AFTER THE MOBILIZATION ON MARCH 6, THREATS, HARASSMNENT AND MURDERS HAVE INCREASED AGAINST SOCIAL, LABOR AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
(Colombia) (Autor: Social Organizations) [March 14, 2008]

Jueves 20 de marzo de 2008, por Prensa - Colectivo

The alarming climate of intolerance and violence experienced in Colombia has been accompanied by an intensification of militarism and human rights violations committed against the civilian population and civil society organizations, which has occurred within the framework of the present government’s democratic security policy and -despite government reports claiming the contrary- has not decreased. In fact, our databases and field observations clearly demonstrate that only the mode of operation has been changed, as extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, spurious criminal charges, among other violations, have increased as part of the political violence that continues to occur in Colombia. The notion that paramilitarism has demobilized is utterly false.

PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR JOSE OBDULIO GAVIRIA HELD RESPONSIBLE:

The alarming climate of intolerance and violence experienced in Colombia has been accompanied by an intensification of militarism and human rights violations committed against the civilian population and civil society organizations, which has occurred within the framework of the present government’s democratic security policy and -despite government reports claiming the contrary- has not decreased. In fact, our databases and field observations clearly demonstrate that only the mode of operation has been changed, as extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, spurious criminal charges, among other violations, have increased as part of the political violence that continues to occur in Colombia. The notion that paramilitarism has demobilized is utterly false.

Different multilateral bodies, including the OAS, have reported on armed groups operating against the social movement throughout Colombia. Using different names -such as the Black Eagles and New Generation Organization, among others-, these groups are proof of the failed paramilitary negotiation process.

Aggression against organizations and their leaders has intensified precisely when denunciations and social struggle are at their peak.

From the moment the MARCH ON MARCH 6 TO REJECT PARAMILITARISM, STATE CRIMES AND PARA-POLITICS was publicly announced, the mobilizations’ organizers received more threats and acts of intimidation. The stigmatization and false accusations, which have principally come from the senior government -specifically presidential advisor José Obdulio Gaviria- as well as other extreme right-wing sectors, have created a polarizing and hostile climate with immediate consequences.

As part of the March 6 activities “Homage to the Victims, Displaced, Murdered, Disappeared, and Victims: Memory and Dignity,” which also initiated the IV Encounter of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, more than 24 mass mobilizations took place in Colombia with 70 more in 60 countries throughout the world. Without a doubt, the response achieved by these activities overwhelmed the expectations of the convening organizations.

As follows, we will describe the grave acts that have occurred over the last weeks against leaders and organizations accompanying the activities, who work in the defense of human rights, fundamental freedoms, the search for a humanitarian agreement, and peace in our country:

INCIDENTS

• On February 11, before several media outlets, presidential advisor JOSÉ OBDULIO GAVIRIA issued statements irresponsibly claiming the March was convened by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC. José Obdulio falsely accused Iván Cepeda -one of the principal organizers of the activities- of being a member of this irregular armed organization.

• On February 12, threatening pamphlets were distributed by email against several of the organizations convening the March in the city of Pasto, department of Nariño. The threats were signed by a supposed NGO, bringing together the new paramilitary structures in southern Colombia, the self-proclaimed New Generation Nariño.

• On February 11, Colombia Libre, the official webpage of the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, AUC, published a press release that falsely accused the March 6 mobilization of being a march “part revenge and opportunism” organized by FARC sympathizers.

• On February 17, several armed subjects attempted to abduct Mr. Mauricio Cubides. When they were unable to take him, Mauricio was threatened to death. Mauricio Cubides is a member of the National Federation of Agricultural Farming Unions, FENSUAGRO, one the organizations convening the March and a member of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, MOVICE.

• During the preparation for the March, IVAN CEPEDA, human rights defender, columnist, and member of the Support Committee for the Movement of Victims of State Crimes, received multiple anonymous email threats that charged him with being an “ally of the FARC guerrilla.”

