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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BOGOTA4961
2005-05-24 20:22:00
SECRET
Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

IDPS REPORT COLOMBIAN NGO COLLABORATING WITH THE

Tags:   PHUM  PTER  CO  FARC 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BOGOTA 004961 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/24/2030
TAGS: PHUM PTER CO FARC
SUBJECT: IDPS REPORT COLOMBIAN NGO COLLABORATING WITH THE
FARC

REF: A. BOGOTA 2156

B. BOGOTA 3361

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood Reasons 1.4 (b&d)

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



1. (C) On May 12-13, Human Rights Officer, Assistant Army
Attache and British Embassy representative traveled to the
highly conflictive Uraba region of northwestern Colombia.
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) and business leaders
reported that Justicia y Paz, a Colombian NGO working with
communities in the region, allows the FARC to transit the
communities freely, controls access to the communities, and
misuses international funding donated to benefit IDPs and
vulnerable populations in the area. Regarding the February
massacre of eight individuals, including three members of the
peace community of San Jose de Apartado, 17th Brigade
Commander said soldiers captured four members of the 5th
Front of the FARC, who reportedly have information on the
massacre, on May 8. Additionally, a minor, also a member of
the FARC's 5th Front, recently turned himself into the
Colombian National Police and provided the Fiscalia with
information on the March 2 grenade attack against the
investigative commission. Police Lieutenant Colonel Clavijo
told Emboffs that the number of families in San Jose de
Apartado has grown from two when the police arrived on April
2 to 45 as of May 12, with more continuing to return. End
summary.



--------------------------


Uraba Region of Colombia


--------------------------





2. (S) On May 12-13, Human Rights Officer, Assistant Army
Attache and British Embassy representative visited Turbo,
Carepa and Cacarica in the Uraba region of northwestern
Colombia. Emboffs traveled with Johanna Cabeza (strictly
protect), director of the Bogota-based NGO Return Foundation
("Fundacion Retorno"). The Fundacion Retorno is assisting
with several voluntary returns of individuals who were
displaced from the Cacarica region in 1997 as a result of
fighting between the 17th Brigade and the 57th Front of the
FARC during "Operation Genesis." Sporadic returns began in
1999, when the collective land title was given by the State
to the entire Cacarica Afro-Colombian community, in
accordance with Law 70 of 1993. Many individuals who
returned at this time accepted the assistance of local NGO
Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace ("Justicia y
Paz"). However, Justicia y Paz conditioned its assistance to
residents based on the requirement that they live in Justicia
y Paz settlements for "security reasons." There are
currently 23 communities in the Uraba region, nine of which
have declared themselves "peace communities." Still, a
significant number of Cacarica residents remain displaced,
the majority in Turbo, located on the Gulf of Uraba in
Antioquia Department.



--------------------------



17th Brigade on San Jose and Cacarica


--------------------------





3. (C) 17th Brigade Commander Brigadier General Fandino told
Emboffs that on May 8 soldiers from the 17th Brigade captured
four members of the 5th Front of the FARC who reportedly have
information on the February 21 massacre of eight individuals,
which included three members of the peace community of San
Jose de Apartado. As of May 12, the four guerrillas were in
the custody of the Prosecutor General's Office ("Fiscalia").
Additionally, a minor, also a member of the FARC 5th Front,
recently turned himself into the Colombian National Police to
enter the reinsertion program. This individual provided the
Fiscalia with information on the March 2 grenade attack
against the commission investigating the massacre (ref A).



4. (C) BG Fandino discussed with Emboffs the many complaints
NGOs in the region file against the Brigade. For example, he
said when the military is conducting any sort of operation in
the Cacarica area or even just flying overhead, Justicia y
Paz will file an international complaint against the Brigade
for either attacking civilian communities or for paramilitary
collaboration. BG Fandino noted that communities not working
with Justicia y Paz are also accused of being paramilitary
bases. He showed Emboffs examples of the more than 30
letters the Brigade receives daily from individuals around
the world denouncing the military's alleged activities with
paramilitaries in the region. BG Fandino also noted his
concern that Justicia y Paz is trying to create "humanitarian
zones" to cover all of Choco Department. These zones are
areas which have been declared neutral in front of all actors
in the conflict and would therefore prevent the entry of
state security forces.



