Colombia: terror targets indigenous leaders

Village leaders report that a total of 18 indigenous campesinos in the north of Colombia's Cauca department have been killed this year, in a presumed paramilitary campaign of intimidation. In one case last month, a pregnant woman was among three slain when they were stopped on the road between the towns of Caloto and Santander de Quilichao. She was headed with her family on motorbikes to a local hospital when they were ambushed by gunmen and left dead on the road. Paramilitaries have left pamphlets in local villages warning them to drop their campaigns for restitution of usurped lands. (RCN, Aug. 23; Contagio Radio, July 22; Extra, Cauca, July 15))

Last month the Peace & Justice Tribunal established as part of Colombia's transitional process called upon the prosecutor's office or Fiscalía to open an investigation into business interests suspected of backing paramilitaries in Cauca. Especially named was soft-drink company Postobón, which has massive land-holdings in the region. (El Espectador, July 26)