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At the end of February, FOR Peace Presence joined a national and international1 delegation who accompanied the Communities for Self-Determination, Life, and Dignity of Cacarica (CAVIDA) to commemorate 19 years of suffering and displacement caused by the military/paramilitary operation Génesis in the Río Cacarica Basin, Bajo Atrato, in the department (province) of Chocó. It was to be a pilgrimage for peace with socio-environmental justice, and the walk lasted several days, going from the humanitarian zone “Nueva Vida, Cacarica, all the way to Cerro Mocho. Cerro Mocho forms the limit of the black community’s collective title in Cacarica with the Panama border, and where a binational Colombian/Panamanian military base was installed in June 2013, generating new concerns.
Operation Génesis, executed in February of 1997 by militaries and paramilitaries, caused the death and forced disappearance of more than 80 victims and resulted in the displacement of 4,000 people. The members of CAVIDA remember the atrocities, the suffering, the escape, former leaders, mothers and father who have lost their loved ones, children now grown-up through songs, poems and testimonies. In November of 2013, for the first time, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (ICHR) condemned the Colombian State for the forced displacement of afro-decedent communities as a result of Operation Génesis. They have also condemned the collaboration of the army with paramilitary groups in the displacement of communities, as well as death and heinous acts committed against campesino Mario López. According to testimonies, paramilitaries cut off his head and after played soccer with it. The operation was directed by General Rito Alejo Del Río, commander of the Army’s 17th Brigade and former student of the School of the Americas, and who is also known for his violations against the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. In August of 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of Marino López.
Until today, the collective reparations ordered by the ICHR have not been repaid, reparations which would be a tribute to the memory of what happened as well as a recognition of responsibility by the state. Apart from the pain of having lived through the operation, the members of CAVIDA and the group of women Clamores have pointed out that the individual reparations haven’t been given to the survivors.