25 Mar CI. - Social organizations from Saravena, Arauquita and the capital of Arauca denounced during the International Humanitarian Caravan that the so-called “FARC dissidents” are nothing more than mercenary groups, whose objective is to directly attack the population and destroy the social fabric, to facilitate mining and energy exploitation and aim at Venezuela.
During the tour of the department of Arauca, the Colombia Informa press agency interviewed Juan Carlos Torregroza, of the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation, who dismisses the official statements that there is a confrontation in the territory between armed groups.
Colombia Informa: What is your analysis of the situation and the recent attacks in the region, such as the car bomb used against the headquarters of the Héctor Alirio Martínez building, the attacks against the Empresa Comunitaria del Acueducto, Alcantarillado y Aseo de Saravena (ECAAAS, for its acronym in Spanish), as well as the constant attacks against social leaders?
Juan Carlos Torregroza: What is happening in Arauca is not a confrontation between two sides, or between mafias for the control of the territory. We say this because we think that insane actions such as the car bomb placed against the headquarters of social movements and throwing an explosive device at the ECAAAS company are directed against the social fabric, against those who are part of social organizations and against our embryos of popular power. Which is to say what we have historically been building with community effort.
Reports from the Colombian State - military intelligence reports - have been used to prosecute our comrades in the past and in the present, they have also been used to carry out extrajudicial executions. They were used by the so-called Victors of Arauca bloc to annihilate the social leadership between 2000 and 2005. We see, for example, that those who call themselves commanders of the supposed dissidents had already demobilized long before the signing of the final agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government.
The man who calls himself Hector Aguilar, alias “Pescado,” is one of the leaders of the so-called dissidents, along with Arturo Paz. In the case of Hector Aguilar, he had already demobilized long before the signing of the final agreement. He was the intellectual author of the kidnapping and murder of the former mayor and comrade of the municipality of Cubará (Boyacá), Samuel Bohórquez Vásquez.
At that time, they extorted his family, telling them that in order to hand over their family member, they had to deposit some money. This was done in the name of the Casanare Self-Defense Forces. We are not the ones saying this, the Prosecutor’s Office said it based on that investigation, and on what Samuel Bohórquez Vásquez’s family said in those statements.
We are arguing that the alleged “dissidents” are not a rebel or insurgent organization. Nor are they a product of the demobilization of the FARC in the final agreement.
They are mercenary structures that are fulfilling a goal of the regime and that goal is to annihilate and destroy the social fabric. Their actions have been carried out against the civilian population, as the facts show, but also include the murder of our comrade José Avelino Pérez Ortiz of the Human Rights Foundation, the murder of the other social leader of ASONALCA and of Amado Carrillo in Arauquita.
We maintain that all these crimes have occurred in light of the use of these intelligence reports.
In February, graffiti in the name of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia appeared in the territory of Puerto Rondón, and pamphlets were also distributed. Before all this, the communities had already denounced the presence of armed civilians, including civilians with long guns in the savannahs of Puerto Rondón.
In addition, precisely in that place, there was a confrontation between the State and those structures known as dissidents. So what we are asking is: Is it a desire to re-paramilitarize the territories? Is it a coincidence or do they share the territory?
“What we have here are the same interests that have led to the deepening of the social, political and armed conflict: the plundering of natural resources, mainly related to oil. And the fact that we have the second longest border with the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where the United States and the Colombian oligarchy have interventionist goals. These tasks are now being carried out by these groups that call themselves fronts 10, 45 and 28”.
CI: Do you have information that they are operating or carrying out criminal actions in Venezuela?
JCT: Yes, we believe that there are some interests in Arauca, but it is also evident that the Colombian government wants to minimize this fact by saying that they come from Venezuela. The way in which these groups entered Venezuela has already been reported and condemned. There was a confrontation with the Venezuelan Armed Forces, which generated displacement towards the municipality of Arauquita and the municipality of Saravena.
Some news outlets have also reported that these criminal structures may have been involved, along with Colombian intelligence and U.S. intelligence, in the deaths of Santrich and Paisa.
CI: What actions are social organizations taking to rebuild and reorganize the operation of community enterprises that have suffered attacks? What measures are they taking to protect themselves and resist?
JCT: Historically we have carried out civil resistance and, on the other hand, a social advance. We continue strengthening our accumulated efforts and our social fabric, because we are going to continue in the execution of our life plan. We are going to continue building embryos of popular power and defending everything we have built.
There is a fundamental role that our peasant, interethnic and popular guard must fulfill in the protection of the territories and this social accumulation. Therefore, we are strengthening our guard and we have notified the Colombian regime and the National Army that neither with bullets, nor with death, nor with prison sentences will they be able to silence this social fabric. We will continue our work for the transformation of society towards another possible world. We will also continue to strengthen our proposal for an agricultural and peasant territory for the production of food.
International Humanitarian Caravan in Arauca
CI: What headway has there been in the investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office into the attack you suffered in Saravena?
JCT: There have been very little headway. We know very little about the investigation into the car bomb placed next to the Héctor Alirio Martínez Building, or about the explosive device that was thrown at the community company ECAAAS or about the assassination of social leaders, there is very little that the Prosecutor’s Office has told us about its progress.
However, we continue to demand that there must be truth, justice and reparation and, above all, the guarantee of non-repetition. The legal team of the Joel Sierra human rights foundation is participating in the investigation as victims, to continue demanding that they really be serious, agile investigations that finally allow the country and the world to know what happened there, why it happened, who are the intellectual authors and who are behind the formation of these criminal structures, called “dissidents of the FARC”.
CI: Have you studied the possibility of seeking out international organizations to make this case known, so that measures can be taken to protect the communities and the social organizations?
JCT: Through the national platforms, the Asociación para la Promoción Social Alternativa Minga and the Fundación de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos we have initiated the work of requesting precautionary measures for this social fabric.
But we have said that the measures must be material, but, above all, they must be political measures. They have to do with the investigation of these facts, with the stigmatization of the social fabric, that the Colombian State stops stigmatizing social organizations, and stops seeing the civilian population and their organizations as the internal enemy.
We hope that these requests for precautionary measures will be granted by the Inter-American Commission, but we have also requested that international organizations, in their voluntary mission to monitor the serious humanitarian crisis in the country, demand that the State comply with its obligations, both domestic and international, in the defense of human rights and the protection of the lives of leaders.
CI: You point out that the Prosecutor’s Office has made very little progress in the investigations of the attacks that have taken place, but it is very diligent in detaining social leaders. What has happened with this situation? How many leaders have been detained in these false legal cases or judicial set-ups?
JCT: Yes, they are false legal cases. In the last two years of the mass, social and popular political movement of the Center East of Colombia, in the departments of Arauca, Boyacá, Casanare, Cundinamarca and the Sabana de Bogotá, more than 50 leaders have been imprisoned and today, most of them are under investigation, as a result of these judicial set-ups.
“We have denounced the use of criminal procedural law and the State’s legal apparatus as part of a criminal strategy against organizations, to persecute the social fabric, to criminalize opposition and different ways of thinking. With this strategy they have tried to stop us from demanding an end to the social and humanitarian catastrophe that transnational corporations have generated through the plundering of natural resources”.
We are carrying out the campaign: “Being a Social Leader is not a Crime”. We are calling attention to this, carrying out national and international legal actions, the alternative media are disseminating this other truth, we are making known the conditions that our comrades are in when suffering the torture of being in prison in this country.
We continue working and we have already notified the Prosecutor’s Office that, regardless of their eagerness to carry out legal proceedings against the social fabric, we will continue working.
CI FC/AR/25/03/2022/ 7:29 a.m.