Daily Life in Colombia

I have selected some samples about daily life in Colombia in order to convey to you what a low intensity war means. I picked  randomly 2 in August and 2 in September. Most were selected from the current month, October 2003, urgent actions that arrive almost daily to our office.  I selected mainly the ones that  still allow action to be taken in order to prevent killings. Others were selected in order to see the brutality of the war and the increased repression of the Uribe government.  Next to the date when we received the urgent action, is the name of the department (state) where the acts took place. The sources of these reports are Colombian human rights NGO’s. AUC means Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia and is the name of the feared  paramilitary umbrella group.

 At the end, there is a list of Colombian authorities to write to. Pick cases from the selected list and write to them.  Most importantly, write to your Representatives and Senators in Congress and  ask them to vote against military aid to Colombia and to stop the coca crop spraying.
August 12 CHOCO

The Ombudsman’s office demands the immediate release of a medical team kidnapped last July 23 in the town of Bagado, apparently by members of the ELN. The Ombudsman requests that the government  issue ID cards for health personnel working in areas of conflict. Jorge Andres Garcia, the country doctor in the hospital of Bagado, along with John Jairo Gil, Carlos Maria Munoz, Melquisedec Moreno and Alvaro Ramos, were kidnapped by  the guerrilla front Manuel Hernandez of the ELN (National Liberation Army), at an illegal checkpoint on the road to Quibdo.Their whereabouts are unknown. The Defensoria (Ombudsman) condemns this attack against  medical personnel and reminds the armed actors that International Humanitarian Law forbids any act against medical personnel carrying out their missions.


On August 20, 2003 at 2 p.m.  in the town of Soacha, near Bogota, two men dressed in leather jackets with cellular phones were watching carefully a  place with electronic games filled with children and young people. At 6 p.m. a man came to that place and announced to the group that  a cleansing operation would take place. Between 8 and 9 p.m. 7 men wearing masks and using pistols and mini uzis started shooting at  the children and youths, killing Oscar Sanchez, 13; Andres Salazar,16; Fabio Bayona,16;and the brothers Henry Gonzalez ,22 and Hernan Gonzalez,19. After the massacre the men walked out, threatening the community and shot at a house with the doors open where several young people were together. No one was injured this time,

September 7 CAQUETA

On Sunday September 7 at 6 a.m., when the population of Cartagena del Chaira was getting ready to participate in the market day, they were surprised by a gigantic operation by the army’s  Larandia  Battalion accompanied by  police, the (Administrative Security Department) DAS agents, representatives of the the Attorney General’s office and by masked persons, probably informants or guerrilla deserters. These government officers took all the inhabitants and peasants coming from the countryside to the military base and selected 3 persons : Victor Rodrigo Oime, an agrarian leader, Manuel Moreno a former city council member; and Carlos Arnulfo Meneses from the local community radio station. They were taken to Florencia, the capital of Caqueta,and  accused of being guerrilla collaborators. The others were detained with no clothes or food allowed to be  delivered to them. The army issued a press release stating that they had detained 87 urban militiamen of the 14 Front of the FARC who help terrorists.

September 12 BOYACA*
Amnesty International condemned the use of a horse as a bomb in the town of Chita , Boyaca. Eight persons were killed among them a 2 year old boy, and more than 20 were injured.  Attacks against the civilian population, from the guerrillas, the army or the paramilitaries are grave violations of International Humanitarian Law and international norms of human rights

*This act is attributed to the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia)

 October 1st ARAUCA

Letters from leaders  of the department of Arauca in La Picota  and Buen Pastor in Bogota, denounce  the  arbitrary detentions and abuses by the XVIII Brigade of the army, the National Police, and the paramilitaries against all social and community organizations.


Social organizations in the Cauca Valley Department  denounce that
on Sunday September 28 between 6 and 8 a.m. members of the III Brigade, the GAULA  ( an army special group), the Police and the Attorney General’s office in a discriminative and arbitrary way detained 60 persons in the municipality of Dagua, in its hamlet  Queremal*. Among the detainees were citizens of the town and peasants that had come from the rural areas to sell their products at the market. The detainees were taken immediately to the city of  Cali and were shown on T.V. and labeled members and collaborators of the guerrilla,  without investigation.

*It is important to know that more than 40 people have been assassinated by paramilitaries in this community since the end of 2002

October 2nd SANTANDER

The members of the Union Syndical Obrera (USO) union from the oil industry in the city of Barrancabermeja are suffering serious physical and psychological problems due to the program ” to improve behavior or re-socialize” that is imposed on the workers of the refinery who belong to the union. On June 16 the unionized workers received a letter from ECOPETROL (Empresa Colombiana de Petroleos), the privatized Colombian oil company, stating : “given that your behavior at work is not what the organization wants and your attitude does not generate trust, the organization has decided to give you the opportunity to improve your behavior at work” .Several workers have attempted suicide and others have been hospitalized since this attitude stigmatizes them and their families as “conflictive workers”. They can not come to their places of work until they take the course.



More death threats have been made against  the human rights activist Marta Lucia Renteria in the city of Cali. Besides being a human rights activist, she represents the citizens watch in the municipality of Jamundi. She has denounced serious charges of corruption at the  Municipal Utility Company in Cali, Jamundi, and other towns which have generated investigations and corruption charges  against public  employees. She has denounced also the deaths, disappearance and displacement of many persons in the area. On September 29,2000 a man shot at her after a meeting of public services users in Jamundi. She left the town temporarily. In June, July and August of this year men followed her in different kinds of vehicles with dark windows. On Friday August 10 in downtown Cali, 4 men in a green Toyota car followed her, called her by her name and simultaneously opened the four doors and got  out of the car trying to get her, but she escaped. On Monday September 10 a red Mitsubishi with  Cali license number CFW-718  with dark windows followed her for several hours . She receives anonymous calls at her cellular  phone  and in the last week of  July a woman pretending to be crazy,  stayed for a month and a half on the sidewalk near her home,  making calls from a telephone she carried in a small bag.

October 7 ARAUCA

On September 17, fumigations which are spraying of coca crops, started in Arauca as part of an army operation called “Red Moon”. The fumigations affect grazing land in a cattle raising region.  The pastures become dry. Rivers, lakes and marshes are contaminated, affecting water for people, fish and animals. Fishing by peasants and indigenous communities is damaged by the poisoning of the water. Air is affected and people suffer from respiratory diseases, headaches, red eyes and skin allergies. Animals and plants, but mainly microorganisms that maintain and preserve the surface, affect the Araucan ecosystem, because they fumigate indiscriminately against all the crops without respecting  food, persons, homes and animals. Fumigations must be suspended immediately, because they are causing  immense ecological, social and humanitarian damages. The government is not justified in their actions -in order to fumigate 6,500 hectares of  coca existing in the region, they are fumigating 1,232,634 hectares of food crops.

October 7, ARAUCA

On October 5, the Colombian army entered the hamlets of Botalon and Puente Tabla in the municipality of Tame in Arauca, and started shooting, risking the safety of the population since those locations have gasoline tanks that are not well protected and, if  hit by fire, may cause a tragedy. The army also closed the area to start fumigations, even  though a government office (UMATA) certified that there are no coca plants in this area. Persons with masks point out peasants from the area as collaborators of the guerrilla.

October 7 CAUCA

Health workers in the department of Cauca declared : ” we will follow our struggle to declare health as a  fundamental right of the human being and  we will continue offering our services to whomever needs them without distinguishing  between religion,sex, race or political orientation”… We reject the daily attacks against health workers with the open and shameless complicity of the government of Alvaro Uribe Velez through its army and police. Our ethical, social and humanitarian activity is interpreted as making us enemies of the state and as such we are presented  to the mass media as’ “terrorists”…We the health workers in the Cauca department, as in all of Colombia, must provide services under the guidance of duty and solidarity , to the victims of the armed conflict…We denounce the arbitrary detention of rural health workers in areas of Cauca and express our disapproval that they are being alluded  to as guerrillas by  “military intelligence”… They are innocent people who are being criminalized as are all the social organizations and their leaders.

October, 8 PUTUMAYO

Arcadio Mutumbajoy, Vice President of the OZIP (Organizacion Zonal Indigena del Putumayo)  was detained in the city of Mocoa along with 18 other men and women) both indigenous and peasants , accused of being members of the FARC. Ironically some months ago Arcadio was wrongly accused by the FARC of being an informant  for the army.  Dangerously and in a superficial way, the mass media tied OZIP to the insurgency. OZIP was founded 17 years ago and represents 12 indigenous nations from the Amazon area of Colombia, many of whom have inhabited this part of the planet since the beginning of time . OZIP  strengthens the multicultural nature of Colombia  by organizing and governing the 36,000 indigenous people of this territory according to  their traditional medicine, languages, handicrafts and sacred rites.

Octubre 8, BOGOTA

Bessy Pertuz, Vice president of the union of employees and university workers of Colombia SINTRAUNICOL was threatened. On Monday September 30 at 6:30 p.m. after leaving the National University, where she has worked, since 1994, she stopped a taxi. When she opened the door, she felt pushed and seconds later inside the vehicle she was in the middle of two men who told her to close her eyes and to stay quiet, otherwise they would kill her. They started questioning her about  her union activities and  told her to leave her union work and not to seek problems. After two hours  they  left her in the southern part of the city , stealing her cellular phone and diskettes with information about her union. Several students from the university have received threats from the paramilitary Bloque Capital of the AUC

October 15, CHOCO

Nine indigenous children have committed suicide between the months of March and September of this year :

PATRICIA JUMI, 12 years-old, from the Katio nation, hanged herself  last March 15

CECILIA DOMICO, 13 years old, from the Katio nation,hanged herself last April 12

KETTY SALAZAR, 15 years old, from the Embera nation killed herself on June 26

RICARUTE PUCHICANA, 21 years-old, from the Embera nation, killed himself on September 14

ARIEL BAILARIN, 15 years old, from the Embera nation, killed himself on September 15

ILDA NORA DOMICO 21 years old

AMPARO VERGARA CASAMA, 23 years old from the Turbo Community

NELSON SALAZAR was found dead sitting in his hammock, with a hole in his temple and a gun in his hands. That day the Embera nation first used  the word suicide, which did not exist  in their language nor in the traditions of their grandfathers

Several more young persons   have been prevented from committing suicide by their communities

According to OREWA ( Consejo de Autoridades Indigenas de la Organizacion Regional Embera Waunaan : ”  We the  Embera, Waunnan, Katio, Chami and Tule nations, who inhabit this area permanently, are the ones who suffer the greatest abuses and threats from the illegal armed groups who are disputing the territory and who put our lives, already threatened, at serious risk. This risk is particularly great for the indigenous groups inhabiting the head waters of the rivers Jiguamando, Domingodo,Chintado,Quiparado and others.

” We hear the crying of the mountains and the rivers, because the wind, the marshes, the sacred areas and our hearts are full of sorrow  from the crossfire of the violent bullets of the different armed groups that make war in this land. For this reason and because we feel impotent to  stop this war which involves our indigenous communities, we request that you all send messages to the Colombian government, to take whatever means are necessary to stop the warlike actions of the illegal actors which place  our existence and the emotional and physical wellbeing of the mentioned communities in serious danger”


Arbitrary detention of  an undetermined number of peasants, initially 50 in the municipality of Viota on Saturday September 27. The next day, Sunday September 30,  the whole population of the town was forced to go to the stadium.  A truck arrived with  several masked persons who started to point  to several persons as members of the guerrilla movement. Without any order from a judge, the persons pointed out  were taken to Bogota, and their relatives still do not know where they are.


On October 11 at 1:30 p.m. when he went to check at his locker Onofre Esquivel found a  piece of paper declaring him and co-workers Alfonso Espinoza, Rogelio Sanchez and Fredy Ocoro “political objectives” because they allegedly oppose the economic and political development of the country at the Nestle plant  where he worked in Bugalagrande. Onofre informed the supervisor of the plant. Since Onofre and Rogelio are members of the Board of Directors of the union SINALTRAINAL ( Union for Workers of the Food Industry). This shows once more the threats against popular leaders and  unionists in Colombia.

October 16, TOLIMA

On October 11 in the morning, unknown persons detained and abducted Eduardo Hernandez Cabrera in a car with dark windows. He was a union leader of the  Public Utilities Company of the town of El Espinal. It is not known who took him and where he is. His sister Rocio del Pilar Hernandez Cabrera was  detained in the city of Villavicencio and taken to the city of Ibague. She was a leader of the agrarian mobilization last September 16 in the town of  El Espinal

October 16, SUCRE

Rudy Robles, General Secretary of the union SINDEAGRICULTORES ( Union of Agricultural Workers), was arbitrarily detained on October 14 in the hours of the morning in the town of Coloso. He was transferred to the police station without knowing why he was detained and without  a judicial order. Senor Robles on last July 28 read a report of the situation of human rights in the region to a verification commission made up of NGO’s, government representatives and representatives of the  United Nations office, who traveled to the region in order to get to know the situation first hand.

October 16, BOLIVAR

A paramilitary group from the Bloque Central Bolivar of AUC invaded the hamlet of Alto San Juan, in the municipality of San Pablo in the state of Bolivar, at 5 a.m. At 8 a.m.this same group invaded the hamlet of Muriba. According to telephonic  information by witnesses, they heard many shots and it is still not known what happened to the population of that area. The peasant association denounces that in spite of the negotiations with the paramilitaries, human rights violations from this group are constant: in the last months paras have come to San Juan, causing displacement and killing and disappearing peasants with the passive acquisence of the armed forces

October 16 SANTANDER

Three armed paramilitaries arrived in a taxi at 7:30 p.m. at the home of Esperanza Amaris Miranda in the city of Barrancabermeja, threatening her and forcing her to get into their car, in spite of her daughter begging them not to take her. Five minutes later Esperanza was assassinated and her body thrown onto the street. As soon as she was taken, her organization the OFP (Women’s Popular Organization), called the army but nobody answered the call. Esperanza was 40 years old and a member of the team of leaders of the OFP. She used to sell lottery tickets and was the mother of  a 15 year old son and a 21 year old daughter. She had criticized the paramilitaries who try to silence  women’s voices, because they denounce what they want to keep secret. In just this year 94 persons have been assassinated in the city of Barrancabermeja, 56 have been disappeared and 600 have been displaced. All of this is a consequence of the social control imposed by the paramilitaries through threats, punishment and death.. Barranca has about 250,000 people.

October 20, RISARALDA

The union UNIMOTOR ( Workers of the Auto Industry in Colombia), received a fax signed ” Urban cell of the Bloque Cacique Calarca of the AUC”. This message explained that because the persons listed below did not follow  instructions to  abandon the city of Pereira by October 10, the AUC will start an annihilation campaign  against the following  unionists :
 Diego Osorio
Bernardo Bernal
Antonio Ramirez
Jairo Rivera
Gloria Ines Ramirez
Fernando Guapacha
John Jairo Loaiza
William Gaviria

The same threat was made to the local  worker’s union and the teacher’s union


Last October 10 at  the transportation terminal at 3:30 in the morning ,several students of the University of Cundinamarca were gathered at the gas station when several hit men in a motor vehicle shot at them killing Indira Tapiero and Ricardo Hernandez, and injuring 5 other students, as well as a worker  at the gas station

October 22 MAGDALENA

The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations for Colombia condemned the recent assassinations of the political and spiritual authorities of the Kankuamo nation by the AUC. In the last month 6 have been killed. The Kankuamo community is one of the four indigenous communities which are native to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. In 2003 fifty of their members were killed as a consequence of the selective homicides made by the armed groups. On October 16 Mamo – spiritual authority- Nestor Feliciano Maestre from the town of Mojao, Francisco Escobar from Los Haticos and Nicanor Arias from Ramelito were killed by the AUC.  The Mamo is a figure of great importance for the cultural and spiritual life of this community.

October 24, ARAUCA

Just 5 days before elections for Mayors, Governors and  city councils, the Attorney General’s office and the army massively detained public functionaries and several candidates. On October 21 the Attorney General and the army detained the mayor of the city of Arauca Jorge Cedeno; three former governors, Gustavo Castellanos, Vicente Lozano and Federico Gallardo; two former mayors, Iliana Baroni and Maria helena Molina; Assembly persons Elionor Avila , and Ramon Garces, president of the Liberal party; candidates for mayor of Arauca City, Cravo Norte  and Saravena, Luis Alberto Peroza, Antonio Ortega and Zoila Exposito; candidate for the council of Arauca City Orlando Baharona; Maria Helena Mojica, manager of the electric company “ENELAR”; Comptroller Ema Benitez and political leaders Hernan Rico, Pedro Orjuela, Esperanza Sandoval and Gloria Suarez,  among others.

Likewise the priest  Jose Helmer Munoz, candidate for governor of Arauca state and who seems to be the likely winner according to the latest polls. Human Rights organizations are worried that this maneuver by the Uribe government and the Attorney General may be designed to favor the Uribe candidate for governor.

Many killings, threats and displacements are happening while political, labor and human rights leaders are targeted as subversives risking being the victims of paramilitary groups.  The massive detentions are not based on independent and impartial judicial investigations, but rather on baseless accusations of the “military intelligence” and paid informants.


Presidente de la Republica
S.E. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de la República,
Cra. 8 n°.7-26, Palacio de Nariño, Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71
e-mail: [email protected] ;


Vicepresidente de la Republica de Colombia
Francisco Santos
Consejeria Presidencial de Derechos Humanos
Calle 7, No 6-54, Piso 3
Santa fe de Bogota, COLOMBIA
Fax: 00 57 1 337 1351
E-mail: [email protected]


Presidential Human Rights Programme
Programa Derechos Humanos Presidencia de la Republica
[email protected]

Dr. Carlos Franco, Director del Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario.
E-mail : [email protected]

Dr. Fernando Ibarra, Asesor del Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario.
E-mail : [email protected] Calle 7 N° 5-54

TEL.: (+57 1) 336.03.11
FAX: (+57 1) 337.46.67

Ministerio de Defensa
Martha Lucia Ramírez de Rincón
Ministerio de Defensa Nacional
Avenida El Dorado con carrera 52 CAN
Santa Fe de Bogotá
Fax: 00 57 1 222 1874
E-mail:[email protected]; [email protected]
[email protected] ; [email protected]

 Fiscal General de la Nacion/Attorney General
Dr Luis Camilo Osorio
E-mail: [email protected]
  [email protected];
[email protected]

Procurador General de la Nacion*
Dr Edgardo Maya Villazon
E-mail: [email protected];   [email protected] 
*Special Office to control public workers


Defensor del Pueblo / Public Defender or Ombudsman for Human Rights
Dr Luis Eduardo Cifuentes
[email protected]  [email protected]

High Commission for Human Rights in Colombia
Fax: (+57 1) 313 40 50
E-Mail: [email protected]


Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  [email protected]

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