Colombian Army Chain of Abuses Continue in Southern Bolivar


(Translated by Lina Herrera, a CSN Translator)



The communities of Sur de Bolívar (Southern Bolívar), mobilized since September 19, 2006, in the municipality seat of Santa Rosa, address the national and international public opinion to condemn and reject another murder that brings mourning to this region.

1.      On October 24, 2006, the Batallón Antiaéreo Nueva Granada (Nueva Granada Anti-Aircraft Battalion) killed Mr. LEBER CASTRILLON SARMIENTO, farmer and community leader in the District of Norosí, Municipality of Río Viejo, in the Sur de Bolívar region.

2.      The incident occurred during evening hours, when Mr. Leber Castrillón was near the District of Norosí¹s brook. Mr. Castrillón was fishing with his two minor children when the Army opened fire against them. The minor Miguel Castrillón suffered bullet injuries in his leg.

3.      According to the version of Colonel Gustavo Enrique Avendaño, Chief of Staff of the 5th Brigade, and published by the Vanguardia Liberal Newspaper, ³the events occurred in a sector of the Disctrict of Norosí, Municipality of Rio Viejo, where troops were carrying out a reconnaissance mission.² According to the same article, Mr. Castrillón and his two children were mistaken for members of outlaw organizations, and the Army acknowledged it was a ³military error.²

4.      This crime, along with other crimes committed by the National Army in the Sur de Bolívar region, belongs to a chain of persecution and extermination of this region¹s community and leaders. Murders of peasants and miners, forced disappearances, plundering, tortures, arbitrary detentions, looting; accusations and threats against the communities, and outlaw executions cannot be conceived nor justified as simple MILITARY ERRORS. The Armed Forces presence in this region has been directed to spreading terror and uneasiness among the people in order to displace them from their land. This creates suitable conditions for multinational companies, such as Anglogold Ashanti-Kedahda S.A., to exploit our natural resources.

5.      These communities have permanently brought claims before the Colombian government in regards to the National Army. The Army has stated that ³is not responsible for persons passing by roads after 6:00 p.m.,² this being yet another threat and violation to the right of freedom of movement.

6.      For 36 days we have remained in permanent mobilization –from the day our agro-mining leader ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON was infamously murdered– demanding of the national government protection and safety for our lives and our land. To achieve this, we have requested a government high commission to address our demands and to commit to providing real solutions to the problematic situation we live in. This high commission should be composed of the Minister of Defense, the Secretary of Mines and Energy, the Secretary of the Interior, the nation¹s Public Prosecutor, the Attorney General, the director of the nation¹s Human Rights Program, the Ombudsman, the Governor of Bolívar and the mayors of the Sur de Bolívar region.

7.      In the meantime, members of the National Army have continued to murder, threat, and abuse social leaders and communities in the region. During our permanent mobilization, our lands have been fumigated, destroying numerous hectares of crops, aggravating the region¹s current humanitarian crisis.

8.      We reject the national government¹s lack of validation and respect towards our social organizations. The national government has not been serious or willing to dialogue with the communities, although we have been waiting and insisting peacefully.

We restate that the claims brought before the national government are minimum conditions needed to ensure the respect for our lives and our right to remain in our lands.

Political and Administrative Measures:

We demand:

1.       That the Battalion commander and the operations commanding officers responsible for the mission resulting in the murder of ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON  (leader of Federación Agrominera del Sur de Bolívar ­Agro-mining Federation of Southern Bolívar–) on September 19, 2006, be administratively separated as a political measure. We also demand the separation of all officers involved in concealing this crime, and the chain of Human Rights abuses committed in Sur de Bolívar during 2006.

2.       That the national government acknowledge, publicly and widely, the legality and legitimacy of the labor of the peasant and mining organizations in the Sur de Bolívar region, therefore publicly acknowledging ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON¹s character as an agro-mining leader.

3.       That the Minister of Defense order the immediate demilitarization of the Espacios Humanitarios (Humanitarian Zones) of Sur de Bolívar, which converge in the Comisión de Interlocución (Dialogue Commission).[1] <mhtml:mid://00000002/#_ftn1>

Control and Justice Measures

We demand:

4.       That a Special Joint Unit be created with members of the Attorney General¹s Office and Public Prosecutor¹s Office, in order to jointly carry out the investigations of the events that took place in Sur de Bolívar, denounced before the Mesa de Interlocución (Dialogue Commission).

5.       That the Organos de la Justicia Penal Militar (Judge Advocate General¹s Corps) abstain from taking part in the investigation of the murder of ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON and other Human Rights abuses that took place in Sur de Bolívar.

6.       That the national government guarantee the presence of the Attorney General¹s Office in different municipalities, districts, and communities, in order to monitor Human Rights abuses.

Protection and Constitutional Rights

We demand:

7.       The Ombudsman¹s Office increase its presence, through the designation of community ombudsmen permanently located in the rural areas of Sur de Bolívar.

8.       That appropriate mass communication media (using satellite technology) be designated to each municipality in order to promptly communicate risk situations to prevent Human Rights abuses.

9.       That the national government requests from the Colombian Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to create and publish a special report, containing the status of Human Rights and IHL in the Sur de Bolívar region.

10.  That the national government reconsider its policy of irrational exploitation of the natural resources in the Sur de Bolívar region, and contains the immense pressure from regional, national, and international businessmen and politicians to buy land from farmers. Their clear economic interests are causing displacement, uprooting, family and community disintegration, and fear in the civil population; in this sense we propose:

a.      To develop a project of agricultural reform and rights compensation for the displaced peoples who lost their right to have possessions and their lands in Sur de Bolívar

b.      That concession contracts to third parties be suspended, proposed to the Secretary of Mines of the Department of Bolívar, and that Sur de Bolívar be declared a mining reserve zone.

Negotiated Solution to the Armed Conflict

That all necessary conditions be created to reestablished a political solution to the conflict in the Magdalena Medio region, by creating a regional peace team to facilitate and expedite consensus between the government, the insurgent organizations, and the civil society. This would be a way towards building peace, stopping the death quota of peasant and miner men and women, and of the general civil population.

A call to the insurgent groups

1.-    To respect the right to life and physical integrity of the people and communities of Sur de Bolívar.

2.-    To fully comply with the regulations of the International Humanitarian Law.

3.-    To respect the humanitarian zones (Espacios Humanitarios) located in the region.




Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621

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