A paramilitary attack is feared as military operations continue against CAVIDA.
Since 13th. May a military operation in Cuenca del Cacarica, below Atrato, in the department of Choco, has been carried out by the Batallon Voltigeros of Brigada XVII. In the process of these military operations, certain acts have demonstrated the lack of legitimacy in state policy. Paramilitaries have been involved in the operations, official units have made death threats against members of CAVIDA, among them several minors, and there have been serious threats against the Co-ordinators of this organization for African descendants, the members of the international community and our Commission of Justicia y Paz. The military units have made improper use of the property of the civilian population; they have declared that they are going to capture members of CAVIDA and Justicia y Paz and subject them to criminal proceedings, demonstrating thereby the complete lack of independence of the apparatus of justice from the military; they have also developed psychological operating techniques for the purposes of intimidation.
Today, a month after the beginning of these military operations it is still apparent that the acts of threats and intimidation constitute persecution. Its systematic nature indicates that they are preparing themselves for an operation against the communities. This operation, once the communities are under social control by means of a) the threat of criminal proceedings against co-ordinators of CAVIDA and members of Justicia y Paz, b) the violation of human rights with irreparable damages and c) the introduction of "co-operatives" and a system of 'front men' will make it possible to carry out the expansion of the cultivation of oil palm and cocaine, the exploitation of 'cativo' trees at no cost to them, whether legal, ethical or political, resulting in another dislocation and a new form of colonization.
The information gathered in the municipality of Riosucio, the statements made by the officials of the mayorŽs office, the attitude of the Military Forces in effecting armed operations, the absence of any military confrontation or dismantling of the paramilitary-style covert military units which are located at least two hours from the area of regular operatives, the delays in any preventative action on the part of the central government and their refusal to adopt any administrative measures all show ever more clearly the development of a control strategy. This strategy uses as its basis the philosophy of "Democratic Security" and "Community State" to justify the abuses and the denial of a right to free association and to permit no more than the survival and existence as a community in a Collective Territory with the objective of imposing a form of economic and social control.
On Tuesday morning on the 27th May a member of the said paramilitary-type covert military units which operate in the municipal centre of Riosucio in Choco, informed some of the inhabitants that in the next few weeks there would be an armed attack on the Humanitarian Zones of Cacarica. The purpose of the military operation would be to control the conduct of CAVIDA, neutralize the conduct of Justicia y Paz, and alleviate the pressure which has built up because of the security provided to the firm Maderas del Darien inside the Collective Territory, which enjoys the support and the protection of the paramilitaries from the base located in La Balsa, less than two hours away from the Humanitarian Zones.
According to the source, the so-called Commander Mario, apparently told the paramilitary units that it was necessary to control the process of CAVIDA, claiming "it is necessary to do something with the Justicia y Paz group and hopefully at the time of the operation, they will all be there".
The witness added that the planning of the armed attack would not be particularly difficult as everything is controlled near the Panama frontier.
The firm Maderas del Darien has started to compile a list of signatures in the municipal centre of Riosucio in which the signatories state that the accusations of Justicia y Paz are false given that the firm is not carrying out forest exploitation in an illegal way.
On Thursday 5th May, in the municipal newspaper "Selva Humeda", for the month of May, edition No. 1, "Publicacion Institucional", there appeared an article entitled " Government Secretary denounces Concentration Camp in Cacarica".
The authorities of Riosucio are very concerned about the subject of the peace communities in Cacarica. The Government Secretary, Benjamin Palacio, advised that the problems arise on the border of Cacarica, where the NGO Justicia y Paz has the community in places more closely resembling ghettos than true peace communities. According to him, people are living in areas enclosed by wire and have no communication with the outside world. He added that they are people who have been damaged in their own culture and that even the civil authorities have to request permission to be able to enter these communities.
"We would like the State, via the police forces, to be present in the area because we are aware that these settlements are infiltrated by guerrillas", he said.
