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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Verdict of the Tribunal against Impunity : Ciudad Bolivar and Cazuca

Verdict of the International Tribunal Against Impunity: The Cases of CIUDAD BOLIVAR and CAZUCA

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN translator)

Bogotá, Colombia
November 25, 2006
1. During the two days in session of the Tribunal against Impunity, November 25 and 25, 2006, in the Elíptico room of the Colombian Congress, the judges have learned of the dramatic violation of the most fundamental human rights, the crimes against humanity that have been committed, and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.
Many inhabitants of Ciudad  Bolívar and Cazucá are victims of this systematic and violent practice of using terror and intimidation to deprive people of their lives, their homes, their property, and their land.
There is also undeniable evidence of the practice of forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, torture, sexual abuse, and intimidation by the army, police, and paramilitary groups in this area. It is necessary to stress that especially children and young people of both genders are the specific targets of the abuses. The situation represents an intentional policy and practice, and a strategy by government agencies, who use repression against the civilian population either directly or through paramilitary structures, in their quest to consolidate their social, economic, and military goals.
The crimes against the people of  Ciudad Bolívar and Cazucá are not isolated acts nor are they secondary or indirect consequences of the armed conflict. They go beyond the realities of urban violence that exist in many cities of the world, and therefore constitute a specific modality of violence, linked to national and international economic, political, and military interests.
The crimes are therefore of the order of ³lese humanity²; they include systematic violations of fundamental human rights, such as the right to life and physical integrity, and are also a violation of economic, social, and cultural rights. The violations are so numerous and involve so many people that the government of Colombia cannot be exonerated from responsibility; according to national and international law, the government has the absolute obligation to protect and guarantee the rights of its citizens.
2. Consequently, the International Tribunal against Impunity declares that: the responsibility of the Colombian government is founded in the serious and unjustified denial of its obligation to guarantee fundamental rights; since it is the obligation of the state to protect its citizens, not to fulfill this obligation makes it responsible for the most serious crime, which has cost the lives of many people and has increased the pain and suffering of thousands and thousands of others.
Likewise, the Colombian government is also directly guilty, because of its socio-economic, military policies, and the actions of its police and security forces, which use excessive force, such as: forced disappearances; extrajudicial executions; forced displacements, including intra-urban ones; torture; sexual abuse; intimidation, arbitrary denial of freedom; limits on freedom of movement, association, and free expression; and not addressing the basic necessities of its population, in order that they may enjoy a life of dignity.
The complicity of the state in crimes against ³lese humanity² and serious violations of fundamental human rights is evident as much in the direct actions of state agents as in the existence of paramilitary groups, who are supported and legitimated by the authorities and offices of control. The State is guilty of complicity because of its direct actions, and not less for permitting and providing incentive for the actions of the paramilitaries, who effectively function as active and passive agents for state policy. The State is also guilty of the blatant situation of impunity.
Aside from the lack of protection of the most vulnerable citizens and the carrying out of crimes of ³lese humanity,² the state has neglected its obligation to sanction and corrects the situation and to ensure that the crimes are not repeated. The reign of total impunity as far as the violation of human rights and the hell of terror that the communities of Ciudad Bolívar y Cazucá experience is astonishing. The victims and their spokespeople are often not heard, their claims are not taken into account, and investigations are either not carried out or are meaningless. The victims and their family members are bribed, intimidated, or silenced; the crimes are hidden or justified as though they were the result of common delinquence or an effect of the armed conflict.
Impunity is in and of itself a serious crime. It is not just about a passive attitude about crimes of ³lese humanity.² It is the active institutionalization of injustice. Impunity is falsely justified as a necessary evil, in order to achieve ³pacification,² but peace is not possible without justice, and justice is not possible without truth. On the contrary, promoting a state of impunity denies victims their right to truth, justice, reparation, and the guarantee of these acts not being repeated.
3. The court takes the socio-political context of Colombia into account, including the existence of internal armed conflict. The Tribunal does not deny the existence of insurgency in the nation, in spite of the fact that their participation in the abuses of Ciudad Bolívar and Cazucá was not proved.
The government considers the insurgents the cause of the paramilitary phenomenon; nevertheless documents exist that show that the paramilitary strategy was adopted before the current guerrillas existed. On the other hand, the argument of the counter-insurgency struggle has no applicability to the abuses committed in the townships of Ciudad Bolívar and Cazucá.
Without justifying the prolongation of armed struggle, the Tribunal affirms that armed conflict is, in and of itself, a symptom of the social and economic structure characterized by social injustice. The existence of insurgent groups has generally corresponded to generalized poverty, lack of opportunities, and social inequality; as well as to the imposition of an economic model that favors the interests of transnational companies and foreign investment that benefits the most powerful. This is the principal origin of the violation of fundamental rights and the crimes against communities.
4. This Tribunal finds guilty not only the Colombian government but also the international community and transnational corporations, who are complicit in supporting and financing the politics and practices of dirty war of the Colombian government.
The United States is guilty of giving its political and financial support, via the ³Plan Colombia² and the current ³Plan Patriota,² which, under the pretext of fighting drug trafficking, imposed a model of economic and social exploitation that has given rise to massive displacements of the rural population in several regions of the nation. Many of these people are inhabitants of Cuidad Bolívar and Cazucá.
The United States is guilty of financing and advising the military forces of Colombia, who are the concrete perpetrators of many of the crimes that are being denounced here. Even worse, the United States takes economic advantage of this situation, in order to gain contracts in various areas. The United States is guilty of having prevented a negotiated solution to the armed conflict, when it designates insurgent groups as terrorists and thus discards all non-military solutions.
The European Union is also guilty of complicity for its promotion and financing of the Law of Justice and Peace, and the system of reinsertion, since both permit the continuation of inpunished action of paramilitaries, with the social, military, and economic control that it has and will continue to have in the sector. Leaving the perpetrators without real sanctions is a clear institutionalization of impunity.

