(FLIP/IFEX) - On 21 February 2010, a threatening leaflet began circulating in the city of Cartago, in Valle del Cauca, western Colombia. The bulletin contains death threats against a number of local citizens, including five journalists. Since March 2009, four similar pamphlets have been distributed in Cartago.
The five journalists are Luis Fernando Gil, of the "Hora 13" programme broadcast on the local TV channel CNC; Raúl Parra, of the publication "La Hoja de Parra"; Fernando Posso, a local columnist; Hernando Posada Echeverri, of the "Chiva Noticias" programme broadcast on CNC; and Héctor Fabio García, who works for a number of shows on broadcaster Cartago Estéreo.
According to the leaflet, which was signed by the group "Los Doce del Patíbulo", individuals who are opposed to the current Cartago mayor, Germán González Osorio, and who have electoral interests, will be designated as "military targets". The group says that it will target any individuals who are trying to get votes by attacking "those who are trying to do something positive for Valle del Cauca."
FLIP tried to contact González Osorio, but the mayor is on holiday. Acting mayor Germán Velázquez told FLIP that since the first pamphlet appeared in 2009, the Mayor's Office has condemned these intimidating messages, calling on those who are disgruntled to seek legal avenues of reparation.
The Cartago police chief, Colonel Elías Herrera, told FLIP he was aware of the pamphlet and appropriate action would be taken.
FLIP's sources attest that the journalists face a risky situation, which is compounded by the electoral process, and the ongoing insecurity in Cartago. Groups linked to drug trafficking are active in the area and in the last five years, two journalists have been killed in Cartago.
In March, July and October 2009 three similar pamphlets circulated in Cartago. They were also signed by "Doce del Patíbulo" and contained threats against almost the same list of people. According to the authorities, no such group exists but those who may be behind the threats have not been identified. The Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris insists that the group does exist, it operates in the north of Valle del Cauca and is linked to drug trafficking and hired assassins in the region.
FLIP expressed concern over the threats and the fact that the investigations have not advanced, almost one year after the appearance of the first pamphlet. It urged the authorities to provide the journalists with protection and ensure that those responsible are identified.