PBI-Colombia at 7th Festival of Memories marking 25th anniversary of Operation Genesis attack on Afro-Colombian communities

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On February 25, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “VII Festival of Memories @Justiciaypazcol [Justice and Peace Commission] From the territory, the communities persist through #peace accompanied by the international community. In the Transgenerational Memory Dialogue, an exercise was made of #CollectiveMemory to #NotForget.”

The Justice and Peace Commission has previously tweeted that the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Operation Genesis would be held from Friday February 25 to Monday February 28 in Cacarica, Choco.

Operation Genesis began at 5:30 am on February 27, 1997.

PBI-Colombia has explained: “Operation Genesis included the participation of the Army, Navy, Airforce and National Police, in coordination with paramilitaries from the Cordoba and Uraba Self Defence Forces (AUC). The military and paramilitary operation resulted in over 70 crimes, including murders and enforced disappearances. As a result, around 3,500 people from the 23 communities of the Cacarica river basin were forcibly displaced.”

According to a 2003 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), the armed forces used bombs and machine guns against the inhabitants of the Cacarica river basin during a weeklong offensive.

That ruling found Colombia responsible for not preventing the 1997 displacement of thousands of Afro-Colombians and the brutal murder of Afro-Colombian campesino Marino Lopez Mena. During the incursion, paramilitaries killed Marino accusing him of being a guerrilla before capturing and beheading him.

WOLA has noted: “Operation Genesis formed part of a larger paramilitary political effort to displace Afro-Colombians from their territories to facilitate the entry and expansion of oil palm plantations throughout the department of Choco.”

Two years after their displacement, the communities of Cacarica obtained collective ownership of their lands, to which they returned in 2000. There, they established the Community of Self-Determination, Life, and Dignity of Cacarica (CAVIDA).

In August 2012, retired general Rito Alejo del Río, the 17th Brigade commander of the Operation,  was sentenced to 26 years in prison for the assassination of Marino. Rito Alejo del Río had also repeatedly accused the Justice and Peace Commission of being guerillas.

By September 2017, he was released from prison.

Eighteen years after the traumatic displacement of the residents of the humanitarian zone, the Festival of Memories was held for the first time to bring healing to the community.

As noted in the PBI-Colombia tweet, this year is the seventh festival. It is also the 25th anniversary of the attack.

PBI has accompanied the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission since 1994.

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