Paramilitaries disappear a land-restoration leader and his son

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The afternoon of Friday, March 23, Manuel Ruíz, a 56 year old member of the Census Committee of the Apartadocito Community Council, Curvaradó Basin, and Samir de Jesús Ruíz Gallo, 15 years old, were abducted by paramilitaries…

Their whereabouts have been unknown since the paramilitaries forced them to get off the vehicle in which they were traveling from Mutatá to Apartadocito, Curvaradó.

According to witnesses, one of the paramilitaries got on the vehicle that was carrying Manuel and Samir and other residents. Minutes later, the man, who identified himself as a paramilitary, ordered the driver to stop at a point known as “El Basurero (The Garbage Dump),” where two other members of the paramilitary structure were waiting.

Before the paramilitary action, Manuel and his son had been approached by police officers in Mutata and detained when they were charging one of their cell phones 317 370 7029 and 311 337 2374.

On that day, Friday March 23 about 4:30 p.m., Manuel contacted his family, telling them that they had been forced to get off the vehicle at the place called “El Basurero,” near the bridge over the Rio Sucio, ten minutes from Mutatá, and that the captors demanded two billion pesos (a million US dollars) to release them. He added that the money should be taken to a place for sending and receiving money orders in Mutatá called GANA.

On Saturday, March 24, about 10:30 a.m., in Apartadocito, a member of the Apartadocito community asked the government representative there to clarify what had happened to Manuel and his son since he was the one who was going to guide the course in Los Piscingos. The government representative said that the abduction was an attempt to sabotage the inspection of the boundaries and that he would look for another person to guide them.

In fact, Manuel would have guided the government in the inspection of the area known as “Los Piscingos,” occupied in bad faith by the business owners and their subordinates since 1996 following the paramilitary operations. The inspection would have taken place today to fulfill the Constitutional Court Order A-045 of March 7, 2012.
The national government stated that the Urabá Police knew about the situation of Manuel and Samir through the Ombudsman, and specified that actually he had been abducted with the intention of robbery or that it was related to their cell phones.

The police affirmed that they found it strange that this happened just when Don Manuel was supposed to participate on that day in the process of characterization with the national government delegation in Apartadocito.

Manuel is one of the 37 members of the Curvaradó basin who are victims of threats against their lives for reclaiming their land. The Interior Ministry carried out a risk analysis and assigned him a cell phone as a protective measure.

The absence of guarantees, the failure to confront paramilitarism among them, is evident. The Colombian government ought to demand that state institutions activate a search for and confrontation of entrenched support for paramilitary operations in the public security forces.

About 5:30 p.m. on Friday March 23, it became known that paramilitaries, among them, Jesús Moya Asprilla, better known as “El Cucho,” told relatives of the victims that Manuel and Samir had been assassinated about 3:00 a.m. and their bodies thrown under the Rio Sucio bridge.

Manuel and his son, before being detained for more than 30 minutes by police officers, had been accused by paramilitaries of being guerrillas.
A similar paramilitary modus operandi took place in October 2005. On that occasion, the leader in the restitution, Orlando Valencia, after having been detained by police in Bajirá, was disappeared and afterward assassinated by paramilitaries.

On Sunday morning, March 25, in the presence of police, the family found a bloody footprint on the bridge. In the afternoon, the police reported that they flew over the zone and had to suspend the search because of bad weather conditions.

The family, with national and international accompaniment, searched the place known as “El Basurero” without finding any trace. The police in Mutatá asked Mrs. Trinidad Gallo, wife of Don Manuel and mother of Samir, to sign documents. She was unable to determine what the documents were about.

Don Manuel had denounced to the government that one of the administrators of the businessman, Victor Rios, known as “El Bicho” (The Bug), had pressured him to withdraw from the census process. Manuel had constantly been intimidated by this businessman, a bad-faith occupier whose land bordered his own.
Currently seven children and twelve adults of the Ruíz Gallo family are displaced in Mutatá.

Tomorrow morning early, family members, together with members of the humanitarian zones and biodiversity zones of Curvaradó, with national and international accompaniment, will resume the search for Manuel and Samir in the Rio Sucio (River).

Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz

Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission

Bogotá, March 24, 2012