COLOMBIA UPDATE: January 13- February 14, 2002
March 8, 2002
COLOMBIA UPDATE: January 13 February 14, 2002
Sunday, January 13
CPTers Lena Siegers Lisa Martens, William Payne, Bob Holmes and Matt Schaaf
attempted to meet with
paramilitary AUC leaders in the Opon region. The leaders were not there so
the team prayed and talked with members of the local paramilitary-controlled
community, who were welcoming and friendly. Siegers, Martens and Payne
returned to Barranca, whileHolmes and Schaaf maintained an international
presence in the Opon.
Monday, January 14, 2002
On the Opon, Schaaf and Holmes encountered the AUC at the junction of
the Colorada and Opon rivers and engaged them in a conversation that
included guitar playing and song. Martens and Scott Kerr accompanied eight
human rights workers to
the Cimitarra Valley and stayed overnight. In Barranca, Siegers, Carol Rose
and Payne attended prayers for peace at the local Catholic Church,
ate at the home of a church member and heard stories about the paramilitary
takeover of the neighborhood one year ago.
Tuesday, January 15, 2002
On the Opon River, Schaaf and Holmes found no armed persons at the usual
checkpoint but met an AUC leader near the junction of the Opon and Rasquina
rivers. He said he had no objection to the owner of the house on the
checkpoint (who had moved because of the paramilitaries) returning but he
and his team would continue to work there.
Wednesday, January 16
Returning to Barranca from the Opon, Schaaf and Holmes heard reports of
heavy gunfire at 4 pm the previous day near the checkpoint and were told
that guerillas had fired on a canoe carrying AUC members. (See January 26
release: "Leave the Civil Population in Peace.") They photographed FARC
graffiti on the house at the checkpoint
Sieger, Martens, Payne and Schaaf visited a neighbourhood of
Barranca where they met known AUC members who confirmed AUC injuries in the
gunfire on the Opon the previous day.
Thursday, January 17, 2002
Rose, Siegers and Schaaf traveled to the Opon and found no armed persons at
the checkpoint. The new graffiti had been painted over. The team was told
later that this was done by members of the community living on the Opon.
Friday, January 18, 2002
Shantz, Holmes and Kerr accompanied a human rights worker to the Cimitarra
Valley. On the Opon, Siegers, Rose and Schaaf saw the Navy soldiers
conversing with persons in a canoe known to CPT as paramilitaries. CPTers
were concerned because the AUC is an illegal armed group known to have
committed serious human rights violations, and the Colombian Navy denies
any connection to the AUC. (See February 2 release, "The Navy and
Paramilitaries Seen on the Opon River.") After the Navy departed the AUC
boat returned to the checkpoint with seven or eight armed men, and the CPT
team stopped to talk with them. The AUC showed the team the motor cover,
with five bullet holes in it, from the canoe and allowed the team to
The AUC members asked what the team would do if the guerillas attacked.
Rose said, "I don't think they would shoot if we were here." Schaaf said,
"We would have to leave, because we don't protect people with guns."
Monday, January 21
Siegers, Shantz and Schweitzer traveled to the Cimitara Valley and
accompanied a group of human rights workers back to Barranca. In Barranca,
the CPT statement denouncing the armed conflict of Jan.15 was distributed
non-governmental organizations (NGOS) and media. In the late afternoon
Martens, Schweitzer and Payne went to a paramilitary-controlled
neighbourhood and delivered the statement to paramilitary leaders.
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
CPT hosted a daylong delegation to visit the Opon for Barranca human
rights workers, municipal government officials, media and friends. At the
place where the paramilitaries often have a checkpoint, the group prayed and
called on the Creator to drive out the spirit of violence and replace it
with the spirit of love.
Thursday, January 24, 2002
The team in Barranca met with Navy Major Agustin Rodriguez about the Jan 18
incident where Navy officers and paramilitaries were seen together in the
Opon. Lt. Leonardo Garzon, who led the Navy group that day, joined the
meeting and claimed that he did not know that the persons in question were
Rodriguez informed CPT that the Navy is present to protect the civilians
from both illegal armed groups-- the guerillas and the paras. The CPTers
said they were going to make a public statement on what they had observed.
The team in the Opon traveled to Cienaga Lake, home to the refugees now
living in Barranca, and observed smoke and cars at the village site. When
they investigate, they encountered about twenty heavily armed AUC
paramilitaries who claimed they lit the fire to clear the roadway. The team
observed and documented that about five homes had been destroyed by the
fire and speculated that their arrival may have prevented further
destruction. (See February 7 release, "Burnt.")
Friday, January 25
Rose and Payne attended a meeting of the Cienaga Return Committee to
discuss security issues regarding the return of the community on March 1.
Representatives from the community, NGOs, the national government, military
and police were there.
Monday, January 28
The refugee community in Barranca reported that a young man from
their community was taken from a canoe by paramilitaries on the river. He
was released in Barranca several hours later.
Tuesday, January 29
Martens, Chris Schweitzer, Jim Fitz and Shantz traveled to the
Opon, encountering two paramilitaries detaining eight civilians at the
checkpoint. The paras spoke
of guerillas upriver. Martens and Schweitzer stayed with the civilians at
the checkpoint while Shantz and Fitz went upriver. A short distance upriver
they discovered eight more armed paras on the shore who were about to
return to the checkpoint. The CPT canoe returned also. The civilians were
allowed to proceed but a few minutes later another boat full of civilians
was detained and the men asked for their IDs. This group too was released.
The para leader told CPT they intended to stay the night at the checkpoint.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Kerr, Siegers, Holmes and Payne went to a para-controlled neighbourhood and
prayed publicly for peace. The children gathered around and helped make
peace posters they could keep or post in the neighbourhood.
Siegers, Kerr and Holmes traveled to the Cimitara Va