Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN Volunteer Translator.
November 13, 2013
The Tolima community repudiates the death of César García, a campesino opposed to the La Colosa project, and the community does not consider it to be an isolated case. This horrendous crime was preceded by other violations of human rights, massacres, murders, torture, arbitrary arrests, and forced displacements. Numerous cases at the national and also at the local level have demonstrated that there is a clear and systematic strategy of persecution of the people, of their leaders, and of their organizations in many of the areas where promoters are trying to estalish large-scale mining and where the people in those areas are opposed to that.
We cannot forget that:
* On August 24, 2003, fifty-six people were arrested in the municipality of Cajamarca Tolima for the crime of rebellion. The accused were transferred to Ibagué, where they were charged and then presented to the communications media as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC is the Spanish acronym.). After the Attorney General’s staff carried out an investigation, all of those arrested were set free.
* On November 11, 2003, we found out that there were a number of common graves on the La Florida ranch, at the high part of the town of Potosí. The dismembered bodies of Marco Antonio Rodríguez Moreno, aged 63, Germán Bernal Vaquero, aged 55, and José Céspedes, aged 30, all farmers who lived in the region, were found in the graves.
* On April 10, 2004, four minor children and one adult were murdered in the massacre of Potosí. Norberto Mendoza Reyes, aged 24, Julio César Santa Gutiérrez, aged 14, Albeiro Mendoza Reyes, aged 17, his girlfriend Yamile Urueña, aged 17, and their baby, who was six months old. These people were executed extrajudicially by members of the Colombian Army, attached to the Pijaos Battalion, part of the Sixth Brigade, headquartered in Ibagué.
* The Potosí massacre generated the displacement of several families in the region.
* On September 1, 2009, the 3rd branch of the Criminal Court for the Ibagué Circuit sentenced five of the soldiers responsible for the massacre to 35 and 40 years in prison. The court’s decision stated: “The professional soldiers who today were sentenced to 35 years in prison and the payment of 2,000 times the legal minimum wage in effect at the time of payment, equaling 996 million pesos (approximately $498,000), are Noel Briñez Pérez, Jhon Jairo Vizcaya Rodríguez, Albeiro Pérez Duque and Luis Fernando Ramos Martínez. The decision also affects professional soldier Jhon Jairo Guzmán Gallego, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison because he shot the only survivor of the massacre, in spite of the fact that the victim was wounded.”
* In September of 2011 the Public Defender’s office in the village received an early warning of the imminent danger to the life, liberty and personal integrity of the campesino leaders and the inhabitants of the area known as Anaime Canyon. Among the facts that were reported was that a flyer was distributed in massive quantities by the Colombian Army in which the following names appeared: Yolanda López, a leader opposed to the AngloGold Ashanti La Colosa project, and Walter Camelo, president of the community action board of the town of El Cajón (Anaime-Cajamarca). There were also complaints of telephoned death threats against the following leaders of the opposition to the mining project: Eliana Rocío Suarez, coordinator of water services in the district of Anaime, Jimmy Fernando Torres, Wilson Báez and Alduvar Quintero, members of the NGO Campesino Conscience.
* On October 25, 2011, the Criminal Panel of the Superior Court of the Bogotá DC Judicial District decided the appeal interposed by defense counsel representing the soldiers of the Buffalo Company attached to the Rooke Battalion and the Sixth Brigade, convicted of the crimes of forced displacement, torture, kidnapping, homicide and criminal conspiracy for acts that took place during the first week of November 2004 in Anaime Canyon in the municipality of Cajamarca.
* On February 22, 2013, in a meeting of citizens called together by Cortolima to analyze the La Colosa mining project, Iván Malaver, the Manager of Communications for the La Colosa project, in a conversation with Rafael Herz, Vice President of Sustainability for AngloGold Ashanti, called the Cajamarca campesinos guerrillas. In Malaver’s communication, he says: “several of the people in the Anaime opposition have been identified as guerrillas.” This is powerful evidence of how the multinational AngloGold Ashanti stigmatizes and places opponents of the La Colosa project at risk of being killed.
