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Wednesday, January 30, 2008


(Translated by Thomas Kolar, a CSN volunteer translator)

Bogota: January 21, 2008
Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia
Reference: solidarity of the Alternative Democratic Pole with the President of the Supreme Court of Justice in the face of the new attack by the President of the Republic,
Doctor Alvaro Uribe Velez.
Honorable Magistrate:
The National Executive Committee of the Alternative Democratic Pole repudiates in a manner most emphatic the decision of Alvaro Uribe Velez to denounce by injury and calumny Doctor Cesar Julio Valencia Copete, President of the Supreme Court of Justice, and condemns as an act approaching tyranny the proposed submission of the judges to the power of the executive, and reiterates to each member of the court our support for your brave decision to apply the law to the case of the relationship between many office holders and paramilitarism and calls on all democrats of Colombia, without exception, to defend the separation of powers that is established by the Colombian constitution and to respect the dignity and decisions of the Court.
The denunciation to which we refer, that is to be so repudiated, is made worse by four facts that should be known in Colombia and the world. First, the many attacks by President Uribe against the Supreme Court of Justice before this, including the pressures for decisions that favor interests that coincide with his own, his sophisms that create public doubt about the honor of their decisions, and the injury to the magistrates, all have the object of discrediting the Supreme Court of Justice and facilitating impunity.
 Second, it is known that the majority of aggression of President Uribe against the Court originates In the decisions that have gone against the paramilitaries, including the last, that began with a call of the head of state to the President of the Supreme Court of Justice pressuring him into proceedings that involve a confessed criminal called Tasmania and senator Mario Uribe, cousin of the president.
Third, it is also known to the public that almost all those named “para-politicians” supported Alvaro Uribe in his two presidential elections, which reality helps us see the state of decomposition that has come in Colombia and the nature of those who govern, those that extol the strength of the court in pursuit of the truth about serious facts that include putting at risk its integrity and that constitute the final explication of the antagonism which is the victim.
The magazine “El Tiempo” of 18 June 2008 informs us that 46 members of congress elected in 2006 were involved in the scandal of “para-politicians”. Similarly, “El Nuevo Siglo” of 14 January arrives at a figure of 125 high officials involved in paramilitarism. And in both cases they are almost all partisans of Uribe. In what country of the world that is not as decomposed as Colombia would they tolerate a Chief of State with such an origin and whose director of secret police faces charges of paramilitarism and produced decisions that corroborate that there was fraud in the presidential election of 2002?
And the fourth thing one sees with the calculated decision of the Chief of State, himself notoriously anti-democratic, to form a penal denouncement against the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, knowing the result will be injustice. Because the only witnesses that can present in the proceedings are three high employees of the government of President Alvaro Uribe and because the trial begins in the Commission of Accusations of the House of Representatives, an institution completely controlled by political friends of President Uribe, the same ones who normally do not obey the law that orders investigation when one is accussed and that form part of some majorities constituted through bureaucratic pressure from the Chief of State. Will there be justice for the President of the Supreme Court if the accuser, the witnesses, and the judges represent the same interests and belong to the same group of para-politicians investigated by the Court. Is it possible to conceive more bias? No one should be surprised if it must go to an international tribunal.
Mister President of the Supreme Court of Justice, the Alternative Democratic Pole will never join with those who operate in this manner, using their power to frustrate the separation of powers that the Constitution ordains as our democratic base, alleging objectives that appear noble but, as in this case, the true bias jumps into view.
Carlos Gaviria Diaz                                             Daniel Garcia-Pena
President                                                               Secretary

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


(Translated by Dan Baird,  CSN volunteer translator)

In  Colombia human rights defenders challenge Government claims that paramilitary activity has been controlled. Iván Cepeda Castro of
Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes del Estado [National Movement for Victims of State Crime], whose own father was assassinated in 1994, has written the letter below to President Uribe.

Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008 at 6:38 AM
Mr President,

In a space of less than two weeks paramilitary groups – now covered by the vague description of “emerging bands” -  have murdered 12 people,  ‘disappeared’ 9, and driven another 120 from their homes.
    On 31 December 2007 they murdered four adults and a child in the territory of El Palmar, Nariño, a massacre that Eduardo Zúñiga, the former Governor in that area, unhesitatingly attributed to paramilitary action.
    On that same day in  Medellín, Víctor Hugo Gallego, the lawyer for Corporación para la Paz y el Desarrollo Social [Association for Peace and Development],  Corpades, disappeared.  Gallego had  persistently reported   paramilitary activity in Medellín.
    On 11 January 2008, while a family celebration was taking place in the neighbourhood of ‘Once de Noviembre’ [11th November] of  Santa Marta,, several  armed  men arrived and opened fire, killing five people and wounding three others.  All the victims were community leaders.  On 14 January,  the Defensoría del Pueblo [the office of the Government’s human rights ombudsman] announced that a paramilitary group had carried out a raid in  Santa Mónica, Chocó, murdering two people, abducting another eight and  driving out 120 of the villagers.
   It should be noted too that, in addition to these grave events, threatening messages have recently appeared in  Bucaramanga  in the name of  the ‘Águilas Negras’[Black Eagles] group of paramilitaries.   Although the Mayor of the city dismissed these threats, saying that such groups did not exist in the region, the Defensoría del Pueblo had already noted in  2007  the presence of paramilitaries in the  Department of  Santander.  
     All of this means that, in a period of two weeks and in four Departments of the country, the paramilitaries have been responsible for  two massacres and several  disappearances  and, by an  armed attack, have forced a large-scale evacuation.
     It is unlikely that the ‘disappeared’ are still alive:  there is no evidence of their survival  and probably their remains will end  in common graves or in rivers.  Faced with these crimes, no-one - from the Church or the employers’ organizations, neither mayors nor governors nor the media - will  call for demonstrations by our defeated citizens.  They cannot ask for  life to be restored to the ‘disappeared’.
     And what  help  can be expected from the State’s  servants and institutions  when the response of the National Government is either silence or denial?  You, Mr President, continue trying to convince both the country and the world that there are no longer paramilitary groups in Colombia  - something completely disproved by the facts.  
    When will you comment on the crimes against humanity which continue to be committed by  paramilitary groups?  When will you make a solemn speech condemning the forced disappearances that have taken thousands of our compatriots to common graves and hidden cemeteries?  When will the Government publicly condemn the forced evacuations through  which the paramilitaries have seized the land of millions of our compatriots?
Clearly, kidnapping is a criminal practice that Colombian society should in no way tolerate.  But in Colombia  not only are hundreds of kidnappings carried out by the guerillas: thousands of people have been murdered or ‘disappeared’ or forced from their homes by government agents or by paramilitary groups -  groups, as you will remember,  sponsored a decade ago through the security firms of  Convivir [a government-created security system that became a paramilitary network].
This is the reality.It will not be made to vanish by the Government’s obstinate insistence on a one-dimensional view of terrorism.  

[ ]Clarifications by translator

Iván Cepeda Castro



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

Monday, January 28, 2008

Peter Shepherd 's leter to Canadian Minister of Trade

The Honourable David L. Emerson,
Minister of International Trade and
Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A2
Dear Mr Emerson,
Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter of January 1 concerning the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia.
May I request that this matter be pursued in depth and detail with Canadian and Colombian counterparts who have been carefully researching and documenting these issues? Such organizations include: the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, Common Frontiers Canada, as well as the RECALCA network in Colombia. All are very serious organizations with abundant data and direct information on the impact and implications of the FTA. I am copying this message to them, and have requested that representatives from these institutions respond to your letter.
In your reply you say that:
Building stronger, more sustainable economies in the Americas through trade and investment linkages will foster economic development and prosperity, which will expand opportunities for citizens. Experience tells us that creating wealth and opportunities is a precursor to stronger social institutions and respect for rule of law. This is what we want to help promote in Colombia - a healthier economy, poverty reduction and employment opportunities.

There is no evidence that FTAs, as negotiated and signed at the moment, help to build stronger and more sustainable economies. In fact, there is abundant evidence to the contrary available from the above-mentioned groups.
According to Colombia’s RECALCA network, Colombian farmers are greatly threatened by US farm subsidies that dwarf and knock out internal protections. While the US negotiates under the legislated “Trade Promotion Authority of 2002”, the Colombians failed to pass a proposed “Mirror Reflection Law” to the U.S.’s TPA to ensure food security, transparency and reciprocity during the negotiations. And during US/Colombian trade negotiations, civil society groups were kept in a ‘side room’, and had to sign confidentiality agreements about any information given to them during the negotiations.  (1)
Furthermore according to RECALCA: “Colombia does not have any norms that oblige the government to comply with conditions and minimum guarantees in its trade negotiations….From the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, to the Free Trade Agreement with Peru and Colombia, the topic of labor rights has undergone significant changes. In the first place, there appears only one document, and this as an appendix. In 2001 Mexico presented 28 complaints for violations of labor rights which resulted in not a single sanction for the responsible companies.” (2)
The FTAs make good business sense for a few very strong trans-national corporate groups and their national counterparts at the expense of the environment, living conditions, wages and basic rights and freedoms for most people in the countries affected by these agreements. This is particularly the case of Colombia where in order to guarantee profit for corporate interests, virtual impunity is given to corporations and governments. The agreements end up resulting in systematic human rights abuses; lax environmental legislation and a dismantling of labour and human rights.
To quote Gauri Sreenivasan, of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation:  

“Violence and war have a long history in Colombia. They remain a constant reality today. Illegal executions of civilians by the Colombian military and paramilitary forces took 955 lives in the past five years. 98% of the more than 550 murders of trade unionists under the current Uribe government remain unsolved. In the last two decades, more than 3.5 million people have been displaced and 70,000 people have died in an internal conflict rooted in inequality. It’s a vicious conflict over control of the land, resources and narcotics that generate wealth for a few at the cost of so many.

Who pays the price? Mainly indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, small scale miners and farmers who live on land that could make other people richer. Like Kimy Pernia, a Colombian indigenous leader who came to Canada in 1999 to ask the Export Development Corporation to stop financing a mega-dam project that was destroying the land of the Embera people. In 2001, Kimy was abducted and later killed for speaking up for the rights of his people. There are the workers and trade unionists who ask for job security or safe working conditions in businesses turning healthy profits. Twenty-six Colombian trade unionists have been assassinated this year alone.” [November 2007] (3)

And according to the Colombian Commission of Jurists, the human rights situation has worsened in the past two decades. In 1988 there was an average of 10 politically motivated killings per day. By the year 2003, it was close to 20 a day. (Amnesty International, 4)

Could you provide evidence in support of your Government's statement on FTA’s? If, as experience and evidence illustrates, FTAs do not build stronger economies nor bring more opportunities for most people, then the premise upon which the negotiations are taking place would not hold, and the agreements should not be pursued. It is hard to believe that our government is not aware of the repressive legislative and economic initiatives implemented in Colombia in order to create advantageous conditions for corporate interests at the expense of ordinary Colombians. Both the World Bank and Amnesty International have reported that 3.5 Columbians million have been internally displaced, 60% of these from resource-rich territories in order for mega projects to be implemented. The UN calls this the worst humanitarian disaster in the Western Hemisphere and it is growing. How can facts like these be ignored and replaced by a statement such as the one made in your letter? Should Canada allow Canadian business involvement in territories and countries where human rights abuses and terror linked to Governments are used systematically to create advantageous conditions for these corporate interests?
If this Free Trade Agreement is so good, why is it being carried out in a confidential manner, out of sight of public scrutiny and debate? Can you provide a draft of the agreement to interested civil society groups during the process, not merely after it has been fully formulated in tandem with unenforceable “cooperative” side agreements on labour and the environment?
I invite you and your Government to have open debates and discussions with those in Canada (not only corporations) who have direct and reliable knowledge of the situation in Colombia prior to making statements such as those made, and even worse, pursuing an agreement that will, as many have warned, promote further poverty, exploitation, exclusion and terror.
Yours truly,
Peter Shepherd

Toronto, Ontario,

1) http://www.recalca.org.co/aningles.htm
“Civil Society Kept out of FTA Negotiations”

2) http://www.recalca.org.co/aningles.htm
Free Trade Agreement & Labor Rights: Labor provisions do not guarantee protection for workers”

3) http://www.ccic.ca/e/docs/004_commentary_2007-11_colombia.pdf  “
Colombia: a test case for Canada’s ‘principled’ role in the Americas”, Gauri Sreenivasan, Canadian Council for International Co-operation
4)  http://www.amnestyusa.org/Colombia/More_on_Colombia/page.do?id=1011310&n1=3&n2=30&n3=885 <http://www.amnestyusa.org/Colombia/More_on_Colombia/page.do?id=1011310&amp;n1=3&amp;n2=30&amp;n3=885> : “More Information on Colombia”
See also http://canadianlabour.ca/index.php/colombia_projects/1277 , contact Sheila Katz
,   contact Rick Arnold
http://www.ccic.ca/e/home/index.shtml , contact Gauri Sreenivasan, Canadian Council for International Co-operation
http://www.recalca.org.co/aningles.htm , contact recalca@etb.net.co , RECALCA: Colombian Action Network in Response to Free Trade and FTAA.

cc. The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Sheila Katz, Canadian Labour Congress, Rick Arnold, Common Frontiers Canada, Gauri Sreenivasan, Canadian Council for International Cooperation, The Honourable Bev Oda, The Honourable Maxime Bermier, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party, the Honourable Jack Layton, The Honourable Alexa Mcdonough, Honourable Domenic Leblanc, The Honourable Mario Silva, The Honourable Julian Peter, The Honourable Paul Dewar, The Honourable Caroline St-Hilaire, The Honourable Serge Cardin, CBC “As-It-Happens”, CBC “The Current”


Friday, January 25, 2008

Murder of Campesino leader in areas of high militarization and oil exploitation

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator )

                                                                Public Denunciation

Concern caused by the murder of the campesino leader Armando Montañes, in one of the areas with the highest levels of militarization and petroleum exploitation in the Department of Casanare!

The Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training (COS-PACC), the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners Foundation (FCSPP), and the European network for Brotherhood and Solidarity with Colombia (REDHER)
We condemn and bring to the attention of national and international public opinion, the following facts:


The campesinos who live in the area of the foothills of Casanare ,from 2002 until today, as part of the policy of democratic security have been victims of stigmatization and submitted to all kinds of abuses and cruel and inhuman treatment, such as: forced disappearances; murder; torture; threats; arbitrary and illegal detentions, which are only aimed at damaging the image and the good name of the campesinos; as well as forced displacements; actions which have affected the totality of the inhabitants of the region.
In the same way, this past January 18, the organizations signing this note obtained information from the community of the municipality of Aguazul, Casanare, in which we were told of the possible forced disappearance of the campesino leader, an inhabitant of the community of Monterralo, after four armed and masked men opened fire on him as he approached hi dwelling on his farm in that community. These acts occurred on the 16th of January.
We immediately organized a denunciation, with the goal that, based on the exercise of their constitutional authority by the respective state offices, actions could be moved forward to find the leader in question safe and sound. This action was joined by national and international social and human rights organizations.

Profile and background of Armando Montañez

He worked for many years as a leader of ANUC (an organization that was persecuted and eliminated by the activities of the state and the paramilitaries), and at the same time he was president of the Junta de Acción Comunal (Social Action Committee) of El Paraíso. Years back, he suffered accusations by the public security forces of “supposed collaboration with the guerrillas.” This sort of accusation has occurred frequently to many of the inhabitants of Monterralo since in the past, more than five years ago, it was an area with a strong ELN presence.
In addition, some versions of the story point out that three years ago he was threatened by the paramilitary “HK,” who on various occasions expressed his interest in exterminating the Montañez family, including Armando. Three months earlier, related people said that Armando Montañez had been told about possible problems with the DAS (state security) and persecution by the national army.
Two days before the murder he received a call from the prosecutor’s office calling him to a meeting to have a discussion with him about “protection” for him. According to his wife, on Monday, January 14, a person identified as “Doctor Dora”—a supposed functionary of the national attorney general’s office—called him and told him that she needed to meet with him since “she had to ask him some questions.” On Tuesday Armando went to talk with her, and upon returning told his wife that the meeting has gone well for him and that Doctor Dora has given him a telephone number so that he could communicate with her: 091-570-2000, extension 1246.
Late at night on Tuesday, January 15, several members of the community saw three pick-up trucks that they identified as belonging to the GAULA (police special unit on kidnapping). Two of them parked on the main road and one entered a secondary road to the cemetery, stayed a few minutes and returned to the main road. Then the three pick-ups went off in the direction of the city of Aguazul.
The Facts
On Wednesday, January 16, around 6 in the morning he left his house in the town of Monterralo by his nine-year-old son and his worker, José Libardo Jutinicio Gómez (i.d. card 3,207,255, from Tocaima) going to his property, called Caño Limón, about thrity minutes from the Municipal capital of Monterralo, intending to catch a bull calf of his that had wandered onto a neighbor’s property called Zapatosa, Upon finishing this taks, he went to collect oranges with his worker while he sent his son to open the gate of Caño Limón. The son returned immediately, telling Armando that there were two men inside the house. Then the worker went towards the house, and don Armando went behind him. As they approached the house, two men came out fro inside, and two others came out from behind it, dressed in civilian clothes and wearing cut-down rubber boots, and two of them had on ski masks.
The four men opened fire with pistols against don Armando and his son. They ran, followed by three of their attackers. According to witnesses, the man who apparently was the leader of the group yelled to the other three who were following Armando “shoot, don’t let him go, that son of a bitch is the daddy of the Elenos [members of the ELN].” Meanwhile, the worker was put of the ground face down in front of the house by a fourth attacker, young—about 35 years old—slender, with light green eyes, fine features, tall (1.57 meters [about 5’2”]), with white socks, cut-off rubber boots, an accent different from the people of the region, who was not masked, who in his vulgar way told him he was going t kill him and asked if he was an Eleno [member of the ELN guerrillas]
Apparently, don Armando ran several kilometers in the direction of some steep land, and his son managed to escape the attackers. For his part, the attacker who ha kept Armando’s worker at gunpoint left the scene, and immediately the witness fled to a neighboring property and on the way met a son of Armando’s, who asked him why those men wanted to kill them. Upon returning to the settlement he told don Armando’s wife what had happened.
Immediately several members of the community started a search for the body of  don Armando and informed army sergeant Ángel Padilla, who said it was strange because that very day the men of Batallion 44 who were in the area near where this happened had received orders to leave. However, the soldiers came to the property but according to what some members of the community said, their participation in the search for don Armando was indifferent and ineffective. Upon learning about what had happened, sergeant Padilla called doña Leticia, don Armando’s wife, to tell her that they were waiting for the results of the search.
Since by the end of the day they had not managed to find him, on Thursday the 17th the continued the search with success; however, several tho0ugh that don Armando had managed to flee through the stubble. That same day doña Leticia went to the prosecutor’s office in Aguazul to file her complaint, but they sent her to the police. In the police station, a uniformed policeman called Camilo took the information, but did not accept the complaint since the 72 hours necessary to declare don Armando a missing person had not passed.
On Friday the 18th around 8 in the morning members of the community took up the search again, and at 9 AM Daniel Moreno found the body of don Armando in a crag near the property Las Colonias, about two kilometers from Caño Limón, where it had happened. The body was found under a tree, face up, with two bullets in the skull, one of them with the entry wound in the area of the left jaw, and the exit in the right temple. Armando’s face was bloody, one of his arms showed signs of trauma, and the body generally was in an advanced state of decomposition. Next to the body, don Armando’s shirt was found, with a lot of blood. On the path between the property and where the body had been found, they found no traces of blood or cartridges that belonged to the ammunition of the firearms fired by the attackers.
When the body was found the Army cordoned off the area and tried to remove the body on their own, despite the pressure from the family and the Social Corporation for Community Advice and Training (COS-PACC), who communicated with the Casanare regional human rights officer, Doctor Mauricio Mojica; this made it possible to make them stop, so that in the afternoon, around 3 PM, the removal of the body was done by functionaries of the CTI (Technical Investigation Unit of the Attorney general’s Office). It was taken to the morgue of the municipality of Aguazul for the autopsy. In the face of the refusal by Doctor Lina, of the hospital of Aguazal, to carry out the procedure, who argued that she only worked from 8 to 4, and that the municipality was shorthanded—because of the Rice Festival, the autopsy could only be carried out on Saturday, January 19, and the body was handed over to the family at about 11 in the morning of that same day.
This occurred within the framework of a series of complaints b y the community because of the abuses by members of the army who, under the effect of marijuana, mistreat the campesinos, steal their cattle, fish and hens, stay in their homes, call them guerrillas and guerrilla collaborators.
This is not the first case of this type in Monerralo. From the murder of the defenseless 78-year-old Pantaleón Gómez, which happened ten years ago, and whm they tried to present as a guerrilla who was killed by the army, to the recent extrajudicial execution of Alcides Castillo by members of the armed forces, whom they presented in a war briefing as an ELN guerrilla, the region has been devastated by multiple violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the national security organizations.
Nor is it the first case in which members of GAULA have been involved. We must recall the recent case in which two functionaries of this structure whose headquarters is in Yopal, Casanare, were hired to murder a campesino in Villavicencio and in the end were captured in Villanueva and included in a judicial trial.


—That all the actions that pertain to the authorities that have a role be carried out, to safeguard the physical integrity of the eyewitnesses to what happened, their families, the community that participated in the search and the human rights defense organizations that have been accompanying this situation, so that they can stay in their territory and continue in carrying out their work.
—That the Attorney general of the nation undertake a criminal investigation, that the facts be made clear and that afterward in accordance with legal processes, those responsible for the actions that ended the life of Arnaldo Montañez and the activities that those with him suffered, be named and judged.
—That if participation by public officials is discovered, the Inspector general of the nation undertake a disciplinary investigation, that the facts be made clear and that afterward in accordance with legal processes, those responsible for the actions that ended the life of Arnaldo Montañez and the activities that those with him suffered, be named and judged.
—That the security forces carry out their role of safeguarding the life, honor and possessions of the campesinos of the region, and that the paramilitaries who still continue to operate in the department of Casanare, despite its being one of the most militarized zones of Colombia, be captured and punished.
Please communicate with:

Álvaro Uribe Vélez
Presidente de la Republica
Fax: 57-1-566-2071

Francisco Santos.
Vicepresidente de Colombia
Edgardo José Maya Villazón
Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 - 80F Bogotá D.C.
E- mail:

Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz
Defensor del Pueblo
Fax: 57-1-640-0491
Phone: 57-1-314-7300 - Ext: 2112 / 2337

Oficina del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos.[United Nations High Commisioner for Human Rights]
Representante de la oficina del alto comisionado para los derechos humanos en Colombia. [Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia] Office
Juan Pablo Cortazolli.
Calle 114 Nº 9-45, Torre B, of. 1101, Teleport  
Fax: 57-1-6293637

Carlos Franco
Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitaro (Presidential program on Human Rights and on International Humanitarian Law)
Calle 7 N° 5 - 54 Bogotá D.C.
Fax.  57-1-337-4667

Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados –ACNUR (United national High Commission for Refugees- UNHCR
Honorable Señor Francisco Galindo Vélez
Calle 114 Nº 9-01, Torre A, of. 601 Bogotá, D. C.

Honorable Señor Juan Pedro Schaerer
Calle 76 Nº 10-02 Bogotá, D. C.
Teléfono PBX: 3138630

Colombia, January 20 de 2008

redher@redcolombia.org       redeuropea@redcolombia.org

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

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Letter to President Chavez from Colombian NGO's

(Translated by Thomas Kolar, a CSN volunteer translator )

January 17, 2008; Bogota
Hugo Chavez Frias
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Mr. President
We, the civic leaders for peace and the humanitarian organizations for human rights of Colombia that subscribe to this communication, want to express to you and your government our most profound thanks for your humanitarian acts that permitted the unilateral liberation of Consuelo Gonzalez and Clara Rojas and the reunion in freedom of the child Emmanuel.
The indefinite prolongation of the armed conflict and its sad humanitarian consequences for citizens and their human rights demand that many forces work to achieve its termination and the consolidation of peace and democracy in our country. In addition, the peace of Colombia is vital for Latin America and the Caribbean in order to advance regional integration. Thus, we value your participation and the success of your work. The successful liberation of the hostages raises the question of your position on the political recognition of the guerrillas of Colombia. We recognize the necessity of politicizing the armed conflict because a negotiated solution requires political interlocutors with the capacity to negotiate and propose solutions.
A political and negotiated solution is necessary because we are convinced that in Colombia war does not provide a viable way out of this conflict as long as arms are seen as a certain alternative for success. But while we work to advance in this direction it is necessary to regulate actions by the standards of the Geneva Conventions(Article 3 and Protocol II  to these Conventions). The first step in this direction is the liberation of all hostages and the definitive suspension of kidnapping on the part of the guerrillas, since the taking of hostages for political or economic reasons is prohibited by international humanitarian law which the guerrillas must observe whether or not there is a cessation of hostilities by the Colombian state or any other state. Of course, such a recognition is indispensable to advance unilateral acts or humanitarian accords. But, kidnapping is not the only thing. In Colombia, there persist other practices that infringe, not only on international humanitarian rights and law, but also on human rights, many of which qualify as terrorist acts, that compromise to a greater or lesser degree all the actors in the war. Forced displacement, for example, that has brought suffering to about 4 million in the last twenty years. Forced disappearance, extrajudicial executions of civilians disguised as “terrorists killed in combat”, the use of antipersonnel mines, bombardments, aerial attacks, and the use of arms with indiscriminate effect such as cylinder bombs in civilian zones, also the recruitment of young boys and girls; all these form part of the humanitarian and human rights crisis under which Colombia suffers in the midst of this conflict. Thousands of persons are found in mass graves in which have been hidden the victims of the paramilitaries that continue to operate in much of the nation. Almost fifty congressmen are under arrest or being investigated for supporting these actions.
Of course these are terrorist actions that affect the civilian population and violate humanitarian principles. All those responsible ought to be judged and punished for crimes of war and inhumanity. But to call the guerrillas terrorists and not do the same for the paramilitaries or the state is a simplistic form of understanding a conflict with profound historical, social, political, and economic roots and, thus, reducing it to a war of “antiterrorism” eliminates the possibility of dialogue. Rather than declaring the ELN or the FARC to be terrorists or of reclaiming their status as belligerent forces it is necessary at this time for them to have political recognition so as to advance political solutions and to construct respect for international humanitarian law and for human rights.
We, who assist the victims and the hardships of our civil society that wishes to live in peace, reiterate that in Colombia we do not want any international support in this chronic war and prolonged suffering, nor do we want more arms or military assistance, nor do we want support in the armed fight and we are convinced that to polarize more our Colombian society will never contribute to ending the armed conflict.
Mr. President, we thank you for your support to the humanitarian cause of liberating all persons kidnapped and your offer of contributing to finding political solutions for peace in our country. We offer good wishes that your negotiation will successfully restore normal relations between the governments of Colombia and Venezuela(the return of your ambassador to Colombia would be a good step toward thawing relations), and a full observance of the sovereignty and self determination and of an atmosphere of respect and solidarity between our two brotherly peoples.
With our respect and consideration,
The Permanent Assembly of Civil Society for Peace, Office for Human Rights and Displacement CODHES, The Association for the Promotion of Social Alternatives MINGA, The Institute for Studies of Development and Peace INDEPAZ, The Democratic Cultural Foundation, The Corporation for Citizenship, Peaceful Planet.

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

Monday, January 21, 2008

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Parliament of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1A 0A9

Dear Members of Parliament,

For almost two decades, the United States and Canada have been closely
linked economically, first through the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement,
and later the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now, our respective
governments are negotiating trade agreements with many of the same
countries. These agreements will no doubt have an impact on both our
respective economies and on our unique bilateral relationship. It is in
this light that we would very much like to open a continuing dialogue
with you about our respective trade policies and exchange views about
the kind of policies needed to promote broadly shared benefits for the
people of the United States, of Canada, and of our trading partners.

Last year, the United States concluded negotiations and signed a
bilateral free trade agreement with Colombia. Even though the White
House has not yet submitted the agreement to Congress for consideration,
it has already generated considerable controversy and debate. While we
support trade with Colombia, we have very serious concerns about
deepening and making permanent that economic relationship at this time
and with this agreement. First, we are disturbed by the human rights
situation in the country, and the fact that many of these horrific
crimes are committed with impunity. The ongoing repression of workers is
of particular concern and is an issue that no labor chapter in a trade
agreement will fix. Second, we simply do not believe that the trade
agreement will foster the broad-based economic development needed in
Colombia or that it will generate substantial economic opportunities at

It is our understanding that Canada is close to or has concluded
negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement with Peru, Colombia and
South Korea. We understand that these agreements are similar in many
respects to our own. We would like to share some of our concerns
regarding the U.S-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. These concerns, we
believe, are equally applicable to the Canada-Colombia FTA.

    * Labor: Colombia continues to lead the world in the number of
murdered trade unionists. In 2007 alone, thirty eight labor activists
were murdered. . Of the 2,262 labor activists murdered between 1991 and
2006, almost 400 were killed during the Uribe Administration. And these
murders are committed with impunity - 97% remain unsolved. The ILO has
also repeatedly criticized both the failure of Colombia to adopt laws
consistent with the core labor standards and to enforce what domestic
labor laws it does have. The combined result has been a steep decline in
union density in the country.

