doc. 22
30 June 1981
Original:  Spanish


4.          The Commission was informed of and obtained information about military operations carried out in different parts of the country in March and April 1981.  These operations left a number of dead and wounded and resulted in the capture of important M-19 leaders.  Some of the captives were transferred for trial, as stated before, to the oral court-martial which was being held at the La Picota Penitentiary in Bogotá since their cases were under that court¢ jurisdiction.  Others were tried at the court-martial held in Ipiales, as noted in Chapter V of this report.


The Commission requested information from the Government on these charges.  The Government turned over a document about the military operations, which contains background information and draws its own conclusions.  This document covers military operations carried out in southern and western Colombia between March 6 and April 24, 1981.  The text of the document follows:


1.          BACKGROUND


As a result of the public forces¢ operations against the M-19 following the robbery of a large amount of arms from the magazines of the General Command in late 1979, approximately 80% of the arms were recovered and several of those responsible for the robbery and Amy members were captured.  This forced the organization to go on to the defensive.  Their leaders decided to reduce their activities in the city and to concentrate on the countryside.  Most of the resources they gained from the seizure of the Dominican Republic Embassy on February 27 1980 were used for this purpose.  At the same time, they decided to use the services of Cuba to instruct members in the techniques of guerrilla warfare.


To do this, the so-called national Leadership of the M-19, has been selecting people since mid-1980 who meet certain requirements to receive instructions and to complete their indoctrination.  This work was carried out primarily in the regions of Bogotá, Cauca Valley, Tolima, Viejo Caldas, Antioquia, and Santander, and among members of the so-called Huila-Caquetá Armed Mobile Group.  In addition, persons from other countries (México, Costa Rica, Panamá and Nicaragua) were selected.  Most of those recruited in Colombia training, the details of that training or the later plans.


In September and October, the persons selected were concentrated in Panamá City, Panamá, which they reached, by different means over similar routes.  There they were welcomed by Colombians, Panamanians and Cubans who had made preparations for their stay.  They later traveled to Cuba by air.  They took the guerrilla warfare course in Cuba for approximately three months.  Most of the instructions were Cuban Army Officers.  These persons (approximately 120) were concentrated in the Ché Guevara School or camp.  In addition, members of the Jorge Zambrano Command, who had taken the Dominican Embassy, took another course at the so-called Contrapunto School, which operates at the same Ché Guevara camp.


Upon completion of the course, they decided to return to Colombia, also via Panamá, in two different groups and on different dates and from different places.  The first group led by JOSE HELMER MARIN MARIN went from Cuba to Panamá on a Cubana de Aviación airliner and then from Panamá City to the town of Jaqué in a Las Perlas airplane.  From there they went in a small vessel to the coast to Chocó.  A group of 41 persons landed there in the first week of February.  These persons had plans to cross Chocó and to organize an area of operations in Viejo Caldas, Norte del Valle and parte of Antioquía.


The second group under the command of CARLOS TOLEDO PLATA traveled from Cuba to Panamá on Cubana de Aviación.  From Panamá they went to the Colombian coast, in the Department of Nariño, in a fishing vessel named Fredy.  In the first week of March, 85 persons disembarked near Tumaco with a large amount of war material and service and communications equipment.  Included in this group were former members of the rural armed groups of the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Comunistas).


2.          OPERATIONS


          On March 6, 1981, four persons were arrested in a truck at a customs post.  The truck was carrying a large amount of war material consisting of G-3 rifles, carbines, hand grenades, 60-mm mortar shells, 40 mm cannon shells, dynamite, ammunition and communications equipment.  As a result of this, and on the basis of later information, that same day the Army started operations and wiped out the invading group.  It caused many dead and wounded and took many captives.  Approximately 50% of the members went to Ecuador where they were detained by the authorities of that country and later turned over to the Colombian army.


          On May 20, 1981, 66 of the members of that invading group were sentenced by the court-martial held in the city of Ipiales (Nariño).  Others, at the request of competent authority, were transferred to Bogotá where they were put on trial.


          The group that disembarked at Chocó remained in the area for approximately one month without being detected by the public forces.  When the group was finally detected, they fell victim to military operations, which resulted in their being broken up into smaller groups, followed by many dead and wounded and captives, and finally dispersal and virtually total destruction of the groups.  One important fact is that just before the landing, members of M-19 urban groups had carried out administrative work and indoctrination in the area which was done form the start with the support of the negro population.  The court-martial that will try these persons will be convoked soon.


3.          RESULTS


          The following are the total results of the operations conducted against the M-19 over the present year, that is, up to May 24, 1981:


a)       Antisocial elements






Among the latter are members of the  So-called command groups.


b)                 Public Forces


Dead 8
Wounded 13


c)                 Material confiscated


G-3 rifles 140
P-48 submachine guns 26
M-1 carbines  11
Rocket launchers  9
Pistols and revolvers 20
60 mm mortar grenades 29
40 mm grenades  22
Rocket launcher grenades 121
Flares 42
Hand grenades 298
Anti-personal mines 36
Dynamite caps 355
Ammunition, different caliber’s 29,619


Communications equipment, uniforms boots and a large volume of service materiel.


                    4.      CONCLUSIONS


a.       Participation of Cuba in the instruction and training of the members of the two M-19 subversive groups that landed on the pacific coast was proven.


b.       International intervention was demonstrated, as stated in the previous paragraph, with the help that Panamanians and Cubans gave them in the Republic of Panama and with the capture of five Panamanians, one Costa Rican, and one Uruguayan.


c.       Following Cuban directives, the M-19 has been attempting to unify the armed groups that exist in Colombia but is not succeeding in this attempt.  It is considered more difficult to achieve this completely now that their efforts in the rural area have failed.


d.      Bearing in mind the number of members and sympathizers, their economic resources, the external assistance that they receive and the characteristics of their leaders, these subversive organizations continue being a threat to the public peace.


e.       Despite these losses the M-19 still has the capacity to act, especially in urban areas, and to reorganize itself in an attempt to take the initiative, to recover from these defeats and to show its strength.  To neutralize this, it is considered that the current rules on constitutional exceptions will continue being a decisive factor. [8]/


D.       Rural people and the Indian communities


          1.          The documents and information about military operations, which are mentioned in this chapter, refer to the fact that these actions have had an impact on the local people and Indian communities in certain rural parts of the country.  The result has been a flight of people and the capture of civilians who belong to these sectors of the Colombian population.


          2.          In the Second National Forum on Human Rights, held in Bogotá from August 15 to 17, 1980.  Acción Campesina Colombiana (ACC), the Federación Nacional Sindical Agropecuaria (FENSA), and the Regional Indian Council of the Cauca (CRIC) submitted a motion on the campesino and Indian situation in Colombia.  The conclusions of this document are given below:


In view of the circumstances, the campesino and Indian organizations that are signing this motion proposed to the second Forum of Human Rights and General Amnesty support the actions that we need to promote and secure the following basic claims:


a.       Full guarantee for real exercise of the right to organize and bargain collectively in the countryside.


b.       Demilitarization of the rural areas and a dialogue through the representative organizations o local farmers and the Indian communities in an effort to find solutions for problems of public order in rural areas.


c.       Indemnity to widows of the campesinos and Indians who have been killed and for the destruction of their crops, homes and so forth.


d.       Lifting of the state of siege and repeal of the Security Statute.


e.       Real and effective participation of rural organizations in the different agencies that study, plan and define national policies for the farm sector.


f.        Prompt delivery to the campesinos of lands currently covered under the Agrarian Reform Law.  Speedier processing of these cases and review of those that resulted in the removal of lands during the past two years by a commission in which the campesino movement will have full participation.


g.       Establishment of crop insurance for small and mid-size farms operations, in accordance with a plan that was studied by campesino and Indian organizations.


h.       Applications to the farm sector of the standard workweek and minimum wages in effect for the urban sector.


i.        Establishment of governmental mechanisms or expansion and strengthening of existing mechanisms to guarantee full compliance with labor laws for farm workers and full recognition of their organizations in disputes.


j.        Respect for Indian reservations, their customs and their cultural traditions, and return of lands taken from Indian groups.


