Colombia: indigenous leader killed in “false positive” attack

The Colombian army this week admitted that a man killed weeks earlier in the eastern department of Arauca—originally reported to be a “financial leader” of the FARC guerillas, identified by the alias “Humberto Peroza Wampiare”—was actually a leader of a local indigenous community, and a noncombatant. The fallen man is now identified as a member of the cabildo (community council) of the resguardo (indigenous reserve) of La Vorágine, of the Hitnu people, located near La IlusiĂłn pueblo, Arauca municipality. Col. Ă“scar Cardona originally reported the death, which occurred June 10 at Santa Ana vereda (hamlet), Arauquita municipality, as that of a guerilla killed in combat. The army now calls this a “military error.”

Most media reports did not mention the name of the indigenous leader, although Arauca’s local Canal CNC identified him as Humberto Guampiare Peroza, a close variation on the supposed alias of the possibly non-existent FARC operative originally said to have been killed. La Vorágine community leader Alexander UncasĂ­a UncarĂ­a said the deceased had been hunting and visiting local fincas (farms) in search of work with four other indigenous men when they became aware of the military presence and began to run away. The soldiers responded by opening fire, he said.

Marcela Cruz, lawyer for the family of the deceased, is calling for Colombia’s Prosecutor General to investigate the case. “It should be aggravated homicide,” she said. “It was an act on a protected person, a civilian, of the indigenous communities of Arauca.” The army’s Military Penal Justice system is said to be conducting its own investigation of the soldiers involved in the incident, as part of the pattern of “false positives“—the killing of noncombatants to artificially inflate the number of guerillas said to be killed in action. (Colombia Reports, Noticias Uno, June 28; El Espectador, Radio Caracol, Bogotá, June 18; Canal CNC, Arauca, June 13 )

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