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National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) on land rights
( Translated by Lina Herrera, a CSN volunteer translator)
ONIC: 25 years of struggle and resistance for a more inclusive society!
NATIONAL INDIGENOUS ORGANIZATION OF COLOMBIA (Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia) - ONIC -
STATUTE OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT: DISMANTLING OF LAND RIGHTS, AUTONOMY AND SUBSISTENCE OF THE
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S OF COLOMBIA
"Statement of the Mamos from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: "Since the beginning our territory was given to us as our home, as our bodies, in which we should reside, of which we have to take care as a sacred being. Because of this, we have to live in balance and harmony with the water, the wind, the sun, the soil; in peace with nature which is our own nature, as well as with ourselves and our younger brethren."
ORIGIN OF LAND OWNING IN AMERICA
The Indigenous Reservations: their background, goal, political projections, and subsequent legal repercussions as to the private ownership of the soil and subsoil of the lands contained in said reservations.
"...The control given by Pope Alexander VI to the Catholic Monarchs* and their successors cannot be understood as a certain control over the land, among other reasons, because the Pope was not the owner of those lands, and hence he could not have at his disposal something that was not his. It was, therefore, a political control of which the ultimate goal was to facilitate the spread of the Catholic religion in the recently discovered American territories.
Therefore, the true genesis of the original "property deed" of SPAIN in AMERICA was limited to those lands that were abandoned by the indigenous people -its first occupants -when fleeing or when their race was obliterated. Among these ideas, the different rules set by the Spanish Monarchs, as to the distribution and awarding of the West Indies, have to be interpreted. This is why they promulgated special dispositions for the awarding of lands to the Spaniards, and very different ones to protect the rights of the lands still in hands of indigenous people... As it was already mentioned, SPAIN only had true deed of occupancy over the lands abandoned by the indigenous people in their escape, but not over those lands they managed to keep, whether because the natives fought the Conquistador or because the latter could not reach them. As to the lands abandoned by the natives, it is worth saying that SPAIN created a very lengthy legislation directed at determining the rules to be
followed to award lands to individuals, process which ended by issuing the appropriate deed. The CÉDULA DE SAN LORENZO, promulgated by FERDINAND VI, referred to this type. For the second type, the lands still in hands of indigenous people, the Crown limited themselves to recognize their occupancy as "property deed", making the convenient arrangements for the lands to be appropriately delimited and known. Therefore, when dealing with individuals, ownership of the land in AMERICA could only be proven before SPAIN with the formal deed of award made, among others, through sale, agreement, gift, or occupancy with the subsequent economic exploitation, etc. As to the indigenous people that ownership was demonstrated with the sole occupancy, because the Crown, we repeat, recognized the natives occupancy of their lands as "property deed", same as the Crown did with the lands the Conquistadores seized by force.
In the Recopilación de Leyes de los Reinos de las Indias, it was disposed, as to this matter, the following: "That the Indians be left lands, plenty, all those that belonged to them, in particular those containing communities and water; and the lands where they dug irrigation ditches or any other benefit, which because of their own enterprise have been fertilized. These should be reserved first and foremost, and in any case cannot be sold or expropriated, and that the Judges sent to this, specify the Indians they find in those lands, and leave them to each one of the taxpayers, elderly, Caciques, governors, absent ones, and communities" (Law 16, Title 12, Book IV)
CHARLES V had already, in the Royal Order (Orden Real), given from BARCELONA on April the 4th, 1532, had ruled the following: "... and that the Indians be left THEIR LANDS, INHERITANCE AND PASTURES, so that they don't lack all what they need".
And the Ley 5ª (Law V) of April 4th, 1532, established by Philip II ruled: "having to distribute the lands, water troughs, and pastures among the ones who will populate them, the Viceroys and Governors who had faculty, will distribute them, with approval of the councils of the cities or villages considering the regent ones should be preferred, if they don't have equivalent lands or plots; and that the Indians be left their lands, inheritance and pastures, so that they don't lack all what they need and have all the relief and rest possible to sustain their houses and families".
From the excerpts from the Laws of the Indies that have been cited so far, we can clearly conclude that SPAIN only declared itself owner of the AMERICAN lands they really occupied and which were abandoned by the natives, but not the ones over which the natives still had control. The first type, that is to say the lands that had been abandoned, could be awarded to the Spaniards or to the very natives through a so-called deed of control, issued by the Crown by utilizing the different systems that were established for such goal. The second type, it is worth mentioning, the lands still owned by the natives, were not susceptible to being awarded by SPAIN because the natives' ownership was acknowledged, and they were ordered to respect it..."
CURRENT CONTEXT IN THE INDIGENOUS TERRITORIES
The "territory" has been one of the fundamental principles that identify our vision of the world and our construction of future, which have historically guided the struggles of resistance for the survival of the indigenous peoples of Colombia. This right is part of an integral whole which grants us identity. It is the base for demanding our specific collective rights and the establishment of organizational alternatives and structures typical of the indigenous peoples.
Throughout our history, the indigenous peoples have been able to build in our territories cultural, social, administrative, and political spaces honoring and promoting biodiversity, protection of the natural resources, respect for others, and pacific coexistence. We have done this despite the armed forces which occupy our territories and intend to rule over them ignoring our legitimate, traditional authorities. Despite the State’s terrorism exercised by the national government to respond to our demands for rights. Despite the violence of the drug traffickers who bribe our brothers through intimidation and death threats. And despite the agricultural companies, the multinationals, and the very institutions of the State, which pretend, once again, to expropriate our lands.
We, the indigenous peoples of Colombia, know about regions for life, biodiversity, the protection of the environment, the flow of nature's knowledge; we know about balanced, protective relationships with the natural resources. Regions where friendship and trust rest; where words and dreams respect each other, where a Colombia without crimes against humanity and with respect for human rights is being built. Social regions and scenarios where war is rejected and initiatives for peace and resistance against war arise. Regions with a diverse identity which demands truth, justice and healing. Natural regions and spaces where plans for life, permanence, and food sovereignty have been finalized. This is why we, the residents, say no to the free trade agreement and to the Colombian State's policy of exploitation of the natural resources. These regions are the territories of the indigenous people, where 92 peoples live, where we promote and feel proud of our cultural identity and
our collective integrity.
But also we, the indigenous people, know of the regions where terror and death prevail, where men, women, and children are confined to hopelessness and misery. Regions where fundamental rights are violated, where the paramilitary strengthen their positions following orders from drug traffickers and agricultural companies to force the inhabitants and legitimate land owners to displace. They do all this, in order to expropriate our lands, which they in turn give to the ones who have exterminated us or just declare vacant or without owner. We know of regions and territories where the government's military and police forces abuse and massacre the civil population to protect the interests of invading landowners, multinational companies, and paramilitary forces. We know of regions where nature's life and exuberance once prevailed, but which today are the tomb of hundreds of indigenous peoples exterminated during the last two centuries. These peoples opposed the progress of
those who violently exploit Mother Earth, all those who are protected by a permissive government, a government which works for the welfare and wealth of those who massacre and impoverish the Colombian people. Many of these situations, unfortunately and relentlessly, also happen in the territories of the 92 indigenous peoples of Colombia.
Finally, we want to establish our position in front of the repeated, sinister discourse which the National Government has systematically disseminated before the national and international public opinion, saying that we, the indigenous people of Colombia, are the country's biggest landowners because they have given us more than 31 million hectares, which equal the third part of the country.
