According to the Campesino Association of Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT), members of the U.S-backed Colombian Army opened fire against unarmed protesters in the rural village of Vigilancia, located in the outskirts of the Northeastern city of Cucuta. The violent repression resulted in the death of 44 year-old campesino Emerito Buendia Martinez and severely injured three others, Miguel Hernández León, Juan Jose Orozco, and Jimmy Alberto Gonzalez.
“We wish to raise the alarm that the Colombian Army could engage in more excessive use of force and are trying to justify it by claiming there were armed confrontations, which is completely false”, said ASCAMCAT in a public statement released on Monday, May 18th.
The Colombian security forces have begun forced eradication operations in the rural outskirts of the city of Cucuta, in violation of the 2016 Havana peace accords, since April 25th. According to a public statement issued by ASCAMCAT and COCCAM, that day, military units commanded by Edwin Guiza entered into the communities of Vigilancia and Banco de Arenas, later committing a series of serious human rights violations.
The U.S-backed forced eradication operations in Colombia are directly responsible for gross human rights violations against the civilian population, including massacres, torture and extrajudicial killings by the Colombian security forces.
The murder of Emerito Buendia Martinez comes just weeks after the extrajudicial killing of Alejandro Carvajal, murdered by members of the Colombian security forces on March 26th.
Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective recently joined over 20 national and international groups calling on the U.S and Colombian government to respect the Havana peace accords and place a moratorium on forced eradication operations. These violations must be fully investigated and those found responsible must be brought to justice.
Currently, over 99,000 families have enrolled in the voluntary substitution program. The program seeks to provide a path for coca growing families to gradually and voluntarily transition their economies towards other crops. Despite the overwhelming success of the program when implemented, it is being actively undermined by the Duque administration with the full backing of the United States government, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in training, equipment, and funding to the Colombian security forces to carry out these atrocities in the name of the “War on Drugs”.