South and Meso American Indian Rights Center



Father Ezio Roattino, an Italian priest and missionary working in the parish of San Lorenzo de Caldono in the Department of Cauca in southwestern Colombia, was charged by the commander of the police of Cauca, Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Gutierrez Aranguren, with supporting the FARC guerrillas who had taken over the town of Caldono, and thus, endangering the civilian population of Caldono.

On March 5, 1997, in a letter to Archbishop Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo of Popayan, the president of the Colombian conference of Bishops, Lieutenant Colonel Gutierrez complained of Father Roattino's "ideals and leftist tendencies" and criticized him for wishing to have the police force removed from the community of Caldono. He requested that the Archbishop not permit priests such as Father Roattino to follow "dark paths marked by violence and leading to bloodshed."

Father Roattino responded in a letter dated March 9, 1997, in which he denied supporting violence and asked for an investigation with due process both in the ordinary justice system and special indigenous judiciary system. Calling attention to past persecution of the indigenous community among whom he lives and works, Father Roattino pledged to continue his efforts for justice and equality. He called for those who had anonymously criticized him, the supposed basis for Lieutenant Colonel Gutierrez's letter, to come out in public. And he pledged to continue to proclaim "the gospel of liberation and acculturation, in common with the Bishop and with the community, as much as the enemies permit me to, as long as God gives me life and strength. And he went on to say "if in this violent hour and in this violent place I have to lay down my life, I will not be mistaken. The only reason will be the cause of Jesus, which is the cause of the poor, of the indigenous people. I ask it of God and I promise it. I wish to keep dreaming of and working for a new heaven and a new earth where justice will live (Isaish 66:22)." Rejecting armed combat, Father Roattino called for combat of faith and of good works, and said he prayed for a "culture of peace."

Mayor Gloria Cuartas of Apartado, Colombia wrote on March 26, 1997 of her support for the pastoral work of Father Roattino and asked for help in protecting him, saying that he, "like us, works with the community, with special emphasis on the indigenous communities of the northern part of Cauca."


This is an urgent call for solidarity. Please send letters and faxes to support the work of Father Ezio Roattino and other missionaries who have been working for justice for during the last 12 years, following the example of Father Alvare Ulcue, who was murdered in the Cauca on Nov. 10, 1984. They have developed actions in defense of indigenous groups in the Cauca in the south of Colombia, where the indigenous peoples, have been caught in the middle of a conflict between the guerrillas, the army and the paramilitary groups (linked to drug barons and corrupt politicians). Father Roattino has been falsely accused of acting on behalf of the guerrillas and being responsible for recent guerrilla attacks.

Send appeals to:

1) President Samper-Pizano
Presidente de la Republica
Palacio de Narino
Carrera 8 #7-26
Santafe de Bogota, Colombia
Fax: 011-57-1-2893377 or 286-7434

2) Attorney General
Alfonso Valdivieso-Sarmiento
Fiscal General de la Nacion
Apartado Aereo 29855
Satafe de Bogota, Colombia
Fax: 011-57-1-287-0939 or 288-2828

3) Minister of Defense
Gilberto-Echeverry Mejia
Avenida El Dorado CAN- Carrera 52
Santafe de Bogota, Colombia
Fax: 011-57-1-222-1874

4) Juan Carlos Esguerra-Portocarrero
Colombian Ambassador to the U.S.
2118 Leroy Place, NW
Washington D.C. 20008
fax: 202-232-8643

5) Myles Frechette
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia
Fax: 011 57 1 315 2209

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701
(608) 257-8753 fax (608) 255-6621

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