VIOTÁ, 2003: MERE COINCIDENCES?

Tuesday 15 April 2008, by Prensa - Colectivo

Today, we can answer the question made by the magazine. Mere coincidences? No, they were not mere coincidences. The crimes against humanity perpetrated in Viotá obeyed to an impressive coordination between the ACC and the most senior members of the Colombia Battalion, as well as other officers and junior officers. This is how Patriot Plan was born.

Mere coincidences? Successful large-scale military operations carried out by the Alvaro Uribe administration have coincided with major paramilitary expansion in these areas.” This was the title given to an article published by Semana magazine in July 2003, [1]
which provided several examples from throughout the country of major operations carried out as a part of Plan Colombia in which paramilitarism had been able to act as it wished.

[I]n December of last year, when the public force arrived, many of the inhabitants of Viotá sighed with relief. However, their happiness was short-lived. The army carried out mass searches -many without court orders- and intimidated the population, announcing the ‘paras’ would come later. And, in effect, the Casanare Self-Defence Forces arrived in March,” indicated the article.

Since March 2003, social organizations and non-governmental human rights organizations have spoken out against the successive and systematic occurrence of crimes against humanity perpetrated against the people of Viotá. In this respect, we have learned of forced disappearances, acts of torture, extrajudicial executions, and forced displacement, among other crimes. Since then, we have been visibilizing the clear collusion between the Casanare Self-Defence Forces (ACC, for its initials in Spanish) and troops from the Colombia Battalion based in La Mesa, under the command of retired -and fugitive- lieutenant colonel RODRIGO GONZÁLEZ MEDINA.

As a result, it has been claimed the human rights community has orchestrated a campaign to delegitimize the military forces. In this regard, the government has now exerted significant effort to disprove what has been claimed and invisibilize the victims, as is presently being attempted through the Comprehensive Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Policy put forward by the Ministry of National Defence. [2]

Up to now, five years after the incidents, some of the facts have been clarified and some of the responsible parties have been criminally tried and punished, though most have been from the lower ranks in their respective structures.

With respect to the ACC, MAER ISIDRO ARÉVALO, JOSÉ ARNULFO CORTÉS BUSTOS, and CLAUDIA PATRICIA AMAYA have been convicted; while RAFAEL ANTONIO CHAPARRO, LUIS FERNANDO GÓMEZ FLOREZ, ANGEL RODIGO DAZA ÁVILA and AGAPO GAMBOA have pled guilty to some of the crimes.

With respect to members of the Colombia Battalion, in October 2006 captain EDGAR MAURICIO ARBELÁEZ SÁNCHEZ was convicted and sentenced to forty years of prison for the crimes of conspiracy to commit a crime and the aggravated homicide of two persons from the town of Viotá, who were passed off as paramilitaries killed in combat because “the man upstairs needs a favor to save his hide,” [3] as said in a telephone call by an ACC member referring to the Colonel’s need to show results to stop the suspicions and denunciations threatening him. The same ruling convicted corporal EDUARDO ENRIQUE MÁRQUEZ for conspiracy to commit a crime and for being an accomplice to the homicides.

On March 31, 2008, Sergeant Harold Pejendino was sentenced to forty years of prison for the crimes of aggravated homicide, conspiracy to commit an aggravated crime, forced disappearance, forced displacement, and simple kidnapping.

This week, the first session of the public hearing took place against ACC members, JHON JAIRO SÁNCHEZ ROA, OSCAR ANDRÉS HUERTAS SARMIENTO, and JAIR MADRIGAL QUINTERO, and against members of the Colombia Battalion, lieutenant colonel GONZÁLEZ MEDINA and majors ALEXANDER LIZARAZO PARRA and ALEJANDRO ROBAYO RODRÍGUEZ. The latter was also recognized in the middle of the hearing by the commander of the ACC ‘Special Forces’ as one of the participants in the logistical coordination meeting held by members of the Colombia Battalion and the ACC to commit crimes against humanity.

However, not this was not the only impressive fact known in the hearing. Chilling details concerning the coordination between the ACC and senior staff at the Colombia Battalion -as well as other officers- also came to light: the ‘Intelligence Reports’ directly turned in by the members of the army with the names and color photographs of the inhabitants of Viotá who should be murdered, tortured, or disappeared; the means of coordination so army checkpoints -in full operation of Operation Liberty I, prelude to Patriot Plan- would be lifted to let the paramilitaries through as needed; colonel GONZÁLEZ MEDINA’s treason of the ACC due to the introduction in the region of the ‘Urabeños’ paramilitary group led by paramilitary chiefs Carlos Castaño and Salvatore Mancuso, who had put a price on the heads of the members of the group from Casanare; the presence of ACC members at the police installations in Viotá and Colombia Battalion in La Mesa -with documents identifying them as army officers; the account by captain ARBELÁEZ on the use of hooded persons to point out inhabitants as FARC auxiliaries; as well as many other circumstances that came to light after five years of obscurity.

Today, we can answer the question made by the magazine. Mere coincidences? No, they were not mere coincidences. The crimes against humanity perpetrated in Viotá obeyed to an impressive coordination between the ACC and the most senior members of the Colombia Battalion, as well as other officers and junior officers. This is how Patriot Plan was born.

Footnotes

[1¿Meras Coincidencias? Semana Magazine, July 13, 2003, Edition 1106, http://www.semana.com/wf_InfoArticulo.aspx?IdArt=71591.

[2Comprehensive Human Rights and IHL Policy. Ministry of National Defence, 2008, http://www.mindefensa.gov.co/descargas/Documentos_Home/Politica_DDHH_MDN_ENG.pdf.

[3Second Criminal Specialized Circuit Court of Cundinamarca. October 30, 2006. Case 02-2004-0073.

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