Peasant mobilization in Catatumbo, meeting held with Government

(Translated by Sharon Bagatell, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN’s Volunteer Editor.)


Tuesday, November 9, 2010, by the Permanent Committee of Humanitarian Refuge of the region of Catatumbo


After a peaceful two day stand-off and protest in the town halls of three towns of the region of Catatumbo, the governor of Norte de Santander, Willian Villamizar Laguado, agreed to meet with the representatives of the Permanent Committee of Humanitarian Refuge through the framework of the Board of Dialogue and Agreement (MIA). The Board was created over a year ago to create an agreed-upon plan for substitution of crops in place of forced eradication.


In a meeting held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 4, 2010, the Governor agreed to make an urgent appeal to the National Government to send a high level delegation to deal with the requests of the Permanent Committee of Humanitarian Refuge in the region of Catatumbo.


Villamizar Laguada announced the backing of the regional government to create a Board of Dialogue and Agreement in 2011 and Public Hearings. At the same time, he proposed holding a big event so that men and women farmers can meet and present their proposals and demands directly to the National Government in Catatumbo. The head official of North Santander urged the solicitors, advocates and mayors of the towns of Catatumbo to back the urgent communication that the regional governing body is sending to solicit the attention of the National Government. The governor also indicated that from now on it will employ a direct communication channel headed by his private secretary to deal with the Permanent Committee of Humanitarian Refuge of Catatumbo.


The Permanent Committee of Humanitarian Refuge of Catatumbo, in representation of twenty thousand men and women farmers of the region, celebrates the decision of the regional government and indicates that it will set up the Standing Farmers’ Board of Catatumbo until the National Government reacts to it requests.


Outcome of peaceful protests in the Town Hall of Teorama

At noon on November 4, 2010, around 150 farmers from surrounding villages took over the premises of the Town Hall of Teorama, and at 8 p.m. they were still there.


At 1 p.m., leaders of the protesting farmers met with the Mayor of Teorama to clarify the objective of the peaceful takeover and to solicit the intervention of the National Government so that a commission be appointed to participate in the Board of Dialogue and Agreement together with the Government of Norte de Santander and the Permanent Committee of Humanitarian Refuge in representation of the farming families of Catatumbo.


At 3 p.m., the Lt. Coronel of the National Police, Antonio Victoria, together with the Secretary of the Government of Norte de Santander, Margarita Silva, and the Director of the Social and Political Observatory of the Government Secretariat, Fabio Rene Carrillo, went to the door of the Town Hall to warn that police officers would be entering by force, alluding that “the protest is illegal.” The community prevented the entrance of the officials to avoid any speculation about the retention and kidnapping of public functionaries, as some radio stations of the Police and Army indicated.


At approximately 6 p.m., the mayor of the town held a second hour-long meeting with the leaders of the protesters, with the accompaniment of the Solicitor and the Inspector General, in which he warned of a supposed order of the National Government to disperse the group early in the morning on Friday, November 5 along with the intervention of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron. At the meeting, the authorities stated that the National Government would not give in to the demand to participate on the Board of Dialogue and Agreement until the three mayors were released.


The community congregated in Teorama reported that upon entering the Town Hall, the police beat three farmers, among them a minor who had to be treated at the local medical clinic.


At the same time, member of the Police Intelligence (Sipol) of Ocana , Sebastian Vera, was identified, dressed as a civilian, taking an audio-visual registry of the community.


We urge regulatory agencies, the international community, and human rights defense organizations, to pay special attention to the actions of the security forces in the town of Teorama, since of the three town halls that were taken peacefully, this has been the one to sustain the most hostile behavior against the farmers who are simply exercising their legitimate right to protest given to them by the National Constitution.


Outcome of the peaceful protest in Convencion

The day began at 11:15 am when around 140 farmers peacefully entered the premises of the Town Hall of Convencion. Upon arriving at the site, the functionaries were invited to remain for half an hour while they explained their requests and demands that have driven the farmer mobilization.


Afterwards, the officials left the Town Hall calmly while the protesters continued their peaceful takeover with chants and banners. The mayor of Convencion met with a delegation of farmers and agreed to intercede with the National Government to so that a peasant commission might go to Cucuta to participate in the Board of Dialogue and Agreement where the Permanent Committee of Humanitarian Refuge of Catatumbo hopes to present its outline to create a pilot plan of crop eradication in place of the unplanned forced manual eradication that is underway in the region.


The Mayor also agreed to speak to the commanders of the Police and Army of the town so that they respect the peaceful farmer protest and do not try to disperse them by force or other acts that lead to violence.


All day the members of the police maintained a conflictive attitude; they were dressed as civilians, recording and taking photos of the farmers indiscriminately. When the farmers protested, they intimidated them by showing their guns hidden beneath their clothes.


The community also reported that the police in civilian dress shouted “give them lead” on repeated occasions.

Amidst this, Sergeant Aspirilla, of the National Police, went peacefully to dialogue with the leaders of the farmers and assured them that if the community maintained a peaceful attitude, the police would not escalate the situation.


Outcome of the peaceful protest in El Tarra

A delegation of more than 110 farmers peacefully took over the Town Hall in El Tarra. There were no mishaps or violent acts involving the participants.


The Mayor and Solicitor edited a document in which they stated their rejection of the presence of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron; they would not allow it to go beyond the police station, thus avoiding an escalation of the peaceful protest.


Cucuta, November 4, 2010
Permanent Committee of Humanitarian Refuge of the region of Catatumbo


This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.


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