(Translated by Lucas Sanchez, a CSN volunteer translator)
Through a public announcement, paramilitary groups operating in the south of Bolivar have publicly manifested their armed presence and operations in the region of southern Bolivar, calling themselves the “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.”
The announcement was distributed this week in a few of the municipal capitals in the south of the department of Bolivar and the civilian population finds itself under the threat that history will repeat itself. In the aforementioned announcement it is expressed that:
“THE GAITANISTA SELF-DEFENSE FORCES OF COLOMBIA INFORM THE COMMUNITIES IN THE SOUTH OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BOLIVAR OF THE PRESENCE OF OUR FORCES IN THIS REGION OF THE NATIONAL TERRITORY, THAT, LIKE OTHER REGIONS, HAS IN THE PAST BEEN THE TARGET OF OPERATIONS BY SUBVERSIVE GROUPS AND A SETTLEMENT FOR DEMOBILIZED FRONTS OF THE SELF-DEFENSE FORCES OF COLOMBIA, THE REASONS FOR WHICH ITS CITIZENS THEMSELVES HAVE EXPERIENCED THE RAVAGES CAUSED BY THE ARMED CONFLICT IN COLOMBIA.
TODAY, LIKE IN OTHER REGIONS OF THE NATION AFTER THE FAILED PEACE PROCESS BETWEEN THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT AND THE SELF-DEFENSE FORCES OF COLOMBIA, ITS CITIZENS ARE RELIVING THE PROBLEMS OF INSECURITY AND THE GROWTH OF SUBSERSIVE GROUPS THAT EXIST IN THE REGION; THIS SITUATION CREATES IN US THE IMPERIOUS NECESSITY TO PROTECT AND SUPPORT EX-COMBATANTS AND UPSTANDING CITIZENS WITH OUR PRESENCE TO DEFEND THEIR RIGHTS AND THOSE OF THEIR NEIGHBORS SO THAT EVERYONE BENEFITS WITH OUR MODEST EFFORTS FOR THE ACHIEVEMENT OF PEACE AND TRANQUILITY OF THESE COMMUNITIES.”
It is worth remembering that during the period of the consolidation of paramilitarism in the region, from 1997 to 2002, it has been possible to register the perpetration of more than 556 crimes of state that include 163 victims of massacres, 40 victims of forced disappearances, 163 victims of extrajudicial killings and 190 of other categories that have been attributed to paramilitary groups, the army and their joint operations.
This terror implanted in the south of Bolivar continues to live in the memory of all of its inhabitants, as does the impotence and frustration towards pervasive impunity.
Paramilitary presence in the region and the impact of these announcements has already brought as consequence the displacement of inhabitants of the municipalities that have abandoned the region.
In this regard, it has been denounced before different authorities of the Colombian government several events that denote paramilitary presence in this region of the country:
On the 27th of October, 2008, in the rural neighborhood of San Mateo in the municipality of Montecristo (department of Bolivar), an armed group made its presence known with clothing used exclusively by military forces, and that identified themselves before the community as members of the “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces.” There they established a roadblock restricting the free circulation of the inhabitants of the region, inspecting those transiting around there.
Similarly, in the place known as Mina Caracol, in the rural neighborhood of San Pedro Frio, municipality of Santa Rosa (department of Bolivar), during the last days of the month of October 2008, armed individuals, dressed with military clothing and that wore an armband around their upper arm with an eagle patch, traveled throughout various mining settlements.
It is highly worrisome that presently, in the middle of an increment in the militarization of the south of Bolivar, new military units converge there about which exist substantiated claims about their role in the beginning and consolidation of paramilitarism, and that there are these new patrols, as well as the circulation of announcements that tell the presence of these criminal structures.
These announcements, in the form pamphlets, have been circulating in various departments since the month of October 2008, and are signed by the Gaitanista Self-defense Forces of Colombia.
In the region of Uraba, Bajo Cauca and western Antioquia, an announcement circulated in October of 2008, where they announced a freeze of all normal activities and a call to arms to “stop the advance of guerrilla groups in the region.”
The same happened in Narino, in October of 2008, where the same paramilitary group, the “Gaitanista Self-defense Forces of Colombia,” threatened social and human rights organizations that have worked in the region.
In light of what has been pointed out, we ask you to address the Colombian authorities so that the following is demanded from them:
1. The adoption of special security measures on behalf of the inhabitants in the south of Bolivar that include the pertinent and conducive measures toward combating the free enterprise of criminal structures in the south of Bolivar.
2. A reason for why, in the middle of an elevated militarization of the south of Bolivar through military units like the Luciano de D’elhuyar battalion and Narino battalion, the free enterprise of paramilitary structures has increased.
3. That the events herewith denounced are fully investigated, proceeding towards the adoption of pertinent sanctions.
Bogota, March 17, 2009
Federacion Agrominera del Sur de Bolivar, Corporacion Sembrar, Comision de Interlocucion del Sur de Bolivar, Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia, Coordinador Nacional Agrario, DH Colombia, Corporacion Utopia, Asociacion Nomadesc, Campana Prohibido Olvidar