from Weekly News Update on the Americas
CAUCA: ARMY KILLS CIVILIANS
On Jan. 8, Colombian army troops from the No. 26 Cacique Piguanza Infantry Battalion, headed by Lt. Hoyos, shot to death 17-year-old Hortensia Neyid Tunja Cuchumbe and Manuel Antonio Tao Pillimue and wounded William Jose Cunacue Medina in Inza municipality, in the southern department of Cauca. On the night of Jan. 7 Tunja left her home in the community of San Antonio, accompanied by Cunacue, to attend a party in the nearby community of Belen. At 4 AM Tunja’s mother was informed by neighbors that her daughter was wounded on the road about 100 meters from Belen. When the mother arrived, she found her daughter dead, lying face down on the side of the road with bullet holes in her body. Uniformed and hooded soldiers threatened Tunja’s mother and told her that her daughter was a leftist rebel who had been killed along with a rebel “commander.” The soldiers then forced the mother to leave her daughter’s body at the site and go to Belen; they claimed they were waiting for officials from the attorney general’s office to come to the site to officially record the deaths.
The soldiers then blocked anyone from leaving Belen and attacked and beat a number of people at the party there; several people were injured, including one who was hit in the head with a rifle butt. When family members of Tunja and Tao tried to return to the site where their bodies lay, the soldiers fired their rifles in the air to force them to retreat. Around 6 AM, Tunja’s mother managed to return to the site and found the soldiers still there but her daughter’s body gone. She was told that the corpses had been taken to the town of La Plata in Huila department, where the attorney general’s office would file the report on them. Under Colombian law, only the attorney general’s office is allowed to move cadavers from the location where they are found; the army’s removal of the bodies from the site was in blatant violation of the law.
As Tunja’s mother and other family members headed toward La Plata, they found Tunja’s and Tao’s bodies covered up and dumped on the side of the highway about 30 minutes from Belen in the village of Puerto Valencia. Army troops at the site forced the family members to leave the area after telling them that the bodies would be left there for the attorney general’s office to deal with. The army then took the bodies to the military base in La Plata, where they were handed over to the families around 4 PM on Jan. 8. The family members took the bodies to the local hospital. There soldiers again intimidated the family members.
Tunja was a domestic worker who had been employed in Bogota since April 2005; she had been on vacation visiting her family in San Antonio since Dec. 27. Tao Pillimue was a young campesino who lived in the community of San Isidro in Inza municipality; he had left his home on Jan. 7 to go to the party in Belen. Tunja and Tao were members of the Campesino Association of Inza -Tierradentro (ACIT). William Jose Cunacue Medina suffered several bullet wounds and was taken to the hospital in La Plata, where army troops detained him and accused him of “rebellion.” Community members insist that none of the three youths were members of any armed organization; they say the army falsified evidence, planting weapons on the corpses and claiming the victims were guerrillas. (ACIT Communique, Jan. 11)
LA GUAJIRA: WIWA INDIGENOUS LEADERS MURDERED
On Jan. 3, Colombian army troops from the Rondon de Buenavista Group came to the indigenous Wiwa community of Seminke, in the area of San Juan del Cesar and Riohacha municipalities in the northeastern department of La Guajira. They took away community members Celso Carrillo Perea and Ricardo Arias Solis; the next day shots and explosions were heard at a distance from where the two were seized. The decomposed bodies of the two men were found in Riohacha on Jan. 5. In a joint communique, the Yugumaiun Bunkuanarrua Tayrona Wiwa Organization (OWYBT) of San Juan del Cesar, the Kogui-Malayo-Arhuaco Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Prensa Indigena correspondent Guillermo Riguera indicated that Carrillo and Arias had no links to armed groups and were just campesinos engaged in agriculture to support their families. Their families were linked to an International Red Cross project in the community.
Last Dec. 9, troops from the Rondon de Buenavista Group arrived in the Wiwa community of Ulago and took resident Laudelino Mejia Montano from his home; the next day shots, explosions and a helicopter were heard nearby, and Mejia was subsequently found murdered.
The Wiwa communities are concerned because a number of residents and community leaders have been accused of being rebels or rebel sympathizers; those who are detained often turn up dead, presented as rebels killed in combat.
On Jan. 9 two individuals on a motorcycle assassinated Fernando Montano Armenta, a resident of the Wiwa indigenous community of La Pena de los Indios. He was murdered in San Juan del Cesar municipality. The community does not know which armed group is responsible for his murder. (Prensa Indigena, Jan. 3; Adital, Feb. 3)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 5
ARAUCA: COMMUNITY LEADER MURDERED
On Feb. 4, community leader Alirio Sepulveda Jaimes was shot to death in Saravena municipality in the eastern Colombian department of Arauca, just a block and a half from an outpost of the National Police. The Departmental Association of Campesinos (ADUC) reports that Sepulveda was murdered by hired killer Edgar Guiza Gamboa, who permanently accompanies the National Army’s “Gabriel Reveis Pizarro de Saravena” Mechanized Cavalry Group No. 18, commanded by Lt. Col. Carlos Vicente Prada Garces. (ADUC, Feb. 10 via Colombia Indymedia) Prada Garces, whose first name was given in some sources as Jose Vicente, is likely the same person listed in the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) graduate list as Carlos Vicente Prado Garces; as a cadet he took SOA’s C-3 Arms Orientation Course for Cadets in January 1984, when the school was still in Panama. (SOA Graduates List)
Sepulveda’s body was picked up by several individuals on motorcycles whom witnesses recognized as members of the National Army’s S2 military intelligence unit, dressed in civilian clothing. After the killing, witnesses say Guiza went to a local shopping center where he drank alcoholic beverages and threatened passersby with the same gun he had used to shoot Sepulveda. According to ADUC, Guiza claims to be the commander of the Saravena paramilitaries.
Sepulveda was detained on Nov. 12, 2002 with 42 other Arauca community leaders, based on allegations by former rebels who were allowed to demobilize if they accused others. Sepulveda was freed for lack of evidence, but he continued to suffer constant threats and harassment; the army claimed he was a member of the National Liberation Army (ELN). (ADUC, Feb. 2 via Colombia Indymedia)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 20
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #118
“Colombia’s army chief sacked in brutal hazing ritual” WW4 REPORT, Feb. 27
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, March 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution