Those who remain The death of “Raúl Reyes”
Feb 282008

It was ten years ago Wednesday that paramilitary hitmen murdered Jesús María Valle Jaramillo, one of Colombia’s most prominent human-rights defenders, in broad daylight in his Medellín office.

Here are translated excerpts from two essays about Valle posted to the website of the Popular Training Institute (IPC), a Medellín-based human rights organization.

Where he most worked to pursue his humanist ideas and carry out his defense of the weakest was in the Antioquia section of the Committee in Defense of Human Rights, which he joined in 1978, the year it was founded, and which he presided since 1987, when he replaced Héctor Abad Gómez, who was murdered on August 25th of that year.

From the Committee, Jesús María Valle was one of the first to warn of the terrible effects of paramilitarism in the department, above all in the rural zones, where the consequences of their armed actions were devastating: mass murders, tearing of the social fabric among the campesino communities, forced displacements, destruction of the local economy and deepening of poverty.

In all his letters to the Antioquia governor’s office, at that moment headed by Álvaro Uribe Vélez, now president of the republic, and to the military and police authorities, he expressed his concern about the constant killings of campesinos, who were accused of being guerrillas, members of their support networks, or sympathizers.

At the moment of his death, Valle Jaramillo served as president of what was then called the Medellín Human Rights Committee. It was from that post that he denounced how a group of men from the now-defunct Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá (ACCU), commanded by Salvatore Mancuso and supported by troops from the Army’s Medellín-based 4th Brigade, carried out incursions in the towns of El Aro and La Granja in Ituango municipality in 1996 and 1997, causing the death of at least 19 farmworkers and the total destruction of both town centers.

In his denunciations he warned of the complicity of the general who then headed the Army’s 4th Brigade, Carlos Ospina Ovalle [who went on to be chief of the Colombian armed forces between 2003 and 2006], along with Mancuso’s men. This led the high military official to seek his prosecution for slander. Valle’s complaints were also directed at then-governor of Antioquia Álvaro Uribe Vélez and his principal minister [secretario de Gobierno], Pedro Juan Moreno (R.I.P.), who downplayed the situation in the municipality, as Valle said to a regional prosecutor in a February 6, 1998 sworn statement.

“In a timely manner, I asked Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez for protection. I did so as a councilman from Ituango municipality, and as
a member of the Human Rights Committee, but I was never heard. Until the El Aro massacre took place, where fourteen campesinos were murdered, some tortured and all houses in El Aro burned down,” his declaration reads.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Colombian government guilty for El Aro, considering it “responsible by omission” and sentencing it to provide justice, punish those responsible and pay damages of about US$1.5 million to the victims’ relatives.

A similar verdict could be repeated this year, precisely in the case of Jesús María Valle, as the Colombian Commission of Jurists and the Interdisciplinary Human Rights Group presented the court with a suit against the Colombian government, claiming the state’s responsibility, by action or omission, for the human-rights activist’s death.

Jesús María Valle focused his denunciations on the collaboration between the paramilitaries and the security forces, both military and police. His evidence, obtained from the inhabitants of Ituango and neighboring localities, was compelling, and making them public bothered both the governor of Antioquia and the commander of the 4th Brigade, Gen. Carlos Alberto Ospina Ovalle. Instead of attending his call to protect the campesina population, both attacked the human rights defender, denying any relation with paramilitarism.

The climate around Jesús María Valle grew steadily tenser, and both relatives and close friends feared for his life. Nonetheless, he persisted in his denunciations, demanding a stronger, more effective response from the army, the police, and the state in defense of the campesinos. But each of his pronouncements was met with an attack from the authorities. Even Uribe Vélez, in declarations broadcast on the radio, went so far as to say that Jesús María Valle’s disdain for the army was well-known throughout Colombia – a statement intended to undermine the credibility of his denunciations.

For insisting on his accusations, Jesús María Valle faced criminal charges of slander from the army’s 4th Brigade, via a soldier delegated by the military unit’s command. In order to respond to the charges, he went to [the local judicial unit handling such cases] on Thursday, February 26, 1998. During the hearing, he repeated his accusations and alleged that he had not committed any crime, since his reports of collaboration between paramilitaries and members of the army and police had been confirmed by international human rights organizations. Years later his allegations were ratified even by paramilitary commanders and ex-combatants.

