The Blanket

Colombia Deteriorates Daily

Sean Smyth • 21.08.02

Although it has gone unreported in the mainstream media, paramilitary death squads working with the Colombian security forces have continued assassinating hundreds of civilians in recent weeks. Among the dead lately are human rights workers, religious and community leaders, land reform and peace campaigners and trade union and student activists.

In what appears to be a systematic campaign to ignore paramilitary abuses in Colombia, the two families that control the Colombian media, the Santos family and the Ardila Lülle family, both of which are also accused of making donations to the death squads, seem to have instructed that their newspapers and television channels ignore any and all reports of human rights violations committed by the death squads.

Unfortunately the Western media too seem to have followed their lead and despite the fact that the army and death squads have murdered hundreds of civilians in recent weeks not one of these assassinations has been reported on.

To follow is a list of some of the serious human rights violations that have been ignored by the mainstream media:

August 14th: Paramilitaries entered the town of San Juan del Cesar in La Guajira department and assassinated four civilians whom they accused of being guerrilla sympathisers.

August 10th: Land reform campaigner Roberto Hugo Santander is shot dead by paramilitary gunmen in the city of Medellin.

August 4th: Paramilitaries entered the indigenous community of Cascajeros in Choco department and shot dead three people including a pregnant woman. They then ordered all residents of the community to leave the region or face the same punishment.

August 3rd: Paramilitaries massacred four young people in the municipality of Soledad just outside of the city of Barranquilla. Neither the army nor police intervened despite having a heavy presence in the area. Three of the victims have been named as Luis Alberto Cantillo Correa, Ricardo David Borrero and Deiver Garcia Gonzalez.

August 2nd: A joint marine and paramilitary unit entered the town of Puerto Saija on the remote Pacific coast of Cauca department and proceeded to terrorise the residents whom they accused of helping local FARC guerrillas. The government forces told hundreds of residents of the town and the surrounding area to leave the region or be executed and some three hundred people fled by boat down the rivers Saija and Timbiqui. On the morning of Aug 3rd two civilians were found murdered although at around noon some 200 FARC guerrillas arrived and launched a heavy assault on the government troops forcing them to leave the area.

July 31st: a death squad shot union activist Alonso Pamplona five times on a road in Sabana de Torres municipality in Santander department. The trade unionist, who worked for the USO oil workers union, was left for dead although miraculously he survived and is now recovering in hospital.

July 29th: 'Disappeared' - Paramilitaries abducted union leader Gonzalo Ramirez Triana of the USO oil workers union in the town of Villeta in Cundinamarca department. He has not been seen since.

July 27th: 16-year-old Jorge Perez Ardila who worked selling newspapers in the streets of the city of Barrancabermeja was taken away by a group of paramilitaries in the La Victoria neighbourhood. He has not been seen since and was the 60th person that the paramilitaries have 'disappeared' in the city so far this year about half of whom were youngsters whom the death squads accuse of being rebel spies.

July 26th: a paramilitary assassin shot and killed Yolanda Castaño, a community leader in the La Loma neighbourhood of the southern city of Cali.

July 25th: Paramilitaries killed three men on the road leading from the city of Pereira to the city of Armenia in central Colombia. Carlos Antonio Gallego Herrera, Harold Andres Varela Galviz and Andred Humberto Correa Bedoya were all murdered by the death squad whilst two other civilians were injured when the paramilitaries indiscriminately opened fire on the vehicle they were travelling in.

July 22nd: Paramilitaries executed three people in the Yarumal region of Antioquia department and four others have disappeared.

July 21st: Paramilitaries go on a killing spree in and around the city of Monteria in Cordoba department. In the rural community of Guateque, just outside of the city, the death squads decapitated Rafael Velasquez Vergara. In the neighbourhood of Brisas del Sinu in the city a separate death squad executed a teenager and another man whom they accused of being guerrilla collaborators. Yet another death squad went from house to house in the rural community of Guacharacal and dragged four peasant farmers away before executing them.

July 19th: A death squad entered the community of San Miguel in the municipality of San Carlos in Antioquia department where they killed a man and his three children before they moved into the neighbouring community of Santa Rita and murdered Graciano Gil and Jairo de Jesus Giraldo.

July 16th: a paramilitary unit kidnapped four female students at the 'Creadores del Futuro' College in the Blanquizal neighbourhood of the city of Medellin. All four girls were executed and had their bodies dumped in the nearby neighbourhood of La Pradera. The victims were identified as Matalia Carvajal Saldarriaga, Sandra Milena Florez Garces, Sara Lucia Acosta Montoya and Luz Andrea Velasquez Hernandez, all of who were killed for alleged guerrilla sympathies.

July 14th: Two paramilitary gunmen in the municipality of Mogotes in Santander department approached Martha Ines Velez, a nun with the Order of the Poor of San Pedro Claver, and shot her dead. She was killed for bringing attention to paramilitary massacres in rural communities in the region that were not reported on by anyone else. We have since learnt that Colonel Jorge Daniel Castro, the commander of the police in Santander department, was involved in the planning of her murder.

July 13th: Paramilitaries in the municipality of Aracataca in Magdalena department stopped a public bus carrying indigenous leader Maria Torres and dragged her from the vehicle. She was shot dead at the side of the road whilst her young daughter and niece were forced to watch.

July 12th: a paramilitary death squad entered the community of La Union in Antioquia department and assassinated four men whose names they had on a list. One of the men was forced to dig his grave before being killed by machete blows and a gunshot to the head.

The Colombian Solidarity campaign will be holding a open meetings in the future in Belfast. All should try to attend these events.

The writer is an Independent Socialist





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8 September 2002


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