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
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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 Mobilizationand the April 10th-15th Latin American Solidarity Coalition

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