Following the 10 July London Donors Conference, Uribe’s government, buoyed by the support of foreign governments and international financial institutions, has declared war on many social organisations, labelling them as subversives and terrorists. Victims of this new crackdown include internationally renowned organisations, recognised for their unstinting work in supporting communities suffering the violence that wracks Colombia.
Mass Detentons in Arauca
Dawn raids on houses and offices of social activists in Arauca, by the Army, DAS, CTI and the Attorney Generals Office have resulted in the detention of 42 trade union and community leaders in Saravena. The raids started at 4 am on 21 August 2003, and were carried out on the information of two hooded informers who accompanied the officials.
The 42 detainees include Alonso Campino (Vice President CUT Arauca), Blanca Segura (President of teachers union SINTRENAL), Jose Murillo (President of the Joel Sierra human rights committee), Emino Goyeneche (journalist) and 5 workers at the local hospital.
Samuel Morales (CUT Saravena), who visited Britain in April 2003 as the guest of Amnesty International and the Colombia Solidarity Campaign is currently in hiding after an arrest warrant was issued in his name. He is in fear for his life; friends believe he will be tortured to death if caught. The
The offices of ANTHOC (Healthworkers union) and CRIA (Indigenous peoples committee of Arauca) were raided and equipment taken away. General Teodoro Campo (National Police) claims that all the detainees are members of insurgent groups. The operation is ongoing and more raids and arrests are expected.
Hundreds of people were detained in a similar operation in November 2002. 43 remain in prison on charges of rebellion.
Justicia y Paz accused of terrorist activities
The intrenationally respected Human Rights Organisation, Justicia y Paz, set up by Jesuit monks and now an ecumenical Christian organisation has been the target of slanderous accusations and attacks by the Commander of the National Army and the Attorney Generals Office. Arrest warrants have been issued by the Attorney Generals Office for 5 members of Justicia y Paz working in Northern Colombia. Danilo Rueda, Vilio Pena, Ana Maria, Enrique Chimonja, and Father Daniel Vasquez are all accused of “belonging to, collaborating with, and promoting the FARC.”
The arrest warrants are based on the information of 3 unknown witnesses who claim to have been threatened by Justicia y Paz. One of these witnesses also claims to have been the victim of an attempted murder carried out by the religious organisation.
According to reports in El Tiempo newspaper, this witness information also accuses Justicia y Paz of involvement in drug and gun running between Colombia and Panama, of hiding guerrillas in their Bogotá office, organising meetings with communities in Chiapas, and falsely accusing the Army of cooperating with paramilitaries. The statement also denounces the activities of Amnesty International, PBI, Oxfam GB and the UNHCR, who work closely with Justicia y Paz.
On the 21 August, a press conference given by General Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel, Commander in chief of the Colombian Armed Forces, repeated the claims against Justicia y Paz and the communities with which they work in the Cacarica.
Threats and forced displacement against Peace Communities
The peace communities of Esperanza en Dios and Nueva Vida were set up in the Cacarica, 2 years after surviving bloody operations by the XVII Brigade of the Colombian army and the paramilitaries in 1997. Families who returned to the area from which they were originally displaced set up these communities and demanded their right of neutrality in the war. They have since been working with numerous national and international organisations, including Justicia y Paz.
The peace communities are currently home to 320 mostly Afro-Colombian families. They live from fishing and agriculture, in an area that had never experienced any violence until recently.
At his press conference on 21 August, the Head of the Armed Forces accused the communities of housing a FARC concentration camp, and revealed that arrest warrant had been issued for 10 members of the community, on charges of belonging to the FARC.
Military activity immediately increased in the communities, with incursions by armed soldiers and dangerous over flights by army helicopters. By 12 September, 60 adults and 90 children had fled the communities once again.