3.          In September 1979, a Seminar on Human Rights in Rural Areas of the Andean Region was held in Bogotá.  This seminar was organized by the International Commission of Jurists, with the co-sponsorship of the Latin American Council for Law and Development.  Motions on different topics were presented and discussed at this seminar.  Among them were motions on labor law, union rights and the rights of the Indian population.


As regards the first topic, in the part on Colombia, the summary of discussions stated the following:


At the start, Colombia¢ s rules in the labor code were applied to both farm workers and city workers, without distinction.  The law permits basic industrial trade unions although the latter are weak and the employers are opposed to them.  In the Department of Valle del Cauca, the growth of agroindustry  (especially large estates and sugar mills) and consequently, the increasing number of wage earners have enabled workers in this region to develop a significant level of organization.  The law includes individual and collective contracts for farm workers but in practice, these have been used only where rural organizations are strong.


          As regards the second topic, Human Rights of the Indian Population, the summary stated the following with respect to Colombia:


… in Colombia the Indian population is a minority.  In the Andean area of Colombia, the Indians still follow their historical traditions.  The land tenure system is the reservation.  In jungle areas, the situation of the Indians is different because land settlement has occurred there.  State policy is guided by the objective of forced integration of the Indian population into so-called "western civilization.”  

The Indians are not recognized as Indian populations with rights.  It was also stated that besides this settlement of their lands by outsiders, the Indians are the targets of activities of Catholic and religious missions, which have grown recently.  Birth control and the destruction of their environment amount to policies aimed at liquidating the Indian communities.  All of this, it was said, is done under the umbrella of oppression and persecution, which is part of a militarization campaign of Colombia¢s rural areas. [8]/


          4.          Several documents examined by the Commission point to harassment by the public forces of the leaders of campesino and Indian organizations, especially in the Cauca area.  This was mentioned in the statement of Messrs. Marco Anibal and Edgar Alirio Avirama Avirama, who are being held on charges of belonging to the M-19 movement, as noted in Chapter III.E.2 of this report. [9]/


          5.          In January 1981, the Director of the Indian Affairs Division of the Ministry of Government, Dr. Julian Narvaez, offered to the Commission information about Indian communities in Colombia.  This information referred to the following matters:


a)       At this time, Colombia has 77 Indians groups with a population of approximately 450,000.  O this population, 27% live in the jungle and the others are in the Andean regions in the departments of Cauca, Nariño, La Guajira, Caldas, Tunja in the Department of Boyacá and in the intendency of Putumayo.  Most of the Indian communities live in these places;  [10]/


b)       There are Indian areas that have no contact with civilization, one case being the Caraballo Indians in the Amazon.  Government attempts have been made to integrate them but the embers of this community have resisted all efforts.  Several Colombian foundations and associations have gone through these areas, but basically for the purpose of evangelization;


c)       The main problem facing the Indian communities rest in the land tenure system.  This problem is worst in the department of Cauca.  The Indian sanctuaries were established in colonial times and several of these still exist.  These are pieces of land that the Spaniards gave to the Indians as communal property and since they are inalienable, they may not be sold.  They are also free of all taxes.  Law 89 of 1890 covers these sanctuaries.  Another serious problem concerns Indian communities that are not in any sanctuary or protected by any law.  Several proposals have been made for these cases but they were never made into law due to problems arising from economic, political, investigative and religious interests;


d)       A very complete and progressive proposal will be made at the special session of the Colombian Congress that is convoked for the month of January 1981.  This bell is a comprehensive legal structure covering, in addition to other matters, civil, penal, labor, fiscal, religious, economic and social issues involving Indians.  Approximately 400 laws relate to different Indian questions but these laws are all out of date;


e)       Another problem the Indians face is that when settlers move into certain communities, they take large areas of land away from the Indians.  Since 1968 the Government has been establishing what are known as Indian reservations.  These are empty lands given to Indian communities for their use and are designed to prevent interference and abuses.  At this time there are 42 of these reservations established on national lands set up by the intendances and the commissariats.  There are also 30 Indian reservations in the departments.  In addition, 46 reservations will be established to cover all the Indian population of the country.  The 72 reservations that have been established to date cover almost four million hectares.  It is estimated that the 46 new reservations will be established over the next three years.  Socioeconomic studies are now being conducted for this purpose;