Other countries are also responsible for the violation of human rights in Colombia, such as Canada, since that country supports the process of demobilization and thereby legitimates the reign of impunity.
Transnational corporations from the United States, Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland in Colombia are responsible for this situation, not only for the destructive exploitation of the environment here and in other parts of the world, but also for being accomplices of the paramilitary apparatus.
In this generalized situation of violation of human rights the sequels to a domestic economic project imposed violently can be observed, and at the same time the consequences of foreign policy, specifically in the devastating results of neoliberal logic, in particular the imposition of the Plan Colombia and the Plan Patriota.
5.Therefore, the Tribunal condemns the Colombian government, represented by the president, Mr. Alvaro Uribe Vélez, for not fulfilling its obligation to protect its citizens and not guaranteeing the enjoyment of fundamental rights; for complicity in violations of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural; for maintaining an apparatus of impunity by not investigating, persecuting, or punishing the criminals; for not correcting the justice system and ensuring that crimes are not repeated; and for imposing an economic model at the expense of a life of dignity for the poor.
The Tribunal condemns the paramilitary groups of the area, specifically the Capital and Centaur groups and their leaders, for crimes against humanity and for imposing a state of terror on the civilian population.

The Tribunal condemns the repressive apparatuses of the Colombian government for crimes of ³lese humanity² and for not fulfilling its obligation to respect the law, specifically the army, national police, DAS, and ESMAD.
The Tribunal condemns the federal Attorney General for not fulfilling its obligation to investigate denunciations and protect  victims and witnesses; and the Ministry of the Interior for not fulfilling its obligation to provide security for the people in situations of forced displacement and for not providing adequate humanitarian aid.
Finally, the Tribunal stresses also the political responsibility of the mayoral offices of  
Soacha and Bogotá, for not providing the necessary infrastructure for people to have a dignified life, according to fundamental rights.
The Tribunal condemns the companies Cemex de México; Holcim de Suiza; and Ladrillera Santa Fe, for environmental destruction; complicity in imposing an economic model; and colluding with paramilitary structures that destroy the social fabric and violate citizens¹ rights.
Other countries in the international community, especially European ones, are condemned for their complicity in supporting the Colombian government in the imposition of an economic and military model, through financial support and political and moral legitimation.

The Tribunal against impunity holds the Colombian government directly responsible should any person who has participated in this Tribunal be harassed, persecuted, or their life or personal security attacked.
Submitted on November 25, 2006.

Father Francois Houtart                                 Belgium                      
Father Javier Giraldo                                      Colombia                    
Dr. Chistopher Ferguson                                 Canada                                      
Dr. Carmen Karagdag                                     Phillipines
Dr. Orlando Fals Borda                                   Colombia
Dr. Patricia Dahl                                               United States
Dr. Alexis Ponce                                                Ecuador
Bishop James Decker                                       

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Open letter to US Senators on FTAA by a Colombian Senator

An Open Letter to the Senators and Representatives of the United States of America about the Free Trade Agreement
( Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN translator)

Jorge Enrique Robledo,
Colombian Senator /  Polo Democratico Alternativo PDA
November 13, 2006

A Cordial Greeting:

There is not a single organization that represents workers, peasants, native peoples, students, intellectuals and other sectors of the common people of Colombia that supports the FTA with the United States. Even the majority of organizations of agricultural business people opposed the treaty until February 27, 2006, the day when the signature was affixed. But we do not reject the FTA because we are opposed in principle to international business or to relations with the United States. We are opposed because it sacrifices the sovereignty of Colombia, it annexes the Colombian economy to that of th United States, and it takes away from our country the main instruments of development, which will increase the poverty of almost all Colombians.

The FTA makes irreversible the neo-liberal reforms of the last fifteen years, reforms that have caused great damage to industry and agriculture, replaced public monopolies with private ones, and generated the worst social disaster of the twentieth century. The backward motion in employment and poverty has been so great that we have not yet returned to the levels of before the crisis, and the country is suffering one of the worst levels of social inequality in the world.

The official studies indicate that with the FTA imports to Colombia will grow twice as fast as those of the United States and that Colombian exporters will lose sales to the Andean countries compared to the Americans. This is because Colombia will eliminate its tariffs and the United States, in addition to enjoying an economy that is 129 times greater, will maintain its immense subsidies. Furthermore, Colombia virtually eliminated health obstacles got American products, while the White House maintained all of theirs against Colombian goods. Because of what has been imposed in the area of intellectual property, Colombia gives up on the production of complex industrial goods and on progress in science and technology. This chapter, furthermore, will cause disease and death among the Colombians, as it will raise the price of medicines by about 900 million dollars per year, according to the Pan-American Health Organization (OPS). And the agreements in telecommunications and arbitration tribunals will have a negative effect on the interests of the official firms that belong to the Colombian State.

