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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Community radio station in Tiquisio, Colombia receives paramilitary threaat

IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community


23 April 2008

Community radio organizer, previously smeared by army, receives new
paramilitary death threat

SOURCE: The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, (AMARC)

(AMARC/IFEX) - New death threats against social media communicators,
religious leaders and members of social organisations in the Middle
Magdalena (Magdalena Medio) region in the southern area of Bolívar
department, have been denounced in a 21 April 2008 joint press release by
several social, religious and human rights organisations.

The new threat, received by e-mail on19 April, was signed by the "Aguilas
Negras" (Black Eagles), a wing of the northern block of the Autodefensas
Unidas de Colombia paramilitary group. The threat said, "from today
forward, consider yourselves dead guerrillas, you sons of bitches; ask the
media to save you, you sons of bitches of anarchists, you bunch of bandits
of the FARC and the ELN." (Ed.note: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) and the
National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberación Nacional, ELN) are
Colombia's two largest guerrilla groups.)

The social and religious organisations' press release noted that one of
those mentioned in the new paramilitary threat, Fr. Rafael Gallego, who is
in charge of Eco de Tiquisio community radio station, "has been the target
of persistent smears and persecution by members of the Nariño battalion of
the National Army (Batallón Nariño del Ejército Nacional), about which the
Office of the Prosecutor General (Fiscalía General de la Nación), Attorney
General's Office (Procuraduría General de la Nación) and the national
government have all been informed."

The cosignatories to the joint press release asked the Colombian
authorities to investigate the threats and punish those responsible, "given
the gravity and persistence of these threats, in which people that will be
the target of attacks are individually identified," and to "adopt prompt,
serious and effective measures, to be agreed upon with those in danger, in
order to protect the lives, physical safety and freedom of the people and
organisations affected by these threats."

Updates the Gallego case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92801 <http:///>

For further information, contact Gustavo Gómez, Director, Communication
Rights and Legislation Programme, AMARC Latin America and the Caribbean
(AMARC-LAC), Luis de la Peña 484 Ap.2, 11900 Montevideo, Uruguay, tel: +598
2 309 2824, +598 99 660373, e-mail: gusgomez@chasque.apc.org <http:///> , Internet:
http://legislaciones.amarc.org <http:///>

The information contained in this update is the sole responsibility of
AMARC. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit
555 Richmond St. West, # 1101, PO Box 407
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 3B1
tel: +1 416 515 9622    fax: +1 416 515 7879
alerts e-mail: alerts@ifex.org <http:///>     general e-mail: ifex@ifex.org <http:///>
Internet site: http://www.ifex.org/ <http:///>

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

Letter from the Victims Movement to Costa Rica ref Uribe's cousin

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN  volunteer translator)
Martes, 22 de abril de 2008.
Your Excellency, Mr. Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Costa Rica in Colombia
The signatories below, from organizations belonging to the Committee for the Fomenting of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, members of social organizations, defenders of human rights, and Colombian citizens in general, through this letter respectfully approach you, to ask that political asylum be denied to the ex-Senator of Colombia, Mario Uribe Escobar. He is currently being tried for his collaboration with the Colombian paramilitary, a structure responsible for high crimes against humanity, whose principal chief, Salvatore Mancuso, has recognized the direct involvement of Uribe Escobar in their criminal actions.
The nature of the crimes committed by paramilitary organizations in Colombia allows us to conclude that theirs are high crimes against humanity, which have largely been covered up by the blanket of impunity. This has implied not carrying out the obligations of investigating, prosecuting, judging, and sanctioning those responsible, intellectuals and political, social, economic, and cultural beneficiaries, according to the terms established by the American Convention of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically regarding the obligation of guaranteeing protection, justice, impartial and due process, at a minimum, for the victims.
These serious crimes have affected peaceful coexistence, social harmony, and juridical, political, and military security. They have given rise to a feeling of lack of protection by the victims, their families and friends, among the political, social, agricultural, and human rights organizations and in the community in which the social fabric, constructed a thousand years ago, has been broken.
According to international human rights theory, when we speak of high crimes against humanity we refer at a minimum to the following behaviors: individual or collective executions of a summary nature, detentions-disappearances, torture, ethnocide and genocide, and the decision to commit these acts, when they have as a goal any of the previous ones, among others. These crimes imply an intent against the community in general and against humanity on the planet in all senses; here universal law makes sense, not conceding pardons, amnesty, stopping proceedings, inhibitory judgements, etc., or any other legal benefit.
The high crimes against humanity committed by paramilitary groups from 2002 to 2006 have been calculated to be about 3,015, according to the information distributed by the Colombian Commission of Jurists. In particular, those committed on the Atlantic coast are described in the following table:
Department                         Year  2002   2003   2004   2005
Antioquia                                  133      97        43     16   
 Arauca                                 15      41       31     26   
 Atlántico  6  44  11  13   
 Bolívar  14  79  31  8   
 Boyacá  Nr  4  3  1   
 Caldas  43  34  30  25   
 Caquetá  4  3  0  1   
 Casanare  0  3  4  3   
 Cauca  39  16  5  5   
 Cesar  8  36  20  4   
 Chocó  12  28  5  3   
 Córdoba  2  31  18  3   
 Cundinamarca  2  42  7  6   
 Bogotá  1  6  9  16   
 Guaviare  1  3  30  3   
 Huila  6  35  9  11   
 La Guajira  5  8  6  6   
 Magdalena  11  125  16  16   
 Meta  16  44  42  32   
 Nariño  4  8  4  7   
 Norte de Santander  21  124  19  3   
 Putumayo  3  1  10  7   
 Risaralda  8  21  37  7   
 Santander  62  154  37  14   
 Sucre  2  8  10  25   
 Tolima  6  36  44  19   
 Valle  33  37  57  12   
 Vichada  0  0  1  0
Mario Uribe Escobar is a politician in Antioquia of the Colombian Democratic Party, first cousin to the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Vélez, founder and spokesperson for his party, and ex-president of the Senate. Currently he is under investigation for conspiring to commit crimes, which is aggravated by his presumed connections to paramilitary organizations, presumed meetings with these illegal groups, and presumed paramilitary support in his electoral campaign.
Ex-Senator Mario Uribe Escobar was linked to the trial through information gathered eight years ago from ex-paramilitary Jairo Castillo Peralta. Based on that testimony, it was established that Uribe Escobar attended several meetings in Antioquia, Córdoba, and Sucre, presumably in order to gain land with paramilitary organizations in Antioquia and Sucre, which made him a large landowner. According to Castillo, “the strategy was to intimidate the landowners in order to buy their land from them cheaply . . . ”
In the information given by the General Registry of the Civil State, it is pointed out that among the list of 168 candidates for the Senate in 2002, members of different opposition parties, such as the Liberal Party, the Democratic Alternative Pole, were to be found, as well as from other political organizations that oppose those parties that support paramilitary organizations. Approximately 40% of the candidates were members of the opposition. They were affected no only by the economic contributions of paramilitary groups, but also by the political support that they offered in the region and the use they made of illegal tools such as threats and constraints in this region.[fn 1]
In the free version given before the Unity of Justice and Peace, Salvatore Mancuso testified under oath about his meetings with and political support of Uribe Escobar with the goal of getting him into the Congress of the Republic. He also asserted that ex-Representative Eleonora Piñeda Arcía was one of his witnesses; she later confirmed this, as is public knowledge.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court of Justice began a preliminary investigation of Mario Uribe Escobar on July 11, 2007. He was called in September 2007 (to testify on October 8, 2007) for presumed support of paramilitary organizations in his political career and in the acquisition of more than 5,000 hectares of land; on October 4, 2007, he resigned from Congress and the criminal investigation was referred to the ordinary justice system; he was replaced in congress by Ricardo Aljure; on December 5, 2007 he testified before the Attorney General of the Nation’s office and today, when the Attorney General’s office has imposed security measures on him, he has turned to desecrate the sacred institution of political asylum, in order to attempt to avoid justice.
Conspiracy to Commit Serious Crimes Cannot Be Considered a Political Crime

