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"You'll be exterminated, one by one," paramilitary tell community radio leader, others, in southern Bolivar

(AMARC/IFEX) - AMARC-Latin America and the Caribbean (AMARC-ALC) joins the Network of Community Radio Stations of Magdalena Medio (Red de Emisoras Comunitarias del Magdalena Medio, AREDMAG) in strongly condemning the death threats issued by the paramilitary umbrella group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) against Fr. Rafael Gallego, an animator and representative of the community radio station Ecos de Tiquisio, and against other priests and members of social organisations of this region. Ecos de Tiquisio is based in the town of Tiquisio, in the southern area of the Bolivar department, in northern Colombia.

In a 16 April 2008 press release, AREDMAG condemned the death threats against various members of social organisations, priests in the southern Bolivar communities of Arenal, Tiquisio, Río Viejo and Regidor and members of the Programme for Development and Peace of the Magdalena Medio (PDPMM).

According to AREDMAG, a member of AMARC, the threats were made via an e-mail message signed by "Commander Camilo Mora" of the North Bloque of the Black Eagles (Águilas Negras) of the AUC. The messages declared those named as "military targets" and announced that an "annihilation plan" was being implemented in which "you will be exterminated, one by one, in the order in which you appear on the list."

Fr. Gallego is an organizer of not only Tiquisio's community radio station, but also of other communication initiatives based in the Magdalena Medio, an area of intense social and armed conflict located along both sides of the middle part of the Magdalena River, which courses from central Colombia to the Caribbean. His work and that of others on the death list include human rights projects and the organisation of social networks, which have been supported by Ecos de Tiquisio radio station.

AMARC-ALC believes that at risk are not only the lives of Fr. Gallego and others, but also the continuity of the work with the community in which those on the death list are engaged. The death threats are generating an atmosphere of terror that impedes the exercising of fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of expression.

AMARC-ALC asks the Colombian government to investigate these incidents and take whatever measures are necessary to protect those threatened.

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