Colombia Solidarity Campaign

- Fighting for Peace with Justice -

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Human Rights Threatened in Cauca

THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND UNIONS IN VALLE DEL CAUCA NEWLY THREATENED BY PARAMILITARY GROUPS

The Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners denounces to the national and international community the new threats which they have received, as well as other members of unions and social movements. These threats have been constant and repeated, highlighting and stigmatizing the work of human rights defenders, unions and social movements generally. These threats, current and past, have been reported to the relevant authorities so far, without any responsibility having been found.

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Alert : MICOAHUMADO, BOLIVAR SUR

Alert : EARLY WARNING MICOAHUMADO, BOLIVAR SUR

The following organizations are issuing a warning due to the events outlined below: The Agromineral Federation of the South of Bolivar, Corporation Sembrar, The Chapter of Victims of Organized Crime of the State of Bolivar South, south of Cesar and Catatumbo.

Since Sunday 9 July 2017 on the outskirts of the village of Micoahumado in the municipality of Morales, Bolivar department, inhabitants have seen 4 men dressed in civilian clothes carrying large guns and they do not have any visible insignia which identifies them.

These people, according to the villagers, have entered some nearby farms and roads that lead to the village plaza

The presence of civilians carrying large firearms is creating unease and worry among the residents, as in March earlier this year, a series of actions of the Armed Forces, committed supposedly by the so-called called ‘lone foxes’, led to actions of judicialization of 14 social leaders and townspeople who were detained and until now are imprisoned without charge.

We call to the Human Rights organizations to recognize and denounce these acts and to demand the authorities to inform the community if these armed persons belong to an organization of State Security.

July 14 2017

The Agromineral Federation of the South of Bolivar, Sembrar Corporation, The Chapter of Victims of Organized Crime of the State of Bolivar South, South of Cesar and Catatumbo.

 

Heartbreak in Colombia: Assassination of leader.

Heartbreak in Colombia: BREAKING NEWS

Assassination of Afrodescendent leader taking part in the Patriotic March in the Municipality of Guachene
Department of Cauca, Municipality of Guachene Friday 14th July 2017

In the Jorge Eliecer Gaitán Neighbourhood around 11.45 am, when HECTOR WILLIAM MINA found himself with a friend, outside their home. Four armed men arrived, one of them said ‘Do it, it’s him’ and proceeded to shoot him with a firearm, probably a revolver.
HECTOR WILLIAM MINA was transferred to the Valle de Lili clinic but unfortunately died due to the gunshot injuries.

International Network of Human Rights ‘Francisco Isaias Cifuentes’
National Commission of Human Rights, Political and Social Movement
Patriotic March

 

Open Letter from Violeta Arango Ramirez

OPEN LETTER FROM VIOLETA ARANGO RAMIREZ to the PUBLIC 13 July 2017

(Hello friends, I am sending you a letter by one of the girls who has been imprisoned in the case of the bombing in the Andino Shopping Centre, Bogota. It explains well the whole case and the absurd show surrounding her and her peers.)

My name is Violeta Arango Ramirez, I am a sociologist, graduate of the National University of Colombia. On Saturday 24th June my life changed dramatically with a warrant for my arrest and a raid. Agents from the police intelligence department (SIJIN) and the police arrived at my house in the Chapinero district. Without understanding what had happened, in the anxiety and stress of the moment, my parents asked what was it about: I was wanted in relation to the terrible attack on the Andino shopping mall, accused of terrorism, homicide, conspiracy to commit a crime.

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The "military response" of the Government to Buenaventura: 300 wounded, 10 with firearms.

Buenaventura strike May 2017

Hard-hitting report from the human rights commission of the Buenaventura Civic Strike: excessive use of force, police infiltration, barriers to hospital treatment for the wounded, children at risk of violence by the police. This is how the report describes the "war treatment" for the civilian population who are on strike. The commission doubts the role of the Ombudsman.

