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    Farmers Captured and Families Fighting for their Release in Mapiripán

    La versión original en español.

    Our partners in Mapiripán are greatly concerned by the capture of 6 local farmers, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Our field team worked closely with our local partner Asodeamapi and the CONPAZ network to write the communiqué, and we are following up on denouncements to relevant authorities.


    POSTED ON JUNE 15, 2020 UPDATED ON JUNE 15, 2020








    Mapiripán, Meta, June 14, 2020

    On June 10th 2020, Defense Minister CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO publicly announced the capture of six people in the municipality of Mapiripán – Meta, alleging that they belong to a residual organized armed group and the authors of “forced displacement and threats against social and community leaders, and the substitution of illicit crops in both Meta and Guaviare.” It is said the capture took place within an operation carried out by “an elite body of the police with the support of the Colombian Air Force and in coordination with the Attorney General of the Nation.” See (https://t.co/u9kIswbdli).

    Given the events that have occurred, We, our network Communities Building Peace in Colombia (CONPAZ-COL),  and the Community Action Boards of the Mapiripán neighborhoods, undersigned, STRONGLY REJECT the accusations since the information provided by the Minister of Defense is far from reality and, conversely, it constitutes a new case of judicial “false positives.”

    Those arrested in the operations of June 7th and 8th are Carlos Julio Betancourt Flores, José Isidro Martín Barreto, Carlos Julio Diaz, José Vicente Hernández, Norbey de Jesús Bustamante Cardona, and Luis Alberto Méndez. They are well-known members of our communities, some for 12 years, others have been here for more than 20 years. They are campesinos (rural farmworkers dedicated to the land and family, as opposed to capitalistic gains) dedicated to the work on their farms. Five of them are part of the population that signed the substitution agreements for illicit use crops in 2017, a product of the peace agreements signed by the government and FARC.

    Relatives, friends, and wives of the detainees have sent us letters and videos in which they ask us for AID and ask us to reach out to national and international human rights organizations so that this injustice can be resolved as soon as possible. In turn, they denounce the pressure exerted by unknown persons who present themselves as lawyers, who tell the captured campesinos that “if they acknowledge responsibility for these acts, they will let them go home instead of sit in jail.” How are they going to recognize acts that they have not committed? They have not threatened social leaders, they are not from an armed group, they have not generated displacement, and they do not profit from drug trafficking. (See links in annexes at the end of the writing).

    We are outraged that it is said that the operation began after an EARLY ALERT issued by the Office of the Ombudsman and that they say it is to protect social leaders. Likewise, on various occasions we have denounced the excess of the National Police in its functions in the municipality of Mapiripán, and the results are null, particularly with concern to our indigenous or campesino leaders.

    This unfortunate situation has brought VERY NEGATIVE results, both for those captured and for their families, who today are suffering from a lack of food which was provided by the heads of the households. The families had to ask for help in their communities to be able to move from the rural area to the municipal central settlement, where they are requesting support so that their loved ones can return to their homes. This is yet another reason they use their voices to ask for help.

    The detained campesinos were transferred to Villavicencio, and at this point, their exact location is unknown. It should be noted that as of this date, 886 people have been infected with Covid -19 in that city’s prison. Therefore, this is another concern for their relatives and loved ones, in case they are confined in that penitentiary.

    We cannot remain silent in the face of this new injustice, and we repeat the cry made by families to give them immediate FREEDOM since these people are only campesinos, and their whole lives revolve around caring for and living off the land. There are undoubtedly irregularities here that must be investigated. Were the prosecutors wrong? The military forces? Did they misinform the minister to show results? Does the defense minister know that they are just campesinos?

    In development of the operation carried out by the public forces, two helicopters were observed. One of them, with uniforms of the National Police, landed on the field of the El Divino Niño school in the village of El Silencio, causing damage to its fragile infrastructure. Therefore, we request that these damages be repaired IMMEDIATELY. (See attached images).

    To the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, we request that this serious act of violation of the rights of the campesinos detained and presented by the national government as “criminals” be followed up and that disciplinary investigations be carried out for this alleged “false positive” judicial action.

    We demand the Ombudsman Office clarify what the minister has said regarding the “early warning” and whether the silence of the village inhabitants was seen as making them responsible for the criminal acts to which he refers. Additionally, the Ombudsman Office must join in advancing this case.

    To National and International Organizations defending Human Rights, we call on you to provide accompaniment to the families of the detainees and demand guarantees of protection of life and reputation of the detained campesinos and their families from the Colombian State.


    With concern,

    Junta de Acción Comunal vereda El Silencio, Mapiripán, Meta

    Junta de Acción Comunal vereda Nueva Esperanza, Mapiripán, Meta

    Junta de Acción Comunal vereda Buena Vista, Mapiripán, Meta

    Juntas de Acción Comunal del corregimiento de Puerto Alvira, Mapiripán, Meta

    Red Comunidades Construyendo Paz en Colombia, Conpaz




    Photos of damaged school:


    Video denouncements below (in Spanish)







    Defenders at Risk: Implications of COVID-19 on Human Rights in Colombia

    On April 25, we hosted a webinar with three human rights defenders about the impact of COVID-19 on human rights in Colombia. In such a challenging time, we were grateful to hear from folks around the world about their concerns for human rights defenders and to discuss how the issue is being addressed in different countries.


    About the speakers:

    Nidiria Ruiz Medina is a leader in the Women’s Association AINI Source of the Spring of Flowers, from the Naya River, Buenaventura, Valle de Cauca. AINI is a women’s collective that supports peace-building processes in their region. She is the technical secretary of Communities Building Peace in Colombia (CONPAZ-COL) and leads processes for families of disappeared persons, as well as memory and truth-seeking commissions.

    Willian Aljure Martínez is a human rights defender and land claimant from the municipality of Mapiripán, Meta. He is part of the national directive for CONPAZ-COL and a leader for the Mapiripán Association in Defense of the Environment (Asodeamapi). He is the grandson of the guerrilla leader Dumar Aljure, who signed a peace agreement in with the General Rojas Pinilla, and was later attacked by the military on April 4, 1948, during which 5 family members were killed. Willian’s father Juan Pablo Aljure was killed in the late 90’s, and a few years later his mother Berenice Martínez was also killed.

    Ómar de Jesús Restrepo Correa is a representative for the FARC party in the House of Representatives. He is a campesino from Antioquia who’s convinced that change is possible in Colombia. At 16 years old he joined the FARC-EP after paramilitaries threatened his family and he was forced to flee and leave his studies. He traveled to Havana in 2012 to contribute to the peace process that would become the historic Peace Accords. Now he represents campesinos and the working class as an Antioquia representative in the House of Representatives of Colombia’s congress.