from Weekly News Update on the Americas
On June 1, Colombian chief federal prosecutor Mario Iguaran announced that an army platoon had deliberately killed 10 agents from a US-trained anti-narcotics unit of the Judicial Police Department (DIJIN) on May 22 in the village of Potreritos, Jamundi municipality, in Valle del Cauca department. “This was not a mistake, it was a crime–a deliberate, criminal decision,” said Iguaran. “The army was doing the bidding of drug traffickers.”
The police agents had arrived at the site of a planned raid when a platoon of 28 soldiers ambushed them. A ballistics investigator found that the soldiers fired 150 bullets and seven grenades at police. A civilian informant who led police to the raid scene, promising they would find a large stash of cocaine, was also killed with a bullet to the head. Gen. Carlos Alberto Ospina, the top commander of Colombia’s armed forces, claimed the attack was an accident, and that soldiers had mistaken the agents for leftist rebels. But ballistic investigators said some of the victims were shot in the back and at a range of only a few yards. And when police reinforcements arrived at the scene with lights flashing, they were driven back by gunfire.
On June 1, the day Iguaran announced his findings, seven soldiers and their unit commander, Col. Bayron Carvajal–who was not at the scene but is believed to have planned and directed the ambush from Cali, the departmental capital–were arrested in connection with the killing. Seven more soldiers were ordered to turn themselves in on June 17. All will face charges of aggravated homicide.
According to an article by Miguel Suarez, Director of Radio Cafe Stereo, the massacre likely stems from a conflict between DIJIN director Oscar Naranjo Trujillo–described by AP as “one of Washington’s most trusted allies in the war on drugs”–and powerful drug trafficker and paramilitary leader Diego Fernando Murillo, known as “Don Berna.” Naranjo is the brother of drug trafficker Juan David Naranjo, arrested in Germany last May 3. (AP, June 17/; article by Miguel Suarez posted on Colombia Indymedia, June 18)
In Washington on June 9, the US House of Representatives voted 174-229 against an amendment introduced by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), which would have cut US aid to Colombia’s military and police next year by 5%, $30 million. (AP, June 17)
MEDELLIN: COMMUNITY LEADER MURDERED
On June 13, former community activist Gerardo Gonzalez left his home in the Llanadas neighborhood of Medellin, Colombia, to make a phone call. After he stopped on the street to talk with a local vendor selling arepas (a Colombian staple food made from corn), four armed men arrived and sprayed Gonzalez and the vendor with bullets, killing them both.
Gonzalez and his wife (whose name was omitted from an action alert to protect her safety) were community leaders in the municipality of El Penol, Antioquia, in 2000 when paramilitary groups unleashed a campaign of repression there. A number of leaders were killed, including Carlos Andres Buitrago, Gonzalez’s stepson. The persecution forced the Gonzalez family and other community leaders and their families to flee El Penol. In 2004, the paramilitaries filed a formal accusation with the attorney general’s office, accusing Gonzalez and other community leaders of being leftist guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). More than 10 of the displaced leaders from El Penol were arrested on July 29, 2004, in connection with the charges. The court eventually threw the charges out for lack of evidence, but the community leaders were unable to return to El Penol and instead had to permanently relocate to Medellin. The persecution by paramilitaries continued in Medellin, and on April 23 of this year Jhon Henry Hincapie and Arley Garcia–both former El Penol residents named in the court case–were disappeared. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
On June 5, Gonzalez and his wife, along with other people who had been arrested on the false charges, filed a formal complaint with the Antioquia prosecutor’s office, charging that a group of paramilitaries led by Jorge Ivan Alzate (alias Claudio Redondo) had been harassing them with threatening calls and surveillance of their homes. At one point, three heavily armed individuals arrived at the Gonzalez home in a white Ford pickup truck with polarized windows. Alzate claims to work with government security forces such as the Judicial Investigations and Intelligence Service (SIJIN) of the National Police, and the Unified Action Group for the Liberty of Persons (GAULA), a combined police and army unit allegedly focused on rescuing kidnapping victims. (Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad-CODEHSEL, June 14)
According to official figures, a total of 30,944 right-wing paramilitaries have demobilized. But on June 16, Colombian Defender of the People Volmar Perez reported that armed right-wing paramilitary groups have regrouped “in the department of Valle del Cauca; in Catatumbo, on the border with Venezuela [in Norte de Santander department]; in Montes de Maria [in the northern departments of Bolivar and Sucre] and areas of [the northern departments of] Magdalena, Cesar and Sucre.” (Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias-ABN, Caracas, June 17) According to a confidential report revealed at the Defense Ministry’s May 30 National Intelligence Board summit, 22 new illegal armed groups have emerged, boasting 2,500 armed members currently and likely to expand. (Revista Cambio, June 16)
Paramilitary leaders are warning that more of their members will likely regroup because of a May 18 Constitutional Court ruling which overturned part of the “Peace and Justice Law” that allowed their demobilization. The high court overturned a clause that would have set an eight-year limit on prison terms for demobilized paramilitaries convicted of crimes such as drug smuggling, massacre and torture. The ruling is retroactive, requiring those who were sentenced prior to the law’s passage to serve their full original terms. (El Tiempo, Bogota, June 16; Reuters, June 14; statement from Movement of Victims of State Crimes, May 24)
SANTANDER: ANTI-PRIVATIZATION PROTESTS
On June 14 nearly 1,500 people marched to the municipal building in Barrancabermeja, in the northeastern department of Santander, to reject plans to privatize Aguas de Barrancabermeja, the municipal water and sewer company. (Vanguardia Liberal, Bucaramanga, June 14)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 18
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #122
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution