Commander of the Military Forces, Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel, organizes a press conference against Justice and Peace.
"Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you." (Mt. 5: 11-12)
Again today, the effort is to destroy the prestige/reputation of the affirmative experiences of the rights of the communities who live in the midst of war. Again today, the attempt is to deflect/avoid the truth of the victims with false witnesses and with the spreading of information in the news media of "proofs" of "corruption", and of terrorism against organisms of Human Rights who announce these acts.
In 1992, when the Commission of Justice and Peace presented a national denouncement to the maximum authorities of the State and the government and the International Community (OAS and the UN) about the paramilitary Project in Carmen and San Vicente de Chucurí, you find a stratagem whereby the testimonies of the victims, of members of male and female religious communities, of members of the international community who were present during the deceitful/fraudulent action of the paramilitary, were twisted, converting the victims into the victimizers, and defenders of human rights, like Padre Javier Giraldo, SJ, into supposed "figureheads of the insurgency." False witnesses paraded before juridical court rooms , and in the mass media, their words were listened to with great interest, more so than the victims or those who accompanied the victims, because they were defending men of power in the military sphere, and in the offices of the attorney general of the nation, Dr. DeGreiff, who refused to do what would have been possible in accord with the evidence that was presented.
In 1998 the office of Justice and Peace was the victim of a new action on the part of the military and juridical apparatus. The XIII brigade gave the order, and the attorney general executed a search, in which information was extracted from the computers about documentation of cases of violations against Human Rights; for, according to the information of the military intelligence, "the office was the center of information about the guerilla." The truth of these violations against human rights was to be made invisible with the calumny against anyone who compiled this documentation in order to make it public.
Again today, a campaign has been begun to destroy the reputation of the process of CAVIDA, which affirms the rights of the community in the midst of war, and a campaign which is also against the accompaniment which our Commission supports. Men and women of the world, sensitive to human pain, have had the possibility to experience first hand the horrors that, since 1996, the communities of Cacarica have suffered, in the challenge of the deceitful paramilitary structures, such as the economic block; the assassinations of various of their members in the port of Turbo; in 1997 the development of Operation Genesis of the XVII Brigade, commanded by General Rito Alejo del Rio, in conjunction with armed civilians of the paramilitary strategy; the barbaric way in which they acted toward members of the communities; the displacement coordinated with the police who received them in Turbo; the large collection of displaced in Turbo; the search for refuge in Panama; the involuntary deportation to Bahía Cupica; the assassination and the disappearance of more than 85 members of the communities.
These men and women of the world have also known of the construction of the community - from the point of an authentic democracy; of the 5 points that they presented as a proposal for dialogue with the Government, in order to achieve a dignified return to their land; of the Project of Life that has orientated their searches; of the organized forms that they were adopting in order to return to their lands in the midst of war; of the agreements signed by the Government, among these the agreement for housing for the construction of humanitarian zones for which our Commission was responsible; of the 3 phases of return that would permit them to return to their lands. They have also known about the illegal and indiscriminate exploitation of lumber in the territories of the communities on the part of the Maderas del Darién company, with the complicity of the authorities of the Ministry of the Environment; of the aggressions of those who continued being victims once the return had been concretized, where the irregular military proposed to the communities the planting of African palm and the coca plant in order to obtain development.
The communities of African descendents of Cacarica, in their affirmation of Rights in the midst of war, make public their cry for Truth, Justice and Reparation, and receive safeguarding measures on the part of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, December 17, 1997, affirm their condition as a civil population, without becoming involved with any armed actor, a position which is supported by humanitarian organizations of Europe, the United States, Africa, the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian
Church, the Lutheran Church, and humanists and Latin American communities who have identified themselves with this project of life, including the proposal of offering their own education in primary, directed by high school students of the community, with its alternative models of communication, and with the nutritional sovereignty that is within their possibilities.
It is not a surprise that these constructions of affirmation of rights in war, of reconstruction from the practice of the eroded State of Rights, are seen by the Military Forces and by the sectors of great economic power, as being involved with "terrorist" actions and with the guerilla. Today in the region there are many interests that go beyond that of the military, and few are the communities that continue in the territory, affirming their condition as a civilian population, and their right to the truth and justice.
