Trial advances against William Martínez Santamaría, as alleged perpetrator, and against the material authors of the La Guaripa massacre.

Trial advances against William Martínez Santamaría, as alleged perpetrator, and against the material authors of the La Guaripa massacre.

This week the trial resumed for the homicide of brothers Humberto Escobar Mercado, Preliciano Marcado García and Eusebio Osorio Mercado, committed in the El Trébol farm, corregimiento of La Guaripa, municipality of Sucre, department of Sucre, on January 25, 2018, by armed men working for cattle rancher William Rodolfo Martínez Santamaría, former director of the Family Compensation Fund of Sucre, Comfasucre.   

The trial is being held in the Second District Court of the Circuit of San Marcos, Sucre, against Neisser Manuel Contreras Montiel, Ever Manuel Álvarez Madrid, and Contreras Macea for the crimes of aggravated homicide as co-perpetrators, and against William Martínez as the perpetrator of the facts.   

In this week’s hearing, the defense has presented its experts and requested the decree of new evidence qualifying it as exceptional without being so, the reason for which the appeal was denied and the defense of Martinez appealed this decision. It is expected that tomorrow the interrogation of the accused William Martinez will be advanced. 

This massacre originated in a dispute over this land in 2009, when after Marlen Cecilia Gómez Merlano, widow of Eduardo Enrique Escobar Salóm, one of the sons of the original owner of the farm, Mr. Pedro Simeón Escobar Bustamante, sold 679 hectares to William Martínez, despite which the rancher insisted on claiming the entire 1200 hectares that make up the entire land of the farms La Concepción and El Trébol.   

This illegal and unjustified claim was accompanied by threats of all kinds, attacks, aggressions, and four evictions between 2015 and 2017 against the seven members of the Escobar Mercado family, which are recorded in more than 15 complaints before the prosecutor’s office and sectional and regional courts and even before the Attorney General’s Office, for the crimes of Threats, Usurpation of land and damage to property belonging to others. The denunciations compromise the alleged criminal responsibility of Mr. Martínez and his nephew Andrés Gómez, now mayor of Sincelejo.    

One of the first episodes of threats and eviction occurred on January 21, 2015, when, according to a complaint filed with the local Prosecutor’s Office of Sucre, William Martinez, accompanied by the police inspector of the municipality of Sucre and Mr. Andres Gomez Martinez, the current mayor of Sincelejo, appeared at the property owned by the Escobar family carrying weapons of private use of public force and threatening them in the following terms expressed to the authorities by the complainants as follows:    

“That we shouldn’t fuck anymore, that we were invaders, that we were disturbing, that we had been told for some time that if we continued to fuck they would give us bullets, that they would visit our families one by one so that the fucking would stop, that there was already knowledge because there were emissaries to carry out these activities, that the thing had to be paid in this way, that the life of a poor person was worth nothing, that a dog was perhaps more valuable” (sic).    

Subsequently, the accused William William Martínez showed up again at the property of the Escobar Mercado family on October 14, 2016, when, according to a complaint filed with the Attorney General’s Office, he arrived along with eight Esmad agents to intimidate other members of the Mercado family. Just one month later, there was an episode of violent and illegal eviction against the family, on November 22, 2016, when they destroyed homes, fences, and belongings of the Escobar Mercado family, forcing them to leave their property.     

The third eviction, on January 16, 2017, took place just after a visual inspection with the Technical Investigation Corps -TIC- of the Attorney General’s Office where it was established that the property owned by the Mercado family corresponded to 575 hectares that were not sold to Martinez and that he only had possession of the 679 hectares that were sold to him by Mrs. Marlen Merlano.    

That night, after 6:30 p.m., the accused Martínez burst in with armed men firing shots at the house and with one of these shots took away the cell phone of Mrs. Irma del Carmen Escobar Mercado, who was recording the events.    

But also denounced by the Mercado family before the Attorney General’s Office have been Colonel Julio César Sánchez Molina, the police commander of the municipality of San Marcos, Sucre, (who acted outside his jurisdiction) and 12 other agents of the Police Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron -ESMAD- for having participated in the fourth episode of eviction, on November 22, 2017, just two months before the massacre.  

A day before the events, and after the Escobar family initiated the process of fencing off their property, already recognized through the ocular inspection of November 2017, the police in the area showed up at the El Trébol farm to notify them that they would be subject to patrols to protect them. Even so, the massacre was consummated and with it the permanent eviction of the owners of these lands.   

José Miguel Beltrán Osorio, husband of Mrs. Mercado and survivor of the massacre, has been the main witness of the events, which has led to threats against his life, for which he is now subject to protection measures by the UNP.   

The victims are still waiting for justice and for William Martinez to stop occupying these violently seized properties.  

“Both these threats received by the survivor, as well as the attacks prior to the massacre experienced by the Escobar family and the respective complaints filed, reinforce the theory of the responsibility of Mr. William Martínez Santamaría in these events,” said the victims’ representatives,  and adds that “they show that all local and regional institutions were aware of the threats and attacks against these peasants, as well as the territorial dispute with Mr. Martinez, despite which they did not act to investigate and punish these actions which, in turn, would have prevented the massacre of La Guaripa”.   

We hope that this trial, which has been going on for more than two years, advances quickly and efficiently, in favor of the rights of the victims, as well as the disciplinary investigations against officials who acted in favor of the perpetrators of this massacre. We also hope that the other crimes committed by Martínez and his nephew, Mayor Andrés Gómez, against the owners of this land are investigated and prosecuted.

Truth, justice, and guarantees of non-repetition are needed so that this family, who lived for more than 40 years uninterruptedly and peacefully in these lands, can return to them.

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