In its July 11, 2007 verdict, the Honorable Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia established a clear difference between political crime and conspiracy to commit serious crime (the crime that covers and penalizes paramilitary activity since the reform of the penal code in 2000, which eliminated the crimes that referred specifically to the term “paramilitarism”). The court recognizes the impossibility of equating conspiracy to commit a serious crime with sedition, which is a political crime. It supports this difference with in-depth arguments about the juridical nature of these crimes, as well as with convincing reasons based on the constitution, law, jurisprudence, and doctrine, and on the very  theory of the crime.
This decision by the Supreme Court is so firm that in the same verdict it provided that judicial officers can even use the exceptionality rule of inconstitutionality for substantive reasons, which consists of refusing to apply a norm because it is openly contrary to the Constitution whenever the paramilitaries are treated as seditious.
It should also be underscored that the judgment includes a long and in-depth list of arguments that provide evidence for the necessity of guaranteeing victims’ rights to truth, justice and full recompense, and to have effective access to justice, so that the State investigates, judges, and punishes those responsible for crimes; so that it is really true that there is no impunity.
It should be emphasized that this sentence also clearly supports international human rights agreements, sentences of the Interamerican Court, provisions of the International Penal Statutes, among others. It is time that the national tribunals of Colombia assume the historic challenge of basing their decisions on international human rights law and on international humanitarian law for the strengthening and legitimizing of justice, fundamental pillar of any democratic state and of law.
The national government, headed by the President of the Republic, as was to be expected—if we base ourselves on experience—has disqualified not only the sentence itself but also the Supreme Court, foolishly accusing it of having “ideological bias” and of not contributing to peace because of not working in harmony with the other branches of public power. Such a disqualification, besides being untrue and not speaking well of the president, constitutes an unauthorized involvement of the executive branch in the judicial branch that affects or attempts to affect the independence and impartiality that should characterize the courts. Now, his first cousin, Senator Mario Uribe Escobar, is knocking on Costa Rica’s door, petitioning for political asylum, when the crimes for which he is being investigated cannot be seen in any way as political.
The Right to Seek and Receive Asylum

The regulations for the right to asylum may be found in the Convention of Caracas of 1854 and in the VII International American Conference in Montevideo in 1954.
International American law has endorsed the criterion that each state has the right to give asylum or not. Nevertheless, there are limitations, such as the one contained in the UN resolution on territorial asylum from 1967, according to which it is established that asylum will not be given for common crimes or for acts contrary to the principles of the United Nations:
“No person shall be allowed to invoke the right to seek asylum, or to enjoy it, who is suspected on the basis of evidence of having committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, of those defined in the international agreements adopted with respect to such crimes.”
And it is impossible not to recognize that there is evidence, when the Colombian Attorney General’s office, after having listened to it in hearings for acquittal, imposed a security measure against Uribe Escobar. As a result, it would not only bring harm to international law, but with greater duress, it would also be a violation of our rights as victims of high crimes against humanity, to go to the extreme of offering political asylum to a person like Mario Uribe Escobar, who has been tried for very serious crimes that still occur in our country, which have violated the conscience of humankind.
This limitation is found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in article 14 establishes that:
“1. In case of persecution, all persons have a right to seek asylum, and enjoy it, in any country;
2. This right cannot be invoked against a judicial action that truly originated in common crimes or in acts that oppose the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”
It is evident and eloquent that Mario Uribe Escobar has attempted to use this institution of international law with the single intention of evading fulfillment of the security measure against him, a legitimate and legal measure that competent juridical organisms of Colombia have imposed. It is impossible to arrive at a different conclusion when one observes that the petition was presented moments after notice of imposition of the security measure against him was announced in Colombia. Thus, Uribe Escobar has prevented the possibility of carrying out justice, by petitioning for political asylum, in our judgment completely without precedent.
According to this logic, the Honorable Interamerican Commission for Human Rights, in an opinion dated October 20, 2000 [fn 2], recommended to the member states of the OAS, “( . . . ) that they not offer asylum to presumed actual or intellectual perpetrators of international crimes.”According to this, the member States accepted:
“that there are limitations to asylum, according to which such protection may not be awarded to persons about whom there are serious indications to consider that they have committed international crimes, such as high crimes against humanity (a concept that includes the forced disappearance of persons, torture, and summary executions), war crimes, and crimes against peace.”
And it affirmed that to offer asylum to persons who abandon their country in order to elude their sentence and accept responsibility for being the material and intellectual perpetrators of international crimes constitutes a total betrayal of the institution.
As you can see, Your Excellency, Mr. Ambassador, we ask nothing else than to honor the content of the fundamental article 31 of the Constitution.
Article 31. The territory of Costa Rica will be an asylum for all persons persecuted for political reasons. If for legal reasons their expulsion is ordered, they cannot be sent to the country in which they were persecuted.
Extradition will be regulated by law or by international treaties and will never occur in cases of political crimes or connected to them, according to the judgement of Costa Rica.
Because of which, we most respectfully ask the government of the Republic of Costa Rica, to deny the petition for political asylum submitted by the accused criminal Mario Uribe Escobar.
Organizations of the Committee to Foment a National Movement for Victims of State Crimes
fn 1. http://www.registraduria.gov.co/Elecciones/te_senado1.htm

 fn 2. CIDH, “El Asilo y su relación con los crímenes internacionales ”. 20 de octubre de 2000 . OEA/Ser./L/V/II.111, Doc. 20 Rev., en Informe Anual de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos 2000, Washington . OEA, 16 abril 2001.
More reasons for saying no to asylum for Mario Uribe: www.movimientodevictimas.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

Monday, April 28, 2008

Victims Movement writes to the International Criminal Court

( Translated by Amy Rose Pekol, a CSN volunteer translator)