 

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Abuses by the Public Security Forces during Buenaventura strike

1 Jun 2017 - 5:00 PM

 

By Alfredo Molano Jimeno


The Buenaventura Human Rights Committee has recorded nine people injured by firearms and stated that the Public Security Forces have been involved in these events.  President Santos has appointed as negotiator the Minister of the Interior, Guillermo Rivera.

After 18 days’ strike in Buenaventura and the government trying to normalise the situation, the Watchdog Committee for Human Rights - Civic Strike to Live with Dignity and Peace in Buenaventura - delivered a report with allegations of abuses carried out  by members of the Anti-riot squad (ESMAD) and the National Police.

With photographic evidence of the wounded, bullet shells and details of the way in which members of the Public Security Forces carried out attacks against the demonstrators, the Watchdog Committee presented the media with their report on the human rights situation  during the protests at Colombia's main Pacific port.

The inhabitants of Buenaventura are protesting the historic abandonment of the port by the Colombian state:  in recent years, armed groups have increased their struggle for the control of neighbourhoods, poverty affects 80% of the population as well as unemployment and illiteracy, which are around 60%.  In addition, the people of the port reject the political class that has run the local administration for decades, the selective killings and forced disappearances - even to the extent of  “casas de pique” [houses of dismemberment] which have been discovered and condemned by the people.

The human rights report warned that "in a joint action between the ESMAD and members of the SIJÍN (police intelligence) group in a white van, shots were fired at the communities that were at the ‘Place of Delights (Sabrosuras)’. This brutal action of the public security forces left six people seriously injured. The communities were demonstrating against articulated lorries passing through their territory.  The Committee had asked the National Government, at the negotiating table on 28 May 2017, to make these lorries subject to a 72-hour 'truce' of transit through their territory".

The document compiles information on nine people injured by gunshot impact and details hours, places and situations within which the facts were presented. It is important to highlight that all the wounded are under 30 years old and most are between 18 and 23 years old. Another one of the accusations set out by the Strike Committee is the excess of force with which the anti-riot squads acted in an area adjacent to a health centre.

"According to a health centre employee in the district of La Independencia  (employee of the District Hospital of Luis Abianque de la Plata), at approximately 2 am on 31st May, the health centre was filled with tear gas indiscriminately launched in the surrounding areas of the medical centre by ESMAD, affecting both patients and workers - medical mission - (three patients and approximately eight workers). The effects were so severe that one employee had seizures and several became ill" says the report.

The document adds: "the Public Security Force fired their weapons in the surroundings of the medical institution. At approximately 6.30am, the police entered with a wounded policeman injured during the confrontation with one of the demonstrators. This action indicates that the police were aware that there was a medical institution there.  Today, the health centre remains closed and staff says they cannot re-enter because there are no guarantees that they can provide the service. "

In the end, the Strike Committee has requested the accompaniment of representatives of human rights organizations, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Attorney General and the United Nations. President Juan Manuel Santos has appointed the newly-inaugurated Minister of Interior, Guillermo Rivera, to be the voice of the government at the conciliation table which seeks to agree on the steps that will allow the Port to return to normal.

Source (in Spanish):

http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/nacional/abusos-de-la-fuerza-publica-en-el-paro-de-buenaventura-articulo-696513

 

YOUTHS IN VILLA RICA, CAUCA IN GRAVE DANGER Five murdered and five injured in the past two weeks

Paramilitarism, small-scale drugs trafficking, and armed political control create chaos in Villa Rica, Cauca. The victims are between 16 and 25 years old.

We, the undersigned human rights and social organisations, both national and international, denounce the grave human rights situation in the municipality of Villa Rica, Cauca. This situation is due to the strengthening of paramilitary groups and the appearance of a threatening leaflet, signed by the socalled ‘Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia’2, which continue to sow terror, anxiety and chaos in this municipality in the north of Cauca department, as well as in other regions around the country.

