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Monday 9th
posted by James Tweedie in World

SIX victims of last week’s massacre of Colombian peasants were identified on Saturday as official investigations into the atrocity began.

Local community leaders said nine campesinos had been shot dead by security forces and 52 injured last Thursday while protesting against a government sweep to eradicate their coca-leaf crops.

Coroners named Aldemar Gil, Diego Escobar, Nelson Chacuendo, Janier Cortes, Jaimen Guanga and Alfonso Taicus among the dead in the massacre in the city of Tumaco in Narino state.

Their report stated: “The bodies show injuries caused by high-velocity projectiles,” indicating that they had been shot from far away, Telesur reported.

Five of the men were in their twenties or thirties. A 13-year-old boy also reported killed has not yet been identified.

The Defence Ministry tried to blame a breakaway faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), which re-formed as a political party earlier this year after disarming under the landmark 2016 peace deal.

On Friday, President Juan Manuel Santos alleged that drug gangs opposed to the eradication programme were responsible for the killings, while also claiming that the area was in Farc-controlled territory.

But local campaigners said it was police who had opened fire on the peaceful demonstrators.

Peasants’ groups urged the government to convene a truth commission, to include the attorney-general, national ombudsman and United Nations representatives, over the killings.

That was echoed by neighbouring Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry, which issued a statement on Friday saying that it “laments the grave acts” and calling on Bogota to carry out a “diligent and impartial investigation.”

It stressed Venezuela’s “deepest ties of solidarity with the Colombian people” and added that it stood by the victims’ families.

Colombian Vice-President Oscar Naranjo will be in Tumaco all this week to for meetings with community leaders.