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INDIGENOUS KUNA LEADERS (PANAMA) ASSASINATED BY COLOMBIAN PARAMILITARIES

On Saturday the 18th of January four Indigenous Kuna leaders, were violently tortured and assassinated by the Autonomous Defense Units of Colombia (AUC).
1) Translated Statement and Media Advisory from the Indigenous Movement

of Panama on the death of 4 Kuna Indigenous leaders

2) Translated Article from La Prensa about this murder

3) Original Article in Spanish from La Prensa

4) Article from Panama- Panamanian patrols to hunt for missing Americans


*******Media Advisory****Media Advisory*******


FOUR INDIGENOUS KUNA LEADERS ASSASINATED BY COLOMBIAN PARAMILITARIES

NEAR PANAMA BORDER. OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM THE INDIGENOUS MOVEMENT OF

PANAMA.


CONTACT:

Brendan O'Neill, ASEJ/ACERCA - 802-863-0571 or
cellular phone-802-598-8373

Official Statement from the Indigenous Movement of Panama

Dear brothers and sisters from various organizations and communities of the world that fight against violence, against war, and against hunger-today we wish to mobilize against the War on Indigenous Peoples. On Saturday the 18th of January four Indigenous Kuna leaders, were violently tortured and assassinated by the Autonomous Defense Units of Colombia (AUC). These Indigenous spiritual leaders, are medicine men that hold the principal knowledge of our oral history, poets of truth, knowledgeable in medicine, the holders of our cultural heritage, the soul of our community, and are the maximum authority of the Paya and Pucuro communities. Four pillars of our community have been killed, if we compare this to western culture it is to say that our library of congress, our chief justice of magistracy, our minister of culture, our Nobel Peace Prize winners were killed. In the past years paramilitaries have assassinated indigenous teachers in Panama and an Embera Indigenous child Maria Mecha Tocamo.

This past Saturday 50 Colombian insurgents tore apart the Paya Community, closed in the community, asked for the indigenous authorities to present themselves and then took them outside the community to torture them, and slash their throats. Upon hearing the various detonations from the Paya community the paramilitaries fled leaving the Pucuro community in flames. This was all confirmed by the only survivor, who followed the paramilitaries for one hour, his throat slashed and his stomach openly bleeding, to solicit help from the Pucuro community.


Not stopping at the assassinations of the Indigenous authorities, the AUC, planted land mines surrounding the community to prevent the Kuna to leave. They took all of the food from the only food warehouse that existed in the community and threatened the population for supposedly collaborating with the guerilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Since 1964 through 1998 there was a Cartel of the Armed Forces of Panama that safeguarded the lives of the Paya and Pucuro residents, but since then, although the Indigenous authorities have solicited support from the Police forces of Panama, they have been denied support to defend the borders in the Darien.

Now there are more than 700 people displaced, of the Paya and Pucuro Communities, the majority children, they are seeking refuge in Boca Cupe, who and are waiting for the Panamanian authorities to provide security for the area- not even one of the community members are prepared to abandon their ancestral lands.

As Kuna, we have lived more than 100 years on these lands, and now there is an intention to destroy the peace of our Indigenous communities, selectively assassinating Colombian and Panamanian Indigenous leaders. It is because of this that we are opposed and against the imposition of the FTAA, the Plan Puebla Panama, Andean Plan, and Plan Colombia that are policies to exterminate the communities of the Americas, to expropriate indigenous territories, our collective knowledge, oil, water, land and our cultural and biological heritage.

Ernesto Ayala, Maximum Authority; San Pascual Ayala, Secondary

Authority; Luis Enrique Martínez, Spiritual Leader of the Paya and

Gilberto Vásquez, Maximum Authority of Púcuro, now join the list of thousands of martyrs who have offered their lives for the liberation of the Indigenous Communities of the World.

Panama, February 22, 2003

Ibe /kuna de Panama

Movimiento Indigena de Panama



ACERCA/ASEJ received this statement from The Kuna Youth Indigenous Movement askin for international solidarity to condemn the violence of Plan Colombia that has moved over into Panama and caused this murder of 4 Kuna Indigenous spiritual and political leaders. There is a national meeting today 1/23/03 of all indigenous leaders of Panama to coordinate a response to this tragedy.



