Colombia: national campesino mobilization follows threats, detentions

On Oct. 10, rural popular organizations mobilized in several regions of Colombia, marching towards the capitals of their respective departments. They are protesting the pending free trade agreement with the United States, legislation which would roll back Colombia’s agrarian reform program, and continuing repression by the army and paramilitary groups. Among their demands are the resignation of President Alvaro Uribe. Tens of thousands are said to be participating. The call for the protests was put out by the Campesino Association of the Cimitarra Valley (ACVC). (IMC, Oct. 9)

The call was issued after the Sept. 29 detention of of four ACVC leaders by army troops and agents of the Administrative Security Department (DAS). ACVC leaders Andres Gil, Evaristo Mena and Oscar Duque were detained at a community meeting at El Canqui, Cantagallo municipality. The fourth, Mario Martinez, was detained in the region’s main city, Barrancabermeja. The first three are believed to be held by the army’s Batall├│n Nueva Granada in Barrancabermeja, notorious for its use of torture. Martinez is believed to be in DAS custody in Barrancabermeja. (Comisi├│n Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, Oct. 1 via Colombia Indymedia)

The ACVC says the detentions follow a campaign of “black propaganda” against the organization. Days before the arrests, the ACVC stronghold of Planadas, Tolima department, was overflown by military helicopters which dropped leaflets reading: “Don’t participate in acts of terrorism. Don’t allow yourselves to be used as cannon fodder. Don’t go when the FARC calls you for mobilizations. Don’t become the accomplices of terrorists and assassins.” There are growing rumors of the Black Eagles paramilitary group preparing attacks against the ACVC’s communities. (Prensa Rural, Sept. 25 via Colombia Indymedia)

Presumed Black Eagles set up roadblocks in the villages of Corinto and Miranda in Cauca department Oct. 5, halting traffic and firing “indiscriminately” on buses and trucks full of local peasants, leaving at least one gravely wounded. (Francisco Isaias Cifuentes Human Rights Network, Oct. 5 via Colombia Indymedia) Yovanny Pillumue Cuchimba, leader of the Inza Tierradentro Campesino Organization (ACIT), was assassinated Sept. 14 in Popay├ín, Cauca’s capital. (ACIT, Sept. 15 via Colombia Indymedia)

Popayán was the scene of National Police attacks on student protesters earlier this year.

See our last posts on Colombia and the struggle in Cauca.

  1. Cauca: protests turn violent, FARC attacks indigenous town
    At least 15 were injured in the protest mobilization that affected five cities in Colombia Oct. 10, with the worst violence in Cauca, where National Police attacked blockades that had been set up on the Panamerican Highway. Eight protesters were reported injured, and seven police. At least 1,600 participated in the roadblock, and at least three trucks were set aflame. On Oct. 11 in Santander de Quilichao, a main town on the Panamerican Highway, a mixed force of army and National Police special anti-riot force, ESMAD, attacked a gathering in the central square by ground and helicopter, firing tear-gas and shrapnel bombs, leaving at least seven wounded.

    Some 3,000 campesinos marched on Ibagu├ę, capital of Tolima department, with significant mobilizations also reported from Bogot├í, Barranquilla and Cartagena. The mobilization was dubbed the Day of National Agrarian and Popular Protest (Jornada Nacional de Protesta Agraria y Popular). (AP, La Prensa, Panama, Oct. 10; DH Colombia, Oct. 11)

    The following day, FARC guerillas attacked the indigenous-majority town of Belalcazar in eastern Cauca, in an apparent attempt to rob the local branch of the Banco Agrario. The guerillas reportedly entered the town shooting from the surrounding hills. The retreated when the Colombian Air Force sent in Phantom fighter planes and helicopter gunships. (AFP, Radio Caracol, Colombia, Oct. 11)