    * Corruption: Several members of Congress and high-ranking officials
closely allied with President Alvaro Uribe have been arrested or are
under investigation for their links with paramilitaries. In Colombia,
paramilitary organizations have been linked to egregious human rights
violations, including massacres and narcotrafficking. In October 2007,
Mario Uribe, a cousin of President Alvaro Uribe, resigned from the
Senate to avoid an inquiry by the Supreme Court into his alleged ties to
paramilitaries. The government has already proposed a plan to release
these politicians with little or no sanction whatsoever.

    * Demobilization: The government has taken some steps to dismantle
the paramilitary structures in Colombia. However, the flawed process has
contributed to thousands of former paramilitary members never truly
demobilizing and has led to the creation of new and dangerous criminal
organizations. Recent reports from the Organization of American States
have noted the resurgence of new paramilitary groups.
    * These groups are found throughout the country and, while assuming
distinct organizational frameworks, many of them continue the legacy of
the paramilitaries, including narcotics trafficking, death threats, and

    * Extra-judicial executions: Murders committed by state actors
remain a very serious and under-reported problem. The Washington Office
on Latin America recently reported that human rights groups in Colombia
have collected detailed information on a total of 577 cases of
extrajudicial execution between July 1997 and June 2002. The same
organizations detailed 955 cases over the last five years, an increase
in executions of nearly 66%. From July 2006 to June 2007, extra-judicial
executions have taken place in nearly all of Colombia's departments.

Additionally, we have concerns about the impact of certain chapters of
the U.S.-Colombia FTA. Of particular concern are the chapters on:
services, investment, procurement, intellectual property and agriculture.

We believe that no trade agreement with Colombia is acceptable at this
time. We have also learned that many Colombians, including
representatives of organized labor, indigenous and afro-Colombian
communities, small farmers, and religious leaders strongly oppose this
agreement. We urge you to consider these important issues, which no
doubt will also arise in the debate over the Canada-Colombia FTA. We
welcome any opportunity to commence a more detailed discussion on this
agreement and on trade policy generally.

Michael H. Michaud
Betty Sutton
Phil Hare
Linda Sánchez
Nancy Boyda
Keith Ellison
Marcy Kaptur
Members of Congress

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, January 16, 2008


(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)

By Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo
Bogotá, January 11, 2008
Millions of Colombians live in conditions of risk. For decades, every rainy season, more and more inhabited areas flood and the landslides that crush people increase. Other communities await catastrophe in the slopes of the active volcanoes and it must be more than 80% of the buildings that are constructed without seismic resistance techniques. En Armero 25 thousand people dies in an announced massacre that could have been avoided, and in Manizales, for example, there are 2,7000 dwellings in the mountains that never should have been built. And no one has been held responsible for a number of disasters that some call "natural," but are more social and political, and that they take advantage of as demagogues while they give poor attention to the affected people.
In contrast, the eradication of the urban center of Marmato, Caldas, a town where there had never been a death because of flood, landslide or earthquake, goes on in silence. It's three decades now since INGEOMINAS declared the town to be a "risk zone."  Very diligente, in 2006 the Office of Environmental and Agrarian Affairs of the Inspector General's Office, through an appeal to legal protection, demanded that the Administrative Tribunal of Caldas declare the zone to be "high risk," and order its evacuation and relocation, a senseless demand that the Tribunal rejected. And there were plenty of pressures and money used to move the municipality to a point called El Llano, where they built some dwellings and moved the legal office, the civil registry and the municipal legal office.
What is pushing the moving of a 470-year-old settlement, with two thousand inhabitants, including Afro-Colombians and indigenous people, that in 1982 was declared part of the Historical Inheritance of the Nation? Why destroy the buildings, which include 315 residences, 58 businesses, 118 shops and 23 institutions (schools, church, municipal government, etc.), as well as the culture of a unique community that is resisting the destruction of place where they are their elders created their homes and traditions? What is the standard that authorizes this forced displacement? Why is it that in this case they are so worried about a risk that has evidently been exaggerated?
The "crime" of the people of Marmato is that the settlement lies in the foothills of El Burro, a mountain where the Canadian transnational company Colombia Goldfields Limited, the owner of the Compañía Minera de Caldas ("Caldas Mining Company"). Expects to extract 375 thousand pounds of gold starting in 2011, through open pit exploitation with an unusual environmental impact. They will certainly also demand, but later, getting rid of the rest of the 8,500 inhabitants of the municipality. The affected area includes 32,000 hectares and covers the neighboring municipality of Caramanta, Antioquia.
In order to take over the gold of Maramato, which has been extracted since before the Spanish Conquest, Colombia Goldfields has bought the rights of about a hundred small miners, and expects to get the rights of another 150 through specious arguments, despite the fact that in 1954 this area was declared to be for small-scale mining, which left other areas (and it would be strange if the company were not to monopolize it later), for large-scale exploitation. According to what one person from Maramato said, they used "apocalyptic threats of a total disaster, while the multinational was buying up centuries-old possessions (including the buildings within the urban center) at ridiculous prices." And to further pressure them, the municipal authority over mining was removed, the legalization of 150 new mines that was in process was suspended, and they set up obstacles to obtaining the dynamite that their works needed.
The vicepresident of the Comapñía Minera de Caldas wrote to the Minster of Mines, Hernán Martínez (Dec. 1, 2006), that their project required "integrating" 250 mines, that that was "a responsibility of the ministry you are in charge of" and that it required that "the granting of titles in the area be suspended," and that he be "flexible" with the "reasons for suspending" the current exploitations. Can it be a coincidence that that a pro-big mining reform of the mining law is being promoted in the Congress, one that includes the integration of small works into the large ones, and which allows in just thirty days the expropriation of any building that disturbs a mining business? Is it false that that the removing of the village "has the support of the government?" http://www.valoro.net/article.php?sid=86
And for damages whose costs are incalculable the transnational will pay commissions of only one per cent, because the law orders them to pay only four per cent and because in taking the rights of the small miners they won an exemption of 70 per cent.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Serious Threats from Presumed Paramilitary Personnel Against the Leaders of Santander Association of Public Workers

( Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)

On Friday December 21, 2007, at 4 pm in the township of  Los Santos Santander the mayor elected for the period beginning 2008, Orlando Arenas Mendoza, was detained for corruption and ties to the paramilitary groups, while his brother, Carlos Mendoza Arenas, the mayor immediately preceding him, managed to escape. He was detained on December 24 for the same charges as his brother. This was achieved through the struggle of, and insistent denunciations by, ASTDEMP and the Guayacanes Corporation to the Prosecutor’s office 20 in the city of Bucaramanga. When they were arrested they threatened ASTDEMP, saying that the union would be paid back, that this would not end here and that they are not alone.
This threat worries us a good deal, since our organization defends the rights of its members and denouncing the corruption in the townships of Santander and Los Santos has meant facing threats of death in writing and by phone, torture, and stigmatization to the point that we are the military objective of the paramilitary group called the Black Eagles, according to a pamphlet sent to the union office on October 16, 2007.
The paramilitary group called Black Eagles, for unknown reasons, alleges that their interests are suffering because of the charge of corruption and also popular vindicative struggle. They threaten that there will be reprisals against ASTDEMP and its members, who, according to the paramilitary groups’ pamphlet, will determine that these reprisals not reach extremes. They will have to respect the prohibitions, that is: leaving the Department, not denouncing the mayors’ corruption, and accepting all violations of human and labor rights that they carry out against workers and the population in general.


1.   In the name of the Santander Association of Public Workers ASTEDEMP, we ask that the federal Attorney General, before whom we have denounced these facts; the Ministries of Social Protection and the Interior; the Public Defender; the federal Procurator’s office, and the authorities; immediately investigate these threats, end them, and sanction those responsible, in order not to have to lament afterwards facts that have already been put forward by ASTEDEMP.
2.   That the Colombian government offer guarantees of safety to members in the township of Los Santos Santander, in order to preserve the life and well-being of our compañeros and allow them to continue exercising the free right to association, as our political constitution and international law guarantee.
3.    Also, we ask all social and popular organizations that they urgently demand of the official offices mentioned that they investigate and sanction those responsible.
4.   We ask that the national and international human rights movements stand in solidarity with ASTDEMP and its leaders, especially the compañeros Alix Rodríguez Uribe, Luis Enrique Pérez Pérez, Benito Almeida Peñaloza, and Wilson Mantilla, and that they express the need for immediate protection so that they, fulfilling their obligation in the exercise of union rights, participate in efforts to solve the problems presented legally and legitimately to the authorities and diverse sectors of the population; in this case, the population of the township of Santos Santander.

Executive Board

Please send urgent letters to the following e-mails and addresses:
Presidencia de la República                                    Central Unitaria de Trabajadores CUT
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez                                    Calle 35. No. 7-25 piso 9,
Cra. 8 No..7-26, Palacio de Nariño,                            Tel. 3237550. Bogotá
Santa fe de Bogotá.                                    E-mail: presidencia@cut.org.co
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71
E-mail: auribe@presidencia.gov.co
Vicepresidencia de la República
Dr. Francisco Santos

Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario.
Dr.  Carlos Franco
 Calle 7 N° 5-54
TEL: (+571) 336.03.11
FAX: (+57 1)  337.46.67
E- mail: cefranco@presidencia.gov.co

Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

Representante Permanente de la OIT en Colombia
Dr. Marcelo Castro Fox
Dirección: Av. 82. No. 12-18. Oficina: 504.
Teléfono: 623 75 86 -Bogotá D.C.
E-mail: castrofox@oit.org.pe <mailto:castrofox@oit.org.pe>
Procuraduría General de la Nación
Dr.  Edgardo José Maya Villazón
Carrera 5 No. 15-80
Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1)342.97.23
E-mail: reygon@procuraduria.gov.co; anticorrupcion@presidencia.gov.co
Fiscalía General de la Nación
Dr.  Mario Aguarán
Diagonal 22 B No.52-01
Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax:  (+571) 570 20 00
E-mail: contacto@fiscalia.gov.co;  denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co

Unidad de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario
E - mail: elbsilva@fiscalia.gov.co

Defensoría del Pueblo
Dr.  Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz.
Calle 55 No. 10-32
Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax:  (+571) 640 04 91
                                                      Bucaramanga,  December 25, 2007

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



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