Fear, Death and Silence in Bajo Cauca

(Translated by Rudy Heller, a CSN Volunteer Translator)

Source :http://www.ipc.org.co/agenciadeprensa/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1079:miedo-muerte-y-silencio-en-el-bajo-cauca-como-construir-un-camino-para-la-no-repeticion-y-la-paz-sostenible&catid=37:general&Itemid=150

Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 17:47

Editorial by María Soledad Betancur
Director of the IPC’s Human Rights Observatory

The assassination of newspaperman Luis Cervantes got the press to once again look at what has been happening in Antioquia’s Lower Cauca.

Based on the newspaper story “Terror in Lower Cauca” published in Semana on September 13, 2014, [1], “locations were found where torture, extortion, and homicides took place, and above all, where the law of silence is imposed by “Darío” and the new criminal groups (“Bacrim”). Darío controls the lands that used to be run by Carlos Mario Jiménez, aka Macaco, paramilitary leader who is now in extradition in the US, and who was the former commander of the Central Bolívar block. This territory is comprised of more than 80 properties of which Macaco allegedly dispossessed their owners, based on the Reclamation Requests filed in the Land Restitution Unit for Caucasia.

Semana’s report states that “aka Darío has even tried to exert his influence on political decisions taken in the region. This past July 21st, he summoned all Cáceres councilmen to a meeting at La Amargura, beyond Piamonte, with the stated goal of keeping them from approving the building of a Police station using a 4 billion peso loan requested by the Mayor.”
Fear, death and silence seem to be triad that rules in the conflictive reality of the Lower Cauca region, which appears to be under the control of “Los Urabeños,” who have formed many alliances in order to consolidate their power over the territory. Thus they have moved ahead of the consolidation goals of the national and regional governments, which the Department of Antioquia and the National Government undertook in 2009 as per the objectives set forth in Resolution 233 of that year which states that: “Once the security of the region is guaranteed by law enforcement, the Governor of Antioquia will support the implementation of the Integrated Policy of Territorial Consolidation which seeks to return to the normal operations of criminal justice, to strengthen local democracy, to attend to the population’s most urgent needs, to enhance State services, and to start sustainable and productive medium and long term projects.” [2].
As part of this strategy, the Army deployed four battalions of the Fourth and Eleventh Brigades. “In 2010, it was estimated that the Public Forces had a total of 14,000 units. They were supported by the Judicial Support Structure made up of two prosecutors and six judicial policemen specialized in criminal groups, which is the minimal acceptable number given the magnitude of the problem. (op.cit page 17)

In several reports provided by the IPC’s Press Agency between 2008 and 2011, one can discern how the region’s campesinos have been impacted by these coca spraying operations which resulted in mass displacements both in the Northeast as in the Lower Cauca region, as well as the disappearance and death of campesino leaders in the hands of the paramilitary structures. This is clearly documented in the Press Agency’s report of July 6, 2009 [3]

Five years have gone by and in August 2014[4], the national and department governments jointly announced in the Security Council presided by the Minister of Defense, Juan Carlos Pinzón, the start of Operation Troy for the Lower Cauca. It seeks to integrate actions taken by the Police, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Armed Forces (Army and Navy), and the departmental and national governments. The operation “will bring to the area 358 men of the National Police, in addition to units who specialize in legal investigation and intelligence, to strengthen the forces that already exist.” The initiative “will also publicize the Top 20 people most sought in the Lower Cauca and will establish a reward of up to 50 million pesos for the capture of the delinquents on that list.” The strategy seeks to attack micro-traffickers, criminal mining and extortions that abound in the sub-region.

So while a decreased homicide rate is announced for the Lower Cauca — as of this date, this year 87 people have been murdered, vs 126-[5] in 2013, this indicator shows a significant decrease in a region where military operations do not seem to be achieving the proposed goal of reestablishing the predominant presence of the State. Five years after announcing the Consolidation plan, it is clear that “Los Urabeños” have an almost monopoly-like control over the territory. While coca cultivation has decreased, the control exerted over resources generated by mining have increased.

According to Camilo González Posso: “Reports on the dynamic of the war or the consolidation of peace over the past two years show that the central strategy of the government and the armed forces has produced diminishing returns; it has to do with the lack of focus and the phases that are imposed, including some actions that go against official guidelines, which lead to a militarization of all the components of territorial control. The counterinsurgency war based on seeking the defeat of the guerrillas announces that the end of the end won’t come before 2014, as was expected from the plans prepared by the preceding administration. Things being what they are, the National Plan for Territorial Consolidation which combines military and civilian efforts through its CCAIs has proven to be inefficient not just in breaking up the guerillas but in achieving its anti-drug goals. In this regard of the battle against drugs, it is evident that a net decrease in exported cocaine does not depend on the eradication of fields in the consolidation areas.

On the other hand, by defining the heirs of demobilized paramilitary and narco-paramilitary operations as bands of organized crime that are not part or parcel of the armed conflict but simply police matters, the effort continues to undervalue their impact on the regional and local structures of power, as well as their relationships with politics, land ownership and mining. The effort also undervalues the impact of violent activities by those same groups on the violation of the rights of the civilian population and the continuity of their links with elements within the authorities and law enforcement.” (Camilo González Posso.  Territorial Consolidation and the Resurgence of Paramilitary and Guerrilla Forces)
Today, the same criminal structures battle over control of mining revenues and, once again, small scale miners are the target of many military operations (see IPC reports), while their operations do not succeed in breaking up the actors that are benefitting from these revenues either directly or through extortion and protection schemes. In 2009, campesinos who grew coca were criminalized. In 2013 and 2014 informal miners are criminalized. Criminalization policies destroy the ties that bring these territories together and pave the way for criminal actors who under a variety of names continue to control the area.

Source: UNODC, (2014), Colombia, monitoring of coca fields 2013. Page 74. Available at: http://www.unodc.org/colombia/es/press/censosimci2013.html
The reality of this sub-region cannot be what is narrated in Semana’s report in the sense that “fear of speaking out is such that the mother of a disappeared and murdered young man in Guarumo has chosen to hide what happened from some family members. When asked where he is, she simply answers that he has not returned. ‘Some day people will know what they do over there with those youngsters, those boys and those adults. They kill them, they chop them up and they throw them in the river. That is what they do’ she explains.”
That is why the situation in the Lower Cauca should be a matter of concern to all of society in Antioquia, and revisions and feedback about the strategies that go beyond simple military intervention must be dealt with at the Governor’s office, and among the authorities of all Lower Cauca’s municipalities, the social organizations, the Police and Army as institutions, and all components of Antioquia’s society. That is, if there is to be any truth to the maxim that “Antioquia is preparing for Peace” as the present departmental prides itself in repeating.
[2] Plan de Consolidación en el Bajo Cauca • septiembre de 2011 • 27. Pagina 16)
[3] http://www.ipc.org.co/agenciadeprensa/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=271:dolor-y-miedo-se-apodera-de-campesinos-del-bajo-cauca-antioqueno&catid=37:general&Itemid=150
[4 http://www.elcolombiano.com/BancoConocimiento/G/gobierno_anuncio_la_operacion_troya_en_el_bajo_cauca/gobierno_anuncio_la_operacion_troya_en_el_bajo_cauca.asp
[5] ADN, Junio 11 de 2014. http://diarioadn.co/medell%C3%ADn/mi-ciudad/homicidios-en-antioquia-en-2014-1.112078

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