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Last Tuesday, at least two people died in Catatumbo, Colombia, because of the bursts of gunfire by the Colombian army against a big rural demonstration that was blocking a crossroads called “Ye de Ocaña”, says the news agency Agencia de Prensa Rural.
The clash started at 9 am, when peasants tried to get to the “Ye de Ocaña”crossroads. The army and anti guerilla police, known as ESMAD, was at that place.
The acts of repression started with use of tear gas against the 2,000 peasants that were demonstrating in the area. After that, stun bombs were used but did not manage to stop the protest. When they thought the demonstrators were over them, the police reportedly started opening fire directly against them.
Peasants were asking for the opening of a round of conversations with the Government in order to demand the observance of the regulations on peasant reserves ignored by Colombian authorities.
Last Monday, two more peasants died because of the actions by State security forces. Consequently, the number of victims reaches four, apart from dozens of injured.
CLOC-Via Campesina, the Latin American Coordinator of Countryside Organizations released a statement in which the violent measures used by Juan Manuel Santos’ Government were condemned. “After siding with Pacific Alliance and approaching NATO, both of them clearly subordinated to American interests and contrary to the peace process in Colombia and the region, Manuel Santos makes statements in which he stigmatizes the Colombian Peasant Movement and accuses it of having a relation with FARC, thus trying to discredit and criminalize the social protest and the just claim of peasants in Catatumbo, who have been asking peacefully since the 12th of June for the opening of a conversation round in order to assess the important problems of the region.”
“The official response has been the repression and militarization of the region. At least two peasants have been murdered by the Army and there are many injured. The peasants’ claims are completely legitimate, since they are fighting for the protection of human rights, food sovereignty and justice. Furthermore, Law 160 on reserves for peasants also supports them, but this law is not being observed”, states CLOC-Via Campesina.
Contagio Radio, a Colombian radio network that covers social conflicts in the country, interviewed César Jerez, one of the leaders in the movement for the peasant reserves. He says that what is happening in Catatumbo is the result of peasants’ despair and outrage towards a State that ignores them and uses violence against them.
Photo: Contagio Radio
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