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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Constitutions, Crisis and Courage

                                                                        Constitutions, Crises and Courage
By John I. Laun
June 27, 2008


            On June 26 Colombia’s Supreme Court issued a sentence finding in effect that the government of President Alvaro Uribe had bribed Congresswoman Yidis Medina to vote in a Congressional committee in favor of Uribe’s re-election. Her vote was needed in order to approve the proposed constitutional change. In the current Colombian context the decision of the Supreme Court was a real demonstration of courage. President Uribe has sought to expand the powers of the Presidency greatly, at the cost of the separation of judicial, legislative and executive power set forth in the Colombian Constitution. His administration has featured close ties of high government officials, including his cousin and close friend Senator Mario Uribe, with paramilitary forces. According to the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (Comite Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), 33 members of the Colombian Congress are now imprisoned for their ties to the illegal paramilitaries, while 60 more are under investigation for such ties. Many of these are of parties close to the President.
            President Uribe several weeks ago tried to influence the Supreme Court by making a phone call to a magistrate of the Court to whom evidence supposedly had been conveyed which identified Uribe in a negative light. Before that, in his first term, he had tried to eliminate the Constitutional Court, created by the 1991 Constitution, which has acted as a brake on Presidential power. He was unsuccessful. Informed of the Supreme Court’s decision on June 26, the President immediately called the press to condemn the decision and to propose that Congress approve a referendum to repeat or ratify Uribe’s victory in the 2006 election.
            What is obvious here is the attempt to use the powers of the Presidency to consolidate even more power in that office, emasculating the courts. President Uribe, buoyed by surveys that show he has an 84% approval rating, is like another President in this Hemisphere, playing the role of the “decider” whose word is law. The threat to constitutional government, and in fact legitimacy of the government, could hardly be more serious.
            The Colombia Support has continuously opposed Plan Colombia and the U.S. aid component of the Plan. But at our National Meeting last month we favored aid to the Colombian court system and the office of the Attorney General (Fiscal General), if that aid could be allocated to the investigation of crimes of the paramilitaries and of agents of the Colombian state and prosecution of those responsible for these crimes. I doubt that any effective allocation of these funds for the specified purposes could be made during the Uribe Administration in Colombia and the Bush Administration in the United States. But we should express our support for the determination of the Colombian Supreme Court to investigate crimes of state and to bring to justice those implicated in these crimes. And we should also support the work of Attorney General Mario Iguaran, who has directed substantial resources to investigation and prosecution of paramilitary leaders and their crimes.
            The very existence of constitutional government is at stake in Colombia. But remarkably, much the same is true in the United States. President Bush, our “decider”, has concluded that executive privilege covers virtually all of his determinations as President; Congress in his view has no real oversight role. Karl Rove, “Scooter” Libby, and other Presidential or Vice Presidential advisors are immune from Congressional oversight. Bush can establish by so-called “signing statements” that a law passed by Congress will be enforced not according to its terms, but as he decides to interpret it. These statements have no constitutional basis; we should be dumbfounded that this foolishness is not roundly ridiculed and reproached by Congress and the Courts. And how is it that John Yoo can misread the Constitution and ignore this country’s commitment to international treaties on human rights in his eagerness to enshrine an imperial Presidency in this country? As one who studied constitutional law at Stanford Law School under Professor Gerald Gunther, I wonder what crazy misconceptions Professor Yoo’s students at the University of California Law School at Berkeley may take from his classes. Torture is morally wrong and contrary to the Geneva Conventions and to develop a rationale under which it is acceptable is the height of folly. It is wrong for our country and wrong for the world.
            Colombia may have an advantage on us as far as the respective Supreme Courts are concerned. While the Colombian Supreme Court withstands Presidential pressure and seeks to protect the Constitution, a majority on our Supreme Court has undermined our privacy and curtailed freedom in a number of ways. And we shrug our shoulders as Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Scalia and the Court majority in Bush v. Gore abandon the states rights position they had developed over several years so that the Republican candidate, Bush, having received 500,000 fewer votes than Gore, could become President. Now we see Justice Scalia trying to divine what the Founding Fathers wanted when this country was much different over 200 years ago; this exercise is, in a word, foolish. Yet we hear serious debate about it.
            It is, in short, no less important for us than it is for Colombians to be concerned about protecting our Constitution. Presidential usurpation of power is a phenomenon we both share. Hopefully sensible people in both countries will energetically support the defenders of these two quite remarkable Constitutions.   

