I have some pictures of my recent vacation to the coastal carribean towns on the colombian panamanian border. But first, a bit of buisness. On October 28th there was an explosion on the other side of a hill close to our community where there is a permanent military instillation. It was then followed by about 2o minutes of gun shots. Here is a video that my co-worker made to describe the incident and the after effects.
All of this talk regarding questionable information and suspicious insinuations might seem a bit paranoid and over-sensitive. I still feel this way sometimes. However, what I am starting to realize is that my tendency to toss these assertions off as mere paranoia is mostly a result of the fact that I have not lived in Colombia the last 35 years and thus have none of the internalized, deep seeded and well earned distrust of the Colombian government, the Colombian military and the guerillas. Unlike me, the community has lived through almost 200 deaths, the majority at the hands of the military or military-paramilitary links, as well as repeated political attacks from the government aimed at discrediting the community´s aims. At times the discussions revolving around governmental responsibility and political/military problems often SEEM so exaggerated that it frustrates me. However, it only seems exaggerated because I don’t know the history.
The below all offer evidence of strong connections between the military and the paramiliatry forces that often carried out group murders.
A little dated (2000) but still is a good source for historical background:
In addition, while it is hard to come by in main stream media, the military commanders involved in the community´s 2005 group murder have admitted to their involvment.
For those who don’t watch the movie, no one was injured or hurt from the community. In fact, very few people seemed worried. Whether a coping mechanism or not, the community members continued their day as if nothing had happened.
The real problems arose the days after the combat when news stories of the event started to be released. There are some serious discrepancies between what the military tells us, what the radio tells us and what we heard ourselves. According to the military, it was a minor incident that occurred in response to a threat from terrorists. The military was protecting the community, nothing serious happened and there were no injuries or deaths. From the radio we heard that a soldier, when doing regular rounds, had stepped on a mine that was place close to, or inside of, community boundaries and there was one death. According to our observations, there was one large explosion and 20 minutes of machine gun fire. Our partner NGO´s reported an unconfirmed death, a possibility that is supported by the movement of helicopters to and from the base, something that doesn’t happen unless they need to move bodies.
The fact is that there is no way to know exactly what went on, who attacked who, and how many died. However, we do know a few things.
First, the military told us one story and the radio another, and neither story represented what we observed; there was definitely more to this incident that one explosion and there was definitely a grenade that landed 5 meters from a civilian house.
Second, while the military is there to protect the community, what is not mentioned is that the government place the military there despite the fact that the Constitutional Court has ruled that they could only do so with the permission of the community. That permission has never been granted. In fact, as a result of the many murders the community has suffered in the last 10 years, the community has official severed ties with the government. However, it has always stated that it is ready to resume communications as soon as the government works to re-establish credibility within the community; that includes apologizing for recently stating that the community is little more than terrorist allies as well as making more of a serious effort toward punishing those responsible for the 2000 and 2005 massacres. The constitutional court has recognized that the responsibility lies with the state to reconcile.
Third, while it may seem a bit conspiratorial, the fact that the military unnecessarily mentions that the land mine was in or around the community reinforces the government´s groundless assertions that there is a relationship between the guerillas and the community and works to worsen the community´s un-earned reputation as harboring terrorists.