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A few days after the peace dialogues between the insurgency and the Colombian government were resumed amid the electoral campaign for the May 25 elections, paramilitary groups threatened leaders of the peasant movement of the country, whose social mobilization plans will increase in the next weeks.
An internal statement, presumably by the paramilitary group “Rastrojos Comandos Urbanos” announced the intention to murder candidates of the Union Patriotica Party and spokespeople of Marcha Patriotica and the National Agricultural Union Federation (FENSUAGRO-CLOC-Via Campesina), among them, its Chair, Eberto Diaz (picture) and its Treasurer, Nidia Quintero. They are both spokespeople of Mesa de Interlocución y Acuerdo (MIA) , a co-organizer of the Agrarian Strike of August/September 2013 in favor of the claims of the Colombian peasant movement hit by a serious crisis worsened by the Free Trade Agreement and Agribusiness in the different territories.
12 peasants were murdered during the agrarian strike, and after this measure that paralyzed the main roads of the country, another seventeen peasants were killed, totaling 29 victims, which is an example of the atmosphere of fear experienced in the country, despite the dialogues taking place in Havana.
But Eberto and Nidia were not the only people threatened. The statement by “Rastrojos” also puts a price on the lives of UP´s candidates, former Senator Piedad Cordoba, David Flores, Andres Gil and journalist and candidate Carlos Lozano and Carlos Garcia. The “rewards” offered go from 5,000 to 50,000 US dollars.
In addition, it was reported that another group, “Aguilas Negras”, threatened an MP of the Polo Democratico Alternativo Party Ivan Cepeda, supposedly for “defaming” former President Alvaro Uribe and UP Presidential candidate Aida Avella.
FENSUAGRO is making Juan Manuel Santos´ administration responsible for the safety of its leaders and stated that there hasn´t been a thorough investigation into the above mentioned threats. They also accuse the government of not showing a real will to dismantle the paramilitary structures, whose elements “act and wander throughout all Colombia unrestrained by police authorities”.
Eberto Diaz, one of the threatened leaders, talked to Real World Radio as part of a regional tour by FENSUAGRO through the Colombian Caribbean region. He also said that the peace dialogues are causing “discomfort” in different social sectors that “first consider defeating the enemy and then sit and talk”. But he also said that the Colombian people “don´t deserve to live through 40 more years of war before reaching an agreement. This is the right moment for the insurgence and the government to reach an agreement”, he added.
Opening the doors for political participation by the civil or guerrilla opposition in Congress is resisted by the most powerful Colombian sectors, whose seats in Parliament are based on millionaire amounts of money invested in privileges and campaigns, adds the CLOC-Via Campesina leader.
FENSUAGRO´s leader also said that peasants, indigenous people and workers are organizing a “people’s agrarian, social and ethnic summit” on March 17-19 with the participation of over 50 thousand delegates from the entire country to draft a schedule of terms and conditions for a massive mobilization, similar to the agrarian strike that took place in 2013.
Eberto said that they are denouncing the lack of space to establish agreements with the government to take the Colombian crisis out of the countryside and said that groups such as “Rastrojos” or “Aguilas Negras” are splinter groups of the so-called paramilitary self-defense groups, supposedly dismantled during Uribe´s administration. “They are the same, there still is a strong presence of these groups that even take up part of public budgets allocated to social improvement".
And he added that their actions respond to Colombian large-estate owners, but also to transnational corporations linked to the extraction of gold, oil and other resources.
La oposición a la minería debe entenderse como la lucha por los derechos que esa actividad no respeta, pues “cada derecho que se le otorga a una empresa, es un derecho que se le resta a una comunidad”, asegura el coordinador del Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina (OCMAL), César Padilla.
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