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










Friday, June 27, 2008


             Communique of the Permanent Committee for Defense of Human Rights

(Translated by  John I. Laun, a CSN volunteer translator)

                                                            Bogota, June 27, 2008




            The sentence issued by the Colombian Supreme Court establishes that the Conservative Member of Congress Yidis Medina was in essence bribed by the present government for the purpose of having her vote be decisive for the passage of the legislative Act which opened the way for Presidential re-election.

        The consequence of the law which approved re-election would be deprived of legitimacy , not only by the criminal maneuvers carried out by common agreement between Congresswoman Medina and the government, but also because several of the Members of the Congress which approved it are in prison because, on their part, they wound up being elected with votes of paramilitaries or for their criminal ties to paramilitaries.

        Immediately upon learning of the sentence of the Court, President Uribe went out to the news media to condemn the Court’s decision and to announce that he would convoke Congress to approve a referendum as a step toward  repeating the Presidential election of 2006, when in reality what is in question is the very constitutional support for re-election. There could be no greater political obscenity. Nor would a Congress sunk in parapolitical scandals, with 33 of its members in prison and another 60 investigated, have authority to approve a referendum of this nature.

         We ask if the President’s unhealthy grasping for power means that we are traveling along the road to a coup d’etat or the danger of a dissolution of the Courts.

         There can be no doubt that the Presidency of Alvaro Uribe is sailing upon a sea of illegitimacy and as a consequence the most sensible thing for the health of the nation is  for him to resign and, with that, to permit a process of democratization of the country.

        Now it is up to us to support the sentence of the Supreme Court, adopted through democratic channels and those of the law. At the same time, we wait for  the Constitutional Court to resolve the Action of Review of the legislative Act which permitted re-election, based upon the position of a group of organizations of the Movement of Victims and also accepted now by the Supreme Court. In the meantime the country should show itself to be vigilant toward the authoritarian and illegal excesses of the executive power.



                                                                        Board of Directors

                                                                        Comite Permanente

                                                                        June 27, 2008













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 Kevin Funk, a CSN volunteer translator)

Sent by the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyer’s Collective

(Colombia) (Autor: CCajar)
sabelino Valencia is not losing hope that the Colombian government will finally collectively give titles to him and the 18,000 people of African descent in the region for the lands that belong to them, 330 years after their ancestors began to farm and sow their fields, to fish and work the Naya river, to extract the area's gold and survive the slavery era.
Unfortunately, since 1999 these 49 communities, which form the Community Council, have repeatedly applied to different tribunals attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, for the collective titling of the 190,000 hectares that make up their territory, without having received a positive response up to the present.
For this reason Conchita and 3,000 people of African descent from the Orinoco basin decided to present a motion for legal protection against said Ministry for its inaction, reluctance, noncompliance, and delay in the process of legally recognizing their lands, for the Ministry to guarantee them the right to due process, to their lands, to their lives, existence, and survival as a tribal people.
The government's interest in not recognizing their lands is clear. The region is rich in biodiversity, gold, oil, a metal known as 'orito,' and foods such as papachina, chontaduro, and pepa de Dios. Agricultural and fishing treasures, amongst others, of which multinational corporations and foreigners are seeking control.
Whatever may happen, the Afro-descendant peoples are willing to keep fighting for the land that has belonged to them for over 330 years, because as Chavelo says, "We can't be free without our land."

Thursday, June 26, 2008


(Sent in English by the Colectivo Alvear Restrepo)

Social Organizations File Lawsuit against Legislative Act Allowing Reelection
of the President of Colombia


Social Organizations
Bogotá, Colombia
June 17, 2008

On June 17, 2008, a remedy of review for the ruling that declared the
constitutionality of the legislative act allowing the reelection of president
Álvaro Uribe Vélez was submitted before the Honorable Constitutional Court by
a number of legal, labor and social organizations, upon considering that
irregular, illegal and fraudulent acts –currently known by the public-
affected the legality and legitimacy of said reform.

When the Constitutional Court issued a pronouncement on the constitutionality
of the legislative act that gave rise to the presidential reelection, the acts
that are now of public knowledge were not yet known, which should necessarily
affect the legality and legitimacy of said reform.

