COLOMBIA: CPTers accompany mining region residents after assassination
29 September 2006
COLOMBIA: CPTers accompany mining region residents who demand justice after
assassination, other military abuses
After months of increasing military presence in their communities, 1300
miners, their families and other residents of Colombia's Southern Bolivar
region are in a tense standoff with civilian and military authorities.
The act that turned simmering discontent into organized protest was the
assassination on 19 September of Alejandro Uribe, a community leader and
father of two.
The day after Uribe's murder, frightened area residents gathered in the
village of San Luquitas to discuss a response to the situation. They
decided to converge on the regional seat of government, Santa Rosa del Sur,
to demand that the government investigate Alejandro's death and respond to
ongoing military abuses against civilians in the area. The convergence that
began 22 September accumulated approximately 1300 people by 26 September.
CPTers Lisa Hughes and Kim Lamberty have been accompanying the miners and
their families since 22 September.
In a public statement, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Magangue called
Alejandro's murder the "culmination of a disturbing chain of attacks,
blockades, threats and other assassinations that, according to the
population of the area, unfortunately are being committed by members of the
Nueva Granada Battalion [of the 5th Brigade] of the Colombian Army." Local
residents claim the militarization is part of a campaign to intimidate and
force people off their land in order to make room for the multinational
company Anglo Gold Ashanti and its Colombian affiliate, Kedahda S.A.
The communities gathered in Santa Rosa organized a peaceful candlelight
march through the town the evening of 24 September. Members of each of the
sixteen communities paid homage to Alejandro and other disappeared and
assassinated community leaders and pledged to keep their spirits alive by
continuing the nonviolent struggle for justice.
The morning of 26 September, the communities-along with representatives of
the Catholic Church and local, national, and international human rights and
humanitarian organizations, including Christian Peacemaker Teams-were
gathered for a much-anticipated meeting with national government authorities
about the situation in Southern Bolivar. The main condition the communities
placed on the meeting was that it should take place with civilian
authorities only. However, both military and government authorities came by
helicopter to Santa Rosa and insisted on the presence of military
authorities at the meeting. In response, the people once again marched
through the streets demanding justice. They then occupied the central
plaza, and the government officials left without a dialogue.
Negotiations continue regarding the scheduling of a meeting between the
communities and civilian authorities. As of Thursday, 28 September, the
communities had decided to stay in Santa Rosa until they get a meeting
rather than return to their homes to face intimidation and threats against
their lives. The people who had gathered in San Luquitas reported that
members of the Nueva Granada Battalion told them on 21 September, "This
will not be the only death that you will have. There will be more deaths of
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