Colombian Rebels Who Caused Massacre Point a Finger at Diocese

Quibdo Answers That It´s «on the Side of Victims»

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ROME, MAY 28, 2002 ( The guerrilla group responsible for the Bellavista blood bath that killed more than 120 civilians is accusing the Diocese of Quibdo of showing favoritism in its aid programs.

A homemade mortar launched by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) caused the massacre this month among civilians who had sought refuge at a village church in northwest Colombia.

In a statement received by the Misna missionary agency, the FARC´s José Maria Cordova Front roundly attacked the Quibdo Diocese and its charity work, carried out through the Justice and Peace Commission and Atrato´s Integral Peasant Association (ACIA).

«The ACIA, which says it represents the interests of Indian and Afro-American communities, is nothing other than the extension of the Church´s proselytism,» the guerrillas´ statement says. «To obtain a pound of sugar, one must prove that one is Catholic, apostolic and Roman, in addition to belonging to the Conservative or Liberal parties.»

The Quibdo Diocese responded in a note, which was also signed by ACIA and the Justice and Peace Commission.

«Indeed, as you state, we are not neutral, because we have chosen to support the victims of the social and armed conflict our country is experiencing,» the diocesan note states. «As we already wrote in our 2000 Pastoral Letter, the diocese is on the side of the victims, and our words and work are dedicated to them.»

It continues: «This is why, since the beginning of the socioeconomic blockade of the Atrato region in December 1996, including paramilitary incursions and continuous actions to restrict foods, fuel and medicines on the part of the public force, as well as those actions perpetrated in April by the FARC, we have not ceased to point out the responsibilities of all the parties.»

«Likewise, we have pointed out that 120 civilians died in Boyaca as a result of the bomb thrown by the FARC against the church of Bellavista, and have denounced those responsible among the paramilitary who used civilians like human shields, and the state for its omissions and for not having listened to the alarms raised before the massacre,» the note concludes.

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