Vis-a-vis this posing, we make the following clarifications:
1. We, the indigenous peoples of Colombia, have KEPT approximately 29,800,000 hectares which correspond to our historical property right as the first occupants of America, where nowadays 70% of the country's biodiversity is preserved.
2. The Government has only acquired around 200,000 hectares for the indigenous people through the former Colombian Institute for Agricultural Reform (INCORA) and the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) since 1961 to this day.
3. From these 31,000,000 hectares officially declared indigenous reservations, 22 million are rainforest jungle (Amazon – Pacific regions), 1 million are desert (Guajira region); almost all of the country's National Natural Parks lands overlap with indigenous reservations; the snowy peaks, the wastelands, and the ecological reservations minimize even further the indigenous peoples' possibility of having fertile lands suitable for agricultural production.
4. During the last National Dialogue Roundtable between the Indigenous Peoples and the National Government in 2006, the Ombudsman Office said at least 40% of the indigenous population of Colombia lacks of land resources.
The previously explained reasons clearly demonstrate that we, the indigenous people, are not landowners, that our territories are sanctuaries of life for the world. Regions where rivers of life flow, where nature's most majestic, powerful places arise; where men and women watch over the water, the air, the biodiversity so that they can remain in time and space. Our mission since the beginning is no other but keeping the harmony and balance between nature and human beings. To that extent, phenomena like global warming have to lead society to guarantee the prevalence of life. To this end it is vital that the Government guarantees the indigenous people suitable lands for productive development.
THE CONCRETE ISSUE OF THE STATUTE OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT
From different points of view (conceptual, of historical acknowledgement of the territorial rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and legal-technical) this bill is regressive, excluding, and unconstitutional, besides the fact that it trims rights and is legally inconsistent because of the factual and legal reasons exposed in this document.
This Statute of Rural Development, which is a legislative initiative, is an attempt against the collective rights of the indigenous peoples. Because of this, the National Government is responsible for providing effective, reasonable mechanisms of participation according to Convention No. 169 of the International Labor Organization (approved -in Colombia- through Act 21, 1991). According to the Convention, it is imperative to consult the indigenous people before implementing any legislative measure that directly affects the fundamental rights of the indigenous peoples, such as the rights to territory, autonomy, ethnic and cultural diversity, and in
fewer words, the survival of the 92 indigenous peoples.
To that extent, the Article 6 of the Convention establishes that:
"1. In applying the provisions of this Convention, Governments shall:
a) Consult the peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly; (...)".
With the same perspective, Article 7 states:
"1. The peoples concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions, and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development."
Finally, it is necessary to indicate that this international tool, according to Article 93 of the (Colombia's) Political Constitution, is part of the Constitutional Block, and not guaranteeing the right to consultation of the indigenous peoples is a clear and blatant violation of international treaties and conventions, and therefore, of the Constitution. In other words, if there was not a wide and efficient consultation process, as established by international rulings, this project would be unconstitutional, and we would not other alternative but to resort to legal and other actions which before have been the base of the struggle and resistance of the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia.
Next, we will present some necessary legal considerations about the Chapter in reference to the Indigenous Reservations.
Article 99 of the Statute of Rural Development openly proposes the dismantling of Convention No. 169 of the International Labor Organization, whose fundamental goal is to effectively guarantee and protect the right to property and possession over the lands that we, the indigenous people, traditionally occupy. Under no excuses, providing lands to the indigenous communities can be dependent on the survival of interests of rural development. In concrete words, this means that the interests of the oil companies, palm farmers, agricultural businessmen and mercenaries, and multinational corporations which exploit renewable and non-renewable natural resources would be burying one of the strongest historical struggles of the Indigenous Peoples: access to land though the creation, reorganization, and expansion of the reservations, as well as providing lands for the indigenous settlements.
Therefore, the expression "giving priority to criteria of regional development" is clearly unconstitutional and it violates Articles 7, 13, 63, 246; 329 section 2, paragraph 330 and transitory 56 of the Political Constitution, because through this legislation the Indigenous Peoples and other ethnic groups are recognized and protected by the Government, not depending on "regional development", but acknowledging our fundamental right to identity, survival, and reason of being and existing, independently from the regional development, as fundamental realities of our nationalities and cultures.
It is appropriate to clarify that the territorial rights of the indigenous peoples are not exclusively established and recognized on Article 63 of the Constitution. There is a complete legal and jurisprudence frame that guarantees the effective protection of the right to possession, ownership, and access to land since Act 89, 1890 to the most advanced concepts of the current Constitutional Court. The intent of the Statute of Rural Development is to ignore a struggle of more than 100 years to recognize the rights to territory of the Indigenous Peoples. In the same manner, as it was said before, the international tool that is part of the Constitutional Block on this topic is Convention No. 169 of the International Labor Organization (Act 21, 1991) Articles 13 to 19, and not the American Convention as posed on Article 99.
The administrative procedure to clarify the legal validity of property deeds has a duration of more than 10 years. Establishing this procedure as an administrative measure before the restructuring, reorganization, and expansion of the reservations of colonial origin constitutes a measure intended to deny, ignore, and not favor or guarantee the acknowledgment of our historical rights to territory, as we explained at the beginning of this document. As an attachment copies of Administrative Guideline 05, 2005, regarding the Prohibition against Authorizing and Registering Transfer Actions in Collective Territories and Indigenous Reservations (Instrucción
Administrativa 05 del 2005, sobre la Prohibición de Autorizar e Inscribir Actos de Enajenación en Territorios Colectivos y Resguardo Indígenas), are provided. This guideline ratifies Administrative Guideline 01-29 of June 8th, 2001 (Instrucción Administrativa 01-29 del 8 de junio de 2001), which recorded the prohibition against authorizing and registering title deeds entailing actions of landlord and owner over real estate belonging to the indigenous communities.
The excerpt “…but without affecting those who possess equal right”, is legally anti-technical and it ignores, violates, and disrespects the territorial rights of the Indigenous Peoples. Because of law of origin, greater right or our own right, our original rights to property through historical occupation and property entitlement of our territories as indigenous reservations, are not comparable to or hierarchically dependent upon title deeds with false ownership history, and with support of or as a result of political violence, genocide, forced displacement and expropriation through actions in our territories by non-indigenous people.
Finally, the paragraph or Article 99 constitutes a flag salutation, a rhetorical, non-enforceable guarantee. Without political will, resources availability, or the decisiveness to guarantee the exercise of the territorial rights of the indigenous peoples, it is impossible to move forward the dialogue between the Indigenous Peoples and the Colombian State.
The right recorded on Article 100 is legal and fully recognized in the current valid legislation.
Facing Article 101, the Indigenous Peoples, the Traditional Authorities and Town Councils, the Reservations and Territories are public institutions of special character according to Article 1 of the National Resolution of July 29th, 1923 (Artículo 1º de la Resolución Nacional del 29 de julio de 1923), and according to Decree 1088, 1993 (Decreto 1088 de 1993). Similarly, these institutions exercise administrative, legislative, and jurisdictional public functions, in accordance with Articles 7, 246, 286, 287, 329, and 330 of the Constitution.
To that extent, the Constitutional Court has established that neither the National Government (…), nor other authority in general, is authorized by the Constitution to intervene in the governmental sphere of the indigenous jurisdiction (C-027/93; C-139/96).