Bogotá, April 10, 2008

 Mr. Jose Luis Ocampo
 Public Prosecutor
International Criminal Court
 Dear Sir:
 The National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) sends you its kind regards.
 This open letter is to inform you of the following events that have occurred in Colombia:
  1. On April 2, 2008, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in favor of the request to extradite Mr. Carlos Mario Jiménez, alias 'Macoco,' to the United States for drug-trafficking crimes.   Mr. Jiménez was a leader of the paramilitary group, AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), and participated in the Justice and Peace Law (Law 975, which passed in 2005).  Last week, the Colombian government authorized his extradition to the United States.  Carlos Mario Jiménez is one of the most powerful paramilitary leaders.  Approximately 7,000 men in ten different departments of the country, collectively known as the Central Bolívar Bloc, acted under his command.  In one of these zones alone, in the Putumayo department, the Colombian Attorney General estimates the existence of more than 3,000 mass graves.  The bodies buried in these 3,000-plus mass graves represent only a fraction of the thousands of Macaco's victims.  In addition to vast territorial control, this paramilitary leader's power encompasses immense riches derived from drug-trafficking administration, gold mine ownership, palm oil cultivations, enormous extensions of land taken from peasants and asset laundering.
  2. One of the Colombian government's arguments for authorizing this extradition is that, in spite of being in jail and having supposedly contributed the demobilization of paramilitary structures under his control, Mr. Jiménez continued breaking the law from jail and many of his paramilitary groups have continued their activities using other names.  However, as it is widely known, by failing to meet the requirements of the provisions of Law 975 (2005), he should have lost the benefits that had been given to him under these norms and been placed under that statute.
  3. Facing the impending extradition order, MOVICE issued an appeal for a civil rights action requesting a temporary suspension of the extradition to ensure that this former paramilitary leader first answers to the  regular Colombian criminal justice system in regards to the thousands of crimes he has committed, reveals the identity of his leaders and accomplices, is sentenced and provides reparation for the victims.
  4. In a public speech on April 9, 2008, the Attorney General, Edgardo Maya Villazón, expressed his full support for the victims and their demand that the Colombian government suspends the extradition process of Mr. Jiménez until Colombian judicial proceedings first take effect in order to satisfy the rights to truth, justice and reparation.
  5. For those paramilitary leaders and members complicit in crimes against humanity, MOVICE believes that the inability to comply with Law 975 (2005) should result in a loss of benefits granted under this law and placement under ordinary justice.  Considering all of these facts, we would like to point out that the case of Mr. Carlos Mario Jiménez represents an open violation of the rights to truth, justice and reparation for thousands of people in Colombia and a situation of impunity for crimes against humanity contemplated in the Statute of Rome that governs the International Criminal Court.  We would also like to remind you there are strong indications that Carlos Mario Jiménez continued committing these crimes after he demobilized and that some of them would have been committed during the time that the Statute of Rome was in effect in Colombia.

Mr. Attorney General, we know that you have been carefully following the application of the Justice and Peace Law, just as you have applied the law in all the situations that have arisen under your jurisdiction in our country.  We are sending you this information so that there is written evidence of these events and they become part of the documentation you have on Colombia.
 Comité de Impulso
 Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado
 (National Movement of Victims of State Crimes)

An Open Letter to the Media: Interpol Analysis of FARC Laptop Authenticity Will Not ³Prove=?ISO-8859-1?B?siA=?=Links Between Venezuela, Rebels

Colombian interpretation of documents discredited by analysts, OAS Secretary General

      April 27, 2008      By Authors Many   
Later this month, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) will publicly determine the "authenticity" of laptops recovered from a rebel encampment in Ecuador after a March 1 raid on the camp by the Colombian government. Based on previous press coverage of the incursion and the documents, we are concerned that the media take extreme care in interpreting the Interpol findings.  In the first round of media coverage of the event, significant problems of inconsistency surfaced precisely as a result of the gap between Colombia's exaggerations and what the documents actually say. 

Even if the laptops are found to have belonged to members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), there is no evidence that the publicly available documents support any of the extreme claims by the Colombian government that Venezuela and Ecuador had any sort of financial relationship with the rebels. In fact, independent analyses of the documents indicate that the Colombian government has substantially exaggerated their contents, perhaps for political purposes. Any media coverage of the Interpol findings must make clear that many of the Colombian allegations have already been largely discredited.

The Colombian interpretation has already proven so weak that OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, testifying before the House Subcommittee on Western Hemispheric Affairs on April 10, stated unequivocally that there is "no evidence" linking Venezuela to the Colombian rebels, yet Insulza's statement has gone virtually unreported in the English language press.

Analysts cite three primary flaws in the Colombian government's charges linking Venezuela and the FARC:

The "Dossier":  The notion that the Venezuelan government provided—or intended to provide—$300 million to the FARC is based exclusively on this passage from a letter sent to the FARC secretariat from Raul Reyes:

"With relation to the 300, which from now on we will call "dossier," efforts are now going forward at the instructions of the boss to the cripple which I will explain in a separate note"

There is no clear description of what the "300" represents. While the Colombians claim it is a reference to three hundred million dollars, it could just as easily refer to three hundred hostages. Note that this letter was dated December 23, 2007—two weeks before the first wave of FARC hostage releases.

The Contact: To believe that Hugo Chavez was providing material support to the FARC—beyond his role as a hostage negotiator—one must accept the premise that the person referred in the FARC documents under the code name "Angel" is indeed Hugo Chavez. Yet the documents reference both "Angel" and "Chavez"—sometimes in the same paragraph. It appears that the documents are referring to two different people.

The Timing: The most extensive evaluation of the available documents has been done by Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy. In addition to the concerns above, Isacson concluded that the uptick in communication between the Venezuelan government and the FARC coincided almost exclusively with the timeframe in which Chavez had been invited to mediate hostage negotiations.

As Isacson put it, "When considered in chronological order, the guerrilla communications regarding Hugo Chávez and Venezuela appear to reveal a relationship that was cordial but distant until the fall of 2007," exactly the time that negotiations began.

Note too that other laptop-related Colombian allegations have already been proven false or dubious. Notably, claims that the FARC were conspiring to build a "dirty bomb" were publicly dismissed by the U.S. government as well as terrorism experts throughout the region. Also Colombia's allegations that a photo found in the laptops showed a meeting between FARC leaders and an Ecuadorian cabinet official were also proved to be false.

The discussion here is about state support of terrorism, and in the current political climate the stakes could not be higher. Given the sensitivity and potential implications for peace within hemisphere, it is crucial that the media exercise a more critical eye in its reporting than has been demonstrated to date. Any fair-minded coverage of the upcoming Interpol announcement would make clear that the authentication of the laptops does not mean the validation of the Colombian interpretation of their contents, and should make note both of the independent analyses of the documents and the statement from the OAS Secretary General.


Charles Bergquist, University of Washington, Seattle

Larry Birns, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Amy Chazkel, Queens College, City University of New York

Avi Chomsky, Salem State College

Luis Duno Gottberg , Florida Atlantic University

James Early, TransAfrica Forum Board of Directors and Institute for Policy Studies Board of Directors
Samuel Farber, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Sujatha Fernandes, Queens College, City University of New York
Lesley Gill, American University

Greg Grandin, New York University

 Daniel Hellinger, Webster University

Forrest Hylton, New York University

 Diane Nelson, Duke University

 Jocelyn Olcott, Duke University

Diana Paton, University of Newcastle, UK

Fred Rosen, North American Congress on Latin America

T.M Scruggs, University of Iowa

Sinclair Thomson, New York University

Miguel Tinker Salas, Pomona College

 Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research

John Womack, Harvard University

For instance, The Washington Post claimed in a 5 March editorial that  "Chávez had recently given the group $300 million" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/06/AR2008030604091_2.html );  days later, the New York Times reported that "Colombian officials have said that information seized in the raid shows that the Venezuelan government may have channeled about $300 million to the FARC.' (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B04E1DF1638F937A25750C0A96E9C8B63&scp=3&sq=colombia+300+FARC&st=nyt <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B04E1DF1638F937A25750C0A96E9C8B63&amp;scp=3&amp;sq=colombia+300+FARC&amp;st=nyt> )." See our discussion in this letter below of the source of this erroneous interpretation. 