5. (C) Regarding the March 31 kidnapping of five members of
Justicia y Paz, BG Fandino said his information shows the
kidnapping was committed by the FARC for two purposes: (1) to
let Justicia y Paz know they (the FARC) felt Justicia y Paz
was losing its leadership in the region and (2) to "prove" to
the international community that Justicia y Paz and the FARC
were not aligned. The five were released unharmed on April


8.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Business Leaders: "Peace Communities are 'Mini-Caguans'"


--------------------------



--------------------------





6. (C) Seven representatives of various local businesses,
including banana, wood, palm, and ranching companies, noted
to Emboffs the importance of the Uraba region for its
biodiversity and geographic placement on the Gulf of Uraba
with access to two sea coasts. This strategic location, they
added, made the region an area of importance for the illegal
armed groups and led to paramilitary and guerrilla groups
vying for its control. Business leaders noted that they have
often been accused by the FARC of supporting paramilitaries
and killing their workers, and as a result, in the 1990s, the
FARC murdered 187 banana company owners and managers.
However, security has improved and the banana industry is
currently employing individuals from 20,000 families.
Representatives agreed there were great possibilities for the
cultivation of African palm in the region, which has been a
heated topic of debate for various NGOs in Colombia.



7. (C) On the issue of peace communities, several
representatives referred to them as "mini-Caguans", alluding
to the demilitarized zone the Pastrana government gave the
FARC during their failed peace negotiations. They also
agreed that San Jose de Apartado is a rest and recuperation
spot for the FARC, not a "peace community." One businessman
said that peace communities were created to form a strategic
corridor from the Gulf of Uraba to San Jose de Apartado to
allow the FARC to travel and transport contraband freely.
One representative told Emboffs of his own experience in the
"Punta de Piedra" peace community, located on the Gulf of
Uraba, from 1993-1994. He said the community was formed with
the assistance of Justicia y Paz, who took control over all
matters related to the community, including entry and exit
and denied entry to GOC authorities.



--------------------------


IDPs: "NGOs Not Helping Us"


--------------------------





8. (C) Emboffs then met with roughly 60 internally displaced
persons (IDPs) living in poor conditions in Turbo. There are
roughly 9,000 IDPs in the Turbo area, many of whom were
displaced from Cacarica in 1997 and are awaiting the right
conditions to return. The legal representative of the
Cacarica communities referred to the peace communities as "a
state within a state," noting their refusal to allow
government authorities to enter. He also stated that the
funding that has been given to Justicia y Paz by
international donors and other organizations to help the
communities and the displaced is not reaching the people. He
said the communities have received nothing: houses are in
shambles, there is no running water, no bathroom facilities,
no medical facilities and no school supplies. He added that
children of community members are being conscripted into
illegal armed groups and prostitution is on the rise. He
said the communities need the assistance of the GOC, not only
to facilitate their returns but to improve their living
conditions.


9. (C) IDPs alleged that Justicia y Paz is letting the FARC
pass through their "peace communities" and that they and
other NGOs in the area are doing the political work of the
FARC. When Assistant Army Attache noted that some NGOs claim
there are high levels of military/paramilitary collaboration
and no FARC in the region, there was laughter among nearly
all of the 60 persons in the crowd. They said community
members are not allowed to move freely and expressed concern
about their security when they do return. A representative
of the Afro-Colombian communities of Rio Sucio noted that
members of the Cacarica communities have filed complaints
with the Fiscalia against Justicia y Paz and related NGO
CAVIDA (Community of Self-Determination, Life and Dignity)
for various reasons, including allowing the FARC to transit
through the communities and not respecting their land rights.
One individual noted that while Justicia y Paz regularly
denounces the military, often for false reasons, they have
never denounced the crimes, including murder, that the FARC
has committed against members of their communities. One
community leader told Emboffs that because he was late to a
required weekly meeting with Justicia y Paz (he was buying
milk for his family), he was sanctioned and his family did
not receive any food for that week. Community members also
alleged that Justicia y Paz is buying land in the region, in
contradiction of Law 70 which gave land rights to the
Afro-Colombian communities. For example, in the community of
Nueva Vida, a sign with a German flag appeared in April 2004
which said "private property."



10. (C) During the middle of the meeting, the group became
very quiet and some individuals left the room. It was later
explained to Emboffs that a man who residents identified as a
FARC militia member ("miliciano") was walking around the
meeting site, noting who was in the meeting and what was
being said. He remained in the area at least until Emboffs
left the site.



--------------------------


Phone Call Received


--------------------------





11. (C) At 0830 on May 13, Human Rights Officer received a
call on her cellphone from a representative of a U.S. based
religious organization who asked for her by name. This
person said she was calling to express her concern that false
allegations were being made against Justicia y Paz. Poloff
noted she was in Turbo and the NGO representative answered
that she had "heard" someone from the Embassy was in the
region with the 17th Brigade. Information on Poloff's
whereabouts were most likely passed to various organizations
by the unknown "miliciano."



--------------------------


Boca de Limon


--------------------------





12. (C) Prior to visiting one of the Cacarica communities,
Emboffs spoke with Juan Quinto, a leader of the Boca de Limon
community. Quinto's community recently decided they no
longer wanted to be a peace community. He said the community
had never agreed to be a "peace community" when it accepted
the assistance of Justicia y Paz, rather the decision was
made for them. Quinto added that the aid given to Justicia y
Paz, including assistance from the British organization
Oxfam, to improve the living conditions of the community
never made it to the people. He said Justicia y Paz
regulated access to the community, did not allow residents to
easily leave, and did not permit the entry of state security
forces. Quinto noted that he had not personally seen
Justicia y Paz representatives meet with the FARC, but had
heard the allegations.



13. (C) Quinto said since the decision was made not to be a
peace community, Justicia y Paz does not allow the residents
to use the school they (Justicia y Paz) had built.
Therefore, the school, which has desks and blackboards, sits
unused, while the 76 school age children in the community
make do with a rundown building, no desks and no chairs.
Quinto also told Emboffs that Justicia y Paz has a motorboat
which they do not allow residents to use even when needed for
emergency purposes.



--------------------------


Visit to Las Balsas Community


--------------------------





14. (C) Embassy officials, accompanied by BG Fandino and with
air transport and security provided by the Colombian Armed
Forces, traveled via helicopter to Las Balsas. Las Balsas is
a community that rejected the assistance of Justicia y Paz
and refused to become a peace community when they returned to
the region in 1998. The community has just started working
with Colombian banana company, Multi Fruit, which is
currently employing 80 individuals with plans to expand.
Balsas is located in a flat, open area (no jungle) allowing
environmentally friendly planting. Once at capacity, Multi
Fruit will engage in 50/50 profit sharing with the community.
The company is also working on improving the health center
for the community and providing medical services to its
employees and their families. The community has a school,
although they are still waiting for the state assigned
teacher, and the houses are well-kept with bathrooms and
running water. Community members told Emboffs that security
has improved in the region and that they are in frequent
contact with the 17th Brigade. Residents and company members
did note however, that they are often accused of supporting
paramilitaries because they are working with a private
company and have good relations with the military.



15. (C) Residents who participated in the meeting ) roughly
100 ) agreed NGOs have done nothing positive for communities
in the region and stated that is why Balsas has rejected
their presence. One individual compared Balsas to Nueva
Vida, a nearby community, which is assisted by Justicia y Paz
and has nothing to show for it. Residents agreed they are
happy with their community, their jobs and are optimistic
about the future. One woman did express concern that
Justicia y Paz would come and try to take over their
community. BG Fandino replied that the State was there to
protect them. He then read an example of the several letters
the Brigade receives about paramilitary presence and military
collaboration in the area. Residents agreed that there is
not a strong paramilitary presence in the area, although one
exists, and that they have not seen evidence of
military-paramilitary collusion. They added that the FARC is
only 30 km from their community, but they are confident in
the State's ability to protect them. BG Fandino asked that
residents report the whereabouts of both FARC and AUC, noting
they are equally illegal. Additionally, Multi Fruit is
working on improving the communication abilities of the
community, by adding phone lines and radios, with the Brigade
and local police.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Latest Info on Police Presence in San Jose de Apartado


--------------------------



--------------------------





16. (U) Police Lieutenant Colonel Clavijo reported to Emboffs
that the police presence in San Jose continues to go well and
the number of families in San Jose has risen from two when
they arrived on April 2 to 45 as of May 12 and more continue
to return. The Police, who have been trained in community
policing and human rights, are working with the community in
several ways including assisting with improvements to the
hospital and school.
WOOD