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Mobile Brigades are the fruit of Colombia's failure to negotiate an end to armed conflict paired with the belief of many powerful elements of Colombian society that despite the military's failure to eliminate guerrilla insurgencies over time, it remains the only institution capable of bringing a definitive end to this decades-old conflict. By the end of the 1980s, some of Colombia's leaders became convinced that peace talks were not working and that the country needed to hone its war-making ability.

This lack of faith in a negotiated end to political violence is reflected in public opinion. A poll conducted by Yankelovich Colombia in May 1992 showed that sixty-one percent of those questioned believed Colombia's armed forces should "take the initiative and utilize all methods to combat the guerrillas." 1 Monsignor Pedro Rubiano Sáenz, president of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church, echoed this sentiment when he told journalists that "(the) government has no other option but to exercise its authority by putting the house in order, with a strong hand." 2

The centerpiece of army strategy is the Mobile Brigade. The Mobile Brigade is conceived as a highly mobile force equipped with weaponry and vehicles suitable for the country's rugged, often densely forested countryside. While standing brigades are made up primarily of young men serving a twelve-month obligatory term, Mobile Brigades are composed of professional soldiers who volunteer. The number of professional soldiers used in Mobile Brigade operations varies, and can go from 1,200 to 2,000 men.

Mobile Brigades are led by Brigadier Generals who answer directly to army high command in Bogotá, not regional commanders. According to Major General Eddie Pallares Cotes, general undersecretary for the Defense Ministry, this gives them more freedom to pursue highly mobile guerrilla units.

"In the past, when a company leader was in hot pursuit of a group of guerrillas, he would have to stop at the departmental border and ask permission of the next commander to cross," noted Maj. Gen. Pallares in an interview with Americas Watch. "Sometimes, because of professional jealousy, the commander would deny permission, thus complicating the hunt." 3

According to Maj. Gen. Pallares, Mobile Brigade strategy follows a general pattern. The goal is to trap guerrillas, forcing them to flee by a route already covered by troops. The Mobile Brigade begins by "softening up" an area with the bombing of supposed guerrilla settlements and strafing from a variety of aircraft. These preparatory manuevers are carried out by the Colombian Air Force, which often precedes Mobile Brigades in action." 4

Units of up to one hundred men follow with ground searches (rastrillos, literally combing the area). They often carry money with them to buy information and pay for food and inadvertent damages, earning them the nicknames among rural people of los bolsillones, big pockets, for the money in the bulging pockets of their fatigue pants, and carapintadas, painted faces, for the camouflage paint on their faces. In action they use no identifying rank, unit, or name, ostensibly to protect them from guerrilla reprisals. However, Mobile Brigade soldiers wear distinctive U.S.-style camouflage uniforms.

According to the army, they attack only guerrilla strongholds and are under specific orders to leave the civilian population unharmed. Maj. Gen. Pallares told Americas Watch that Brigade soldiers take special human rights courses that recruits do not and are under specific orders to detain suspects only with the presence of a judge or inspector de policía, a civilian who is often the only state authority in small towns. 5

For Americas Watch, Maj. Gen. Pallares outlined a detailed chain of command and supervision over units engaged in combat. He said that each unit commander must provide his superior with a report of every action, including details of deaths, the destruction of houses, and the number and names of the detained. In the case of a destroyed house, Maj. Gen. Pallares said that the family can initiate an investigation through local authorities, who can identify the responsible commander through normal military channels.

"If abuses beyond the scope of normal combat or orders of the commanding officer are committed, the officer must respond for the actions of his men," Maj. Gen. Pallares told us. "Whenever an action produces deaths, wounded, or detained, the appropriate authorities begin an investigation." A delay in reporting this information is an infraction, Maj. Gen. Pallares added.

A significant amount of Colombia's annual budget as well as new revenue is now dedicated to recruiting, training, and equipping professional soldiers. The 1991 "war tax" went largely to their creation. 6 After the declaration of the "state of internal commotion" in November 1992, Defense Minister Rafael Pardo announced that the government would continue to focus on increasing their number by levying additional taxes. 7

By early 1993, the government claimed to have increased the security forces with 8,000 new policemen and 17,000 troops, including 15,000 professional soldiers. The army plans to add 6,000 more professional soldiers in 1993 and now claims a ratio of one professional soldier for every five recruits, up from one in fifty. In addition, the government has invested millions in vehicles, weapons, and uniforms.

There are currently three Mobile Brigades in action: Mobile Brigade 1, based in Granada, Department of Meta, operates primarily in Meta; Mobile Brigade 2, based in Barrancabermeja, Department of Santander, which has seen action in the Middle Magdalena region; and Mobile Brigade 16, based in Yopal, Department of Casanare, charged with defending oildrilling operations in Arauca and Casemate. 8 In addition there are twentyone new counterguerrilla battalions attached to some of Colombia's fourteen standing brigades.

This dramatic change in what Colombians call the pie de fuerza, number of troops, has already produced a significant increase in the pace and intensity of armed conflict. 9 More troops, vehicles, and weapons than ever before are being used in areas thought to contain guerrilla encampments. During the first ninety days of 1993, the Colombian army reported 320 suspected rebels killed and 603 people, including suspected guerrillas, drug-traffickers, and common criminals, captured, more than twice the number recorded for the first three months of 1992. 10 Now, Mobile Brigades and counterinsurgency battalions are involved in most large engagements.

A Pattern of Violations

Despite the government and military's assertions that Mobile Brigades do not commit systematic abuses, some government agencies and independent human rights groups have documented a broad, consistent, and often shock- ing pattern of serious violations of human rights and the international covenants governing internal armed conflicts. In sharp contrast to army assertions that the Mobile Brigades are better trained to protect the civilian population and are strictly controlled, Americas Watch believes that spreading terror among civilians is an integral part of Brigade strategy and appears to be tolerated and sometimes openly articulated by Brigade commanders.

As disturbing, these tactics have on occasion received the support of the civilian officials charged with investigating and sanctioning abuses. For instance, after concluding an investigation of an incident involving an attack by Mobile Brigade soldiers on a boat used to transport civilians, the Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces reasoned that such an attack was legitimate since there were guerrillas in the area, even though at the time the shots were fired, guerrillas and civilians could be easily separated. 11

In this report, we detail extra-judicial executions, "disappearances," rapes, torture, the wanton burning of houses, crops, and food, indiscrim- inate bombings and aeriel strafings, beatings, and death threats. 12

Mobile Brigades have on repeated occasions failed to distinguish between civilian non-combatants and armed guerrillas, causing avoidable injury and casualty. Frequently, Brigade patrols have forced civilians to walk in front of units to detonate mines or don military uniforms and work as guides. In several cases described in these pages, civilians killed by Brigades have subsequently been dressed in guerrilla uniforms and claimed as combatants killed in action.

This pattern of violations belies the high human rights standards President Gaviria and his ministers claim to uphold. As seriously, it represents an open disregard of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which bind both sides in an internal conflict to respect the neutrality of the civilian population, protect the wounded, detained, and those placed hors de combat, and refrain from extra-judicial executions and torture. As in other Americas Watch reports on Colombia, we apply the rules of International Humanitarian Law that are applicable to a "conflict not of an international nature" because those rules provide a meaningful, universal, and non-ideological standard to measure whether an act of war constitutes a breach of the laws of war. We call on all parties to the conflict to abide by these rules regardless of the military or political objectives they pursue. 13

Rather than endure a Mobile Brigade operation, many rural families abandon their homes. This has created a surge in the number of internal refugees in areas of armed conflict, particularly in the department of Meta and the region known as the Middle Magdalena, both discussed in this report. 14 Those who remain are often forced to join paramilitary organizations that Brigades encourage to attack remaining "nucleos de subversión," subversive centers. Typically, however, the military adopts a broad definition of "the enemy" to include not only armed guerrillas, but also members of the UP, community activists, and local leaders, particularly those elected to Community Action Councils (Juntas de Acción Comunal, the governing bodies of villages.

Far from encouraging civilians to file complaints about abuses by Mobile Brigades, pursuing perpetrators can be not only difficult but also extremely hazardous to life and limb. Often, victims must struggle to identify the soldiers or units involved, since they wear no identifying rank or name. When local authorities have gone to Mobile Brigade commanders with complaints, they have often been told that the information they seek is unavailable or have simply been lied to. Repeatedly, the victims of Mobile Brigade abuses told us that they were threatened after attempting to make reports or were forced to abandon their homes for fear of being killed. Government investi- gators have also been threatened and fired upon.

As is clear from Part I of this report, Mobile Brigades are not the only units implicated in human rights abuses in Colombia. However, we believe that Mobile Brigades and the specialized counterinsurgency battalions that work with them have added a dangerous new intensity and level of impunity to human rights violations. Contrary to the assertions of military leaders, Mobile Brigades have not improved Colombia's human rights record, but have seriously eroded it. What some Colombian human rights monitors term "legal- ized repression" - a phrase used to distinguish government actions from the extra-legal activity carried out by paramilitary groups - is on the rise. 15 Brigades not only reinforce the existing pattern of abuses - including the continued formation and fortification of paramilitary groups - but have pioneered a grisly new attack on Colombia's rural families, particularly those living in isolated areas and most vulnerable to injustice. Like other violations, abuses committed by Colombia's Mobile Brigades enjoy almost total judicial impunity.

The summary of abuses contained in this report is by no means exhaustive. We have left out many reliable reports in the interest of precision and brevity. And human rights groups believe that many violations are never reported, out of fear or a sense of powerlessness. Miles from municipal centers, vulnerable to the next military offensive or paramilitary sweep, many farmers choose to swallow their outrage in the hopes of saving their lives and livelihood. Often, bodies appear in areas controlled by Mobile Brigades but with no witnesses willing to talk about who might have been responsable for their deaths. One farm family told Americas Watch that during the worst of the fighting, they would simply bury bodies where they fell, since making the trip to the local cemetery was too dangerous.

Hardest hit are peasants who live in areas considered "red zones" because of persistent guerrilla activity. Some say they hide in the hills when they hear helicopters or simply abandon everything and flee. Both soldiers and guerrillas see farms not only as potential targets, but also as sources of food and information. Yet if a peasant is seen giving aid to either side, they risk being identified as an enemy.

A peasant from Meta explains:

I just work here on my farm, and what can I do if at any moment [combatants] come to my house and ask me to make them breakfast or lunch? I can't deny anyone a bit of food, especially soldiers. If an armed group comes and asks a favor, you can't deny them. I am terrified when they are here, and I must do whatever they ask. 16

Sometimes, just being near the site of a clash between a Mobile Brigade and guerrillas puts civilians in danger. Such was the case of Helio Valdonado and Herminia Barbosa, a couple travelling with Octavio Bobilla near Arauquita, Arauca, on April 12, 1993. Fired on by a Mobile Brigade patrol, they abandoned their pick-up and ran to a nearby house for shelter. Although witnesses say the three were subsequently detained by soldiers, efforts by the Arauquita mayor, city council president, and personero to locate them were in vain. Three days later, peasants discovered their corpses, bearing signs of torture, in an unmarked grave. 17

Because government investigations are often slow or proceed in secret, in many cases it was impossible for us to verify whether or not an investigation into a reported abuse had been concluded. Where we have been able to follow cases, we have included mention of final decisions and sanctions emitted, if any. However, the mere fact that it is so difficult to ascertain whether or not an investigation has concluded - if, indeed, it took place at all - points to a level of impunity and confusion that can only reinforce the perception among perpetrators that serious abuses will go unpunished.

Mobile Brigade 2 and the Middle Magdalena

The record amassed by the Mobile Brigade in the Middle Magdalena after only three years of operation demonstrates how it has reinforced a climate of terror and injustice in hundreds of rural villages. While this report reviews in greater depth the record of Mobile Brigade I in Meta, we include this summary to underscore our assertion that Mobile Brigade abuses are not confined to a single officer, unit, or even Brigade, but are ubiquitous, frequent, and, because they go virtually unpunished, an implicit part of standard procedure.

The Middle Magdalena is named after one of Colombia's principal rivers, which carves a broad valley through the country's center. Made up of parts of seven departments, the Middle Magdalena has long been one of Colombia's most violent regions. Along with the army and police, active there are the FARC, the ELN, and numerous paramilitary groups working with the security forces and drug traffickers. 18

According to local human rights groups, the Mobile Brigade inaugurated its activities in January 1990. Along with counterguerrilla units attached to the Nueva Granada Battalion, that month the Mobile Brigade carried out indiscriminate bombings and aerial strafing over La Concha, Yondó (Santander), destroying eleven homes and the community building. 19 During the attack, Catalino Guerra, a local farmer, was reported "disappeared" and two other farmers told human rights groups they had been detained, forced to lie in a grave, tortured, and threatened with death. 20 A damage suit brought against the government by La Concha residents has yet to be settled. 21

That September, the Mobile Brigade again bombed and strafed La Concha along with El Bagre, No Te Pases, and La Poza. This time, soldiers prevented families from fleeing to urban centers, so many took to the hills, surviving on wild fruit. A joint government-NG0 commission later documented one murder, one "disappearance," five cases of torture, five arbitrary detentions, and property crimes against twenty people. 22

The Mobile Brigade was also implicated in five other murders in the area that month, including that of Jacinto Quiroga, a peasant leader and member of a local Christian base community in Bolívar (Santander). According to witnesses, a Brigade patrol had simulated an attack outside his farmhouse. After Quiroga was killed, witnesses said soldiers threatened them, saying Quiroga would not be the only one killed. 23

A bombardment by Mobile Brigade 2 over Puerto López, El Bagre (Antioquia) on July 19, 1991, resulted in sixty-one civilian injuries according to local authorities, although the military later claimed all as guerrillas. 24 Less than two weeks later, the same Brigade was linked to the murder of police inspector and up member Alonso Lara Martínez and his wife, Luz Marina Villabona, in Sabaneta, Sabana de Torres (Santander). A local farmer later told human rights monitors that she saw how the couple had been forced from a house at gunpoint, bound, tortured for an hour on a railroad track, killed, then photographed with weapons and radio equipment placed by Brigade soldiers near their bodies. Both were presented by the army as "guerrillas killed in action." 25

