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Colombian Army cracks down on protests

Colombian Army cracks down on protests

British trade union-based group »Justice for Colombia« denounces that the Colombian Government is intensifying it’s persecution of union leaders. Leader of agricultural workers is gunned down and the Army is threatening an entire rural community with a nasty ”surprise”.

13.11.2004 [Maria Engqvist, ANNCOL] Jose Joaquin Cubides, General Secretary of the agricultural workers union in Colombia’s eastern department of Arauca and an activist with the Colombian Communist Party, was shot and killed on Sunday morning 7th November in the city of Fortul.

The Colombian army, who had raided his house only three days before, have been accused of being behind the murder of Jose Joaquin Cubides and more specifically members of the 49th ‘Heroes de Taraza’ Counterinsurgency Battalion. The battalion is known to work with a local paramilitary death squad and is part of the 18th Brigade of the Colombian Army.

In an unrelated incident, in the rural region of the municipality of Fortul, troops of the 5th Mobile Brigade of the Colombian Army engaged in combat with a guerrilla column whilst using local residents as human shields. At least one local civilian, 58-year-old Cesimo Tovar, was injured as a result, reports say.

The same weekend as the killing in Fortul, troops of the ‘Navas Pardo’ Battalion of the Colombian Army surrounded and occupied the community of Corocito in the municipality of Tame in Arauca department. A recent ambush in the area by leftwing FARC guerrillas led to the deaths of two soldiers from the Battalion and it is thought that the Army is seeking revenge.

The battalion commander, Colonel Alfonso Murillo, told the leader of the community, Nilson Rojas Mendoza, that if the community does not hand over those responsible that they will receive “a surprise”.

The threat is causing huge distress to residents as paramilitaries linked to the battalion recently disappeared eight people in the area.

Through London-based »Justice for Colombia« a number of British trade unions are sending protest letters to the Colombian government. The group has uploaded sample protest letters to it’s website at

»Justice for Colombia« is also protesting a recent police crack-down on demonstrators in Colombia’s southern city of Popayan.

On Monday 8th November students, teachers and parents held a peaceful protest against the privatisation of state education in front of the University of Cauca in Popayan. Police attacked the protest with tear gas and rubber bullets. Various people were hospitalised including regional indigenous leader Maria del Carmen. Three others, including Danilo Chilito and two parents of students, were taken away by the police and it is unclear what has happened to them.

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