The Traditional Authorities of the Indigenous Reserve, Huellas, Caloto, of the Cxhab Wala Kiwe – ACIN and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca – CRIC, wish to make the following clear statement.
1.1. At approximately 9:10 p.m. On Sunday, March 25, 2018, in the district of El Palo, municipality of Caloto, a police unit arrived, supported by the National Army, to an establishment called “La Taberna”, where a group of local people, including women, older adults and children, had gathered in a busy area area adjacent to that establishment.
1.2. The Public Force command consisted of 2 trucks, 2 vans and a tank located in the El Alto sector of the El Palo district, all with distinctive signs of the National Police and two vans with blacked out windows but without any official identification. Likewise, several heavily armed men were present, who proceeded to launch tear gas and fire indiscriminately against the civilian population.
1.3. As a result of this abuse of power, the excessive use of force and the shooting carried out by the National Police in an alleged military operation, our indigenous guard of Los Chorros, José Wilson Escue Vitoncó, 22 years old, died and Jhon Fredy Dagua was injured. Laura Shirley Pacue Martínez and Keifer Mestizo, all members of the indigenous community were also injured, one of them seriously.
1.4. According to information from the community regarding this irresponsible, excessive and unfair action by the public forces, the civilian population reacted by resisting the presence of the National Police, who continued firing as they withdrew on the road that leads from El Palo to Caloto, retreating to Finca La Emperatriz, an area where there have been innumerable attacks and abuses against indigenous communities.
1.5. There are several similar incidents in the corregimiento of El Palo, Caloto where the security services have violated human rights through the excessive and abusive use of force in the exercise of their functions. They have ignored the protocols established to protect the civilian population which is not part of the conflict but which frequently ends up being the target of the violence, resulting in death and injuries.
1.6. The traditional indigenous authorities of the Huellas Indigenous Guard, Caloto, clarify that the murdered indigenous guard José Wilson Escue Vitoncó, as well as the seriously injured indigenous community members, were not part of any illegal armed group, were tey involved in protecting criminal activities.
1.7. Our community members were enjoying their right to recreation, which was disturbed by a military operation that resulted in the cowardly attack on the civilian population causing the death of José Wilson Escue and serious injuries to 6 more people. The violence did not result in the capture of the offender that was the supposed reason for this intervention.
1.8. In their eagerness to cover up their own irregular actions, the Armed Forces of the state irresponsibly stated that our community members and those who were at the scene were part of the escort of “Mordisco” the supposed head of a dissident group of the FARC who is on the run.
1.9. Likewise, the police has stated, without any evidence, that at the time of the attempted capture of the aforementioned offender there was an assault organised by those who were in the place known as “The Tavern” which supposedly triggered an exchange of fire, a version that does not match the videos and the statements of the witnesses of these events.
1.10. More serious is the fact that that after the inspection of the National Police vehicles, Nissan Pickup Truck with FHU116 Envigado Plates, Hyundai NPR Truck with UEF-180 Plates, Nissan Pickup Truck with 28-0684 Plates, Hyundai NPR Truck with CES Plates- 623 of Chia and Tanqueta with internal number 280472, which according to versions of the National Police itself participated in the operation of March 25, 2018 in the district of El Palo, it was possible to verify and prove that there was no evidence of them having been fired at.
1.11 This contradicts the statements made by the National Police in their statements to the media in which they said that once they arrived at the public establishment known as “La Taberna” in the El Palo district, they were received with gunshots, which caused an exchange of gunfire between the public force and the alleged escorts of Alias ”Mordisco”, resulting in damage to official vehicles and injuries to some uniformed officers.
1.12. These versions, on the contrary, conform to a repeated and systematic strategy of the Colombian State.
Autoridades Indigenas del Resguardo de Huellas, Caloto
Cxhab Wala Kiwe – ACIN
Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca – CRIC.
Marzo 26 de 2018.