valencia was accused of being a “reinsertado”—a demobilized guerilla fighter
Upon their release, they made for the home of a local campesino—but there they were accosted by two paramilitary gunmen who had followed them on a motorcycle. They demanded Valencia, and when the rights observers objected they levelled their weapons and said, “Let’s go, or we’ll fight it out right here.” They drove off with Valencia. At presstime, no information is available on the whereabouts of Orlando Valencia. (Red de Defensores No Institucionalizados, Oct. 12)
NOTE: At the time of his “disappearance,” Valencia was about to leave for the United States to speak at an Oct. 21-23 conference in Chicago entitled “Partnering for Peace,” on building ties of solidarity between communities in the US and Colombia. He had just been denied a visa by the US authorities.
See our last post and our last report on Colombia’s ongoing human rights crisis.
How you can help
Fellowship of Reconciliaiton, which was sponsoring Orlando Valencia, provides this information on how you can help assure his safe return. Please act immediately, as Valencia’s life is almost certainly in jeopardy.
African Americans in Latin America