The hearing began at 2:30 on that Thursday afternoon. Exactly 24 hours later, in his office in the Colón building … two men and a woman came in and shot him three times, twice in the head and once in the chest, which took his life instantly.

Two days later, his body was taken to the Church of Santa Gema for a heartfelt farewell to who, for more than 20 years, had dedicated himself to seeking truth and justice. After the homily from Father Vargas, a friend of Jesús María Valle summarized, with immense pain and in a very quiet voice, the tragedy of this crime: “In this country, differing positions – those clearly stated, with solid arguments, speaking of the anguish of a people forced to submit to a conflict that has taken all of their dignity – are silenced, because – as some say – they are at the service of one of the armed groups. We are still at this point where there are no such thing as people who disagree, only enemies who must be immediately eliminated.”

23 Responses to “Jesús María Valle, ten years”

  1. jcg Says:

    Mr. Valle does sound like a respectable man who was fighting a necessary battle and was tragically killed for it…as others have been.

    Later events do show he has been proven correct, in principle first and foremost…irrespective of whatever failings he may have had, which I wouldn’t be in any position to know about, as no human being has perfect knowledge nor perfect virtue. So I wouldn’t be in any position to discuss each and every detail of his accusations, which aren’t exactly comprehensively presented here, but the value of his work probably goes beyond that: because there clearly are, in fact, alliances between paramilitaries and military or social/political/economical leaders.

    Then comes the continuing issue of Álvaro Uribe and his behavior towards human rights defenders. If this is a fair description of the situation, this proves once more that he has never liked nor tolerated criticism from human rights groups, whether against himself or those who are part of his administration or under his authority.

    That being the case, at the very least he shares some degree of moral responsibility for this man’s death. Whether there is something beyond that is, again, something I cannot automatically judge using just the information here. But if there is, then I hope he is eventually submitted to the necessary due process.

  2. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Regarding the massacre at the El Aro, a yellow chopper from the governor’s Office was seen hovering upon the area on the days the mayhem took place.

    On the other side, Pedro Juan Moreno Villa, once Uribe’s sidekick, and on his final days his most adamant rival, encountered a bizarre death in an helicopter while on a trip to Uraba. Details about the accident, remain a mystery except for contradictory accounts published by Colombian newspapers here and there.

  3. jcg Says:

    Jaime Bustos: To quote SEMANA about the helicopter:

    “El helicóptero

    La cuarta denuncia grave de Petro se basa en un testimonio de Salvatore Mancuso según el cual en la masacre de El Aro, en Ituango, estaba presente un helicóptero de la Gobernación de Antioquia. Esta afirmación suena inverosímil. Aun si la Gobernación tuviera conocimiento de que se estaba llevando a cabo una masacre, y no quisiera evitarla, sería demasiado torpe ponerse en evidencia como testigo pasivo en un helicóptero amarillo reconocido por todos como el de la Gobernación. ”

    If the helicopter was actually there, which would need some additional support because a helicopter can be seen or heard by many more people over several kilometers, not just one or two testimonies…the reasons for its presence would need to be explained and specific responsabilities for its activities would need to be established, beyond those which could be generally attributed to the governor.

    In either case, the responsibility for omission is clear enough by the mere fact that a massacre occurred in the first place, helicopter or no helicopter.

    As for the other case…let’s not beat around the bush, you basically want to imply that Pedro Juan Moreno was assassinated.

    Without more information, it sounds like too much of a conspiracy theory at this point, including your description of the events and of the situation (how exactly are you measuring how “bizarre” his death was or how he was the “most adamant rival” of the Uribe administration?).

    Some conspiracy theories end up being true, of course, but others are just inventions or exaggerations. Most of them, actually.

    So I prefer to abstain from making such conspirational implications without enough knowledge and enough evidence to make accurate statements.

    I prefer to be accused of “missing out” on a few of those conspiracies (those few that are actually going to be true) than, on the other hand, finding out I was going way too far in the other direction (chasing ghosts and pointing fingers above and beyond what was actually true). You could say the legal concept of presumption of innocence until proven guilty also plays a role here. Even if Uribe was the most murderous criminal in Colombia, that would still apply to him in each particular judicial process.

  4. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, that you abstain or not from reaching a conclusion is none of my business: you can believe whatever you want, that would not change the facts. Mancuso was not the one who first talked about the El Aro chopper. I can see you see too much tv and read too much mainstream media trash. The case of Moreno can be further supported by the fact that the helicopter in question was from a company owned by a Medellin underworld crook, where recently a woman was killed when she eavesdropped a conversation with “Don Berna” who has a lot to do with “Mr All Good”. Get informed, be free.

  5. jcg Says:

    Jaime Bustos: Such aggressiveness…I’m not forcing you to share my opinions, or even care about them, but I do have a right to comment and think differently. Just as much as you do.

    Unlike you though….I don’t think anyone here is in possession of all the necessary facts and can verify their accuracy in absolute terms. If you believe that, it’s a valid opinion…but I’m sure you won’t be right about everything in reality. It’s not so easy to determine justice, or else anyone could be judge, jury and executioner.

    Just because something is mentioned in the mainstream press doesn’t mean it is “trash”, “false” or “repressed”.

    Just because something shows up in an “alternative” press outlet doesn’t mean it is “gold”, “truth” or “free”.

    Both of them can be correct but they can also be incorrect, and both of them have their respective interests and biases, which affect their reporting.

    I wasn’t saying Mancuso was the only person who mentioned that about the helicopter (I implied there were other testimonies though not exactly enough…which accounts for it) and the larger points still continue to stand.

    As for Moreno, what you are doing, if in fact what you are saying is correct and not inaccurate or at least incomplete, is essentially trying to tie up separate events and circumstances around one particular interpretation you already believe to be the only correct possibility.

    If you’re lucky enough to be correct about this, or every other case, you have my respects but I think that’s statistically unlikely given the complexity involved.

  6. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, I did not mean to hurt your feelings in anyway. And you can save your time telling me how to tell truth from lies. I’ve had my share of falsehoods myself.

    Just, a further piece of information:

    Francisco Enrique Villalba Hernández (alias Cristian Barreto), one of the perpetrators of the massacre at El Aro in Ituango, Antioquia, received this type of training in the same place where he learnt to handle arms and manufacture home-made bombs. Today, a prisoner at La Picota in Bogota, Villalba has described in details during lengthy testimonies how he applied the learning.

    Villalba was a friend of one of the cruellest hit men of Pablo Esobar (drug lord, dead for several years now) – Dandenis Muñoz Moscera, now serving several life terms in the United States. Villalba participated in the massacres of Coloso and Pichilin (16 victims), Segovia (41) and Pueblo Bello (43) as well as El Aro (15, including many children and women), where he insists on having seen a yellow helicopter hovering overhead while the farmers were being killed.

  7. Jaime Bustos Says:

    “As for Moreno, what you are doing, if in fact what you are saying is correct and not inaccurate or at least incomplete, is essentially trying to tie up separate events and circumstances around one particular interpretation you already believe to be the only correct possibility.”

    In fact what she heard was them talking about Moreno. Sorry for the incompleteness of my previous statement. This news was published by El Tiempo, not long ago. She even wrote a letter to her family, before being killed, which appeared published too, for your reference.

  8. jcg Says:

    I don’t think feelings have much to do with this.

    Nor am I trying to tell you exactly *how* to tell “truth” from “lies” per se, but rather pointing out the *difficulty* of the process and the complexity of reality, which is why I find your line of thought to be of limited use.

    You may think that’s not the case, that everything is clear and simple (black and white), and that’s a perfectly legitimate position. I just don’t agree with it, for reasons already explained at this and other times.

    As for the “further piece of information”, thanks for that but you seem to be missing another point: even if the helicopter was there, a possibility I didn’t dismiss and which I have no trouble contemplating, that’s not the end of the matter nor the end of the resulting responsibilities.

    Besides, there’s also the issue of determining the specific truth of the many statements made by the paramilitaries during the “Justice and Peace” process, and that’s an entirely different problem which has difficulties of its own, including lack of information, lies and half-truths to protect themselves or to accuse other people whether they are really involved or not.

    But if you can see through all that by yourself…

  9. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg: I know you try to be impartial in all this mess, but there is more enough evidence to bring this crooks to justice, if only to assert that all this chain of bs was just a unfortunate coincidence.

    P.S> The “black and white” cliche is not very convincing, try something more elaborated.

  10. jcg Says:

    Jaime Bustos: Everything else that still applies, because much still does, aside…at the very least, it seems your statements about the Moreno case have been incomplete and selective from the very beginning, which doesn’t exactly give us too much room for discussion.

    If you wanted to, you could be more specific and, for example, direct me towards the EL TIEMPO articles(or from whatever source applies) in question in order to allow me a fair crack at them and to reach my own conclusion, whether it’s closer to yours or not.

    Unless you think that’s too much trouble because you’re already satisfied with what you know, which is of course well within your rights.

  11. jcg Says:

    Jaime Bustos: I’ve said that conspiracies do exist, but so do coincidences or real accidents…which is why, as cliched as “black and white” may sound to you, not everything can be decided based on claims and initial presentations of evidence.

    If the evidence is real and strong enough, then I hope that there is day when it is finally presented to the national or international authorities responsible and they recognize its reality. If not, then I hope justice decides accordingly in the other direction.

  12. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Nancy Ester Zapata Orozco

    “Te escribo volando porque sigo nerviosa porque parece que se dieron cuenta que los estaba oyendo. Ese senor berna volvio a llamar desede la carcel. Llama seguido y tiene sus guardspaldas con el, viven alla con esa gente adentro de itagui. Y como te dije ayer se pusieron muy peliparados conmigo porque los oi hablar de ese señor Pedro Juan Moreno que te dije que se le cayo el helicopetero porque aqui les quitaron el repuesto y no se si el presi uribe dio la orden pero si sabia y don berna tambien”.

    “Aca se roban todo, los repuestos lde las avionetas y helicopteros se los quitan y los venden sin importarles que se caigan con gente adentro, el vendedor de seguros tiene todo arreglado y les pagan. Me da miedo contarlo a la poiciia y militares porque ellos vienen aca por comision por cruces de los respuestos que les roban a los mismos aviones y heli de ellos”.

    jcg: Do your homework, I am sure this was published by “EL TIEMPO”, but at birds eye view I could not find it.

  13. jcg Says:

    At least you gave me the name, one way or another, so that’s a bit more helpful in terms of the “homework”. Thank you for that, in spite of everything else.


    While the death of this woman was apparently reported in several sources, including EL TIEMPO, the original public source for the content of that message seems to be Dick Emanuelsson’s report for the pro-FARC ABP news agency and later reproduced in other sources of a similar nature, such as ANNCOL.

    You probably don’t see a problem with just that, but read on…

    Emanuelsson himself, a frequent ANNCOL collaborator, claims that someone else who he doesn’t name gave him the content of that message. It’s unlikely it was originally published elsewhere, from what I can tell.

    That means this all boils down to the credibility of the original source, if it existed at all, and essentially Emanuelsson’s word.

    If that message is real, and if it has not been intentionally modified or altered, then you’d definitely have a strong case.

    But if you’re going to base your conclusion on the content of a message which only one man, and a man with barely hidden pro-FARC tendencies as shown through his work for ANNCOL and similar outlets…

  14. jcg Says:

    What’s more, apparently this was supposed to be a text message so all Emanuelsson could have seen would be some sort of transcript.

    “Fueron las palabras, con todos sus errores ortográficos, al parecer por la premura, de un mensaje de aproximadamente 3621 caracteres, que escribió Nancy Ester Zapata Orozco, una empleada del aeropuerto Olaya Herrera de Medellín a una fuente vinculada con los derechos humanos que pidió, por lógicas razones, la reserva de su nombre.”

    So we have to believe, without any verification that the message actually existed in the first place, that both Emanuelsson and his unnamed source are being entirely honest and accurate.

    I’m sorry, but just because the unnamed source, if it existed, is linked to “human rights” in some capacity and since you don’t believe in coincidences just happened to receive a text message from a woman who would have such access to paramilitary or mafia information, all of this according to Emanuelsson, doesn’t mean there is an automatic seal of truth and accuracy.

    That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for him to be right, but he’d better do something else in order to convince those who aren’t willing to automatically believe in him just because he’s “alternative” and collaborates with ABP and ANNCOL.

  15. jcg Says:

    And also, I do expect far more evidence from ANNCOL, ABP and those who collaborate with them, such as Mr. Emanuelsson, than I’d ask from others.

    Why? Because being completely anti-state, anti-Uribe, anti-government and explicitly in favor FARC as ANNCOL and ABP, to say the least, are means they aren’t exactly willing to recognize any positive things from the state, the government or Uribe, nor criticize any real FARC flaws whatsoever, and instead they promote all the conspiracy theories they find.

    At least EL TIEMPO and SEMANA have proven that they can criticize the government and Uribe a fair amount, especially the later. I’d love to see ANNCOL and ABP give FARC at least one reasonable criticism and one reasonable praise to the government or even Uribe, but that doesn’t happen.

    And finally, Emanuelsson himself has to know that he’s consciously chosen to use such news outlets for his work, most of which is also overwhelmingly anti-state and anti-Uribe while being at least tacitly generous towards FARC, knowing full well their philosophies, ideologies and what they publish.

  16. Jaime Bustos Says:

    I did not expect any less from you.

    EL TIEMPO, Cromos and RCN also reported about the strange murder of this woman with a “snitch sign” near the scene.

    Please refer to my first post in this threat. It’s all you need, which I hope I showed to be true, regardless all your doubts, based on mainstream media and a report by Dick Emanuelson.

    You were the one who asked for more detailed information, as you were not even aware of the murder of this woman. I hope you can accept at least now, that this woman was murdered , and that she was a real being and lived in Medellin and worked at the Olaya Airport.

    Enough for trying to show you the evident.

  17. jcg Says:

    Don’t try to confuse things.

    I wasn’t talking about the murder, which was indeed reported by the mainstream press and which I never denied at all, but the content of the message, if the message existed. Two different but related things.

    One of my posts probably hadn’t appeared yet because of moderation, but there I linked to the ANNCOL and ABP articles with Emanuelsson’s story.

    The content of the message is the key. If the key is false, incomplete or altered, the rest falls or at least needs backup. The content first showed up in Emanuelsson’s report.

    It is not something “evident”, when Emanuelsson isn’t willing to provide enough information. He just makes a claim, that a third party gave him the information, and that’s it.

    And not being automatically and immediately aware of the murder of this woman, just as you aren’t automatically aware of many other things as you aren’t omniscient, doesn’t change the rest of the discussion.

  18. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, don’t misunderstand me , I think you are a good person, only very self immersed and very confident of stories the tv sells you.

    Open up, give your intuition a chance, and maybe, just maybe, things will become crystal clear for you, and I am not talking about this discussion only.

    P.S. > Save your preaching about me being the one that is immersed in my thoughts etc etc etc, because I am not buying.

  19. jcg Says:

    For your information, I don’t even watch much TV these days and normally not Caracol or RCN. Guess you didn’t count on that, but it’s true. Too bad.

    I’ll say this: Apparently you think it’s all a matter of intuition. I do not.

    I think asking questions and pointing out that intuition doesn’t always reveal what is “crystal clear” is necessary.

    I’ve questioned reports from EL TIEMPO, SEMANA, CAMBIO and so forth, but that doesn’t mean I can’t question ANNCOL, ABP and teleSur. “Alternative” doesn’t mean “better”.

    And with that, both of us have “preached” enough.

  20. Camilla Says:

    Breaking news: The Colombian army, on the job, taking out the trash.

    Bet there are some bummed out people on the board this morning.

  21. Kyle Says:

    Wow Camilla, unnecessary attempt at a low blow…

  22. Camilla Says:

    Why’d you think it was you, Kyle? I didn’t say you.

  23. Pedro Says:

    Wow, jcg in you original post you talked about ‘El Aro’, now a little more updated now … what do you think? Do you prefer to continue ‘missing-out’ the historical moment in Colombia with the imprisonment of the “first cousin”?

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