Religious Group Accuses Army of Working with Paramilitary Death Squad in Southern Colombia

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A new report from a leading Colombian human rights group linked to the Church says that a paramilitary death squad is harassing, killing and torturing civilians in the region of Putumayo "in the full light of day under the noses of the authorities" and that paramilitaries are permitted to circulate freely, pass through Army check points and conduct patrols "without any intervention from the security forces whatsoever". The Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission also says that numerous civilians have been murdered in two areas of Putumayo but that the population is so terrorised by the death squad that they are afraid to speak out.

An April 20th press statement from the Commission listed nine different killings that had occurred in recent weeks and claimed that the authorities in Putumayo were simply ignoring the presence of the paramilitaries despite the fact that in two municipalities Puerto Asis and Puerto Guzman the death squad members walk around with guns and everyone is very aware of who they are. According to the statement, "Puerto Guzman is swarming with paramilitaries despite a heavy Army presence".

Among the murders that the Commission documented in their statement was that of Efrain Yatacue Garcia, a member of the Nasa indigenous group, who lived on the Aguaditas Reserve just outside Puerto Guzman. Mr Yatacue Garcia, who for the past four years had worked at the 'Amazonia Estereo' radio station, was apparently tortured to death on the night of April 3rd near the neighbouring town of Puerto Limon. At least 1,000 indigenous people held a silent protest about the murder two days later, though participants said that paramilitaries and members of the security forces were seen watching the protest and monitoring who took part.

The Commission's statement also documented several other abuses that the paramilitaries had carried out including:

  • The April 13th murder of a 13-year-old girl in Puerto Asis;
  • The April 11th discovery of the bodies of two young men on Angosta street in Puerto Asis;
  • The March 27th disappearance of a woman known as Maryindoli from Puerto Asis, her body, with her eyes and tongue cut out was found in the municipal rubbish dumb on April 7th her family fled the region days later after paramilitaries went to their house looking for them.
  • The March 27th disappearance of a woman from the San Nicolas neighbourhood of Puerto Asis;
  • The March 20th killing of two women in Puerto Asis;
  • The March 19th killing of a 14-year-old boy in the town of Puerto Asis.
  • See also Threats, Blockades and Disappearances in Putumayo Region

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