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Friday, October 21, 2016
British Government promises to discuss new death threats in Colombia
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 The British Government has promised to discuss new death threats against priests and members of development and human rights organisations in Colombia. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has agreed to meet aid agency CAFOD after the so-called paramilitary group, the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras), threatened to assassinate members of CAFOD's partner organisations in the north of Colombia. The email from the Black Eagles said CAFOD's partner, the Development and Peace Programme of Magdalena Medio, human rights group SEMBRAR, the Federación de Agricultores y Mineros (Farmers and Miners Federation) and priests and parishioners in the region were all "military targets" in an "annihilation plan" and "will be exterminated one by one". It continued: "We are watching you every minuteThe plan to annihilate you will begin at any point. We are not joking about assassinating you, so go and warn your relatives so they can prepare your burial." CAFOD has already met the new Colombian ambassador in London, Noemí Sanín, and conveyed its concerns about these threats and continued paramilitary intimidation in the South American country - where a conflict has been raging for four decades. Clare Dixon, head of CAFOD's Latin America and Caribbean Department, said: "This latest threat is another sign that the notorious paramilitary groups are still active, despite the Colombian government's demobilisation process. "The continued activity of these groups and their influence in politics is undermining Colombia's claim to be a democratic state providing security for its citizens. People have a right to live in peace. "We are pleased the British Government is taking these threats seriously ­ more than 2,000 people have been murdered in the region since 1986 including 28 members of our Magdalena Medio partner organisation." CAFOD has worked in Colombia since the 1960s. The internationally-respected Magdalena Medio Programme is run by the church and development agencies. It receives funding from the World Bank and the European Union to run a "peace laboratory" which involves communities in economic and social development projects in order to promote peace. Paramilitary groups in Colombia were originally set up to protect rich landowners but they have now become heavily involved in drug trafficking and there is evidence of collusion with the armed forces. In 2005 a Justice and Peace law was passed to demobilise paramilitary and guerrilla groups, however it failed to dismantle the organisations' structures and many continue to commit horrendous human rights violations.
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