Therefore, proposing that the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) guarantees the equal distribution of lands is a pretension which goes against the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court and violates the administrative autonomy of the indigenous authorities to manage their territories.
What is set out on Article 102 is unconstitutional because the expansion, reorganizing, and restructuring of the indigenous reservations is based on the acknowledgement and protection of the identity and survival of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the 92 indigenous peoples of Colombia, in accordance with Article 7 of the Constitution.
However, if this is in reference to facilitate and guarantee the fulfillment of the social and ecological function of land ownership in Colombia, the legal rulings (related to legal rights and procedures) must regulate aspects related to latifundio (large landed estates), social inequality in the imposition of taxes, urban and rural ownership, and wages, as well as taxes on environmental pollution, etc.
In reference to Article 103, it was the Colombian Institute for Agricultural Reform (INCORA) the organization responsible for establishing the nature of “indigenous reservations” of the territories historically occupied by indigenous populations. This innocuous disposition denies, ignores, and violates the territorial rights of the indigenous peoples, negatively affected by the legal determination of the nature of indigenous reservations of their territories. An example of this is the reservations of indigenous territories in the Putumayo region.
In reference to Article 104, we wonder: is it possible to ask the Nuka Maku People to apply and comply with this disposition? This ruling is unconstitutional, ethnocentric, and inconvenient. It directly and clearly violates what is set out on Articles 7, 13, 63, 246, 329 section 2, paragraph 330 and transitory 56 of the Constitution. We, the Indigenous Peoples, have the right to cultural self-determination, autonomy, the freedom to choose a development model appropriate for our cultures, and expectations of cultural change freely adopted.
In reference to what is set out on Article 105, this is an innocuous disposition because the Constitution includes and develops this right more in depth on Articles 286 and 329 respectively.
Article 106 is unconstitutional and inconvenient because it confuses the territorial rights to access to collective property as indigenous reservations of our peoples with the processes and decisions of zoning related to the management of land and natural resources, typical of the zoning authorities. The creation, reorganizing, restructuring, and expansion of the indigenous reservations correspond to the fundamental rights to identity, territory, autonomy, participation, implementation of development models culturally appropriate and constitutionally recognized for the benefit of our peoples.
Finally, Article 107 orders the Colombian Institute for Rural Development to refrain from acquiring lands “Intended” to be claimed through “Violence”. This disposition ignores the history of how the Indigenous Peoples have been exterminated through violence. In 514 years 90% of Colombia’s indigenous population was exterminated, and still in this decade hundreds of indigenous sisters and brothers have been murdered, displaced, and stigmatized. And now they come to talk about Violence? What violence? That of just demands agreed upon through agreements with the National Government? Or perhaps in Colombia demanding respect for one’s rights is being violent?
We have no doubts that this disposition is an offence against the firm, irreversible decision of Colombia’s Indigenous Peoples to recover or set Mother Earth free, decision that our brothers, the indigenous peoples of the Cauca region, have already started to work on. Facing a hostile situation such as the one set out on this article, it is necessary to state the following:
All the Indigenous Peoples of the country, with no exceptions, within their traditional vision of the universe, have been given some commands, from the law of origin or greater right, related to maintaining the order, harmony, and balance of the universe. In order to do this, the ancestral distribution of the territory is vital. In other words, all the indigenous people have the unmistakable goal of freeing our territories to guarantee the survival of our peoples and the universe in general. In this perspective, the discussed disposition punishes not only the recovery of lands in the Cauca region, but it also vilifies any possibility of action promoted by the indigenous people for the expansion and reorganizing of the indigenous reservations.
This disposition will not promote dialogue and agreement; instead, of course, it will generate violence. If the National Government does not carry out the agreements they reached with the indigenous people because of acts of territorial violence and expropriation as a consequence of the exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources, and if there is not budget availability so that the National Territory Commission can give priority to acquiring lands for the indigenous people, the uprising and liberation of Mother Earth will intensify more and more throughout the country.
In short, this is an unconstitutional ruling which violates and ignores the historical right to ownership of the Indigenous Peoples, and its implementation can legitimate the excessive use of force by the State against the Indigenous Peoples.
Finally, in 2004, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples, within the recommendations of the Colombian Government, stipulated: “Any draft legislation, draft constitutional reform or other initiative which introduces into the law provisions that violate indigenous peoples’ rights or the principle of diversity should be withdrawn.”
And last week, the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in their Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, stated that “the ethnic rights of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations and the biodiversity of Chocó, Nariño and Putumayo Regions have been seriously affected by the private exploitation of collective lands. Some communities have stated that no previous consultation took place as required before the start of productive exploitation on their territories”.
Published by ONIC March 2007
* An honorary name given by the Vatican to the Spanish Kings
Asking solidarity for the 600 gold miners in El Bagre
(Translated by Thomas Kolar, a CSN volunteer translator)
THE NATIONAL COORDINATOR OF ENERGY MINING
Integrated as the "USO", Sintramienergetica,
Sintraime, Sintracarbon, Sintrainquigas,
Endorsement and Solidarity with the Strike of the 600 workers of Mineros S.A. affiliated with
Sintramienergetica Seccional El Bagre.
Since 1650, when the conquistadors cut through the Bajo Cauca Antiqueno opening a tragic page of slavery, backwardness, and exploitation of mineral riches and gold; a metal extracted since then by a small group of national and foreign oligarchs with the help of unpatriotic governments, that have never worried about the poverty of the workers. The greed of the European and North American adventurers who took over from the local oligarchy, particularly Mineros S.A. that earned $38.330 million in 2006, prevents them from responding to the petition of its 600 workers presented on 16 March.
Colpatria and Grupo Empresarial Antioqueno (GEA) are not content with the profit produced by the exploitation of the alluvial gold in the River Nechi, now, using the international rise in prices, are trying to sell these gold deposits in Antioquia and Marmato to the trans-national Kadahda, subsidiary of Anglo Gold Ashanti,-company that controls the principal gold deposits of Colombia through Ingeominas.
Under these conditions, the workers declared the cessation of operations on 22 May to press for a positive response to their economic petitions for the benefit of their families and the social and cultural welfare of the community of Bagre and neighboring communities. A most serious demand is the adoption of real measures for the protection of the life and health of the workers, in as much as mining sickness and accidents occur everyday since they work in the river, unsheltered from the weather, with large dredges, and in exposure to toxic substances. Also the petitions call for help for the elderly of San Rafael de Bagre and the endowment of a chemical laboratory for the town's school.
One could wish that the bureaucrats of the Ministry of Social Protection, whose job it is, would step in to prevent the company from its scheming as evidenced by its shutting down of the sanitary baths which is especially harmful to the striking women workers; their decision to evict workers from their lodging forcing them into the streets and endangering their lives; and the cutting of electric power to the plant which provides light to the town of Liberia(Anori) in order to set the population against the strikers.
In spite of these adversities, the workers are standing firmly behind their petitions and strengthening their union organization. We should support this with full solidarity, both moral and economic,-in the face of their need to feed their families. The moral solidarity consists in statements of support for the strikers and demands to the company (Mineros S.A.Carrera 43 N* 14 - 109 Piso 6*, Edificio Nova Tempo. Telefax 074-2682858. Medellin, Email: email@example.com) for a positive response to the petitions. Also to Ministerio de Proteccion Social that it intervene justly (Despacho del Ministerio Telefax: 0913305050). Economic assistance to Cuenta Corriente No. 392-07912-5 del Banco de Bogota, in name of
Sintramienergetica Nacional. Please send copies to the union: Fax: 074-8372528. El Bagre
To offer greater solidarity, the Coordinator Sindical of Energy Mining commits itself to promote a movement that seeks adoption of a sovereign policy of:
nationalization of natural resources
industrialization of minerals in the country
generation of dignified employment for Colombians
social investment in mining communities
Barranquilla, 23 May, 2007
Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity. Colombia
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Memorials to Oppose Silence and Impunity. Never More Crimes of the State
(Translated by Steven Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
Medellín, May 18, 2007
We are uniting to contribute to the recovery of the historical memory
of these crimes against humanity in Antioquia through the truth of
the victims, sensitizing society about the effects that the
paramilitary strategy of the State has had, and about the phase of
legitimizing the model of social, political and economic control that
benefits those responsible for grave and persistent violations of
The campaign, "Memorials to Oppose Silence and Impunity. Never More
Crimes of the State," makes known that during May 15, 16 and 17 of
this year, the "spontaneous declaration" of the paramilitary head
Salvatore Mancuso continued, in the face of which we communicate the
1. The opening of the "spontaneous declaration" had as a fundamental
ingredient the explanation of the rise of state-supported
paramilitarism as a policy designed in high establishment circles as
an application of the theory of national security. The public
security forced were given the mission of developing it and
implementing it, especially through a set of regulations and
execution following different operations manuals issued since the
middle of the decade of the 60s.
Since 1992, Mancuso was attached as a paramilitary to serve the
National Army, charged with putting together and commanding a
structure made up of approximately fifteen (15) men who would serve
and support in covert and counterinsurgency operations in the zones
in which the XI and XVII Brigades of the National Army were present
and maintained control; that is in the department of Córdoba and in
the Antioquian region of Urabá. He stated that he had a relationship
and direct contacts with the commanders of these brigades, among them
Generals Charri Lozano, Martín Orlando Carreño Sandoval and Rito
Alejo del Río, and indicated as well a large number of officers with
whom he carried out operations on the ground. He indicated that
thanks to the support provided by the First Division of the National
Army headed by General Iván Ramírez, they were able to expand and
consolidate paramilitary power in the north of the country, and with
the direct collaboration of General Rito Alejo del Río, when he
served as commander of the XVII Brigade, they managed to exercise
control and dominion over the Urabá region. Mancuso declared that he
is living proof of State paramilitarism.
2. The paramilitary leader was clear in his versión libre was clear
in indicating, in relation to the theme of "parapolitics," that that
some members of congress acted directly under the leadership of the
Bloque Norte (Northern Bloc) of the Autodefensas (paramilitaries) as
was the case of Senator Miguel Alfonso de la Espriella and
Representative Eleanora Pineda. He offered the names of other members
of congress like Zulema Jattín, Reinado Montes Álvarez, Julio Alberto
Manzur, Salomón Nader, Libardo López, Musa Besaile, among other, with
whom agreements were reached to receive direct support in their
political campaigns that would allow them to gain the necessary votes
so they could be elected to the Congress of the Republic. He made
known the details about how an agreement was reached with Senator
Mario Uribe consisting of the delivery of votes in given regions of
the department of Córdoba under the condition that he would support
the candidacy of Eleanora Pineda to the Chamber of Representatives
anddefend the interests of the paramilitaries in the Senate of the
He stated that in the entire zone in which the Bloque Norte of the
Autodefensas had a presence, it was not possible to carry out
political work without their consent. He was emphatic in pointing out
that the current Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, and the
current Vice President of the Republic, Francisco Santos, met with
him on different occasions. The latter had at least four (4) meetings
with the paramilitaries in two of which Mancuso participated directly
along with Carlos Castaño and two more in which the paramilitary
leader Jorge Cuarenta was presente. In all of them the theme was the
creation of a paramilitary bloc that would operate in the city of
Bogotá, an initiative proposed directly by Francisco Santos.
3. In his "spontaneous declaration", he pointed out the support of
cattle raisers and businessmen to obtain the necessary resources to
strengthen and expand the paramilitary project in some regions of the
country. He pointed out that they obstained the direct collaboration
of Javier Piedrahita, Joaquín García, Elías Vélez, Jaime Isaac,
Humberto Vergara, Gregorio Otero, Mauricio Aristizabal, Víctor Guerra
de la Espriella, José Guerra Tulena and Eduar Cobos, all of them
cattlemen and businessmen of the northern part of the country. He
also pointed out that he received direct economic support from
domestic and transnational businesses like: Postobón (which belongs
to the Ardila Lule group), Bavaria y Reforestadora Monterrey (which
belongs to the Santodomingo group), Expreso Brasilia, Copetran,
Ecopetrol, Uniban, Bielmonte, Proban, Triples Pizano, Chiquita
Brands, Vikingos fish company, Carbones del Caribe and Prodeco.
4. In the course of his testimony, he was emphatic in indicating that
he was in negotiations with the United States government and that he
had even accepted the charges of drug trafficking brought before a
federal court in Miami. He acknowledged that during the years between
1997 and 2004 his paramilitary structure was responsible for the
production and marketing of approximately 220,000 kilograms (approx
100,000 pounds) of cocaine hydrochloride, and that to develop this
company he had the support and participation of personnel of the
Armed Forces, the Air Force, the Marines, the DAS (security
directorate), and the Public Prosecutors.
5. The Justice and Peace Prosecutor charged with conducting the
"spontaneous declaration" implemented a work method that at some
points made impossible the delivery of all the information and the
witness intended to convey. We are concerned that this attitude might
have been the result of a deliberate interest in avoiding the
paramilitary leader Mancuso's conveying precise information related
to "parapolitics," as he had announced to various communication media
over the previous week—or that it might be owing to technical
failings on the part of the functionary in interrogating and
conducting the statement so as to get to the truth.
6. The threats of which the victims of the paramilitary structures
have been the objects have resulted in their no participating in the
"spontaneous declarations" brought forth within the framework of the
justice and peace law. In the testimony brought forward by the
paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, their absence has been
notorious; in fact, some of those who came to the victims' room said
that they had been warned that they could not return to their native
soil. Another thing that has contributed to the victims' absence is
the ever more demanding requirements established by the Attorney
General of the Nation, submitting these persons to a rigorous process
in collecting information and documentation. Many of the victims want
to come, but without leaving a detailed registry of their presence,
with the goal of avoiding later reprisals as happened I the case of
the victims' leader Yolanda Izquierdo.
7. Despite the information provided by Salvatore Mancuso, the victims
are still waiting for the truth about the crimes committed against
their loved ones, for the true motives for their murder or
disappearance to be confessed, that the location of the mass graves
where their bodies rest be handed over as part of the process of
In the face of all this, the campaign, "Memorials to Oppose Silence
and Impunity. Never More Crimes of the State," points out its
- The negotiation that has been started between the US
government and the paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso constitutes
a direct passport to impunity for crimes against humanity committed
by this person, who will manage to be safe from Colombian and
international penal jurisdiction
- The lack of interest by the paramilitary Salvatore Mancuso in
confessing the crimes he committed against humanity in fulfillment of
one of the essential purposes indicated by the Constitutional Court
in their Sentence C-370 of 2006 in order to have access to the
- The role that the current Vice President of the republic,
Francisco Santos, may have been carrying out to gain recognition and
legitimization of a project that has sown death and terror among the
Colombian nation, leaves doubts about the work that he is advancing
as the person responsible for the human rights policies of the Uribe
- The lack of guarantees that the victims might be recognized
as such in the processes moved forward under Justice and Peace, and
that they might be able to exercise their rights free of threats,
intimidations and attempts on their lives, as has been happening.
