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 Batallón Nueva Granada in Barrancabermeja, notorious for its use of torture. Martinez is believed to be in DAS custody in Barrancabermeja. (Comisión 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 Popayán, Cauca’s capital. (ACIT, Sept. 15 via Colombia Indymedia)
Popayán was the scene of National Police attacks on student protesters earlier this year.