Between August and September, 1991, seventeen peasants, including five members of the National Association of Small-holders (ANUC) and one minor, were reported "disappeared" by Mobile Brigade 2 in the Middle Magdalena. 26 Others caught by the Brigade were summarily executed. That was the case of Nain Jaramillo, who ran the communal store in La Alondra, Remedios (Antioquia). Villagers report that he was detained and shot by a Brigade unit on November 22, dressed in a guerrilla uniform, then claimed as a "guerrilla killed in combat." Two weeks later, Bernardo Jaramillo was detained in the nearby village of Gorgona as he accompanied his ailing wife to a medical clinic. Neighbors told human rights groups that he was forced to return to his home, but insisted on reaching the clinic, and was shot as he saddled his horse. 27

ANUC members were also the targets of Mobile Brigade 2 threats in San Vicente de Chucurí, Santander. After a commission of municipal authorities and ANUC members complained about collaboration between the Brigade and paramilitaries during an operation in La Punta on July 25, 1992, Brigade soldiers reportedly threatened ANUC members as "guerrillas... who will be killed." 28

The Procuraduría Office of Special Investigations was flooded with complaints about Mobile Brigade 2 in 1992, particularly from Antioquia. 29 Often, people were not detained during operations but at roadblocks soldiers set up to limit traffic in surrounded areas. There, documents are checked, packages searched, and food and medical supplies sometimes seized as suspected guerrilla provisions. On October 24, 1992, Alonso de Jesús Luján was detained by soldiers from Mobile Brigade 2 near Segovia (Antioquia) for not having his military service card (libreta militar). In both the Zaragoza and El Bagre military bases, he says he was beaten, tortured, and threatened with being thrown out of an air-borne helicopter. For approximately eight hours, he was kept blindfolded and bound in a grave by members of the B-2 (military intelligence). Finally, he was taken out to the woods by men who stabbed him and left him for dead. 30

Local leaders, union members, and community activists run special risks during Mobile Brigade operations, especially if they belong to the UP. Often, they are singled out as guerrilla sympathizers, harassed, or worse. In October 1992 municipal leaders in Sabana de Torres, Santander, wrote the Procuraduria to complain that Mobile Brigade 2 soldiers had for the past two months burst into events sponsored by the municipality, like flea markets and dances. There, they carried out searches and arbitrary arrests, creating "panic and anxiety" among the population. When the personero complained about abuses against the civilian population, he told municipal authorities he was ridiculed by soldiers:

... they said to him, well, who was he, what made him want to be the Savior of delinquents! Because every time [the soldiers] detain someone he stopped by right away to make inquiries and screw around. 31

In September 1993, Tirso Vélez, the UP mayor of Tibú, Norte de Santander, was charged with terrorism after Brigadier General Agustín Ardila Uribe, commander of Mobile Brigade 2, publicly accused him of sympathies for the guerrillas because of a poem Velez published calling for an end to violence. 32 The verse, called "A Dream of Peace," "[constitutes] apology for terrorism... and encourages meetings with guerrillas and collaboration," the general charged.

Torture is a common theme in interrogations carried out by Mobile Brigade 2 soldiers, often occurring in the homes of those detained for questioning and in front of family members, constituting a kind of group torment. In May 1993 Justicia y Paz received reports that Brigade soldiers tortured José Olides Rincón and his brother-in-law, Jesús Gabriel Pinzón, in Rincón's home in Potrero Grande, San Calixto (Norte de Santander) on May 11, 1993. After hitting them, Rincón told the Ocaña personero that soldiers hung them from their wrists tied behind their backs with electrical wire and beat them with poles. They used electric current to shock them as they stood in water. While Rincón's mother was forced to play recorded music for some soldiers to dance, other soldiers forced the victims' heads under water for near-drownings. In his statement, Rincón said soldiers ignored his protests that he knew nothing of guerrilla activity in the area:

I told them to kill me, that I was innocent, that I knew nothing of these people they asked me about, much less where the guerrillas were. They answered me that all the peasants said the same thing, that they were innocent, and that (the soldiers) knew that we were all guerrillas. A little later, they pulled down my pants and underwear, tied my testicles with a cord, and jerked it hard... Later, the soldiers let me go after threatening that they would finish off the last seed of my family if I reported them. 33

Rincón's brother, who lived nearby, also reported being tortured.

Mobile Brigade 2 has also been used to quell legal dissent. In Segovia, Antioquia, for instance, Mobile Brigade 2 detained approximately 240 people on September 14, 1993, to "prevent a disturbance" after a civic strike was called to protest poor road access and a worsening human rights situation. According to reports, soldiers kept detainees overnight with no shelter from a downpour. Members of the Colombian Red Cross and Segovia Human Rights Committee who attempted to provide assistance were denied access. Although they were later released, two community leaders who helped organize the strike were later arrested and held for two days. 34 This constitutes not only arbitrary arrest but also a violation of international humanitarian law, which stipulates that non-combatants be treated humanely and those who liberty has been restricted be allowed to receive relief aid.

Some men are forced to don military clothing and act as guides. The very nature of the Mobile Brigade - dropped into a remote part of the country at a moment's notice - means that often soldiers have very little knowledge of the terrain and so depend on local farmers to guide them. Although sometimes guides work voluntarily, in other instances, peasants have been forced and obliged later to sign statements declaring that service was voluntary. When Pedro Paternina Argumedo was taken off a public bus at a Mobile Brigade 2 roadblock on August 21, 1991, near La Porcelana, Cáceres (Antioquia), he was forced to put on a camouflage uniform and patrol with Lieutenant César Maldonado and Second Lieutenant Reyes for eight days. During that time, he was unable to contact his family. He later testified to the Regional Procuraduría that he suffered "moral and psychological damages to me and my family, for being forced from them and because I am responsible for maintaining my two children and wife, who were left abandoned." 35

Others have been detained when Brigade soldiers arrive with lists of names of supposed "guerrilla collaborators." Such was the case of Ramón Villegas, Wilson Quintero, Luis Alfonso Ascanio, and Gustavo Coronel, detained in San José del Tarra, Hacarí (Norte de Santander) by Mobile Brigade 2 on January 12, 1993. Their detention was later denied by military authorities. Communities in this area reported many abuses committed by Mobile Brigade 2 in January, including threats, arbitrary detentions, "disappearances," and rapes.

Within days, Mobile Brigade 2 delivered the bodies of a number of men who they claimed were "killed in combat" to the regional district attorney's office. Three days later, a unit from the Office of Special Investigations of the Procuraduría and family members were able to identify three of the bodies as Gustavo Coronel, Luis Alfonso Ascanio, and Wilson Quintero.

Fifteen-year-old Luis Ernesto Ascanio, not related to Luis Alfonso, had not been seen since January 26, 1993, when he reportedly left his place of work to return home after becoming concerned about the safety of his family, being held by Mobile Brigade 2. According to Justicia y Paz, his father had been accused by Brigade soldiers of "sympathizing with guerrillas" after being stopped at a checkpoint and found with a copy of Vanguardia Liberal, the local newspaper. Subsequently, Brigade soldiers occupied the Ascanio farm. Luis Ernesto's detention was denied by the military.

After a request by the Ascanio family, officials from the Office of Special Investigations of the Procuraduría in coordination with the Military Penal Court oversaw the exhumation of fifteen bodies from the central cemetery in Ocaña Norte de Santander, on May 21 and 22, 1993. Relatives were able to identify Luis Ernesto's body, which had been dressed in military fatigues. Another body exhumed was believed to be that of Ramón Villegas. 36

At special risk are women, the elderly, the very young, and school-age children who are often thought to have information on guerrilla movements. Often, peasants say, children are immediately separated from their parents and submitted to intense interrogation. 37 This is a shocking violation of the provision in Article 3 that persons taking no active part in hostil- ities be treated humanely, since both children and the parents forced to witness their torture suffer. For instance, Edgar Villamizar, a nine-year- old from El Monhan, Suratá (Santander), was detained with his family by Mobile Brigade 2 on May 7, 1991. While his family was interrogated in the patio of their home, soldiers put a machine gun to Edgar's neck and kicked him until he urinated blood. 38 The following November, a schoolteacher and two elementary school students from Gorgona, Remedios (Antioquia) were brutally interrogated by Brigade soldiers. The children reported being near-drowned in a stream as soldiers demanded information on guerrilla movements. 39

Women are also seen as sources of information as well as objects of sexual gratification. On May 20, 1992, María Cecilia Sepúlveda reported being forced to take off her clothes, then tortured and detained with soldiers from Mobile Brigade 2 in a boat for a night near San Lorenzo Bolivar). 40 On November 7, Sonebia Pinzón Herrera and her two-year- daughter, Marcela, both reported being raped in their home by three soldiers from Mobile Brigade 2, who entered saying that they were looking for weapons. 41 According to Amnesty International, medical examinations confirmed the allegations of rape. 42 Less than a month later, Mobile Brigade 2 soldiers occupied the farm of Nazario Paguena, accusing him of collaborating with guerrillas since a guerrilla unit had camped on the farm earlier in the month. Although Paguena says he explained to the soldiers that he could do nothing to prevent the guerrillas from remaining, he, his wife, daughter, and three-month-old grandson were beaten and threatened with death, constituting not only torture and an attack on non combatants but a violation of the Article 3 ban on collective punishment. Paguena later told CREDHOS that his fifteen year-old daughter was raped. 43 In February 1993 community leaders from Tibú and El Tarra (Norte de Santander) reported to the Procuraduría that Mobile Brigade 2 soldiers had raped a woman and a fifteen-year-old girl. 44

The elderly and very young are often unable to escape the firestorm that accompanies Brigade bombardments and aerial strafing, remaining in their fragile homes where they are prey to attack, cross-fire, and shrapnel. That was the case for Justiniano Rodríguez Sánches, eighty-two, and Teodolinda Agudelo Hernández, eighty, a couple reported killed by professional soldiers in San Lorenzo, San Alberto (Cesar) on March 16, 1991. According to neighbors, soldiers were pursuing a guerrilla when they entered the village to question residents. In the afternoon, the army evacuated three bodies, including the elderly couple. Witnesses say they saw powder burns on them, as if they had been executed. Campo Elías Rodríguez Agudelo, their son, reported their deaths to the local personero, asking for an investigation. Later, the army claimed in a press release that the couple were "guerrillas killed in action." Although Rodríguez pressed for an investigation, a year later no verdict had been made. Rodríguez later died and it is not clear what progess has been made on the case. 45 According to CREDHOS, the very young often fall sick and die during the peasant "exoduses" that take place after particularly intense operations, victims of disease and malnutrition. 46

In other instances, it is clear that soldiers, in search of guerrillas, have failed to try and minimize civilian casualties as required by international humanitarian law, and in fact have acted with a flagrant disregard for the lives of innocents. Such was the case in a noon attack on a farm owned by the Conde family near La Dorada, San Martín (Cesar) on January 6, 1993. Eleven family members, including six minors, gathered to celebrate a birthday were apparently fired upon without warning by a Mobile Brigade 2 patrol. Despite the family's attempt to flee, the attack continued, leaving four children and one adult wounded. According to the farm's owner, Carmen Conde, after the shooting stopped, one of the soldiers told her to give her son water "so that he finishes dying quicker (para que se acabe de morir más rápido.)" 47

In another disturbing incident, Mobile Brigade 2 has been accused of setting fire to a pool of oil created when the ELN bombed the Caño Limón - Coveñas pipeline near the village of Martaná, Remedios (Antioquia). Although the army blamed the ELN for the blaze that consumed several houses, killing ten people, including two children and an eighty-year-old woman, later information and the death-bed testimony of one of the victims suggests that Brigade soldiers may have lit the pool on purpose, to implicate guerrillas and punish the village for its perceived sympathies for them. One area resident said a Brigade lieutenant told diem, "This is what you get for collaborating with the guerrillas." 48 This incident demands further investigation, to determine whether or not these allegations have merit.

One of the casualties of the upswing in armed conflict in the Middle Magdalena was the Peasant Albergue, a shelter formed in September 1988. Peasants fleeing army bombardments in Santander asked area humanitarian groups, including the church, to help set up a temporary shelter in Barrancabermeja until families could return and rebuild or find more permanent lodging. It remains the only public shelter for internal refugees in Colombia. By 1992, an estimated 2,000 peasants had stayed temporarily within its walls.

But soon after opening, Albergue organizers say they began receiving death threats from the paramilitary group known as MAS (Muerte a Secuestradores, or Death to Kidnappers). Adherents are also known as masetos. Local human rights groups believe that the MAS maintains close relationships with local police and military commanders, a connection that official investigations in the past have clearly established.

On March 4, 1992, armed men entered the Albergue and kept its guests at gunpoint for several hours. Two months later, Elvia María Córdoba asked for refuge, claiming she had been threatened by the masetos. After several days in the Albergue, however, Córdoba confessed to workers that the masetos had sent her to the Albergue to collect information. She told them she believed the masetos planned to set off a bomb inside. Two days after leaving the Albergue, Córdoba's body was found in a garbage dump outside Barrancabermeja. The Albergue was closed in June 1992 for the safety of workers and guests. An investigation into threats on the Albergue continues, but as yet has produced no results. The Albergue was reopened in April 1993. 49

In 1992 a memo circulated by Mobile Brigade 2 commander Brigadier General Ardila tacitly recognized the army's practice of using paramilitaries and ordered that it be stopped. "It has been very lamentable," he wrote, "for the entire Army to see senior and junior officers paraded before the courts to answer for the results of the operations." Gen. Ardila then ordered his officers "... to prevent units from associating with or employing as intelli- gence agents, guides, or informants persons who have belonged to guerrilla groups, drug traffickers, private justice groups, or those known to be delinquents." 50

Americas Watch welcomes this statement by Gen. Ardila in the hope that it contributes to an end in army paramilitary cooperation. However, we believe it must be followed up with concrete action, including public investigations into abuses and punishment for those responsible. Too often, statements of good will, such as these, have been made meaningless as officers continue to depend on paramilitaries and others to carry out illegal actions, knowing that they face few consequences, if any.


Americas Watch has visited the Meta piedmont three times since June of 1992. 51 These rolling hills, where most of the department's population of 500,000 is concentrated, mark the end of the Andes and beginning of the llanos, a grassy savannah that stretches into Venezuela.

Like the Middle Magdalena, the Meta piedmont has been the backdrop of political violence for many years. The Mobile Brigade mounted its first full-scale operation in Meta on December 9, 1990. "Operation Centaur," as it was called, was an assault on the General Secretariat of the FARC, located in the rugged Andes above La Uribe. A Mobile Brigade base was later established in La Uribe, where it continues to function.