"OAS chief to US Congress: no Venezuela-terrorist link," AFP, March 10, 2008. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5ipNXwHOq34tlujMqpPj9OZVXwznw

"$300 Million from Chavez to FARC a Fake," by Greg Palast, TomPaine..Com http://www.gregpalast.com/300-million-from-chavez-to-farc-a-fake/

See "About those FARC Documents..." by Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy http://www.cipcol.org/?p=556 and "A Fairy Tale from a Guerilla Laptop," by Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy http://www.cipcol.org/?p=555

"About those FARC Documents..." by Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy http://www.cipcol.org/?p=556

"Colombia links uranium to FARC rebels," by Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2008. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-dirtybomb27mar27,1,5981373.story
"Unraveling the 'New' FARC Announcement," Inter Press Service, April 4, 2008 http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41870

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The actions of the paramilitaries and the armed forces continue in the Peace Community of San Jose.

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)


            Uraba continues to live under the terror of paramilitarism, with the total complicity of the armed forces.  They say in speeches that paramilitarism no longer exists, that they are fighting it.  Nevertheless the reality that we have been living for 11 years is totally different.  It's a state that acts with the logic of death, and that is why our obligation to history is to make a record of all of these acts that have victimized us.
            * Thursday, April 24 at 11 am, in the settlement of Los Mandarinos (an hour and a half from Arenas Altas, a town that is part of our Community), two men dressed in civilian clothes and carrying pistols stopped Emilio Vasquez (a member of our community) Juan Goez and Ever Goez.  The two men identified themselves as Black Eagles.  They told them that if they saw them again they would kill them, that everybody in the area was nothing but guerrillas.  Advancing slowly, they pressed their guns against the heads of the three and threatened them, saying that it would be better to kill them right now because later they might not have the opportunity.  After that, they told them to get going and that now they know what will happen to them if they ever see them again.  All of this took place with the Army looking on.  There is a paramilitary checkpoint at that place.  It is always manned by people in civilian clothes, accompanied by the Army, the same as what goes on in Nueva Antioquia.
            * Sunday, April 20 at 4:30 pm in San Jose, Alberto Garcia was accosted by four paramilitaries.  They told him that they were offering to buy his farm and if he refused, they would have to negotiate with his widow.  They said he was really too nice a man to kill.  He answered that he wouldn't sell the farm and they told him that he had time to think about it.  They said it was their job to clean out the whole area and that he ought to realize that they were not to be fooled with.  Besides, they were buying farms because the whole area will belong to them.  These four men were in San Jose from 10 am until 6pm and talked to the police on several occasions.
            * April 19 at 3 pm, Amanda Usuga was stopped in the bus terminal by members of the police force.  They told her that she was the person they had been looking for.  They wrote down her name and her identifying information.  A driver who was standing there told the police officers that they were writing down names to give to the paramilitaries  so that they could kill them.  The police officer told him that that was right but it was because they had been ordered to do it.  Amanda was carrying the groceries for the children in the school in San Josesito.  The school is supported by Cooking Without Borders and they have been the target of several persecutions and scams on the part of the armed forces.
            These actions speak for themselves, belying the other reality of the killers who are trying to confuse what is really going on in the area and in our community.  The advance of the paramilitaries, aided by the government, is total and shameless.  Nevertheless, we continue to resist their logic of death and we won't concede even one space to these murderers.
            Our principles are our means of expressing another reality and to counteract this logic of robbery, murder, fear, and impunity that is generated by the rule of paramilitarism imposed by the government in Uraba.  We will continue to plant and to give life to the earth and the results will be the proof of it.  Because the community, by its alternative way of life, is refusing to go along with this society of terror.  We know that many people in our country and in other countries accompany us in this approach to life and continue to walk with us, resisting the schemes of the killers with civility.
April 26, 2008 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A beautiful example of a letter generated by our UA Tiquisio

From: Mark M Giese
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2008 16:48:12 GMT
To: <auribe@presidencia.gov.co>
Cc: <russell_feingold@feingold.senate.gov>, <shannonta@state.gov>,
<AmbassadorB@state.gov>, <fsantos@presidencia.gov.co>,
<buzon1@presidencia.gov.co>, <Sergio.jaramillo@mindefensa.gov.co>,
<contacto@fiscalia.gov.co>, <denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co>,
<reygon@procuraduria.gov.co>, <cap@procuraduria.gov.co>,
Subject: Human rights


Presidencia de la República
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de la República

Dear Mr President:

In a new email message, signed by ³Comandante Camilo,² the Northern Block of
the Black Eagles paramilitary organization has renewed its threats against
grass-roots community organizations and those who work with them in the
south of Bolivar Department. Among those singled out are Father Rafael
Gallego, Said Echavez and Martha Lucia Torres, who work in the mining
community of Tiquisio.

The threatening message accuses them, along with others, of belonging to and
supporting the FARC and the ELN guerrillas. The message indicates that the
Black Eagles will begin by murdering the named persons and continue until no
one of the so-called guerrilla supporters is left.

These threats are very serious, and follow threats issued a few days ago
against Father Gallego and others. We believe they are part of a campaign to
undermine local grass-roots community organizations in the gold-mining area
in and around Tiquisio. The multinational mining company Kedadha-Anglo Gold
Ashanti seeks to use this region, where small-scale peasant miners have
worked for many years, to carry out large-scale gold mining. The role of the
paramilitaries is to break up resisting community organizations and force
people off their lands in the interest of Anglo Gold development. The
government of President Uribe and the Colombian Army have fostered this
paramilitary activity. Therefore, no serious measures have been adopted by
the governmental authorities to locate those responsible for the
paramilitary threats and stop their illegal activities.

Please effectively protect the community organizations and their leaders, as
well as seeing that the paramilitaries are dismantled and their leaders

Protect the lives and activities of those like Father Gallego, Said, and
Martha who have committed themselves to seeking justice for the peasants in
the south of Bolivar.

In light of possible human rights violations, by copy of this letter, I am
instructing my government's representatives to review the merit of any aid
or assistance from the U.S. that your country is receiving or is being
considered for receipt of in line with the United States Foreign Assistance
Act of 1961 (PL 87-195), Sec. 116. It is my understanding that human rights
violations make such aid illegal.

