WOLA Update- Action Required in Colombian Human Rights Situations

By Gimena Sanchez | April 29, 2016
  • Author: Gimena Sanchez
  • Journal: WOLA

Former Afro-Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba Escapes Assassination Attempt (Chocó)

 

On April 1, former Colombian Senator dodged an assassination while in Quibdó, Chocó Department. According to Ms. Cordoba, she was delivering a speech in the city when a man came from behind a post and shot at her. The media reported that the attempt likely came from the organization the “Black Eagles.”

 

Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) Increase their Presence in Tumaco (Nariño)

 

On April 13, the Network of Human Rights in Southwest Colombia denounced the presence of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) in Tumaco, Nariño. According to the network, the AGC frequents neighborhoods and repetitively intimidates and threatens social activist or people affiliated with leftist political parties.  Most recently, Franklin Quiñones Tenorio, member of the Patriotic Union (UP) and CONAFRO, and afro descendant member of the Rescate las Varas community council was shot at by AGC members days after leading a meeting on human rights and illicit drugs. Luckily he walked away uninjured from the attack.

 

Threats Increase for Social Leaders (Valle del Cauca and Cauca)

 

On April 11, the Network of Human Rights in Southwest Colombia and National Victims Movement of State Crimes (MOVICE) denounced threats and intimidation by Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) and the “Black Eagles.” The victims included, Martha Giraldo, Technical Secretary of MOVICE, José Milciades Sánchez, member of Sintraunicol, Walter Agredo, member of the Committee of Solidarity for Political Prisoners, and Wilson Sánchez of the CUT union. Threats were also extended to students of the University of Valle in Palmira. The threat states that all who are associated with the left, social movements, and unions are declared military objectives. This is extremely worrisome given the wave of killing of social activist this year and the recent armed strike by the AGC that effectively shut down commerce in many parts of the country.

 

On April 13, a message was posted on Felipe Morales of the Student Collective in Buga stating “your communications are under surveillance Mr. Felipe and you will be hearing from us.” A few hours later, he received a message stating “this is not a game SOB evil communist we will kill you.” Mr. Morales forms part of the Federation of University Students (FEU) that is part of the Marcha Patriotica in Valle del Cauca.

 

Land Claimants in La Europa, Montes de Maria Face Threats (Sucre)

 

On April 8, the National Victims Movement of State Crimes (MOVICE) denounced threatening activity near the ranch of La Europa, in the Montes de Maria in Sucre Department. According to community leaders, men in motorcycles patrolled the premises on repeated occasions, and a threat was sent to campesino leader declaring him a military objective. La Europa ranch is forms part of a legal and violent land restitution battle. Over 50 families, displaced at different times, returned in the mid-2000s and have since faced threats and attacks from paramilitaries.

 

Land Claimants Face Threats from Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Antioquia)

 

On April 12, land claimants in Turbo, Antioquia denounced death threats received by the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC). According to the land claimants association, Land and Peace, an AGC leader known as Inglatarra demanded that all cattle be immediately removed from the premises or risk worse consequences.

 

Armed Men Threaten Family for Reporting a Rape (Valle del Cauca)

 

On April 9, armed men threatened to kill afro descendant Idelino Sanchez Valenzuela, his wife Carolina Aragon and their daughter Doris Valenzuela if they did not retract their legal claim against Jose Alipio Ibarguen for having raped a minor several years ago in Buenaventura. While the legal aspects of this rape case have not fully advanced, the Attorney General made the decision to deprive Mr. Ibarguen of his liberty last year. According to Justicia y Paz, Mr. Ibarguen was protected by paramilitary structures and neo-paramilitaries until his capture. Ms. Valenzuela, her husband and three children suffered displacement from the La Playita neighborhood for exposing the illegal recruitment of minors by these groups. One year ago, one of these children was killed at the hands of paramilitaries.

 

Human Rights Defenders Detained by Police and Suspected of Carrying Explosives (Valle del Cauca)

 

On April 10, Maria Eugenia Mosquera of Communities Constructing Peace in the Territories (CONPAZ) and Enrique Chimonja of the Intereclesial Commission for Justice and Peace were stopped by police while traveling on the Pan-American Highway in Candelaria municipality, Valle del Cauca Department. While they were in a car that forms part of their protective measures from the National Protection Unit, they were stopped by police and searched under the suspicion that they were carrying explosives. The policemen concerned failed to follow the UNP protocols for dealing with one of their protection schemes. As such, they were forced out of the car in the middle the highway making them vulnerable to attack from paramilitary structures operating in the area.