In the first place, a significant number of the members of congress that voted
in favor the legislative act are currently being criminally prosecuted for
their alliances with paramilitary groups. For instance, the Pact of Ralito
constituted the formalization of a macabre alliance with criminal designs,
which has gravely affected the principles of the rule of law and participatory
democracy, given that many of these members of congress reached parliament
through the support of paramilitary terror.

In the second place, the testimony provided by former congress member YIDIS
MEDINA, and the evidence she put forward, demonstrates that senior government
officials bought the deciding vote of this member of congress to ensure the
passage of the presidential reelection. Furthermore, this was the same motive
for having bought the absence of congress member TEODOLINDO AVENDAÑO.

These acts invalidate the foundation and grounds giving rise to the
legislative act, given that this act was not the result of a democratic and
transparent debate, rather the product fraudulent maneuvers contrary to free
democratic expression.

This remedy hopes to restore the principles that should rule a democracy
respecting ethical and constitutional principles, human rights, and the
foundation that should characterize a state based on democratic principles,
which in turn support the social rule of law.

This remedy of review requests the Constitutional Court to declare the
invalidity of the legislative act and, as a result, determine that the
constitutional reform of the presidential reelection loses effect since it was
brought about through legal defects.

To support this extraordinary remedy of review against the Ruling C-1040 of
December 19, 2005, which was the legal basis allowing the reelection of
president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, please download the following third party

"Peace is not possible as long as such profound, disproportionate, and
aggravating differences exist in the fate of persons and peoples."
- José Alvear Restrepo

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, June 25, 2008

Wayuu Prehearing in Cabo de la Vela

(Translated by Kevin Funk, a CSN volunteer translator)

June 18 and 19:

Permanent Peoples' Tribunal
"Historic Extermination of the indigenous peoples of Colombia"
"SUCHII WAKUAIPA" – for our cause.
June 18 and 19, 2008 – Cabo de la Vela, Alta Guajira
In the framework of the process of examining the activities of multinational corporations, by means of a session of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal in Colombia (TPP, according to its Spanish acronym). The National Authority of the Indigenous Government of the ONIC (National Indigenous Organization of Colombia) and the Wayúu indigenous people, through its Painwashi, Aaciwasug, and Wayúu Women's Force organizations, as well as the indigenous communities of Cabo de la Vela, call their brother people, the Wayúu of Venezuela and Colombia, in addition to the Wiwa, Mokana, Zenú, Koggi, Chimila, Iku, Kamkuamo, and Yukpa indigenous peoples, and the social and grassroots organizations from Guajira and the rest of the country, to human rights organizations, international bodies, national, regional, and local authorities in La Guajira, Riohacha, Uribía, and Sur de la Guajira, and national and international solidarity groups, to join with and support the defense of natural resources, lands, and indigenous cultures in Colombia.
For the Wayúu people, the arrival of the grand megaprojects and transnational corporations to their lands has constituted a threat to their culture and their survival as a people, as of the arrival of the first coal-extracting transnational corporation in Wayúu territory, approximately in 1971, affecting the cultural, spiritual, territorial, and social interests of the people, causing a systematic and repeated violation of their rights, with negative and irreparable consequences, such as: militarization, recolonization of their lands, persecution and singling out of their leaders by security forces, and negative affects on public health with the arrival of unknown diseases.
As of 2001, the presence and maneuvering of paramilitary forces was proven in different parts of the Guajira department, with the support, tolerance, and complicity of the Colombian state; since 1993, many Wayúu families (250 members) have been victims of persecution, harassment, and death on behalf of the actions of security forces (national army), paramilitary and guerrilla structures, constituting the ethnocide of the Wayúu people in clear violation of international humanitarian law, and of the individual and collective rights of a people.
"As the Wayúu people we have millennial rights that are recognized in the political constitution and in international agreements, and we also have, as a people, the duty to defend our lands to guarantee to our future generations the just conditions to guarantee our continuance as a people, demanding from the state the fulfillment of article 7 of the constitution and agreement 169 of the International Labor Organization, and other national and international treaties which guarantee the promotion, protection, and defense of the rights of indigenous peoples in our country."
"We as the Wayúu people can not allow the cultural death of our ethnic group, when little by little they take away our ancestral lands, involving us in the armed conflict that this country is currently living, plundering in an indiscriminate manner the Wounmainka (our land). With grand megaprojects like the Cerrejón mines, transnational gas pipeline, anti-oxidant lagoons to clean raw materials, the Jepirrachi and Joutai project, and giving titles of indigenous land to corporations and others unconnected to our people."
Because of this, the National Authority of the Indigenous Government of the ONIC (National Indigenous Organization of Colombia), and members of several local organizations of the Wayúu people, invite you to join us for the preliminary Wayúu hearing, which will be carried out on June 18 and 19, 2008, in Cabo de la Vela – Alta Guajira.
For more information, contact Adriana Metaute of ONIC at 2842168 – 3103742936, or via email at tpp-indigena@onic.org.co
Locally: with Anastasio Ezpeleta 3103693520 - Izaida Pino 3167416961.
We ask participants to bring utensils (plate, spoon), and a chair.
Luis Evelis Andrade
Senior Director, ONIC

