Region : Southern Bolivar Department /January 2013
(Translated by Stephanie DiBello, a CSN Volunteer Translator
Source : Conference Panel South of Bolivar ( Comisión de Interlocución Sur de Bolivar)
Sur de Bolívar’s Commission for Dialogue denounces the following acts that are occurring in the region:
MUNICIPALITY OF TIQUISIO:
1. The growing paramilitary presence continues to be a cause of concern and anxiety among the local population, because the paramilitary forces have tried to exercise social and economic control over the municipality in several different ways. They have established what they call “points of control” throughout several villages and on the roadways, from where they control who comes and goes. When someone unfamiliar tries to pass through, the paramilitary forces harass them, and there have been cases of forced disappearances. Additionally, the paramilitary forces have established a series of norms that oblige habitants who own rural or urban land to attend to the paramilitary members in the area. They are also performing “social cleansing”.
Some of these “points of control” can be found in the following areas: the Guacamayo area, el Tigre, la Zorra and Naranjal. On December 14, between 1:00 and 5:00 pm, the paramilitaries convoked a meeting with the motorcycle taxi drivers and some merchants from Puerto Rico at a ranch owned by the Hernández family, which is located about eight minutes from the municipality’s urban center. In this meeting, the paramilitaries imposed obligatory taxes on the merchants and motorcycle taxi drivers. They told them that paramilitaries were to be given free motorcycle rides to wherever they wished. In that same meeting, the commander of the paramilitary group “los Rastrojos”, alias “The Politician”, said that they were going to show the community that they were not just delinquents.
MUNICIPALITY OF ARENAL:
1. In the municipality of Arenal, the armed forces stationed in the area have committed several infractions to International Humanitarian Law. The police constantly use the community radio station “Negrita Estéreo” to spread confidential information, closely follow investigations that are performed against local habitants to broadcast on their own programs, and carry out campaigns that put local leaders and social organizations at high risk. By sending apparently effusive greetings to some leaders, they are targeting social organizations, which in the context of an armed conflict puts community processes at high risk. In their programs the police also publicly support the local government, which constitutes an infraction because members of the armed forces are prohibited from participating in political matters.
2. The municipality’s urban center has been invaded by a series of street vendors that are unknown in the region, and whose products are irrelevant to the local demand, yet they somehow persist in the area. The habitants suspect that these “vendors” are involved in delinquent activities.
3. In December several homicides were committed in the municipality of Arenal. Although these crimes are apparently a result of common delinquency, they share certain characteristics that demonstrate the region’s grave security problems. Consider the following:
– On December 1, a bar manager was murdered. Although his real name remains unknown, he was known as “El Mono”. The murderers were two unknown individuals on motorcycles. After committing the crime they fled on the road that leads from Arenal to Norosí and Micoahumado. It was reported that the victim had been retained twice by police officers that accused him of being a member of a guerrilla group.
– On December 22 at 8:00 pm, Mr. Pablo Emilio Granados, known by the nickname “Beauty”, was murdered by an unknown perpetrator. The homicide occurred at the door of a toy store in the downtown area of the urban center of Arenal. The perpetrator fled the scene and shot at a bystander who was trying to catch him. Another person was waiting for him as he fled Arenal to head towards Norosí. According to several reports, in addition to selling clothing the victim sold supplies used for processing narcotics. It has also been confirmed that the victim had problems with a criminal group.
– On December 22 at 8:30 pm, Jamey Bastos Ramírez was murdered in his house, which he shared with displaced persons and other victims of the armed conflict. The murder was committed by three unknown persons, two of which hid their identity with ski masks and pointed out the victim while the third person, who was unmasked, shot the victim several times. One of the victim’s brothers began to chase the perpetrators, who fled on the road from Arenal towards Micoahumado. The Arenal police then pursued the people who were chasing down the murderers, shot the tires of their car, and obligated the victim’s relative to return. The police did not continue to follow the assassins, despite the fact that they knew which road they were on.
The inspector of San Rafael township, his secretary, and two others that accompanied them to recover the victim’s body were assaulted with a knife by unknown persons. They were all able to flee without being harmed. It has been reported that the victim had come into problems with construction workers and armed groups over a combustible business deal to extract gold in the open air mines mountains of San Lucas.
– On December 22, two people arrived at the municipality that identified themselves Franklin Velásquez, an agronomist, and his son, from the Rio Nuevo township of Puerto Pajon. They pretended to be lawyers that were working with the local government to photocopy the citizens national identification cards. They were supposedly working for SISBEN, a social program of the government that provides aid to those affected by excessive flooding in 2010-2011. The citizens were asked to sign and place their fingerprint on a document that would be used to present a legal case so that each person affected by the 2010-2011 winter storms could receive 1,500,000 pesos. In order to receive this payment, the citizens were told that they would have to withdraw the money from the Farmers’ Bank of Morales, identifying themselves as victims of the 2010-2011 winter storms. As a condition, each person would have to pay 400,000 pesos once they receive their money in order to pay the government official from the disaster unit, the official in charge of assigning and paying out the stipend, the judge in charge of the case, and the lawyers. So in the end each person is supposed to receive 1,100,000 pesos. What are these documents really meant to achieve? Will the money really be used to pay the aforementioned persons or is this another strategy for displacement?
