Colombian campesinos break the silence and denounce massacres

[Translation of an article from the Venezuelan website TeleSUR for July 27, 2010. See also “International team confirms mass grave in Colombia” below.]

Colombian campesinos in the northern area of San Onofre, in the department of Sucre, broke the silence by deciding to denounce to communications media the massacres committed by paramilitary groups since their incursion into this territory more than ten years ago.

The Movimiento de Víctimas en Colombia recorded more than 75 massacres, with more than 4,000 victims, since insurgents arrived in the town, where a large number of those killed are buried in mass graves, while a number of displaced persons have not been able to return to their homes because the state does not offer them adequate guarantees.

Several residents offered testimony on the killing and mutilation of some of their companions and their subsequent burial in mass graves, as well as the burning of farms at the hands of the paramilitary in order to destroy any evidence of the concentration and training camps they used in the area.

“They would bury them here, they would dig a small hole, they would cut the people up and they would bury them in pieces,” Jairo Aranda, a campesino from the area, told TeleSUR.

“They dug up some here and in the lower field they recovered four bodies. And we suppose there must be more, so it is better to look for the bodies of the disappeard,” the local resident added.

The TeleSUR correspondent in Colombia, Angie Camacho, reported on the statements by people in San Onofre, where several campesinos urged others to say what they know about the killings despite being threatened with death.

Eder Torres, a worker in the area, told the people, “If you keep quiet it will be easier for them to kill you and they will take your land,” and added, “This will continue, we are going to tell the international community about the real humanitarian crisis we are living through in this place.”

Meanwhile, family members of one of the leaders of the Movimiento de Víctimas en Colombia, who is presumed to have lost his life because of the paramilitaries, denounced that the illegal groups are still in the area, presumably with the complicity of the authorities.

Several family members of leaders who have been killed are asking the Colombian government to establish a commission to investigate the events that for more than a decade have been occurring in the area and have terrified the people there, silencing them through the possiblity of reprisals on the part of the paramilitaries.

On the other hand, Colombian human rights activists on Monday rejected claims by the government of Álvaro Uribe that they were spokesmen for terrorism and demanded an investigation of the largest mass grave in Latin America, found in La Macarena, in the southern department of Meta.

In this respect Colombian Senator Gloria Inés Ramírez of the Polo Alternativo declared, “When they label the victims, the defenders of human rights and the congress members holding the hearings as terrorists the government is saying clearly and directly to the soldiers that we are a military objective.”

She pointed out that the administration has not expressed condolences to the family members of those killed and added that it is urgent to begin the necessary investigation to explain the human remains found in La Macarena.

“You will not hear a single word of condolence from the president for the victims who denounced crimes… We consider it of vital importance that an international forensic commission be formed to watch over the procedings carried out by the Colombian authorities.”

Senator Ramírez announced that the group of defenders will send a notice to the European Parliament to relay the denunciations concerning the enormous mass grave and to demand forensic investigations.

After a public hearing in la Macarena, Colombia, last Friday, a delegation from Europe and the United States, headed by six Members of the European Parliament, confirmed the existence of a mass grave with 2,000 unidentified bodies….

The campesinos of La Macarena have been victims of an armed conflict that broke out in 2003 with the initiation by the United States of Plan Colombia, presumably to carry out a war against narcotrafficking and organized crime.

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