• On February 29, armed subjects fired shots at the apartment of Luz Adriana González, general secretary of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, CPDH, Risaralda chapter. This organization led the call for the March. During the same week, threatening letters were also sent to Guillermo Castaño, CPDH chapter president, leader of the National Federation of Agricultural Farming Unions and the Sustainable Development Peasant Corporation.

• Days prior to the mobilization, general Oscar Naranjo, National Police general director, indicated that material convening the March 6 mobilization was found in the computers obtained from the camp of guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes. These false accusations directly led to threats being made against the persons and leaders from the department of Caquetá who were organizing the mobilization. On March 6, a group of women traveling by bus to Bogotá to participate in the mobilization were forced to turn back due to death threats.

• On March 4, LEONIDAS GÓMEZ, an employee at CITYBANK, member of the National Enterprise Committee for the National Bank Employees Union, UNEB, member of the National Education Team of the Workers Central Unitary, CUT, and member of the Capital District Office of the Alternative Democratic Pole, was disappeared and subsequently found in his apartment. His execution follows the method of murdering with a sharp weapon to attempt to conceal and obscure the political motives.

• During the March on March 6, Antonio Pedrozo, leader of internally displaced persons, was threatened to death when he received an unsigned envelope with a piece of paper with a message reading “FARC LEADER DEAD NOW.” The envelope read “SOCIAL ACTION. FOR LIBARDO PEDROZO.” Antonio is a member of the organization Weaving Hope, Tejiendo Esperanza, as well as a coordinator for the National March of Displaced Persons, which left from Flandes, Tolima, on March 3 and joined the principal march in Bogotá in Bolívar Square.

• During the March in Homage of the Victims, grave acts of harassment were also committed against participants in several cities. In Cúcuta, several of the organizers were harassed. Persons in civilian clothes, not participating in the March, were taking photographs and filming with video cameras.

• In Bogotá, a young person, accompanied by others, persisted in harassing Iván Cepeda while he went down Seventh Avenue.

• On March 7, RAFAEL BOADA, president of UNEB, Bucaramanga Chapter, was victim of an attack in which fortunately he was not hurt. BOADA, has received several death threats since when the March was first announced and promoted.

• On the evening of March 7, GILDARDO ANTONIO GÓMEZ ALZATE, an educator and delegate of the Association of Instructors of Antioquia, ADIDA, and member of the Center for Teacher Research and Study, CEID. Under strange circumstances, Gildardo Antonio was murdered by a sharp weapon in the entranceway of his residence.

• On March 7, computers were stolen from several offices for internally displaced person (IDP) organizations, including the Association of Displaced Persons of Guaviare, ASPODEGUA, the National Coordination of Displaced Persons, CND, and the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives, FENACOA. These organizations led the call for the March and carried out a pilgrimage from Flandes to Bogotá, demanding the restitution of the six million hectares seized by paramilitaries as well as appealing for peace.

• On March 12, CARLOS BURBANO was found murdered. He was a member of the regional board of the National Association of Hospital and Clinic Workers, ANTHOC, in Cartagena del Chairá, department of Caquetá. Carlos was disappeared on Sunday, March 9, and had been the principal organizer for the activities relating to the March 6 mobilization in this region of southern Colombia.

• On March 11, social organizations received several email death threats signed by the “Black Eagles” paramilitary organization. These emails announced the disappearance and death of leaders and organizations, including MINGA, REINICIAR, FUNDIP, ASIPRON, ANDAS, ASODEGO, ASOMUJER, FENACOA, CODES, CUT, and other organizations and persons participating in the mobilization. The email also made a death threat against former Bogotá council member Bruno Díaz (Democratic Alternative Pole).

• Luz Helena Ramírez, member of the Support Committee for the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, MOVICE, was among the persons who were threatened. Luz Helena has received several email death threats signed by the “Black Eagles” in which lists and photos from the March 6 mobilization were attached.

• Another of the organizations mentioned in the death threats is the Corporation for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights - REINICIAR. The organization’s director and four members of its legal and documentation teams were declared military objectives. REINICIAR, along with the Colombian Commission of Jurists, is one of the petitioning organizations for the lawsuit submitted against the Colombian State for the genocide committed against the Patriotic Union, Unión Patriótica, UP, and the Colombian Communist Party, PCC. The have also been threatened and attacked on a systematic and ongoing basis.