* On August 4, 2013 an armed group of gangsters (Los Rastrojos) – national urban commandos, in their public notice #012, declared any opponent of the following multinationals: GLENCORE, DRUMMOND, PACIFIC RUBIALE AND ANGLOGOLD ASHANTI, to be a military objective.
* During the activities of the AGRICULTURAL STRIKE that took place in the month of August in 2013, several campesino and social leaders received threats from the armed forces. Julio Roberto Vargas is one of the members of the Cajamarca Environmental and Campesino Committee who was threatened.
* On October 25, 2013, an explosive device blew up in the car belonging to a commission that is part of IGA and the Von Humboldt Institute. They had been carrying out technical studies to establish the boundaries of the páramo areas that should be excluded from mining activities. Ten days later, the driver of the vehicle, José Antonio Ramírez, died from the burns he had suffered in the explosion.
* On Saturday, November 2, CÉSAR GARCÍA, a campesino opposed to the La Colosa project, was murdered with one shot to the head, in front of his wife and his children. When the family went to the Cajamarca Police to report the murder and to request the judicial inspection and removal of his body, the answer was that there was no one available because it was a festival time.
* On November 6 Edwar Amaya Marquez, chief of communications for the AngloGold Ashanti La Colosa project, instead of repudiating the horrible crime against César García, related in a personal letter that this campesino was not an opponent of La Colosa. This was one more demonstration of these officials’ cynicism and prevarication.
These events demonstrate systematic actions of murders, massacres, tortures, arbitrary arrests and forced displacements. The murder of César García cannot be considered without keeping in mind the events of the last decade in the region, where there has been an obvious strategy of persecution against the campesinos and their organizations, a situation that began with the arrival of the multinational in our territory.
Because of all of this, we place the responsibility on the President of Colombia, Mr. Juan Manuel Santos, for anything that might happen to the physical integrity of those who defend the waters and to the lives of those who oppose the implementation of the La Colosa project. The full Senate of Colombia turned down this mining project resoundingly.
Of the National Government: Immediately call off the La Colosa project and other mining projects that have been imposed in a dictatorial manner on the territory of Tolima, as a method of endorsement and support for the interests of the people of Tolima and of Colombia.
Of the Ministry of Interior-National Protection Unit: Prevent defamation, possible murders and forced disappearances of the leaders belonging to the Network of Environmental and Campesino Committees of Tolima.
Of the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights Unit of the Colombian Attorney General’s Office: Initiate an official investigation into the murder of the campesino leader CÉSAR GARCÍA and order the investigation to be undertaken immediately in so as to learn the motives for the criminal act and to arrest those responsible.
Of the Governor of Tolima: Undertake the necessary procedures to give notice promptly of popular consultations on watershed levels. The purpose would be to be able to defend the territory effectively and above all, to reject very directly those extractive projects that result in social degradation, in divisions in the communities, in an increase in conflicts and other acts of desperation in our province. At the same time we urge you to demand that competent authorities conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of all of these events. The object would be to find out who carried out and who gave the orders for these crimes against humanity and for the systematic violations of the human rights of these communities.
Of the international community and especially of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH): Demand that the Colombian government guarantee due process for the protests and for the lives of the campesinos and environmentalists who reject the La Colosa project of the multinational AngloGold Ashanti Colombia. At the same time we urge that you help us to alleviate the increase in armed conflict over the area, the violation of the people’s human rights and the right to a campesino identity and to the defense of food sovereignty. Also that you support the social demands for immediate closure of mining activity in the Province of Tolima.
Of all the citizens of Tolima, of the region, and of the country: We invite you to forcefully repudiate the murder of CÉSAR GARCÍA, the campesino who opposed the La Colosa project, and request the immediate termination of the La Colosa project.
NETWORK OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND CAMPESINO COMMITTEES OF TOLIMA.