Local Mayor Accused of Establishing Death Squad in Colombia

News from Colombia | on: Friday, 15 May 2009

The mayor of the Colombian municipality of San Onofre has been accused by human rights groups of organising and directing a paramilitary death squad that is terrorising residents of the region and which has assassinated at least 15 civilians in recent months. Mayor Edgar Benito Rebollo, who comes from a family with known paramilitary links, is said to be using the paramilitaries to intimidate his critics, secure control over key drugs trafficking routes up to the 'Golf of Morrosquillo' on the Caribbean coast, and impose personal control over the municipality, located in the northern Colombian province of Sucre.

According to local people armed paramilitaries are permanently patrolling the municipality whilst both the civilian and military authorities turn a blind eye. As well as carrying out killings, several residents have been threatened by the men and forced to flee the region in fear for their lives. The victims have few places to turn with both local military commanders and Mayor Benito Rebollo (whose sister, former member of Congress Muriel Benito Rebollo, is today facing formal charges of paramilitary links) all denying that there is any paramilitary presence whatsoever in the region.

Recent killings have included that of Jaime del Toro Hernandez, a leading member of a community of displaced people who had been demanding that the local authorities provide them with basic services. He was shot and killed in the community of El Porvenir, just outside of the town of San Onofre, on May 10th. Less than a week before, on May 4th, peasant farmer Jaider de Jesus Caicedo was killed by the paramilitaries in the nearby village of Higuern.

Others killed in and around the town of San Onofre have included Fernando Jose Acosta Rodriguez, Heder Robles Osorio, Jorge Silgado Moguea, Fernando Hernndez Lambrao, Alejandro Vila Daz, Dadinson Barn Silgado and Emerson Guardia Vuelvas. In an indication that local military units may be collaborating with the death squad, March 13th saw the assassinations of Alvaro Berrio Jimenez and Franklin Manuel Teheran Baron just moments away from a large Marine Infantry Battalion base. As with the other killings nobody was apprehended.

According to a statement released by local human rights groups the violence in San Onofre began in early February when two local electricians, Ever Obed Diaz Saenz and Wilmer Diaz Gomez, disappeared. Their dismembered bodies were subsequently found in a well; the paramilitaries having chopped them up with machetes.

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