f)       The Central Government acts through the ministry of government and the Colombian agrarian Reform Institute (INCORA) for all measures concerning the Indian problem;


g)       At times, the Indians are the victims of arbitrary action by the settlers and subordinate authorities.  There have been cases of Police Inspectors being settlers.  The persons responsible for this arbitrary action, when the facts are investigated, are punished by removal from office as a result of investigation and the case may also be referred to the Procurator General of the Nation when punishment must be handed down.  Most of these arbitrary cases occur in national lands located in the Amazon and the Orinoco Basin.  In 1980, five cases resulted in investigations and penalties.  Similar problems have also come up in the departments, especially Cauca, where three legal suits were brought in 1980;


h)       Problems have come up in Cauca as a result of the subversive action that involved several Indians associated with the M-19.  Several are being detained and tried by the M-19 oral court-martial.  Several campesinos also joined the FARC, especially in Cauca Department and some of them are being detained and tried by the FARC oral court-martial;


i)        Several M-19 and FARC leaders conducted political activities in the Indian communities and among farmer groups.  Their arguments are based on what they call reclaiming lands.  In the Indian sanctuaries, their traditional authorities are elected.  There are some cases of political participation in armed movements against the Government.  In El Pato, in Huila department, adjacent to the department of Cauca and the Intendency of Caquetá, problems such as the exodus of campesinos have occurred.


E.          Government action in connection with the Indian problem


          1.          During the on-site investigation the Commission met with the Minister of Government, Dr. Germán Zea Hernández, who discussed several aspects of the Indian problem in Colombia.  This high Government has taken to resolve this complex problem.


          2.          Among the actions that the government has taken is the draft law that has been presented to the Congress of the Republic for study and approval.  [11]/  Under the terms of this draft law, policies will be determined for serving the Indian communities, special powers will be granted to the President of the Republic, the Indian Development Fund would be established and other provisions would be issued.  According to the first article of this proposal, the law presented to the Congress of the Republic  “has the fundamental objective of determining a policy for the Colombian State that would guarantee to its Indian population living conditions and development that are consistent with human dignity.”  In the second article, this policy would be guided by rules set forth in the National Constitution regarding the following principles:


1.                 The Colombian State recognizes for its Indian population:


a)       The freedom to determine their own cultural, political, social and economic development and to have that development encouraged and respected.


b)       The legitimacy, for all legal purposes, of their traditional authorities and their forms of government and social organization.


c)        The right of ownership of their traditional lands in accordance with their own rules, uses and customs, as well as of the natural resources of those territories, without prejudice to rights legitimately acquired by third persons over those lands and resources.


d)        The validity of the standards that traditionally regulated the life of the community and of the bodies responsible for applying them, in accordance with the competence determined by law.


e)       The right to conserve defends, increase and spread their cultural and artistic heritage as well as to preserve their archeological wealth.


f)        The right of their members to accept or reject military service in time of peace.


2.          The Colombian State makes the following commitments to its Indians population:


a)        That any instruction given, in any of its forms, will be given with their approval and be based on the cultural characteristics and behavior of each ethnic group and be given in their natural surroundings, insofar as possible.


b)       To carry out a program that would meet the current needs of sufficient and adequate lands.


c)       To give them education and the means to maintain and develop their cultural heritage and at the same time, to acquire and apply those sciences and techniques that are useful for their development.


d)       To prepare and develop training and service programs in preventive and curative medicine consistent with the knowledge of traditional Indian medicine and which shall be no impediment to the practice of their own curative medicine.


e)       To guarantee to them the exercise of freedom of conscience and the practice of their traditional worship or any other that they may freely select, on the basis of the constitutional precept that no one may be molested by reason of their religious opinions or compelled to profess believes or to observe practices contrary to their conscience.  [12]/


The Statement of Reasons that the Minister of Government gave to the Congress for its consideration of this proposal covers, in addition to others, the following points:


The proposal has the fundamental objective of developing a definitive and coherent policy on the basic principles through which the Indian population of the country can achieve their own cultural, political, social and economic development by reasons of state recognition of certain rights, assumption by the state of related obligations and establishment of a legal system in which the relations of the state and the so-called “major society” can be conducted with that population.


