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Paramilitary death threats against radio journalist in Manaure

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 11 March 2007, a pamphlet apparently written by the "Black Eagles Special Forces" ("Fuerzas Especiales Águilas Negras") paramilitary group was circulated in the town of Manaure, La Guajira department. In it, journalist Kenneth Rivadeneira - a correspondent for the Riohacha-based radio station Radio Delfín - and eight other people from the region, including politicians, businessmen and indigenous people from the Wayúu community, were declared military targets.

The pamphlet said the people mentioned in it were responsible for denunciations against the municipal government aimed at "destabilising and bringing down the legitimate government of Humberto Martínez Fajardo, who won the 28 October 2007 elections honestly and in a transparent manner." The pamphlet gave those named five days to leave the region, or they "will be executed."

The same pamphlet also accused the nine of "intending to turn over Salinas de Manaure to Venezuelan businessmen supporting President Hugo Chávez and his false socialist revolution." Salinas de Manaure is a company working the Manaure salt basins.

Rivadeneira says that his stories for Radio Delfín have been reporting on the Salinas de Manaure situation and Mayor Martínez Fajardo's actions. Rivadeneira added that he and the others mentioned in the pamphlet all opposed Martínez Fajardo during the last elections. "We have been critical (of the current administration), but rational and ideological," he stated.

For several months, the journalist and some of the shareholders of Salinas de Manaure (SAMA Ltda.) have been involved in a pitched legal battle against the Colombian national government to demand that the Wayúu indigenous group be recognised as the owner of the salt basins.

Four of the people threatened have left the town because their safety in the area was not adequately ensured. The National Police have taken some measures to protect them, but not continuously.

According to the journalist, despite the complaints filed by those threatened and requests made to the authorities, the security situation in La Guajira department has not changed for the better but, in fact, is deteriorating. He also noted that the threats against him and his family, including threatening telephone calls to their home, have continued.

Sergeant Acosta, the National Police commander in Manaure, told FLIP that "as soon as this pamphlet became public, security measures for each person mentioned in it were taken." Acosta also said that there is no illegal armed group by the name of "Fuerzas Especiales Águilas Negras" in the region. However, one of the individuals mentioned in the pamphlet confirms that for some time now the presence of the "Aguilas Negras" in the area has been a matter of public knowledge.

Mayor Martínez Fajardo told a local radio station affiliated with the RCN network that he personally does not believe that the pamphlet is from the "Aguilas Negras". "I am certain that this kind of criminal group is not operating here in our municipality . . ." he said. He added that it was unfortunate that he was being implicated in the incident, saying emphatically: "People are being given the impression that we have something to do with this document, which we condemn."

FLIP calls upon the Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalía General de la Nación) to investigate the threat against Rivadeneira as well as the pamphlet's source and the motives behind it. FLIP also asks the local and departmental authorities to implement the measures needed to protect the journalist and his family.

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