(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The undersigned social organizations, labor unions, and human rights groups denounce before the national and international community the serious human rights violations that are going on in the municipality of Guapi, a town on the Pacific coast in Cauca Province. As part of the operations being carried out by the national Army, we have seen how the civilian population has been affected. People have been the object of threats, intimidation and arbitrary arrests by members of the Armed Forces.
On May 22 of this year the communications media spread the news of a “knockout blow” that the Colombian Armed Forces had inflicted on the insurgency, more specifically, on the FARC-EP. They had “downed” 27 members of that insurgent group, including one of the negotiators for that side in the dialogs in Havana.
Our organizations have received the following information:
- That on May 21, 2015, in the afternoon, the Army initiated its operations, right next to the collective territory belonging to the Afro-Colombian communities that are part of the community council of Alto Guapi, more specifically, the town of San Agustín. These operations consisted of bombing and later unloading troops from helicopters. These activities were indiscriminate, affecting women, children, and the men who were taking part in a workshop on the de-escalation of the armed conflict.
- That when the troops arrived by road, we were informed that there had been killings and disappearances of people who had been injured in the bombing.
- That it appeared that among the 27 people who were killed in the bombing, not all were part of the insurgency. We were also told that the number of people killed in the action might reach 80, a figure that has not been released with any clarity.
- That this event later resulted in a massive displacement of people from the communities, from the towns of San Agustín, San Vicente, Rosario, Las Juntas and Balsitas, and that the displaced people went to the seat of the municipal government of Guapi. There were 110 families, 463 people and these figures were registered by the regional Public Defender’s Office in Cauca Province and with the social pastorate of the Apostolic Vicar of Guapi.
- That the situation of the displaced people is one of complete distress, with psychosocial problems because of the worsening of the conflict and because of the controls that the Armed Forces are imposing at the present time.
- That the humanitarian crisis that exists is getting worse in the region because of the constant controls that the Armed Forces are imposing both before and after the action that took place on May 21. They do it on the waterways, where the abuses are constant, with arbitrary arrests, threats, and prohibiting the people from traveling on the rivers. That means that they can’t do their work of fishing, and they are almost left to starve, because their survival depends on those activities.
- That there continue to be serious violations of international humanitarian law by the Armed Forces, more specifically by Battalion No. 42 of the Marines. These troops remain in the Inmaculada Normal higher education institution in Guapi on a regular and constant basis. A similar situation is taking place in the San Joaquín and Santa Ana Children’s Home, where boys, girls and teenagers, as well as elderly adults and a religious community are living.
- That on May 28 the community leaders of the Municipality of Guapi put together a massive march to demand that the armed actors show respect to the civilian population, that the Colombian government cease the operations in the community territories where they have been involving the civilian population. They also demanded that the Armed Forces stop the continual threats and abuses of people. They assume that anyone who lives in this area must be a “guerrilla”. This massive march urged the Inspector General’s Office to pay attention to what had happened and was continuing to happen in Guapi, but was spreading to other towns like Timbiquí and López de Micay. At the same time, they urged a bilateral cease-fire.
The Foundation Committee for Solidarity With Political Prisoners Demands:
- That the human rights of the Afro-Colombian communities who live in the Municipality of Guapi and its rural areas be respected. The Armed Forces have involved them in the military operations that they are carrying out.
- That the Colombian government carry out its constitutional duty to protect the lives, honor and property of the citizens, in this case the Afro-Colombian people who live on the Pacific Coast of Cauca and Nariño Provinces, and in general, the Pacific Coast of Colombia, and that the government’s actions be focused more on remedying the abandonment that it has shown this region for years, and that, on the contrary, the military actions should stop placing the communities at risk.
- That they stop the threatening and stigmatizing the civilian population. Just because they live in an area of armed conflict does not mean that they are taking part in it. The Armed Forces cannot and should not make this assumption to justify their brutal and disproportionate actions against the people who live in these communities.
- That the Regional Public Defender’s Office for Cauca Province, and the national Inspector General’s Office be present in these territories to verify the excesses committed by the Armed Forces, as well as to take disciplinary action where indicated and thus stop the violent actions by the Armed Forces.
Foundation Committee for Solidarity With The Political Prisoners,
Colombia Workers Federation (CUT is the Spanish acronym.)
National Farm Workers Union (SINALTRACAMPO)
Students Identifying with Collective Labor
Palmira National Identity Process
Colombian Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity
Minga Collective Think Tank
National Food and Beverage Workers Union (SINALTRAINAL) Cali
Cauca Valley Committee for Solidarity with the CUT
Colombian National University Employees Union
Coordination for regional development (CDR)
Southwestern Node, Coordination, Colombia, Europe, United States
Secondary Students Collective (REDSURGIENDO)