A Jan. 12 communique from the San José de Apartadó Peace Community in Colombia’s northern Urabá region, via the Colombian independent human rights network Red de Defensores:
On Jan. 12, 2006, the army assassinated Edilberto Vasquez Cardona, 53 years old, a member of the humanitarian zone of Arenas Altas. Edilberto was the first leader of the Arenas Altas humanitarian zone, and was replaced by Arlen [Salas David], also assassinated by the army [in November].
At around 7 PM on Jan. 11, Edilberto laid down to sleep in his house located between Arenas Altas and Guineo Alto. With him was his son of 12 years. On the morning of Jan. 12, the army arrived very early, and forced him from the house. At some 20 minutes from his house, in the farmlands of the community of Arenas Altas at 7:15 AM, Edilberto was assassinated by gunshot.
At the same hour, in farmlands some 150 meters from where Edilberto was killed, the army shot at a house where two members of our community were inside. The couple ran out of the house, dodging the bullets and grenades the the army was hurling against them.
Later, the young son of Edilberto went down to San Josesito [refugee camp where the Peace Community leadership is currently based] to report what had happened. The report was immediately passed on to [representatives of] the Defensoría [del Pueblo, the government human rights ombudsman] who arrived at San Josecito. When the Defensoría asked the army what had ocurred, they replied that they had encountered a guerilla who carried a portable radio, rifle and grenades.
At around 11 AM, the army brought Edilberto’s body down to San José, denying his family the right to view it for identification. Family members and representatives from the Defensoría arrived at Edilberto’s home at around 1 PM. There they found issued by the army’s Counterguerrilla Unit 33. They spoke to witnesses to the killing, and found Edilberto’s blood and brains at a 20-minute walk from the house.
The facts indicate the following: the same assassins who nearly a year ago took the lives of eight people [at San José], are now bringing their machinery of terror to Arenas Altas, where in November of last year they assassinated Arlen. It is evident that the government is doing everything to annihilate us, and to justify their deadly actions it brands us as guerillas. We are thrown from our homes, we are tied up and mutilated, and they always wash their hands with the same lie: we are guerillas.
The audacity is total, the [plan for the] extermination of the community is evident, the humanitarian zones [established by the Peace Community] are now targets of the public forces, the campesinos are prey to hunt down and exterminate.
But the audacity of the state is not limited to the cowardly assassinations. While there has still been no justice in these cases, the Fiscalía [state prosecutor] has called for testimony Gildardo Tuberquia, a member of our internal counsel. For the Fiscalía, for the government, for the State, the victims are the killers and the killers are the victims. But before this injustice we will not yield and we will not retreat; the state may be able to exterminate us, it may be able to take our lives, but it will never be able to take our dignity, and it is this which will be judged one day by humanity.
Edilberto, thank you for your contributions, for your life, your nine children who continue with the community, building the reality of a world different from the world of death and war, a world of life, and justice.
We thank the national and international solidarity [we have received], all those who cannot remain silent at injustice and the weapons that blind the lives of those who build alternatives for a different world. (Translation by WW4 REPORT)