As gains against FARC claimed, invisible violence against Colombia's campesinos

It made at least brief international headlines March 26 when Colombia's military announced it had killed 36 FARC fighters in the pre-dawn bombing of a guerrilla camp in Vista Hermosa, Meta department. Five days earlier, the armed forces claimed to have killed 33 fighters in ground fighting and air attacks in Arauca—near the area of Arauquita municipality where 11 soldiers had been killed in a FARC ambush on March 17. The claimed deaths come just as the FARC says it is preparing to free its last hostages. Armed forces chief Gen. Alejandro Navas dismissed suggestions that the military attacks could delay the releases, saying the strikes fall within the "rules of the conflict." (AP, March 26; WSJ, March 21; Secugo, March 18)

Ongoing deadly violence against Colombia's campesinos fail to win much coverage outside the country. On March 14, a leader of campesinos seeking to recover lands usurped by paramilitaries was found dead in northwestern Urabá region—five days after the Águilas Negras paramilitary group had abducted him along with his 15-year-old son. The body of Manuel Ruíz was found in Mutatá, Antioquia department, with a gunshot wound in the face and signs of "maltreatment," said the local Inter-Ecclesiastic Commission of Justice and Peace (CIJP). The body of a youth found nearby has not yet been identified by could be that of his son, Samir Ruíz, according the CIJP. Three times last year, Ruíz had sought official protection after receiving death threats, related to his efforts to recover lands seized by paramilitaries and now under the control of local agro-industry interests in Apartadocito community. (El Espectador, March 28)

Five bodies—four of indigenous campesinos, and one apparently of a mestizo—were found at the Nasa (Paez) resguardo of Concepción, outside Santander de Quilichao in Cauca department. Two of the bodies have been identified: Edwin Carrillo, coordinator of the Indigenous Guatd in the town of Piendamó; and David Gómez, a comunero from Quichagua, in Silvia municipality. The local National Police commander blamed the killings on the FARC's "Jacobo Arenas" mobile column. Indigenous leaders, however, say they believe the killings may be retaliation by paramilitaries for a recent march demanding the recovery of usurped lands in Jambaló municipality. (El Tiempo, March 16)

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Colombia: another indigenous leader assassinated

In the southern department of Nariño, Aurelina Adarme Chasoy, leader of the Inga indigenous people, was waylaid on a road in Tablón de Gómez municipality and assassinated on April 3. Her body was found with signs of torture, and she had been asphyxiated to death. The National Police are pledging an investigation following demands by local and departmental authorities. (El Tiempo, April 6; Servindi, April 3)

On March 16, local schoolteacher and leader of Nariño's Pastos indigenous people Nancy del Carmen Chazatar was liberated in an operation by the army's 23rd Brigade in Santa Cruz de Guachavez municipality, one day after she had been abducted. The rescue operation came after the local Indigenous Guard had tracked her down, and pressure was raised by the organization Indigenous Authorities of Colombia (AICO). Accounts did not make clear who the captors were. Carmen Chazatar is the sister of Jaime Chazatar, the indigenous mayor of Guachavez, who was assassinated in December. (EFE, El Tiempo, Caracol Radio, March 16; EFE, March 15)