Colombia: More Attacks and Defamation Against ACIN’s Communication Network

The following is a communique I just received from our friends in Cauca, from the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, and specifically, their communication team, which has been at the forefront of getting the word out about the struggles of Colombia’s indigenous and popular movement.

Please circulate it widely as we try to build and strengthen the solidarity with ACIN and the dozens of communities they represent.


"We want to help build a new country by sharing the truth and showing realities"Emilio Basto, Indigenous Communicator at Police Headquarters in Santander de Quilichao, April 4th 2008.

Accused of a Crime: Showing documentaries to a community

This is the framework within which our Tejido de Comunicacion is under attack: and

Yesterday, Emilio Basto, a Nasa native who usually runs el rebusque, a morning show in Nasa and Spanish on Radio Payumat, where he listens and exchanges with indigenous peoples from the fields, explains the process and the contexts, opens a debate on critical issues, does interviews so that everyone in their homes understands the project of aggression and continues to think and resist, was arrested by the police in Santander de Quilichao.

Emilio was coming back from Tacueyo, in the mountains of Cauca, where he was showing documentaries at one of the video fora, which are part of an agenda planned to "sweep" the entire territory to engage people in debating diverse issues. He carried with him a number of videos, including "The revolution will not be televised," "Water, our life, our hope," and "Spakapa is not for sale". He also had two documentaries done in Colombia, "The cost of Land" from the Paciufic Coast focusing on displacement for Palm Oil industries, and ACIN’s own "Country of the people without owners," the latest documentary produced by our team that tells the story of last year’s Minga, the National mobilization against the FTA and the economic model being imposed.

Emilio was accused of carrying subversive material and inciting to violence. He was interrogated for 2 hours without access to lawyers, phone calls or protection. His finger prints were registered as well as all information regarding his activities. There was talk about weapons, which he could not understand. He explained what he does and what we do. He demanded respect for his obligations as a journalist, for the freedom of expression, for the indigenous process and rights. Finally, they let him go, but we do not know whether there are charges against him or whether they will use this event in a judicial process against the communication network or in a physical attack against his life and the lives of all of the other members of our communication team in ACIN.

This is the rule, the pattern and what we must expect, as you will be able to see on the videos attached below on Mario Murillo’s note on the presentation at the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights.

The attack against Emilio was the latest in a series of attacks against ACIN’s communication Tejido:

1. October 2008, during our coverage of the indigenous mobilization and while the armed forces of Colombia were shooting against unarmed natives, our website and listserve was blocked.

2. December 14th, 2008, an act of sabotage against the transmission equipment of Radio Pa’Yumat, leading to the silencing of this radio station until now. Two days later, Edwin Legarda, the husband of indigenous leader Aida Quilcue, was murdered by the Colombian Army in an attempted magnicide against her.

3. December 16th, 2008. Live radio interview on La W, a National radio station with a massive audience. We had called in to break the news in Colombia and the world of the assasination of Edwin Legarda, with direct information from the ground. The anchor, Fernando Sanchez Cristo, called us back for the interview an hour after we gave him the facts and put us on during a section of recognition to the armed forces of Colombia in their war on terror. The Commander of the Third Brigade gave his version of the facts first: The vehicle refused to stop at a police post and was suspected to be FARC. Manuel Rozental, on the line from Cauca, explained that the car had received 16 shots from automatic weapons, 14 of these in the front, a fact that contradicted the army commanders version. They shot him intentionally from the front. There was no police post. The general went off the air and Rozental was engaged in a live exchange with Sanchez Cristo on these lines:

JSC: You are the same Dr Rozental, a surgeon that works in Canada?
MR: Yes that’s me
JSC: You are a close friend of the sons of the international representative of FARC there and you write for the Journal resistencia
MR: I know them well, as any Colombian engaged in solidarity efforts does. I have never written for Resistencia and what you are attempting to discredit a witness in the air in order to cover up a crime. I am not FARC, have never been and my life has been committed to a peaceful effort for social justice. I am part of an indigenous process committed to social justice, freedom and change through peaceful means. I hope we have not reached a stage where every journalist in commercial media serves a regime to silence the voices and rights of people
JSC: So do I Dr Rozental. You are right
MR: Who provided you with this false information against me?
JSC: A listener sent it on email, but don’t worry about it.
Strangely, this interview was never posted on their webpage (all others are) and our request to obtain the copy of the interview and of the listener’s message was never answered. All this points at Military Intelligence providing distorted information to discredit and threaten the witness on air.

4. February 7th, 09. Gustavo Ulcue. Nasa, member of the ACIN Communication network and webmaster, had just left his home in Santander de Quilichao, when two armed men arrived in a motorcycle, forced his brother to let them into their house at gun point and looked for Gustavo inside. They took away his laptop and told his brother Gustavo was lucky not to have been found as they came to kill him. Gustavo had to go into hiding. The armed men have been seen near his house since then. No police action was taken.

5. March 4th, 2009. Cambio (the equivalent of Time or Newsweek in Colombia) publishes a report against Hollman Morris, where it states falsely that Rozental and Morris are helping ELN (National Liberation Army) in their territorial struggle against FARC for the indigenous territory of Northern Cauca; These lies have been followed in the past by the assassination of those named. Rozental had to flee Cauca.

6. March 14th, 2009. For the second successive night, Hugo Dagua, arrives late at his modest ranch in Santander de Quilichao on his motorcycle. He had been conducting a video forum at an indigenous peoples encounter with participants from Ecuador and Colombia, where the video "Country of the People without owners" was launched. He noticed a motorcycle with two people following him and managed to escape. He is the main technician of the radio station and runs his own radio program. Hugo is under community protection measures and his wife and his year old son had to be moved out of town into their community in the mountains for safety.

Other threats and attacks against the communication process have been occurring. Now Emilio has been attacked. ACIN’s communication network has been awarded the recognition as the best alternative media in Colombia in October 2007 and has become the strongest voice for a peaceful alternative in Colombia and an awareness raising and debate space for the base.

This is a crime in Colombia. As the policemen told Emilio yesterday: you are inciting violence with those documentaries. We will keep walking our word. Please see the following note and video.

April 5th 2009
Manuel Rozental
Santander de Quilichao Cauca