Paramilitaries on Rampage in Meta Department

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 22 February 2008

A woman has been killed and numerous other people threatened by a paramilitary death squad that has started operating in the eastern Colombian department of Meta. Eleven individuals, including leading regional human rights defenders, have been forced to flee the region due to the threats.

On February 19th the paramilitary unit entered the village of Alto Gobernador in the Mesetas municipality of Meta and rounded up residents. They subsequently executed a woman, whose identification has not yet been confirmed, and proceeded to threaten various residents of the village. Witnesses report that the paramilitaries told a young child that he and his family would all be massacred if he told anyone what he had seen. There is special concern for local peasant farmer Jaider Lara who the paramilitaries stated they were looking for in order to kill him.

In response to the paramilitary incursion human rights organisations contacted the regional Army commander, General Quinonez of the 4th Brigade, requesting that he send troops to intervene and defend the lives of the civilian population. The General allegedly replied that there are no paramilitaries in Colombia and that he would therefore be doing nothing. His claim echo those made by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe who argues that the paramilitaries have ceased to exist.

In another development the Colombian Government refused protection to 11 civilians in the Bajo Ariari region of Meta who had received direct paramilitary death threats saying that they would all be hunted down and killed. As a result an emergency mission made up of senior figures from Colombian human rights movement travelled to Meta on February 14th to rescue the individuals concerned.

All 11 threatened individuals were in hiding near the village of Santo Domingo when the mission arrived to collect them. They included:

  • María del Carmen Zuluaga Muñoz, director of the Committee of Victims of Extra-judicial Executions in the region
  • Álvaro Ortiz Medina, husband of the above
  • Jhon Alexander Cubides Zuluaga, son of the above two individuals
  • Jaime Ortega, human rights coordinator in the village of Santo Domingo
  • Duvalier Ortega, secretary of the human rights committee in Santo Domingo
  • Luís Antonio Alfonso Núñez, legal officer of the Bajo Ariari human rights commission and treasurer of the Santo Domingo committee
  • Gustavo Lancheros, legal officer of the Santo Domingo committee
  • Luís Orlando Rojas Vargas, Flor Marina Sánchez Martínez, 2-year-old Yury Tatiana Rojas Sánchez and 17-month-old Andrea Natalia Sánchez Martínez.

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