During the past two weeks the actions of these groups has resulted in five deaths and five injured.

The youth crisis in Villa Rica has been exacerbated by the lack of employment opportunities and difficulties in accessing education at secondary, technical and university levels. Unemployment, racism, poverty and exclusion are the main obstacles now stopping the tide of violence being reversed. Rather than an increased budget for security forces, the town needs increased employment opportunities and real political participation, as well as the right to a process which seeks their free prior and informed consent for projects which affect the social, political and economic life in the town.

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MASSACRE INVOLVING LAND RIGHTS DISPUTE CALLS PARAGUAYAN JUSTICE SYSTEM INTO QUESTION

by Santi Carneri

22 July 2016
http://www.equaltimes.org/massacre-involving-land-rights#.V8VBZSgrLIU

 

Land is the greatest source of wealth in Paraguay, with an economy founded on the production and export of beef and genetically modified crops such as soya. But the industry is dominated by a small group of large landowners that, despite representing just 2.5 per cent of the population, own 85 per cent of all the country’s arable land, according to Oxfam.

Martina Paredes, sister of Fermín and Luis, two of the farmworkers killed in the Curuguaty massacre, mourns their death at the scene of the incident.

(Santi Carneri)

Disputes between the large agribusiness companies, the state and farming communities are routine in Paraguay. A tragic example is the “Curuguaty case”, a massacre in 2012 not yet fully investigated, that left 17 police officers and farmworkers dead as a result of a dispute over public lands.

The massacre led to the removal from power, one week later, of the only progressive government Paraguay has had for half a century.

In a ruling made public this week, 11 peasants were convicted for their involvement in the clashes that led to the deaths of 17 people on 15 June 2012.

That day, some 300 police officers were sent to evict approximately 70 peasant farmers from lands they were occupying with a view to having them included in the agrarian reform, in the rural district of Curuguaty, in the department of Canindeyú, around 100 kilometres from the border with Brazil.

Whilst police officers and farmworkers were negotiating over the eviction, the head of the police operation was gunned down by shots fired from automatic weapons (the investigation by the Public Prosecutor has failed to explain from where the shots came).

The shooting unleashed armed clashes that left dead 11 peasant farmers and six police officers from the special operations unit, according to the testimonies given by dozens of witnesses during the trial that began in Asunción in mid 2015 and concluded on 1 July 2016.

The incident led to the impeachment and removal from the presidency of former bishop Fernando Lugo.


No investigation of 11 farmworker deaths

According to the Public Prosecutor, armed farmworkers had set up an ambush for about 300 special police sent to evict them. He accused them, during the trial, of intentional homicide, criminal association and illegal occupation of land, and called for prison sentences of between five and 30 years.

The defence, for its part, called for their acquittal, contending the whole process had been a travesty of justice, a view shared by international observers and human rights organisations.

The court in charge of the case condemned the 11 defendants to between four and 30 years in jail, at a session taking place in the midst of incidents and protests over the verdict. During the trial, the court only ruled on the deaths of the police officers, as the Public Prosecutor’s Office never investigated the deaths of the 11 peasants during the massacre.

The heaviest sentence was served to Rubén Villalba, condemned to 30 years in prison and five on probation for the intentional homicide of Erven Lovera, the superintendent in charge of the eviction that led to the massacre. Three other peasants were judged to be co-perpetrators: Luis Olmedo, condemned to 20 years in prison together with Néstor Castro and Arnaldo Quintana, who both received 18-year prison sentences.

The three women tried, Fany Olmedo, Dolores López and Lucía Agüero, were sentenced to six years’ imprisonment as accomplices to the homicide, whilst Felipe Benítez Balmori, Adalberto Castro, Alcides Ramírez and Juan Carlos Tillerería, were condemned to four years in jail for illegal occupation of land and criminal association.

