Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas has asked the director of the national police to relieve over 100 police of their duties in connection with the Oct. 5 Tumaco massacre, in which the police opened fired and killed at least eight protesting campesinos.
"Together with President Juan Manuel Santos we have instructed the director of the National Police General (Jorge Hernando) Nieto, to relieve the police units in the municipality of Tumaco," Villegas said during a press conference.
Included are 80 police, two officers, and 20 executive level officials who were in the area of Nariño at the time of the massacre.
According to Villegas, the police force is fully invested in assisting the attorney general's office in its investigation into the murders as well as Sunday’s attack of human rights activists.
However, Luz Perly Cordoba director of the National Coordination of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana revealed in an interview that police investigators have prevented families from retrieving bodies of the killed. Perly Cordoba said police are hiding evidence and the lack of transparency is inhibiting the investigation process. She added that the subsequent lack of clarity may still yet show a rise in the official death toll from the attack.
The official incident report says only six peasants died, while witnesses claim at least 10 were killed and others have gone missing since the attack.
Colombian police faced harsh criticism following the massacre last Thursday where least six coca farmers were killed in Tumaco after officers attacked a group of farmers who were protesting the forced eradication of their crops, and livelihoods, by government officials.
Sunday saw a second attack by security forces in Tandil, a rural village in the Tumaco region, against a body of human rights activists and journalists protesting Thursday’s massacre.
The police fired shots and grenades at the group as they attempted to enter the area, according to the Office of the Public Defender.
After continuously denying allegations, the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office admitted that the police opened fire on the campesinos and as a result, four police officers were suspended for their involvement in the deaths, according to El Tiempo.
Campesinos are often forced into the cultivation of illegal crops due to pervasive conditions of poverty in rural Colombia.