Mass Arrests and Displacement in Meta

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 24 October 2011

Colombian human rights organisations have reported a mass arrest in the municipality of Uribe in Meta Department. On the 16th October 2011 several peasant members of the ASOPROAJU agricultural workers’ union and other local traders, homeowners and young people were arrested by join army-police patrols. They are now being charged with ‘rebellion’.

At 10.00am on the 16th October army and police began a combined operation resulting in the arrest of several local people who were then transported to the military base in the municipality. From here the detainees were taken to a military base in the town of Granada, where they were charged with ‘rebellion’. The detainees include Edgar Ramirez, a local trader, Herminson Hernandez, Luis Alberto Gutierrez Uribe, a peasant and Green Party candidate in the village of El Placer. Others arrested were Ruben Dario Osorio, President of ASOPROAJU and a local Democratic Pole candidate, Maria Enelida Bermudez Uribe, a trader in La Julia, Johany Bermudez Pinzon, Carlos Juan Useche a young member of ASOPROAJU, Aurora Garcia, Gregorio Santofimio, a 60 year-old peasant, his son Wilmer Santofimio, and Rosa Elvira San Martin, a local health worker.

Inhabitants are particularly worried because in October 2007 a similar set of mass arrests led to 12 people being detained and transferred to Bogota on charges of rebellion. That time hooded men accompanied a police unit patrolling the area, indicating those to be arrested before these were transferred to La Macarena and then on to Bogota.

In the same region 2500 peasant families are being forcibly displaced from their homes, allegedly because they are carrying out illegal activities within the boundaries of a national park. The media are categorising the peasants as the “FARC families” claiming that they were originally settled there by guerrillas and that many of them are relatives of FARC commanders. No evidence of this has been provided as yet. They are accused of logging, cattle ranching, sowing crops and growing coca. Meanwhile peasant communities state that they were living in the region before the area was declared to be a national park without their consultation. The accusations of their being “FARC families” place their lives in serious danger from paramilitary groups. They also stand to lose their livelihoods and homes in the displacement.

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