The rules about public investments and purchases grant unheard-of advantages to the American monopolists in Colombia, and it is a joke to say that the Colombians in the United States will enjoy the same advantages. It is especially serious that that the Agreement takes away Colombia¹s right to have an effective balance of payments clause, a mechanism that the IMF itself has authorized, an whose disappearance might signify catastrophic losses for the country. And, the FTA also consolidates the delivery of the financial system to foreigners, and imposes unpayable costs on Colombia in order to define exchange and interest rates.

The supporters of the FTA say that American investments will wipe out the damage that the Agreement will create to the capacity of the Colombians to generate internal savings. But they are silent about the fact that it will be necessary to attract those investments by creating worse labor and environmental conditions, changes that the FTA authorizes explicitly (Articles 17.2 and 18.2). And it is known that various reforms are coming in Colombia that will lower the price of the work force, that in this country it is easier to create and maintain an illegal armed organization than a union, and that there is an ideological campaign underway to lower the minimum wage, just as it is known that the current government is so unconcerned about the environment that it was capable of fumigating the national natural park La Macarena with powerful poisons.

It is also a factor in our rejection of the FTA that the destruction of agriculture obliges more Colombians to cultivate coca and poppies, and that "free trade¹ enriches the monopolists of the United States, while it deteriorates the economic conditions of the people.

Those of us in the Congresses of Colombia and the United States who treasure an authentically democratic conception must fight for better relations between the two countries. But I tell you frankly that the imperial logic that animates the FTA is opposed to that. It is, therefore, one of our duties to reject that Agreement,


Jorge Enrique Robledo
Senator of the Republic of Colombia
Member of The Democratic Alternative Pole party

Bogotá, November 13, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Polo Democratico demands that FARC respect social processes


Polo Democratico Alternativo demands that the FARC respect social processes in Catatumbo
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN translator)

Thursday, November 2, 2006

The Democratic Alternative Polo (PDA) today expressed solidarity with the people of Catatumbo and their local administrations in the face of recent threats that mayors, council members and community leaders have received on the part of the FARC.

The following is the communication sent and signed by the President and Secretary General of the Party, Carlos Gaviria Diaz and Antonio Navarro Wolff, respectively:

The PDA, as a social and political force fighting for the democratization of the lives of Colombians, expresses its solidarity with the communities and the municipal administrations in the Catatumbo region.  These communities are facing a crisis of governance because of the threats that the mayors, council members and community leaders have received from the FARC, pressuring them to resign.

The resistance that these communities have exercised during these last six years against the paramilitary groups who have brutally violated their rights, and which have begun to develop  processes of social and political participation since 2005, now is facing new aggressions, which are destroying the reconstruction of the fabric of the communities.

We recognize in the organizational capacity of the towns of Catatumbo a basis for the democratic reconstruction of the region, the power to be watchful over local administrations.  Only the direct exercise of popular sovereignty by the Colombian people will permit the country to advance down the sustainable path toward peace and justice with dignity.

That is the reason why we demand once again that the FARC respect the autonomy of the social and political processes that are going forward in the Catatumbo.  They will maintain democratic governance in the municipalities of Convencion, San Calixto, Teorema, Hacari and El Tarra.

Carlos Gaviria Diaz, President

Antonio Navarro Wolff, Secretary General

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Colombian Army Chain of Abuses Continue in Southern Bolivar


(Translated by Lina Herrera, a CSN Translator)



The communities of Sur de Bolívar (Southern Bolívar), mobilized since September 19, 2006, in the municipality seat of Santa Rosa, address the national and international public opinion to condemn and reject another murder that brings mourning to this region.

     On October 24, 2006, the Batallón Antiaéreo Nueva Granada (Nueva Granada Anti-Aircraft Battalion) killed Mr. LEBER CASTRILLON SARMIENTO, farmer and community leader in the District of Norosí, Municipality of Río Viejo, in the Sur de Bolívar region.

2.      The incident occurred during evening hours, when Mr. Leber Castrillón was near the District of Norosí¹s brook. Mr. Castrillón was fishing with his two minor children when the Army opened fire against them. The minor Miguel Castrillón suffered bullet injuries in his leg.

     According to the version of Colonel Gustavo Enrique Avendaño, Chief of Staff of the 5th Brigade, and published by the Vanguardia Liberal Newspaper, ³the events occurred in a sector of the Disctrict of Norosí, Municipality of Rio Viejo, where troops were carrying out a reconnaissance mission.² According to the same article, Mr. Castrillón and his two children were mistaken for members of outlaw organizations, and the Army acknowledged it was a ³military error.²

     This crime, along with other crimes committed by the National Army in the Sur de Bolívar region, belongs to a chain of persecution and extermination of this region¹s community and leaders. Murders of peasants and miners, forced disappearances, plundering, tortures, arbitrary detentions, looting; accusations and threats against the communities, and outlaw executions cannot be conceived nor justified as simple MILITARY ERRORS. The Armed Forces presence in this region has been directed to spreading terror and uneasiness among the people in order to displace them from their land. This creates suitable conditions for multinational companies, such as Anglogold Ashanti-Kedahda S.A., to exploit our natural resources.

     These communities have permanently brought claims before the Colombian government in regards to the National Army. The Army has stated that ³is not responsible for persons passing by roads after 6:00 p.m.,² this being yet another threat and violation to the right of freedom of movement.

     For 36 days we have remained in permanent mobilization --from the day our agro-mining leader ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON was infamously murdered-- demanding of the national government protection and safety for our lives and our land. To achieve this, we have requested a government high commission to address our demands and to commit to providing real solutions to the problematic situation we live in. This high commission should be composed of the Minister of Defense, the Secretary of Mines and Energy, the Secretary of the Interior, the nation¹s Public Prosecutor, the Attorney General, the director of the nation¹s Human Rights Program, the Ombudsman, the Governor of Bolívar and the mayors of the Sur de Bolívar region.

     In the meantime, members of the National Army have continued to murder, threat, and abuse social leaders and communities in the region. During our permanent mobilization, our lands have been fumigated, destroying numerous hectares of crops, aggravating the region¹s current humanitarian crisis.

     We reject the national government¹s lack of validation and respect towards our social organizations. The national government has not been serious or willing to dialogue with the communities, although we have been waiting and insisting peacefully.

We restate that the claims brought before the national government are minimum conditions needed to ensure the respect for our lives and our right to remain in our lands.

Political and Administrative Measures:

We demand:

      That the Battalion commander and the operations commanding officers responsible for the mission resulting in the murder of ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON  (leader of Federación Agrominera del Sur de Bolívar ­Agro-mining Federation of Southern Bolívar--) on September 19, 2006, be administratively separated as a political measure. We also demand the separation of all officers involved in concealing this crime, and the chain of Human Rights abuses committed in Sur de Bolívar during 2006.

      That the national government acknowledge, publicly and widely, the legality and legitimacy of the labor of the peasant and mining organizations in the Sur de Bolívar region, therefore publicly acknowledging ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON¹s character as an agro-mining leader.

      That the Minister of Defense order the immediate demilitarization of the Espacios Humanitarios (Humanitarian Zones) of Sur de Bolívar, which converge in the Comisión de Interlocución (Dialogue Commission).[1] <mhtml:mid://00000002/#_ftn1>

Control and Justice Measures

We demand:

      That a Special Joint Unit be created with members of the Attorney General¹s Office and Public Prosecutor¹s Office, in order to jointly carry out the investigations of the events that took place in Sur de Bolívar, denounced before the Mesa de Interlocución (Dialogue Commission).

      That the Organos de la Justicia Penal Militar (Judge Advocate General¹s Corps) abstain from taking part in the investigation of the murder of ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON and other Human Rights abuses that took place in Sur de Bolívar.

      That the national government guarantee the presence of the Attorney General¹s Office in different municipalities, districts, and communities, in order to monitor Human Rights abuses.

Protection and Constitutional Rights

We demand:

      The Ombudsman¹s Office increase its presence, through the designation of community ombudsmen permanently located in the rural areas of Sur de Bolívar.

8.       That appropriate mass communication media (using satellite technology) be designated to each municipality in order to promptly communicate risk situations to prevent Human Rights abuses.

9.       That the national government requests from the Colombian Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to create and publish a special report, containing the status of Human Rights and IHL in the Sur de Bolívar region.

10.  That the national government reconsider its policy of irrational exploitation of the natural resources in the Sur de Bolívar region, and contains the immense pressure from regional, national, and international businessmen and politicians to buy land from farmers. Their clear economic interests are causing displacement, uprooting, family and community disintegration, and fear in the civil population; in this sense we propose:

     To develop a project of agricultural reform and rights compensation for the displaced peoples who lost their right to have possessions and their lands in Sur de Bolívar

b.      That concession contracts to third parties be suspended, proposed to the Secretary of Mines of the Department of Bolívar, and that Sur de Bolívar be declared a mining reserve zone.

Negotiated Solution to the Armed Conflict

hat all necessary conditions be created to reestablished a political solution to the conflict in the Magdalena Medio region, by creating a regional peace team to facilitate and expedite consensus between the government, the insurgent organizations, and the civil society. This would be a way towards building peace, stopping the death quota of peasant and miner men and women, and of the general civil population.

A call to the insurgent groups

1.-    To respect the right to life and physical integrity of the people and communities of Sur de Bolívar.

2.-    To fully comply with the regulations of the International Humanitarian Law.

3.-    To respect the humanitarian zones (Espacios Humanitarios) located in the region.




Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Human Rights Violations in Arauca

Saravena - Aracauca, October 30, 2006

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN translator)

The Human Rights Regional Committee of ³Joel Serra² Foundation publicly denounces to the nation and international community, through the national and international Network of Human Rights NGOs, the following facts:

On October 27 and 28, another period of persecution, stigmatization, and legal legitimation began against the Saravena social leaders and community in general. This time, in the township of Saravena, under the pretext of investigating previous crimes, more than 120 people were taken from their homes and businesses, from bars and cantinas, and detained by the district attorney¹s office, DAS, CTI, police, and army. They were taken to the headquarters in Batallón Revéiz Pizarro, where supposed resinserted men from the armed groups of the opposition were the ones who selected the 19 people who today find themselves charged and under investigation in the installations of the DAS and the police of the capital of Arauca.

The charged persons are:
… Vicente Vera            Affiliated with the drivers¹ union
… Mriela Panbón            Mother and head of household
… Doris García            Social worker in the San Ricardo Pampuri Hosptial of
Saravena and affliliated with ANTHOC
… Donaldo Aizalón Rueda    Construction worker
… Alvaro Pinto            Secretary of the J.A.C. of the Playas del Bojabá
… William Efrain Higuera    Worker in the San Ricardo Pampuri Hosptial of
Saravena and affliliated with ANTHOC
… Orlando Paez Durán        Affliliated with SINDICONS
… Eduardo Aponte        Stock farmer
… Pablo Aponte            Stock farmer
… Gildardo Ramos        Stock farmer
… José Vargas
… Freddy Pinto
… Manuel Pinto
… Luis Francisco Porras
… William Andrés Calderón
… Carlos Moreno
… José Lizardo Vargas
… Luis Alberto Galindo
… José Manuel Patiño

It is worthwhile noting that Mr. Alvaro Pinto is the secretary of the Community Action Group of the Playas de Bojabá street, for which Mr. Nelson Ortiz was president. The latter was assassinated last Thursday October 26, near the bridge over the Caño Rojo waterfall, without anyone knowing to this day the perpetrators or motives of the crime.
Donald Arizalón Rueda, affiliated with the SINDICONS construction workers¹ union, detained on January 6, 2004 by members of the army from the Mechanical Group of Cavalry 18, headquartered in Saravena, was brought to Batallón and there was accused of being a militiaman with the guerrillas. He was threated by Reinaldo Alarcón, who is in the reinsertion program. That time, they warned him that the next time they captured him he would be sent to Arauca or Combita.

Mr. Orlando Pez Durán, affliated with SINDICONS, was captured and brought to trial on August 21, 2004, charged with the crime of rebellion, and had been released about a month ago.

William Higuera, affiliated with ANTHOC, was detained on November 12, 2002, charged with the crime of rebellion, and released after 15 months of captivity for lack of evidence. Afterwards, persecution and threats by the army continued; the court has still not pronounced sentence and today he is again under arrest.

On October 27, at about 8:30 p.m., the president of the Regional Young Students Association of ASOJER was detained by members of the national police, who, in an arbitrary manner, forced him to get into the truck by saying that if he did not they said they would take him to the installation of Batallón Revíz Pizarro to verify his record. This did not happen; the aforementioned young leader was forced by the police to get out of the vehicle near the Rural Development educational institution and the San Ricardo Pampuri Hospital, in an area that lacks public lighting and is only sparsely populated. As an organization that defends human rights, we ask ourselves: if what was wanted was to verify a record, why did they not take him to the installation of Batallón? What were the real intentions of the police when they left Eduardo Sogamoso almost on the outskirts of the town?

On October 28, at about 12:30 p.m., an arbitary search was conducted of the house of the social leader Víctor Julio Laguado Boada, by members of the district attorney¹s office, DAS, CTI, police, and army. They were accompanied by an armed civilian, who was not identified, and who according to the district attorney said he belonged to the SIJIN.

In the headquarters of ANTHOC in Saravena, they have received several calls in which they were insulted and the aforementioned leaders of the union threatened.

Yesterday, October 29, at the fallen Banadias bridge 1, a group of 8 armed hooded men and arrived form the Fortúl side. They initially identified themselves as members of the AUC and later of belonging to the 45th front of the FARC. They crossed the river and came to the toll booth, where they searched and asked for documents from the people there and then proceeded to assassinate Mr. Miguel Gutierrez, who worked as a canoer, in front of the townspeople. Then they took a car and left for the urban district of Saravena.

In our early alert of October 11, 2006, we denounced the presence of armed civilians who were mobilizing around the urban district of Saravena, and who have been identified as members of the AUC, besides having been seen inside the cordoned-off security area of the police. It is likely that these same men are the perpetrators of the aforementioned crimes.

Once more the strategy of persecution by the Colombian state is revealed; it is a way to undo the social fabric that the civilian population of Arauca has maintained historically. This is not the first time that, based on settings plotted by the Structural Unit to Support the District Attorney¹s Office, whose headquarters are in the XVIII Brigade, and who, with paid testimony, capture and charge social leaders and citizens in general whose crime has been to put forth proposals designed to foment true social development and who have raised their voices to protest violations of their rights and those of their communities.

We demand that the judicial authorities respect due process of those captured, that they maintain impartiality in the investigations, which should be conducted legally.

To the units in control of the State and to national and international human rights organizations, be aware so that more arbitrary actions are not taken against civil society and follow the terrible situation the region is enduring.




Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

International People' s Court/Colombia Chapter/ Section on Mining

( Translated by Elena Meyer, a CSN Translator)

Colombia Chapter
Multinationa Corporations, Natural Resources and the Dirty War
Section on Mining

What is the International Peoples¹ Court?

In 1966, a series of agreements were institutionalized to create an international peoples¹ tribunal.  The following year, a group of international organizations organized the first hearings of what was then called the ŒRussel Court,¹  This Court was created to judge the United States and other countries implicated in crimes in Vietnam.  It also held many hearings between 1974 and 1976 to judge several Latin American military dictatorships.

An international symposium was convened in Argel to ratify a Universal Declaration of Peoples¹ Rights on July 4, 1976.  However, the International Peoples¹ Court of today was not officially established until 1979. The Lelio Basso International Foundation established a council which appointed over sixty scientists, artists, religious leaders, politicians, writers, and human rights experts from various countries who are renowned for their integrity. These members make their judgments on the basis of international treaties instead of relying on national laws. They are meant to represent the moral conscience of civil society.

Why this court was needed

It has become more challenging to uphold human rights given the pervasive changes in global production systems in how profits are accumulated and distributed. Unfortunately, these systemic changes do not include a multilateral institution with a holistic approach to advocating for human rights.

Although the media often may report otherwise, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Colombia are concerned about the active role of multinational corporations in today¹s socio-political and military conflicts. These corporations have promoted economic models which have seriously eroded the Colombian peoples¹ economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. It has become increasingly apparent that these corporations have close ties to the paramilitary forces which help these corporations achieve their economic goals.

Some examples of the collusion between multinational corporations and paramilitary forces include the Drummond Company case, the lawsuit against the Coca Cola Company, and the assassination of nine union members in Antioquia. Other examples include Oxy¹s role in the Santo Domingo bombings in which an Oxy subsidiary designated bombing targets for the Colombian Air Force as well as the admissions made by Chiquita Brands executives (of the formerly notorious United Fruit Company) regarding their ties to Colombian paramilitary groups.

These cases have been heard outside of Colombia because of the national courts¹ regrettable lack of fairness. Among many examples of this lack of fairness is that of the Santo Domingo case, one in which nearly all of the witnesses were threatened, Œdisappeared,¹ or assassinated.

The Colombian Hearings of the International Peoples¹ Court

This court seeks truth, justice and reparations for victims. It has met thirty-one times in various countries and cities where genocide has occurred. Because of its jurisdiction, several NGOs and rights groups brought charges of Crimes against Humanity to this court for damages inflicted upon Colombian people by certain Colombian economic entities, as well as by various multinational corporations doing business in Colombia. These charges were scheduled to be heard between October 2005 and July 2008.

The Colombian Hearings of the International Peoples¹ Court will address concerns related to the unconscionable extraction of natural resources, the exploitation of workers, the Œmarket management¹ strategies in which paramilitary groups protect and/or promote the economic interests of multinational corporations in addition to addressing concerns related to state terrorism in general.

During its first sessions, the Court failed to adequately resolve claims against the Nestle and Coca Cola corporations. Its next session will deal with mining issues. Beginning next year, the Court will judge claims involving environmental, oil and public sector issues. The Court will hold its first deliberations in 2008 to address the nefarious consequences of Colombia¹s current economic models and military strategies. The Court will consider the government¹s involvement in civil and human rights violations.

This Court will provide an international forum to expose the dysfunctions of Colombia¹s current court system which includes allegations of impunity at the highest levels. It will provide a forum to expose those entities which currently seek legitimacy and find impunity through the corrupt national courts. Instead of serving to promote justice, today¹s Colombian courts persecute, repress and silence those who challenge the government¹s interests.

The Hearings on Mining

During these hearings, the International Peoples¹ Court will consider the liabilities of several multinational corporations involved in coal and gold mining. Allegations have been brought regarding rights violations in several parts of Colombia. The following concerns or cases will be heard:
1. Human rights concerns on an international level as they relate to multinational mining corporations
2. Concerns related to these mining corporations in Colombia, using a typical case example: that of the Frontino Gold Mines in northeastern Antioquia
3. Paramilitary forces in Colombia and the support provided by Colombia¹s economic, military and legal institutions
4. Control and unlawful interference exerted over mining legislation in Colombia by multinational mining corporations
5. The Drummond case in the Cesar Department
6. The Muriel Mining Corporation in Antioquia and in the Chocó
7. A case involving the persecution and repression of a union at Sintraminercol
8. The Kedaha Company case in Sur de Bolivar
9. The Cerrajón case involving Glencore, Angloamerican and BHP Billiton

The hearings on mining will begin on November 10-12, 2006 in Medellin, Antioquia

Alebrije. Asociación Campesina de Antioquia ACA. Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad CODEHSEL. Colectivo Ambiental ³Mario Calderón².Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz. Corporación Sembrar. Comité de Solidaridad Con los presos políticos. Coordinador Nacional Agrario. Corporación Jurídica Libertad. Cospacc. Colectivo Vasija de Barro. Ecate. Fedeagromisbol. Instituto Nacional Sindical CED-INS. Justicia y Vida. Nomadesc. Observatorio Social de Empresas Transnacionales, Megaproyectos y Derechos Humanos de Colombia. Organizaciones Sociales de Arauca. Proyecto Aurora. Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia. Sinaltrainal. Sintraminercol. Sintraemsdes. Unión Sindical Obrera USO.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Friday, November 03, 2006

