|Colombia: Massacre at Peace Community|
Less than a month away from the eighth anniversary of the founding of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, in Colombia's violence-torn Antioquia department, a campaign of intimidation by the Colombian army in collaboration with paramilitary forces has left several dead at the village. The community had planned on using the occasion of the March 23 anniversary to officially declare seven more of its outlying settlements as Peace Zones, or areas of non-cooperation in the war.
In late February, troops began mobilizing to San Jose de Apartado's outlying settlements, especially Mulatos; several members of these communities have been detained and interrogated. The communities of Buena Vista, Alto Bonito and Buenos Aires have come under indiscriminate bombardment by helicopter, displacing some 200 peasants. Finally, one the founders and leaders of the Peace Community has been massacred together with his family and close friends.
Luis Eduardo Guerra, 35, was murdered on Feb. 21 by what area witness testimony confirms to have been an operative of the 11th Brigade of the Colombian army. Luis Eduardo's remains were found together with those of his son Deiner Andres Guerra Tuberquia, 11, and his companion Beyanira Areiza Guzman, 17. The bodies were found naked and partly mutilated, with signs of torture and beatings; Deiner's head was found several meters from his body. They were apparently detained while working their cocoa fields near Mulatos, and taken to the nearby settlement of La Resbalosa, where they were slain and left in a shallow grave.
Members of the community of Mulatos searching for Guerra also found the bodies of Alfonso Bolivar Tuberquia, 30, close friend of Guerra and member of the Peace Community council in Mulatos; his wife Sandra Milena Munoz Pozo, 24; and their children Santiago Tuberquia Munoz, 2, and Natalia Andrea Tuberquia Munoz, 6. This family was also found with signs of torture and partly mutilated.
The process of corroborating these events was a slow one due to negligence on the part of the national prosecutor's office (Fiscalia) commission that was sent to investigate the matter. After receiving the information from the Peace Community counsel, it took until Feb. 26 for the bodies to be officially processed, and another two days before they were returned to their relatives.
The world peace and human rights community have hailed San Jose de Apartado as a key player in the process towards peace in a country that has known almost half a century of war. In recent years, rights observers stationed at the village from Peace Brigades International and Fellowship of Reconciliation have helped restrain armed attacks on the community. The new killings represent a significant escalation.
The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado is demanding that the government punish those responsible for the massacre of Luis Eduardo Guerra, his family and his friends, and all human rights violations that have taken place in the area over the last eight years.
The Peace Community is also demanding that their initiative to declare themselves conscientious objectors as a whole community-a stance they call "active neutrality"-be respected as a constitutional right.
Luis Eduardo Guerra was a primary voice of these demands and initiatives, having been appointed by his community as interlocutor with the state and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which recently issued orders to the Colombian government to protect residents and leaders of the Peace Community.
Guerra had taken his community's message to NGOs and forums in countries like Germany, Spain, Italy and the United States, but always kept the focus on the struggle in his jungle village. As he told one international conference at the Social Forum of the Americas, in Quito in July 2004:
"Why so many meetings and events, if we are being murdered, gentleman? Why expensive hotels, NGO experts and so many intellectuals -- all of this for what, if what we urgently need is for you to help us to not die."
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