Jhonel Cárdenas Castrillo is a communitarian leader, and the local president of the political party Polo Democrático Alternativo (Democratic Alternative Pole). He suffered an attempt of assassination last Friday, September 7th, at 6:30 pm. He was home when an armed individual fired at him. Fortunately Mr. Cárdenas wasn’t hit and was able to disarm the shooter who ran out of Mr.Cardenas’s house and escaped on a motorcycle which was driven by his accomplice.
The police in the municipality of Curumani, hometown of Mr. Cárdenas, are now aware of this episode. Nonetheless despite the information provided by Jhonel provides, no effort was made to capture the hitman, which was identified as a former member of the paramilitary groups in the city of Cúcuta. In addition , the police commander refused to receive any formal statement from Mr. Cárdenas. as this would haveopen the investigation and permit the collection of pieces of evidence.
The police's behaviour is even more worrying with regards to their statements to several NGO's which called the Curumani police station for information on the case. According to the police the whole episode would have been the result of a fight among friends in a party. These statements not only are false but also tend to deviate the investigation about the authors and their motives.
Communitarian leader Jhonel Cárdenas Castrillo was illegally and arbitrarily arrested with other social leaders (JOSE PICON, DAMIAN CABALLERO and DOBER JAIME)by the Colombian army on March, 16th , 2011. He was tortured during his detention in Curumaní , held naked and forced to give his email passwords to the Sijin (police intelligence). He was set free on March 24, 2011. The Prosecutor decided to close the investigation against Mr. Cárdenas who was charged for the crime of rebellion.
Mr. Cárdenas, as a communitarian leader and a member of the Cesar's Social Integration Committee, has been conducting processes of land restitution and filing complaints for the water pollution caused by mining in the main fountain of the Curumaní's aqueduct, the river San Pedro. This pollution is taking place thanks to a permissive environmental authority.
Colombian State must investigate this attempt of assassination; the authors, at the highest level, must be arrested and trialed and the reason for committing such a crime must be revealed
While the national government is discussing land restitution and human rights, we must note with great concern that campesino leaders of the land restitution process still face attacksand harassment without any protection from the authorities. As the peace negociations are ongoing in Colombia, we must keep in mind that no peace process will be possible in the absence of justice and if social leaders, like Jhonel Cárdenas, are still forced to leave their lands.
Bogota, September 8, 2012