Colombian Army Assassinate Peasant Farmer, Agricultural Leaders Detained

News from Colombia | on: Sunday, 30 September 2007

On September 27th troops of the 8th 'Counter-Guerrilla' Mobile Brigade of the Colombian Army assassinated farmer Jhon Jairo Valero as he picked coffee beans on his farm. 15-year-old Andres Mendoza, who was also picking coffee, was severely wounded in the attack and, witnesses say, the troops prevented him from receiving first aid.

The apparently unprovoked attack took place in the 'Buenos Aires' farm that belonged to Mr Valera and his family and is located outside the village of Maracaibo in Rioblanca municipality of Tolima department. Mendoza, a pupil at the nearby 'Jose Maria Cordoba' school apparently nearly bled to death before the army would allow friends and family near him to provide first aid.

The killing is the latest civilian death in the area since a large influx of troops in November 2006. Since then ten peasant farmers have been murdered by the Colombian Army seven in Rioblanco municipality and another three in the neighbouring municipality of Chaparral. All of the deaths have been presented by the Army as guerrillas killed in combat.

In a separate development in the northern department of Bolivar the state security forces have begun a crackdown on the regional agricultural trade union the Asociacion Campesina del Valle del Rio Cimitarra (ACVC). On Saturday 29th members of the DAS secret police detained ACVC leaders Andres Gil, Evaristo Mena and Oscar Duque as they held a forum with local farmers in the village of El Cagui in Cantagallo municipality. According to reports the DAS officers fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd before taking the three away to the base of the 'Nueva Granada' Battalion of the Colombian Army where they are still believed to be.

On the same day around 50 soldiers and DAS agents raided the regional offices of the ACVC in the city of Barrancabermeja where they detained five other activists. Another group also raided the home of Mario Martinez, a member of the ACVC Executive, and took him to the regional secret police headquarters where he and the five others are still believed to be being held.

Sources: Colombian Agricultural Workers Trade Union FENSUAGRO and the 'Prensa Rural' news agency.

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