Civilian Population Under Attack in Valle
News from Colombia |
on: Thursday, 28 February 2008
Military operations and paramilitary threats in the Colombian department of Valle are creating terror in rural communities and forcing people to flee their homes and land in fear for their lives. In at least one case, in the village of Brisas, British-trained troops have been involved in the abuses.
Reports from Brisas, which is located in the municipality of Florida, say that troops of the British-trained High Mountain Battalions are harassing and threatening residents and using civilians as human shields. On February 21st troops allegedly established a semi-permanent post inside the local school, forcing it to be closed. The same troops have repeatedly threatened to kill locals if they do not provide information on guerrilla units that are believed to operate in the region.
A February 5th communiqué from a regional human rights organization also alleges that the soldiers have indiscriminately fired mortar rounds into villages. Troops have also detained peasant farmer Wilson Biscunda and his wife Magnolia Cunda along with their three children – a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old – all of whom they accused of being guerrilla supporters.
In a separate region of Valle, the village of La Cecilia in Yoyoco municipality, a paramilitary death squad known as the 'Black Eagles' has allegedly been collaborating with troops from the Colombian Army's 3rd Brigade in order to force people to leave their land. In mid-February the paramilitaries passed through a heavily militarized area to reach La Cecilia whereupon they poisoned the farm and domestic animals belonging to the local residents. On February 18th residents of the area around 'La Esperanza' farm awoke to find graffiti scrawled on walls and doors reading:
"RESIDENTS OF LA ESPERANZA, YOU HAVE TEN DAYS TO LEAVE THE AREA, THE 'BALCK EAGLES' ARE HERE"
In a separate development indigenous groups in Valle department sent a letter to the regional military commander on February 27th demanding that troops in the region respect the rights of indigenous people in line with the Colombian Constitution. According to their letter, the Army, specifically Mobile Battalions attached to the 3rd Brigade, have been harassing indigenous communities in the municipalities of Bolivar and El Dovio and preventing the free flow of people and supplies into and out of the region. The indigenous groups say that this is causing great suffering for the civilian population in the area.