No Guarantees for the Victims in Colombia

There Are No Guarantees for the Victims

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN translator )

The National Movement of Victims of State Crimes denounces an extermination list of 26 persons, among whom are to be found leaders of the Movement and social activists of the department of Sucre. In addition, in the list are found old allies of the paramilitary groups who might have compromising information about Senator Álvaro García; Salvador Arana, ex-governor of Sucre and ex-ambassador to Chile, as well as a candidate for governor of Sucre; Member of the House of Representatives Eric Morris Tabeada; Guillermo Merlano, the current Prosecutor of Sucre; Muriel Benito Rebollo, ex-representative; her brother Edgar Benito Rebollo, current deputy and candidate for mayor of San Onofre in the upcoming elections; Jorge Blanco, mayor of San Onofre; and Guillerom Gómez, president of the San Onofre City Council. This list was developed by politicians who have been committed to the paramilitary since it originated in this region and who are currently to be found in control of paramilitary groups that continue to operate in the municipality of San Onofre, Sucre, within the framework of the re-arming that has also been publicly denounced in recent days.

Some of the persons who appear in the list, and whose lives are in imminent risk are: Arnold Gómez, Carmelo Agamez, Juan David Díaz, Adolfo Berbel, Jackeline Moguea, Roberto Serpa y Amauri Vidual, all of them defenders of Human Rights and members of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, Bolívar Chapter, Sucre, in Montes de María and San Onofre. According to denunciations made by the community, this list is also to be found in the centers of the DAS [the national security structure] and in the hand of the president of the City Council of San Onofre, Guillermo Gómez.

This situation occurs at the same time that Law 975/05, called the law of "justice and peace", is beginning to be applied, and that the national government is developing a peace negotiation process in which Salvatore Mancuso and Jorge 40, who are directly connected to the grave incidents that occurred in the municipality of San Onofre in the years 1999 to 2005, are participating. These incidents left more than 3000 victims of human rights violations, according to the community. During this period armed men made themselves present in this territory, initially under the name of the Cooperativas de Seguridad Conviver [Cooperatives of Collective Security] and later as the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia [United Self-defense Forces of Colombia] under the command of Rodrigo Antonio Mercado Peludo, alias Cadena. During this period, thousands of persons were displaced, tortured, murdered, disappeared and buried in common graves b y this group, which operated with absolute liberty in the municipality, since they could count on the acquiescence of the civil, administrative and police authorities.

Through processes of resistance, the communities demanded intervention by different institutions of the Colombian state, and managed to get the paramilitary powers to retire from San Onofre by the end of 2005. However, impunity still covers the thousands of crimes that occurred, and the communities, who currently are developing a process of reconstruction of the social fabric, are demanding truth, justice, reparation and a pledge that these crimes will not be repeated.

For several weeks the communities have been denouncing a process of rearming the paramilitary groups of the region that is currently being expressed in the threat that is being raised against their leaders.


The communities affirms that many of the persons who have been disappeared were murdered and buried in the hacienda "El Palmar," the farm "Las Melenas," and the farm "Las Palmas." However, only 76 skeletal remains have been discovered, and despite the denunciations no new searches have been undertaken by the authorities.

On August 4 of this year the national and international community was made aware of  a meeting that was carried out on June 18 between the paramilitary [leader] Diego Vecino, Senator Álvaro García, Nelson Stand Berrio and Edgar Benito Rebollo (members of the Departmental Assembly of Sucre), and the mayor of San Onofre, Jorge Blanco. At that meeting, support for Edgar Benito Rebollo to run for mayor of San Onofre in the upcoming elections was defied. Afterwards, threats and intimidation against the civilian population of that municipality, and specifically against social leaders and rights defenders, began.

Similarly, there was a denunciation of the presence of demobilized persons who dedicate themselves to lending money under the modality of "daily pay," and who work for the wife of the recognized paramilitary [leader] Rodrigo Anotonio Mercado Peludo, alias Cadena, Meris del Carmen Ayala Berthel, alias "La Motosierra" ["The Chainsaw"] These persons intimidate the civilian population of the municipality of San Onofre, since four of these demobilized [persons] have been denounced for making threats. They were later arrested by the army; weapons with silencers and blacklists of inhabitants of San Onofre were found on them.

In the same way, there were denunciations of the actions of Guillermo Gómez, the current president of the Municipal Council of San Onofre, who today has in his possession the extermination list that we are denouncing, and who is one of the men of confidence of the man called "Cadena."

Also, there was a denunciation of the murder of Mr. Hugo Baleta, who was in a neighbor¹s house. After committing the crime, the murderers left on foot, firing shots into the air. This situation shows the complicity of the public security forces and the paramilitaries, since the place where these things happened is hardly two blocks from the police station of San Onofre and never the less the police only showed up 45 minutes after the attack.

What we Want

In the face of the threats against the lives of the social leaders of the department of Sucre, and especially against those of the municipality of San Onofre, we demand of the Colombian state that they stop any action against these people, guaranteeing their lives and personal integrity.