Isaías* 52 remembers December 9 clearly, because military helicopters appeared over the horizon near his farm in Papamene, about fourteen hours by mule from La Uribe. He says guerrillas passed frequently through the area, but rarely stopped. Like most farmers, he says he provided the water or food they asked for just as he did for passing army patrols. On that day, however, he says Papamene was bombed twice, forcing Isaías and ninety-five others to flee.

By the time they reached La Uribe, they had been joined by 300 more farmers from the villages of Paradera Ukrania and Candelaria, including members of a Páez Indian community. According to the Paeces, out of eleven Páez families, two individuals "disappeared" and a four-year-old child died as they fled the bombardment. 53

The only aid refugees received upon arrival was from the La Uribe municipality and the ICRC, which provided food and clothing. Isaías was part of a commission that returned to Papamene two months later.

All we found were the skins and bones of my cattle. Later, we reached an agreement with the Mobile Brigade commander so that we could return in March, but by then several of the houses, including mine, had been completely destroyed.

Isaías and other Papamene villagers moved to the village of Esplanación. Hoping to avoid problems with the Mobile Brigade, they say they provided them with a map of the village and a complete census. By then Isaías was the president of the Communal Action Council. But on June 22, 1991, he says Esplanación was bombed, destroying the school and the documents Papamene villagers had filed with the government for reparations.

Since then, Isaías' family and sixty others have lived as internal refugees. When he has met Brigade soldiers on area trails, he says he has been insulted, hit, and mistreated, and fears being arrested for no cause. Although Isaias lost his cattle and crops, he cannot get loans to restart his farm because he still owes payments on the seeds, fertilizer, and cattle destroyed in the bombardments. 54

A similar story is told by Lisandra*, from the village of Pata de Gallo. On December 9, she awoke to the sound of bombs landing near her house. When soldiers moved in, she says they seized her cattle for food but did not pay. By the time troops left twenty days later, her house was in ashes and her belongings destroyed. She claims soldiers told her she had no right to complain and shouldn't consider returning. 55

Since the assault on Casa Verde, the presence of Mobile Brigade I in Meta has been constant. Operations are announced by the buzz of helicopters and the slow thud of bombs hitting earth. Farmers say some bombs produce little damage but a lot of noise, terrifying people and animals.

Gustavo*, a member of the Vista Hermosa Communal Action Council, says he tried to work out problems with Mobile Brigade officers. But he says the mere act of asking about detained peasants or trying to get reparations for destroyed homes or animals killed by crossfire put him in danger. He says officers denied abuses and no investigations resulted in action.

Once he says he was detained by Brigade soldiers and tortured:

Sometimes, the army lets no one flee. Because flight means reports on their abuses. So they threaten. They forced me to sign a paper saying I was well treated, even when it wasn't true. Surrounded by twenty or fifty soldiers, what can you do? I was forced to avoid problems... [My wife and I] have had to bury people beside the trail or road, because to go to the cemetery is too dangerous. Where they fall becomes their tomb. 56

In 1991 he and his family abandoned their fourteen-acre farm without taking clothes or food.

On October 31, a patrol from Mobile Brigade I occupied the farm of José Pinto. According to Pinto's wife, soldiers began beating him and threatened him with death. When Pinto's son and a hired laborer approached, they were shot and killed. After the bodies were loaded onto a helicopter, soldiers identified them to their superiors as guerrillas killed in action. As the helicopter lifted off, the area was sprayed with gunfire, endangering the civilians left on the ground.Later that afternoon, several nearby houses were strafed and bombs were dropped." 57

Over the next five months, three peasants were killed, three "disappeared," and two tortured in Vista Hermosa in incidents tied to Mobile Brigade 1. Frequently, Brigade patrols would stop at farm houses searching for farmers whose names were included on lists of suspected guerrilla sympathizers, threatening the inhabitants with death if they failed to give information. Some men and boys say they were forced to don military uniforms and act as guides or told to walk in front of patrols to detonate mines. For instance, sixteen-year-old Jorge Lozano reported that he was told to put on a camouflage uniform and walk in front of a patrol, so that guerrillas would fire first on him. Lozano was released only after a group of women and children tracked the patrol for two days and finally spoke with the commander, who let the boy go. 58

Nelson* moved to Vista Hermosa with his family of seven in the late 1980s, attracted by the promise of cheap land. Even though he knew the FARC was active in the area, he says the risk was worth it for the chance to build a farm. His house lay near a road frequented by the army, paramilitaries, and guerrillas, and all stopped for water or food.

But paramilitaries believed Nelson's family sympathized with guerrillas, and apparently shared their suspicion with Mobile Brigade 1. In November 1991, a unit from Mobile Brigade I arrived at the house while Nelson was in the fields. His wife, three months pregnant, was detained and beaten. Fearing for Nelson's life, she says she told soldiers that she had no husband. When neighbors, questioned separately, contradicted her story, the soldiers returned.

Nelson told Americas Watch what happened next:

So more came, they took her from the house and put her in another house all by herself. They told her if she wanted to have the baby, she had to tell them where her husband was. Because of this, because they had all our names and had threatened us so many times, we decided to leave. Really, we were forced to give away the farm. Whoever has the money at hand can get it. 59

With others, Nelson and his family abandoned Vista Hermosa in 1991 in an exodus assisted by the Civic Committee, which provided food and shelter. According to CAJ-SC, about half of Vista Hermosa's residents have been forced out, replaced by families loyal to paramilitaries.

Internal refugees from Vista Hermosa say that paramilitaries have now set up roadside checkpoints outside town equipped with communications radios. They often walk about with machineguns and go freely in and out of the local military barracks. 60 Peasants who once visited the town weekly to buy supplies now make longer treks to other towns, to avoid the Vista Hermosa paramilitaries. 61

Even the possibility of filing a formal complaint about what happened to his wife makes him afraid, Nelson says.

To put an accusation about these events is simply to put my family in danger. The accusation is broadened, it gets to the authorities for investigation. People get so tired of these things. There are thousands of such accusations, and things remain the same.

Residents of Costa Rica, San Juan de Arama, told human rights monitors that when some military commanders got off helicopters on February 27, 1992, and gathered the population, they publicly accused known up members of aiding guerrillas. Several of these men had previously been threatened by soldiers. Among the soldiers, villagers say they identified two well-known sicarios wearing military uniforms, including Jairo "El Tuerto" (One-Eye) Torres, who allegedly took part in a 1991 massacre. 62 The sicarios reportedly accompanied the soldiers to a nearby settlement, where residents were exhorted not to "harm" upcoming elections by voting for the UP. 63

Throughout 1992 reports of abuses by Mobile Brigade I flooded human rights groups. For example, in a letter written to Meta governor Omar Baquero Soler by the Communal Action Councils of thirteen La Uribe villages, authorities list seven villages that were indiscriminately bombed and strafed; two "disappearances"; two cases of torture; two houses sacked with belongings robbed; and numerous death threats made by soldiers to detainees they believed were guerrilla sympathizers. All occurred in the last two weeks of February 1992. 64

In a few cases, Mobile Brigade soldiers have paid for damages on the spot. But in the overwhelming majority of cases brought to our attention, an astonishing callousness to human suffering is more common. This is painfully evident in the treatment given to the Ayure family. Operating on May 14, 1992, near the village of Santander, La Uribe, Mobile Brigade soldiers fired on the Ayure house, where two guerrillas had stopped to eat. Although the government claims that eleven-year-old Martha Cecilia was holding a weapon, later testimony from her mother suggests that soldiers opened fire without first attempting to distinguish who was in the house. The military claims guerrillas killed Martha Cecilia, although testimony given by her mother to the Office of Special Investigations of the Procuraduría indicates that after soldiers began firing, the guerrillas fled and were killed outside the house. Martha Cecilia's mother, Matilde, and five-year-old sister, Sandra, were wounded. 65

While the two wounded Ayures and the body of Martha Cecilia were transferred to the Military Hospital in Bogotá, three other girls - Graciela, thirteen, Yaneth, nine, and granddaughter Ismenia, two - were flown to the 21st Battalion "Vargas" in Granada with Matilde Ayure's permission. For thirteen days, the three remained in military custody. Yet according to their father, Eusebio Ayure, he was detained for two hours by soldiers after returning to his farm and misinformed about his family's fate. When he finally made it to La Uribe to inquire at the Mobile Brigade I base, he was told that his family had been flown to Granada "for security reasons." 66 When he finally travelled to Bogotá, he was prevented from visiting his wife and daughter except in the company of a soldier. He was also prevented from returning to his farm for a week, and lost most of the family's belongings and stock:

The army attacked my house with my wife and five daughters, all minors. They attacked and destroyed it, killing one daughter and wounding my wife and a five-year-old daughter. They grabbed them and kidnapped three daughters... I asked Colonel Lombana to deliver to me the daughters who had not been wounded in this episode. For six days, he tricked me by saying he would bring them until finally he insulted me and never brought them. I returned to Bogotá [where his wounded family was hospitalized]. I hired an attorney and filed a claim. My wife was in the hospital for four and a half months. She left it handicapped [losing a hand]. My daughter is now handicapped [damaged leg]. I had to go up to my farm and work because the army finished off my entire crop. The house was destroyed. They killed my cattle. And to top it off, my dead daughter's body is disappeared, they never gave it back ... This is the greatest pain a parent can have ... what pains me the most is that my daughter's body has not appeared. 67

Matilde Ayure claims that soldiers promised to pay for Martha Cecilia's burial in La Uribe, although the military has as yet given no explanation for their failure to return her body. The case has since been shelved by the Procuraduría Delegate for the Armed Forces. 68

Eighteen-year-old William Blanco was reportedly detained by Mobile Brigade soldiers on May 7, bound by the hands and feet, then tied with a noose around his neck. In front of his family in the village of La Libertad, family members say soldiers pulled Blanco through a thicket of barbed wire, then taunted him by saying "you smell like a corpse, you are a guerrilla." 69 When family members went to the Mobile Brigade I base in La Uribe for information on his detention, Colonel Lombana reportedly denied having him and told them to "go ask the guerrillas." Nevertheless, the family later received unofficial word that Blanco had been seen in a cell in the 21st Battalion "Vargas" in bad physical shape and dressed only in underwear. 70

After La Uribe residents wrote to Mobile Brigade I Commander Rafael Hernández López to protest abuses, he is reported to have responded in a public speech, "If you want blood everywhere, then there will be blood." ("Si sangre regada quieren, sangre iba haber.") 71

Peasants say they are especially nervous when they walk to their fields or go into town for weekly supplies. Men especially run the risk of being arrested as suspected guerrillas. Such was the case for Gustavo Chavarriaga and Aldemar Bermúdez, two village authorities who visited La Uribe in mid-May 1992 to play in a soccer tournament and buy supplies. On May 17, before leaving for their village of Paraíso five hours away, they agreed to add on their mules supplies bought by an area schoolteacher, who accompanied them with his wife and young daughter. Less than a mile from town, the group was stopped at a Mobile Brigade checkpoint known as Versailles.

Soldiers searched the group and their mules. Hours later, the teacher and his family were released. But the two farmers were held incommunicado for twenty-four hours, then flown by helicopter to the prison in Granada. Much later, family members searching for them learned that the Mobile Brigade claimed the pair had been detained in a guerrilla encampment as they guarded a stockpile of boots, food and medicine. Chavarriaga was accused of giving guerrillas medical aid. He administered the parish-sponsored village pharmacy, an activity authorized by the military. 72 Less than two weeks earlier, Paraíso villagers say that Bermúdez had been threatened by Mobile Brigade Captain "Camilo." On February 28, Bermúdez' house had been searched and belongings and money stolen. Soldiers left after threatening him and his children. 73 Two days later, the president of the Paraíso Communal Action Council, Arcadio Ríos, was "disappeared" after a bombardment near the village. 74 A cursory investigation done by the Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces into the threats against Bermúdez apparently failed to interview him, family members, or neighbors, yet concluded that since the Meta Civic Committee, which forwarded the complaint, was not an eye-witness, the charge lacked proof. The case was shelved. 75

Bermúdez was later formally charged with homicide for terrorist reasons, rebellion, and sedition. The formal accusation is based on the testimony of two former guerrillas who now work as army guides and informers, one a minor. They claim he participated in a battle in which a soldier was killed. Apart from the irregularities in his arrest, this charge appears unwarranted since the witnesses for the prosecution in no way implicate Bermúdez directly in the attack on the dead soldier, but only claim he was present nearby. Americas Watch believes this case may involve a serious miscarriage of justice for a farmer without the resources to mount an adequate defense in the public order courts and urges that it be reviewed. 76 Both Bermúdez and Chavarriaga remain in custody awaiting trial. 77

Less than a month later after the arrest of Bermúdez and Chavarriaga, Otoniel Ladino Muñoz was detained at Versailles and kept in a hole for twenty-four hours. His family was not notified of the detention until three days later, when Ladino was taken in a helicopter to the Granada prison. 78

Similar treatment befell six farmers from Caño Brasil, El Castillo. Detained in a house as they slept by a Mobile Brigade patrol on January 23, 1992, the men say they were bound and tied to stakes, where they remained for thirty-two hours. Eventually, only Dubadyer Rodríguez was taken to the 21st Battalion "Vargas" in Granada, although the military denied the detention. After international protests, Rodríguez was released. 79

When local and government authorities have attempted to investigate reports of Mobile Brigade abuses, they have been threatened. In May 1992, a commission headed by the Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces was reportedly strafed by an army helicopter as members examined a destroyed village. One bombardment of La Julia, a village near La Uribe, began two days after a July forum on humanitarian law and peace negotiations sponsored by the municipal government and attended by government representatives. About 1,200 people from seven villages were forced to flee, many with only the clothes on their backs. 80

Army abuses in Meta led Dr. César Uribe, Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces, to write to Gen. Manuel Alberto Murillo, Commander of the Army, on March 12, 1992. Dr. Uribe cited charges filed by twenty-five people who had travelled to Bogotá to ask the goverment for protection. 81 Among the charges were that a thirteen-year-old boy had been detained by soldiers from Mobile Brigade 1, forced to strip, then tortured on the soles of his feet to force him to talk.