Thank you and for human rights in my own country and peace,

Mark M Giese

Senator Russ Feingold, Senator Kohl, Representative Ryan
Sens. Feingold, Kohl, Rep. P. Ryan

Thomas Shannon
Assistant Secretary Western Hemisphere

Ambassador William Brownfield

Vicepresidencia de la República
Dr. Francisco Santos,
E-mail: fsantos@presidencia.gov.co, buzon1@presidencia.gov.co

Vice- Minister of Defense
Sergio Jaramillo

Fiscalía General de la Nación
Dr. Mario Hernán Iguarán Arana.
E-mail: contacto@fiscalia.gov.co, denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co

Procuraduría General de la Nación
Dr. Edgardo José Maya Villazón.
E.mail: reygon@procuraduria.gov.co, cap@procuraduria.gov.co,

Human Rights Office of the Colombian Army
Coronel Juan Carlos Gomez Ramirez Director
E.mail: juan.gomez@mindefensa.gov.co

Tuesday, April 22, 2008



In a new email message, signed by “Comandante Camilo” the Northern Block of the Black Eagles paramilitary organization has renewed its threats against grass-roots community organizations and those who work with them in the south of Bolivar Department. Among those singled out are Father Rafael Gallego, Said Echavez and Martha Lucia Torres, who work in the mining community of Tiquisio.

The Colombia Support Network has worked closely with them in laying the groundwork for a sister community relationship between Tiquisio and our CSN chapter in Washington State. The threatening message accuses them, along with others, of belonging to and supporting the FARC and the ELN guerrillas. The message indicates  that the Black Eagles will begin by murdering the named persons and continue until no one of the so-called guerrilla supporters is left.

These threats are very serious, and follow threats issued a few days ago against Father Gallego and others. We believe they are part of a campaign to undermine local grass-roots community organizations in the gold-mining area in and around Tiquisio. The multinational mining company Kedadha-Anglo Gold Ashanti seeks to use this region, where small-scale peasant miners have worked for many years, to carry out large-scale gold mining. The role of the paramilitaries is to break up resisting community organizations and force people off their lands in the interest of Anglo Gold development. The government of President Uribe and the Colombian Army have fostered this paramilitary activity. Therefore, no serious measures have been adopted by the governmental authorities to locate those responsible for the paramilitary threats and stop their illegal activities.

Please write to the authorities listed below to tell them you wish to see the community organizations and their courageous leaders effectively protected, as well as the paramilitaries dismantled and their leaders prosecuted. It is a fundamental part of U.S. policy for them to urge President Uribe to protect the lives and activities of those like Father Gallego, Said, and Martha who have committed themselves to seeking justice for the peasants in the south of Bolivar. Tell all of these authorities that we are watching and demand protection for our sisters and brothers in Colombia.


SEE CSN’s ACTION CENTER : www,colombiasupport.net

Thomas Shannon
Assistant  Secretary Western Hemisphere

Ambassador William Brownfield

Presidencia de la República
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de la República
E-mail: auribe@presidencia.gov.co
Or check his website www.presidencia.gov.co

Vicepresidencia de la República
Dr. Francisco Santos,
E-mail: fsantos@presidencia.gov.co; buzon1@presidencia.gov.co

Vice- Minister of Defense
Sergio Jaramillo

Fiscalía General de la Nación
Dr. Mario Hernán Iguarán Arana.
E-mail: contacto@fiscalia.gov.co; denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co

Procuraduría General de la Nación
Dr. Edgardo José Maya Villazón.
E.mail: reygon@procuraduria.gov.co; cap@procuraduria.gov.co;

Human Rights Office of the Colombian Army
Coronel Juan Carlos Gomez Ramirez  Director
E.mail: juan.gomez@mindefensa.gov.co

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

Senator Petro's statement on the detention of President Uribe's cousin

(Translated by  Stephanie DiBello, a CSN volunteer translator )


Bogotá, April 22nd, 2008:

Mario Uribe, cousin of President Alvaro Uribe, continues his efforts to evade the Colombian justice system. If the Colombian justice system is unable, or unwilling, to put Mario Uribe to trial, and if he is granted political asylum in Costa Rica, his case will have to be taken to the International Court for trial. I cannot imagine he is asking for political asylum because he is being persecuted by his cousin, the President of Colombia.

What Mario Uribe is doing is evading the Colombian justice system; first of all, he resigned from his seat in Congress in order to evade being brought to the Supreme Court of Justice. And now that the Attorney General has issued an arrest warrant he is asking for asylum. If this happens, the cousin of the Colombia’s president is a fugitive of the law and President Uribe will have to ask for his extradition from Costa Rica.

What is happening with Mario Uribe, who is not only the cousin of the president but also co- founder with President Uribe of the political party Colombia Democratica, whose members are incarcerated for their paramilitary activities, is an indication of how deeply entrenched the Colombian government is in the world of parapolitics.

Colombia cannot renounce its right to truth, nor its victims rights for reparations, which are at stake in the case of ex-senator Mario Uribe.

Those politicians who are incarcerated for paramilitary ties become accomplices to commit crimes which are typified as crimes against humanity, which would give the International Court reason to take them to trial.

 Senator Gustavo Petro

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, April 21, 2008

General Confederation of Workers on FTA

(Translated by Thomas Kolar, a CSN volunteer translator)