• Additionally, further threats have been made against the Communist Party headquarters, located in a downtown sector of Bogotá, and is part of persistent stigmatization and repeated false accusations made against well-known leaders of the Colombian Communist Party and survivors of the Patriotic Union. Specifically, on March 7, a woman identified as Eloina Mercedes Coronado Torres left a pamphlet with death threats against members of this party. The text read: “Your comrades will be pumped with lead! Ha Ha Ha, Plomo ventiao para sus camardas! Ja Ja Ja).” When she was detained by the building’s security detail and driven to the Paloquemao Attorney General’s Office, the prosecutor Diana Rubio released her alleging she had not committed any crime.

These incidents categorically demonstrate that -in contrast to affirmations made by president ÁLVARO URIBE VÉLEZ at different national and international forums- paramilitarism in Colombia is unabolished and the demobilization process undertaken by the national government has not only not eradicated the harassment, threats, and extermination committed against social organizations and their leaders, but also expresses an alarming consolidation of said military, economic and threatening structures.

We are concerned by the way in which the senior government has facilitated a campaign of false accusations made against organizations and leaders convening the mobilization on March 6. These attacks are part of a long list of false accusations that have attempted to delegitimize human rights work, the search for a humanitarian agreement, and peace in Colombia.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

The national government -headed by president Álvaro Uribe Vélez-, which promoted the mobilization on February 4 with all available means, clearly did not do the same for the mobilization on March 6. To the contrary, the government tried to shed doubt on the legitimacy of the victims of State terrorism and paramilitarism in Colombia, in addition to their genuine claims to demand their rights.

First, we hold JOSÉ OBDULIO GAVIRIA responsible for the related incidents and the security of the members of the threatened organizations, due to his reckless and irresponsible false accusations. We also demand that the senior government rectify the information disseminated on the mobilization of March 6 and recognize society’s right to public demonstrations and the exercise of political opposition. Second, we hold responsible the self-proclaimed “Black Eagles” paramilitary group, which issued the death threats. Third, we hold responsible such columnists as Mr. Fernando Londoño, Salud Hernandez, Rafael Nieto, and Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, who falsely accused the March of being directed and led by the FARC.

We will carry out the pertinent legal actions in order for the competent authorities to undertake exhaustive actions to identify and arrest the material and intellectual responsible parties of these threats.

We also call upon national and international solidarity to speak before the Colombian government, requesting investigation into the origin of the threats and the determination of the responsible parties of the murders and attacks committed against social leaders convening the mobilization on March 6.

Likewise, we call for solidarity in demanding the Colombian government to show immediate results in the real dismantlement of paramilitarism, in addition to renounce the use of Military intelligence lists, which have only served to systematically eliminate the leaders of the organizations.

Lastly, we call for solidarity in respectfully requesting president Álvaro Uribe Vélez to remove presidential advisor José Obdulio Gaviria from his position, as it is believed that on this as well as other occasions his statements have encouraged and promoted the gruesome action of the self-proclaimed “Black Eagles” and other extreme right-wing groups.

Movement of Victims of State Crimes, Corporation for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights - Reiniciar, Minga, Permanent Assembly of the Civil Society for Peace, Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners, Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, ANDAS, ONIC, CUT Regional Board Bogotá Cundinamarca, Human Rights Department - CUT, National Bank Employees Union - UNEB, ADMUCIC, Women’s Pacific Route, Sons and Daughters for Remembering and against Impunity, José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective - CAJAR, and Colombian Commission of Jurists -CCJ, et al.

Afiliaciones

Afiliado a la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos
y la Organización Mundial contra la Tortura
Estatus Consultivo en la OEA

José Alvear Restrepo

Nace en Medellín el 1 de julio de 1913 en el seno de una familia de profundas convicciones religiosas y bajo los parámetros de la ideología del partido conservador. Realiza sus estudios en la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Antioquia, donde se gradúa de Abogado con una brillante tesis titulada: "Conflictos del trabajo: la huelga"

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