– At the end of December, an anonymous pamphlet circulated throughout the municipality’s urban center that accused the police, paramilitaries, mayor’s office and guerrilla groups of collaborating with each other and stated that they will “meet their end”.
This wave of homicides and strange occurrences has generated panic amongst the habitants.
– Several months ago the government implemented a project to build and obtain maximum benefit from an aqueduct that would provide drinkable water to the munipal center. The government of Bolívar is paying for the project (called Aguas de Bolívar) with funds from Colombia Humanitaria, and a private business is in charge of the construction, which will cost 8.000 million pesos. Most of the construction will take place at a high altitude, between the towns of Soya and Sabana, communities that belong to the municipality’s Community Council on Black Communities and are located within the Peasant Farmer’s Reserve Zone of Morales and Arenal (known by its Spanish acronym ZRCMA). According to the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, which Colombia ratified with the passage of Law 21 of 1991, these communities must participate in a consultative process so that they can understand the effects, technical aspects, construction plan and benefits that a megaproject will have on their lifestyle. In this case the communities were not consulted before the project was approved for construction.
– During the second week of January the San Isidro farm was burned down. The farm was owned by the Association of Displaced Persons and Victims of the Municipality of Arenal in Sur de Bolívar (known by its Spanish acronym ADIASUR), and inhabited by 42 families that participated in a crop production project that aimed to create social inclusion and raise the socioeconomic status of the families. This project was financed by Pastoral Social – Caritas Colombia and the Ministry of Social Protection. Since there was no land for the project, a parcel of land located on the road between the municipality and Micoahumado (within the ZRCMA), was rented with an option to buy. The families that inhabited the land had many problems and the landlord had even asked them to leave the land within 8 days because he planned to use the area to plant trees for palm oil as part of a business deal he entered into with the Sanabria family from Rioviejo, who own large tracts of land used for palm trees.
– In conclusion, the use of civilian spaces by the armed forces; the presence of armed groups; the use of communal beaches, swamps and plains to produce biofuels; the assaults, harassment and homicides; and the situation within the Peasant Farmers’ Reserve Zone of Morales and Arenal (ZRCMA), of which Arenal is a part, show why the habitants of the municipality are extremely concerned with the security situation in the region. Furthermore, the strategies being used in the ZRCMA demonstrate that there is a clear intent to implement a Consolidated Zone inside this protected area.
MUNICIPALITY OF SANTA ROSA:
– In the municipality of Santa Rosa del Sur, members of the military have harassed citizens in several ways. During December and January four miners were detained because they apparently were trying to commit acts of terrorism because they were carrying objects necessary for mining work, such as small packages for dynamite and their respective fuses, which in reality are used to break rocks in the mines. Those miners were set free afterwards, but first they had to pay bribes so that they would not be criminally charged. Based off of gathered testimonies the bribes amounted to between five and six million pesos that were divided between justice officials, the arresting soldiers, and the lawyers that mediated the bribe. Moreover, the members of the army that performed the arrest did not present the detainees to the judicial investigators who have jurisdiction in the region, which is Simití, instead they drove them to Magangué, El Banco or Mompós. All of these irregularities lead us to believe that there are two motives underlying these arrests: the first is to harrass small miners, and the second is to make money off of this lucrative business that benefits soldiers, justice officials, and lawyers. Two of the lawyers involved in these acts have been identified as Oscar López and Edgardo Rojas.
In addition, soldiers have circulated rumors against some rural merchants because they are supposedly collaborating with the guerrilla, which becomes an unspoken threat against those merchants.
MUNICIPALITY OF RIOVIEJO:
During the first week of December the police of the municipality of Rioviejo occupied the Educational Institute and converted the grade school into their own car wash.
MUNICIPALITY OF MONTECRISTO:
Bulldozers used for illegal, open-air mining continue to damage the water sources. At the time of writing two machines are at work.
In Sur de Bolívar education problems persist because of a lack of new hires of teachers. During 2012 many students’ fundamental right to an education was violated because teachers were contracted late.
Regarding health concerns, there continues to be a lack of medical attention, mainly in rural areas, and the procedures for referrals are becoming more complicated.
Regarding basic sanitation, there continues to be a lack of water acceptable for human consumption, no system for garbage disposal into landfills, and no sewer service, all of which would guarantee public health.
The citizens of the region are vulnerable, many being displaced and victims of the armed conflict, and they are not guaranteed their rights or benefits.
Since its inception, Sur de Bolívar’s Commission for Dialogue (CISB) has searched for all possible ways for the government to attend to and resolve the communities’ complaints in a coordinated manner. And although the Commission and the government have agreed to create a Rountable for Dialogue, unfortunately for more than 6 years the government has not taken its participation in this forum with the communities seriously.
(The translations may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.)