Most importantly, the population would like to make it clear that they are not asking for a de-militarization of the zone, but, to the contrary, a benevolent attitude on the part of military authorities and the troops, which is to say that they are now asking that their attitude toward peasants not be so rough, drastic, and indiscriminate, but that they understand the situation in the sense that if a house search or body search is done or if an operation is planned that it all be done within certain parameters because the population, rather than feel protected, is frightened and forced into a state of persecution ... peasants have seen the transport of their weekly supplies slowed down. Not only their belongings are destroyed but also stock and hunting animals (cows, sheep) in bombardments and strafings... when the houses are searched, soldiers seize personal identity documents; which is to say, a panic is being generated within the population ... The most elemental human rights are ignored. 82

Despite frequent protests about the activities of Mobile Brigade I in Meta, abuses continue. While this report was being edited, Americas Watch received word of the "disappearance" of seventeen-year-old student Ramiro Guzmán Martínez, reportedly seized by Mobile Brigade I soldiers on October 23, 1993, at a house in La Cima, El Castillo. Although Guzmán's parents searched for him at the Granada army base, the military denied detaining their son. 83

Mobile Brigade I has also been active outside Meta, where it has been implicated in serious abuses. In 1990 Mobile Brigade I was accused of torturing farmer José del Carmen, detained in the middle of the night in his home in San Cristóbal, Barrancabermeja (Santander). The patrol was led by two officials named "Toño" and "Alfredo." Del Carmen said he was forced from the house, beaten, and taken to a nearby field, where he was bound and beaten again. Soldiers forced a rifle muzzle into his mouth, ears, and nose, then forced him to drink filthy water. At dawn, he was loaded with equipment and made to walk. For a day and a night, he was leashed to a tree.

The next morning, Del Carmen says they hung him from the tree by his arms tied behind his back. While he agonized, he was beaten and soldiers slid a machete across his neck, saying they would cut his throat. Then they forced his pants down. As a soldier sharpened a knife, they said they would castrate him unless he told them what they wanted to hear about guerrillas. In the afternoon, Del Carmen was again made to carry equipment, this time to the San Cristóbal hacienda. In the morning, Toño and Alfredo made him undress and stand in a grave they had dug. They reviewed his identity papers, saying that they would "take his ID to the widow." They filled up the grave with dirt until it reached his chest. Then they appeared to fake an argument over who would get to shoot him.

Del Carmen pretended to faint. Soldiers pulled him out and threw water on him. Later, he says one of the soldiers told him: "You've earned your liberty. People tell us everything during these jobs we do. It's clear you owe us nothing." They forced him to sign a paper they wouldn't allow him to read, and said that if he reported the incident, they would return and kill him.

Nevertheless, Del Carmen reported the sixty-six-hour torture session to the Regional Procuraduría's Office in Barrancabermeja. In December 1992 Del Carmen and five other villagers were forced to abandon their homes when paramilitaries told them they would be killed if they refuse to participate in actions. 84

Another horrendous incident took place on March 20, 1993, near San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá. Eighteen passengers were travelling by boat from Tres Esquinas to Cartagena del Chaira when a Mobile Brigade I patrol reportedly intercepted the boat at Puerto La Reforma and forced a number of the passengers to disembark and strip. Some passengers were then subjected to torture, including near suffocation in river mud. Among those tortured were Heberto Sánchez Tamayo, Diego Miguel Hernández, and Astrid Liliana Rodríguez. An old man and a boy were also reportedly tortured and remain unaccounted for.

According to the testimonies they later gave to the San Vicente personero, Sánchez and Hernández also had their arms and knees twisted and were later hanged by the feet. Rodríguez testified that she was stripped by the major in charge of the operation and handed over to soldiers, who were ordered to rape her. One soldier refused to carry out the order but the others beat her feet with a hammer and forced a bar of soap in her mouth while they crushed and twisted her breasts.

The three were then transferred to the Mountain Battalion No. 36 "Cazadores" in San Vicente del Caguán where Rodríguez was subjected to further torture. According to her testimony, she was locked in a cell where a sergeant from military intelligence forced her to kneel and placed a revolver on her breast while other military personnel aimed weapons at her. The torturers forced her to repeat texts which implicated her in guerrilla activities. These were tape recorded. When Rodríguez failed in the repetitions, she says the sergeant urinated in her mouth.

Medical certificates consistent with the testimonies of ill-treatment were issued by a doctor at a regional hospital. One month later, Rodríguez's breasts were still badly bruised and may require surgery. All three were later released. 85

A Climate of Violence

The effect of the Mobile Brigade's blatant disregard for the safety of the civilian population in Meta is easily visible in the hundreds of internal refugee families who now live in Villavicencio, forced from their farms because of bombardments and threats. Many live in misery on the banks of the Guatiquta River, where they lack basic services like water and sewage and are prey to frequent flooding.

Thousands of others have fled the department according to the Colombian Association of Social Assistance (ASCODAS), made up of desplazados. 86 They fall into three general categories. By far the largest group are peasants from areas considered "red zones," forced to flee bombardments or army offensives paired with the harassment of paramilitaries. In addition anyone identified, willingly or not, with the UP or guerrillas can be subjected to "political cleansing" with little hope of protection from the state. The most visible desplazados are up members and town authorities forced to flee under threat of death.

The ICRC has a permanent office in Villavicencio to attend to the emergency needs of civilians harmed by combat and to visit prisons. However, army officers have frequently accused the ICRC of favoring guerrillas and have made access to battle areas difficult. 87

Fear, another marker of increased political violence, is never far from the surface. When Mobile Brigade operations start, some families flee immediately, spending days in the bush. Afterwards, paramilitary groups often move in, residents say. Paramilitary members and sicarios, hired killers, appear to move with ease in Meta after committing massacres and political killings, despite the fact that the department is one of the most militarized in Colombia, with an estimated 35,000 army troops and thousands of police. 88

After Mobile Brigade operations, paramilitary groups threaten and murder those they perceive as left-wing or sympathetic to guerrillas, human rights groups contend. In some instances, villagers have reported joint army paramilitary patrols and operations, where people are detained. 89 When the displaced families return to catear, or look around - a word that has come to mean check out the possibilities for return - they discover that their farms and houses have been taken over by paramilitary members. This phenomenon is so common that some observers have suggested that it may be part of a deliberate effort to force "suspect" families from areas considered sympathetic to guerrillas, replacing them with others who strongly back the military. 90 While Americas Watch found no evidence linking this practice to an organized plan, we did hear many reports of such intentional displacement, which is tolerated if not openly promoted by military authorities.

Human rights groups consider Victor Carranza to be the main paramilitary leader in Meta. A rancher, emerald dealer, and reputed drug trafficker, Carranza is said to boast of maintaining the largest private army in the country. 91 To combat the UP and its electoral strength, Carranza and his carranceros have apparently made alliances with some police and military officers committed to forcing out Colombians deemed left-wing or sympathetic to guerrillas. In April 1992, arrest warrants for twenty-six men linked to his paramilitary organization in the Middle Magdalena region were issued by Colombia's Direccion Nacional de Instrucción Criminal. According to press reports, Carranza has bought land around Puerto Boyacá, where the MAS was first organized, and is attempting to refortify paramilitary groups believed by the Procuraduría to maintain links to the army's Fifth Brigade, which operates in the department of Santander. 92

Since the arrival of the Mobile Brigade and subsequent intensification of paramilitary activity in Meta, investigating or reporting on human rights in Meta has become extremely hazardous. "It is worse to report incidents than remain silent," an internal refugee named Pabla* told Americas Watch in her Bogotá home. Pabla and her brother, both UP members, say they were forced to leave Meta by paramilitaries in March 1992. 93 In 1992, some members of the Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, based in Villavicencio, also received death threats and were harassed on the street by men they later identified as police intelligence officers. In July, monitors report that Villavicencio was inundated by gunmen bussed in from the Middle Magdalena. According to witnesses, the sicarios distributed weapons in the central park and talked openly of the bounty of eight million pesos, about $12,000, offered for killing three prominent members of the UP. 94 Human rights monitors believe certain well-known sicarios travel from killing to killing, movements that are never noted down or limited in any way by the military or police in the area, even at checkpoints. In some instances, groups of sicarios have been seen leaving the local military barracks scant hours before a killing. Afterwards, they vanish like river mist. 95

All three UP members threatened by paramilitaries asked for guarantees from the state. Nevertheless, the two bodyguards assigned to Dr. José Rodrigo García, vice-president of the Meta assembly, were suspended on Nov. 25. Two days later, García was murdered in front of his house by a man on a motorcycle, a method used by sicarios. 96 Pedro Malagón, the UP member who replaced García in the assembly, later reported being followed by men he believes may be sicarios. 97

On April 19, 1993, Delio Vargas Herrera, a Civic Committee member, UP member, and president of the Meta chapter of ASCODAS, Was "disappeared." Delio Vargas was last seen in the "20 de Julio" neighborhood of Villavicencio, where he was abducted in front of his wife by five heavily armed men. Vargas, a co-founder of the Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, had helped organize a forum on peaceful alternatives to political violence, held subsequently on April 23.

The Colombian Presidential Counselor on Human Rights later informed Americas Watch that following an investigation undertaken by the Procuraduría's Office of Special Investigations and the Technical Investigation Unit of Villavicencio, the vehicle used to transport Vargas and its driver, Hernando Moreno Martínez, were identified and Moreno placed under arrest. Moreno is a former army second sergeant and army intelligence informant. He is also reputed to have been a key operative in Víctor Carranza's paramilitary force for the past five years. While Americas Watch welcomes the investigation into Vargas' "disappearance" and the possible participation of Moreno, it must be noted that many such investigations are opened and very few lead to the prosecution and conviction of those actually responsible for the human rights violation. Vargas remains "disappeared." 98

This climate of fear and suspicion has been especially hard on health professionals, often accused by the security forces of having given medical treatment to guerrillas. This is a direct violation of the provisions in the Geneva Conventions that protect medical personnel from arrest or attack for carrying out their duties regardless of the identities or sympathies of patients.

Threats against and attacks on doctors and medical clinics were common in 1992. In September and October, one Meta doctor was "disappeared" and two were murdered:

* On September 11, Dr. Armando Rodríguez Parrado, director of the hospital in the municipality of Restrepo, was seized from his work place by five heavily-armed men, who apparently had his name noted down on a piece of paper. Rodríguez remains "disappeared."

* Dr. Edgar Roballo Quintero, thirty-seven, director of the hospital in the municipality of San Martin was "disappeared" on October 4 from the hospital. His cadaver was found the next day on the highway between San Martín and Cubarral, his body showing multiple bullet wounds and signs of torture.

* Surgeon Alvaro Diego Escribano was shot down by sicarios at the Llano Clinic Center in Villavicencio, where he worked, on October 29. Escribano had been receiving death threats for his work with poor residents of the city. 99

All three worked with the UNUMA health cooperative in Villavicencio, whose name is an indigenous word for unity. UNUMA works with the internally displaced. In October the UNUMA office was practically besieged by threatening telephone calls and the presence of men on motorcycles and cars without license plates, the vehicles of choice for sicarios and police intelligence officers. The clinic had to be closed. The remaining staff, including two nurses, two doctors, two bacteriologists, and an economist, were forced to flee the city with their families. 100 When Colombians who have received death threats travel in Meta, they must do so using circuitous routes and remain on the look-out for ambush, even in areas theoretically under military control. On June 3, 1992, men reportedly wearing army uniforms ambushed and killed the mayor of El Castillo, the out-going mayor, and three others. Ex-mayor María Mercedes Méndez, newly-elected mayor William Ocampo, Treasurer Rosa Peña, animal husbandry specialist Ernesto Saralde, and driver Pedro Agudelo - all members of the UP - had just delivered to regional authorities in Villavicencio an official complaint about abuses by the armed forces against the civilian population. Municipal worker Wilson Pardo García was wounded, but managed to escape. 101

Four months later, no judge had been assigned to lead an investigation into the killing according to Eixenover Quintero, the El Castillo personero. According to the Defensoría, the case remains in an "initial stage" of investigation (indagación preliminar). Quintero himself replaced a UP colleague murdered in circumstances suggesting the work of paramilitaries.

"The state is indifferent," Quintero told Americas Watch. "We don't know in what moment they will strike. Our work as public officials is therefore very limited and we can't travel without taking on a great risk. We live in a state of permanent, daily threat." 102

Five years earlier, paramilitaries had set an ambush for another El Castillo mayor and UP member in the same spot. Although the mayor did not board the public bus he had planned to that morning, the ambush was carried out as planned, killing seventeen. Known as Caño Cibado, this thickly-forested dip in the road provides excellent cover. According to El Castillo authorities, it is frequently used as a botadero de cadáveres, a place where bodies are tossed. 103

Statistics gathered by the Defensoría show that the department of Meta is second only to the department of Antioquia in terms of the murder of UP members. Of the 717 murders of UP members documented by the Public Defender from 1985 until September 1992, eighteen per cent took place in Meta. 104 Although international protests about these killings are essential, local monitors say, they have also contributed to increased risk for those who investigate and report on abuses. 105

Americas Watch representatives experienced the climate of violence that surrounds Mobile Brigade I first-hand during a March 1993 mission to Colombia. Mission members visited the town of La Uribe, where a Mobile Brigade I base is located. The mission had been invited by the town council and representatives of some of the forty-five villages that belong to La Uribe municipality. Local authorities have attempted to maintain good relations with Brigade commanders and soldiers despite a wide range of abuses in the countryside. Since an off-duty Brigade soldier killed a civilian with a grenade during a fight outside a discotheque in 1991, soldiers on leave have not been allowed to enter the town at night according to a town council member. However, soldiers do patrol the town at night as part of their regular duty. 106

Town authorities described relations as improved since the conclusion of a peace forum sponsored by the mayor and held in July 1992. The Brigade commander attended along with government representatives, human rights monitors, and area villagers. Nevertheless, Mayor Saúl Rengifo described the calm as "apparent." In recent months, several La Uribe authorities and peasants had been ambushed and murdered on the way to Villavicencio, an eight-hour journey. To attend to official business, people must travel from La Uribe through Mesetas, considered a paramilitary stronghold. From there, the potholed, rutted dirt road descends to a junction with a paved highway outside Granada, another paramilitary center that is believed to be closely controlled by Carranza.

Travellers must then pass through San Martín and Acacias, where Carranza is believed to maintain "schools" for paramilitaries, teaching them surveillance, ambush, and other techniques. 107 Until reaching Villavicencio two hours later, up members, community activists, and human rights monitors are prey to ambush or being pulled off the road and summarily executed.

