(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Communiqué to National and international Public Opinion from the Diocese of Tumaco
“Blessed are those who work for peace, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 5, 9)
As the Diocese of Tumaco, like other organizations and institutions, we have made known on repeated occasions the critical situation of anxiety, fear and insecurity that people have been living through on the Pacific Coast of Nariño for several years now. The foregoing is made clear by, among other things, the murders, massacres, intimidation, extortion, displacements, indiscriminate fumigations and territorial control by the different armed groups, many times linked to the illicit economy [i.e., drugs—SC]
Currently we are especially worried about and want to make known the situation that has been becoming more acute in the last n umber of months, according to the statements of the community, in the Municipality of Olaya Herrera. Bocas de Satinga, that is to say the municipal capital of this municipality, because of the opportunities offered by the growing wave of narco-trafficking, has grown rapidly, to the point of currently having a population of more than 25,000 persons. But side by side with this “economic growth” insecurity and terror have grown. Every kind of armed group is present in the streets. In broad daylight, and even in illegal checkpoints across from public offices they have intimidated the population with pistols held to their temples and threatening words, demanding their identity documents.
At night masked people come out, and shots are heard, so that from 7 PM on practically no one walks in the streets. There is also fear over the possibility of a repetition of guerrilla attacks, like what already happened on May 8, 2009, with a canoe-bomb.
It is very worrisome that in the last number of months at least 30 people have been murdered in the municipality of Olaya Herrera, and the wave of violence does not cease. Here we remember some of the victims:
April 23, 2009:
John Ever Sinisterra Celorio, 21 years old, murdered by firearm just a few steps from the police station of Bocas de Satinga, immediately after being set free.
April 25, 2009:
Unnamed person, an Afro male, his body discovered in the Sanquianga River, at the urban perimeter of Bocas de Satinga, murdered by a knife stab in the nack, and with an ear cut off.
May 13, 2009:
Jesús María Franco Ortiz, adult, and
Jonathan N., 14 years old, murdered with fire arms on the dock of Bocas de Satinga
June 2, 2009:
Dagoberto Rosales Guevara, 35 years old, murdered
June 24, 2009:
Bolívar Cuenú Parlaza, 41 years old, murdered and his body found in the ocean district of the municipality of Olaya Herrera
July 22, 2009:
Cristóbal García, fish peddler, and
Gerardo Ruíz, fisherman, both murdered with firearms, machete and stick blows, their outboard motors robbed, in the rural community of San José Calabazal
August 2, 2009:
Fiver Perlaza Cortés, aka “El Chivo,”[“the Goat”—SC] head of the criminal gang of the same name
Florentino Sinisterra Cortés, aka “Tocayo” [“Namesake”—SC]killed in a joint operation of the Armed Forces with armed civilians, Barrio El Bajito, Bocas de Satinga
August 5, 2009:
Jairo Fredy Lerma Salas, murdered with fire arms in the barrio La Pista, Bocas de Satinga
Luis Gervis Hurtado Sinisterra, wounded in the same attack, died while being moved to Tumaco
September 2, 2009:
Unnamed person, 15 years old, disappeared and found dead September 7 in the municipality of Olaya Herrera
September 15, 2009:
M. Perea Vargas, 30 years old, murdered in the rural community Boca de Prieta
September 22, 2009:
Unnamed person, aka “Pico de Loro” [“parrot Beak”—SC]
September 23, 2009:
Juan Valencia Bonilla, 34 years old, wounded by a firearm and killed by his attacker while a stretcher was being sought to take him to the hospital
September 28, 2009:
Rubén Darío Guisamano Yesquén, 23 years old
Jesús Alberto Mancilla Valencia, 25 years old
Luis Hurtado Sinisterra, 30 years old, two of them murdered by firearm, La Langosta Roja [“the Red Lobster”—SC] Restaurant. Bocas de Santinga, the third was seriously wounded and died during the trip to Tumaco
October 1, 2009:
Álvaro León N., murdered by a firearm a 11 AM in the brrio La Pista
October 28, 2009:
José Oney Vivas Ortiz, 23 years old, murdered by firearms at the Sports Center, Bocas de Satinga
October 31, 2009;
Eugenio Martínez Hurtado (father), 52 years old, and
Luis Carlos Martínez Perlaza, 24 years old (son), both murdered as they traveled in a private boat between Bocas de Satinga and Iscuandé
November 4, 2009:
Ovisio Lodoño Vélez, father
Maricela Castro, mother
Verónica Lodoño Castro, 3-4 years old, murdered and cut to pieces with a machete on the road from La Loma to Altos de Guandipa (Río Patía)
December 24, 2009
Unnamed person, a youth, a soldier on leave, murdered b y gunshots at 4 PM in the bariio San Martin, Bocas de Satinga
February 3, 2010:
Unnamed person, murdered, Bocas de Satinga
Gerardo Perlaza Orobio, 36 years old and with 14 children, brother of the municipal treasurer, murdered at night in Bocas de Satinga.
These crimes have left widows, orphans, mourning, anger and sadness, and have remained in complete impunity, which increases the danger of new violent acts.
Based on all the foregoing and especially with the two most recent murdered, committed in the night of the past February 3. The following day, Bocas de Satinga was paralyzed: businesses did not open their doors, the schools did not function, the institutions stayed closed, the streets empty. The traditional carnivals were suspended and there is a great uncertainty and a lot of fear about what might happen.
The constitutionally established security forces, like the National Police and the Marines are there with big contingents, but they have not guaranteed peace, nor security nor [protected] the life, honor and goods of the inhabitants. The law that rules most is the law of silence.
In the rural population of the municipality the same situation prevails: it has been a long time since anyone has been able to travel along the rivers.
Also, recently several communities of the Satinga River suffered two massive displacements: the first took place on October 10 because of a confrontation a 4 PM between the FARC-EP and the marines in the village of Pueblo Nuevo. This initially affected eight Afro and indigenous communities, and two months passed before their return.
In the second massive displacement, of January 31 of this year, some 300 Eperara Siapidara Indians had to leave their three villages: La Tórtola, Casa Grande and Robles, taking refuge in a temporary place 10 minutes from Boca Satinga. In a communiqué published on February 2, the indigenous organization ACIESNA denounced the fact that their general assembly carried out in the village of Tórtola was not respected by either the FARC-EP or the Marines, in open violation of International Humanitarian Law. First, four uniformed and armed members of the FARC-EP broke into the site of the meeting, took the floor against the of the indigenous people and put everyone present in danger. Twenty minutes later the Marines arrived and entered threatening and shooting, with the goal of capturing the guerrillas, without considering the presence of more than 80 civilians, men, women and children, at the meeting and more than a hundred Indians in the immediate surroundings.
This situation that the Municipality of Olaya Herrera is going through puts in serious doubt the guarantees of exercising freely and without pressure the rights of citizens to vote in the elections the coming March 14.
In the face of this very critical general panorama we want to alert the authorities and national and international public opinion, so that what happens in the municipality of Olaya Herrera does not remain invisible, but rather that it be known and that a sustainable solution be sought.
We ask that all the responsible authorities carry out their constitutional duties and take efficient measures to guarantee the civilian population a social state of law, security, tranquility and a dignified life.
We exhort the legal and illegal armed groups that they not involve the civilian population in the armed conflict, and that they respect their community spaces.
We urgently ask national and international organizations to continue accompanying and strengthening the bonds of solidarity with this region.
Diocese of Tumaco, February 5, 2010