Juan Carrillo
  Anastasio Ezpeleta

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

Friday, June 20, 2008

Details of testimony that involves Uribe in a massacre

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
The Nuevo Herald last weekend published an article with the declaration of an ex-paramilitary that involves the President of the Republic and his brother Santiago in the massacre of El Aro were 15 campesinos were murdered in 1997.
By Gonzalo Guillén and Gerardo Reyes
Monday, April 28, 2008
The ex-paramilitary Francisco Enrique Villalba Hernández declared to the Colombian Attorney General’s office this past February that President Alvaro Uribe and his brother Santiago participated in planning a massacre in the north of the department of Antioquia, according to a copy of the testimony obtained by the Nuevo Herald. Part of the confession  of Villalba, whose credibility Uribe attacked this week, was utilized by the Interamerican Human Rights Court (CIDH) to condemn Colombia for that massacre, which occurred in the village of El Aro in 1997, according to an extensive decision of that tribunal two years ago. Villalba did not involve the ruler or his brother in his testimony before the CIDH, but his narrative was part of the proofs that served the tribunal to conclude that in the slaughter of El Aro agents of the public security forces collaborated with groups of the United Self-defenses of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia—AUC) to murder in cold blood at least fifteen campesinos “in a defenseless position, taking their goods away from others and generating terror and displacement,” according to the 160-page decision. This same decision cites a testimony to the effect that the government of the department of Antioquia, at that time led by the currently president, refused to extend protection to the inhabitants of El Aro, when they learned that the paramilitary attack was imminent. “In the face of this situation, about two months before the occupation, the Community Action Board (Junta de Acción Comunal) asked the government [of Antioquia] for protection, which was not offered,” says the decision of the CIDH.
Until now, some of aspects of the declaration of Villalba to the Colombian prosecutors were only known in an indirect and fragmentary way which where revealed surprisingly by Uribe during a radio interview this week in order to reject what the ex-paramilitary pointed out. But the Nuevo Herald obtained a complete copy of the declearation that, in fact, contains repeated testimonies of Villalba that Uribe, when he was Governor of the department of Antioquia, hobnobbed with the highest leaders of the AUC and gave them carte blanche to carry out the massacre. “[Alvaro Uribe told us] that what had to be done, that we would do it,” declared Villalba in describing a meting in which AUC leaders, military personnel and the brothers Alvaro and Santiago Uribe. Villalba’s 19-page declaration describes, using names and details a close relationship of complicity and camaraderie between military and police authorities with the heads of the death squads.
Villalba reported the death of functionaries of the prosecutor’s office who were investigating the massacre, the murder of human rights activists who were collaborating with the authorities in clearing up the facts, and three attacks, one of them with cyanide that was put in a malt beverage.
The declaration contains at least two inconsistencies: that one of the military officers whom Villalba mentioned as a participant in a meeting at the end of 1997 had died in April of that year and that the date of the massacre was not in November, as he sustained, but in October of that year.
When the paramilitaries arrived at El Aro, a village of some 500 inhabitants in a mountainous area in the north of Antioquia, they brought a list of their victims, Villalba told the newspaper El Colombiano of Medellín. They killed some of them with a shot to the neck while they were face down, in the village plaza. They also killed a fourteen-year-old youth, but in the case Marco Aurelio Areiza Osorio, a 64-year-old shop keeper, the owner of a grocery store, appreciated in the area for his generosity, the paramilitaries
Expressed their cruelty with a frightening coldness. According to the testimonies gathered by Human Rights Watch and Colombian journalists, they ordered the shopkeeper to prepare a soup, and after he served it, they tied him to an orange tree and they pulled out his heart while he was alive; then they took out his eyes and afterwards pulled off his testicles Some children who hid near the plaza saw it all. “He howled with pain and then he squeals like a child,” one of the minors told the reporters Carlos Giraldo and Miguel Garrido, of El Colombiano.
