[Documents menu] Documents menu

Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Tue, 11 Nov 97 12:39:32 CST
From: rich%pencil@VMA.CC.ND.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Weekly Americas News Update #406, 11/9/97
Article: 21705

/** reg.nicaragua: 36.0 **/
** Topic: Weekly News Update #406, 11/9/97 **
** Written 8:28 AM Nov 10, 1997 by wnu in cdp:reg.nicaragua **

Colombian Indigenous Leaders Murdered

Weekly Update on the Americas,
Issue # 406, 9 November 1997

Bernabela Riondo Pacheco and Santiago Jose Polo Guevara, leaders of Colombia's indigenous Zenu community, were murdered on Nov. 2 in San Andres de Sotavento, Cordoba. On Nov. 3, the indigenous communities of Colombia's Cordoba department condemned the killings; representatives of the indigenous council charge that since the murders, members and leaders of the council have received constant anonymous threats warning them that they have eight days to leave the area. The fate of another Cordoba indigenous leader remains unknown: Virgilio Rafael Cardenas Feria, who was national director of the Colombian Indigenous Movement (MIC), has been missing since he was forcibly abducted by a group of armed men on the night of Oct. 31.

Members of the San Andres de Sotavento reservation said that heavily armed men who presented themselves as members of the army [or possibly of the Dijin, a police intelligence organization] had taken Riondo and Polo from their homes. Riondo was an indigenous governor and leader of the reservation; Polo was an artisan and a healer. Until 1994 Riondo served as a member of the board of directors of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), and at the time of her death she was a member of the board of directors of the Regional Autonomous Corporation of the Valleys of Sinu and San Jorge.

Indigenous senator Gabriel Muyuy said the same dark forces were responsible for Cardenas' disappearance and for the murder of Riondo and Polo. Muyuy said he will ask the government, the National Conciliation Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross (CICR) to intervene to try to get Cardenas back alive. According to a Zenu communique, Nilson Zurita, elected on Oct. 26 as indigenous council member of San Andres de Sotavento, has left the reservation because the same armed men who killed Riondo and Polo went to his house to look for him. [El Colombiano (Medellin) 11/4/97, 11/5/97]

Zurita and three other Zenu leaders elected on Oct. 26 in San Andres de Sotavento charged on Nov. 3 that they are receiving death threats from paramilitary groups. Zurita told RadioNet that the men who came to his house on the night of Nov. 1 certainly were paramilitaries that wanted to kill me. They came to look for me, and because they didn't find me, they attacked my brothers and my wife, said Zurita. [El Diario-La Prensa 11/4/97 from EFE]

At least 70 members of the Zenu tribe have been murdered since 1975 in a wave of violence attributed to settlers seeking to take over Zenu land. The only person to serve jail time for any of the murders is William Alberto Tulena Tulena--a cousin of Senator Julio Cesar Guerra Tulena--who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the May 27, 1994 massacre of four Zenu in San Andres de Sotavento. [El Colombiano 11/5/97]