Two Peasant Leaders Taken Away by Army

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 21 January 2008

Soldiers have detained and taken away two leaders of the Peasant Farmer Association of the River Cimitarra Valley (ACVC) in central Colombia. The two men, Ramiro Ortega and Miguel Huepa, were seized by troops of the Calibio Battalion after a community meeting in the village of Purto Nuevo Ite and have not been seen since.

Their detention, on Saturday 19th January, is the latest in a long line of attacks on local peasant organisations by troops from the Battalion in and around the municipalities of Cantagallo and Remedios. On December 28th Calibio soldiers shot and killed Parmenio Manuel Hernandez a 42-year-old farmer and human rights groups in the region say that at least 14 civilians have now been extrajudicially executed in the Cimitarra River Valley.

The local peasant association (ACVC) has been hit extremely hard by the army offensive and of eleven members of their elected Executive; six have now been detained whilst the army has publicly said that they are targeting the other five. This gives the ACVC the depressing distinction of being the only civil society organisation in Colombia to have all of their Executive members either in detention or in hiding. As is usual in such cases none of the six detainees have been convicted of any crime.

According to the Association the objective of the persecution is clear: to do away with an organisation that has criticised the Government.

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