Colombia: campesinos massacred in Nariño

On June 25, a group of 10 to 12 heavily armed hooded men wearing camouflage clothing and traveling in a red sport utility vehicle fired their weapons indiscriminately at the “Discovery Villanueva” disco and pool hall in the center of Villanueva, a village in Colón Génova municipality in the southern Colombian department of Nariño. Eight campesinos were killed in the attack: Celso López, Sandro López, Horacio Gómez, Luis Gil, Libio Noguera, Luis Arcos, Plinio Noguera and 15-year-old Albey Gaviria. Four other campesinos were wounded. (Agencia Prensa Rural, June 28, from Comité de Integración del Macizo Colombiano-CIMA; Noticias Terra, June 26, from AFP) The victims were all campesinos who earned a living cultivating coffee. (El Tiempo, Colombia, July 4)

Paramilitary groups from the “Bloque Calima” have been in Villanueva since 2002, when they established the village as an important base for their actions in the surrounding area. The paramilitaries have since carried out forced displacement, forced disappearances, and selective murders of residents in the municipalities of Colón Génova, San Pablo, La Unión, La Cruz, San Bernardo and Belén, all in the eastern area of Nariño, and in neighboring Florencia municipality in Cauca department. After the paramilitaries were officially “demobilized” in 2006, the same groups reappeared with the names “Nueva Generación” (New Generation) and “Los Rastrojos.”

The latest massacre came just over a week after community members and activists from the region took part in a “First Forum on Mining and Water” in Colón Génova on June 17. Participants in the forum reported that multinational corporations have been pressuring local communities to allow the exploitation of mineral resources in the area, including gold, silver and copper. (Agencia Prensa Rural, June 28, from Comité de Integración del Macizo Colombiano-CIMA)

Nariño governor Antonio Navarro Wolff, himself a former leader of the demobilized M-19 leftist rebel movement, said the massacre was a surprise because “there was no information about illegal armed groups in this zone.” (El Colombiano, Colombia, June 28)

Nariño Secretary of Government Fabio Trujillo said the massacre may have been carried out by common criminals, but that initial investigations suggest the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group was responsible. According to Trujillo, one theory is that the massacre was in revenge for the killing of an ELN informant a week earlier. (El Universal, Cartagena, June 29, from Colprensa-El Colombiano; El Tiempo, July 4)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 10.

See our last posts on Colombia, the paramilitary terror and the mineral cartel in Latin America.