Increased FARC violence The quarrel with Ecuador continues
Jun 242008

The city of Barrancabermeja, in Colombia’s Magdalena Medio region, is a strategic port, a center of oil refining, and for decades has been a center of labor and social-movement organizing. Barrancabermeja’s labor leaders and human rights defenders have long been in the sights of the powerful paramilitary groups who operate in the region.

The paramilitaries took de facto control of the city through a campaign of massacres and selective killings in late 2000 and early 2001. While there was a relative lull in paramilitary activity after the AUC’s Central Bolívar Bloc demobilized in 2005-2006, the situation appears to be worsening.

Last November, Yolanda Becerra, head of the Barrancabermeja-based Popular Women’s Organization (OFP) had her home invaded by thugs who told her to leave town or die. Now, six labor unions have received threats on letterhead bearing the logo of the “Black Eagles,” the name being used by a growing number of rapidly re-arming paramilitary groups.

Here is a translation of a brief article about the new threats that was posted yesterday to the website of Colombia’s Semana magazine. Thanks to CIP Intern Stephanie DiBello for the translation.

The ‘Black Eagles’ Threaten Leaders of Social Organizations in Barrancabermeja

After two quiet years, new violence against non-governmental organizations raises alarm. In a pamphlet, the armed group Black Eagles lists six labor unions and human rights groups as “military targets.”


Terror has returned to Barrancabermeja (Santander) after several years of relative calm. Six labor unions and non-governmental organizations that have worked for several years in the Magdalena Medio were declared military targets by the emerging group known as the ‘Black Eagles’. They all received a printed notification, with letterhead in color, directly accusing them of supporting the guerrillas.

This pamphlet has worried the labor unions Asociación de Directivos Profesionales y Técnicos de Empresas de la Industria del Petróleo de Colombia, ADECO (Association of Professional and Technical Workers of Companies of the Petroleum Industry of Colombia); and Unión Sindical Obrera, USO (Workers’ Trade Union); and the NGOs Comité Regional por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, CREDHOS (Regional Committee for the Defense of Human Rights); Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra, ACVC (Campesino Association of the Cimitarra River Valley); Asociación de Desplazados Asentados en el Municipio de Barrancabermeja, ASODESAMUBA (Association of Displaced Persons Settled in the Municipality of Barrancabermeja); and Organización Femenina Popular, OFP (Popular Womens’ Association); all human rights defenders.

The Black Eagles justify the threats by saying, “Once again we are being overrun with lowly guerrillas who, hidden behind crude and dirty deceptions, want to take control of the city in order to return to the old days when they only had extortions, assassinations, union workers, and NGOs at their disposition, to fulfill their revolutionary ends and look for ways to destabilize the State.”

They continued on to warn that, “The guerrillas and their supporters have dared to set foot again in our Barrancabermeja, and our organization is not willing to allow them to enter.”

They point out that the aforementioned organizations “are full of revolutionary union workers and guerrilla supporters who are instigating and financing the emergence and actions of these insurgent groups, which is why they are the declared enemies and military targets of this organization.”

According to a account from a victim of the threats, the tactics that the Black Eagles are using are identical to those used by the now-demobilized paramilitaries. “Those kinds of letters tend to come two or three times each year,” says the leader, whose identity is not revealed for his security.

This is the second threat this year. The first was on March 12, when a paramilitary commander named ‘Camilo’ announced a national rearmament and designated the title “Phase A Military Targets” to several “media groups, NGOs, embassies, current and past members of Congress, supporters from the general population, and those who collaborate logistically with the guerrillas in narcotrafficking”.  However, on that occasion they did not detail as many names as they did in the most recent threat.

The threats arrived just when the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders published a report asserting that 95% of human rights violations in Colombia are not investigated. This figure puts Colombia among the worst in the world along with China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, Chad and Uzbekistan.

One of the most serious problems that human rights defenders face is stigmatization, which they receive even from President Alvaro Uribe. Discrediting leaders in this way puts them at risk, especially now when the number of men in new armed groups has grown so much that it is as though 40% of the demobilized paramilitaries had rearmed.

Today, threats against social organizations are being heavily denounced, not only in Barrancabermeja, but in other regions as well where thousands of campesinos have suffered hardships as a result of this war.

11 Responses to ““Black Eagles” threaten Barrancabermeja”

  1. Camilla Says:

    Why doesn’t Jim McGovern go on some peace mission to ‘negotiate’ with these so-called Black Eagles? Find out what’s eating them and give them what they want? Same as he wants to do with FARC. Bring them into some sort of ‘peace process’ and give them free things – government jobs, free land, the whole kaboodle. Go on, Jimmie, do it!

    I think the Colombian government ought to just blow them away. But that’s just me.

    On the serious side, I would like to know more about what their motives are. Adam’s post doesn’t really say and perhaps he doesn’t really know. It doesn’t make sense to me that these thugs should kill so-called human rights workers and undermine Uribe. These NGO’s just waiting like eager vultures for new death counts so they can make their cases against the government and paint Colombia as a place that should be isolated as well as justify the violence of their friends in the FARC. Does anyone have any insights at all as to why these so-called Black Eagles are so eager to kill? What, in their minds, is their justification and why do they seek to undermine Uribe? To me, given the New Colombia, this group’s existence doesn’t make sense. In fact, I wonder if they are the FARC, eager to discredit Uribe. If so, it would make sense because FARC wants to take Uribe down by any means necessary.

  2. Sergio Méndez Says:


    You are brilliant. The black eagles are just part of the vast lef wing-farc-AlQaeda-Polo democratico-democratic party-democrat-McGovern conspiracy to discredit Uribe. Now, do you something to comment on a “more serious side” than your “serious side”?

  3. Boli-Nica Says:

    Does anyone have any insights at all as to why these so-called Black Eagles are so eager to kill? What, in their minds, is their justification and why do they seek to undermine Uribe? To me, given the New Colombia, this group’s existence doesn’t make sense. In fact, I wonder if they are the FARC, eager to discredit Uribe. If so, it would make sense because FARC wants to take Uribe down by any means necessary.
    Good God, are you for real??

  4. Chris Says:


    They are criminals, funded by wealthy men, to underscore and discredit labor movements. It’s similar to what the U.S. witnessed at the turn of the 20th century, but uses more extreme measures… It’s really that simple.

    There have been instances, on both the FARC and PARA sides, where one or the other has committed crimes (even against its own interests) while pretending to be its opposite. It still occurs; however, in this instance its pretty clear that they are who they say they are.

  5. Chris Says:

    For the Friday round-up?

  6. jcg Says:

    Camilla: Let’s just say I don’t have much of an appreciation for the rhetorical use of the term “New Colombia”, neither in your hands nor, curiously enough, FARC’s.

    I really think it’s worrying to see even more confirmation that paramilitary activity hasn’t so much ceased as it is has been transformed or unevenly reduced, keeping the shadow of the same horrible consequences it can have for labor and NGO leaders, among others.

    Whatever one may think about their specific points of view regarding certain issues, they have a right to be respected and to do their work in peace. Not without criticism, but not with intimidation or fear for their lives either.

  7. Chris Says:

    Interesting read…

  8. MZR Says:

    Is Camilla a wind-up merchant? Do you know NOTHING about the Colombian conflict? Come on, what gives? You’re winding us up, right?

    If you’re not winding us up, Camilla, then I have some advice. Read up on the conflict. Talk to some Colombians affected by all the different sides of the conflict. Then read some more. And then read a little bit more. Then you will see how utterly ridiculous your comments are. The Black Eagles as the FARC? Honestly, I would laugh if it wasn’t so tragic that such ignorance still pervades many people’s thoughts about Colombia. Sorry, I meant the “New Colombia”. But, then, with comments like “I think the Colombian government ought to just blow them away. But that’s just me” I assume that you’re around 12 years old? This might help explain your comment.

  9. lfm Says:

    I know some of you keep scratching your heads about Camilla´s real identity. I think I´ve figured this one out. Camilla is none other than the now undead former-President Turbay. He´s the one who said that the political prisoners of the 80s were resorting to self-torture to discredit his human-rights-loving government.

    Hey Camilla, I have an old collection of bowties that you might be interested in!

  10. Tambopaxi Says:

    …Uribe needs to focus on the renascent AUC guys and crush them.

    Call them Black Eagles, neo-AUC, fascists, killers, nazis, whatever you want, but I’ve always maintained that the AUC, their allies in the military and now these comeback guys (did the AUC ever really go away? No…) are the most serious threat to sustainable democracy in Colombia because of the intertwined, incestuous relationship between these people (AUC) and members of the GOC security forces.

    The Pogo maxim (we have met the enemy and he is us) really applies here and it needs to be addressed forcefully and permanently; stomp these sob’s and put them out of business for good – and then take care of the FARC in the same way, if need be.

  11. Camilla Says:

    Good God, are you for real??

    No, of course not.

    But we know each other on another board.

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