Baseless prosecution of the ACVC

Since the creation of the Small-scale Farmer Association of the Cimitarra River Valley-National Agro-ecological Network (ACVC-RAN), its members have been the victims of assassinations, threats, arbitrary detentions, forced displacement, disappearances, torture, their homes have been burned down and they have suffered food and medical blockades. Five of its members were murdered – including three members of Community Action Boards and two members of the ACVC’s board of directors – and another, Miguel Cifuentes, survived a murder attempt when paramilitaries shot at him.[1]

In addition, the ACVC’s members have been subjected to baseless prosecutions. The members of ACVC’s board were subjected to criminal charges and half of them were deprived of their liberty. In September 2007, the ACVC board members Andres Gil, Oscar Duque, Mario Martinez and Evarsito Mena were detained. The Army and Department of Administrative Security (DAS) searched the ACVC’s offices in Barrancabermeja and removed computers and documents belonging to the organisation.[2]

The day after the search, spokespersons for the Army announced to the press that there were 18 arrest warrants for the ACVC’s members, which was interpreted by its members as a new attempt to destroy the organisation and impede small-scale farmers from organising and defending their rights.[3] The result was that many of those who weren’t captured went into exile, temporarily abandoning their work for the Association. Four months later, in January 2008, two further members of the ACVC, Ramiro Ortega and Miguel Angel Gonzalez Huepa, were charged with rebellion and detained.

Absolution and release

On 23 April 2008, the Human Rights Unit of the Public Prosecutor’s Office No 37 in Medellin ordered the definitive closure of the investigations into Oscar Duque, Mario Martinez and Evaristo Mena, and their immediate release due to a lack of evidence; Ramiro Ortega was released on 16 May by the same Prosecutor. On 9 June 2009, Miguel Gonzalez Huepa was absolved of the charges after 17 months of trial marred by numerous delays and witness testimonies which were inconsistent and contradicted each other, according to reports by Prensa Rural.[4]

On 2 July 2009, the Prosecutor’s Office cancelled the arrest warrants against Luis Carlos Ariza, Miguel Cifuentes, Exenober Polania, Eladio Morales, Wilson Vega, Gilberto de Jesus Guerra and Henry Palomo, ACVC members who were being sought for the crime of rebellion.[5] This decision was based on the fact that there was insufficient evidence to show that these individuals should be deprived of liberty.

In August 2009, Andres Gil was granted provisional release[6] pending the annulment of the prosecution against him which was based on the same evidence as was the case against Miguel Gonzalez Huepa, which the judge had dismissed for lacking in truth and consistency.

The imprisonment of its members was a hard blow for the ACVC, because it had to devote its time and resources to defending those who were accused. The Association returned to work with “commitment, willpower and integrity, for an organisation which stands up for the small-scale farmers of the Cimitarra River Valley”.


[1] ACVC Press Statement, 5 March 2003
[2] Vanguardia Liberal: La Fiscalía emitió órdenes de captura contra 18 miembros de la Acvc y hubo nuevos allanamientos, 2 October 2007
[3] Humanidad Vigente: Caso Acvc: sigue vigente orden de captura contra varios dirigentes por negligencia de autoridades judiciales, En: Agencia Prensa Rural, 2 July 2008
[4] Agencia Prensa Rural: Absuelto Miguel Ángel González Huepa, Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra, 9 June 2009
[5] Agencia Prensa Rural: Se cancelan órdenes de captura contra líderes campesinos de la ACVC, 14 July 2009
[6] Agencia Prensa Rural: En libertad Andrés Gil, dirigente de la ACVC encarcelado por el régimen durante casi dos años, 1 September 2009

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