The following is excerpted from information received from the Red de Hermandad in early December:
The war in the city of Barrancabermeja has worsened since the events of May 16, 1998 (see Colombia Update, Vol.10, Nos.1&2). There has been an increase in the presence of the armed forces in the street, with the arrival of an elite security forces unit and a new combat vehicle for the police with sophisticated weaponry and a video camera.
These military units have been sowing panic and terror by their threatening and humiliating attitude in the searches they carry out: they accuse people of being "subversive", aggressively and disrespectfully enter homes, and require that their inhabitants to kneel down, throw themselves on the ground, and then threaten them with their weapons.
The paramilitary groups are operating in the following manner: They travel about hooded, on motorcycles and in taxis with no license plates. They act in operational commands together with the Police and Army, and receive collaboration from the DAS (Administrative Department of State Security). They accuse the population of collaborating with the guerrillas. They choose their victims, including witnesses to the events of May 16, union and community leaders, children and elderly, who are tortured, murdered, and in some cases dismembered using chain saws. On occasion these murders are perpetrated in the victim's home. They sow terror in their path, throwing grenades and setting off dynamite charges.
There have been more confrontations between the guerrillas and the Army and Police, with the civilian population getting caught in the crossfire. The wounded and dead are almost always civilians.
With the attacks on the offices of organizations, banks, and businesses, the war, which hitherto had only directly affected the poor sectors of the city, has begun to directly affect the entire population in Barrancabermeja.
In addition to sending urgent action appeals, you are asked to send messages of solidarity to the following organizations working on behalf of human rights and social justice in Barrancabermeja, including attention to the displaced from Bolívar:
Organización Femenina Popular (O.F.P.)
Carrera 22 # 52 B-36
Diagonal 8°, No. 7-18 oficina 202
Familia Franciscana de Colombia
Parroquia Sagrada Familia
Barrio Boston (Sector Nororiental)
Unión Sindical Obrera (U.S.O.)
Coordinadora Popular de Barrancabermeja
Asociación de Familiares de las Víctimas de Barrancabermeja
Avda. del Ferrocarril 28-43