At 4:00 this morning, troops from the National Army fired without pity upon a CRIC pickup truck, a vehicle that had been on a medical mission to the municipality of InzÃ¡ Tierradentro, driven by Edwin Legarda VÃ¡squez, husband of the Chief Counselor of the CRIC, Aide QuilcuÃ©. Legarda was hit by two bullets, one on the right side of his chest, and he died at 8:00 AM in PopayÃ¡n’s San JosÃ© Hospital.
The CRIC vehicle, which is widely known because of frequent travels on this road, was attacked on three sides and had 17 rifle impacts, in a clear act of war on the part of the Colombian Army against the civilian population and, especially, against indigenous people. …
The CRIC Counselor, upon analyzing the circumstances of her husband’s assassination, has denounced this deed as a premeditated act in which she was the real target. Aida QuilcuÃ© has received multiple threats, and her risk increased after having made national and international denunciations [including in Geneva the previous week] about violence against indigenous people, and murders committed during the National Minga [indigenous protests that began in Cauca in October].
The minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, denied that the death of indigenous person Edwin Legarda, husband of indigenous leader Aida Quilque [sic.], could have been premeditated, and expressed his conviction that it was an error committed by the troops, whose circumstnaces must be clarified by competent authorities.
“We have to clarify what happened, whether there was an excess of force or an irresponsible act, but I can assure you that the rumors about a premeditated action have neither feet nor a head,” the minister insisted, while affirming that the soldiers themselves reported the act.
Santos announced that personnel from the Army Inspector-General and from the 3rd Division had arrived at the scene of the act, and reiterated that he has asked the Prosecutor-General [FiscalÃa], the Inspector-General [ProcuradurÃa] and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to carry out the investigation to determine responsibilities.
Meanwhile he said that if punishments are established, they will be rigorously applied. “If this is the case we are willing to offer reparations to everyone,” the minister emphasized.
Finally, he said that there are no orders to shoot at vehicles at roadblocks and, to the contrary, there are established procedures for these cases. “If someone did not follow them he will be punished, that is not the policy.”
We join dozens of Colombian and international groups in condemning the killing of Edwin Legarda, and share our sorrow with Ms. QuilcuÃ©, her family and colleagues. Ms. QuilcuÃ©’s role as an outspoken human rights defender, and the unusual nature of the attack, certainly arouse suspicions of foul play. We strongly hope that Minister Santos’ words above mean that the investigation and prosecution of this incident will pass to Colombia’s civilian justice system.Â