Brendan O'Neill

 brendan@asej.org
Article from La Prensa about this murder 25.Jan.2003 19:21

continuation of original post

FOUR INDIGENOUS KUNA LEADERS ASSASINATED BY COLOMBIAN PARAMILITARIES ON PANAMA BORDER AND TWO US AND ONE CANADIAN REPORTERS KIDNAPPED



Translated by

ASEJ/ACERCA

>From La Prensa, Panama 1/21/03

 http://www.prensa.com/hoy/portada/853397.html



Fear and Pain in Paya,Attack Leaves Four Dead

Four Kuna indigenous authorities were assassinated this weekend and two US and one Canadian reporter were kidnapped by a Colombian paramilitary group that attacked the villages of Paya and Pucuro, in the Darien, this past

weekend.A group of 150 paramilitaries assassinated the leaders of the Kuna Paya Village Ernesto Ayala, mayor; San Pascual Ayala, second mayor, and Luis Enrique Martínez, village commissioner. One of the US reporters is Robert Pelton of the Discovery Channel.

According to local witness Luis Caicedo, "We found three corpses chopped up by machetes with bullets in their head in the mountains so we couldn't take the corpses back because the land was still being guarded by the paramilitaries."

Gilberto Vasquez, mayor of Pucuro, was also murdered. His body was found with a bullet in the back of his head inside his house in the village.

This same paramilitary brigade had captured, just hours before, the US

Discovery Channel reporter Robert Pelton and two other reporters, Marc

Wedever of Canada, and another US journalist that is unidentified.

Migdonio Batista, a correspondent for the radio station Voices without

Borders of the Darien, who resides in Paya indicated that the paramilitaries, in addition to killing the village authorities, robbed all of the belongings of the only radio station office in the village. He also said that the armed paramilitaries robbed the chickens, ducks and pigs and murdered the dogs. Upon leaving the village they dropped explosives in local trucks so that they could get away without being followed.

Another resident, Victor Maritinez, explained that since last Saturday afternoon, when they were attacked by the Colombian paramilitaries, the residents have not eaten anything and have only drank water from the river. Also, as of 48 hours after the weekends murders the National Police had not arrived with any help or protection. The "Prensa" newspaper confirmed that as of two days after the attack there was still no response from the border patrol.

Isidro Ayala, whose father was assassinated in this attack, explained that the indigenous had to confront the paramilitaries with bows and arrows and with wooden beams to defend their property and families "because there hasn't been any police in this place for two years."

Paya is a community with 530 indigenous residents located in the mountains of Pinogana and about 2 hours from the Colombian border. AftRr the attack, there was only 50 residents remaining in Paya. The rest of the toWN was seeking refuge in the Boca de Cupe community or in the nearby mountains. Pucuro, a close by village, was entirely abandoned by its 20 residents. The paramilitaries arrived in Pucuro,burnt 5 houses down, and after finding no residents assassinated Gilberto Vasquez, who had been taken prisoner in Paya.



ACERCA/ASEJ received this action alert from

The Kuna Youth Indigenous Movement asking for international solidarity to conndemn the violence of Plan Colombia that has contributed to this murder of indigenous leaders in Panama. <fixed>We translated the

artilce from  http://www.prensa.com/hoy/portada/853397.html

 brendan@asej.org

What you can do 25.Jan.2003 19:25

continuation of original post

What you can do?

Please circulate this article far and wide to inform people of this violence of Plan Colombia leading to the death of 4 Kuna Indigenous Leaders in Panama.

2) Stay tuned for follow-up messages and action alerts

3) Stop the violence in Colombia, by getting involved with the March

23rd/24th Colombia Mobilization ( http://www.colombiamobilization.org)

and the April 10th-15th Latin American Solidarity Coalition

( http://lasolidarity.org)

original untranslated post 25.Jan.2003 19:26

horrified

Ciudad de Panama, 21 de enero de 2003

La Prensa


MIEDO Y DOLOR EN PAYA, ATAQUE DEJA 4 MUERTOS



PAYA, Darién.- Cuatro autoridades indígenas(kunas) fueron asesinadas y

además dos

estadounidenses (entre ellos un periodista) y un canadiense fueron

secuestrados

por la columna de paramilitares colombianos que atacó y saqueó este

fin de

semana (18-19 de enero) las aldeas fronterizas de Paya y Púcuro, en

Darién,

confirmaron ayer residentes de estas poblaciones.



Uno de los estadounidenses es Robert Pelton, de la empresa televisiva

Discovery

Channel.



Según las versiones de los lugareños, un grupo de 150 integrantes de

las

paramilitares Autodefensas Unidas Campesinas de Urabá (ACUU)

asesinaron el

pasado sábado en Paya a Ernesto Ayala, jefe cacique; San Pascual

Ayala, segundo

cacique, y Luis Enrique Martínez, comisario de esta aldea.



"Encontramos los tres cadáveres macheteados y con disparos en la

cabeza en las

montañas y aún no hemos rescatado sus cuerpos porque el terreno fue

minado por

los 'paras'", indicó el lugareño Luis Caicedo.



De igual forma se comprobó que los paramilitares le quitaron la vida a

Gilberto

Vásquez, cacique principal de la población vecina de Púcuro.



Su cadáver -con un disparo en la parte de atrás de la cabeza- fue

dejado dentro

de su casa en esta aldea.



Esta misma brigada paramilitar había capturado horas antes a Robert

Pelton,

periodista estadounidense de Discovery Channel, y a dos acompañantes,

Marc

Wedever, canadiense, y a una estadounidense no identificada.



Migdonio Batista, un corresponsal de la emisora Voz sin Frontera del

Darién, que

reside en Paya, indicó que los paramilitares, además de asesinar a

las

autoridades de ese poblado, se robaron todos los enseres que había en

el único

kiosco del pueblo.



También dijo que los hombres armados se llevaron las gallinas, patos y

puercos y

asesinaron los perros. Al salir del pueblo enterraron explosivos en

los caminos

para facilitar su huida y evitar ser perseguidos.



Víctor Martínez, otro residente, explicó que desde el sábado pasado en

horas de

la tarde, cuando fueron atacados por los insurgentes colombianos, los

moradores

no comen nada y solo tienen el agua del río para ingerir y que,

después de 48

horas de ocurridos los hechos, la Policía Nacional no se ha apersonado

al lugar

para brindarles ayuda y protección.



La Prensa pudo comprobar que en Paya, dos días después del ataque

armado, no

había ninguna unidad de la policía fronteriza.



Isidro Ayala, cuyo padre fue asesinado en esta incursión, manifestó

que los

indígenas tuvieron que enfrentarse a los paramilitares con arcos y

flechas y con

algunos maderos para defender sus ranchos y sus familiares "porque no

hay ningún

policía en este lugar desde hace dos años".



Paya es una comunidad de 530 habitantes indígenas localizada en las

montañas de

Pinogana y a unas dos horas a pie del límite fronterizo con Colombia.



Después del ataque, en Paya solo quedan unos 50 residentes. El resto

se refugió

en la comunidad de Boca de Cupe o en las montañas cercanas.



En Púcuro, la aldea entera fue abandonada por sus casi 20 residentes.



Los paramilitares, al llegar a este poblado, quemaron cinco casas

porque no

encontraron a nadie y luego asesinaron a su cacique Gilberto Vásquez,

que había

sido tomado prisionero en Paya.

----------------------------------

More on the SOA trained AUC kidnapping 25.Jan.2003 19:31

suspicious

More from Panama:

 http://asia.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/americas/01/23/panama.missing/index.html

Panamanian patrols to hunt for missing Americans

Friday, January 24, 2003 Posted: 2:11 AM HKT (1811 GMT)

PANAMA CITY, Panama (CNN) -- Panamanian police plan to send patrols to search for three missing Americans believed kidnapped by a Colombian paramilitary group last week, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Panama said.

The spokesman, Guy Olson, said consular officials have received no news about the three since Sunday, when the Panamanian national police reported them missing from the remote jungle province of Darien near the Colombian border.

"I don't think it really changes the level of concern," Olson said. "This is a very, very remote, heavily forested area. Groups go into that area and disappear for lengths of time."

The three are Robert Pelton, 47, who has dual citizenship with Canada; Mark Wedeven, 22; and Megan Smaker, 22.

A State Department official said three U.S. military helicopters arrived in Panama on a separate humanitarian mission that does not involve search patrols.

Pelton, a freelance journalist who formerly worked for CNN, was on assignment in Panama for National Geographic Adventure magazine, said spokeswoman Caryn Davidson. She said the two others with Pelton were traveling companions.

"While details are sketchy, we have been in contact with his family as well as government authorities and are closely monitoring the situation through U.S. officials," a statement from the magazine said Wednesday. "We're hopeful that the situation will be resolved quickly and peacefully."

Pelton is perhaps best known for being the first to gain access to U.S. Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh in Afghanistan, an interview that aired on CNN. He also has produced a Travel Channel program, "Robert Young Pelton's The World's Most Dangerous Places," in which he enters
hot spots around the globe and meets with rebel leaders and
insurgents.

The United States is working with Panama in the search, officials said, and the Canadian government has been staying in touch with American authorities, said Reynald Doiron, a Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Panamanian national police said a witness told them the three were ambushed by guerrilla forces Friday afternoon in Darien. The group, in the company of a Panamanian guide, fled into the jungle.

The witness, who escaped, told police the attackers wore armbands with the initials AUC -- a Spanish abbreviation for the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group.

The U.S. Embassy said Tuesday it had seen reports that the group is holding the three for their own safety because of rebels in the area and will release them soon to humanitarian organizations. Olson said those reports were encouraging.

The U.S. State Department has designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization. In the fall, the Justice Department charged leaders of the group with trafficking more than 17 tons of cocaine into the United States and Europe since 1997.