In the same way, we ask the State control apparatuses and the regional national and international community that the system of Early Alerts be activated, and that penal and disciplinary investigations be initiated immediately by the national State Attorney and General Prosecutor, since these acts constitute an imminent risk for the integrity and the security of the leaders of the social movement of Sucre and especially of the municipality of San Onofre.

We ask all national and international human rights organizations, alternative communications media, social and people¹s organizations, indigenous organizations, union and student organizations to put out this information and to extend your solidarity through your statements about the serious facts mentioned above, and to remain attentive in the face of this delicate situation, since there is a basis to the fear for the personal integrity and the lives of the members of these communities.

National Movement of Victims of State Crimes

Bogotá, D.C., October 31, 2006.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reestructuring at DOLE ; transnational greed, local unemployment

"La rosa sin espinas no sería rosa,
El cactus sin su flor carecería de esperanza"

["Without thorns, the rose would not be a rose;
without its flower, the cactus would have no hope"]

Restructuring at DOLE: transnational greed, local unemployment

(Traducido por Peter Lenny,   a CSN translator)

Dole Food Company, the world's largest multinational producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, controls approximately 20% of cut flower production in Colombia and is the second largest investor in flowers in Ecuador. On October 12, a company release announced that, as part of a performance-enhancement restructuring program, it was closing down its farms at Splendor - El Corzo and Porcelain in Colombia and all its flower operations in Ecuador.

Although the multinational¹s decision is being presented to public opinion as atypical, it confirms the reports that Corporación Cactus and other Colombian and international organizations have been making for over ten years now of the adverse effects of free, direct foreign investment in Colombia. Dole¹s decision to cut costs and increase its productivity and competitiveness will yield greater profit margins for the multinational, but impoverishment and declining quality of life for working men and women.

The company¹s actions reflect the mechanisms of the free market economic model, which ­ for countries like Colombia and Ecuador ­ entails setting up for-export agribusinesses, like flower growing, based on monocultures, majority female labor, and violations of the rights to decent employment, trade unionization and health, but are portrayed as the best avenue to development  for Latin American countries.

Throughout the process of discussing and signing the free trade agreement with the United States, it was claimed that this model would generate employment. Today, however, it is throwing more than 3,000 working men and women out of work, which means depriving at least their 9,000 dependants of a livelihood. These families that rely on the company are unlikely to find other employment. Far from contributing to Colombia¹s development, this is aggravating poverty, especially among the women who represent more than 60% of the sector¹s workforce.

In parallel with this, regions like Sabana de Bogotá, which have set up flower-growing agro-industries as a mechanism for developing their municipalities, are going to by hurt by Dole¹s decision. They too have sidelined food production and come to depend directly and indirectly largely on flower growing which has monopolized their economic activities, leaving them vulnerable to private restructuring decisions.

This situation may lead to a serious regional crisis, if this multinational and/or businessmen in the sector decide to follow Dole¹s lead and withdraw completely, as in Ecuador. The conditions of life of the men and women living in those territories will deteriorate alarmingly.

Finally, what has happened as a result of this decision highlights the labor rights abuses given that the measure taken by the Dole Food Company, through the Dole Fresh Flowers division, is in breach of the right to trade unionization. Of the more than 13 plantations it holds in Colombia, it has decided to close Splendor - El Corzo, although ­ according to the workers ­ it shows no sign of losses. It is on that farm that Sintrasplendor, the independent union affiliated to Untraflores, is most present and where it has brought claims on behalf of its members and reported the pressures that the multinational has brought to bear on the union.

Should working men¹s and women¹s claims for their rights be annulled by closing down the companies they work for? Should the development of a whole region depend on decisions by multinational and national private capital? Should free-market competition, productivity and efficiency rest indefinitely on the poverty of thousands of people? Should quality employment be a Utopia for Colombian men and women? Should particularly women finance multinationals¹ private earnings with their labor?....    The answer is NO.

We therefore demand of:

Dole to keep its farms open, to abstain from voluntary dismissal plans or from pressuring working men and women to waive their rights, and to report transparently the real facts of its economic situation.

The local authorities to encourage discussion and debate of the effects of this measure in the municipalities affected, and to demand that Dole render accounts publicly given the social and economic responsibility for the effects of this decision on the region#that Dole be held publicly accountable for the social and economic effects of this decision on the region#y que exijan a la multinacional la rendición de cuentas públicas por la responsabilidad social y económica que esta decisión trae a la región.

The Ministry for Social Protection NOT to authorize collective dismissals in companies of the Dole group, which would mean a labor massacre.

The Colombian national government and Congress, in view of this clear evidence, to abstain from signing the free trade agreement with the United States and other similar treaties, which benefit transnational corporations at the cost of the economic, social and cultural human rights of the people of Colombia.

We also invite:

Consumers the world over to lobby Dole NOT to close down the farms and to respect the rights of the men and women working on them.

All local, national and international organizations to express their solidarity with and to support the independent trade union, Sintrasplendor - Untraflores.

Working men and women not to enter retirement plans and to organize for collective self-defense and to fight for their grievances.

Corporación Cactus, Bogota - Colombia, October 2006.



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