from Weekly News Update on the Americas
CAUCA: ONE KILLED IN EVICTION
On the morning of Nov. 9 some 500 Colombian police agents attempted the forcible removal of 400 members of Paez (Nasa) indigenous communities from the El Japio farm, in Caloto municipality in the southwestern department of Cauca, which they had been occupying since Oct. 12. A 16-year old indigenous youth—Belisario Camallo Guetoto, according to the Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), and Belisario Tamayo, according to most media reports—was killed by a shot to the head. At least 36 indigenous people and 10 police agents were reportedly wounded during fighting which continued through Nov. 10. At least one anti-riot vehicle was set on fire.
On Nov. 11 the police and the occupiers agreed to a 24-hour truce, allowing for negotiations and for the burial of Belisario Tamayo in the nearby town of Caldono. Feliciano Valencia, a leader in the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), described the situation as a “tense calm.”
Indigenous protesters occupied farms and estates throughout Cauca on Oct. 11 and 12 to force the government to act on their demands for land; the occupations coincided with massive national mobilizations by workers, campesinos and indigenous communities to mark Oct. 12, the traditional anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the hemisphere. The occupiers resisted various efforts to remove them; six indigenous people and two police agents were wounded in a confrontation at El Japio on Oct. 19. Some 15 farms were still being held as of Nov. 8, when the government began new operations to remove the indigenous people with 500 police agents armed with guns and tear gas and backed by at least 10 anti-riot vehicles. [Paez people also occupied another farm in Caloto, the La Emperatriz estate, on Sept. 2; as of Sept. 10 some 35 occupiers were wounded during efforts by the police to remove them.]
Cauca indigenous communities are demanding that the government grant them 38,000 hectares of cultivable land in compliance with accords signed by the administration of former president Andres Pastrana (1998-2002). Aparicio Rios, of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), puts the total land demanded by indigenous communities at 146,000 hectares. Interior and Justice Minister Sabas Pretelt claims that the government has been negotiating with the indigenous communities for 35 months, but says it will not negotiate with people occupying farms. Albeiro Calambas, a leader in the Piayo indigenous council, said that the occupiers hadn’t intended to hold the 900-hectare El Japio permanently, “but now, because of the spilling of a companero’s blood, Japio belongs to us.” (AP, Nov. 11; Prensa Latina, Nov. 10; Comunicaciones ONIC, Nov. 10; CRIC, Nov. 9; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Nov. 11)
The use of militant nonviolent tactics by Cauca indigenous communities, which refuse to take sides in the armed conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has won praise from many quarters. But it has also brought violent attacks from the government, from rightwing paramilitaries and from the FARC. During October ACIN communications coordinator Manuel Rozental learned that two unknown men had been asking questions about him. The ACIN decided that Rozental should leave the country for his own safety. It issued a statement on Oct. 27 to answer rumors circulating about him among pro-government forces and the FARC: “Manuel is no terrorist. He is no paramilitary. He is no agent of the CIA. He is part of our community, who must not be silenced by bullets.” Rozental is now living in Canada. (The Nation, Nov. 4)
BOGOTA: AFRO-COLOMBIANS OCCUPY CHURCH
On Nov. 4 (according to most sources), hundreds of Afro-Colombians from the western coastal region peacefully took over the San Francisco Church in downtown Bogota to press for government action on several demands. The demands “aren’t new,” said Emigdio Cuesta, a spokesperson for the communities. “We’ve spent hundreds of years defending our customs, our roots, and still we have to resort to strikes and occupations for the government to hear us.” According to the weekly magazine Semana, this was the 22nd takeover of the colonial-era church, although it wasn’t clear which groups occupied it in the past; the magazine reported that 1,000 protesters were involved in the action, which it said started on Nov. 3.
The protesters demanded postponement of a final vote on a Forest Law, which they say would give logging multinationals access to 23,000 hectares of natural forest belonging to Afro-Colombian communities, mostly in the Atrato region in Choco department and the Uraba region in Antioquia department. They also rejected Resolution 1516 of the Colombian Rural Development Institute (INCODER), which was issued in August to promote business associations between the communities and private companies. The protesters said the resolution violated Law 70 of 1993, which prevents privatization of the communities’ collective property. This would open the way for agribusinesses that had moved into some Afro-Colombian communities after rightwing paramilitaries forced the residents out in the 1990s and that have been converting the land to the commercial cultivation of African palms. In addition, the protesters demanded control over the certification of teachers in their communities and the rephrasing of a question on ethnicity in the 2005 General Census.