The Colombia – United States Free Trade Treaty, A Trap For Our Country
          For the General Confederation of Workers, CGT, it is clear that as the Movement of Workers, its opposition to the Colombia – United States Accord For Promotion of Commerce, or TLC, as it is commonly known, cannot limit itself to the scenario merely of workers or unions, for that would be to take a reductionist position, limited and even selfish regarding the country, for even with a Labor Chapter that would improve the agreement as much as possible, we could not cease our opposition to the TLC. We know that the implications of the TLC extend much further touching all aspects of our national life and it is not limited to an accord that is merely commercial for the exchange of goods and services.
          Themes as delicate as food sovereignty, advanced technical education, technological and agricultural, access to medicines, industry in all its forms, and telecommunications, to cite only a few, these are now regulated by the dictates of our needs and customs, but they would also be governed by the norms of the TLC that are the rules of the transnational corporations and their interest of guaranteeing trade subject to the demands of their production.
          The Treaty of Free Trade with the United States is an exacerbation of the opening of the national economy to the strongest economic and military power in the world, that has similar commerce with its associates, with the great capacity to compete in an exclusive and unequal market. Colombia between January and November of 2007 saw its exports to the United States drop by 9.6% compared to the previous year. 70% of these exports are petroleum and its derivatives, 11% flowers, 9% in clothing, and the remaining 10% distributed among ceramics, plastics, aluminum, candies, and some minor others.
Further support for our rejection of the TLC is the fact that said treaty asks us to sell, while competing with 240 million consumers for our exports, even areas of intensively handicraft work, such as candies and shoes which have declined in U.S. exports by 23% and 18.8% respectively during the previous year. These declines are due to the competition of two Asian countries, China and India.
          Last year the balance of trade with the United States increased unfavorably for our country by 33.86%, this happened without the TLC and in spite of the special treatment under the ATPDEA (Andean Initiative).
          The increase in our Gross Domestic Product, with or without TLC, is not restrained, according to experts, during the last five years but calls to attention the fact that if the TLC goes into effect in 2009, the increase of the GDP would only receive a favorable impact of 0.5% and during following years its operations will fall back to the same levels at which the country would grow without signing the treacherous treaty.
          The Colombian government assumed the “negotiation” of the TLC without even taking into account our backward infrastructure, only superior to Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador. The 58% of our roads that are in bad shape, the 9% that are in terrible shape, the 22% in average condition, and only 11% that are in good shape. The 60% of the international merchant fleet with capacity above 40,000 tons, not able to utilize the port of Buenaventura, that is our principal port and only has the capacity to handle ships of equal or smaller loads.
          Passing time proves correct those who oppose signing the TLC with the United States, as shown by the example of Mexico, bordering on the Colossus of the North, that has seen how even with the implementation of such a treaty, poverty and unemployment have grown and the trade balance reveals growing dependency on the North American market, which indicates that in practice one should not sign the TLC without changes.
          The TLC, whose approval shows the lack of interest in the well-being of our country of the National Congress, was approved in two phases, the first version was revised and changed by the U.S. Congress and required to be submitted again and  approved by the Colombian Congress to ratify the modifications that the U.S. demanded.
Accordingly then, to the Constitutional Court to judge if the government and its majorities had acted under the constitutional principles of justice, reciprocity, equality, and the national sovereignty and interest in integration with Latin America and the Caribbean. It seems to us that none of the above has been respected and even the Procurator General of the nation has said that “it is difficult to have fairness between a superpower and a developing nation as one only has to consider the asymmetrical situation to see that they could not receive similar treatment and that principles of equality must be ignored.”
          On the other hand, one cannot continue to “blackmail” productive sectors of our economy, especially textiles, flowers, bananas, African palms, leather, etc. With the worn argument that not approving this treaty would cause work to disappear trying to convince them through fear of the advantages of the Treaty and speaking little of the effects of a true policy directed to encouraging and preserving national production that is protected from the contingencies that from time to time affect international commerce, moderating also the unhappiness of Colombian unions.
          It is because of all the preceding that the CGT reasserts its opposition to the TLC that is not limited to the theme of human rights and the reduction of the assassination of union leaders, more we reiterate the urgency of evaluating at its roots the negative effects of the economic opening imposed on our country since 1990 and what follows as a consequence, not only reduction of the rights of the working class, but the ruin of the countryside as a result of the growth of our productive apparatus but also the impoverishment of the population to absolutely unacceptable levels.
          It is necessary to consider that, besides all of the above, the country is not able to run the risk of seeing itself caught in a food crisis in the short term as has been occurring in countries such as Mexico, Mozambique, Morocco, Senegal, Yemen, Haiti, Philippines, Cameroon, Mauritania, Burkina-Faso, among others, where hunger has claimed many victims. The TLC as proposed is a problem of security for our country.
          It is sad that we hope to put the TLC into operation at the urging of the U.S. government as part of  “national security” because Mr. Bush wishes to make Colombia play the role of a beachhead for the Department of State in Latin America just as it has used Israel in the Middle East.
          Based on all these considerations, the Executive Committee of the General Confederation of Workers, CGT, asks the President of the Republic , Dr. Alvaro Uribe Velez, his economic team, and the Congress of the Republic that it revise its absurd obsession with this TLC and, if in reality the government of the North is so interested in helping us, then it could extend the ancillary preferences of the ATPDEA for ten years while the Colombian economy adjusts and in the future perhaps we can negotiate a treaty that is just, balanced, and truly beneficial for both parties.
Bogota, April 11, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Colombia Support  Network  has learned of a very serious threat against the lives of Father RAFAEL GALLEGO, MARTA LUCIA TORRES and SAID ECHEVEZ  of the  Citizens Process for Tiquisio with whom CSN has been working to develop a sister community relationship with their town of Tiquisio.

Tiquisio is a community in Bolivar state which is located in a gold mining area. The Colombian government is promoting development of this mine area by Anglo- Gold Ashanti,  a multinational gold mining company. There is a precedent for this type of development,  which is the Drummond  development of a coal mine in northern Colombia, where paramilitary forces killed community leaders to enable Drummond to carry out its coal mining  project. The same strategy seems to be followed here, where the paramilitaries seek to force peasant communities off their lands to make them available for the multinationals to extract gold. The Colombian Army, which receives millions of dollars each year from the U.S. government , seems unwilling to protect the peasant communities.

The threat comes through a message from the Northern Block of the "Black Eagles" paramilitaries, who threatened by name Father Rafael Gallegos and his                                              two assistants named above. The threat  mentions their opposition to the Uribe government's policies of "Democratic Security" of which the gold mining proposal forms a part.


1) To your Representatives and Senators in Congress to express your opposition to US support to these actions 

Click on the CSN’s Action Center in our web site www.colombiasupport.net

2)To the President of  Colombia’s Anglo- Gold Ashanti Mr. Cris Lodder  expressing your outrage and telling him to stop their collaboration with paramilitary forces . Write him through this email :



3)To the persons listed below and tell them to see to the protection of these threatened persons  and to investigate the threats and punish those responsible. Tell  Vice President Francisco Santos who is quoted in today's NYT  that you are not satisfied by the protection given by the Colombian government  to rural communities who are threatened by the Black Eagles. Ask them what role the Colombian Army is playing in these paramilitary threats and why the army is not providing effective protection to Tiquisio.
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de la República   
Cra 8 # 7-26, Palacio de Nariño, Bogotá D.C.
E-mail: auribe@presidencia.gov.co
Fax: 57 1 566 2071

Or check his website www.presidencia.gov.co

Dr. Francisco Santos,
Cra 8ª # 5-57, Bogotá D.C.
E-mail: fsantos@presidencia.gov.co; buzon1@presidencia.gov.co

Viceminister of Defense
Dr. Sergio Jaramillo

Human Rights Office of the Colombian Army
CoronelJuan Carlos Gomez Ramirez  Director
E.mail: juan.gomez@mindefensa.gov.co





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, April 14, 2008

Military announces paramilitary update

(Translated by Stephanie DiBello , a CSN volunteer translator)

Report 54
Puerto Esperanza-Alto Ariari-Meta
The military announces paramilitary update
Pressure persists over community leader
“How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?”Job 21,34

Aldemar Lozano, a community leader and defender of human Rights, has been subjected to a persecution from military units after he denounced extrajudicial executions committed by the 21st Vargas Batallion. On two occasions he has been obligated to leave the district of Puerto Esperanza, in the town of El Castillo, Meta.
In response to Mr. Lozano’s denunciations, army soldiers have harassed and intimidated his family, in particular his wife Rocio Santibanez. They have also initiated state investigations that, due to their procedures, have generated absolute distrust and seem to have become another method of intimidation.
At the same time, the members of the Comunidad Civil de Vida y Paz (Civil Community of Life and Peace), Civipaz, that live in the humanitarian zone of Alto Ariari, have been the objects of bullying and threats in reaction to the report “Evidence and Ethical Censorship” that was drafted by our Peace and Justice Commission. The military has announced the arrival of the paramilitaries, and they say that when they arrive, “the paras, they are not going to respect (the people), because they are infuriated with those people for what they have done.”
In addition to these threats, the military has also abused its authority over the population by plundering villages and encouraging peasants to participate in military activities.
We ask vice president Francisco Santos to intervene in the actions of the 7th Brigade, the military units and commanders that continue to regard the population as a subject of abuses so that the threats made from the paramilitaries are not carried out on Aldemar Lozano, his family, and the members of la Comunidad Civil de Vida y Paz, Civipaz.
We ask the Attorney General of Colombia, Mario Iguaran, to bring an end to the impunity that governs investigations and directly frees the State from any responsibility, among them the crime of Genaro Potes with the forced displacement of the population of Ariari.
Attached Report: Evidence and Ethical Censorship
Bogotá, D.C., April 8th 2008
Intereclesial Commission for Peace and Justice

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


( Translated by Stephanie DiBello, a CSN volunteer translator )

The German - based  international cooperation agency Terre des Hommes denounces the murder of two teachers , Mariela Diaz aand emerson Herrera, teacher s of the educational institution “La Concordia” in the municipality of La Hormiga in the Department of Putumayo. The two were killed in April 1st as they were heaading towards the building in the school they had worked for many years.

The teacher Mariela was six months pregnant at the time, taking two lives instead of one. These murders left 3 orphans and 2 families lamenting the deaths of their loved ones.
We are expressing our condolences and solidarity with the families of the teachers, and parents of the Colegio “La Concordia”. The school is currently working with the office of Pastoral Social of the Diocese of Mocoa on a social project with the support  of the German Ministry of Cooperation and this organization Terre de Hommes. Mariela and Emerson were active participants in this project, working to create leadership among the girls, boys and youth in their region.

Please make pressure on the judicial organisms not to spare any efforts to clarify this crime and to capture  those responsible for this horrendous crime. This is an important step so that impunity will not continue to preside over the lives and history of Colombians.

 To your members of Congress to  inform them of this horrendous crime again against teachers.

Click on the CSN’s Action Center in our web site www.colombiasupport.net

Presidencia de la República
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de la República
Cra 8 # 7-26, Palacio de Nariño, Bogotá D.C.
E-mail: auribe@presidencia.gov.co
Fax: 57 1 566 2071
Or check his website www.presidencia.gov.co

Vicepresidencia de la República
Dr. Francisco Santos, Vicepresidente de la República
Cra 8ª # 5-57, Bogotá D.C.
E-mail: fsantos@presidencia.gov.co; buzon1@presidencia.gov.co

Fiscalía General de la Nación
Dr. Mario Hernán Iguarán Arana.
Fiscal General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B # 52-01, Bogotá D.C.
E-mail: contacto@fiscalia.gov.co; denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co

Procuraduría General de la Nación
Dr. Edgardo José Maya Villazón. Procurador General de la Nación
Teléfono: 336 00 11
E.mail: reygon@procuraduria.gov.co; cap@procuraduria.gov.co;

Human Rights Office of the Colombian Army
CoronelJuan Carlos Gomez Ramirez  Director
Teléfono: 266 03 16
E.mail: juan.gomez@mindefensa.gov.co

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, April 09, 2008

From Ricardo Correa : WHAT WE LOST IN THE CAGUAN

(Translated by Stephanie DiBello, a CSN volunteer translator

It has been six years since the Cagúan peace talks have ended. The fog of time continues to cover the facts and with each passing day the record, development, and details of the talks become hazier. What remains are the final conclusions that the Colombian people have to live with: deceit from the FARC, using the negotiations for their own wartime objectives, and the permissiveness of the government.
The end of the peace talks initiated a new political cycle in Colombia. The Cagúan negotiation is the principal antecedent of the Uribe era, and the result of these talks is the primary determining factor of national life since 2002, including the first reelection and, if the matter arises, the second.
For the past six years war has been the national hallmark, and most of the country has aligned itself with this dynamic. It is clear there are elements that explain this process, and that the legitimacy and legality has for the most part supported the State’s course of action. But this has been a war, and the national spirit has been one of confrontation, along with the implementation of violence that is implied, which has been legal and justified in the majority of the cases.
Now a negotiation is impossible, and while the ordeals of the war continue as they are, currently with no sign of change, the firm stances of those involved will hinder the possibility of an alternative dialogue. The Government believes that it should not make large concessions in the negotiation, and the FARC are unwilling to participate in this type of dialogue at the moment, due to organizational weakness and internal crisis. The doors for negotiation are closed on both sides, although both parties are declaring the contrary.  
The Cagúan basically failed because of the FARC’s persistent violence and political conservatism. Although the negotiation took place in the beginning of the 21st century, the FARC’s views of society, the State, and the economy were twenty or thirty years behind. But the guerrilla’s attitude does not free the Government from blame, because it was tremendously inefficient in offering alternatives for a possible negotiation. It has to be stated that there were just complaints and possible ways to address them. In addition, if both sides really wanted the negotiation, certain political and social sectors would not have been willing to compromise their status or position of power if an eventual peace agreement were to call for it.
During the process of Cagúan the paramilitary force grew disproportionately.
We all lost with the failure of the negotiations.
There must be guerrilla leadership sectors that, even if silently, regret the missed opportunity. The FARC has been discredited and denounced for the atrocious violence that they undertake, which has deeply damaged their political perspective. At the same time, they are currently experiencing serious military difficulties that would make it impossible for them to exercise the power that they were used to. The Government lost because it was not able to end a war that has spanned decades, and the next chance for reconciliation is far off. Twelve years transpired between the end of Betancourt’s process and the beginning of Pastrana’s. We have been in this new political cycle for six. The State sees itself as progressing, as it holds to the sense that it is ‘winning’ this conflict, that a higher morality exists, and that the national morale has increased. The war is a pathological state that compromises and affects everyone.  
Society has been the biggest loser of all, with hundreds of thousands of victims of violence. There are also hundreds of thousands of people at risk of being victims of violence.
As long as this war persists Colombia will remain wounded, even if the military results continue to be very positive, the economy grows like it has not in thirty years, generalizad optimism pervades, and it is believed that everything is marvelously improving. What has happened in the past month is not a prelude to the end, and the way we are going there will be much more violence, much more damage.
The State’s primary obligation is to protect the life and dignity of its people, and this is what directly justifies its action against the guerrillas, the paramilitaries, and the rest of the delinquents. It also has the obligation to evade any form of suffering resulting from the war, and negotiation is always an effective channel. What is happening is that this option requires of both sides an open mindedness difficult to attain. Today is seems easier to wage war than to work towards peace. Society has also been infected with this mindset. Hopefully one day soon we can try to engage in a new process for peace.

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

In the Midst of Agression, We remain Alive and on the Land

( Translated by Amy Rose Pekol, a CSN volunteer translator)

Public Announcement, Southern Bolivar Department, Colombia:

