January 23rd. Colombia Informa. On thursday January 21st at 7:30pm, various helicopters of the Public Forces landed in the village of Platillos, in the township of Maracaibo, municipality of Hacari, in the region of North of Santander. Members of the military forces, an informer and individuals identified with bracelets of the CTI (Technical Information Corps) of the public prosecutor, walked out of the helicopters and detained three farmers of the region without giving any motives for the arrests.Last Friday, social organizations publicly denounced the following acts: « In the operation, the individuals broke into the house of Albeiro Quintero, who is the prosecutor of the Communal Action Board. His spouse and children, as well as three workers of the farm, one identified as Eimer Butista, secretary of the Communal Action Board, and another Heider Quintero, affiliated with the Communal Action Board of the community » were also present. The document was undersigned by various social and peasant organizations, such as the National Agrarian Coordinator, the People’s Congress, the We Are Dignity Campaign and the People’s Legal Team, amongst others. (Coordinador Nacional Agrario, el Congreso de los Pueblos, la Campaña Somos Dignidad y el Equipo Jurídico Pueblos).
A social leader of this zone declared that, after the detention of Albeiro Quintero and the other two farmers, the public forces demanded that the communal leader’s spouse reveal the location of a secret safe (‘’caleta’’),1 with the threat of kidnapping her daughters. In the confusion, the Public Forces searched the house and took 7 million pesos (about 3000 Canadian dollars), a booklet that belonged to the Treasury Communal Action Board, as well as money that the leader’s wife had saved from the Families in Action Subsidy found, for her daughters.
« They took Albeiro Quintero’s motorcycle license plate, the property documents of his car and broke the belongings of the house » confirms the informer that also mentioned that the three farmers were never informed of the motive of their arrest, just that they were to be brought to Cucuta, where they would be interrogated.
The denounciation and the leader of the Maracaibo zone coincide in affirming that within the group of aggressors, a supposed informer knew the existence of the secret safe ‘’caleta’’.
It was also said in the denunciations that the detainees are social and communal leaders: ‘’They dedicate themselves to agricultural work and are members of the Communal Action Board. They are not linked to any type of illegal activities ».
« The State needs to take responsibility»
For the spokesperson of the People’s Congress, Jimmy Moreno, these events obey to the government’s long-lasting politics in these territories: ‘’With these detentions, the continuation of criminalization of the social movements is clear. For the past year, the threats, the assassinations, the isolation of the communities, the violations of human rights and the lack respect of International Humanitarian Law have not ceased.”
Moreno confirms that the actions of the Public Forces are a step towards the accentuation of the neoliberal model. He insures that these intimidations with which the State hopes to slow down the mobilization, instill fear in the People’s Congress in particular because they are accompanied by a re-paramilitarization of the territories, resulting in strategy of war treatment of the social movements: « We denounce these actions, the persecution, and we are worried because they are occurring in the middle of a Peace Process. Instead of listening to the people, they try to silence them! Without doubt, we demand guarantees, the respect of the right to life, of the right to organize and think differently. Without these conditions, there will be no peace, nor transformations. »
Finally, he Moreno reminded that a few days ago, one year exactly had passed since the assassination of his colleague, Carlos Alberto Pedraza, assassinated in January 2015: « For this specific case there has been no clarification of the facts and the State has to take responsibility for this crime », he affirmed.
The popular discontent is increasing The episode of Hacari occurs in the middle of the Colombian People’s indignation about Santo’s government’s measures undertaken in the past few months, the lack of follow-through on his promises to the agrarian sector, the doubt about the Peace Process and the sale of the Energy Generator Isagen, amongst other frustrations.
Various sectors of society have called out to a mobilization. The United Worker’s Central (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores) invited individuals and organizations to walk the streets in February, while the calls for a national strike in a few months increase. 1. The caleta refers to a hiding spot used to hide drugs.