To develop and carry out such a policy, the following are recognized for the Indian communities: The right to self-determination; the legitimacy, for all legal purposes, of their traditional authorities and their forms of government and social organization; the right o ownership of their traditionally occupied lands, in accordance with their own rules, uses and customs, as well as over natural resources, with the limitation imposed by rights legitimately acquired by third persons; validity of the customary rules that have regulated them and of the organs that apply the,, within the area of competence that is determined by law; the right to increase, conserve, spread and defend their cultural and artistic heritage, and to preserve their archeological wealth, and the right of their members to accept or reject military service, while they still belong to their communities, during times of peace.


It also establishes state obligations, and guidelines for carrying them out, in connection with the Indian community.  A few of these are as follows: Any training given to them, in any of its forms, must first receive their prior approval and must be based on the cultural characteristics and behavior of each ethnic group; providing them with sufficient and adequate lands; providing the, with education and the means to maintain and develop their own cultural heritage and to acquire and apply sciences and techniques that are useful for their development; to prepare and develop medical training and care programs that are consistent with the knowledge of Indian medicine; and to guarantee them the exercise of their constitutional rights of freedom of conscience and practice of traditional worship.


          3.          The Government has turned over to the Commission the Indian Development Plan prepared in November 1980, by the National Planning Department.  The annex to this plan is referred to in the preceding section.  The Indian development Plan has been approved and is now being executed.  Its execution will require the sum of 1.3 billion Colombian pesos in addition to the sums included in the regular budget.  Until 1980 the budget that has been set aside to care for Indian problems has not exceeded twenty million Colombian pesos.


          The Indian Development Plan, which will be implemented over three years from 1981 – 1983, seeks to solve, in addition to other problems, those relating to lands, health, education and infrastructure.  In the text of the document, the general objective of the Program is defined as “solving the most urgent problems of the Indian population and narrowing the existing gap between the development of the country and the development of this part of the Colombian population, with respect for its traditional culture and territories.”  The specific objectives are given below:


1.  In the area of lands, to return territories that have been taken away from the Indian communities and to improve the situation of established reservations by buying the improvements made by settlers.


2.  In legal matters, to develop a legal system suited to current conditions and the needs of the Indian communities in fiscal, civil, penal and labor matters.


3.  In the area of health, to lower morbidity and mortality rates by spreading medical care coverage through a strategy of primary health care, using paramedical personnel elected from among the communities, and avoiding, wherever possible, clashes between differing ideas on health, sickness and medicine.


4.  In the area of sanitation, to improve the sanitary conditions of the Indian communities and thereby lowering sources of infection.


5.   In the area of education, to design and use curricula adopted to the language and ecological conditions of the environment in which the Indians live, as established under the terms of decree No. 1142 of 1978; to train suitable Indian personnel for the purpose of increasing the literacy of the adult Indian population and increasing the participation of Indian children in formal education, while not removing them from their environment.


6.  In the area of research, to see to it that national anthropological research organizations gradually assume the linguistic work and the production of scientific and teaching materials in Colombian tongues.  Also, see to it that the anthropological research of the Indians in aimed at the requirements of the State¢s involvement, i.e., and its applications.  [13]/


4.          On the basis of the explanations given in this Chapter, the Commission is of the opinion that the military operations in the rural areas result in excesses in detriment to the local people and, in some cases these excesses have harmed the interests of persons unconnected with the events that provoked those operations and that in other cases, the claims of injured persons living in remote areas have not been attended to satisfactorily.


Furthermore, the Commission has acquainted itself of the intentions of the Government in executing the Indian development Plan.  This plan should be supplemented by new laws that improve the life systems of the Indians and promote their development.

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[7]          This document was turned over by the Government of Colombia to the Commission May 27, 1981.

[8]          Institute Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Sociales, headquartered in Quito, Ecuador, and the International Commission of Jurists, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland,  Derechos Humanos en las Zonas Rurales”, pp. 102 and 136.

[9]          These statements were given in documents to the First national Forum on Human Rights held in Bogotá from March 29 to 31, 1979.  The statements by both Mr. Marco Anibal Avirama, the President of the Regional Indian Council of Cauca, and of his brother, Edgar Alirio Avirama, refer to cruel treatment of them from the time of their capture and during the first stage of their detention at different military centers.  These statements were made public in a pamphlet entitle “El CRIC denuncia.”

[10]          The annex to the Indian development program given to the Commission gives the statistics on Indian communities that will be assisted during the period 1981-1983.  These statistics were developed on the basis of census taken between 1970 and 1980.  With details by municipalities; Indian sanctuary, reservation, district or settlement; ethnic groups; number of families; number of inhabitants, government organizations; land tenure system; and typology of the group.  This document deals with the following places, Antioquia, Boyacá, Caldas, Cauca, Cesar, Cordoba, Cundinamarca, Chocó, Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Risaralda, Tolima, Valle del Cauca, Arauca, Caquetá, Casanare, Putumayo, Amazonas, Guaína, Guaviare, Vaupés and Vinchada.

[11]          At the Commission¢s request, this draft law was remitted by the Colombian Government in communication No. 692 dated November 18, 1980, from the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the OAS.

[12]          The remaining articles of the aforementioned draft law reads as follows: ARTICLE THREE.  Pursuant to Article 76.12 of the Constitution, the President of the Republic is empowered up to July 20, 1982, to issued, on the basis of the principles recognized in the foregoing article, the Legal System for Indian which shall deal with civil, labor, penal and fiscal matters, and with protection and conservation of their cultural uses and customs.  ARTICLE FOUR.   Under the terms of the foregoing powers, the President of the Republic shall include in that system all current rules that are in harmony with the principles recognized in this law and shall issue, depending on the characteristics of the native groups, rules that specifically envisage: land tenure, provision and improvement of lands, ownership and use of natural resources, legality of their institutions, such as matrimony, parentage, age to exercise rights and contract obligations, succession, and name; validity of their own rules and bodies associated with social control as opposed to the general rules of the nation in effect on these matters, recognition and representation of the traditional authorities of the native peoples and the social and governmental organization of their groups or tribes that are located in sanctuaries, territorial reservations or traditionally occupied territories; payment of and exoneration from taxes; labor relations, both individual and collective, between Indian workers and non-Indian employers, voluntary military service, conditions and requirements that must be met by agencies and persons that carry our cultural, scientific, religious, educational, tourist or any other type of activity within the Indian communities, protection, conservation and respect for the native cultural heritage, as well as the free practice of their traditional worship, rights and customs to those which they voluntarily accept.  In addition, he shall issue all mandatory and procedural rules so that the rules discussed above may take full effect.  ARTICLE FIVE. In issuing the Indian Legal System, the National Government shall appoint an advisory Committee composed of two members from each of the legislative houses, any ministers designated by the President of the Republic, representatives of the Colombian Association of Universities, the Colombian Academy of Jurisprudence, Indian communities, Colombian Institute of Anthropology, and all other agencies which in the opinion of the Government should participate in the corresponding studies.  ARTICLE SIX.  The President of the Republic is hereby empowered, for the term of six months, pursuant to Article 76.12 of the Constitution, to develop an administrative structure responsible for carrying out functions associated with protection of the Indian as well as coordinating the action of public or private agencies for that population, for which purposes he may merge or eliminate any national public organization that currently exercises any of these functions.  ARTICLE SEVEN.  The Indian Development fund is hereby created as a public establishment with legal personality, administrative autonomy and independent assets.  PARAGRAPH.  Until such time as the administrative agency mentioned in the foregoing article is developed, the Indian Development Fund shall be part of the Ministry of Government and the head of this Ministry shall be its legal representative.  ARTICLE EIGHT.  The Indian Development Fund shall have the primary duty of providing technical and economic assistance to official plans and programs projected for the native communities as well as the study and servicing of any request that these communities make.  ARTICLE NINE.  The national government shall determine the structure, functions and statutes of the Indian development fund.  PARAGRAPH.  The staff members of the Fund shall be the same persons who belong to the organ or agency to which it is attached.  ARTICLE TEN.  The national Government is hereby authorized to open credits and to make all necessary budget transfers in order to comply with this law.  ARTICLE ELEVEN.  This law goes into effect upon approval and all laws contrary to it are hereby revoked.”

[13]          National Planning Department, Indian Development Program, Working Document, Bogotá, November 1980, pp. 11 and 12.