He reported that heads of the region have been threatened for denouncing these abuses and that of 400 houses which were intended to be built only 40 were finished and the rest of the money never appeared. He even claimed that a launch which had cost 17 million pesos had been grounded and still remained on shore in order to ensure that the residents of the communities do not go out to denounce all anomalies.
On Friday 6th May, in the municipal centre of Riosucio, there was a presentation of the first peasant soldiers of the area and the border policy with Panama, by the Minister for Defence Martha Lucia Ramirez and the minister for Foreign Affairs Carolina Barco. The commanders of the armed forces and the combined general staff were also present. In the course of this activity, officials of the MayorŽs office in Riosucio stated that it was necessary to intervene in Cacarica because there was a concentration camp there, referring to the contents of the article which appeared in the newspaper "Selva Humeda" on the process involving CAVIDA and our Commission Justicia y Paz
On Thursday 12th May, between 15.20 hours and 16.15 hours a fly-over of two military helicopters took place. On of them landed at about 500 metres from the Humanitarian Zone "Esperanza en Dios" while the other flew over the Zones "Nueva Vida" and "Esperanza en Dios".
In "Nueva Vida" papers were thrown from the military helicopter on the outskirts of Malla de Vida which delineates the border between the private collective property of CAVIDA, and some papers also landed inside the Humanitarian Zone.
These papers are printed with the words:
"While they get richer and enjoy comforts, you are risking your life and in need. What are you waiting for? Fly away!"
On the right-hand side there is a drawing of some men in uniform and one says to the others "Their mission is to give their lives to protect ours, ha, ha, ha......"
On the reverse it says "Your bosses don't worry about your life. Don't struggle for them any more. You are only helping them to line their own pockets. What are you waiting for? Fly away!"
On the left-hand side there is a drawing of a peasant and behind it are some corpses. The peasant is saying "... They are dying for what cause?"
At about 16.30 hours, 2 youths from CAVIDA, who were returning from work sowing land, were accosted by military who told them "you should go into the army (...) We should leave them tied up all night putting up with the mosquitos (...) Any day now we are going into that Humanitarian Zone, we're waiting for the Major to come". After seizing the sacks of cassava they said "Carry on, weŽll be seeing each other soon".
On Friday 13th June, two militaries leapt over the Malla de Vida border which is the periphery of the Humanitarian zone of "Esperanza de Dios", walked about 30 metres inside the Zone and then turned around and jumped out again.
Our Commission Justicia y Paz knew about an operation of the Panamanian Government in Rio Tuira, where over 200 Colombians are located, some residents of Cacarica among them who have been seeking refuge in that neighbouring country since 2000 as a result of military operations against CAVIDA.
All the members of the international community, humanitarian and solidarity, the monks and nuns of the Catholic church, the pastors and members of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Mennonite churches and the human rights workers who have been in Cacarica during this year living for weeks and months in the Humanitarian Zones, now understand the capacity for invention, for deceit and for lying of the local, regional and national powers.
Today in Cacarica a criminal strategy which was at first only military has now taken over civilian areas to secure agroindustrial projects, such as the oil palm and cocaine businesses, the industrial exploitation of the last reserves of 'cativo' trees (sandbox tree) in Low Atrato. Today the Project for Community Life with all its experience of torture victims, murdered and disappeared, of economic boycotts, and its knowledge of the International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law, the Peoples' Rights and Law no. 70, is expected to be eliminated or co-opted. The actions seem to consist of objectives which are both diverse and indiscriminate. The whole of CAVIDA itself is attacked but so are the individual co-ordinators. The national observers are attacked as are the international observers. The human rights defenders are under attack but so are those who carry out their duty as part of the state institutions.
Behind this war of lies - this psychological war - there is an attempt to end one of the few examples of a negotiated return which has been able to survive in Low Atrato. They want the soul, the heart and the words of CAVIDA on their side, the side of perverse and corrupt power.
Bogota, 14th June 2003
Inter-Ecclesiastic Commission of Justice and Peace
(Comision Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz)
Excerpted and translated into Spanish by Equipo Nizkor on 14Aug03.
Published online on 22Aug03 by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights