Photo: Bocas de Aracataca
A militia group threatened to kill 31 families that returned to a fishing village on the north coast of Colombia that was the scene of a massacre 12 years ago, a non-governmental organization said.
The threats were made in pamphlets left Friday in the yards of two houses in Bocas de Aracataca, a village in the Caribbean province of Magdalena, by the Los Paisas militia group, the Jose Alvear Restrepo Legal Aid Society, or CCAJAR, said in a statement.
This is the second time that the residents of Bocas de Aracataca have been threatened since May 25, the CCAJAR said.
Los Paisas “announced a new massacre in the next few hours, as well as the murders of the (village) leaders and the displacement of the 31 families that returned to this village in the Cienaga Grande de Santa Marta,” the CCAJAR said.
Alcides Gonzalez, the only resident to stay in the village after militiamen massacred 11 people in February 2000, was among those threatened with death.
The massacre, which was committed by members of the defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, militia federation, prompted 1,500 people from 150 families to flee from the fishing village.
The death threats were made against the 31 families that decided to return to Bocas de Aracataca, which is in an area where militiamen killed 39 other people in an attack on fishermen in December 2000.
Los Paisas is one of a number of groups founded by veterans of the AUC.
Los Paisas and the other AUC successor groups, such as Los Rastrojos and Nueva Generacion, are responsible for a good deal of the criminal activity in Colombia, officials say.
The AUC, accused of committing numerous human rights violations, demobilized more than 31,000 of its fighters between the end of 2003 and mid-2006 as part of the peace process with former President Alvaro Uribe’s administration.
The group was made up of numerous rural defense cooperatives formed more than 20 years ago to battle leftist rebels.
Many of the militias, however, degenerated into death squads and carried out massacres of peasants suspected of having rebel sympathies, along with slayings of journalists and union members accused of favoring the leftist insurgents.
Under the terms of the 2005 Peace and Justice Law, pushed through Congress by the Uribe administration to regulate the militiamen’s reinsertion into society, former AUC members faced a maximum of eight years in prison if convicted of any of the scores of massacres of suspected rebel sympathizers attributed to the rightists over the years.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court upheld the law in 2006 but conditioned the sentence reductions on full disclosure and confession of crimes and reparations to victims.
On May 13, 2008, the Colombian government extradited 14 former AUC chiefs to the United States.
The former AUC commanders were wanted in the United States on drug, money laundering and other charges.