Scott Nicholson - Colombia
"So, you're the father of that ___-__-_-_____ guerrilla," the soldier said to Ubaldino in the Cubara morgue on July 21. Ubaldino's son, Jhon Freddy Montañez, left their house in Saravena at 6 P.M. the night before. When he didn't return home, Ubaldino and Maria began searching for their 18-year-old son. Jhon Freddy had become another "false positive" - a civilian killed by the military and then reported as a guerrilla killed in combat.
Since Colombian president Alvaro Uribe took office five years ago, he has been pressuring the military and police to produce results. Here in the state of Arauca those "results" have included the mass arrest of people on false charges of "rebellion" and the killing of unarmed civilians. Jhon Freddy was the 16th "false positive" reported to the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation this year.
Ubaldino and Maria came to the Foundation office on July 25 to report the killing of their son. Maria had gone to the police station and the military base in Saravena on July 21 in search of Jhon Freddy. She was told they didn't have any information about her son. Ubaldino then received a call on his cell phone. The caller stated that Jhon Freddy's documents had been found alongside the road from Saravena to Cubará (10 miles away).
Ubaldino and Maria then went to the Cubará police station. A policewoman told them that an unidentified guerrilla had been killed in combat with the army and the body was in the morgue. When they arrived at the morgue to identify their son, Ubaldino received the insult from the soldier. Ubaldino and Maria told us that Jhon Freddy's face, neck, and back were bruised - it appears that he was tortured before he was killed.
Jhon Freddy took care of his parents by working in construction. He was studying in a program to complete his primary school education and he enjoyed organizing soccer tournaments. "We want the truth to be known,"
Ubaldino told us. "Our son wasn't a guerrilla and he wasn't killed in combat."
Just one week before Jhon Freddy was killed; the police and army arrested 16 people here in Saravena on charges of "rebellion." Wilson Jaimes was one of the people arrested - he occasionally works as a driver for the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation and is the brother of the previous president of the Foundation.
Leiber Vega was also imprisoned during that mass arrest. Leiber is a Seventh - day Adventist who earns his living building sidewalls for flatbed trucks. "I have seven children," his wife told me. "He didn't have any work for three weeks. He finally got a small contract and now they've taken him away. How am I going to take care of our children?"
President Uribe made a brief visit here on July 18 - five days after the arrests. "It's good to arrive in Saravena and learn that 16 people were arrested and accused of belonging to terrorist organizations," he said.
"Congratulations to the army, the police, the DAS (security police), and the justice system."
"Everyone knows that they're innocent" stated Emiro Goyeneche, news director of Sarare Stereo, during his report about the president's visit. Emiro speaks from experience - he spent three years in prison and house arrest for reporting the truth about the situation here in Arauca.
In love and solidarity,
Scott Nicholson serves as a Short-term Volunteer with the Social Organizations of Arauca, Colombia. As a part of the process of accompaniment, Scott works as an advisor/consultant in the administration of productive projects in the rural communities.