By Diego Escobar
(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Along the banks of the Oveja River in the afternoon of April 7, 2010, after having finished the cut in the Balanta artisanal mine, eight miners were massacred. The act occurred in the municipality of Suarez in an area known as the Hato Santa Marta, located in northwest Cauca. It is a region rich in precious minerals which are coveted by multinationals such as Anglogold Ashanti and Cosigo Resources. The region is a scenic paradise for Smurfit Kappa Colombian Cardboard inversions and also serves as an energy deposit for Fenosa Union. Presently, Colinversiones, the Antioquian Business Group, has attained this area for a great sum of money through a public acquisition offer.
This artisanal mining group, known as ¨barequeros¨, consists of José Yulbel Ocoro Balanta, Deiber, José Asnoldo and Wilber Fernando Mosquera, natives of the region, and Pablo Cesar, Macedonia, Henry Ibarguen Mosquera and his nephew Jeison Antonio Ibarguen Ramirez who along with Peter Gomez Sanchez arrived from Condoto, Choco and the Zaragoza mines in search of an opportunity to find gold sources and obtain dividends. All were attacked with high power firearms and a dagger. According to local accounts the assassinators, three dressed in camouflage along with other civilians, one with a coastal accent, were transported in white, double-cabin vans.
Deiber Mosquera intelligently appeared to be dead and managed to slip away as soon as the victims were removed from the sight to inform authorities of what had occurred in Suarez´s urban center. From generation to generation these eight humble miners, now finished in cold blood, had derived their income to support their families through the artisanal mine. Unfortunately the national government has sold and mortgaged territories and resources. Those who hold monetary power and ambitions have few scruples and for this reason, as seen in other parts of Colombia and the world, have committed abominable, cruel and merciless acts.
According to Deiber Mosquera, before the trigger was pulled, the victims were told that they ¨should not be in this site because the area was private property¨. They were then made to kneel and were shot in the back. These mercenaries are paid by their bosses to protect investments. This implies that, apart from the perpetrators, investigations should also be had for those holding supposed licenses to explore and exploit these lands.
In regards to the previous hypothesis two details which could irrefutably determine those responsible both intellectually and materially for this horrific crime should be kept in mind: firstly, it appears that the multinational Anglogold Ashanti holds a license to explore and exploit gold and other minerals in this area. Secondly, a tunnel, which could permit the Ovejas River to transfer into the Salvajina Reservoir, can be found in the vicinity surrounding the massacre sight. As stated in the opening paragraph, this tunnel is operated by the Spanish subordinate company´s Fenosa Union which recently acquired property previously owned by the Antioquian Business Group.
What is called to attention is how this group of assassins mobilized themselves in luxurious, openly exposed cars carrying long-range arms and executing eight people in an area whose importance for foreign capital remains guarded by two high mountain battalions who watch left and right over the margins of the walls of the Salvajina Reserve and who were a half-hour from the site when the massacre occurred. Here as well an anti-guerilla group of the National Police quarters troops in the urban center of Suarez, which also were one hour from the massacre site.
On the other hand, and in accordance to the habitants of neighboring districts, this massacre was neither an isolated nor chance event. Groups of armed people throughout various hours of the day mobilize in these types of vans. At night, driving without headlights, they search out civic leaders of the region with the alleged intention of taking their lives.
This contradicts the reckless and unfounded affirmation of 4th Regional Police Chief General Gustavo Adolfo Ricaurte who, perhaps in attempts to divert the investigation and escape a scenario of human rights violations in northwest Cauca, stated two versions before media sources both very distant from reality: in the first place there is no possibility of war or vendetta between the artisanal miners in the region, such as indicated by General Ricaurte. As has been well known by all for some time, the wealth of gold in Suarez is incalculable to the point in which extractive multinationals such as Anglogold Ashanti and Cosigo Resources have it in the spotlight. While hunger and misery are experienced daily throughout the region and artisanal mines swarm the territory high and low, disputes over location and extraction quantities have never beforehand presented themselves.
Secondly, the high official affirmed that those responsible are the 30th FARC Front. However in accordance to local versions these guerillas, along with the National Liberation Army have maintained their presence in the region but have never attacked the public in this manner. There has been only one raid, years ago, when FARC took Suarez and precisely directed social and armed conflict against security forces. It seems the light manner of General Ricaurte´s statements have pretentions to deviate the attention and the investigation from the true culprits and interests behind this massacre.