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AmericasWatch: Several Recent Assassinations Against Activists in Latin Americas

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    AmericasWatch: Several Recent Assassinations Against Activists in Latin Americas February 5, 2003 Occasional series by PeaceNoWar.net URL:
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      AmericasWatch: Several Recent Assassinations Against Activists in Latin Americas
      February 5, 2003
      Occasional series by PeaceNoWar.net
      URL: http://www.PeaceNoWar.net

      For the past month, several Latin American labor and human rights activists had been murdered by paramilitaries and assassins.

      As usual, also very sad, Colombia has been one of the worse in the list. It's been a clear links between war in Iraq, School of Americas, multinational corporations, right-wing paramilitaries and US foreign policies on the region.

      Please read the following alerts and take actions!

      News:
      1) High-Profile Brazilian Land Rights Activist Murdered (OneWorld.net)
      2) Colombia: Plan to assassinate the President of oil workers' union (ANNCOL.com)
      3) INDIGENOUS KUNA LEADERS ASSASINATED BY COLOMBIAN PARAMILITARIES (Amazon Watch)
      4) When students are taught to kill (School of Americas Watch)

      Past Assassinations:
      5) Human Remains from 68 Coup Found in Panama Identified (Assoicated Press)
      =============================================================
      1) High-Profile Brazilian Land Rights Activist Murdered
      Thu Jan 16, 5:26 PM ET

      Jim Lobe, OneWorld US
      World - OneWorld.net

      The leader of one of Brazil's largest indigenous groups was murdered this
      week by unidentified gunmen, according to London-based Survival
      International which issued a statement Wednesday condemning the killing and
      noting that it was the third assassination of an Indian in Brazil during
      the first two weeks of 2003.

      Marcos Veron, a prominent Guarani-Kaiowa tribal leader in the southwest
      state of Mato Grosso do Sul, was shot in the head and died at a local
      missionary hospital, local news media reported. His 14-year-old nephew was
      reportedly also shot and other Indians beaten in the attack, which is now
      being investigated by state and federal authorities.

      Believed to have been about 70 years old, Veron led a group of some 350
      Guarani-Kaiowa who have been trying to reclaim land seized by ranchers and
      farmers some 50 years ago. In recent months, they had been living on a
      22-acre strip alongside a highway bordering land they claim as their own.

      They have tried repeatedly and non-violently to re-occupy the disputed
      land, from which their parents and grandparents were forcibly expelled in
      the late 1940s. Veron told reporters during a brief re-occupation several
      months ago, "This here is my life, my soul...If you take me away from this
      land, you take my life."

      Two years ago, Veron toured Europe to publicize the plight of Brazilian
      Indians, and particularly the 20,000-strong Guarani-Kaiowa, long pressured
      by the government and settlers to leave their lands and confined to
      reservations and small plots of land.

      In a landmark decision two months ago, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice
      returned an area of land, known as Cerro Marangatu, to 400 Guarani-Kaiowa
      whose forbears were violently removed more than 50 years ago. The
      unprecedented ruling gave new hope to other community members over
      outstanding claims on their ancestral lands.

      While the government of former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique
      Cardoso launched a major initiative to demarcate Indian lands, farmers and
      ranchers who live in the regions brought a series of legal challenges in
      state courts
      against the move.

      Veron was the leader of a group that tried to return to their land at
      Takuara in 1999, only to be expelled some months later by armed police and
      soldiers acting under an order by a state court. The group have since been
      camped along the highway hoping for a decree similar to the one granted the
      Cerro Marangatu community.

      The circumstances of Veron's killing Monday are unclear. While one news
      report said Veron and a group of other Takuara community members were
      attacked by armed men when they entered an area under dispute, a
      privately-run farm of about 23,000 acres, other reports said the Indians
      were attacked along the highway.

      Indigenous groups and their advocates are hoping that the demarcation
      effort will speed up under Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva who succeeded
      Cardoso as president at the start of this year. His electoral program
      called for "deep and substantial changes [in national policy] to meet the
      yearnings of...indigenous people."

      Lula's Workers Party has been an outspoken advocate for indigenous rights
      for decades, and he has personally visited parts of Brazil where the
      struggle of its estimated 350,000 Indians has been most difficult.

      Survival's director Stephen Corry said Wednesday, "The terrible plight of
      the Guarani-Kaiowa, and the many other tribes without land in Brazil, is
      the most urgent issue facing the new President."


      *******************************************************************
      Distribuido por: Distributed by:
      'AMAZON ALLIANCE' FOR INDIGENOUS AND TRADITIONAL PEOPLES OF THE AMAZON BASIN
      1367 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 400 Washington, DC 20036-1860
      tel (202)785-3334 fax (202)785-3335
      amazon@... http://www.amazonalliance.org

      Disclaimer: All copyrights belong to original publisher. The Amazon
      Alliance has not verified the accuracy of the forwarded message. Forwarding
      this message does not necessarily connote agreement with the positions
      stated there-in.

      Todos los derechos de autor pertenecen al autor originario. La Alianza
      Amazonica no ha verificado la veracidad de este mensaje. Enviar este
      mensaje no necesariamente significa que la Alianza Amazonica este de
      acuerdo con el contenido.

      La Alianza Amazonica para los Pueblos Indigenas y Tradicionales de la
      Cuenca Amazonica es una iniciativa nacida de la alianza entre los pueblos
      indigenas y tradicionales de la Amazonia y grupos e individuos que
      comparten sus preocupaciones por el futuro de la Amazonia y sus pueblos.
      Hay mas de ochenta organizaciones del norte y del sur activas en la Alianza
      Amazonica. La Alianza Amazonica trabaja para defender los derechos,
      territorios, y el medio ambiente de los pueblos indigenas y tradicionales
      de la Cuenca Amazonica.

      The Amazon Alliance for Indigenous and Traditional Peoples of the Amazon
      Basin is an initiative born out of the partnership between indigenous and
      traditional peoples of the Amazon and groups and individuals who share their
      concerns for the future of the Amazon and its peoples. There are over
      eighty non-governmental organizations from the North and South active in
      the Alliance. The Amazon Alliance works to defend the rights, territories,
      and environment of indigenous and traditional peoples of the Amazon Basin.
      =============================================================2) Plan to assassinate the President of oil workers' union
      By ANNCOL

      The Colombian Oil Workers' Union rejects and condemns a dark plan targeted at the president of their organisation: Rudolfo Gutierrez Nino.

      ANNCOL is pleased to provide our readers with an English translation of the latest and shocking press releases from the Colombian Oil Workers' Union (USO) and the Central Trade Union Federation of Colombia (CUT):

      ***

      THE OIL WORKERS UNION DENOUNCES A PLAN TO ASSASSINATE ITS PRESIDENT

      Through direct threats and information received from a number of reliable sources, we know that a plan is underway to attack the national president of the USO, comrade Rudolfo Gutierrez Nino.

      The situation has come about since union discussions with the government and Ecopetrol management regarding the very serious situation the state company is in because of the fall in reserves and production, the low yields from the refineries and the leasing of pipelines, as well as the system of storing fuel; as well as counter-reforms that are eroding workers' rights and preventing the free exercise of their trade union activities, including dismissals, disciplinary processes and criminalisation.

      All these things have prevented any possibility of negotiating the list of demands we presented in order to renew the Collective Labour Convention which expired on 31 December 2002.

      Those who are planning to carry out this criminal act seek to unleash violence against the union in order to silence the voices of protest against the intentions of North American multinationals to take possession of the hydrocarbon industry, a process that started with the restructuring of the company and official oil policy.

      USO rejects and condemns this dark plan targeted at the president of our organisation. We demand that the government of President Alvaro Uribe Velez provide guarantees to enable the union to function and to preserve our right to exercise civilised and democratic opposition to government policies.


      National Executive Committee of the Oil Workers' Union (USO)
      15 January 2003, Bogota

      ***

      THE GOVERNMENT OF URIBE VELEZ GIVES THE ORDER TO DETAIN THE NATIONAL LEADER OF THE USO AND THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF USO IS THREATENED

      The Central Trade Union Federation of Colombia (CUT), through its Human Rights Department, denouces before national and international public opinion the onslaught by the government of Alvaro Uribe Velez against the Colombian trade union movement.

      A specific example of this onslaught is the ongoing criminalisation of the leaders of the Oil Workers Union (USO). Today, 15 January, the National Public Prosecutor gave the order to detain comrade HERNANDO HERNANDEZ, Secretary for International Affairs of the Oil Workers Union (USO); comrade HERNANDO was the First Vice-President of the Executive Committee of USO in its last session.

      Likewise, we denounce the death threats against comrade RODOLFO GUTIERREZ, President of USO, and against EDGAR MOJICA, the National Leader of the union.

      These events coincide with a growing labour conflict concerning the negotiation of the union's list of demands to which the response of the "ECOPETROL" corporation has been to dismiss trade union leaders and militarise the refineries.

      We will continue to call for solidarity with Colombian workers. Now as much as ever we need your urgent and vital response to the attitude of the Alvaro Uribe Velez government.


      DOMINGO TOVAR ARRIETA
      Director of the Human Rights Department of the CUT
      Bogota, 15 January 2003

      (Translated by the Colombia Peace Association)

      [Read more at http://www.anncol.com]
      =============================================================3) INDIGENOUS KUNA LEADERS ASSASINATED BY COLOMBIAN PARAMILITARIES
      Date: 1/22/2003 6:44:02 PM Pacific Standard Time
      From: amazon@...

      FOUR INDIGENOUS KUNA LEADERS ASSASINATED BY COLOMBIAN PARAMILITARIES
      ON PANAMA BORDER AND TWO US AND ONE CANADIAN REPORTERS KIDNAPPED

      Translated by ASEJ/ACERCA
      From La Prensa, Panama 1/21/03
      http://www.prensa.com/hoy/portada/853397.html

      Fear and Pain in Paya, Attack Leaves Four Dead

      Four Kuna indigenous authorities were assassinated this weekend and
      two US and one Canadian reporter were kidnapped by a Colombian
      paramilitary group that attacked the villages of Paya and Pucuro, in
      the Darien, this past weekend.
      A group of 150 paramilitaries assassinated the leaders of the Kuna
      Paya village Ernesto Ayala, mayor; San Pascual Ayala, second mayor,
      and Luis Enrique Martínez, village commissioner. One of the US
      reporters is Robert Pelton of the Discovery Channel.

      According to local witness Luis Caicedo, "We found three corpses
      chopped up by machetes with bullets in their head in the mountains so
      we couldn't take the corpses back because the land was still being
      guarded by the paramilitaries."

      Gilberto Vasquez, mayor of Vasquez, was also murdered. His body was
      found with a bullet in the back of his head inside his house in the
      village.

      This same paramilitary brigade had captured, just hours before, the
      US Discovery Channel reporter Robert Pelton and two other reporters,
      Marc Wedever of Canada, and another US journalist that is
      unidentified.

      Migdonio Batista, a correspondent for the radio station Voices
      without Borders of the Darien, who resides in Paya indicated that the
      paramilitaries, in addition to killing the village authorities,
      robbed all of the belongings of the only radio station office in the
      village. He also said that the armed paramilitaries robbed the
      chickens, ducks and pigs and murdered the dogs. Upon leaving the
      village they dropped explosives in local trucks so that they could
      get away without being followed.

      Another resident, Victor Maritinez, explained that since last
      Saturday afternoon, when they were attacked by the Colombian
      paramilitaries, the residents have not eaten anything and have only
      drank water from the river. Also, as of 48 hours after the weekends
      murders the National Police had not arrived with any help or
      protection. The "Prensa" newspaper confirmed that as of two days
      after the attack there was still no response from the border patrol.

      Isidro Ayala, whose father was assassinated in this attack, explained
      that the indigenous had to confront the paramilitaries with bows and
      arrows and with wooden beams to defend their property and families
      "because there hasn't been any police in this place for two years."

      Paya is a community with 530 indigenous residents located in the
      mountains of Pinogana and about 2 hours from the Colombian border.
      After the attack, there was only 50 residents remaining in Paya. The
      rest of the town was seeking refuge in the Boca de Cupe community or
      in the nearby mountains. Pucuro, a close by village, was entirely
      abandoned by its 20 residents. The paramilitaries arrived in Pucuro,
      burnt 5 houses down, and after finding no residents assassinated
      Gilberto Vasquez, who had been taken prisoner in Paya.

      ACERCA/ASEJ received this action alert from The Kuna Youth Indigenous
      Movement asking for international solidarity to conndemn the violence
      of Plan Colombia that has contributed to this murder of indigenous
      leaders in Panama. We translated the artilce from
      http://www.prensa.com/hoy/portada/853397.html
      brendan@...
      ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 
      What you can do?
      1) Please circulate this article far and wide to inform people of
      this violence of Plan Colombia leading to the death of 4 Kuna
      Indigenous Leaders in Panama.
      2) Stay tuned for follow-up messages and action alerts
      3) Stop the violence in Colombia, by getting involved with the March
      23rd/24th Colombia Mobilization (http://www.colombiamobilization.org)
      and the April 10th-15th Latin American Solidarity Coalition
      (http://lasolidarity.org)
      ______________________________________________________________________

      Ciudad de Panama, 21 de enero de 2003
      La Prensa

      MIEDO Y DOLOR EN PAYA, ATAQUE DEJA 4 MUERTOS

      PAYA, Darién.- Cuatro autoridades indígenas(kunas) fueron asesinadas
      y además dos
      estadounidenses (entre ellos un periodista) y un canadiense fueron
      secuestrados
      por la columna de paramilitares colombianos que atacó y saqueó este fin
      de
      semana (18-19 de enero) las aldeas fronterizas de Paya y Púcuro, en
      Darién,
      confirmaron ayer residentes de estas poblaciones.

      Uno de los estadounidenses es Robert Pelton, de la empresa
      televisiva Discovery
      Channel.

      Según las versiones de los lugareños, un grupo de 150 integrantes de las

      paramilitares Autodefensas Unidas Campesinas de Urabá (ACUU) asesinaron
      el
      pasado sábado en Paya a Ernesto Ayala, jefe cacique; San Pascual
      Ayala, segundo
      cacique, y Luis Enrique Martínez, comisario de esta aldea.

      "Encontramos los tres cadáveres macheteados y con disparos en la cabeza
      en las
      montañas y aún no hemos rescatado sus cuerpos porque el terreno fue
      minado por
      los 'paras'", indicó el lugareño Luis Caicedo.

      De igual forma se comprobó que los paramilitares le quitaron la vida
      a Gilberto
      Vásquez, cacique principal de la población vecina de Púcuro.

      Su cadáver -con un disparo en la parte de atrás de la cabeza- fue
      dejado dentro
      de su casa en esta aldea.

      Esta misma brigada paramilitar había capturado horas antes a Robert
      Pelton,
      periodista estadounidense de Discovery Channel, y a dos acompañantes,
      Marc
      Wedever, canadiense, y a una estadounidense no identificada.

      Migdonio Batista, un corresponsal de la emisora Voz sin Frontera del
      Darién, que
      reside en Paya, indicó que los paramilitares, además de asesinar a las
      autoridades de ese poblado, se robaron todos los enseres que había en el
      único
      kiosco del pueblo.

      También dijo que los hombres armados se llevaron las gallinas, patos
      y puercos y
      asesinaron los perros. Al salir del pueblo enterraron explosivos en
      los caminos
      para facilitar su huida y evitar ser perseguidos.

      Víctor Martínez, otro residente, explicó que desde el sábado pasado
      en horas de
      la tarde, cuando fueron atacados por los insurgentes colombianos,
      los moradores
      no comen nada y solo tienen el agua del río para ingerir y que, después
      de 48
      horas de ocurridos los hechos, la Policía Nacional no se ha
      apersonado al lugar
      para brindarles ayuda y protección.

      La Prensa pudo comprobar que en Paya, dos días después del ataque
      armado, no
      había ninguna unidad de la policía fronteriza.

      Isidro Ayala, cuyo padre fue asesinado en esta incursión, manifestó que
      los
      indígenas tuvieron que enfrentarse a los paramilitares con arcos y
      flechas y con
      algunos maderos para defender sus ranchos y sus familiares "porque
      no hay ningún
      policía en este lugar desde hace dos años".

      Paya es una comunidad de 530 habitantes indígenas localizada en las
      montañas de
      Pinogana y a unas dos horas a pie del límite fronterizo con Colombia.

      Después del ataque, en Paya solo quedan unos 50 residentes. El resto
      se refugió
      en la comunidad de Boca de Cupe o en las montañas cercanas.

      En Púcuro, la aldea entera fue abandonada por sus casi 20 residentes.

      Los paramilitares, al llegar a este poblado, quemaron cinco casas porque
      no
      encontraron a nadie y luego asesinaron a su cacique Gilberto
      Vásquez, que había
      sido tomado prisionero en Paya.
      =============================================================
      4) When students are taught to kill
      Date: 1/30/2003 12:56:35 PM Pacific Standard Time
      From: news@...

      When students are taught to kill

      By Hendrik Voss/SOAW

      Colombia has sent over 10,000 soldiers to train at the US military training school SOA - more than any other country. According to the watchdog group SOA Watch this "biggest terrorist training camp on US soil" has amongst its students had a number of would-be killers from the top brass of the Colombian armed forces

      Although human rights violations officially attributed to the Colombian military have decreased, the Human Rights Watch and State Department reports establish the collusion and collaboration between the military and the paramilitary forces. With military support, the paramilitaries have begun operating as surrogate death squads and thugs.

      SOA Grads Cited in Reports:

      Major David Hernández Rojas and Captain Diego Fino Rodriguez, cited by the US State Department Human Rights Report (SDHRR) for the March 14, 1999 murder of Alex Lopera, Antioqua peace commissioner and former Vice Minister for Youth. The two SOA grads along with other members of the 4th Counter-guerrilla Battalion killed Alex Lopera and two others as they tried to deliver ransom for a kidnapping victim. They set up a military roadblock, detained and killed the victims, stole the ransom money, and then pushed the victims and the vehicle into a deep crevice.

      According to Human Rights Watch Report (HRWR) sworn testimony, Hernández Rojas instructed the soldiers how to testify during a subsequent investigation and threatened to kill anyone who informed on him. All six were being prosecuted at the end of 1999 although Hernández Rojas escaped and remains at large. The Colombian press reports that he now works with the paramilitary group, ACCU.

      (Hernández Rojas attended the SOA Psychological Operations course in 1991 and the Cadet Orientation for Combat Weapons in 1985. Fino Rodriguez attended the Cadet Orientation C-34 (Mechanized) in 1989.)


      Major Jesús María Clavijo Clavijo and Major Álvaro Cortés Morillo, cited by the HRWR as members of the Fourth Brigade linked in 1999 to paramilitary groups through cell phone and beeper communications and regular meetings on military bases.

      In sworn testimony, a former Fourth Brigade soldier implicated Clavijo in the paramilitary killings in February 1999 near El Carmen de Atrato, Choc and in "legalizing" corpses delivered by paramilitaries for a bounty. This witness told investigators that "… everywhere Clavijo went, there were disappearances, murders, and wherever he was there was always a flood of reports of abuses."


      Clavijo has been promoted to colonel and commands a battalion recently linked to an increase in paramilitary activity and direct attacks on civilians. In January 2000, the Peasant Association of the Cimitarra River reported that Clavijo's men were attacking civilians along the Cimitarra River as part of "drug operations".

      (Clavijo took the SOA Orientation and Weapons for Cadets (C-3) Program in 1981 and Cortés Morillo took the same course in 1984.)


      Brig. Gen. Jaime Ernesto Canal Albán, Commander of the Third Brigade, cited by the HRWR for setting up a "paramilitary" force in southern Colombia in 1999 and providing it with weapons and intelligence.

      (Canal Albán attended the SOA cadet orientation C-3 course in 1980.)


      Gen. Carlos Ospina Ovalle, former commander of the Fourth Brigade, cited by the HRWR with "extensive evidence of pervasive ties" between the Fourth Brigade and paramilitary groups involved in human rights abuses, including evidence of continued illegal activity throughout 1998 and 1999. While under the command of Ospina Ovalle, the Fourth Brigade -- along with paramilitary groups -- is also implicated in the 1997 massacre in El Aro.

      (Ospina Ovalle attended the SOA cadet orientation course in 1967.)


      Col. Jorge Plazas Acevedo, chief of intelligence for the Thirteenth Brigade, was indicted for heading a gang responsible for planning and carrying out a series of kidnappings and murders while head of the intelligence unit. The atrocities included the 1998 kidnapping and murder of Israeli businessman, Benjamin Khourari. Plazas Acevado was retired by the Army in July 1999, and his case is now before a civilian court. (HRWR & SDHRR)

      (Plazas Acevedo attended the SOA Small Unit Infantry Tactics course in 1977.)

      This list was prepared by Hendrik Voss, SOA Watch Networking Coordinator
      =============================================================
      5) Human Remains Found in Panama Identified
      By JUAN ZAMORANO
      .c The Associated Press

      PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) - Human bones found buried near a military base on an island outside Panama's capital belong to a student activist who vanished in 1969, according to a report published Sunday.

      Ever Quintanar, an outspoken leftist who was critical of a military regime that seized control of the government in 1968, was captured by members of the air force in August 1969.

      Scientists searching for human remains near the Los Pumas military base on the prison island of Coiba, 12 miles outside Panama City, uncovered bones they believe belong to dozens of activists who disappeared during military regimes.

      Forensic experts in New Orleans confirmed that DNA tests showed some of those bones belonged to Quintanar, according to a truth commission report published Sunday.

      The commission believes soldiers took Quintanar to the base, tortured him and killed him. They then attempted to cover up the slaying by burying his body in a mass grave nearby, truth commission director Alberto Almanza said in the report.

      The commission also said U.S. forensic tests concluded that remains found in a hidden cemetery in the southwest province of Chiriqui belonged to Augusto Lindberg Gante, who organized political resistance to the regime of Gen. Omar Torrijos.

      Torrijos seized power in a 1968 coup and ruled Panama until he was killed in a plane crash in 1981. Manuel Noriega subsequently took control of the army and used rigged elections to remain in office for eight years.

      The United States invaded Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, and removed Noriega from power after he was linked to drug smugglers. He remains imprisoned in Florida for drug-related crimes.

      The truth commission, created in 1999, has compiled a list of 189 people who were killed or who ``disappeared'' at the hands of state forces between 1968 and 1989.

      01/19/03 20:44 EST

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