(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
Bogotá, November 21, 2007
TO: FRANCISCO SANTOS
Vice President de la Republic
CARLOS HOLGUN SARDI
Minister of the Interior
Minister of Foreign Relations
Minister of the Environment
MARIO IGUARAN ARANA
EDGARDO MAYA VILLAZON
JULIO CESAR TURBAY
National Defender of the People
RE: Threats and intimidation in Curvaradó
“The criminals act without stopping, but we are in the territory for dignity” (Psalm 118, 49)
Once again we express our testimony and ethical censure of the structural inaction in the face of the paramilitary-style reengineering which continues to be developed in Curvaradó and the business operations that are the beneficiaries and participants in these operations that protect the planting of the palm and the extraction of the profits.
The Petro family has again been threatened with death, as part of a circle of persecution, of intimidation, of illegal acts protected by toleration and inaction in the face of paramilitary-style operations and the arrogant disrespect of legality of the behavior of the bad-faith occupants, beneficiaries of paramilitarism or the paramilitaries themselves.
Today, early in the morning, a telephone call announced the death of Enrique Petro and the extermination of his entire family. This threat was added to the various kinds of attacks against Eustaquio Polo, leader of El Guamo, and the burning of housesof the legitimate owners of the territory in Caño Manso.
We put before you the new facts of which we provide testimony and which reflect the absence of a real willingness to provide restitution of property and adopt effective measures to protect the right to use and benefit of the earth.
* Sunday, September 30 at 12 PM 6 paramilitaries armed with shotguns, their faces covered by ski masks, arrived at the property of the campesino Walter Marin, a member of the Consejo Comunitario (Community Council) in the area between the communities of Caño Manso and Montería in the lower Atrato. The armed men threatened the campesino, saying. “If you don’t open your mouth, nothing will happen to you.”
Minutes after marauding around they , the “armed civilians” of the paramilitary strategy went to the property of Eleodora Díaz, who recently returned to the region after 10 years of forced displacement.
The paramilitaries proceeded to burn the house, and after verifying its total destruction by the flames, they left. Because of these acts Eleodora left there and relocated in the old settlement of Caño Manso.
According to witnesses, the place where this incident happened was surrounded by workers under the command of José Luis Luna, one of the administrators of Hacienda Villa Alejandra, located in Caño Manso.
* Saturday, October 20, during the morning, and lasting until about 4:00 in the afternoon, in the hacienda Villa Alejandra, scarcely 50 meters from where campesinos who had returned to the old sttelement of Caño Manso were lodging, the saw people known as “El Tío” or “Colonel Molano,” Jose Luis Luna, Molina and “The Secretary.” These are aliases of some of the beneficiaries of the the paramilitary operations
* Sunday, October 21, around 8 AM the same four men who were together the previous day went in the direction of the property of Tomás Mercado. The habitation of this resident was burned. The same with the corn, plantain yucca and sugar cane crops were destroyed by the cattle brought in the beneficiaries of the paramilitary strategy.
The original inhabitant was forcibly displaced.
* Wednesday, October 24 in the morning our Justice and Peace commission was informed that Julio Acosta, known as “Gausa,” a worker for the Palmadó company, administered by Gabriel Díaz, declared in Brisas de Curvaradó that the campesino Eustaquio Polo, a representative of the Lesser Council of the community of El Guamo, in the Curvadó Basin, is a guerrilla. He added, about the community leader, that Polo, “that guerrilla goes on in peace cutting down palms. The same thing is going to happen to him as happened to Walberto and Miguel Hoyos.”
*Wednesday, October 25, according to witnesses, in the afternoon in the area known as Brisas de Curvaradó, Julio Acosta said, “I want to know who that Eustaquio Polo is in order to identify him.”
* Wednesday, October 31 about 7:00 AM Julio Acosta rrived at the house of the campesino Eustaquio Polo in El Guamo, telling him that he had to make a road to take out some wood. The leader of the Afro-Colombian communities said “That wasn’t his decision, but one of the entire community.” Half an hour later, “Guasa” left.
* Friday, November 2, around 10:30 AM, the campesino Marino Morales was approached by the person known as “The Secretary,” who told him that the territory of Caño Manso is private property and that they are going to be removed from there. The campesino said, “Whom are you going to remove first? The campesinos who are the true owners of these lands, or those who occupied them in bad faith?”
* Thursday, November 8, at mid-day, in the municipality of Riosucio, María Eudocia Ruíz López an inhabitant of the Humanitarian Zone of El Tesoro, was approached by Luis Rodelo, 22 years of age, who was a guide for the army in March of this year.
Minutes after Rodelo identified her, police units arrived on the scene, asking for identity documents. The asked Mrs. Ruíz about her husband, later they took her fingerprint, they announced that they would take her photograph, in they end they refrained from doing so. A few minutes later they allowed her to continue on her way.
* Friday, November 9 about 1:30 PM in the settlement of Caño Manso, when the campesino Jairo Reales Medina entered on a motorcycle, he was approached by the person known as “The Secretary,” who told him that he couldn’t move through this area as it was private and intimidated the campesino: a lot of shit is going to go down here, a worse law is to come that has no consideration.”
Despute the threats, the campesino continued on to the school of the community of Caño Manso, where the families that returned are sheltered.
* Saturday, November 10, at 6 AM Units of the 15 Brigade of the army arrived at the community of Caracolí, in the Collective Territory of Curvaradó, saying that they had arrived because: ”They advised us that the palms were being cut sown with chain saws.”
Liria Rosa García that more than three months before those palms were cut down to plant corn, rice, yucca and plantains, that the lot is part of the collective property recognized by the State, that the improvement belonged to Sixto Pérez and his son, and, “We are the ones who are working there.” Doña Liria rosa told them, “You don’t come to protect the commuities but to protect the palm.” “Nobody is taking it away here, you can stay calm.” A soldier replied, “Yes, imagine it, they send us here to protect the palm.”
The soldiers made of photographic record of the hectares planted three months ago in sugar cane, corn, yucca and plantains by their legitimate owners.
Afterwards, the soldiers said, “They sent us to protect a man, who we thought was a rich person, who had swimming pools here, because he was threatened, but this man is a poor man, he has nothing, he’s called Enrique Petro.”
* Tuesday, November 13 about 5:30 PM a group of units of the 15 Brigade arrived in Caño Manso and went towards the house of the hacienda where the occupants of bad faith live.
Around 6:00 PM they went to the school where the families who returned in august are lodging, and a sergeant named Delgado said: “Miss Marta I have to talk with you.” The campesina, surprised that an unknown person would call her by her correct name, asked the soldier how he knew her, and he said “fro the time one arrives here, you know with whom you have to talk.”
The soldier told her that it’s better to arrange things in a good way, “why didn’t they talk with the administrators who are together there?” The delegates of the community told him, ”We have t talk with the the person who makes the decisions, with the general administrator of these lands, Hugo Fenal Bernal Molano.” The soldier replied, “Yes, of course, I know him, he is my Colonel Molano.” The campesinos asked him if he knew him, to have him come here “since no one has wanted to show their face, only the houses are burned and they send administrators.”
The soldier then said, “We are good friends, but he’s a very busy person. He can’t come here because he’s in other tasks.” The community said that he ha come here to make payments to the hacienda workers; the soldier insisted: “That can’t be, you know? Tell me what he looks like so see if we’re talking about the same person. The campesinos described him as a tall, bald, olive-skinned man. The soldier assented, “yes, we’re talking about the same person.”
Later the soldier left.
Wednesday, November 14, about 8:00 AM, the regular solider Delgado, of the 15 Brigade, asked Martha Martínez to give him a list of the people who were staying in the school.
The same day, during the morning, the campesinos Mariano Morales and Francisco Palencia were approached by a worker form the hacienda Villa Alejandra known as Andres, who prevented them from collecting firewood.
Around 4 PM, the person known as “The Secretary” called Sergeant Delgado, Lieutenant Balaguera and two soliders to tell them about the work of the campesinos while he pointed out the shelter.
In a few minutes Delgado called Martha Martínez, who approached him asking him to have the “Secretary” come and about prohibiting the entry of the legitimate owners of the Collective Territory. The soldier said that they wanted to talk about that and proposed a meeting for Saturday, November 17, with the presence of the general administrator.
* Saturday, November 17 around 10:20 AM Lieutenant Balagera and Sergeant Delgado asked the members of the community of Caño Manso if they were ready for the meeting, that on the side of the hacienda people were José Luis Luna and Molina. The campesinos said; If the owner isn’t there, it makes no sense to talk.” The administrators, in the presence of the community, said that it was true, that they could not make any decisions.
The same day at around 11:00 AM, First Sergeant Delgado left, dressed in civilian clothes, on a tractor of the hacienda Villa Alejandra.
The same day, Gustavo Martínez, a recognized participant in undercover paramilitary-type operations approached a family member of one of the sons of the campesino Enrique Petro, asking about the status of the process of returning the lands.
* Tuesday, November 20 about 11 PM the telephone of the family of Enrique Petro en Belén de Bajirá began to ring insistently until beyond midnight. At that hour, one of the sons of the recognized leader Enrique Petro, a member of the Community Council, answered and they said, “Petro is dead. We’re going to finish off the entire family in Bajirá,” Then they cut the call. Then the phone continued ringing insistently, and the family refrained from answering.
From Saturday the 17 and until Monday the 19th at the same time, the telephone has rung with the same insistence, and the family has not answered.
Our testimony and ethical censure of the evident abuses of authority, the improper role and insanely illogical activity of the 15 Brigade are in our offices.
Today absolutely nothing has changed, except the techniques of control and repression, and the institutional reengineering in the military and social spheres. Property restitution continues to be a chimera. The measures that should have been adopted with respect to the paramilitary-type structures remained on paper alone. The illegal behavior continues being accepted, legitimated, tolerated, not only by the strength of the warrior but the effective inaction of the investigative arm and the justice system. The victims, subject to the law, do not have what is necessary to be favored by the law, nor is it being created, while the criminal elements, that which started with General Rito Alejo del Río Rojas, continues enjoying the benefits of impunity.
For the victims nothing, absolutely nothing. Or perhaps, words about good will, words that are gone with the wind; for the victimizers everything, absolutely everything: impunity, benefits, privileges.
Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (The Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission)
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621