Colombia: FARC declare ceasefire —amid fighting

Colombia's army accused the FARC on Dec. 19 of killing five soldiers only hours before confirming a unilateral and indefinite rebel ceasefire to start the next day. The combat took place in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca, where a local army patrol was ambushed by members of the FARC’s 6th Front and its Teofilo Forero elite unit. One more soldier is missing in action and may have been taken prisoner by the guerrillas. The same FARC unit had earlier that day blown up the Panamerican highway at Caldono, leaving a lane-wide crater. Additionally, presumed FARC guerillas left Valle del Cauca's Pacific port city of Buenaventura without electricity after blowing up a key transmission tower on Dec. 18.

FARC fighters face indigenous justice

A Nasa indigenous court in Toribio, in Colombia's Cauca department, on Nov. 8 convicted seven FARC guerillas in the murder of two village leaders and related violence three days earlier. The two victims were members of the Indigenous Guard who had been removing FARC propaganda posters from walls in San Francisco corregimiento (hamlet) when they were killed. Five guerillas were sentenced to between 40 and 60 years in prison. The 60-year term was for the guerilla convicted in the slayings. Four receiving 40-year terms were found to have "fired indiscriminately" on villagers who confronted the guerillas in the incident, armed only with sticks. The men are to serve their time at the prison in Popayan, Cauca's capital. Two others—both minors—are to receive 20 lashes, and be held a rehabilitation center until they are 18. The verdict and sentences were decided after several hours of debate by an assembly of some 3,000 community members. Indigenous authorities in Colombia have jurisdiction in their own territories unless this contravenes national law. Gabriel Pavi, leader of the Northern Cauca Indigenous Councils Association (ACIN), said the guerillas were captured "in uniform and with rifles," and that "all are indigenous." 

Colombia: mass graves exhumed in Cauca

At least 18 bodies were found in three mass graves near the pueblo of Tacueyó in Colombia's Cauca department over the weekend. The remains were unearthed by forensic experts from the Technical Investigations Unit (CTI) of the Fiscalía, Colombia's prosecutor general, and are believed to be victims of a guerilla massacre. The first of the graves was discovered by local campesinos while working the land, who informed the authorities. The CTI work was repeatedly interrupted by attacks from gunmen from the nearby mountains. The Tacueyó Massacre took place between 1985 and 1986, when the village was terrorized by the Ricardo Franco Front, a renegade FARC unit that broke from the guerilla army to join the rival M-19 rebels, but was repudiated by both groups.

Colombia's indigenous communities at risk: report

Armed conflict and forced displacement persist as threats for Colombia's indigenous peoples, according to a new report by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC). Threats, attacks, killings, forced recruitment, sexual violence and torture remain common in indigenous territories, the group said. One of the most disturbing figures in the report is that between May and June this year 2,819 members of the Dobida Embera community in the western department of Chocó were displaced due to clashes between the ELN guerillas and Urabeños paramilitary force. The UN had previously said that at least 300 locals were forced to flee due to the violence. The report charges: "Despite the orders given by the Constitutional Court of Colombia regarding the protection of at least 64 indigenous people they continue to be at high risk for physical and cultural extermination. This is due to the armed conflict and forced displacement. The nature of the violations reaffirms the ineffective protective measures of the national and international bodies involved."

Sixth teacher assassinated this year in Colombia

A sixth teacher has been reported murdered in Colombia this year on Sept. 2, highlighting continuing challenges for President Juan Manuel Santos’s promise to make Colombians "the most educated in Latin America." Joaquin Gómez Muñoz was murdered by a masked assassin at his home in the southern department of Cauca. He was the sixth teacher to be killed this year, according to FECODE, Colombia's teachers union. Gómez, 54, was born and raised in Cauca. He worked as a math teacher at the school of the Huella indigenous reserve, and was also a community leader a member of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC). This was the second murder of a teacher at Huella in less than six months. Epifanio Latin Ñuscue was tortured to death on March 3. Ñuscue had been previously threatened by FARC guerillas that operate in the region for "defending the autonomy [of] the indigenous government," the community said in a statement. Physical security for educators was one of the main issues in last month's country-wide teachers' strike last month. (Colombia Reports, Sept. 2)

May Day mining disaster in Colombia

An unknown number of miners—perhaps as many as 40—were buried alive as an illegal gold mine collapsed late on the night of April 30 at El Palmar, in Colombia's southern department of Cauca. Local campesinos spent May Day volunteering with Santander de Quilichao municipal brigades in a desperate effort to unearth the victims—none of whom are believed to survive. Thus far, only three bodies have been recovered, according to local Red Cross workers. Local residents said the "owners" of the mine were able to escape, but it is still unlcear exactly who they are.

Colombia: kingpin named in Trujillo Massacre

The Fiscalía, Colombia's public prosecutor, on Dec. 9 formally charged a notorious drug kingpin for masterminding several massacres between 1988 and 1994 in which hundreds of people were killed. The crimes, dubbed the Massacre of Trujillo after the town where they were committed in Valle del Cauca department, resulted in the deaths of up to 342 people. Among the victims were unionists, alleged guerrilla supporters, and a priest. Some of the victims were tortured and dismembered as a warning to rebel groups FARC and ELN, and their sympathizers. Diego Montoya AKA "Don Diego" is accused of conspiring with members of the army, police, regional politicians and paramilitary groups aligned to the infamous Cali Cartel. Several members of the security forces have also been charged for their alleged role in the killings.

Colombia: Cauca campesino leader assassinated

Sergio Úlcue Perdomo, a campesino leader representing veredas (hamlets) in the municipality of Caloto, in Colombia's southwestern Cauca department, was killed by unknown gunmen in civilian clothes who invaded his family's shelter in vereda Marañón on Nov. 17. Family members, including children, looked on as he was slain. The family has been living in the improvised shelter since November 2011, when they were forced by paramilitary threats to abandon their traditional lands and home in vereda El Pedregal. In 2009, Úlcue Perdomo led an effort to document rights abuses by the Colombian army and allied paramilitaries at the veredas of El Pedregal and El Vergel, bringing a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) on behalf of some 175 families. The CIDH issued a "Precuationary Measure," MC-97-10, calling on the Colombian government to guarantee the safety of the threatened families. (Corporación Justicia y Dignidad via Rebelión, Nov. 19)

Syndicate content