In the last few months, this campaign of disrepute and defamation has intensified. In the newspaper, "Selva Húmeda" of Riosucio, in the month of May, the humanitarian zones of Nueva Vida and Esperanza en Dios in Cacarica were described as "concentration camps", and that "leaders of the region had been threatened for denouncing such outrages, that of the 400 housing units that were projected, only 40 had been constructed, and that the rest of the money did not appear." (IE 26) In the Heraldo de Urabá, in the month of June, the mayor of Riusucio manifest: "In sectors like Cacarica, it appears that the people live in another "independent republic", because of the ghetto imposed by the NGO Justice and Peace. The mayor of Riosucio, Ricardo Azael Victoria, denounced: "I will not put up with any more. I have had it." And he told the Minister of Defense, that not one of the officials of his administration could enter there to develop productive projects, unless the order was given by that organization. "I have sent teachers and they have been rejected; I have sent personnel from the planning organization to optimize support for their welfare, and no one can be there. What is happening in Cacarica is very serious."
On August 21st the Center for Joint Operations of the Military Forces convoked all the various media of communications in a press conference in which General JORGE ENRIQUE MORA RANGEL, Commander of the Military Forces in Colombia, introduced the intervention of a lawyer and her witnesses in the following manner; "they represent the Community of Cacarica, which is in Choco, the information that I received appears to me to be very interesting and very important, and for this reason today I wished to meet with these persons who represent the community, and who have had to experience great sufferings of displacements and a series of circumstances that awakened in the Commander General a concern to listen to them and to say to them that we are willing to look at how we might help the Community to go forward and to solve those problems that grieve them. They have a series of information that appear to me to be very important, and that through the communication media, Colombians can listen to, and know about. I will ask them to comment about the situation of the community. "In the
command post we have listened to information that you also have listened to, the Community of Cacarica was situated in a place that is difficult to access, in order to arrive there. It is an important number of persons and families who, according to the information that has been given to us, are surrounded by a wire fence, that no one can enter to visit, and for them to go out of there, they need to have a special permission and a special control as well. All of this that they have told us was presented in a meeting yesterday, in which different institutions, different organizations, some embassies, all of this that we heard was presented yesterday in a more detailed form, because they have photographs and videos of the community, of how the community is surrounded by a wire fence. We are corresponding out of an obligation to be involved, the military forces patrol this area and these sectors and we are conscious of the difficulties, according to them, in which the communities there in the area live. All that we have heard we are going to transmit - all these concerns to the high government, and I believe that these are persons who deserve to have the help and support of the Colombians in the circumstances in which they have had to suffer since more than 4 or 5 years in displacement and in their return with difficulties."
The lawyer manifested: "we have documental proofs, video proofs, photographic proofs, testimonies, that are not mere speculations like those that justice and peace are accustomed to make against the state and against private entities that have supported us and have been working with us in denouncing the facts of the true violations of human rights. Talking about
the loss of the money, the Colombian state, through the caja agraria in 1999, signed a contract with justice and peace who was the contractor and who was in charge of executing and responding for these monies for a housing project. The first payment of 450 million pesos was made, which was almost totally lost because the houses were not built, and the results were minimal. An evaluation process identified that more or less 20 houses were completed, made of wood, and with a value of 300 or 400 thousand pesos each. Do the accounting yourselves, practically a project of auto-construction, where the community is the construction group and the persons who provide the wood. The only purchases that were made with the 450 million pesos were zinc, nails and other elements that would not reach the sum, I believe, not 50 nor 100 million pesos. This means that we are talking about more than 40 million pesos that have been lost, in the hands of the justice and peace. Regarding these denouncements, there are
processes in the attorney generalīs office that are at the point of providing results. In the proper moment we will be transmitting the results of this investigation.
In respect to the violations of human rights and our constitution, they have created in these settlements or communities of peace, practically para-states/parallel states. They themselves govern themselves with their own norms and principles to coordinate and legislate among themselves.
They do not respect the state institutions, they do not respect the army, the attorney general, they do not respect decentralized entities like the mayor of Rio Sucio, and on the contrary, lance indiscriminate accusations, and denounce everyone for their involvement with the auto-defense groups.