For example, on September 14, 1991, Carlos Julián Vélez, his wife, eight-year-old son, and brother were murdered on the outskirts of Mesetas by heavily armed men. Vélez, a deputy to the departmental assembly and up member, had recently denounced the presence of sicarios in the area who he believed were waging an extermination campaign against UP members. 108

Jorge Enrique Delgado, a UP member, was the Mesetas treasurer until he resigned in October 1992 after repeated threats on his life. He became Mesetas treasurer after his predecessor was murdered after assuming the post from another murdered colleague. Along with other human rights monitors, Delgado has identified individual paramilitaries who work in Meta, known by their nicknames: Piglet, Paraffin, Bull Frog, Black Shirt, and Gunpowder. 109

As a municipal official, I have submitted twenty-nine declarations of witnesses to paramilitary activity and links with the security forces, but not one has resulted in serious action. Everyone in Mesetas knows who the paramilitaries are, and who they work with. But is action ever taken against them? To the contrary, these killers are considered allies of the police and military. 110

The man who replaced Delgado, Julio Serrano Patiño, was fired on in his car in Mesetas by a number of armed men in another vehicle on April 16, 1993. Following the attack, he was forced into his assailants' vehicle and driven to an unknown destination. Serrano's driver managed to escape although he was injured in the attack. Serrano remains "disappeared." 111

The apparent calm in La Uribe vanished the morning of the mission's departure, when La Uribe awoke to paramilitary style death threats spraypainted in red on three buildings. The threats were in the form of a question mark followed by a Christian cross: (?+). Residents interpreted the message thus: "Who will be the next to be murdered?" Hand delivered death threats had been slipped under the doors of two town council members, the president of the Communal Action Council and a store owner. Since only Brigade soldiers are about at night, suspicion rested on them. Americas Watch is aware of no investigation into the incident, even though it was immediately denounced to the Defense Ministry. The threats appeared to be a direct result of the Americas Watch mission.


For the most part, military authorities deny abuses by Mobile Brigades are commonplace or link reports to an alleged defamation campaign sponsored by guerrillas against the government. 122 For instance, when residents of Tienda Nueva, Yondó (Antioquia) and San Vicente de Chucurí (Santander) along with CREDHOS denounced to the Procuraduría the murder of Henry Delgado and torture of ANUC leader Gabriel Flórez in September 1990 by members of a Mobile Brigade, Mobile Brigade Commander Hugo Tovar said to the press that CREDHOS "is an organization dedicated to helping subversion." In neither case were those responsible for the abuse punished. 113 Often, military leaders qualify peasants who denounce abuses or flee bombardments en masse as pawns in a public relations campaign orchestrated by guerrillas to smear the military. 114

Human rights monitors, community activists, and journalists come under special fire for reporting abuses. For some, Mobile Brigades are just one more source of threats and harassment, like the police, standing brigades, or paramilitaries. This was the case for Alfonso Palacio, a well known peasant activist, community leader, and elected official from Río Viejo, Bolívar. The target of frequent harassment and threats since 1985, Palacio says he has recently been receiving death threats from soldiers attached to Mobile Brigade 2. On May 6, 1993, soldiers from the local Nariño de Magangue Battalion illegally searched his house while he was not present, destroying his library. Instead of leaving, the soldiers remained there for several days, saying to his family that Palacios had saved himself this time but that they would soon "fix him." On May 28, while Palacio was with an official commission riding on a public bus, soldiers boarded the vehicle and sat next to him, pausing long enough to say "this one smells like a coffin (huele a cajón)." 115

Personeros in several towns where Mobile Brigades are active have told Americas Watch that their work is made virtually impossible by the atmosphere of threat and fear fostered by the Mobile Brigade. This personero asked for anonymity:

It is difficult, almost impossible to do my job in a war zone. First, I must defend myself. The soldiers call me a guerrilla, a communist, to my face. To me, it is clear that the armed forces are allowed a special kind of conduct. Instead of protecting the civilian population, the Mobile Brigade strikes it. Then, anyone who flees is called a guerrilla supporter. 116

Another personero from the Middle Magdalena made a heartfelt appeal to the Procuraduria after processing a number of charges against Mobile Brigade 2, with no subsequent efforts by government officials to investigate, prosecute, or punish:

It is a shame that that those who by constitutional and legal mandate are charged with defending life, honor, and the belongings of our people are the first to ignore such principles... Personeros... must either report or shut up, and if we do the former we could be called either army informants or guerrillas depending on the case, and if we shut up we could be investigated for failing to do our duty. In the middle of this public disorder, we all need the national government to guarantee minimum human rights at least in terms of their responsibilities and determine who is at fault. 117

Despite these obstacles, human rights groups and government investigative agencies have gathered enough information on the methods and record of Mobile Brigades to outline not only a pattern of abuse, but also of impunity. Americas Watch is aware of several important investigations of alleged abuses by Mobile Brigades carried out by the Office of Special Investigations of the Procuraduría. 118 Repeatedly, credible evidence has been found linking Mobile Brigades to serious abuses. However, when cases are passed to the Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces for action, they are often seriously delayed, shelved, or result in the acquittal of the military officers involved. Often, decisions are based on only the most cursory of investigations, which fail to take into account the testimony of victims or eyewitnesses. When such testimony is included, it is frequently disregarded and no explanation given. Rather than provide a "bulwark of democracy," as Procurador Delegate Dr. César Uribe has asserted, a procedure that leaves accountability in the hands of the military perpetuates unilateral force and reinforces the patterns of abuse that make any real exercise of democracy impossible.

For instance, the Office of Special Investigations concluded that there was merit to accusations made against Mobile Brigade I involving the "disappearance" and torture of Jorge Palomino and "disappearance" of Rodrigo Giraldo on April 22, 1992. The Office found that both had indeed been detained, a fact registered in the Brigade's daily operations record. However, only after Palomino managed to escape from military custody did the Brigade cease denying having detained the pair.

According to one witness interviewed by the Procuraduría who claimed to have spoken with Palomino after his escape, Palomino had been severely tortured:

... (he said) that they had filled his mouth with mud and then they threw water on him and covered his nose and forced him face down on the ground and then stuffed a rag down his throat and one of them got on top of him saying he would make him sing, and when they saw that he was just about to die, finally they released him.

Nevertheless, the Procurador Delegate delayed eight months after receiving the case from the Office to conclude that since Palomino had managed to escape, his detention "is not demonstrated." No mention was made of the allegation of torture or the unacknowledged detention of Giraldo. In addition the Procurator Delegate asserts that since the Meta Civic Committee, which had forwarded the original complaint, had no direct knowledge of the abuse, the detentions "are not demonstrated." 119

Americas Watch believes that in this case, as in many others that have come to our attention, the response of the Procurador Delegate has been seriously deficient. It fails to meet the criteria we have elaborated in our many reports on Colombia for fair and impartial inquiries into reports of abuse by the security forces. Evidence forwarded by the Office of Special Investigations was ignored, and no effort was made to supplement it with additional testimony from witnesses. The fact that a prisoner escapes from illegal custody does not erase the abuse of detaining him without proper procedures in the first place.

In a particularly disturbing decision made by the Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces on December 30, 1992, Colombia's maximum supervisory authority for the security forces openly excused and condoned an act of war that directly violates international humanitarian law, in this case deliberate firing upon civilian non-combatants in a war zone. The case involved the death of two peasants travelling in a public boat (chalupa) in September 1991 near Montecristo, Achi (Bolívar).

According to two eyewitnesses interviewed later by the Achí personero and the Regional Procurador, the nine passengers and owner boarded early in the morning and embarked on a daily route much like that of a municipal bus. Enroute, two guerrillas hailed the owner, who paused to pick one up.

Georgina Tapias, a passenger who was wounded, recounted what happened next:

When the guerrilla was boarding... a boat carrying soldiers appeared and the guerrilla asked who they were, so the boat owner told him it was the army and [the guerrilla] got off running and that was when the army began to shoot hot lead at the boat and those of us there... we threw ourselves into the water and the boat sank with the two dead passengers aboard. We screamed that we were not guerrillas, that we were passengers...

Another wounded passenger concurred that soldiers, not guerrillas, initiated firing. Nevertheless, in his investigation, the Procurador Delegate concluded that guerrillas had initiated the attack from surrounding hills, forcing soldiers to "repel the armed attack and then, yes, help the wounded in the encounter." The investigation concluded that the situation of armed confrontation in the area "justified" an attack of this nature, in the interest of "defending community interests." 120

Americas Watch believes that both guerrillas and the army are to blame for these deaths. Guerrillas should not put the civilian population in danger by riding while uniformed and armed on public transportation in areas of conflict. However, the burden of these deaths, we believe, rests squarely on the army, which has the obligation under international humanitarian law to minimize harm to the civilian population. The legitimate goal objective of capturing a fleeing suspect was far outweighed by the illegitimate fire on non-combatants.

We attempted to meet with Dr. Uribe to discuss these problems in March 1993, but he failed to appear at a scheduled and confirmed appointment.

Most cases involving alleged violations by Mobile Brigades are first heard in military courts where the judge is the unit or brigade commander. Often, this means that the officer who orders an operation and bears responsibility for its execution is put in the position of judging alleged violations by subordinates. As with proceedings against regular soldiers, proceedings against members of professional units are shrouded in secrecy. However, we believe that in the majority of cases, either the accused are absolved or the case is shelved for "lack of proof." 121

Some professional soldiers implicated in abuses have been punished, albeit many years later. For instance, in June 1992 military courts found a captain and two sergeants belonging to the "Falcon" counterguerrilla company guilty of the September 1986 murder of six workers in La Zalazar, Belmira (Antioquia) and sentenced them to sixteen years in prison. According to the evidence presented to the courts, Capt. Tomás Ignacio Monroy Roncancio, First Sergeant Samuel Jesús Mejía González, and Second Sergeant Marco Aurelio Mendoza Mena detained the men as "suspected subversives," forced them into a cave, then one by one slit their throats.

Once a conviction is announced, surviving family members can make a claim for reparations to regional or national authorities. For instance, the family of one of the victims, Angel de Dios Londoño, made such a claim to the Council of State (Consejo de Estado), which ordered the state to pay reparations of 5,000 grams of gold, the equivalent of $60,000 dollars. In its decision, the State Council reported that, "Once their work was finished and with their hands still bloody, the sergeant (Mendoza) announced in a calm and serene Voice, 'Nothing has happened. This is not the first time The families of the five other victims await a decision.122

In January 1993 the Administrative Tribunal in Antioquia ordered the state to pay the equivalent of 1,200 grams of gold ($36,000) to the family of a spokesperson for the EPL, detained by soldiers and then executed on a military base in San Pedro de Urabá in 1985. 123

But in the few cases where the government has meted out punishment to soldiers convicted of abuses, like the La Zalazar case, sentences are light in comparison to those applicable to civilians convicted of similar crimes. In ordinary courts, for example, the sentence for premeditated homicide is twenty-four years. In public order courts, this same crime is subject to a thirty-year sentence. 124

At the end of 1993, the Defense Minister asked the national Congress for six months of extraordinary powers for the president to restructure the military, particularly in the area of discipline. Based on a document submitted to Congress on September 2, the proposed reforms will apparently focus on the current rules governing the disciplinary system, in particular how claims and punishments are handled. Interviewed in Paris about the proposal, Defense Minister Pardo confirmed that human rights violations "continue in Colombia, which cannot be denied." 125

Although Americas Watch believes it is premature to comment on a reform proposal that remains vague and undefined, we encourage the Defense Minister's effort to review this system, so clearly deficient. However, if reforms fall short of mandating that soldiers accused of abuses be tried in civilian courts - the only way to guarantee fair and impartial trials - no tinkering with the existing bureaucracy will address the serious faults so evident here.


Since it began reporting on human rights in Colombia, Americas Watch has called on the guerrillas to cease practices that violate international humanitarian law. Despite the guerrillas' calls on the government to respect human rights and abide by minimum standards of the laws of war, guerrillas themselves commit frequent abuses of those same standards. While at one time we could say that guerrillas in general obeyed certain norms - in particular, in the way they treated members of the security forces taken prisoner - over the past year we have received highly disturbing reports of the killing of these prisoners, often including the use of torture. 126 The killing of prisoners is explicitly prohibited by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and constitutes an egregious violation of the right to life.

Although we have been unable to confirm independently all of the cases claimed by the goverment, we have received other reports from reliable sources indicating that such abuses are not uncommon. According to the DAS, for instance, officer Fredy Zamora Sánchez was seized by militants of the CGSB on March 7, 1992, while he travelled on a public bus in the Norte de Santander department. He was forced from the bus and apparently murdered. According to news reports, guerrillas prevented the authorities from retrieving the corpse for three days. An autopsy revealed that Zamora had been beaten and stabbed before being shot twice in the head and once in the neck. His face had been mutilated. 127

In addition certain guerrilla actions - like attacks on police stations when civilians are present or the bombing of government property near civilian dwellings - do not sufficiently take into account the risk to the non-combatant population and so constitute a violation of the laws of war. Repeatedly, civilians who work in or near such places or simple passers-by have been needlessly injured, maimed, or even killed by tactics guerrillas could easily avoid.

Guerrillas also frequently engage in combat near or in villages and towns, trapping people in furious crossfire. In repeated instances, it has been impossible for investigators afterwards to determine just who caused civilian casualties. For instance, in combat near Apartadó in November 1991, about one hundred people were forced to flee a confrontation between the army and militants belonging to the Fifth Front of the FARC. A three-year-old child was killed and a school destroyed. 128 Americas Watch has also received reports that guerrillas fleeing army pursuit have forced themselves into the homes of non-combatants, putting them in the direct line of fire. 129

Guerrillas also recur regularly to murder, kidnapping, torture, extortion, and the mining of civilian areas. Of the 1,144 kidnappings police recorded in 1992, a little over half, or 632, were attributed to guerrillas. 130 Although the total number of kidnappings, both by guerrillas, common criminals, and others, dropped by thirty-five percent in 1993 according to police, the tactic remains an important one for guerrillas. 131

Especially reprehensible is the kidnapping of local authorities and journalists, to threaten them into abandoning positions critical of guerrillas. In April 1993 guerrillas kidnapped El Espacio editor Jaime Ardila, releasing him after more than a month in captivity. Far from denying it, guerrillas have told the press that kidnapping "is a way to make money to survive." 132

Finally, attacks on oil pipelines have not only caused loss of life but serious environmental damage. From January to mid-June, 1992, for example, the ELN attacked the Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline twenty-four times, causing the loss of 80,000 barrels of crude. Oil workers sent to repair the pipeline have been attacked. Two technicians were badly wounded on June 13, 1992, when they stepped on a "quiebrapatas" (footbreaker) mine left by the ELN to impede repair. 133

Environmental damage was immense. A July 13, 1992, bombing by guerrillas near Remedios, Antioquia, caused one of the largest single spills ever, an estimated 45,000 barrels of crude. The oil flowed into three tributaries of the Magdalena River, contaminating it as well as the water supply for hundreds of families and their main livelihood, fishing. 134 This constitutes catastrophic damage to the environment, hence a violation of the ban on causing harm to crops, agricultural areas, drinking water installations, and irrigation works that are indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. Although guerrilla bombings of oil pipelines reportedly dropped significantly in the first six months of 1993 - from twenty-four in the first six months of 1992 to three - ecological damage was severe in areas where crude spilled into wetlands and rivers. 135

We addressed some of these concerns to the CGSB in a June letter that called on guerrillas "to cease the abuses that are a flagrant violation of the norms of humanitarian law applicable to internal conflicts." Specifically, Americas Watch protested a series of kidnappings of oil engineers in Sucre, Bolívar, and Santander, as well as the wounding of three oil workers in an attack on a Cicuco, Bolívar, camp in May 1993. 136

Disagreements between the government and guerrillas over conditions for a resumption of peace talks led the CGSB to initiate several national offensives, most recently in September 1993, bombing bridges, halting transportation, and stepping up attacks and ambushes against the police and army. 137 Among the most prominent victims of the so called "Black September" offensive was former Conservative senator Faisal Mustafá, shot by the ELN at a political rally in Sucre, Santander, on September 12. Through imprisoned spokesman Francisco Galán, held in a Bogotá jail, the ELN vowed to continue threatening and attacking politicians opposed to renewed peace talks. In November, the CGSB issued a verbal threat that members of Congress who voted in favor of passage of a new public order law would suffer the consequences. Congress's Vice-President Dario Londoño was subsequently murdered on November 5, presumably by the ELN. These attacks on civilian non-combatants constitute egregious violations of the laws of war.

As we have held consistently in the past, we continue to believe that peace talks conducted in good faith must be encouraged. No other course will lead to an end to political violence. Tragically, this lesson may only be learned after more devastation and the irreparable loss of life and livelihood for Colombia's citizens. Therefore, we renew our call to both the government and guerrillas to resume peace negotiations, this time with a will on both sides to reach a final agreement.

When this report was being edited, a dissident faction of the ELN calling itself the Socialist Renovation Current (CRS) was holding talks with the government despite the high level of distrust caused by the unexplained killing Of two CRS members in in September. Negotiators Enrique Buendía and Ricardo González were killed by the VoItígeros Battalion in what soldiers claimed was a legitimate clash in Blanquicet, Turbó (Antioquia). However, the CRS claimed they were gathering forty CRS members who hoped to take advantage of an amnesty, and were detained and then shot after waving a white flag. 138 Nevertheless, talks continued in October as the CRS agreed to concentrate its approximately 500 followers in the village of Flor del Monte, Sucre, where negotiations were being mediated by Monsignor Nel Beltran, the bishop of Sincelejo. 139

According to the CRS, current ELN tactics, including indiscriminate attacks that cost the lives of non-combatants, "condemn them to lose any sympathy or support... We are sure that the solution to this conflict will not be built from bullets but with considered and sincere negotiation that leads to peace between Colombians." 140 According to press reports, some guerrilla-linked "popular militias" in Medellín, Antioquia, also have proposed peace negotiations to the government. 141

Since we have chosen to focus in the previous pages on violations by the army since 1990, we have also included here documented cases of guerrilla violations since 1990. Other cases dating from 1990 were included in our April 1992 report entitled Political Murder and Reform in Colombia. Although guerrillas are loosely allied under the CGSB, we have chosen to separate out responsibility where possible, since we believe that each force ultimately must be held directly accountable for the actions of its militants.

This summary is by no means exhaustive. These violations take place in remote areas where the task of investigating and reporting incidents is difficult if not often impossible. The practice of the Colombian security forces of blaming first the guerrillas for any violence also makes reporting - and verifying reports - especially difficult. To their credit, Colombia's independent human rights organizations are making a serious and expanding effort to document abuses committed by the guerrillas and thus give a full picture of political violence in the country.


The FARC has frequently murdered political opponents, civic officials, and people it accuses of being sympathetic to the security forces, informers, or paramilitaries. Often, guerrillas will take responsibility for such acts, to intimidate others. One school teacher from the department of Putumayo described to us their crude rule of law in an interview:

It began in 1990, when (the FARC) passed the word about what they called crimes. If a person does bad things - steals or kills or gives information to the police or army - first comes the pardon. If the person continues, the next stage 'is a warning. If he still doesn't reform, it's the punishment, death. 142

Such was the case for three indigenous men executed by the 21st Front in April 1993 for allegedly taking part in extortion and bus hold-ups, a charge indigenous leaders deny. 143 in a circular, the 21st Front took responsibility for the killings of Yezid Ducuara Villabón, Argelino Ducuara, and Arnold Rodríguez, vowing to continue such actions to "defeat" crime. 144 Summary executions of civilians who take no active part in hostilities are an egregious violation of Article Three of the Geneva Conventions.

Local officials who publicly disagree with the FARC or farmers and merchants who refuse to collaborate by paying the vacuna (war tax) also risk death. In November 1992 the FARC executed at least seven people, including a minor, in four separate departments according to the DAS. They included Caucasia police inspector José María Arrieta, a civil official, who was executed on November 9. 145 Those who are nearby when such killings take place also risk violence. When guerrillas from the 37th Front arrived at the farm of Feliciano Yepes in El Cielo, Chalán (Sucre) to collect a vacuna, a war tax, his refusal led to his execution and the massacre of seven others, including a sixteen year-old girl. 146

Sometimes, kidnappings result in the death of the victim. Such was the case for Pedro Nolasco and Ramiro Munos Orrego, found dead on December 29, 1992, after being kidnapped, five months earlier in Toledo, Norte de Santander. Canadian archeologist Steve Gordon was apparently killed by the FARC's 34th Front in the De Los Katíos National Park in northern Colombia after being kidnapped on February 10, 1992. 147

Seven days after Héctor Ramiro Morales and Jesús Agapito Alvarez, police bodyguards for the governor of the state of Nariño, were kidnapped by the 32nd Front on November 10, 1992, their bodies were found near the village of Lagarto, Putumayo, showing signs of torture. Both had wounds on their wrists and arms, evidence of having been bound and hung from a tree according to an examination by the Fiscalía. Both bodies had also been burned with acid and no longer had eyes according to the DAS. 148

The FARC has also been linked to attacks on medical personnel, a flagrant violation of the laws of war. On October 21, 1992, two FARC detachments - the "Héroes of Cusiana" and members of the 38th Front intercepted an ambulance carrying the corpse of a DAS officer killed the day before in Aguazul, Casanare. After drenching the ambulance in gasoline, they set it on fire. The body, also soaked, was left in the road for twenty-four hours under threat of death for anyone who attempted to remove it. 149

The FARC has also carried out bombings of civilian targets causing civilian casualties. In March 1992 the FARC took responsibility for a bomb detonated in front of the Diners Club of Colombia and a Citibank branch in Bogotá, killing security guard Segundo Pino Guisa and injuring ten passers-by. 150


Like the FARC, the ELN frequently, murders political opponents, civic officials, and people it accuses of being sympathetic to the security forces, informers, or p aramilitaries. In one especially reprehensible act, the ELN murdered journalist and newspaper editor Eustorgio Colmenares of the Cúcuta-based La Opinión on March 12, 1993, as he stood on the terrace of his home with his wife. In a release sent to a television station, guerrillas said Colmenares was murdered for disagreeing with them. 151 According to the newsweekly Semana, Colmenares was the hundredth journalist killed in four years of political violence and the first murdered by guerrillas. 152

The ELN also kidnap police officers, torture, then kill them. In one case, three DAS officers investigating a cattle theft in La Guajira were reportedly detained by members of the "José Manuel Martínez" Front of the ELN on May 20, 1992. Two days later, the cattle owners, kidnapped at the same time, were released. Despite negotiations, a peace march by local residents, a direct appeal to the CGSB negotiators then in talks with the government in Mexico and assurances by their ELN captors that the men would be released, the three were apparently executed and their bodies dumped on a nearby ranch. The pathology report quoted in the press determined that all three men had suffered torture. They had been burned, their abdomens cut open, and their fingernails pulled out. All had been shot in the head. 153

Another case involved officers Alvaro Cañas Bermúdez, Gonzalo Espitia Otálora, and José Riviero Gómez Rojas, kidnapped by the ELN near Tona, Santander, in November. Despite a similar attempt to negotiate their release, their bodies were found on November 15 showing signs of torture, including cuts and burns. A report by the forensic pathologist who examined the bodies was quoted in the press as concluding that the men had been tortured with needles, nail clippers, and knives, and the wrists of one captive were dislocated and fractured. Riviero had apparently been whipped with chains and barbed wire. His testicles were also punctured and he had been shot in the head. 154

Three military officers flying with ten other passengers and the threemember crew of an Aerotaca flight between Yopal, Casanare, and Arauca were executed by the ELN soon after being kidnapped on May 16, 1992. According to the Defense Ministry, they were unarmed at the time and their bodies showed signs of torture. 155 The crew members were kept twenty-eight days under constant threat of death before being released. 156

Other state employees have also been killed while in the custody of the ELN. For instance, engineer Oscar Tamayo Romero, employed by the staterun oil company (ECOPETROL), was apparently kidnapped by the ELN on March 27. When his body was found a week later, medical examiners concluded that he must have been killed with two shots to the head soon after he was kidnapped.

Four other engineers remain kidnapped by the ELN, which has acknowledged responsibility for the kidnapping. With this act, they claimed to "[express] our rejection of the policy of repeatedly giving away our petroleum reserves." During the last of the four kidnappings, of engineer Jorge Silgado, three ECOPETROL workers were seriously wounded. 157

In addition the ELN murders those it accuses of opposing them or providing information to the security forces. In September, for instance, the ELN is believed to have killed brothers Miguel and Francisco Alvear in the Middle Magdalena, accusing them of working with the army. 158

The ELN also makes a practice of threatening local authorities with death for failing to comply with their edicts or kidnapping them for indoctrination sessions or a threatened "revolutionary trial" for alleged corruption. In one of the largest single kidnappings of this type, the ELN seized twelve local authorities from Pailitas, Cesar, in November 1991. All were later released unharmed. 159 Five months later, four mayors in the department of Cesar reportedly resigned after receiving death threats from the ELN. On April 5, 1992, Alfonso Niz Saavedra, the mayor of Simití, Bolívar, and his wife, Gilma Delgado, were kidnapped by the "José Solano Sepúlveda" column of the ELN.

Along with this couple, the ELN had kidnapped two railroad employees and a representative of the state-sponsored investment program known as the National Rehabilitation Plan (PNR). The hostages were held for four days before being released. 160 A month later, the ELN kidnapped six mayors in the departments of Norte de Santander, Arauca, and Casanare and kept them for several days before letting them go. 161

Targets have also included foreigners and diplomatic representatives. For instance, in July 1993, the ELN was reported to have kidnapped Giuseppi Guarigla Naryussy, an honorary consul for Italy. 162 The diplomat's body was found on November 18, apparently abandoned after he died of a heart attack. 163

In combat the ELN has attempted to use the civilian population as a shield against attack. Such was apparently the case during a confrontation between the Counterguerrilla Battalion No. 5 "Los Guanes" and the Efraín Pabón Pabón Front near Santa Bárbara, Santander, on October 7, 1992. Eight civilians and five guerrillas were killed while fourteen civilians and three soldiers were wounded. The Ministry of Defense later reported that guerrillas had taken cover behind the civilians. While the army should be condemned for firing upon civilians, guerrillas share responsibility for forcing them into the line of fire. 164

The ELN has also been implicated in the bombing of civilian targets in an effort to spread terror. On June 9, 1992, the ELN announced a new offensive against certain media outlets, which it claimed have waged a "disinformation campaign" against them. ELN units then attacked radio stations belonging to the state-owned Caracol network. 165 Both the Association of Colombian Dailies (Andiarios) and the Associations of Media Outlets (Asomedios) rightly termed this a "threat... against the Colombian people and one of the essential rights of democracy." 166 At the year's end, the ELN was linked to the bombings of four Bogotá hotels, injuring ten, including a seven-year-old girl and two high school students being honored for their scholarship. 167

One of the most frequent violations committed by the ELN is the mining of civilian areas, causing incalculable harm to the local population, especially children. On February 12, 1992, three children playing in a park were killed in San Vicente de Chucurí when the ELN detonated a mine beneath a military convoy passing nearby. Five other children were wounded. 168

Less than a week later, a woman was killed and her mother and daughter seriously injured when she stepped on a "foot-breaker" mine left by the ELN near El Carmen de Chucurí. 169 During the first six months of 1992, the military estimates that ELN mines caused the deaths of six civilians and injuries to thirteen more. 170


Since negotiating an amnesty with the government in March 1991, the guerrilla group known as the Popular Liberation Army became the Hope, Peace and Liberty party and presented candidates at the local and national level as part of the ADM-19. A contingent of 667 militants accepted the amnesty, turning over their weapons in exchange for guarantees of political freedom and assistance in returning to civilian life.

