COLOMBIA: GOLD MINING LINKED TO STATE TERROR
from Weekly News Update on the Americas
BOLIVAR: ARMY KILLS MINING UNION LEADER
On Sept. 19 troops from the Colombian National Army's Nueva Granada Anti-Aircraft Battalion murdered campesino leader and [independent, small-scale] mining union activist Alejandro Uribe in a rural mining area in the south of Bolivar department. Uribe was president of the Community Action Board of the village of Mina Gallo, in Morales municipality, and a member of the Agromining Federation of the South of Bolivar (Fedeagromisbol). He was killed while returning to Mina Gallo from the rural community of Las Culebras, in Montecristo municipality. Uribe had gone to the mining association's farm in Las Culebras that morning with Emiliano Garcia, an official with the Agromining Federation and legal representative of the Mina Gallo Association.
On Sept. 20, after Garcia and Uribe failed to return home as planned, a commission from the communities of Mina Gallo and Mina Viejito went looking for the two leaders. On the road they found Uribe's clothes, and were told by local residents that army troops had transported Uribe's body on a mule, apparently to the military base at San Luiquitas, in Santa Rosa municipality.
Some 600 residents of the area then traveled to San Luquitas to demand that Nueva Granada Battalion personnel hand over Uribe's body. On Sept. 21, members of the battalion threatened the protesting residents, saying: "This is not the only corpse you're going to have, there will be more dead leaders." Members of the battalion had previously warned that they had a list of local leaders and members of the Agromining Federation, and that they were hoping to find the listed individuals alone on rural roads.
The Nueva Granada Battalion troops who killed Uribe were commanded by Capt. Blanco under the orders of Benjamin Palomino, the battalion's Official Captain of Operations. The battalion, which is attached to the army's Fifth Brigade, had already been accused of a series of abuses in Mina Gallo and elsewhere in the mining region of southern Bolivar.
On Sept. 7, less than two weeks before he was killed, Uribe had gone with representatives of human rights groups to the Office of the Defender of the People to report that the battalion's troops had executed local resident Arnulfo Pabon on Aug. 18 in the rural village of Bolivador, Arenal municipality.
On Sept. 8, Uribe took part in an assembly in Mina Gallo of more than 18 mining communities of southern Bolivar, accompanied by representatives from the Office of the Defender of the People and human rights organizations, to analyze the human rights situation in the region and adopt protective measures. The meeting also served as a pre-hearing assembly for the Permanent People's Court, which is to be held in Medellin Nov. 11-12. Participants discussed the army's recent abuses and suggested they may be an effort to clear the way for the multinational company Kedahda S.A.--an affiliate of Anglo Gold Ashanti--to engage in mining operations in southern Bolivar. Uribe and other mining union leaders in the region oppose the company's presence.
In a radio interview, Gen. Jose Joaquin Cortes Franco, commander of the army's Fifth Brigade, claimed that his troops had killed an armed leftist rebel from the National Liberation Army (ELN), only to discover later that he was a local community leader. Cortes would not confirm that the man killed was Alejandro Uribe; he said the attorney general's office was in charge of determining the person's identity. Cortes claimed the man was in a "hostile position" when killed in combat, and that five other men were with him but managed to escape. Cortes confirmed that the man killed was wearing civilian clothing. (Joint Communiques from Corporacion Sembrar, Federacion Agrominera del Sur de Bolivar, Coordinador Nacional Agrario, Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia, Sept. 20, 22 via dhColombia; Communique from the Diocese of Magangue, Sept. 22)
Cortes served as an instructor at the US Army's School of the Americas (SOA) in Fort Benning, Georgia, from January 1993 to January 1994, while he was a major. In 1976, as a 2nd lieutenant, he took a course in "small unit infantry tactics" at the school, then located in Panama. (SOA Graduates List from soaw.org) [SOA was forced to shut down its Panama location in September 1984; it reopened at Fort Benning, Georgia, in January 1985.]
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 24
ARMY ATTACKS MINING TOWN
On Aug. 17, soldiers from the Colombian army's Nueva Granada Anti-Aircraft Battalion arrived at the village of Mina Central, in Morales municipality, in the south of Bolivar department. The soldiers occupied six homes, insulted the inhabitants and forced the women to cook for them. On Aug. 18, the same troops arrived at a home in Bolivador village, Arenal municipality, where local resident Arnulfo Pabon, known as "Lulo," handed a pistol and communications radio over to the soldiers without offering any resistance. The soldiers ransacked the home and stole personal belongings, money and the identity documents of Bibiana Marin, Cosme's partner. They grabbed Marin, dragged her outside the house and threatened to rape her in front of Cosme and the couple's three-year old son.
The soldiers released Marin but detained, beat and tied up Cosme, and took him into the woods, where about an hour later local residents heard gunfire. Hours later several soldiers appeared with Cosme's dead body, claiming he was a guerrilla, and forced several residents to help tie the corpse to a pole to carry it around the village to intimidate other residents. Witnesses noted that Cosme's body had a single bullet wound at the base of the skull.
The soldiers also detained three local residents, two women and a man known as "Picas". The women were questioned and released but the soldiers took "Picas" away. The soldiers then took a mule from a local resident, mounted Cosme's body on it, and took it on a tour of the communities of Mina Viejito and Mina Central, urging residents to "greet their friend Lulo." The soldiers also brought "Picas" on the tour, insulting and beating him as they forced him to walk with his hands and neck tied and carrying a military suitcase on his shoulders.
On Aug. 4, troops from the same battalion, accompanied by hooded individuals, abducted a campesina woman known as "La Cachaca" and her son and a young miner known as "Guaranda" in the hamlet of Mina Esperanza, in Mina Gallo village, Morales municipality. The three were taken away in an army helicopter and their whereabouts remain unknown. "Picas" remains missing as well, and the whereabouts of Cosme's body are also unknown. (Corporacion Servicios Profesionales Comunitarios Sembrar, Aug. 29 via dhcolombia.info)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 10
BOGOTA: DISPLACED, OBSERVERS ARRESTED
On Sept. 4, more than 300 displaced Colombians took over an abandoned slaughterhouse owned by the district of Bogota to demand that the district government fulfill its promises to provide them with housing. Many of the participants in the protest action had taken part in a larger occupation a year ago at the Riveras de Occidente housing development in the Patio Bonito sector of western Bogota's Kennedy neighborhood. The displaced people say the national and district governments have failed to fulfill the commitments they made when they signed an accord to end that occupation on Sept. 7, 2005. The accord committed the government to take measures guaranteeing the displaced people's health, education, housing, humanitarian aid, accompaniment and safe return to their places of origin. Before carrying out the Sept. 4 occupation, the displaced families produced a lengthy communique detailing the government's specific failings on each of the accord's points.
Almost as soon as the occupation began, troops from the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) of the National Police and agents of the Metropolitan Police arrived at the slaughterhouse in four armored vehicles and began attacking the displaced protesters with tear gas, beatings and verbal aggression. Nearly 200 people were detained, and at least 26 were also seriously injured. Fifty people, including a number of women and children who were beaten or affected by tear gas, were taken to the Family Police Station; the other 150 were detained at the Permanent Justice Unit (UPJ) facility.
Plainclothes agents from the Judicial Investigations and Intelligence Service (SIJIN) of the National Police detained four members of the International Peace Observatory (IPO), an organization which since August 2004 has provided accompaniment to Colombian communities nonviolently resisting armed conflict and social injustice. The police presented the four international detainees to the press as "instigators" of the protest. The four internationals were taken to SIJIN headquarters, then to an Administrative Security Department (DAS) immigration office "with the purpose of verifying the legality of their presence in the country." All four--Alex Juanmarti of Catalonia (in Spain), Marianna Garfi of Italy and US citizens Carmen Rivera and David Feller--were released 11 hours later.
Col. Yamil Hernando Moreno Arias, head of the No. 2 Operative Command of the Metropolitan Police of Bogota, told the media that the intention of the demonstrators was to seize the Health Department of Bogota, that the four foreign nationals "are not international observers" and that they had participated in an occupation by displaced people of the central plaza in Bosa, in the south of Bogota, several weeks earlier. (Agencia Prensa Rural, Sept. 4, 7; Adital, Sept. 6; Movimiento de Victimas de Crimenes de Estado Communique, Sept. 4, posted on www.peaceobservatory.org; Report from Colectivo de Abogados 'Jose Alvear Restrepo' posted Sept. 9 on Colombia Indymedia)
Until November 2005 Col. Moreno served as police commander in Uraba, where he was apparently in charge of trying to undermine the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado. While there, Moreno admitted that one of his men was a known paramilitary, Wilmar Durango. (APR, Sept. 4) Durango has been accused of carrying out numerous threats and actions against the Peace Community.
Col. Moreno is apparently only opposed to certain types of foreign intervention: at an April 2005 meeting in Carepa, Antioquia, with representatives from the US-based Colombia Support Network he bragged of having had extensive training at a number of places in the US. (Notes from Sept. 20 Interview with Col. Moreno posted on ttp://colombiasupport.net) In February 1994, when still a captain, he served as an instructor at the US Army's School of the Americas (SOA). (SOA Watch List of Graduates)
Ironically, one of the arrested IPO observers, Carmen Rivera, was once a national organizer with SOA Watch, a Washington-based organization which works to close the school (now called WHINSEC) and expose the actions of its graduates. (SOA Watch News & Updates, Sept. 6)
District Security Under-secretary Andres Restrepo told the media that the four foreigners' "life histories were being analyzed to proceed with their deportation" since their actions were "altering the citizen coexistence." (APR, Sept. 7)
In a Sept. 5 communique, the volunteers wrote that "IPO did NOT at any time participate in the displaced community's legitimate action to reclaim their rights, much less did we organize the protest. The community of displaced people requested IPO's presence so that we could produce a documentary about the action, as was done last year during the nonviolent takeover at Patio Bonito. IPO volunteers arrived at the site of the takeover, the old district slaughterhouse, at 7:30 AM, just after the police had fenced in the protest inhibiting us from entering."
Moreno's assistant, Maj. Mendez, later "falsely declared to Coronel Moreno and to the members of the media that IPO volunteers had arrived at the protest at 6:30 AM, that we had organized the action, and that we had falsely identified ourselves as United Nations officials," the volunteers wrote.
"We repudiate this tactic used to distract national and international attention from the critical condition of displaced people in this country, people who struggle to reclaim their rights from a government that has repeatedly denied them," the statement continued. "We stress that there are two Colombian nationals facing charges because of their participation in the protest and one Colombian national who was disappeared from the site, in addition to the hundreds of people imprisoned and wounded due to the Colombian government's unwillingness to respond peacefully to the situation. While national and international attention has focused on us and on the absurd tale invented by the police, hundreds of homeless families continue to go hungry." (IPO Communique, Sept. 5 posted on www.peaceobservatory.org)
The Movement of Victims of Crimes of State is demanding that district and national authorities fulfill their obligations under the accords they signed a year ago with the displaced families, follow the Constitutional Court's 2004 ruling (T 025) on the vulnerability of the displaced population and respect the right of the victims to peaceful and legitimate protest. (Movimiento de Victimas de Crimenes de Estado Communique, Sept. 4, posted on www.peaceobservatory.org)
PROFESSOR SHOT, COMMUNITY LEADER MISSING
Early on Sept. 1, university professor Edgar Fajardo was taken from his apartment by several individuals and shot to death at the entrance of the residential complex where he lived, in Soacha municipality, on the southern edge of Bogota. Fajardo was a member of the Colombian Communist Party. An unidentified young man was also killed in the incident. (Diario VEA, Caracas; Vientos del Sur, Sept. 2 via Colombia Indymedia)
On Aug. 16, community leader Walter Alvarez Ossa disappeared while returning to his home in the city of Guadalajara de Buga, Valle del Cauca department. As of Sept. 6, his whereabouts and fate remain unknown. Alvarez is a founder and member of the board of directors of the Buga section of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CPDH). For over 30 years he has led efforts to win basic rights and alternative development for the most vulnerable sectors of Buga and Valle del Cauca. In 2004, he was arbitrarily detained by the Attorney General's office. In February 2006, Alvarez was threatened with death in a flier written by individuals who identified themselves as members of the rightwing paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). Despite the flier, neither departmental nor municipal authorities took any measures to protect his life.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders urges people to demand the safe return of Alvarez to his community; full protection for him, his family and all CPDH members in Valle del Cauca; and a full investigation into his disappearance. Letters can be sent to President Alvaro Uribe Velez (firstname.lastname@example.org); Vice President Francisco Santos (email@example.com); Defender of the People Volmar Antonio Perez Ortiz (firstname.lastname@example.org); Attorney General Mario Hernan Iguaran Arana (email@example.com); Procurator General Edgardo Jose Maya Villazon (firstname.lastname@example.org); Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos Calderon (email@example.com); and Carlos Franco, director of the Presidential Program of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (firstname.lastname@example.org). (Adital, Sept. 6)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 10
CAUCA: ARMY GRENADE KILLS KID
Close to midnight on Sept. 16, Colombian army troops fired a mortar grenade at the indigenous village of Zumbico in the southern department of Cauca. The troops were from the National Army's Pichincha Battalion, part of the Third Brigade, camped in the urban area of Jambalo. The grenade landed 40 meters from the site where more than 2,500 indigenous people were celebrating at a fundraiser event, and five meters from the residence of Bautista Yule Rivera, where the explosion killed 10-year-old Wilder Fabian Hurtado and badly wounded Yule Rivera. A number of people at the celebration were also injured.
It was not the first such incident in the indigenous communities of Cauca department. On June 9, a mortar grenade lobbed by the same troops caused serious injuries to Robinson Ullun in the community of Moterredondo. On several other occasions, mortar grenades have landed close to homes. The Indigenous Council of Jambalo responded to the latest attack by calling a public hearing of the indigenous court for Sept. 19. (Cabildo Indigena de Jambalo-Cauca, Sept. 17)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 24
Weekly News Update on the Americas
WW4 REPORT #125, September 2006
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution