Sábado, 21 de enero de 2017

| 2009/10/06 00:00

The devil wears military boots

Oct 6--Every now and then, I meet a person through my work who is so obviously courageous that it restores my faith in being a reporter.

The devil wears military boots

One of them is Father Elkin Nazrallah, a Catholic priest in the small riverside town of Riosucio, western Colombia.

Riosucio means dirty river. It is a town populated mainly by Afro-Colombians. They are descendants of African slaves brought here as forced labour by Spanish colonisers when the indigenous Amerindians began dying off from imported diseases.

Father Elkin is a small man, who works in an unremarkable church in one of the backwaters of the poorest part of Colombia.

But his bravery is breathtaking.
"The devil walked through here," he says, referring to a dark chapter in the history of the Riosucio region that began in 1996.

"The devil came down the river wearing a green combat uniform with military boots."

Father Elkin's devil was a paramilitary group led by businessmen and landowners - and, to my astonishment and admiration, he was not afraid to say so, quite openly, to the BBC.

The right-wing paramilitaries said they were fighting left-wing rebels on behalf of the government. But the Catholic priest of Riosucio said the truth was rather different.

"These unscrupulous businessmen said they were fighting the rebels. But that was just their way getting into the area - their way of throwing the black population, and the other poor people around here, off their land," the priest said.

"Massacres started taking place - we don't know why or how. But they caused the black people and the other poor farmers to flee from their farms."

"The justification from the paramilitaries was that they had to chase the rebels but the result was the illegal expropriation of the peoples' farms by this group of unscrupulous businessmen," Father Elkin said.
Read more here.
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