Ex-combatants, concentrated in the northern Colombian departments of Antioquia, Bolívar, Córdoba, and Santander, were eligible to receive grants and loans from the government to start business projects. In 1991 the Hope, Peace and Liberty party was given two seats in the National Constituent Assembly, then drafting a new constitution. 171

However, a dissident faction of the EPL rejected the amnesty and chose to continue armed struggle. Led by EPL founder Fernando Caraballo, the EPL continues to carry out murder, kidnapping for ransom, and extortion. Among their main targets are Hope, Peace and Liberty members, known as "los reinsertados," considered traitors for accepting the amnesty. According to an October 1992 report by the Public Defender's office on the killings of members of the up and the Hope, Peace and Liberty movement, the faction led by Caraballo and co-commander Danilo Trujillo "is readying itself to finish off those who were their comrades in the armed struggle and who have today returned to the country's political life." 172

Information provided to the Public Defender's office by the Hope, Peace and Liberty movement indicated that in the eighteen months since turning in their weapons, at least 113 reinsertados have been murdered, most in the banana growing region of Antioquia known as Urabá. Two reinsertados have "disappeared. " An additional forty-six people have either survived attacks or been threatened with death directly. 173 Information supplied to the Public Defender subsequently by the "Progress Foundation," associated with Hope, Peace and Liberty, added an additional twenty six murders, some allegedly carried out by the FARC through its urban militias (milicias bolivarianas). 174 This means that one out of every six reinsertados has been killed since the amnesty was negotiated.

In May 1993 the EPL kidnapped parish priest Javier Cirujano Arjona San Jacinto, Bolivar. Cirujano, seventy-four, had been involved in the reintegration of the EPL faction demobilised in the San Jacinto area in 1991. After his badly decomposed body was found forty-five days later, the EPL informed a Bogotá radio station that he had been subjected to a to popular trial" for his work.

The Hope, Peace and Liberty party believes the majority of murders are the work of the dissident EPL, which apparently intends to force its ex-colleagues away from the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (SINTRAINAGRO), which the guerrillas seek to control. SINTRAINAGRO represents over 13,600 banana workers in Urabá alone, and is one of Colombia's largest and most powerful unions. 175 On February 27, 1993, SINTRAINAGRO secretary general José Oliverio Molina was shot down after heavily-armed men forced him into a vehicle as he was waiting for a taxi outside his Medellín hotel. 176 Four months later, SINTRAINAGRO militant and up city council member Antonio Benítez was murdered in circumstances that have yet to be clarified. 177 In addition los reinsertados are targetted by paramilitaries, the army, relatives of victims of the EPL, and sicarios. 178

On March 8, about 25,000 workers went on an indefinite strike to protest paramilitary violence in Urabá. Over the previous three weeks, more than forty people had been reported murdered. 179 According to Hope, Peace and Liberty senator Aníbal Palacios, violence is causing new self-defense groups to form. "It's a very worrisome situation because threats, blackmail, and assassination have brought about the formation of new self-defense groups." 180


1 "Guerra para rato," Semana, June 2, 1992, pp. 30-35.

2 "El Gobierno debe ejercer su autoridad: la Iglesia," El Espectador, November 7, 1992.

3 Interview in Bogotá, June 12, 1992.

4 "Se tecnifica la opción militar," El Tiempo, June 7, 1992.

5 According to Dr. Jorge Orlando Melo, former Presidential Counselor for Human Rights, recruits began taking a twenty-three-hour course in human rights as part of basic training at the end of 199 1. The course includes instruction on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the Colombian Constitution. The version for officers is about double that length. Interview in Bogotá, June 8, 1992.

6 Defense Minister Rafael Pardo interview in Nuevo Siglo, December 7, 1992, FBIS, December 14, 1992, pp. 49-52.

7 On April 22, 1992, Colombia's Constitutional Court declared unconsti- tutional Articles 16, 17, and 18 of Law 6, passed in 1992, which obligated all individuals and corporations whose income during fiscal year 1991 was greater than seven million pesos or whose gross assets were greater than thirty million pesos to purchase "war bonds" to increase the capacity of the security forces. The court characterized the bonds as "a tax disguised as a loan" and ordered the government to repay 220 billion pesos to an estimated 108,000 taxpayers. Subsequently, revisions by the executive in the annual budget have made up much of the shortfall caused by the constitutional ban on "war bonds." Emisoras Caracol, "Constitutional Court Rules War Bonds Unconstitutional," April 23, FBIS, April 27, 1993, p. 30.

8 Mobile Brigade I first saw action in the department of Córdoba against the EPL in 1989. Perhaps the most well known engagement involving a Mobile Brigade was "Operation Centaur," which began on Dec. 9, 1990, and involved Mobile Brigade I and other units in an attempt to destroy the operational headquarters of the FARC, known as Casa Verde (The Green House), above La Uribe, Meta. Centaur was part of "Operation Tri-Color," a three-year plan to wipe out guerrillas that ended in 1992. "Sigue operación Caribe en Meta," El Espectador, December 23, 1992; and "Brigada 16 para zona petrolera," El Tiempo, December 9, 1992.

9 Interview, CINEP, Bogotá, June 9, 1992.

10 "Army Reports on Struggle against Guerrillas" from Bogotá Inravisión broadcast on April 2, 1993, FBIS, April 6, 1993, p. 29.

11 See below for the description of this case, which occurred near Achí, Bolívar, on September 29, 1991.

12 See Appendix One for a list of bombardments by the military that have resulted in civilian casualties.

13 Later in this report, we also describe violations of these rules by insurgents. For more on the Americas Watch position on Colombia and violations of the laws of war by both sides, see The Killings in Colombia, pp. 23-28.

14 For more on Colombia's internal refugees, see Robin Kirk, Feeding the Tiger: Colombia's Internal Refugees (Washington, DC: US Committee for Refugees, August, 1993).

15 Interview, Bogotá, June 9, 1992.

16 Report of abuse made to the Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, November 23, 1991.

17 Memo to Americas Watch from the CAJ-SC and Justicia y Paz, October 1, 1993.

18 For more on the Middle Magdalena, see Carlos Medina Gallego, Autodefensas, Paramilitares y Narcotráfico en Colombia (Bogotá: Editorial Documentos Periodisticos, 1990).

19 Throughout this report, we have identified locations using the following convention: Village, Municipality (Department). According to Colombia's political geography, villages (veredas and inspectorías) depend on towns, called municipalities, for most public services. Villages vote for municipal mayors and are included in municipal budgets and censuses despite the fact that they are often hours distant by foot. Often, the only authorities in villages are the members of Community Action Councils or inspectores de policía, civilians who do preliminary criminal investigations.

20 Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 3, No. 1, January-March 1990, pp. 19, 22; and Americas Watch, The Drug War, pp. 54-55.

21 Interview, Pastoral Social, Barrancabermeja, October 19, 1992.

22 Ibid.

23 Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 3, No. 3, July-September, 1990, p. 71.

24 Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 4, No. 3, July-September, 1991, p. 43.

25 Memo to Americas Watch, CAJ-SC, October 1992; Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 4, No. 3, July September, 1991, p. 19; and Denuncia from the Sabana de Torres personero to the Procuraduría, August 25, 1991.

26 Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 4, No. 3, July-September, 1991, p. 19.

27 Memo to Americas Watch, CAJ-SC, October, 1992.

28 Letter to Americas Watch from Justicia y Paz, September 13, 1993.

29 Interview, Procuraduría Office of Special Investigations, Bogotá, March 2, 1993.

30 Justicia y Paz, Boletín lnformativo, Vol. 5, No. 4, October-December, 1992, pp. 128-129.

31 Letter to Procuraduría from Sabana de Torres City Council, October 31, 1992; and Letter to the Project Counseling Service for Latin American Refugees from the Sabana de Torres Regional Committee for Human Rights, October 14, 1992.


Colombia, A Dream of Peace

So that in the fields
the barking of dogs
at any dawn
not be the sinister prowl
of wandering death,
let it be a hand clasp,
let it be the warm smile
of an arriving friend
and not the dark jaws
of a threatening rifle.

So that soldiers and guerrillas
not be for each other
grim seath sniffing out
tremulous life.
Let bombs of bread and toys explode
and out children run among the debris of kisses.

Lancita ... dear soldier ...
Remember that Jacinto, son of that old peasant,
joined the guerrillas
searching for dawns,
the birth of new days.
Let him not return dead,
don't quench his flame.
Because the old woman waits
clutching her rosary
begging the spirits
to let nothing harm him.

Dear friend ... comrade ...
Do you remember Chuchito,
the one who played cops and robbers
with you and the other neighborhood boys?

Today, he's a grown man
full of hope,
he joined the army carrying a flag,
symbol of our nation.
Don't cut short his path
setting ambushes
because you yourself must then
carry the news that will part the soul
of that poor mother
who lives next door.
Hunger also
beats the war drum
spawning weapons.
Each rifle takes (in practice alone)
a year of food
from a family or house
and serves up breakfasts of hatred and bullets.

Peace, they have dressed you in black
although you are white, white;
or in the blue of shipwrecks
or the sinister red
of spilled blood.
You are neither the green hurricane of the
Let all the politicians today cover their faces
and every untouched bride remove her gown
to array you in the white dress of a white cloud.

- Tirso Vélez, Mayor of Tibú, Norte de Santander, "Un alcalde en Apuros,: Cien Días, Vol. 6, No. 22, April-June, 1993, p. 27. Translation by Americas Watch. Following the publication of this poem, Tirso Vélez was charged with terrorism and imprisoned.

33 Statement by José Olides Rincón Guillen to Sergio Jacome, Ocaña personero, May 13, 1993.

34 Corporación Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo," Acción Urgente, September 17, 1993; and Amnesty International Urgent Action 334/93, September 21, 1993.

35 Letter from Paternina to Iván Velásquez Gómez, Antioquia Departmental Procurador, Sept. 10, 1991.

36 Memo to Americas Watch from Justicia y Paz, October 1, 1993; Amnesty International Urgent Action 22/93, January 29, 1993; and follow ups on February 1, February 22, and July, 1993; and Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 6, No. 1, January-March, 1993, p. 30.

37 Memo to Americas Watch, CAJ-SC, October, 1992.

38 Justicia y Paz, Boletín Infomativo, Vol. 4, No. 2, April-June, 1991, p. 76.

39 Memo to Americas Watch, CAJ-SC October, 1992.

40 CREDHOS, "S.O.S. Población Civil," June 3, 1992.

41 Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 5, No. 4, October-December, 1992, pp. 129-130.

42 The Presidential Counselor for Human Rights was later informed by the Defense Minister that four soldiers from Counter-guerrilla Battalion No. 18 "Cimarrones" attached to Mobile Brigade 2 are in military detention, charged with violent sexual assault, abusive sexual assault against a defenseless individual, rape, and conspiracy to commit a crime ("acceso carnal violento acceso carnal abusivo con incapacidad para resistir, violación ... y concierto para delinquir"). They were to be transferred to the civilian prison in Barrancabermeja.

43 CREDHOS, Revista January, 1993, p. 8.

44 Amnesty International Urgent Action 407/92, December 22 and May 10, 1993; and Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 6, No. 1, January-March, 1993, p. 80.

45 Memo to Americas Watch, CAJ-SC, October, 1992.

46 A exodus is the organized flight of peasants from political violence on their farms. While some families are able to return within days after receiving guarantees for their safety from government officials, others become internal refugees. Interview with CREDHOS members, Barrancabermeja, October, 1992.

47 Letter to Americas Watch, Justicia y Paz, September 13, 1993.

48 Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 5, No. 4, October-December, 1992, pp. 123-124; and Mary Speck, "Colombia oil pipeline called tube of misery," Miami Herald, January 4, 1992.

49 Before it was reopened, Defense Minister Rafael Pardo promised to guarantee the security of the Albergue. Interviews, Bogotá and Barrancabermeja, CINEP, Justicia y Paz, and Albergue workers, June 6 and October 19, 1992; Letter to public officials from Justicia y Paz, October 5, 1992; and Memo to Americas Watch from CAJ-SC and Justicia y Paz, October 1, 1993.

50 CREDHOS, Revista, January, 1993, p. 4.

51 Americas Watch missions visited Meta in June and October, 1992, and February, 1993.

52 Names marked with an asterisk (*) have been changed for security reasons at the request of the interviewee.

53 Interviews, La Uribe, February 27, 1993.

54 Ibid.

55 Ibid.

56 Interview, Villavicencio, June 13, 1992.

57 Denuncia made to the Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, November 23, 1991.

58 Meta Civic Committee, Relación de casos: 1991-1992; and ASCODAS magazine, Vol. No. 1, March, 1993, pp. 17-18.

59 Interview, Villavicencio, June 13, 1992.

60 Interviews, Bogotá, June 13, and Villavicencio, October 13, 1992.

61 Interview with Father Jorge Marulanda, Granada, October 22, 1992.

62 Memo to Americas Watch from CAJ-SC and Justicia y Paz, October 1, 1993.

63 Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, Denuncia No. 15, March 9, 1992; and Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, Relación de casos 1991-1992.

64 Letter to Dr. Omar Armando Baquero Soler, March 2, 1992.

65 Letter to Americas Watch from Dr. Jorge Orlando Melo, former Presidential Counselor for Human Rights, June 12, 1992; and declaration by Matilde Ayure to the Office of Special Investigations of the Procuraduría, May 29, 1993.

66 Diligencia de queja rendida por el Señor Eusebio Ayure Bolaños, Office of Special Investigations of the Procuraduría, May 28, 1992.

67 Interview, La Uribe, February 28, 1993. See also Acción Urgente, Corporación Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo," June 5, 1992.

68 Letter from Eusebio Ayure to Dr. César Uribe, Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces, June 9, 1993; and "Civiles entre el fuego cruzado," El Espectador, May 31, 1992.

69 Letter from the Peasant Commission of La Uribe-Mesetas, June 5, 1992; and Colombia Reporta, Revista Semana No. 28, June 12-19, 1992, p. 6.

70 Actualidad Colombiana, No. 107, May 14-27, 1992, pp. 4-5.

71 Letter to Omar Armando Baquero Solar from La Uribe Communal Action Councils, March 2, 1992.

72 Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, Denuncia No. 17, May 27, 1992; and Amnesty International Urgent Action No. 170/92, May 21, 1992.

73 Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, Denuncia No. 15, March 9, 1992.

74 Interviews, La Uribe, February 27, 1993; and Amnesty International Urgent Action No. 170/92, May 21, 1992.

75 Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces Exp. No. 022.122.513, December 22, 1992.

76 Letter to Americas Watch from Dr. Reinaldo Villalba Vargas, Corporación Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo," April 19, 1993.

77 Memo to Americas Watch from CAJ-SC and Justicia y Paz, October 1, 1993.

78 Interview, La Uribe, February 27, 1993.

79 Meta Civic Committee, Relación de casos: 1991-1992; and ASCODAS magazine, Vol. No. 1, March, 1993, p. 19.

80 Meta Civic Committee, Denuncia No. 23, August 10, 1992.

81 Such official protests are not new. In 1989 local community and union leaders wrote to the Procuraduría to protest the behavior of the 21st Battalion "Vargas," which they said included abuse of authority, robbery, torture, assault, damage to property, and deliberately causing panic in the area. Amnesty International, "Possible Extrajudicial Execution of Six People in El Castillo, Meta," AMR 23/16/90, April 1990.