The Agro-Mining Federation of Southern Bolivar, FEDEAGROMISBOL, gathered at the general assembly, releases the following facts:
FEDEAGROMISBOL planned the celebration of it's Sixth General Assembly during the 28th, 29th and 30th of March, 2008 in the Family Wellness Center of Puerto Rico, located in the municipal seat of Tiquisio (Bolivar Department).  This activity was approved by the municipal administration, which had notified the Colombian Police and the Colombian Army of the event.  
At 7:30pm on March 28th, numerous caravans of vehicles transporting members of the agro-mining federation, its board of directors and companions arrived at Puerto Rico.  Several members of this group were able to confirm that within the community was a Mr. José Alfredo Atheortua, alias "el gato (the cat)," who has demobilized from the ELN (National Liberation Army) and has in previous occasions made false and reckless accusations against members of this community-based organization and its president.
A few days earlier, Mr. Atheortua threatened a peasant from the municipality and it was reported to the local ombudsman's office. This man's presence was noticed in several nearby locations where Fedeagromisbol meetings were taking place.
On March 28th, moments after one of the planned meetings started, six members of the Colombian Police under the command of second lieutenant Miller Rojas Rubio entered the Federation's meeting place claiming the municipal administration asked them to provide security for the event.
Later on that night, while a group of Fedeagromisbol members including the president, Teoflio Acuña, were leaving the meeting, they heard members of the Colombian Army standing nearby ask among themselves "and now which one?"  Unable to distinguish between the members of the federation, one of them said "I'm going to go and ask this old lady" and approached Dr. Esperanza Ramírez, a delegate from the Ombudsman's Office to ask about Teofilo Acuña.
On March 29th at about 10am, José Alfredo Atheortua showed up at the entrance and tried to enter the meeting.  After being denied admittance for not being a member of the agro-mining federation, he returned minutes later with members of the Colombian Army who demanded to know why he wasn't allowed to enter.  Immediately afterwards, upon seeing a group of miners entering the meeting, they said they needed to enter because four guerillas—referring to the meeting attendees--were entering.  
The police left a few minutes after being denied permission to enter.  Then, at 10:20am, First Sergeant Rojas of the Nariño Batallion (2nd brigade of the 1st division) entered the meeting place and said that he wanted to identify all the board members of the agro-mining federation and that he wanted to stay for the entire meeting.  Some members of the federation and accompanying organizations spoke with him and explained the constitutional and legal reasons as to why he could not participate in the meeting.  Nevertheless, this man insisted upon entering and attending the meeting, saying he had the legal authority to do so, until Ms. Sol María Peréz from the Vice Presidential Program for Human Rights managed to talk him out of it over the telephone.
In addition to these events, which have caused a lot of concern among the meeting participants, other events are affecting the region and heightening the already high risk situation in which these communities are living.
Among them, we would like to point out the following situations:
The current situation in Simiti has displaced 50 families to the Barranabermeja municipality and has left some 200 remaining families in danger.  This zone has suffered from armed conflict and constant attacks.  Insurgent groups from the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) have been operating in the region and the Colombian Army carries out frequent military operations here.  The area, known as The Triangle Zone has been practically destroyed in its entirety.  
Additionally, manual eradication operations are advancing with a strong military presence.  The community has spotted numerous army members in the area.  They have also identified members of the army damaging their property, burning houses and stealing goods, a situation that reflects strong military operations and generates harmful effects on the health, food and environment and adversely affects the social fabric of the community.
On the other hand, this week, while the Federation meeting was is session, a man said to be an army informant was murdered by members of the ELN guerilla group in La Fortuna.  
Also, on March 29th, a man known as Caliche was murdered in Mina Walker.  Later in the evening, in the urban center of Santa Rosa, two men with the last names Romero and Marín were shot by two men on a motorcycle while walking towards the town center.  The shooters were reportedly demobilized from the right-wing paramilitary group, AUC.
In the municipality of San Pablo there is a well-known presence of paramilitary soldiers who have been coercing demobilized members to rearm, threatening to do away with their families if they refuse.

Despite of the agreements signed between the agro-mining communities of Southern Bolivar and the Colombian government in Santa Rosa on October 30, 2006, there is an apparent persecution against the federation, its board of directors and its affiliates.
The recent incidents, aside from violating the right of association and the freedom to join a federation, have generated a lot of anxiety and stigmatized the social processes, activities and members of the agro-mining communities of Southern Bolivar.  Moreover, they represent an invasion of privacy that infringes upon the sacred constitutional and legal rights of these types of organizations and their members.
Due to the pressure and the fear generated, the president of the Federation, Mr. Teófilo Acuña, and his Vice President, Mr. Rafael Arrieta, were forced to prematurely abandon the meeting in order to protect their lives and physical integrity.
The overall situation in the region poses a serious risk for the agro-mining communities and demonstrates a mounting humanitarian crisis.
This entire situation shows a clear aggression against the livelihood of our communities, organizations and plans to live dignified lives and remain on the land.
Despite the reported events, the assembly has made a firm decision to continue the meeting as planned and asks the Colombian government and security forces to respect the fundamental rights of the participants and, furthermore, holds them accountable for any actions that violate these rights.
The assembly demands a guarantee from the Colombian government that members of the committee and communications bureau of Southern Bolivar, including the president of FEDEAGROMISBOL, Teófilo Acuña, can attend the meetings and move about freely in order to advance the Mining Bureau agenda planned for April 1st and 2nd.
The Fedeagromisbol general assembly calls on all human rights organizations to diffuse, divulge and denounce these events and support the agro-mining communities' right to a life of dignity and permanence on the land .
Respectfully yours,
VI Assembly of the Agro-mining Federation of Southern Bolivar.

Accompanying  Organizations:
Corporación de servicios profesionales comunitarios Sembrar (Corporation for Professional Community Services, Sow)
Programa de Desarrollo y Paz del Magdalena Medio, PDPMM (Development and Peace Programme of the Magdalena Medio PDPMM).
Equipos Cristianos de Acción por la Paz, ECAP. (Christian Teams of Action for Peace, ECAP).
La Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia (The Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity with Colombia).
Diócesis de Magangue (Diocese of Magangué).
Programa No Gubernamental de Defensores de Derechos Humanos (Non-Governmental Programme of Human Rights Defenders).
Organización Femenina Popular, OFP (Popular Women's Organization, OFP).
Defensoria del Pueblo (Ombudman's Office).
Administración Municipal de Tiquisio (Municipal Administration of Tiquisio).
Submitted by Redher - Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity - Colombia

Friday, April 04, 2008

Letter from the Polo Democratico Party to Nancy Pelosi on the FTA

Bogotá, Colombia. March 24, 2008

 Speaker of the House of Representatives

 Senate Majority Leader



RE: Voting against the FTA is the right decision.

The /Polo Democrático Alternativo/ (Democratic Alternative Pole, a Colombian political party), supports our nation's economic, political and cultural relations with all the countries of the world including, certainly, the United States, because these relations contribute to the well-being of the people, to the extent that they are designed to meet the goal of achieving reciprocal benefits among the two parties.

The fundamental problem with the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia is that it has been reduced to an agreement between winners and losers. Unfortunately, we Colombians are the losers, because we lose any possibility of achieving prosperous development. Likewise, many have also indicated correctly that this FTA benefits only a select minority in the United States, not the general population. For example, the destruction of Colombian agriculture caused by the FTA will stimulate the planting of coca in Colombia and more drug dealing in the streets of American cities.

In addition, the record shows that the government of President Alvaro Uribe Velez has not responded adequately to the violence that plagues Colombians and particularly union leaders and human rights activists, as is demonstrated by the alarming figures from last month, in which four union leaders were murdered. Recent studies conducted by the State Department and the United Nations reflect this current situation. In fact the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia has recently released a statement in which they express "deep concern over the death threats directed at leaders of social and human rights organizations who actively participated in the recent March 6 demonstration" in memory of the victims of all the violence in Colombia.

Therefore, the Democratic Party can make a positive contribution to improving relations between the people of our two countries by voting against the FTA between the United States and Colombia.


 Polo Democrático Alternativo

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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