Take action by lighting a candle to stand in solidarity with Alvaro Garcia. Post your image on Facebook, Twitter, or email it to us. Use the hashtag #LibertadparaAlvaro
Maricela was startled by the sound of her front door being kicked in at 6am on the 24th of April. Six police officers with guns drawn and bulletproof vests barged into each room where her children were sleeping looking for Erik Payares, her husband, a leader in the community. “We were startled and afraid when we saw persons with guns pointed at us while we were sleeping,” she said, “they commanded us out of bed and asked us to turn off our cell phones. The next thing we knew they began searching the house.” Police were armed with search and arrest warrants to raid the farms and homes of four leaders of the two communities for alleged three shots fired in December 2014. Simultaneously, five kilometers down river in Bella Unión, an ally community to El Guayabo, police conducted a raid, arresting Alvaro Garcia, president of the community. Currently, there are an additional three arrest warrants for leaders from El Guayabo and Bella Unión.
The following day at the judicial hearing in Barrancabermeja, the judge ruled that Alvaro Garcia would be held under the charges of possession of weapons, uttering threats, and conspiracy to commit crime. The prosecutor has allegedly compiled testimonies, videos, and other evidence over the past sixteen months tracing to a confrontation that took place in December 2014 between members of the community and Rodrigo Lopez Henao’s workers occupying the home of an evicted member of El Guayabo.
For the past two and a half years, the communities have received threats from Henao, who claims ownership of the land. The community has denounced these threats on repeated occasions before respective authorities. Not once have they responded to the denouncements against Henao, nor have they responded to the request for greater security. However, they have arrived to El Guayabo with Henao for land inspections, a process that has the power to evict families from their livelihood. On numerous occasions the communities have had to organize themselves to prevent illegal actions conducted by Rodrigo or the authorities. These actions expose a disbalance of power. The communities are demanding transparency and fairness.
Petition: Light a candle of solidarity.
At 10am on Thursday the 5th of May, members of El Guayabo and Bella Unión are gathering in front of the courthouse in Barrancabermeja alongside their supporting organizations to demand transparency and fairness from authorities and to end the stigmatization that small farmers, who insist that their rights be respected, are accused of being guerrilla supporters. The action will include testimonies, prayer, and lighting candles as a symbol of truth and hope. After, members of the communities will travel to the jail where Alvaro is being held for a liturgical act, in hope that they will be heard by Alvaro.