The court also ruled that the defendants should cover the cost of the trial, considered to be the longest hearing in the history of Paraguay, initiated on 27 July 2015 in Asuncion and in which almost 200 witnesses testified.

The United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, European legislators and non governmental organisations, such as Oxfam orAmnesty International, have called for a case review and the civilians, the only ones tried for the massacre, to be acquitted, given the failure of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the role of the police and politicians in the death of the 11 peasants.

“There is no evidence against them. They should be acquitted straightaway. What they’re trying to do is to criminalise the fight of landless peasants, but every Paraguayan deserves to have a bit of land,” Martina Paredes, the sister of Fermín and Luis, two of the farmworkers killed in the massacre, told Equal Times.

She spoke during a protest held at the close of the trial by hundreds of people in front of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Asunción.

According to Paredes, the Public Prosecutor’s Office did not investigate the deaths of the campesinos. It only conducted investigations into how the police officers were killed. There has been no investigation into the massacre itself, who provoked it, and why.”

“Fermín had been shot in the leg and was lying on the ground when he called me. I’m sure he was executed afterwards,” she added.

Paredes recalls that in addition to the 11 people tried, a young peasant girl, who was a minor when the crime took place, is still undergoing a separate judicial proceeding, the start of which was postponed on several occasions.


Land titles dispute

The victims’ relatives are calling on the justice system to determine who owns the lands where the massacre took place and that have been at the centre of a dispute between the Paraguayan state and the private company Campos Morombí.

The lands were donated to the state in 1967 by the company La Industrial Paraguaya (Lipsa) and were used as a military outpost by the navy, which is why they are commonly known by the name Marina Kue.

Campos Morombí, however, a company that owns a large estate bordering these lands, claimed ownership of them based on usucaption - the acquisition of a right to property by uninterrupted and undisputed possession for a prescribed term.

Campos Morombí belongs to the family of Blas N. Riquelme, a historic leader of the Colorado Party during the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989). The lands known as Marina Kue are part of the list of ill-gotten lands, those taken over illegally during the dictatorship, covering eight million hectares across the country, according to a report by the Truth and Justice Commission (CVJ), published in 2008.

The Curuguaty massacre was used as a pretext for the then-opposition and now ruling Colorado Party to launch impeachment proceedings against President Fernando Lugo.

Lugo’s removal from power was deemed “irregular” by international bodies such as UNASUR, and led to Paraguay to being suspended by Mercosur, which considered Lugo’s ousting to be a break with democracy in Paraguay.

Paraguay is the Mercosur country (a group that also includes Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) with the highest concentration of land in the hands of a few.

It is the country with the biggest cows raised in the region, yet two out of 10 Paraguayans consume fewer calories than required to live a healthy life. That proportion places the country among those ranking the worst in the continent, just behind Haiti and Guatemala.

The most affected are the farmworkers: 80 per cent of Paraguayan campesinos, approximately 35 per cent of the population of 6.7 million inhabitants, have no land to farm. In Paraguay, only 6.3 per cent of arable land is used for small-scale farming, an amount far too low to supply fruit and vegetables to the whole country. Paraguay has long imported products from Argentina and Brazil that could be produced by its peasant farmers, according to the report published in June by the economic research and capacity-building NGO, Centro de Análisis y Difusión de la Economía Paraguaya (CADEP).

Some 31 million hectares are concentrated in the hands of the agribusiness sector, whilst the campesinos, who represent almost half of the population, hold just 1.9 million hectares.

Over the last decade, some 900,000 people have abandoned the countryside in Paraguay for precarious settlements in the capital, due to the expansion of the large-scale, highly mechanised soy and corn plantations requiring little labour, according to the national federation of campesinos FNC (Federación Nacional Campesina), which is calling for land reform.

This forced yet silent mass migration, like the Curuguaty massacre, is the result of the Paraguay’s extractive economic model.

 


This article has been translated from Spanish.

 
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