In 2016, 72 human rights defenders and 18 leaders of the social and political movement Marcha Patriotica were assassinated, in addition to the large number of leaders and human rights defenders who were threatened.
The existence of paramilitary structures in the country, is a problem that has never ceased to exist and lurks as a shadow over all social leaders and human rights defenders.
Barrancabermeja, has always been a focus of paramilitary structures that make their way through its neighborhoods, turning the life of the inhabitants into hell. Human rights defenders have represented an obstacle to these structures’ political and economic interests.
New death threats against CREDHOS president Iván Madero Vergel
Although the progress of the peace agreements shows that building peace is possible and the end of the war is closer than ever, the Human Rights situation remains critical throughout the country and especially in the Magdalena Medio region, where it remains difficult for human rights defenders to carry out their work. The denouncements that we continue to make against armed groups and particularly against criminal gangs – which today represent the new expression of paramilitarism in the region – are evidence of the acts of surveillance, harassment, intimidation and death threats that have been occurring against members of the CREDHOS corporation.
Aggressions have increased in 2016 as the palm oil company Aportes San Isidro continues to harass and threaten the community of Las Pavas adding to their tactics the offering of monetary handouts, housing alternatives, signing lease contracts, and money towards agricultural projects with the promise to let them cultivate in peace.
The farming community’s association ASOCAB continues to denounce these aggressions to no avail. Even though there has been judicial and administrative movement that would appear to favour the community, the reality on the ground remains the same. For this reason ASOCAB has published a public denouncement of the most recent events in hopes that the authorities will put an end to the impunity.
The following is the public declaration issued by Cahucopana in regards to the persecution of Calos Usaga.
Persecution against Carlos Usaga, member of the Board of Directors of Cahucopana
The Corporation for Humanitarian Action, Cohabitation, and Peace in Northeast Antioquia – CAHUCOPANA, denounces the persecution and intimidation of Carlos Alfredo Palacios Usuga, member of the Board of Directors of CAHUCOPANA. The incident, carried out by unidentified men, took place in the municipality of Remedios, department of Antioquia.
On March 2 of this year, Carlos Palacios was running errands in the urban centers of the municipalities of Segovia and Remedios, preparing later to travel to the rural sectors of these municipalities.
After a week of confrontations between the El Guayabo community members and armed men installed by Rodrigo Lopez Henao Henry Rincón’s property, Lopez’s men have left the land. Riot police illegally evicted Rincón from the property in October at the bidding of Lopez.
When CPT arrived at El Guayabo on 31 November, the military was camped at the town’s port. On 1 December, the military came to investigate the situation on the farm, having heard reports that there were firearms in the vicinity, but they did not act. Their visit left the community disappointed and wary of the military’s position.
On the 3rd of April at 10.30am, Sor María Sampayo, a leader of the Organización Femenina Popular (OFP) received a threatening phone call from someone who identified himself as Alirio Torresa, commander of the neo-paramilitary group Los Urabeños.
He began the call saying, “You should donate 3 million pesos [US$ 1500] to the paramilitary group to mobilize 30 men from Medellin to carry out a social-cleansing plan, to eliminate drug addicts, prostitutes, and everything that smells like a guerrilla.” He described to Sor Maria her whereabouts, where she and her daughter worked, and the color of the motorcycle she drove.
In Monday June 24th as two CPTers arrived to Las Pavas four armed security guards on horses appeared abruptly and prevented them from traveling by motorcycle the rest of the way to the settlement of campesinos. The guards claimed that the land they were traveling on was private property of the palm company Aportes San Isidro despite government rulings that the land of Las Pavas is state land to be titled to the small farmers who have been working the land for decades. After engaging in conversation about the illegality of this restriction of movement, the CPTers were forced to dismount the motorcycles and walk the remaining 50 meters to the settlement.
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
On May 28th around 50 people of the Las Pavas community entered onto their land with the community tractor carrying palm branches in order to build a roof for their communal ranch house. Upon arriving they saw various armed men come out of the brush, who were identified as MARIO MARMOL MONTERO, FRANCISCO FLOREZ MARMOL, and CARLOS who goes by the name “El Calvo”, all of whom are security guards for the palm company APORTES SAN ISIDRO. The guards shot repeatedly and indiscriminately at the men, women, and children of the community, shooting out the tire of the tractor as well.
On February 18 2013 CPT Colombia sent out an urgent action in support of Women’s Popular Organization (OFP) leader GLORIA AMPARO SUAREZ. On February 11th 2013, a man came to the OFP office and made threats against Suarez and her two sons. Showing Suarez pictures of her sons, he told her that if the OFP didn’t stop causing a commotion at a national level they would kill her.
In a recent conversation with Gloria, she informed CPT Colombia that for security reasons she had decided to send her sons out of the country for an undetermined period of time. Through contacts they were able to receive scholarships to study in Europe.