Former senator Piedad Cordoba assisted the protesters in negotiations with the government. As of Nov. 10 the protesters were expected to end their occupation as talks continued. “We achieved the postponement of the debate on the Forest Law to incorporate our proposals,” said one of the leaders, Jorge Garcia. “Also, they rescinded INCODER’s Resolution 1516, which allowed the entry of private [investors] in collective territories.” (El Colombiano, Medellin, Nov. 8; Semana, Nov. 13; El Tiempo, Bogota, Nov. 10; Piedad Cordoba statement, Nov. 9)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 13
URABA: PEACE COMMUNITY LEADER KILLED
On Nov. 17, troops from the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade fired their rifles and hurled a grenade at a group of campesinos weeding cornfields near Arenas Altas, which is part of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, in the Uraba region of Antioquia department. The grenade fatally wounded Arlen Salas David, a community leader who was coordinating efforts to establish Arenas Altas as a humanitarian zone, safe from the presence of armed groups. The other campesinos tried to help Salas but were forced to take shelter as the army continued firing at them. When they reached him he was dead.
Peace Community members from San Josesito, the village established last April by peace community residents displaced from San Jose de Apartado, went to the site with international accompaniment to confront the soldiers about what happened. The soldiers claimed they had been firing at guerrillas, that the whole community is made up of guerrillas and that the army is going to eliminate them. Most of the soldiers had two rifles: their regulation rifle and another type which has been seen carried by paramilitaries.
A group of soldiers then began firing at the village of Arenas Altas, forcing families to flee. Several homes were hit by gunfire, and community member Hernan Goez was wounded. The army fired at a school while a teacher was inside with several children. The army claimed gunfire was coming from the school, but the teacher told the soldiers he knew they were lying, since he and the students were lying on the floor while the army fired at them. (Comunidad de Paz de San Jose de Apartado, Nov. 18)
On Nov. 12, five days before the army’s attack on Arenas Altas, four individuals who identified themselves as government officials from the attorney general’s office entered San Josesito without authorization. They remained in the community for about 40 minutes, asking about the leaders and videotaping residents and homes. When community members challenged them about their illegal presence in the community, they did not respond. They said they were seeking witnesses; the community members refused to speak with them. The four officials finally left the community, saying they would return on Nov. 16. They left the area accompanied by police agents and other individuals in civilian clothing who had been waiting for them at the entrance to the village. (Comunidad de Paz de San Jose de Apartado, Nov. 14)
The 17th Brigade has been linked to numerous atrocities in Uraba. Its commander is Gen. Luis Alfonso Zapata Uribe, who took over the unit last February. In February 1976, when he was a second lieutenant, Zapata took a “small unit infantry tactics C-7” course at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), then in Panama (the school moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, in late 1984). (SOA Graduates List)
The Colombia Support Network, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is urging human rights advocates to contact their congressional representatives and senators to urge a cutoff of military aid to Colombia and the immediate closure of the SOA, now called Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC); and to contact Colombian officials and the US ambassador in Bogota to demand an investigation and punishment for those responsible for the attack on Arenas Altas.
Contact: US Ambassador William Wood, AmbassadorB@state.gov;
President Alvaro Uribe Velez, email@example.com;
Vice President Francisco Santos, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Attorney General Mario Iguaran Arana, email@example.com
Gen. Zapata, firstname.lastname@example.org.
(CSN Urgent Action, Nov. 19)
U.S. NABS DRUG SUSPECT
According to a news release from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on Oct. 29 the Colombian National Police Jungla unit, “working with special agents from the ICE Attache Office in Bogota and the [US] Drug Enforcement Administration,” captured suspected drug trafficker Jhon Eidelber Cano Correa in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. Cano Correa was apparently captured following a brief firefight that left one Colombian official wounded. Cano Correa is charged in a July 2004 indictment in the Eastern District of New York with drug and money laundering violations in connection with the Norte de Valle Cartel. In 2004, the US State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest. (ICE, Oct. 31)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 20
PARAMILITARY SCANDAL SHAKES GOVERNMENT
On Oct. 25, Jorge Noguera, the director of the Administrative Department of Security, Colombia’s 7,100-member intelligence agency, gave President Alvaro Uribe his resignation; the agency’s sub-director, Jose Miguel Narvaez, was fired on the same day. The shake-up came as the agency’s internal affairs unit and the Attorney General’s Office were investigating whether the Special Intelligence Group, controlled by Enrique Ariza, a close ally of Noguera’s, had been planning to sell phone-tapping equipment to Javier Montanes, a rightwing paramilitary commander who could use the system to monitor police and military activity. Noguera and Narvaez denied the accusations.
On Oct. 22 ostensibly demobilized paramilitaries dragged Hernando Cadavid from his flower farm, which is next to Uribe’s ranch in northern Colombia, and hacked him to death with machetes. “Investigators are trying to determine if the order came from Diego Fernando Murillo, a paramilitary boss recently jailed on Mr. Uribe’s orders,” the New York Times reports. (NYT, Oct. 28)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 7
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #115
See also our last update on state terror in Colombia:
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution