Colombia: more community leaders murdered

On the night of Jan. 1, an armed group entered the village of El Cedro in Yarumal municipality, in the Colombian department of Antioquia, and shot to death four civilians, two men and two women. The victims included Yolanda Munoz Herrera, vice president of El Cedro’s Community Action Board, and Jose Argemiro Mora Zapata, who was the Community Action Board’s president and managed a local radio station in the village.

Jair Jimenez, Antioquia’s acting secretary of government, said that according to government security agencies, the perpetrators were from the 36th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Yarumal mayor Rodrigo Jaramillo said other civilians were wounded. “[P]ublic forces have not been able to reach the site, and the situation of the civilian population is critical,” he said. (AFP, Jan. 2; Cadena Peruana de Noticias, Jan. 2; EFE, Jan. 4) Jaramillo asked the International Committee of the Red Cross (CICR) to help authorities reach the area, where several fronts of FARC and National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels as well as rightwing paramilitary groups are active. (El Espectador, Bogota, Jan. 2)

AP quoted Fernando Rodriguez, described as “acting mayor” of Yarumal, as saying that the FARC had entered El Cedro “and with list in hand, pulled four community leaders from their homes and murdered them despicably in front of the other residents, in the park.” Rodriguez said the rebels had previously threatened the victims. (El Nuevo Herald, Jan. 2 from AP) On Jan. 4, the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the massacre, saying it could be considered a “war crime.” The UN office directed its criticism at the FARC, reminding the rebel group that international humanitarian law bars attacks against civilians. (EFE, Jan. 4)

In Ibague, capital of Tolima department, three people were killed and two wounded when hired killers riding on a motorcycle fired weapons at a family party at a home in the Cerro Gordo neighborhood. Retired soldier Pedro Pablo Rodriguez Fuque was killed, as were brothers Mateo and Hector Fabian Hernandez Murcia; two women suffered bullet wounds to their legs. Authorities are investigating whether the attack may have been directed at Rodriguez Fuque. (AGMnews, AgmInternational Group, Brazil, Jan. 2 from Caracol Radio; EFE, Jan. 2)

On Dec. 31, Colombian police agents headed by Col. Mora of the Judicial Investigations and Intelligence Service (SIJIN) of the National Police raided the rural and urban areas of Florida municipality in Valle del Cauca department, detaining a number of members of the indigenous community there, allegedly to verify whether they had links to illegal armed groups, as indicated allegedly by deserters now collaborating with the armed forces. (Communique, Dec. 31 from Autoridades Indigenas Tradicionales de Florida Valle)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 7

See our last post on Colombia.