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Dec 182008

Communiqué from the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC), Cauca, Colombia, December 16

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 Inzá Tierradentro, driven by Edwin Legarda Vásquez, husband of the Chief Counselor of the CRIC, Aide Quilcué. Legarda was hit by two bullets, one on the right side of his chest, and he died at 8:00 AM in Popayán’s San José 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 Quilcué 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].

Statement from the Colombian Defense Ministry, December 17

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 [Fiscalía], the Inspector-General [Procuraduría] 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. Quilcué, her family and colleagues. Ms. Quilcué’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. 

6 Responses to “An “error,” or “a clear act of war?””

  1. Jaime Bustos Says:

    … and to think that one of the main cliches to support mr uribe, by his followers is that now “we can travel about unruffled by Colombian roads”. :(

  2. Will Says:


    I think we need to emphasize the word “we” in your quote… it doesn’t seem to include human rights activists from Cauca.


  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Hmm Will, come to think of it, you are right, one hoodlum from the paramilitary squads, now sent to the US, used to zoom along the coast of Colombia in an allocation presidential van without having to worry about inspections at road check points. :lol:

  4. Plan Colombia and Beyond » Rudolf Hommes: "Citizens for Life" Says:

    [...] keep appearing of murdered civilians who are classified as “false positives.” They kill the husband of an indigenous leader at 4:00 in the morning, when he is going to pick her up [at the [...]

  5. Richard H Says:

    An error! Come on. Are you really saying that the more than one thousand other extrajudicial executions commited by the Army in recent years might have been errors too?? They do this “systematically” accoring to the UN.

    As for Santos, he is on the record lying over and over again and will say anything for public relations purposes. Does anyone still believe a word e says? Remember the trade unionists in Arauca, the eight civilians in San Jose de Apartado, the bombs in Bogota, the lies about Operacion Jaque, etc, etc, etc.

  6. Lanark Says:

    This is realy, realy serious, even if it happend as the contradicting and continuously changing versions of the army say it happened. And it would be a war crime commited by the state if it was as the indigenous say it happened. It would be the most flagrant violation of international legislation by the state in this decade, perhaps. As I read in official communicates from the indigenous association, there are hints that it was an ambush, and there were attempts to disguise it as a combat incident that were spoiled by the short survival of Edwin, in one of these rather frequent “false positives” that have been imposible to conceal

    But, with all that, there is an astounding silence about it in the international media. It was particularily strange not to find this news in The Guardian. In other important media it is not given more importance than it is usually given to a world record, or something as serious as that.

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