Bloodshed in Llorente, Tumaco: Massacre and Infamy

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

By José Antonio Gutiérrez D., Rebelión

The massacre that took place recently in the District of Llorente, in Tumaco, in which a still undetermined number of campesinos was killed (although the number will not be less than eight according to the information we received from people there) once again has saddened Colombia’s popular movement. While the Military Hospital cheerfully announces the reduction in the Army’s losses since the FARC-EP has stopped the shooting, out in the countryside there is no motivation for making calculations like that.[1] The campesinos and popular leaders killed by the official and para-official bullets continue to pile up as if nothing has ended, as if there never was any peace process or anything. But the massacre at Tumaco, for its magnitude, is an inflexion point. From now on, any dream of the “will for peace” from the Santos government is either bad faith or simply stupidity.

“It was the Government”

The events have been described by the organizations that were present where it happened, and have been explained on the basis of the testimonies of the people who were eyewitnesses and survivors of the massacre on October 5: The Association of Community Action Committees of the Rivers Mera, Nulpa, and Mataje (ASOMINUMA), National Coordinating Committee of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana Growers (COCCAM), and Federation of National Agricultural Unions (FENSUAGRO). According to the COCCAM communication:

“On September 29, the campesino communities that are settled in the Area of Alta Mira and Frontera, in the rural area of the Municipality of Tumaco, where the Association of Community Action Committees of the Rivers Mira, Nulpe and Mataje (ASOMINUMA) were present, complained of the presence of about 1,000 soldiers that had orders to carry out the work of forced eradication [of coca crops] in the town of El Tandil.”

“In the face of that situation, the community mobilized with more than 1,000 people, concentrated in the town of Puerto Rico Mataje to wait for the arrival of a Human Rights Commission, so as to avoid the forced eradication of the crops. [On] October 5, approximately between 10:30 and 11 AM, the community reported that, inside the humanitarian encirclement, where the people had planned to prevent the eradication, the police, without speaking a word, opened indiscriminate fire on the people.”

The campesinos’ testimony, gathered by the Rural Press Agency, is clear: “(The Armed Forces) are the ones who fired on us, because they were right in front of us, they were firing at us. It was them. . . .  The people gathered up and they fired a ‘rain of bullets’ right there and there was a ditch with people lying on the ground.” Other testimony that was gathered reinforces the fact that the social protest was being treated like a war. “We were headed for a meeting where the campesinos would negotiate with them, to see what we could agree upon and that’s what we were doing. But in the midst of all of it, one solder and one police officer set off the gunfire.  . . . They set off all the stun bombs that they had and also heavy artillery.”[2] The campesinos say that the soldiers said that they were acting on direct orders from the Administration [of President Juan Manuel Santos]. The verdict is transparent: The Army’s Pegasus Task Force once again has the stain of blood on its hands, also staining the conscience of the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Juan Manuel Santos.

Not content with killing and wounding defenseless campesinos, the authorities have decided to pour salt on their wounds and make a joke of them, inventing a story to the effect that they were attacked by dissidents from the Daniel Aldana Column of the FARC-EP.[3] This barefaced lie, this vile deception is the crowning infamy. It was contradicted by FENSUAGRO’s own communication: “There is a report by the Army and the National Police, trying to justify their disproportionate action and in which they claim that the motive for their aggression is that a 5-cylinder bomb had been fired at them and exploded, though there was no bomb and no sign of any explosion.” Besides, no soldier or police officer was injured. How [can they] explain that? No lie could have been clumsier.

Systematic violence

We aren’t going to be fooled here. This is not an isolated instance.  The violence against poor people is going to be the order of the day in the misnamed “post-conflict”. This is going to be a peace more bloody than the peace in Guatemala, than in El Salvador. In addition to that is the militarization of this territory; the Army has arrived in the areas that the insurgency of the FARC-EP used to occupy, and with a hateful, vengeful attitude. They have installed military checkpoints where they reproduce the same humiliations that the campesinos have known for decades. They place restrictions on the people’s movements, both on land and on the rivers. In the deepest reaches of Colombia’s byways, things aren’t like they are on the Pan-American highway. There are no “thumbs up”, no “smiling jokers.” Here you get abuse, you’re called “dogface”, you’re threatened. [The soldiers] go by like peacocks, decked out with all of their weapons of war in towns, where nobody has ever seen anything like that before, because they were afraid to stick their nose out of the door [when the guerrillas were in control]. Now, without the guerrillas, things are different.

