(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)

National Human Rights Team, Case of Black Communities
Junta of the Community Council of Alto Mira and the Border
The National Human Rights Team, Case of Black Communities, informs the national and international communities and the agencies of the Colombian government about the following:
Today, Tuesday, October 7, 2008, at 1:05 pm, we were informed that the companero Armenio Cortes had been assassinated. He was 46 years old, and a member of the junta of the Community Council of Alto Mira and the Border, and worked as prosecutor for that council.
Companero Armenio was leaving a meeting with the junta of the Community Council, today, October 7, 2008, held in the headquarters of Recompas in the city of Tumaco. After the meetings, these compañeros said good-bye at about noon, each one going to his own house and town. Armenio was almost home, about 100 meters from where the car dropped him off. A still-unidentified man was waiting for him and shot him. Some members of the junta were informed between 12:30 pm and 1:05 pm.
It is worth noting that suspicious facts reported to the prosecutor’s office had taken place the previous month. One of them came from the denunciations about the environmental damage caused by farmers growing illegal crops. After that, about a month ago, some members of the junta of the council—including Armenio Cortes—were notified of threats and information from a close source that an assassin had been sent to kill him. The most recent event before the assassination occurred the previous Saturday (October 4), when some neighbors informed Armenio’s family that they had found a hooded man behind the house, who had fled upon being seen. The reaction of the local prosecutor’s office to these facts was that they should stop being a nuisance with all their denunciations and community activities.
According to the information being circulated for the past few days in the area, 5 members of the junta are supposed to be killed for opposing the plans being worked out for the collective land by other organizations who operate in the area and whose interests contradict those of the black communities. These threats have been given since the middle of this year, and have been denounced by the PCN, the Community Councils, and the local organizations–without anything having been done about it.
The convocation of a regional assembly of community councils, which was stopped by a lack of resources and by a lack of support by those who have no interest in confronting this situation, had as its purpose, among other agenda items, to discuss the seriousness of the facts here presented and demand that the State take action, considering the threats and deaths of members of the communities in the region and their leaders. The fact that the assembly did not take place has contributed to the groups who are against the organizational dynamics taking  this as an opportunity to get rid of those who oppose their interests.
The members of the junta of the Community Council are planning activities for the community, and in spite of threats, should continue doing community work. It should be stressed that the members of this junta, of the Community Council of Alto Mira and the Border, as well as other councils and organizations in the area, have been threatened because of their political position regarding the defense and protection of collective lands and several of them had to leave the area because of the threats. Proof of this is that the Protection of Human Rights Program of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice has adopted some measures for the protection of these leaders.
Armenio had been in the junta of the Community Council for a year and a half. He always stood out for his commitment to the communities and to the organizational process. This companero left 4 children orphans and his wife a widow. Born in the township of El Playon on the bank of the Mira River, Armenio is one more victim from the Community Council and the collective lands, without the authorities taking the situation seriously. First it was Francisco Hurtado Cabezas, who was assassinated in 1998 because he defended the land and opposed the cultivation of oil palm trees..More than 30 leaders linked to organizational processes have been assassinated since; the most recent—before Armenio—was the compañero Felipe Landazury of the junta of the community council of Bajo Mira, assassinated less than three months ago.
We call upon the authorities and agencies in charge to find those responsible and punish them as they should be; to take precautionary measures and protect the other threatened persons; and to support the actions on behalf of exercising their rights and autonomy of the communities and their organizations. In the same way, collective measures should be adopted that should be taken in consultation with the junta of the Community Council, that aim for the permanence of the black communities in support of their legitimate right to the land and their cultural identity as blacks, their right to autonomy, to decide their own future.
Given in Bogota, October 7, 2008
National Human Rights Team, Case of Black Communities
Junta of the Community Council of Alto Mira and the Border

Colombia Support Network
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