82 "Ejército desconoce derechos humanos en región de La Uribe," El Espectador, March 17, 1992.

83 Amnesty International Urgent Action 392/93, November 5, 1993.

84 Summary by Justicia y Paz, undated; and Amnesty International Urgent Action 16/93, January 21, 1993.

85 Amnesty International Urgent Action 121/93, April 21, 1993.

86 ASCODAS, Vol. No. 1, March 1993, p. 8. 97

87 Interview, Meta Civic Committee, Villavicencio, June 12, 1992.

88 Ibid.

89 Grupo de Trabajo Internacional por los Derechos Humanos, Décimo Llamado Internacional, February, 1993, p. 2.

90 International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), Mission to Colombia: April 11-19 (Geneva: ICVA, 1991), p. 24; and Alejandro Valencia, "Desplazamiento Interno en Colombia," paper presented at the Conference of Jurists on the National and International Protection of Displaced Peoples in America, Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos, San Salvador, May 13-16, 1992, p. 3.

91 Political Murder and Reform in Colombia, p. 16.

92 Among those named by the authorities as part of Carranza's organization was the mayor of El Carmen, Santander, implicated in the growth of paramilitary groups in the region known as the Chucurí. "Acusan a Carranza de reorganizar grupos paramilitares," El Espectador, April 11, 1992. See also The Paramilitary Strategy Imposed on Colombia's Chucurí Region (Bogotá: Intercongregational Commission for Justice and Peace, January, 1993); and Political Murder and Reform in Colombia, pp. 8-16.

<93/a> Interview, Bogotá, October 13, 1992.

94 Letter from Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, undated.

95 Professional soldiers have also reportedly hired themselves out as sicarios. Such was the case involving Wilson Eduardo Daza Rosso and José Alberto Cristiano Riaño, members of a counterguerrilla company belonging to the Revéis Pizarro Battalion in Saravena, Arauca. According to witnesses, they killed El Tiempo journalist Henry Rojas Monje on December 28, 199 1, for the equivalent of $120.00. They were allegedly paid by the municipality of Arauca, whose mayor, José Gregorio González Cisneros, apparently had a dispute with the journalist over money. They were subsequently arrested by the DAS. "Alcaldía de Arauca tenía en su nómina a sicario que mató a periodista," Nuevo Siglo, April 15, 1992.

96 At the time of his death, García was leading the investigation into the murder of his wife, the former mayor of El Castillo, and four others on June 3 (described in the following pages). Letter to President César Gaviria Trujillo from Americas Watch, December 8, 1992.

97 Letter to Manuel Velasco [sic] Clark, staff attorney, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, from Aída Abella, President, Patriotic Union, June 28, 1993.

98 Letter to Americas Watch from Mariana Escobar, office of the Presidential Counselor for Human Rights, June 2, 1993; and Memo to Americas Watch from CAJ-SC and Justicia y Paz, October 1, 1993.

99 ASCODAS magazine, Vol. No 1, March 1993, p. 15; and National Coordinating Committee for Human Rights and Victims of the Dirty War (CONADHEGS), Acción Urgente, October 29, 1992.

100 Letter to CINEP from UNUMA, November 27, 1992.

101 "El Castillo: matanza de funcionarios," El Tiempo, June 4, 1992, p. 2.

102 Interview with El Castillo authorities, El Castillo, October 22, 1992.

103 Ibid.

104 Defensoría del Pueblo, Estudio de¡ caso de Homicidio de Miembros de la Unión Patriótica y Esperanza, Paz y Libertad: Informe para el Congreso, el Gobierno y el Procurador General de la Nación. (Santafé de Bogotá: October, 1992), p. 68.

105 Interview, Villavicencio, June 22, 1992.

106 The name of the soldier who killed the civilian was never released to town authorities. It is not clear if any action was ever taken to punish him. Interviews, La Uribe, February 27, 1993.

107 Interview, Justicia y Paz, Bogotá, March 1, 1993.

108 According to the Public Defender's office, the investigation into this quadruple homicide has so far produced an arrest warrant for one suspect and the detention of a second. Political Murder and Reform in Colombia, pp. 5-6; see also ASCODAS magazine, Vol. No. 1, March, 1993, p. 12.

109 Lechona, Parafina, Sapotoreado, Camisa Negra, Grano de Pólvora.

110 Interview, Villavicencio, October 22, 1993.

111 Amnesty International Urgent Action 127/93, April 23, 1993.

112 Such a defense is not unique to Mobile Brigades or specialized counterguerrilla units. After intense operations by the 2nd Brigade against guerrillas in the Sierra de Perijá, Cesar, in June and July, 1990, Brigadier General Juan Salcedo Lora told reporters that the reports of abuses, torture, murder, and the mass exodus of peasants from thirteen villages was "an action organized by FARC sympathizers and political organizations allied to this movement and the self-defense groups that have been previously organized by them. In this way they produce a movement meant to impede the continuation of military operations against their camps or against FARC columns." Nevertheless, area authorities, including elected congressional deputies, mayors, and ICRC representatives collected hundreds of testimonies documenting widespread abuses. Letter to Ismael Alonso Martínez Charry, Cesar Regional Procurador, from Deputy Alexis Hinastroza et al and medical report on the torture of peasant Pablo Muñoz Torrez, June 28; letter to the ICRC by Víctor Ochoa Amaya, mayor of Becerril, on July 2; and "No hay bombardeo contra campesinos," El Heraldo, July 3, 1990.

113 CAJ-SC "Panorama de los Derechos Huntanos en Colombia: 1990," December 4, 1990, p. 2.

114 "Cada diez horas muere un guerrillero," El Tiempo, June 29, 1992.

115 CINEP, Acción Urgente Internacional, June 8, 1993; and Amnesty International Urgent Action 187/93, June 11, 1993.

116 Interview. Name and date withheld by request.

117 Memo to Americas Watch from CAJ-SC October 1992.

118 Interview, Bogotá, March 2, 1993.

119 Conclusions of the Procurador Delegate on reports of abuses by Mobile Brigade 1 in Meta, Exp. No. 022.122.513, December 22, 1992; and Letter to Mauricio Gutiérrez Echeverry, Vice-Procurador General of the Nation, from Justicia y Paz, June 10, 1993.

120 Letter to the Procurador General from Justicia y Paz, June 6, 1993; and Exp. No. 022 120.332.- from Dr. César Uribe, Procurador Delegate for the Armed Forces, December 30, 1992.

121 In Spanish, sobreseimiento definitivo porfalta de pruebas. Asociación SETA, Misión de Identificación de Derechos Humanos en Colombia (Brussels, Belgium: Asociación SETA - La Comunidad Europea, May, 1993), p. 59.

122 "Condenada Nación por muerte de 6 labriegos," El Tiempo, June 1, 1992.

123 "Condena a la Nación por $24 millones," El Mundo, January 22, 1993.

124 Telephone conversation with CAJ-SC, November 16, 1993.

125 "Defense Minister Proposes Military Reforms," El Espectador, September 16, FBIS, October 25, 1993, pp. 58-59.

126 For additional information on Americas Watch documentation of violations of the laws of war by guerrillas, see Political Murder and Reform in Colombia, pp. 60-68; The Killings in Colombia, pp. 23-33; The "Drug War" in Colombia, pp. 64-71; and Human Rights in Colombia As President Barco Begins, pp. 44-47.

127 "Yo también acuso," Semana, December 15, 1992, p. 73.

128 "Destruida escuela en combates," El Mundo, November 22, 1991.

129 Justicia y Paz, "Informe de los hechos sucedidos en los corregimientos de Tiquisio y Puerto Coca (Municipios de Pinillos, Departamento de Bolivar), 1988-1990," September, 1990, p. 2.

130 "Medellín, la más violenta," El Mundo, March 23, 1993.

131 "34.5 percent ha disminuido el secuestro en 1993: Dijin," El Tiempo, June 9, 1993.

132 Ardila's kidnapping ended in tragedy for Gregorio Nieves, an Arsario Indian killed by UNASE during tile rescue search. James Brooke, "Guerrillas are Imperiling Colombia's Oil Bonanza," New York Times, November 10, 1992.

133 "A mejorar los sistemas de defensa," El Espectador, June 14, 1992.

134 "Alerta ecológica por atentado guerrillero," La República, July 17, 1992.

135 "Colombia Uses Military Muscle to Shield Cusiana-Cupiagua Fields," Knight-Ridder Financial News, July 2, 1993.

136 Letter to CGSB from Americas Watch, June 16, 1993.

137 After the government announced a state of "internal commotion" in the wake of the killing by the FARC of twenty six policemen near Orito, Putumayo, on November 7, 1992, guerrillas unleashed a wave bombings against civilian targets, including hotels, public buildings, and banks in at least six cities. In Bogotá at least thirty people died and over seventy were injured in less than forty-eight hours. "Crece ofensiva guerrillera," El Espectador, October 21, 1992.

138 "Cortocircuito," Semana, October 5, p. 47; Grupo de Trabjo Internacional, Actualidad Colombiana No. 139, September 14-28, pp. 3-4; and Bogotá Televisión Cadena 1, September 24, 1993, FBIS, September 27, 1993, p. 36.

139 "Government, CRS guerrillas Agree to Resume Peace Talks," Bogotá Emisoras Caracol, October 24, FBIS, October 25, 1993, pp. 45-46; and "Domingo Lain Front becomes another ELN Splinter Group," EFE News, October 20, FBIS, October 26, 1993, pp. 51-52.

140 "Corriente de Renovación Socialista del ELN critica a la CG," El Tiempo, December 22, 1992.

141 "Milicias populares dicen que quieren dialogar," El Tiempo, June 19, 1993.

142 Interview, San Miguel, June 16, 1992.

143 Regional Indigenous Council of Tolima, "El 21 Frente de las FARC-EP Admite Asesinato de Yezid Ducuara Villabón," April 12, 1993.

144"Entérese la verdad," 21st front of the FARC, undated.

145 DAS, Violaciones de los Derechos Humanos por parte de la Subversion en Colombia, March 18, 1993, p. 10.

146 CAJ-SC, "Lost Illusions? Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Colombia in 1992," January 1993, p. 11.

147 "Urabá: muere un científico canadiense," El Tiempo, May 14, 1992.

148 "Yo también acuso," Semana, December 15, 1992, p. 73.

149 Ibid.

150 "FARC claims responsibility for attacks," Bogotá Emisoras Caracol, March 28, 1992, FBIS, March 30, 1992, p. 33; and "Un muerto al estallar dos bombas en Bogotá," Nuevo Siglo, March 28, 1992.

151 "ELN se atribuye crimen de director de La Opinión," La Prensa, March 17, 1993; and Letter to Americas Watch from the Committee to Protect Journalists, August 11, 1993.

152 "Nueva pesadilla," Semana, March 23, 1993, pp. 30-31.

153 "Yo también acuso," Semana, December 15, 1992, p. 74; and Miami Herald, June 29, 1992.

154 "Yo también acuso," Semana, December 15, 1992, p. 72.

155 "Comunicado de Mindefensa," Nuevo Siglo, May 19, 1992.

156 "Liberados tripulantes del avión Aerotaca," El Espectador, June 13, 1992.

157 Letter to Americas Watch from César Santiago, Treasurer, ACIPET, May 28; ECOPETROL press release, May 26; Unión Sindical Obrera press release, May 25; "ECOPETROL: asesinado jefe de producción," El Tiempo, April 3; and Letter to CGSB from Americas Watch, June 16, 1993.

158 Revista de CREDHOS, January 1993, p. 8.

159 "ELN pide investigación de la Procuraduría en Pailitas," El Tiempo, November 28, 1991.

160 "Secuestrado alcalde de Simití, Bolívar," La Prensa, April 7, 1992; and "Liberados alcalde y funcionario del PNR," El Tiempo, February 3, 1992.

161 "Four mayors kidnapped in guerrilla attacks," Miami Herald, June 4, 1992; and "Liberados alcaldes de Puerto Rondón y la Montañita," El Espectador, May 26, 1992.

162 "Guerrillas kidnap Italian consul," Miami Herald, July 9, 1993.

163 "Police Recover Body of Kidnapped Diplomat," Raleigh News and Observer, November 19, 1993.

164 CAJ-SC "Lost Illusions? Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Colombia in 1992, p. 12.

165 "Comunicado del ELN," El Tiempo, June 10, 1992.

166 "Medios no cederán su independencia," El Tiempo, June 12, 1992.

167 "10 heridos por bombas del ELN," El Tiempo, December 10, 1992.

168 "Perecen 3 niños al estallar bomba del ELN," El Espectador, February 13, 1992; and "La Violencia golpea al futuro del país," El Espectador, March 1, 1992.

169 "Otro muerto al estallar mina guerrillera," El Mundo, February 20, 1992.

170 "Desmanetlada una fábrica de minas 'quiebrapatas' del ELN," La Prensa, June 16, 1992.

171 This program was haunted by many of the same problems that crippled a similar plan, instituted after a peace accord with the FARC, that was meant to bring ex-FARC militants into public life. These included inadequate security measures for amnestied guerrillas, who immediately found themselves prey to a wide range of official and unofficial killers. In addition, Hope, Peace and Liberty members charge that promised PNR grants and loans have not materialized.

172 Defensoría del Pueblo, Estudio del caso de Homicidio de Miembros de la Unión Patriótica y Esperanza, Paz y Libertad, pp. 53-54.

173 Ibid.

174 Fundación Progresar, "Recientes homicidios cometidos contra miembros de 'Esperanza, Paz y Libertad' y obreros bananeros de Urabá," March 15, 1993.

175 Ibid., pg. 56.

176 "Union leader slain outside Medellín hotel," Miami Herald, February 28, 1993.

177 "El Trimestre en sucesos," Cien Días, Vol. 6, No. 23, July-September, 1993, p. 31.

178178 Ibid., p. 57; and "Quien mata al EPL?" El Espectador, May 10, 1992.

179 "Banana Workers Strike to Protest Violence," Miami Herald, March 9, 1993.

180 "Nacen más grupos de autodefensa," La Prensa, April 21, 1992.

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