(Translated by Derin Collins. A CSN volunteer translator)
With sadness and indignation, the Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT) and Humanidad Vigente (Non-governmental Human Rights Association) make known to the national and international communities that on Thursday 14th August farmer Olivo Peña, approximately 45 years old and inhabitant of the rural area of Manzanares was assesinated by troops of the Brigada móvil No 15 del Ejército Nacional. (15th Mobile Brigade of the National Army). The crime occured in the unincorporated town of Puente Real, located in the Municipality of San Calixto ( North of Santander).
According to the inhabitants of the rural area Manzanares and other nearby areas (also located in the municiplality of San Calixto) , on Tuesday the 12th August at 6 o´clock in the afternoon, Don Olivo was looking after the house of a neighbour when the solidiers arrived and forced him to come out, arguing that he was being detained becouse he had been found “cambuchando” (Picking and pressing coca leaves)
The following day, the farmer was taken from the rural area, to the unincorporated town of Puente Real, where the inhabitants heard various shots around 9pm on Thursday 14th August.
On Friday 15th August, members of the Army informed the inhabitants of Puente Real that they had “dado de baja” (literally signed off) a guerilla and injured another. However, to the surprise of the community, the supposed guerilla who had been shot was Don Olivo Peña, who everyone identified as a farmer who had no connection with any of the armed groups that operate in the zone and who worked for the Junta de Acción Comunal de la rural area de Manzanares. (Council for Communal Action of the rural area of Manzanares).
It was not until yesterday, after having made repeated claims to the authorities, that the family of Don Olivo finally had the opportunity to bury him. However, he will remain officially identified as a guerilla who died in combat.
As if it is nothing to lose one of your members in such violents and absurd circumstances, the community of Manazares actually lives with anxiety and worry knowing that members of the Army have in their possesion the cell phone with camera that belonged to Don Olivo. The motives for the anguish are not unfounded: the soldiers are asking questions of the inhabitants of the rural area and other neighbours – as much about the identity of, as well as the activities of the people who appear in the photos taken by Don Olivo. Many are of neighbours and family who are worried how the Army will use the images.
Taking into account the previously narrated events we demand that the National Government and especially the Fiscalía (Colombian Public Prosecutor’s office) and the Procuraduría General de la Nacíon, (Internal Affairs agency responsible for investigating crimes by government employees) that they begin an investigation pertinent to clarifying the events, and to identify and punish those responsible for the assasination of Don Olivo Peña. Also, we insist, particularly before the Defensoría del Pueblo, (Human Rights Ombudsman) that the security of the inhabitants of the rural area of Manzanares and the unincorporated town of Puente Real is guaranteed. Equally, convocamos the natioanl and international community for their support in these requests.
To the family of Don Olivo, from ASCAMCAT and Humanidad Vigente, our thoughts of affection and solidarity are with you. Your pain is also ours.
Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT)
20th August 2008