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Cablegate: Goc Protects Land Rights Activist

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FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4003
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7475
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 8873
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ APR LIMA 4940
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0172
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5573
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3916
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 002392

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/11/2017
TAGS: KJUS PGOV PINR PREL PTER CO
SUBJECT: GOC PROTECTS LAND RIGHTS ACTIVIST

REF: A. BOGOTA 923

B. BOGOTA 1013

Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer.
Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) Cordoba department land activist Eloina Gaspar told
us on March 25 she was being threatened by people who had
identified her as the replacement for Popular Housing
Organization founder Yolanda Izquierdo, murdered in late
January (ref A). On April 1, the Prosecutor General's Office
moved Gaspar out of Monteria to Cali with her 16-year-old
son. Justice and Interior Minister Holguin told the Charge
April 10 the GOC is protecting 30 high-profile victims'
advocates, including ten from Cordoba (septel). End summary.

----------------------------
GOC Protecting Land Activist
----------------------------

2. (C) On our March 25-26 trip to Monteria, Cordoba
department, land activist Eloina Gaspar told us her life was
in danger and she wanted to leave Cordoba. She said the
Police checked her house at least once a day to ensure her
safety and the Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia)
promised her to send her to another city (which they did on
April 1, moving Gaspar and her 16-year-old son to XXXXXXXXXXXX where
XXXXXXXXXXXX). Gaspar subsequently told us the Police in
XXXXXXXXXXXX checked on her welfare several times a day. She was
already looking for a job. The Fiscalia promised they would
also try to help her two older sons, who remained in
Monteria, to move to XXXXXXXXXXXX at a later date. Gaspar told us
she was grateful for the help she had received from the GOC
thus far and she was going to try to slowly disengage from
the Popular Housing Organization.

3. (C) Gaspar replaced Popular Housing Organization founder
Yolanda Izquierdo, who was murdered in late January. She
told us she had tried to avoid becoming a target, but her
close relationship with Izquierdo and her leadership within
the group of plot owners or "parceros," prevented her from
being a "spectator." XXXXXXXXXXXX,
told us two people with alleged paramilitary ties, Diego
Sierra and Sor Teresa Gomez, were responsible for Izquierdo's
murder in Monteria. He said Sor Teresa Gomez's associates
had identified Gaspar as Izquierdo's replacement, and had
made threats in an effort to persuade her to retract the
claim that Gomez participated in the killing of Izquierdo.

------------------------------------------
GOC Improving Victim Protection Mechanisms
------------------------------------------

4. (C) TheFiscalia's Technical Investigative Corps Cordoba
Director Cerly Otero said the Fiscalia's victims' protection
program was good, but still needed work on implementation.
Otero told us the GOC's failure to protect the life of people
like Izquierdo reflected a lack of resources and experience.
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us on April 10 the Fiscalia's victims'
protection program was cutting off victims from their
personal support networks and rewarding the "bad people" by
relocating them. He insisted the GOC's victims' protection
program should be able to protect victims in their
communities.

5. (C) Cordoba's Police Commander Col. Jaime Velasco warned
that the lack of resources made the police unable to respond
to the vast number of requests for protection. Velasco said
he had divided the city into quadrants to patrol, helping to
ensure the safety of those under protection. Cordoba's
Ombudswoman Julia Rodriguez said claims of threats had
increased significantly in the last two years. Rodriguez
regarded this a sign that people felt safe to make
complaints, but said additional protection was needed. In
late March, the GOC announced special measures to provide
protection to advocates representing claims brought forth by
the victims of paramilitary violence. Interior Minister
Holguin told the Charge April 10 the GOC was protecting 30
high-profile individuals in this category, including 10 from
Cordoba and 16 from San Onofre, Sucre department.

---------------------------------------
Background on Yolanda Izquierdo's Group
---------------------------------------

6. (C) Victim right's activist Yolanda Izquierdo was a
leader of the Popular Housing Organization, a group that
assists Internally Displaced Persons to reclaim land seized
by paramilitary groups. Izquierdo, who was murdered on
January 31 in Cordoba department, was one of several hundred
to have received parcels on 10,000 hectares of land turned
over by Fidel Castano in 1989 (ref B). Castano channeled the
land through the Foundation for Peace in Cordoba (FUNPAZCOR)
to gain favor with local families and to create a "buffer
zone" against the FARC. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us in 1995-1996 Gomez
and Sierra ordered the families off the land. He said the two
have been exploiting the land ever since, even though
Izquierdo and other displaced families retain title.

7. (C) With the start of the Justice and Peace Law process,
Izquierdo and others saw an opportunity to reclaim their land
and demand reparations. Gomez began to press the families to
sell their titles to her at below-market rates. XXXXXXXXXXXX
saidIzquierdo had publicly opposed such a sale and had
encouraged other families to do so as well, leading Gomez and
Sierra to "silence her." The threats against Izquierdo's
life began in December 2006, after she had encouraged about
800 families to fill out the Justice and Peace Law forms to
enable them to obtain reparations as AUC victims. The GOC
has arrested Izquierdo's assassin and has issued two arrest
warrants for the intellectual authors of the murder, Diego
Sierra and Sor Teresa Gomez.
Drucker

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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