They do not permit anyone to enter their settlements without a previous permission and without telling them why they want to enter their settlements. And if the answer is no, they throw out the person. We want to denounce this because it causes us pain. We are Colombians and here there is no territory that is forbidden. Here the authorities, the judicial, military and administrative authorities, can enter without asking permission or pardon of anyone. We want to take advantage of this moment to ask the president to make a community council in the valley of Cacarica, and obviously, if they allow him to enter the settlements, because since they do not allow anyone of authority to enter, because they consider them to be armed actors and because they are putting the lives of all the inhabitants at risk, you need to warn Mr. President that he has to ask permission before entering, and to tell the coordinators of justice and peace and the international organisms that operate in the zone, what he is going to do. If not, the same thing that happened to the army in May, when ACNUR, the delegate of the defender of the people in the zone and the Brigades of peace, in conjunction with justice and peace and the coordinators, did not let them attend. Also, we would like to take advantage to denounce that within the settlements there is the constant presence of the militiamen of the FARC, who have never been denounced, neither nationally nor internationally. Thus, those who are living within these settlements of justice and peace or communities of peace, run the risk, because they have been constantly threatened by the other armed actors because they are considered to be guerillas, and this has never been denounced, not by the delegate of the defender of the people that lives within the settlements, nor by the international organisms that live constantly there, and who are aware of the constant presence of the militiamen of the FARC. (Cfr. Press conference published in various media of communication, see: Caracol Radio, Caracol Television, RCN Radio, RCN Televison, CMI, Noticias Uno, El Colombiano, La FM Radio.)
When you affirm the truth that many deny and hide, attempts are made against the moral of those who proclaim the truth. Persecution is not a surprise when it is the consequence of the denouncements that the deceitful structures and economic powers reveal. Neither is it a surprise to see the settings that pretend to elevate smoke screens in front of the evident truth of the victims.
The life of the communities and the members of justice and peace has been placed in danger. >From now we can warn that the judicial processes will not have any guarantees, and they will lack the probationary processes, since the accusations that they make are false. The word of the victims and our word will never be expressed with fullness and fidelity in the media of communication. Already the groundless accusations about the management of resources continue to circulate in the minds of those who have accepted the information transmitted by all the mass media of communication of Colombia. Nevertheless, dozens of organizations of international life, of the Catholic Colombian Church, of North America and Europe, of the Presbyterian Church of the US and Colombia, of the Episcopal Church of the US, give faith to what we have seen, heard, touched, witnessed, in a context of grave violations against human rights, which commit the responsibility of the state for commission, omission, and commission for omission.
To the national and international organizations:
We ask that you are attentive to the juridical process that has been initiated, given that the magnitude of false accusations, and that there are no guarantees for our defense and to prove our innocence.
To the columnists, to the communication media, to the WFM, RCN radio and television, Caracol Noticias, radio, and television, CMI, Noticias Uno El Colombiano, El Tiempo, we ask the right to exercise truthfully, in accord with the deontological codes of news reporting, of the media of information and the codes of CPD, and in the correct moment, confront the affirmations made by the general and the lawyer by accessing the documents about the housing project of Cacarica that can be found in the Banco Agrario, the Red de Solidaridad Social Nacional, and the reports of the Procuraduria Nacional about the Court, that fails to discriminate about lumber. Equally we ask that you confront the responses of the promiscuous judges of Turbo and Medellin, regarding the causes of displacement of February, 1997, the defense resolution of 2002, the reports presented in audiences before the CIDH in 2001 and 2002.
We invite the media to visit the humanitarian zones of Cacarica, walk the territory of the community within, and without the humanitarian zones, verifying that it is or is not, a concentration camp, whether persons are or are not free to move about, as has been verified by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches of Mexico, Guatamala, Salvador, Ecuador and USA.
To the President, as the Supreme Commander of the Military Forces, that he maintains in his office and before personalities of the highest moral qualities, nationally and internationally, and before our Executive Committee, the proofs that show that the members of our Commission are exercising the right to defend the human rights articulated to an insurgent strategy or as part of the insurgency or that our exercise of the defense of the rights of the AfroColombianos, mestizos and native peoples are an obstacle in the military confrontation with the FARC, EP, for example, the adoption of measures that tend to assure the measures of prevention designed by the communities.
Bogotá, August 22, 2003
Commission Inter-ecclesial of Justice and Peace.
Published online on 01Sep03 by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights