from Weekly News Update on the Americas
Right-wing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez was re-elected in the country’s first round of elections on May 28, eliminating the need for a second round. With 80% of the vote counted, Uribe had 62% of the vote; his closest rival, left coalition candidate Carlos Gaviria, had 22.18%. The third place candidate, Horacio Serpa of the Liberal Party—Uribe’s old party—had less than 12%. Three other candidates were far behind: former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus with 1.12%; former justice minister Enrique Parejo with 0.37%; and medical doctor Carlos Rincon with 0.17%.
Uribe is the first president to be re-elected in Colombia in over 100 years. Congress amended the Constitution to allow reelection in late 2004; that amendment was upheld by the Constitutional Court on Oct. 18, 2005.
No electoral incidents were reported, although the army claimed five guerrillas were killed as they were preparing explosive attacks in Cali (Valle del Cauca department) and Tame (Arauca). A bus rigged with explosives was allegedly deactivated in Tolima department. In San Calixto municipality, Norte de Santander department, near the border with Venezuela, civilian authorities reported that two soldiers were killed and three wounded in a clash with leftist rebels from the National Liberation Army (ELN) who were allegedly trying to attack a polling place. (AFP, May 28)
CAUCA: GRASSROOTS SUMMIT ATTACKED
Starting on May 14, nearly 15,000 indigenous, campesino and African-descended people from the north of Cauca department in southwestern Colombia gathered in the Guambiano indigenous territory of La Maria Piendamo for a summit of organized grassroots sectors building strategies of resistance against constant human rights violations, the signing of the Andean Free Trade Treaty with the US and the repressive “democratic security” policy of President Alvaro Uribe Velez. More than 50,000 people gathered at other sites in southwestern Colombia on May 15 to participate. More than 2,000 Nasa, Guambiano and Embera indigenous people and Afro-Colombians held an eight-kilometer march to the main government buildings in Cali. (Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales, May 15; Comunicaciones ONIC Boletin, May 15)
On May 15, agents from the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) of the National Police used tear gas and rubber bullets against summit participants who were carrying out a protest blockade of the Panamerican highway near Mondomo municipality in Cauca. At least five people were wounded and 10 people were arrested, including two members of the Interchurch Commission of Justice and Peace. A newborn baby was affected by the tear gas. The ESMAD agents were joined by agents of the Highway Police and troops from the National Army’s Jose Hilario Lopez Battalion and the 19th Brigade’s Meteodoro Battalion. After the initial attack, the protesters withdrew and regrouped 500 meters down the road, where ESMAD agents resumed the attack with tear gas, sparking three fires in the area. The agents also destroyed a house where summit participants were storing their belongings. (Prensa Libre, alternative communication project of the grassroots movement of southwestern Colombia, May 15 via Servicio Prensa Rural; Report from Organizaciones Sociales, May 15 via Servicio Prensa Rural)
At the same time, police used tear gas and truncheon blows to disperse more than 3,500 campesinos who were demonstrating in front of the National Training Service (SENA) building in Popayan, capital of Cauca department. According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), two people were wounded by bullets, including Emer Achicue, of Tambo municipality in Cauca.
According to the Only National Agricultural Union Federation (Fensuagro), security forces arrested campesinos in San Juan de Arama as they marched on May 15 through the Lower Ariari region of Meta department, from Puerto Toledo to Villavicencio. Security forces also blocked a mobilization of indigenous people and campesinos heading from different areas of Putumayo department toward the municipality of Pinunas Negras. (Report from Organizaciones Sociales, May 15 via Servicio Prensa Rural) In Narino department, Esmad agents and army troops have tried to block Awa indigenous people from mobilizing in two locations. (ONIC Boletin, May 15)
On May 16, army troops, police and ESMAD riot agents backed by four helicopters attacked the summit in La Maria Piendamo, bombarding participants with tear gas and weapons fire. Security forces apparently fired directly at members of the Cauca indigenous guard–an organized community defense force armed only with traditional staffs—and also targeted infrastructure sites such as community kitchens, food storage warehouses and lodging areas. Pedro Coscue, an indigenous guard member from the Corinto indigenous reserve, was shot to death, and 78 people were wounded–32 of them seriously—while another 36 people were arrested and more than 10 were disappeared. [Note: Pedro Coscue’s last name was given in different sources as Poscue, Pascue or Soscue.] (Comunicaciones ONIC Boletin, May 16; Radio Nizkor, May 17) Over all, in Cauca, Narino, Valle and Meta departments, government repression against summit participants left more than 100 people wounded, and more than 30 people detained and disappeared. (Asociacion Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos Unidad y Reconstruccion-ANUCUR, May 17 via Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales) The indigenous organizers responded to the violence by extending the summit indefinitely, and calling for national and international solidarity. (Radio Nizkor, May 17)
The social movements are asking that messages be sent to Colombian officials demanding guarantees for the lives and physical and psychological safety of the participants in the Summit of Social Organizations; guarantees for the rights to free movement and protest; and dismantling of the ESMAD. Send messages to President Uribe at fax +571-566-2071 or email@example.com; Vice President Francisco Santos at firstname.lastname@example.org; Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe at fax +571-222-1874 or email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For more information, see the websites of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) http://nasaacin.net/ and ONIC http://onic.org.co/.
(Report from Organizaciones Sociales, May 15 via Servicio Prensa Rural)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 21
META: ARMY KILLS 10
On April 15, troops from the Colombian Army’s Mobile Brigade No. 12 began a massive military operation in the area of the Puerto Nubia School in the village of Sanza, San Juan de Arama municipality in the southern department of Meta. Using explosives and machine gun and rifle fire, the army attacked a house where some 50 civilians—including many children and older adults—had taken refuge next to the Puerto Nubia School. The civilians screamed in panic and called out to the army to stop shooting, but the troops kept firing. One mother who survived the attack said the soldiers appeared to be on drugs as they kept shooting in all directions.
The army’s gunfire killed at least eight people at the house, including 12-year old Yorladys Osorio Gonzalez, whose 13-year-old sister, seven-year-old sister and both parents were also wounded in the attack. One of the soldiers apparently broke down in tears at the sight of the victims; he called the killing an error, saying the army had no information that there were civilians in the house. The other victims were Rafael Pinzon, Gerardo Rios and four members of the Prieto family: 15-year old Weymar Prieto, his brother, Audom Prieto, their father, Floriber Prieto and a cousin, Jesus Prieto. Two more residents were apparently killed elsewhere: residents saw the body of Alexander Medina, a minor, floating down the Sanza river but were unable to recover it; they did recover the tortured body of a woman with a coup-de-grace shot to the head from the river. Residents are unsure whether she is Rubiela Castillo, who disappeared a day before the military operation, or another village resident named Nina.
About 50 residents of the village were detained by the army on April 16; as of April 27 they remained disappeared, and the army was still not allowing anyone–not even the International Red Cross–into or out of the area. There are rumors that the detained residents have been already murdered and presented as rebels killed in combat.
Corporacion Reiniciar is urging letters to President Alvaro Uribe Velez (firstname.lastname@example.org), Vice President Francisco Santos (email@example.com) and other officials, demanding a full investigation, punishment for those responsible, and an explanation of the whereabouts of the disappeared. For more information and a full list of officials to contact, see http://www.dhcolombia.info/. (Corporacion Reiniciar, April 30 via Red de Defensores No Institucionalizados de Colombia)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 30
BARRANCABERMEJA: ACTIVISTS MURDERED
Yamile Agudelo Penalosa, a 26-year old member of the Popular Women’s Organization (OFP) from the Colombian city of Barrancabermeja, in Santander department, was brutally tortured, raped and murdered. Her body was found in the Barrancabermeja municipal trash dump, on the road leading to the village of Llanito, on March 22; the body was identified two days later by her parents, OFP member Marisabel Penalosa and Alfonso Agudelo. Her face had been destroyed and one of her ears was cut off. The OFP has not accused any armed group of responsibility for the killing, but notes that Yamile Agudelo was assigned to one of the OFP’s community soup kitchens in Barrancabermeja, and that the city is controlled by rightwing paramilitaries. (OFP Communique, March 25 via Colombia Indymedia; Vanguardia Liberal, Bucaramanga, March 26; Yahoo Noticias, March 28)
On April 2, armed assailants shot to death Daniel Cortez Cortez, a member of the Sintraelecol union, while he was working in the Montoyas village of Puerto Parra municipality, Santander department. Cortez was an active union member throughout his nearly 16 years working at Electrificadora de Santander, the departmental electric company. He was murdered in a place completely controlled by the allegedly demobilized members of the supposedly disbanded rightwing paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The assailants also apparently robbed Cortez’s pay. (Communique from Unitary Workers Federation-CUT, Barrancabermeja Committee, undated, via Resumen Latinoamericano, Apil 8)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 9
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #120
“Colombia: army fires on indigenous protesters,” May 16
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution