(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator )
Concern caused by the murder of the campesino leader Armando Montañes, in one of the areas with the highest levels of militarization and petroleum exploitation in the Department of Casanare!
The Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training (COS-PACC), the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners Foundation (FCSPP), and the European network for Brotherhood and Solidarity with Colombia (REDHER)
We condemn and bring to the attention of national and international public opinion, the following facts:
The campesinos who live in the area of the foothills of Casanare ,from 2002 until today, as part of the policy of democratic security have been victims of stigmatization and submitted to all kinds of abuses and cruel and inhuman treatment, such as: forced disappearances; murder; torture; threats; arbitrary and illegal detentions, which are only aimed at damaging the image and the good name of the campesinos; as well as forced displacements; actions which have affected the totality of the inhabitants of the region.
In the same way, this past January 18, the organizations signing this note obtained information from the community of the municipality of Aguazul, Casanare, in which we were told of the possible forced disappearance of the campesino leader, an inhabitant of the community of Monterralo, after four armed and masked men opened fire on him as he approached hi dwelling on his farm in that community. These acts occurred on the 16th of January.
We immediately organized a denunciation, with the goal that, based on the exercise of their constitutional authority by the respective state offices, actions could be moved forward to find the leader in question safe and sound. This action was joined by national and international social and human rights organizations.
Profile and background of Armando Montañez
He worked for many years as a leader of ANUC (an organization that was persecuted and eliminated by the activities of the state and the paramilitaries), and at the same time he was president of the Junta de Acción Comunal (Social Action Committee) of El Paraíso. Years back, he suffered accusations by the public security forces of “supposed collaboration with the guerrillas.” This sort of accusation has occurred frequently to many of the inhabitants of Monterralo since in the past, more than five years ago, it was an area with a strong ELN presence.
In addition, some versions of the story point out that three years ago he was threatened by the paramilitary “HK,” who on various occasions expressed his interest in exterminating the Montañez family, including Armando. Three months earlier, related people said that Armando Montañez had been told about possible problems with the DAS (state security) and persecution by the national army.
Two days before the murder he received a call from the prosecutor’s office calling him to a meeting to have a discussion with him about “protection” for him. According to his wife, on Monday, January 14, a person identified as “Doctor Dora”—a supposed functionary of the national attorney general’s office—called him and told him that she needed to meet with him since “she had to ask him some questions.” On Tuesday Armando went to talk with her, and upon returning told his wife that the meeting has gone well for him and that Doctor Dora has given him a telephone number so that he could communicate with her: 091-570-2000, extension 1246.
Late at night on Tuesday, January 15, several members of the community saw three pick-up trucks that they identified as belonging to the GAULA (police special unit on kidnapping). Two of them parked on the main road and one entered a secondary road to the cemetery, stayed a few minutes and returned to the main road. Then the three pick-ups went off in the direction of the city of Aguazul.
On Wednesday, January 16, around 6 in the morning he left his house in the town of Monterralo by his nine-year-old son and his worker, José Libardo Jutinicio Gómez (i.d. card 3,207,255, from Tocaima) going to his property, called Caño Limón, about thrity minutes from the Municipal capital of Monterralo, intending to catch a bull calf of his that had wandered onto a neighbor’s property called Zapatosa, Upon finishing this taks, he went to collect oranges with his worker while he sent his son to open the gate of Caño Limón. The son returned immediately, telling Armando that there were two men inside the house. Then the worker went towards the house, and don Armando went behind him. As they approached the house, two men came out fro inside, and two others came out from behind it, dressed in civilian clothes and wearing cut-down rubber boots, and two of them had on ski masks.
The four men opened fire with pistols against don Armando and his son. They ran, followed by three of their attackers. According to witnesses, the man who apparently was the leader of the group yelled to the other three who were following Armando “shoot, don’t let him go, that son of a bitch is the daddy of the Elenos [members of the ELN].” Meanwhile, the worker was put of the ground face down in front of the house by a fourth attacker, young—about 35 years old—slender, with light green eyes, fine features, tall (1.57 meters [about 5’2”]), with white socks, cut-off rubber boots, an accent different from the people of the region, who was not masked, who in his vulgar way told him he was going t kill him and asked if he was an Eleno [member of the ELN guerrillas]
Apparently, don Armando ran several kilometers in the direction of some steep land, and his son managed to escape the attackers. For his part, the attacker who ha kept Armando’s worker at gunpoint left the scene, and immediately the witness fled to a neighboring property and on the way met a son of Armando’s, who asked him why those men wanted to kill them. Upon returning to the settlement he told don Armando’s wife what had happened.
Immediately several members of the community started a search for the body of don Armando and informed army sergeant Ángel Padilla, who said it was strange because that very day the men of Batallion 44 who were in the area near where this happened had received orders to leave. However, the soldiers came to the property but according to what some members of the community said, their participation in the search for don Armando was indifferent and ineffective. Upon learning about what had happened, sergeant Padilla called doña Leticia, don Armando’s wife, to tell her that they were waiting for the results of the search.
Since by the end of the day they had not managed to find him, on Thursday the 17th the continued the search with success; however, several tho0ugh that don Armando had managed to flee through the stubble. That same day doña Leticia went to the prosecutor’s office in Aguazul to file her complaint, but they sent her to the police. In the police station, a uniformed policeman called Camilo took the information, but did not accept the complaint since the 72 hours necessary to declare don Armando a missing person had not passed.
On Friday the 18th around 8 in the morning members of the community took up the search again, and at 9 AM Daniel Moreno found the body of don Armando in a crag near the property Las Colonias, about two kilometers from Caño Limón, where it had happened. The body was found under a tree, face up, with two bullets in the skull, one of them with the entry wound in the area of the left jaw, and the exit in the right temple. Armando’s face was bloody, one of his arms showed signs of trauma, and the body generally was in an advanced state of decomposition. Next to the body, don Armando’s shirt was found, with a lot of blood. On the path between the property and where the body had been found, they found no traces of blood or cartridges that belonged to the ammunition of the firearms fired by the attackers.
When the body was found the Army cordoned off the area and tried to remove the body on their own, despite the pressure from the family and the Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training (COS-PACC), who communicated with the Casanare regional human rights officer, Doctor Mauricio Mojica; this made it possible to make them stop, so that in the afternoon, around 3 PM, the removal of the body was done by functionaries of the CTI (Technical Investigation Unit of the Attorney general’s Office). It was taken to the morgue of the municipality of Aguazul for the autopsy. In the face of the refusal by Doctor Lina, of the hospital of Aguazal, to carry out the procedure, who argued that she only worked from 8 to 4, and that the municipality was shorthanded—because of the Rice Festival, the autopsy could only be carried out on Saturday, January 19, and the body was handed over to the family at about 11 in the morning of that same day.
This occurred within the framework of a series of complaints b y the community because of the abuses by members of the army who, under the effect of marijuana, mistreat the campesinos, steal their cattle, fish and hens, stay in their homes, call them guerrillas and guerrilla collaborators.
This is not the first case of this type in Monerralo. From the murder of the defenseless 78-year-old Pantaleón Gómez, which happened ten years ago, and whm they tried to present as a guerrilla who was killed by the army, to the recent extrajudicial execution of Alcides Castillo by members of the armed forces, whom they presented in a war briefing as an ELN guerrilla, the region has been devastated by multiple violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the national security organizations.
Nor is it the first case in which members of GAULA have been involved. We must recall the recent case in which two functionaries of this structure whose headquarters is in Yopal, Casanare, were hired to murder a campesino in Villavicencio and in the end were captured in Villanueva and included in a judicial trial.
—That all the actions that pertain to the authorities that have a role be carried out, to safeguard the physical integrity of the eyewitnesses to what happened, their families, the community that participated in the search and the human rights defense organizations that have been accompanying this situation, so that they can stay in their territory and continue in carrying out their work.
—That the Attorney general of the nation undertake a criminal investigation, that the facts be made clear and that afterward in accordance with legal processes, those responsible for the actions that ended the life of Arnaldo Montañez and the activities that those with him suffered, be named and judged.
—That if participation by public officials is discovered, the Inspector general of the nation undertake a disciplinary investigation, that the facts be made clear and that afterward in accordance with legal processes, those responsible for the actions that ended the life of Arnaldo Montañez and the activities that those with him suffered, be named and judged.
—That the security forces carry out their role of safeguarding the life, honor and possessions of the campesinos of the region, and that the paramilitaries who still continue to operate in the department of Casanare, despite its being one of the most militarized zones of Colombia, be captured and punished.
Please communicate with:
Álvaro Uribe Vélez
Presidente de la Republica
Vicepresidente de Colombia
Edgardo José Maya Villazón
Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.
E- mail: email@example.com
Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz
Defensor del Pueblo
Phone: 57-1-314-7300 – Ext: 2112 / 2337
Oficina del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos.[United Nations High Commisioner for Human Rights] Representante de la oficina del alto comisionado para los derechos humanos en Colombia. [Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia] Office
Juan Pablo Cortazolli.
Calle 114 Nº 9-45, Torre B, of. 1101, Teleport
Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitaro (Presidential program on Human Rights and on International Humanitarian Law)
Calle 7 N° 5 – 54 Bogotá D.C.
Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados –ACNUR (United national High Commission for Refugees- UNHCR
Honorable Señor Francisco Galindo Vélez
Calle 114 Nº 9-01, Torre A, of. 601 Bogotá, D. C.
COMITÉ INTERNACIONAL DE LA CRUZ ROJA – CICR
Honorable Señor Juan Pedro Schaerer
Calle 76 Nº 10-02 Bogotá, D. C.
Teléfono PBX: 3138630
Colombia, January 20 de 2008
RED DE HERMANDAD Y SOLIDARIDAD – COLOMBIA
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621