 

One of the men stated during the search “do not go too far; a year ago Felciano Valencia had problems with his vehicle for transporting explosives.’ The later comment is particularly disturbing given the history of defenders being killed and wrongly imprisoned by members of the public forces while driving in this area. The human rights defenders were on their way to the Trujillo community in order to do a workshop to explain the recent amicable decision reached between the parties on their case last week at the OAS Inter-American Human Rights sessions in Washington, DC.

 

Indigenous Authorities Denounce Paramilitary Threats (Cauca)

 

On April 8, the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Northern Cauca (ACIN) reported that paramilitaries were threatening and extorting indigenous and campesino organizations and local businesses in Miranda, Corinto and Caloto. On April 6, the “Black Eagles” and the Rastrojos circulated death threat pamphlets amongst these communities. In this pamphlet, which has the letters “AUC” stamped above the message it states that they will be conducting social cleansing operations in the area and accuse members of indigenous organizations to be FARC collaborators. The circular promises to kill all the collaborators.

 

Security Incident Involving AFRODES’ Vice President (Valle del Cauca)

 

On March 18, Erlendy Cuero Bravo, Vice President for the Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) picks up her car from a mechanic and drives to her residence in Cali. While still in the car an unknown man approaches her and instructs her to give him her cellphone. When Ms. Bravo notices that the man reaches into his side to take out a gun, she hits the accelerator. The man in question was a mestizo with a large black motorcycle. On March 22, the youth that was captured for previously trying to assassinate Ms. Cuero’s son stood guard outside her home for three hours. This youth is the same person who in June 24, 2016 fired at Ms. Cuero’s son. He is known to have ties to paramilitaries groups in Buenaventura.

 

Audio Reveals Plot to Assassinate Campesino Leader Cesar Augusto Tamayo (Santander)

 

An audio recording obtained by the Santander Campesino Organization (ASOGRAS) on April 2 reveals plans to assassinate campesino leader Cesar Augusto Tamayo in Palmira ranch or at his home in Sabana Torres municipality. The audio explains plans that have been underway for various months in order to kill Mr. Tamayo due to his human rights work in Magdalena Medio. Mr. Tamayo has received numerous death threats from paramilitaries (Usugas, Gaitanistas and Urabenos) operating in this part of the country.

 

Five Years after the Labor Action Plan, Flower Workers’ Struggles Continue

 

On April 7, The National Flower-Grower Organization of Colombia (ONOF) provided an assessment of five years of the U.S-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP) in the flower industry. According to ONOF, despite substantial economic benefits for the flower business, workers continue to face sub-standard working conditions, companies continue to subcontract workers, and the government has not increased the number of labor inspectors required to ensure fair labor conditions. ONAF reported that as of today, only five inspectors are available for the seventy thousand workers in the flower industry.

 

With regards to the LAP, we recommend reading Brian Finnegan of the AFLCIO’s April 12 blog What Colombian Can Teach us About the TPP http://bit.ly/1SbBbJT In this, AFLCIO states that since the LAP’s signing 126 trade unionists were murdered and another 74 suffered murder attempts. The union also notes that illegal contracting, an issue that the LAP was designed to address, is 10% higher than when the LAP started.

 

In closing, we would like to update you on the Afro-Colombian Congressional Seats Case. As per prior alerts, the seats designated for Afro-Colombians in the Colombian Congress were illegally usurped by persons who provided fraudulent documents claiming that they were representatives of the Afro-Colombian communities. Last week it was revealed that the State Council annulled the documents that facilitated the positioning of Alvaro Gustavo Rosado. While this decision was made four months ago, it mysteriously did not become public until April 5, 2016. During this time the petitioners in this case have received death threats and other forms of intimidation for trying to obtain justice in this case. Furthermore, despite U.S. policymakers’ expressions of concern for the victims in this case, protections mechanisms assigned to these individuals remain inadequate and insufficient.

We ask that you please take action in the above cases. For further information please contact us at gsanchez@wola.org or (202) 797-2171.

April 15, 2016

Senior Associate

WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Cell: +1 (202) 489-1702

Tel: +1 (202) 797-2171

Email: gsanchez@wola.org

Twitter: @WOLA Colombia

www.wola.org

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