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“All the Convivir were ours”


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Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975. Bulletin No 27

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“All the Convivir were ours”

  1. 1. COMISIÓN COLOMBIANA DE JURISTAS Organización no gubernamental con estatus consultiv o ante la ONU Filial de la Comisión Internacional de Juristas (Ginebra) y de la Comisión Andina de Juristas (Lima) PERSONERÍA JURÍDICA: RESOLUCIÓN 1060, AGOSTO DE 1988 DE LA ALCALDÍA MAYOR DE BOGOTÁBulletin No 27: Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975 “All the Convivir were ours” 1According to the paramilitary commander Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,” the “Convivir” haveacted, since their inception and until today, under the protection of the military forces. Thismember of the paramilitary made this declaration between March 26 and 28 in the course of his“free-version” or voluntary confession hearing, in the framework of the procedure foreseen for thereduction of sentences favoring paramilitaries by Law 975 of 2005. Alias “HH” revealed that the“Convivir” Papagayo, based in the Urabá region, always had its base behind the 17 th Brigade of theNational Army, and to reach its facilities it was necessary to go through Army checkpoints. He saidhimself that in order to enter the Brigade, he needed only to identify himself as “the blond Veloza,”as he was known in Urabá, and immediately he was allowed in. 2Likewise, the paramilitary bosses Salvatore Mancuso and Éver Veloza confirmed that the presentmayor of the municipality of Carepa (Antioquia), Arnulfo Peñuela, was a member of the “Convivir”Papagayo and had strong links with paramilitary groups.3 According to alias “HH,” these linksbecame concrete in the help provided by Peñuela for the creation of several “Convivir” in Urabá,and in channeling the funds contributed by the banana-producing companies in the region toparamilitarism through the “Convivir” Papagayo, directed by Peñuela. 4On March 30th past, Arnulfo Peñuela and other representatives of the “Convivir” Papagayo weredetained by order of the special prosecutor 29 of Medellín for their links with paramilitarism andaccused of conspiracy to commit a crime. 5 Éver Veloza’s declarations and the investigations beingcarried out by the Prosecutor’s Office in the case of the “Convivir” Papagayo show the real scale ofwhat the “Convivir” have meant throughout the country. This “Convivir” had the help of varioussectors for its creation and consolidation: the determined support of the 17th Brigade of the NationalArmy, the direction of Arnulfo Peñuela, who today wields power as a regional politician and isbeing investigated for his links with paramilitary groups, and the financial support of the banana-producing companies with the contributions they made to paramilitarism.1 Free-version hearing of Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,” March 26, 27 and 28, 2008. The “Convivir,” (Living Together) also known as“rural security cooperatives,” were associations permitted by Decree-Law 356 of 1994 to bear weapons of war. The norm that allowedthis (paragraph, Article 39) was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in November of 1997 (Sentence C-572/07). The“Convivir” were used intensively for the development of paramilitarism2 Free-version hearing of Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,” October 30, 2007.3 Free-version hearing of Salvatore Mancuso, May 17, 2007; Free-version hearing of Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,” October 30, 2007.4 Free-version hearing of Éver Veloza Garcia, alias “HH,” October 30, 2007.5 In an interview with a Colombian newspaper, Arnulfo Peñuela denied emphatically his links with paramilitarism: “I was administrativedirector of the Association Convivir Papagayo until five years ago. It was created with the authorization of the national anddepartmental governments, but saying that we had any kind of link is a lie. I never had a relationship with him and that group.” ElColombiano daily newspaper, “Mayor of Carepa detained for supposed links with AUC,” April st, 2008, on line version. Calle 72 Nº 12-65 piso 7 PBX: (571) 3768200 – (571) 3434710 Fax: (571) 3768230 Email: Website: Bogotá, Colombia
  2. 2. The “Convivir” Papagayo is only one example of what these associations of “private oversight andsecurity” really were: veritable paramilitary groups under the protection of the State, ororganizations that acted jointly and in a coordinated manner with the paramilitary groups. Thissituation had been denounced for years by human rights organizations, by some State entities, andby international human rights protection bodies who saw in these groups the legalization ofparamilitarism. 6 This has been confirmed also by other paramilitaries, such as Salvatore Mancuso,who, in the course of the “free-version” hearings stated that they – the paramilitaries – promoted thecreation of at least ten of the “Convivir” that operate in the North of country. 7The worrisome aspect of these paramilitaries’ confessions, beyond the confessions in and ofthemselves, is the fact that neither the State nor the present Government has recognized oracknowledged its responsibility for the human rights violations that these groups have committedfrom the day of their creation to this day. On the contrary, the national Government continues toback initiatives that are similar to the so-called “Convivir,” thereby denying the violence that theseassociations caused, as well as the responsibility that belongs to the State for their creation and theiractions, thus reproducing the conditions for the repetition of the atrocities.In fact, the Convivir were promoted enthusiastically by the then Governor of Antioquia and todayPresident of Colombia, who authorized the establishment of a considerable number of them. It mustbe pointed out that the Governor of Antioquia had no faculties to grant such authorizations, sincethis was the responsibility of the Superintendence of Oversight and Private Security of the Ministryof Defense. 8 In any case, several of the Convivir authorized by the then Governor were led by, ormade up of, well-known paramilitary bosses when they were already part of the paramilitarystructure. This reality became evident on April 17, 2007, when Congress held a debate regardingparamilitarism in Antioquia, during which it became manifest that while he was Governor ofAntioquia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez authorized the creation of at least the following “Convivir” 9: - The “Convivir Horizonte” and the “Convivir Guaymaral,” both led by the paramilitary leader - Salvatore Mancuso. - The “Convivir Avive,” to which Jesús Ignacio Roldán, alias “Monoleche,” belonged. - The “Convivir Costa Azul,” of which the paramilitary Arnoldo Vergara TresPalacios, alias “el Mochacabezas [the Headchopper],” was a member. - The “Convivir Nuevo Amanecer,” made up of, among others, Rodrigo Pelufo, alias “Cadena.” - The “Convivir Los arrayanes,” of the paramilitary Juan Francisco Prada. - The “Convivir Bellaván” of the paramilitary Rodrigo Pérez, alias “Julián Bolívar.” - A “Convivir” directed by the paramilitary boss José María Barrera Ortiz, alias “Chepe Barrera.” - The “Convivir Papagayo,” directed by Arnulfo Peñuela.6 The involvement of the civilian population in activities that are the responsibility of the State security forces is not a new practice inColombia. Beginning with the norms that gave rise to the creation of paramilitary groups in 1968 until today, the Colombian State hassystematically implemented mechanisms to involve civilians in the development of military tasks such as the “self-defense councils, ”the“Convivir” associations, and the resent implementation of the “democratic security” policy. Through Sentence C-572 de 1997, theConstitutional Court declared unconstitutional the norm that allowed the “Convivir” to use weapons of war and arms of exclusive use bythe State security forces (paragraph of Article 39 of the Statute of Oversight and Private Security).7 Free-version hearing of Salvatore Mancuso, May 15, 2007.8 Statute of Oversight and Private Security, Decree 356 of 1994, art. 39 Congress of the Republic, debate on paramilitarism in Antioquia called by Senator Gustavo Petro, April 17, 2007. 2
  3. 3. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, while Governor of Antioquia in 1996 was one of the staunchest defenders ofthe “Convivir” and justified providing these groups with long-range weapons, as well as theirparticipation in military tasks, as follows: “We asked Porce’s Convivir to collaborate until the troops arrived, but they answered that they did not have resources because, while the guerrilla had all kinds of weapons, they had only revolvers and sawed-off shotguns.” 10Even today, the national Government continues promoting policies tending to arm the civilianpopulation and get it involved in the armed conflict through its participation in intelligence workand military operations. At present, through the “democratic security” policy, President ÁlvaroUribe Vélez is once again setting into motion mechanisms to involve the civilian population inmilitary tasks through the implementation of programs such as the “informants’ network,” the“peasant soldiers,” or the integration of the “demobilized” combatants in private securityorganizations.These three initiatives were designed under the guidelines of the policy of “democratic security.”This policy establishes that “the citizenry shall play a fundamental role in information gathering”(for military intelligence). One of the main programs in this policy is the “network of informantsand helpers,” which aims to make the 44 million inhabitants of Colombia carry out militaryintelligence functions. Likewise, the Government planned to incorporate 100.000 young men in aspecialized military program called “peasant soldiers.” The Government proposed to recruit,between August 2002 and March 2003, at least 15.000 peasants in small municipalities. Manyyoung people in Colombia have been recruited and trained as peasant soldiers. Lastly, theGovernment has ordered, in the framework of its policy of “reinsertion,” the incorporation of“demobilized” combatants in military activities, their involvement in activities of “oversight andprotection of the citizenry,” such as road police, civic guards, or forest wardens, and theirintegration as guards in private security companies. 11In August 2002, when a journalist called the President’s attention to the risks of turning the civilian population into informants of the 12State security forces, he declared that “what we have here is a risk for 40 million citizens. If we all work, we will get rid of that risk.”The aim of this policy was made clearer through a statement by the Government’s HighCommissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo, in the course of a ceremony of demobilization ofthe Centauros Block of the AUC: “We need to consolidate this marriage between the citizenry andthe State forces. Without the citizenry, the State forces are blind and deaf; and without the Stateforces accompanying it, the citizenry ends up being tempted by the illegal armed groups or beingsubjected to them.” 13Some paramilitary bosses, such as Salvatore Mancuso and Éver Veloza, have already contradictedthe Government’s denial about the real nature of the “Convivir,” stating that, in fact, these10 Quoted in Colombian Commission of Jurists, “Colombia, derechos humanos y derecho humanitario: 1996,” [Colombia, human rightsand humanitarian law] Bogotá, July 1997, p. 107.11 See in this regard, in Colombian Commission of Jurists, “Colombia: going against the recommendations on Human Rights” Bogotá,December 2004, p. 46.12 “Uribe inaugura ‘red de informantes,’” [Uribe inaugurates informants’ network] August 8, 2002, consult in: Words of the High Commissioner for Pesace at the demobilization ceremony of Block Centaurs of the United Self-Defense Forces ofColombia – AUC, Septemberr, 2005, township of Tilodirán, municipality of Yopal (Casanare). Consult 3
  4. 4. associations are nothing more than paramilitary groups. According to Éver Veloza, alias “HH,”himself during his free-version declarations: “Let us not deceive ourselves: all the Convivir wereours.” 14These confessions must not be taken lightly. In order to guarantee the rights of the victims, it isnecessary that justice investigates the public servants who, through their deeds or omissions, havecontributed to the consolidation of paramilitary groups through the so-called “Convivir,” and thatthey are made accountable to justice for it. Likewise, it is necessary that the present Governmentshows its rejection of the actions of the “special services of oversight and private security” whichacted under the protection of paramilitarism. To this end, the Government must stop promotingpublic policies such as “democratic security,” that are conducive to human rights violations and tothe involvement of civilians in military tasks, as was done by the so-called “Convivir.”Bogotá, June 20, 2008For more information, please contact Gustavo Gallón-Giraldo, Director of the CCJ, at Tel. (571) 376 8200, Ext. 115.14 Free-version hearing of Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,” March 26, 27 and 28, 2008. 4