We, the undersigned U.S. religious and non-governmental organizations who work on Colombia, are writing to ask that you intervene in the human rights situation in the Bajo Atrato River region of the Chocó. On January 13, Argénito Díaz community leader from Llano Rico was shot dead. This murder follows the killing of three other Afro-Colombians (Manuel Moya, Graciano Blandón and his son Yair) in December 2009, the August 2009 murder of Curvaradó community leader Benjamín Gómez and ‘Chemita’ of the Cacarica community in July 2009.
Ambassador William R. Brownfield U.S. Embassy
January 26, 2010
Dear Ambassador Brownfield,
We, the undersigned U.S. religious and non-governmental organizations who work on Colombia, are writing to ask that you intervene in the human rights situation in the Bajo Atrato River region of the Chocó.
On January 13, Argénito Díaz community leader from Llano Rico was shot dead. This murder follows the killing of three other Afro-Colombians (Manuel Moya, Graciano Blandón and his son Yair) in December 2009, the August 2009 murder of Curvaradó community leader Benjamín Gómez and ‘Chemita’ of the Cacarica community in July 2009. Mr. Diaz and Benjamin Gómez formed part of the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó communities (Chocó) whose lands were illegally usurped by palm oil companies. Mr. Diaz formed part of a legal action against such companies that resulted in the Chocó Tribunal ruling in January 2009 which orders companies that violated the law to cease their operations in Afro-Colombian collective titled lands within forty eight hours. If the companies do not comply, it is incumbent on the Colombian authorities to act within forty-five days to implement the order. As of yet, the Colombian government has not implemented the order and the companies continue to operate illegally in these territories. Mr. Diaz has protective measures from the Organization of American States. After the December murders of Moya and the Blandons, a series of false accusations appeared in the press and elsewhere against the Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission1 (in particular Abilio Peña, Danilo Rueda and Father Alberto Franco), Father Javier Giraldo, Gloria Cuartas and Ivan Cepeda of MOVICE, as well as international groups including Peace Brigades International and PASC who accompany the Justice and Peace Commission and the Afro-Colombian communities in the Chocó.
The recent wave of killings and threats show that the Colombian authorities have not taken the sufficient steps to combat impunity in the Curvaradó case, bring the twenty three oil palm, banana and agro-business industrialists accused of links to paramilitarism to justice, dismantle the illegal armed groups operating in Chocó and guarantee security for the region’s inhabitants. This series of murders leads us to kindly request that the U.S. Embassy urge the Colombian government to fully investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of these killings. The Colombian authorities should be encouraged to take bold action to secure the physical safety of the residents and human rights NGOs operating in the Bajo Atrato River area. Lastly, we recommend that you please ask the Colombian authorities to take action to effectively dismantle the military, economic and social operational structures of illegal armed groups operating in the Chocó.
We thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter and look forward to hearing from you on actions taken by the U.S. Embassy on this unfortunate situation.
Scott Wright SICSAL-USA Marino Cordoba, Charo Mina Rojas and Eunice Escobar Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES USA) Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli Senior Associate Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) Nicole Lee President TransAfrica Forum (TAF) Carlos Quesada Latin America Director Global Rights Gail Phares Director Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America Sister Tierney Trueman President Sisters of Saint Francis (Rochester) Deborah Peterson Small Executive Director Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs Dr. Agustin Lao-Montes Assistant Professor Sociology; Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino University of Massachusetts at Amherst Tianna Paschel PhD Candidate Department of Sociology University of California-Berkeley Mark W. Harrison Program Director General Board of Church and Society United Methodist Church Jim Vondracek Managing Director Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) Kelly Nicholls Executive Director US Office on Colombia (USOC) Barbara Gerlach Colombia Liaison United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries Adam Isacson Director of Programs Center for International Policy (CIP) Kiran Asher, Ph.D Associate Professor of IDSC and Women’s Studies IDCE Clark University Sharon Hostetler Executive Director Witness for Peace Annalise Udall Romoser Acting Director of Public Policy and Advocacy Lutheran World Relief Roland Roebuck Afro-Latino Activist and NASGACC member James Early Board Member TransAfrica Forum (TAF) Joseph Jordan Associate Professor and Director University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Sonja Haynes Stone Center John Lindsay-Poland and Susana Chamorro Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) Janvieve Williams Comrie Executive Director Latin American and Caribbean Community Center (LACC) Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office Partnership for Earth Spirituality New Mexico Francine Crownshaw Colombia Action Network New Mexico Liz Deligio8th day center for Justice