Asamblea Regional de Derechos Humanos (Regional Human Rights Assembly),
Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado (National
Movement of Victims of State Crimes),
Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos desaparecidos (Asfaddes)
Association of Families of Detained and Dsappeared),
Asamblea Regional de Derechos Humanos de Antioquia (Regional Human
Rights Assembly of Antioquia),
Nodo Antioquia de la Coordinación Colombia Estados Unidos (Antioquia
Node of the Colombia-United States Coordination),
Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad (CODEHSEL) Seed of
Liberty Human Rights Collective,
Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) (United Workers Federation),
Asociación de Institutores de Antioquia (ADIDA) (Teachers Association
Asonal Judicial (National Association of Civil Servants and Employees
in the Judicial Branch),
Red Juvenil de Medellín (Medellín Youth Network),
Instituto Popular de Capacitación (IPC) (People's Training Institute),
Grupo Interdisciplinario por los Derechos Humanos (GIDH)
(Interdisciplinary Human Rights Group),
Capítulo de derechos humanos del Polo Democrático Alternativo (Human
rights chapter of the Polo Demócratico Alternativo, the Alternative
Democratic Pole, a progressive opposition party),
Corporación El Solar (El Solar legal firm),
FASOL (German Fund for Solidarity with the Victims of Violence),
Comité Permanente Héctor Abad Gómez (Héctor Abad Gómez Permanent
Red Europea de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia (European Network
of Bortherhood and Solidarity),
Corporación Cultural La Aldaba La Aldaba Cultural Organization),
Asociación Campesina de Antioquia (Peasant Organization of Antioquia),
Comité de Derechos Humanos Gustavo Marulanda (Gustavo Marulanda Human
Campaña por la Vida y la Libertad, (Campaign for Life and Liberty)
Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos (Foundation
Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners),
Contracorriente ("Against the Current", a student human right working
Fundación Sumapaz (Sumapaz Fundation),
Cristianos y Cristianas por la Justicia y la Paz (Men and Women
Christians for Justice and Peace),
Corporación Jurídica Libertad (Libertad legal firm).
International NGOs Threatened in Colombia: Anglo Gold Ashanti's Strategy Continues
National and International Organizations Accompanying Communities in South Bolivar have been Threatened, as have all Agro-mining Leaders.
(Translation by: Micheal O Tuathail, CSN volunteer translator)
1. On Saturday 12th of May, 2007, The European Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity with Colombia (Spanish acronym REHSC) received an email message threatening the lives, physical integrity, and accompaniment work of international organizations that support communities in South Bolivar.
2. The same message also threatens the leaders of the Agro-mining Federation of South Bolivar, in particular, its president, TEOFILO MANUEL ACUNA, who in the past days was victim of being set-up by the New Granada Battalion, affiliated with the 5th Brigade of the National Army.
3. The message was received in the mailbox of firstname.lastname@example.org
and sent from an email account from the hotmail server, whose apparent correspondence name is 'Juan David Gonzalez Morales' with the email address email@example.com
. The text of the message is as follows:
"I worry a lot about the behaviour of the prosecutor of simiti plutarco, above all about the behaviour of the NGOs who were pressuring him to release this terrorist who only damages the mining population in south bolivar (sic). It is known that teofiloy (sic) was redirecting the resources of the mines to maintain and strengthen the narcoterrorist organizations, such as the ELN. But with God's will, this will end very soon, and these foreigners from the NGOs are going to very much miss their homelands because, one day, they will be found by the legally constituted army of God."
4. This threat is not an isolated incident. It is only a part of the persecution declared against communities in South Bolivar and the national and international organizations accompanying their social processes in the defence of both territory and life.
5. Since the multinational Anglo Gold Ashanti, through its affiliate Kedahda, has decided to appropriate the territory of small miners in South Bolivar, there has been a rise in human rights violations committed by Colombia's military forces, who have publicly stated that their presence in the region is as a security service of said multinational.
6. The methods of terror used to destroy the organizing processes of the region and to demand the ceding of land to Anglo Gold Ashanti have been innumerable; burning houses, petty thefts, robberies, rumours, threats, occupations of civic properties, arbitrary detentions, set ups, and extrajudicial executions, among others, are the methods used by those trying to displace mining communities in this region of the country, which constitutes a great threat to the defence of human rights in Colombia.
7. In accordance with the commitment that international organizations have acquired with Colombian social organizations to defend the rights of peoples, international accompaniment will continue in South Bolivar through the REHSC. From now on, we will hold responsible both the Kedahda Company (Anglo Gold Ashanti) and the Colombian state for any possible actions taken against the lives and integrity of the internationals working in South Bolivar.
Related Prior Events:
1. On 23rd September 2006, in the urban area of Santa Rosa municipality, the communities began a day of protest against the murder of their leader, ALEJANDRO URIBE CHACON. Meanwhile, members of the New Granada Batalion, linked to the National Army's 5th Brigade, in a clandestine and covert manner, filmed and photographed members of the REHSC, the legal representative from the Sembrar Corporation, the legal assessor from the Agro-mining Federation of South Bolivar, and several leaders from the region. One of those recording the events, upon being recognized as military personnel, disappeared into the office of the Presidential Program of Human Rights, Carlos Franco, in a truck with registration plate XVP 848. The incident was reported to the Regional Defender of the People, and it was immediately demanded that the commander of the New Granada Battalion identify the soldier and delete the photographs. This was refused to be done.
2. On the 14th of December 2006, an article was published in the newspaper El Frente, originating from Bucaramanga but with regional circulation. The featured article is titled, "Perverse Campaign Against Military Forces in South Bolivar, Non-Governmental Organizations that Work With and Defend Terrorism in the Region Move Forward." the article claims that the guerrilla acts through the "NGOs present in the region," naming as such the Sembrar Corporation, the Agro-mining Federation of South Bolivar, and the REHSC. In the same way, it claims that the work of these NGOs is aimed at "defaming the New Granada Artillery Battalion and, by extension, the Fifth Brigade."
3. The article contains quotes from an interview with Jose Cendales, a wealthy man in the region who is being put forth as a mayoral candidate for the municipality of Santa Rosa and who has indicated that "the people alone are not capable of holding those marches. This is because they are influenced by some group," referring to the marches held by the agro-miners of South Bolivar this past September of 2006.
4. On Saturday the 28th of April 2007, at approximately 14:30, two internationals accompanying 3 regional leaders were arrested and detained by the New Granada Battalion in the outskirts of San Luquitas, San Pedro Frio, of the municipality of Santa Rosa.
5. In the same way, on Sunday the 29th of April 2007, three members of the REHSC were detained by members of the New Granada Battalion in a room located in the military base of this Battalion, on the outskirts of San Luquitas, San Pedro.
6. After the detention of the president of the Agro-mining Federation of South Bolivar, Captain Cruz, of the New Granada Battalion, has come forth in recent weeks, making statements against the Agro-mining Federation and its president:
"We have captured the worst gangster in South Bolivar, who stole 500 billion pesos from Accion Social to give it to the guerrilla... We will pursue the rest of the gangsters who follow him."
Also, Captain Cruz has been probing the communities insistently about the presence of members of the REHSC and other international organizations, asking about their finances, places of origin, functions, and identifications.
To the National Government:
1. That the National Government take the necessary measures to ensure that the work of these international organizations accompanying communities and social and human rights organizations in Colombia be both respected and guaranteed.
2. That the National Government, with the leadership of the Vice President of the Republic, publicly recognize the accompaniment work carried out by international NGOs in Colombia.
3. That the Colombian government fully comply with its signed agreements with the communities and guarantee the exercising of the rights of members and managers of the Agro-mining Federation of South Bolivar as well as the organizations they are affiliated with, ensuring the necessary protection of their lives and physical integrity.
4. That the work of social and human rights organizations in Colombia be respected; and as a consequence, that the declarations made against them by the Public Forces cease.
To the Judiciary and Control Organisms:
5. That the origin of the aforementioned email be investigated and those responsible accordingly sanctioned.
6. That the members of the New Granada Battalion be investigated and sanctioned for their accusations and declarations made against the social organizations and community leaders of South Bolivar as well as for their irregular actions committed against the international accompaniment organizations in the region.
7. That all the violations of human rights committed against the communities of South Bolivar, including those reported by social and accompaniment organizations in the region, be investigated and sanctioned.
RED DE HERMANDAD Y SOLIDARIDAD
- KolumbienKampagne Berlín (Germany)
- Comité de solidaridad Carlos Fonseca (Italy)
- Confederación Cobas (Italy)
- Cric (Italy)
- Colombia Solidarity Campaign (Britain)
- Espacio Bristol-Colombia, (England)
- Grupo de Apoyo (Swiss-German)
- Colectivo Solidarité Colombia (Swiss-French)
- Colectivo Ginebrinos de Solidaridad con los Pueblos Colombianos –Ginebra (Sweden)
- Colectivo de Solidaridad Belgo-Andinoamericano- AYNI (Belgium)
- Tribunal Internacional de Opinión SB-París (France)
- Colombia Solidarity Network (Ireland)
- Association France Amérique Latine AFAL- Comité Colombia-Lyon (France)
- FRACTAL Colectivo Paris (France)
- Proyecto de Acompañamiento y Solidaridad con Colombia -PASC (Canada)
In the Spanish State:
- Komite Internazionalistak (Euskadi)
- Coliche (Logroño-La Rioja)
- Coordinadora Aragonesa de Solidaridad con Colombia- CASCOL (Zaragoza)
- Centro de Documentación y Solidaridad con América Latina y África-CEDSALA (Valencia)
- SODEPAU (Valencia)
- Asociación Paz con Dignidad
- Comité de Solidaridad con América Latina- COSAL - XIXÓN (Gijón-Asturias)
- Asociación Internacionalista Paz y Solidaridad –AISPAZ (León)
- Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT)
- Colectivo de Colombianos Refugiados en España COLREFE
- Corporación Sembrar (Bogotá)
- Federación Agrominera del Sur de Bolívar -Fedeagromisbol (Bolívar)
- Comité de Integración Social del Catatumbo –CISCA (Catatumbo)
- Corporación Social para el Asesoramiento y Capacitación Comunitaria - COSPACC (Casanare, Boyacá, Bogotá)
- Organizaciones Sociales de Arauca (Arauca)
- Coordinador Nacional Agrario –CNA
- Procesos de Comunidades Negras –PCN
- Comité de Integración del Macizo Colombiano –CIMA (Cauca)
- Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos -FCSPP (Bogotá, Barranquilla, Valle, Bucaramanga, Valledupar)
- Sindicato Nacional de los trabajadores de la Industria Alimentaria -Sinaltrainal (Bogotá, Valle, Bucaramanga, Valledupar, Barranquilla, Barrancabermeja,)
- Instituto Nacional Sindical –INS (Bogotá, Valle, Huila)
- Corporación Jurídica libertad (medellín)
- Colectivo de derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad - CODHESEL
15 May, 2007
Send Letters of Protest to:
Dr. Álvaro UribeVélez
Presidente de la Republica
Fax: 57 1 566 2071
Dr. Francisco Santos.
Vicepresidente de Colombia
Dr. Carlos Franco
Director del Programa de Derechos Humanos de Vicepresidencia
Dr. Edgardo Jose Maya Villazón
Procurador General de la Nacion.
Dr. Volmar Antonio Perez Ortiz
Defensor del Pueblo
Fax: 57 1 6400491
Oficina del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los derechos humanos.
Fax: 57 1 6293637
A Pilgrimage for Francisco
( Translated by Eunice Gibson, a volunteer CSN translator)
On this coming June 11, the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado will make a pilgrimage to the town of Miramar, in memory of Francisco. That day the whole community, the humanitarian zones, and the different communities in civil resistance will go to Miramar, the last location of Francisco’s civil resistance. That day is the beginning of a course in food production put on by the Farmers’ Resistance University and the group will pay homage to Francisco’s life. We invite all the people and organizations, national and international, to join in this pilgrimage for Francisco’s life, carrying out actions in his memory in different parts of the world.
We know that the Army is going around spreading vicious slander against Francisco. It doesn’t surprise us because they have always done that and they will continue to do that. That has always been their way of bringing death and destruction. Nevertheless, the truth of the victimizers is always different from the truth of the victims. That is clear. For example, with the massacre of February 21, 2005, where the Army murdered eight people, the top government (ministers, governor, prosecutors, Army commanders) said the FARC did it, that our massacred comrades were guerrillas. They found witnesses for their fabrications. We speak our truth, the truth of the victims. History has shown that we victims do not lie. That’s why we aren’t surprised that they are trying to identify Francisco as a guerrilla, as if common criminals had murdered him. We have lived with these fabrications, these lies, for ten years.
And that’s why this pilgrimage is to remind us of Francisco, his memory, his teachings, and his commitment to the community, his people. The pilgrimage is to keep his teachings alive, and so that some day humanity will judge this government that has spilled the blood of so many ordinary farmers, and judge how, conspiring with the paramilitaries, it has permitted this barbarism of death and horror.
With the pilgrimage to Miramar in honor of Francisco’s life, we want to remember his journey and his commitment in these ten years. Francisco was part of the beginning of the community in 1997. He shared that with many of us, and he was the coordinator of that part of the community that lived in the town of La Cristalina. He had to leave there because of all the attacks carried out by the Army and the paramilitaries. He left in 1999 and went to Saisa. There he had to start over, but always with his commitment to the people. Nevertheless, in 2000, because of an attack by the paramilitaries, acting together with the Army, where they burned people’s houses in Saiza and carried out selective killings, he returned to La Cristalina. In 2003 he was La Cristalina’s delegate to take part in the national and international meeting of the community. Around the middle of 2004 he decided to take part in the proposal planned by the Peace Community of San Jose to create the humanitarian zones. They were to be an answer to the attacks that were being carried out in various towns in order to displace the people. He worked with Luis Eduardo Guerra in the town of Miramar and moved there to live. There he was chosen by the town as the coordinator of the Miramar humanitarian zone.
In March and April of 2005, being the coordinator of the Miramar humanitarian zone, he was chosen by the communities to represent the Peace Community at the food production course put on by the Farmers’ Resistance University. It was being carried out in the parish of Remolinos del Caguan in Caqueta. He returned from there and took part in the displacement of San Jose to Jan Josesito, which he decided to support completely, along with the town of Miramar. He took an active part in the visit of the international commissions of Italy and Germany in November of 2005. In 2006, he decided to retire as coordinator of Miramar because of family problems, but he continued to work as a leader in the Miramar humanitarian zone and in the defense of the farmers in the area, in spite of threats that were made against him.
Because of his great eloquence in speaking, his simplicity, his frank and pleasant style of leadership, and his life committed to the people of the communities, they will remember him as a great leader. For your candid smile, and for that joyful endurance, thank you Francisco. The paramilitaries have not taken your life, because it is still in our midst.
PEACE COMMUNITY OF SAN JOSE DE APARTADO
May 22, 2007
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
"We had no hostages ; the detainees were mostly eliminated " ( Salvatore Mancuso)
( Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN volunteer translator )
Friday, 11 May 2007
Un Pasquín columnist Natalia Springer, Austrian-Colombian specialist consultant in justice and security, has first-hand experience of conflicts in several countries and has worked for international organizations including the UN and NATO. Part of her experience is described in the book Desactivar la guerra; propuestas audaces para construir la paz (Santillana, 2005), longer versions of which have appeared in English (Deactivating War) and German.
In the course of her work in Colombia, Natalia has come to know the parties in conflict there. Two days ago, after several months and numerous obstacles, she interviewed Salvatore Mancuso, leader of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC, Colombian United Self-defense Militia). Her main interest was to talk about the child soldiers recruited by the militias.
However, their wide-ranging, eight-hour conversation yielded abundant material, part of it published here in this special edition, on which Mancuso will elaborate in his statement to the Prosecutor-General next Tuesday.
“We had no hostages; the detainees were mostly eliminated” Mancuso
Less than a week from his questioning by the Prosecutor-General’s Office, Salvatore Mancuso confesses.
Report by Natalia Springer*
Exclusive for Un Pasquín
* International consultant; expert in justice and security.
Salvatore Mancuso, Commander of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) and one of the world’s highest-profile culprits of crimes against humanity facing trail, agreed to meet me at Itagüí maximum security prison where he is detained, knowing that our conversation and the information involved could well end up incriminating him.
Mancuso spoke as the political representative of the AUC movement, although independent sources revealed that his team of lawyers had demanded that he cancel the meeting, which he did not confirm. He was speaking, he said, so as to send a message to the more radical factions that are harassing the action of the justice system: they are “ready to tell the whole truth”.
His early declarations during the meeting revealed that the negotiators [both the government and AUC representatives] were completely indifferent to humanitarian considerations.
Mancuso confirmed that the situation of the more than 550 individuals recorded as ‘kidnapped’ by the militias, the ‘disappeared’, the ill and the prisoners of war was never ascertained; nor was there any special handover of child solders recruited by these groups; nor did they address the issue of what treatment their support communities will receive. He also said that regular procedures were not followed, nor was there any prior survey of the situation before the combatants surrendered, nor were parameters established for overseeing the results of the process.
In his own words, “that was never mentioned”. He claims, “We never resorted to kidnapping” and “most of the detainees were eliminated”.
Meanwhile, he also revealed the existence of “plain clothes militia, a kind of support commandos, a ratio of 2 civilians per combatant”, which leaves pending the issue of how they are to be demobilized. He also said that their zones of influence “were left unprotected, although the government’s commitments included ‘re-institutionalizing’ these regions. Today they are under strong pressure from the insurgency”.
On this point, as ascertained by the public prosecutor’s office, the lands in Bolivar that Mancuso handed over to the Justice and Peace Unit (UJP) were considered high risk areas, dotted with mines and controlled by the guerrilla, making them useless for reparation purposes.
In relation to the work of Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo, Mancuso stated that they have in fact vetoed him “because he has lied to us throughout the whole process”.
‘Para-politics’. Asked about politicians and businessmen implicated in the formation of the militias, Mancuso replied that “the senators, mayors, governors and representatives who have been summoned by the courts are lying when they claim they were forced to attend these meetings”. He even revealed a long list of politicians from several governments – with names, affiliation and reasons – “many of them still in power all over Colombia”.
[Un Pasquín is withholding those names so as not to hinder the public prosecutor’s investigation].
Mancuso status that “it was they [the politicians] who prompted the meetings and insinuated the content” and that “the agreements were reached to mutual benefit”. “Plans of operation were drawn up jointly and took root, and it was even they who approached us to help them get elected […] We were a model of State”.
“We affected several presidential elections”, he adds, reaffirming that his electoral influence has spanned decades.
“We all paid”. On the relationship between the AUC and Colombian and foreign businessmen, he declared that “all the banana companies paid us (nine cents per box)”, but that was not the only industry implicated. He also stated that, as president of Fenalco, “Sabas Pretelt came to see us on behalf this country’s industrialists”. He also said that “the banks took part in laundering money from the drug traffic”. All the strategic sectors were implicated, “including the transport union”.
On supposed links between the AUC and the armed forces, Mancuso stated that the relationship was not limited solely to passive complicity, nor a simple strategic alliance, “but rather, in some cases, joint operations were undertaken”.
Complete version. Mancuso assured that he will tell everything, in all detail, in the deposition he is to make next Tuesday, in spite of the security problems he says he faces. “They want to silence us”, he said, adding that the AUC commanders have constantly received threats, some in the form of letter-bombs, to prevent them from talking, confessing their crimes and implicating third parties.
Betrayals in a meeting between bitterest enemies
Opinion by Natalia Springer
Exclusive for Un Pasquín
“Remember one thing: I am not a journalist. You know that my area is justice and security and that I work in the human rights field. I have not come for you to tell me secrets nor to spread scandals. My concern is to bring criminals against humanity, like yourself, to justice and ensure that they pay for what they have done. I want it to be quite clear: if you go on refusing to cooperate with justice, I assure you that the next time we meet will be in the International Court”. Those words were the first warning I gave to Salvatore Mancuso at the start of this interview.
For that reason, that morning as we flew through the skies of Antioquia in search of a clearing to land in, I put my life in order, as I always do, and went over the purposes of the meeting.
This interview grew out of the obligation to explore the responsibilities of paramilitary groups in recruiting and using children in the conflict. That exploration forms part of an investigative effort that I direct from abroad for the Maya Nasa Foundation, and is intended to promote a policy that will have a decisive effect on how this phenomenon evolves. The use of children for purposes of war is more alarming today than at the worst moments of the war. The guerrillas have resorted to using children on a massive scale for all kinds of war operations, and it is known that child recruitment to form the new self-defense groups has occurred on a massive scale in regions like Los Montes de María, historically controlled by Mancuso.
However, that was not the only purpose. I also went to ask him what the prosecutors of the Justice and Peace Unit have not been able to. Mancuso has deliberately tried to avoid making a statement and has resorted to all kinds of tricks to delay the hearings and sabotage a legal process that is excessively generous precisely because it is based on cooperation.
My third and final purpose was to learn the real status of these negotiations. Exactly what has been negotiated; what they have been promised and why; whether the negotiations are ongoing; and what the undertakings and rules of play were in arranging those meetings. However, I was also clear that – very much despite my strong opposition to the way this process has been handled – I had not gone there to discredit the Peace Commission nor the government representatives.
That meeting was just the most recent episode in a long and difficult personal history. More than 15 years ago I understood that I could not shut my eyes and pretend that nothing was going on in Colombia. It happened precisely during a trip through the Chocó: I knew then that I would devote my life to serving those who suffer most. On that conviction I have served in several countries for all these years. The costs of that decision are many. In particular, advocating for a transparent peace process with justice, truth and reparation in Colombia has greatly affected my personal safety. The threats from all the stakeholders are constant, and for just over a year now not a week has gone by without my getting one or two letters with strongly worded messages and explicit threats.
I have never kept silent. On the contrary, I am just increasingly convinced that justice is the only path to peace in Colombia. Nor have I followed the recommendations not to return to Colombia. I was born free. I am a free woman and will die that way.
Those were exactly the purposes of the visit and that was my state of mind when I arrived at the Itagüi maximum security prison accompanied by an assistant to meet Salvatore Mancuso, also accompanied by one of his advisors and a relative, in the intimacy of his prison cell, last Tuesday, 7 May, 2007.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Ten unionists killed this year already
President Álvaro Uribe Vélez Keeps Distorting Figures
Prepared and translated by :
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective
Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”
May 9, 2007
“When this presidential administration began, there were years in Colombia in which 126, 168, or even 200 members of workers organizations were murdered in a year. We have yet to reach zero, as we would like to say to the world, however this year one worker belonging to INPEC [National Penitentiary and Prison Institute] was murdered. By all accounts, his murder was not related to his union activity.”
This was repeatedly stated by President Álvaro Uribe Vélez over the last few months in each one of the speeches and pronouncements he made before the national and international media and as a part of his public activities, which were basically done to respond to the oppositions’ accusations against his administration as well as to achieve the passage of the Free Trade Agreement in the U.S. Congress (which seems to be on thin ice due to the scandal concerning the ties between politicians and paramilitary organizations, among other issues).
Nevertheless, reality is distinct. According to figures from the database at the National Labor School (Escuela Nacional Sindical – ENS), nine unionists have been murdered from January to April 2007. Additionally, Luís Miguel Gómez Porto, member of the Small and Medium Farmers Union from the Department of Sucre (Sindicato de Pequeños y Medianos Agricultores del Departamento de Sucre - SINDAGRICULTORES), was murdered last May 3 in the region of the Montes de María, apparently by the Colombian marines, who later presented his body as being killed in combat.
The question, then, is why President Uribe reveals other statistics. Evidently, he is interested in demonstrating progress in his “democratic security” policy through manipulating the real figures. According to José Luciano Sanín Vásquez, general director of ENS, in order to do this president Uribe presents teachers and peasants organized in unions as a category of victims distinct to that of the union sector, thus disregarding that teachers alone make up 30% of the unionized workers in Colombia.
But there is more: at a press conference on April 19, 2007, Uribe Vélez asserted that only 25 unionists had been murdered the previous year, and in so doing ignored the other 55 unionists murdered in 2006.
Consequently, president Uribe denied the anti-union violence that year after year murders, tortures, forcibly disappears, internally displaces, threatens, and exiles many leaders and members of unions, which weakens the union movement and keeps persons from joining unions due to the absence of guarantees to exercise these activities as well as the fear of reprisals against them and their families.
According to the ENS, more unionists were murdered last year than in 2005. Specifically, from January 1, 2006, to November 20, 2006, 72 unionists were murdered in Colombia, which implies a 6% increase in the murder of unionists (compared to the 67 murdered unionists the year before).
It should be stressed that most of these homicides are registered as common crimes and often presented as a consequence of personal or romantic disputes. In this way, investigative agencies try to distort the true reasons for which these crimes occur as well as contribute to the government’s attempt at manipulating and denying the systematic violence committed against the unionized sector.
In this regard, it is also useful to remember the lack of operativeness of the judicial system in terms of the murders committed by paramilitary groups of such union leaders as professor Alfredo Correa de Andreis. Additionally, attention should be drawn to the obvious smokescreens used against the statements made by Rafael García that relate to the responsibility of Jorge Noguera, former director of the Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad - DAS), in turning over a list to the paramilitaries –and specifically to Jorge 40- with the names of different unionists and left-wing leaders in order to have them murdered.
Paradoxically, up to now Uribe Vélez has not admitted to his responsibility in appointing Noguera to the DAS. He has also not assumed any responsibility for Noguera’s actions with or ties to paramilitarism. To the contrary, Uribe has publicly defended Noguera on several occasions. At the same time, the president continues to present irrelevant data concerning figures on demobilized paramilitaries, when it is well known that these groups continue to commit crimes.
Specifically, according to ENS, supposedly demobilized paramilitary groups murdered nine unionists from January 1, 2006, to November 20, 2006. Furthermore, human rights organizations have repeatedly spoken out against the ongoing paramilitary persecution and threats, which now include new persons –many of them unionists- that are declared military objectives.
In this respect, on June 16, 2006, union leaders from the National Association of Hospital Workers (Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Hospitalarios – ANTHOC) received a death threat signed by “armed wing of the former AUC [United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia].” In the threat, they also indicated their intent to support president Uribe and asserted that a genuine demobilization would not occur until all unionists and communists had been killed.
As can be seen, this is only one example that Uribe Vélez forgot to mention, when he spoke publicly on the progress of the “democratic security” policy and his responsibility in terms of the State protection of hundreds of union leaders and human rights defenders.
Likewise, another factor contributing to the grave human rights situation of unionists is the framework of impunity for most of the cases where the victims are union leaders and members. In general, the investigations have been either suspended or closed due to lack of evidence. Only 5% of the cases go to trial and have the authors convicted. In cases concerning death threats, most of the unionists do not inform the police on their situation out of fear of reprisals. In the cases that are denounced, the investigations undertaken produce no results and are closed.
Insofar as the criminal processes concerning human rights violations against unionists undertaken by the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective as the civil party, 46. 51% of the cases are still in the evidentiary phase and 11.62% have requested for information on the state of the process and have yet to receive a response. Additionally, in 11.62% of the cases the investigations is still in the preliminary phase, 9.3% have been discontinued, 7% have been dismissed by the Office of the Attorney General, and 4.65% of the processes have charges lodged and an equal percentage a conviction. Only 2.32% of the cases have reached a public hearing and an equal amount a preparatory hearing. Lastly, the charged persons have only been detained in 9.3% of the cases.
In the case of the National Food and Beverage Workers Union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Alimentos – SINALTRAINAL), as far as the Office of the Attorney General, 62% of the investigations concerning the murder of the union leaders and members have been suspended; 12.5% have not initiated committal proceedings; 12.5% have no criminal investigation; and the same percentage have gone to trial and reached a conviction.
These figures demonstrate that, as far as cases concerning human rights violations against unionists, a genuine and effective justice has yet to be applied that responds to the open and apparent violation of their rights by the Colombian State. In this regard, a grave case of impunity has been created in which the different State institutions –that handle cases concerning the murders, massacres, forced disappearances, death threats, harassment, and persecution against unions and unionists- have not undertaken any serious or effective investigative work that contributes to overcoming the grave human rights situation faced by unionism in Colombia. Additionally, it has been shown that the favorable results presented by President Uribe before the country and the international community are nothing more than a distortion of the genuine figures and mean to justify the security policy as well as improve the president’s image internationally. Meanwhile, union members continue to be subjected to undue persecution and human rights violations and the investigative processes remain in total impunity.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621