At a military checkpoint in Cartagena de Chairá, in Caquetá department , where they were checking us over, all the way up to our teeth, I was with a friend, and they told us that we were not authorized to continue until 6 AM the next day. We got a clue to what was going on when my friend asked him, “Listen, don’t you know we’re in a peace process and you guys are doing all this?” A soldier, who didn’t want to be identified and who had his battalion insignia and that stuff covered up with some rag, answered simply, “Sure, that’s why we can do this.” Short and sweet. In Piñuña Blanco, in Putumayo departments, I also saw some troops armed to the teeth and interrupting a campesino community meeting, saying that they couldn’t have community meetings without prior authorization from the military command and without their presence.[4] A military dictatorship in all of its glory. In these territories the people complain that bandits [and] paramilitaries go around under the noses of the soldiers and they, totally cool, don’t do anything. And yet, [the soldiers] abuse the campesinos, who are good people.

And, if that were not enough, the paramilitaries camp all over the country, murdering community leaders, even at a rate faster than in the time of the conflict. Their bullets are also taking the lives of demobilized FARC guerrillas and, with diabolical cruelty, killing their families as well. But, for the government, the problem doesn’t exist, even though we know that the root of this conflict is in the very apparatus of the government; in its repressive intelligence forces and in its parliamentary delegations of hate. And don’t forget the cattlemen, the big landowners, and agro-industrialists who have accumulated millions of hectares of land by means of paramilitary terror. And the paramilitaries are now being compensated generously by the government with the [Rural and Economic Development Zones of Interest, ZIDRES] and with the new land law that will help them legalize their violent accumulation of land through the legal nonsense of “holders in good faith.”[5]

What would RCN say if this were happening in Venezuela?

Colombian blood offered to appease the rage of the United States

Events like those in Tumaco are particularly serious because of the number of dead, but they are scarcely exceptional. In the framework of forced eradication, there have been similar violent events in Meta, Guaviare, Caquetá, Putumayo, Cauca, Antioquia, and Catatumbo departments. As recent as September 21, blood flowed in the town of Rio Negro, in the district of Corinto, Cauca department, where the coordinator of the Indigenous Guard of that municipality, José Alberto Torijano, was killed by the Army during operations against an alleged laboratory. The action was causing abuses against the communities and there was a resulting reaction by the campesinos. Torijano died in the reaction.[6]

The strange thing is not what happened in Tumaco. The strange thing is that there have not been more deaths (for now). We are hearing that the soldiers are now positioning themselves in Argelia, Cauca and that they are probably preparing an attack equally violent against civilians. People have been talking about that for more than a month now.[7]

It’s important to emphasize that in all of these cases the campesinos have shown their interest in participating in the programs of voluntary substitution, and that, in fact, in many regions they have already started substituting voluntarily. But the government has not carried out any of its part – a recent report on the implementation of the agreements revealed that the government has carried out just 18% of its part of the agreements.[8] There has been nothing for the coca growers. There are no plans for development of alternatives; there are no consultations with the campesinos, except for threats and unwarranted violence. Trump snaps his fingers, threatens to decertify Colombia, demands more eradications, and Santos offers his master, in a servile manner, Colombian blood so he will feel successful and his rage will be appeased.

Today it was Tumaco. Tomorrow it could be Argelia. The day after it could be anywhere. We have to avoid, by any means we can, another massacre like this one. Because without popular action, this scenario will keep on being reproduced; there is no doubt of that. The government will not hesitate to order the shedding of more blood if they think it will suit them. That is why it is necessary that today everybody that has even a little moral consciousness commit ourselves to do whatever we can to surround and protect the vulnerable campesino communities. Wherever we are, we can do our bit in this struggle. It is time for a powerful civic resistance to express to the government that its actions will commit it to the cesspool of history, that we won’t fold our hands in the face of official violence, that we’ve had enough! No more!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article offers the perspective of writers purporting to speak for campesinos on the ground with respect to recent confrontations over coca eradication. A concurrently translated article, “The coca bomb explodes”, provides a summary of what we know about these confrontations as of the data of initial publication.




[4] I’ve written about this event previously.

[5] For information on this draft bill, see




This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.