The paramilitaries entered El Aro on Saturday, October 25, one day before municipal elections. The occupation of the village lasted some four days, during which some 120 paramilitaries wearing AUC uniforms murdered campesinos, raped women, sacked businesses and robbed about 900 head of cattle, according to judicial documents. Villalba, 36 years old, confessed that he had participated in this and other massacres by the AUC.
Three months after what happened in El Aro, he gave himself up to the judicial authorities because he was tired of so many deaths and attacks were planned with which he was not in agreement, he said. Today he is completing a sentence of 33 years in prison in the penitentiary of La Picota in Bogotá. According to his declarations to the police, the Army and the AUC planned the occupation of El Aro to punish the guerrilla fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and rescue some eight cattlemen and shopkeepers whom the rebels had kidnapped. Villalba asserted as fact that three days before the incursion into El Aro there was a meeting at the farm of a landowner—whom he did not identify—in the municipality of La Caucana, in the northeast of Antioquia. In this meeting, in addition to the military heads of the IV Brigade and of the police, leaders of the AUC and the Uribe brothers attended, he added. “Santiago Uribe and Alvaro Uribe, who was then governor, were also present,” said the witness. To the question whether he had previously met the Uribes, Villlba answered that in the case of Alvaro no, but that Santiago “was always known in the organization because he still has a self-defense bloc in Santa Rosa de Osos.”
Villalba affirmed that he became aware of who Uribe was when the then governor introduced himself in the same farm to congratulate them for the success of the operation. “I learned he was Alvaro Uribe because he introduced himself, he spoke with us, and he said that the operation had been a success, that the kidnapped people had come out safe and sound.” Said Villalba. “He arrived with a bodyguard, whose surname was Serna,” he added.
The eight kidnapped persons were liberated. This week Uribe affirmed that he had never been in La Caucana. Villalba declared to the prosecutors that years later he saw Serna again, but this time as a guard of the National Penal System (INPEC) in the La Picota jail in Bogotá. Serna saw him and greeted him, he added.
In the meeting before the massacre the heads of the AUC Carlos Castaño, who was then the top leader of the organization, and was murdered; Salvatore Mancuso, second in command, and otheir whom he identified with the aliases “Noventa,” “Cobra,” Black Ricardo and Junior, were present. There was also a man present whom he identified, wavering, as José Ardila, from the campesino self-defense organizations that were legalized by the government and known as Convivir [live together]. Referring to the whereabouts of Ardila, Villalba said, “[Ardila] was testifying against Uribe, they took him out of the prison,he was condemned to 60 years in prison and they disappeared him, I don’t know where he is.”
Mancuso was condemned to 40 years in prison by the Colombian justice system for the massacres of El Aro and La Granja. In this last one, five persons were tortured and murdered on July 11, 1996, According to the witness, Alvaro uribe “was invited by Carlos Castaño” to the meeting before the massacre and later introduced to those present by Mancuso. In this meeting, Uribe spoke publicly, said Villalba. “Alvaro Uribe gave his recommendations, that the kidnapped be brought out safe and sound that we should do what had to be done,” said the witness. About the farm where the meetings were held, the ex-paramilitary said that “on the left hand there are some corrals and a horse ring, that farm did not have a name, but it still exists, we arrived the day before [the meeting], me and my 21 men.”
Villalba testified before Carlos A. Camargo Hernández, the ninth specialized prosecutor of the National prosecutors Unit for Human Rights and International Humanitarian law that the gathering “was during the day, it began about 10 in the morning and ended [at] 3 in the afternoon, after they had lunch and everything.” According to the witness, Mancuso and Castaño arrived “in a gray helicopter, a small one, [that] landed right in the farm,” and that in the area “we were about 100 men [of the death squads] between those from the town and the 22 that I had.”
When the prosecutor asked him if the death squads received help from the public security forces, Villalba decalred, “Yes, doctor, from the IV Brigade [of the Army]. I say that because before the massacre there was a meeting, they had withdrawn the troops from the checkpoints [military control points in the area], suspended the troop checkpoints in the road.” Villalba said to the prosecutor that before his declarations of February of this year, he had delivered to the justice system details of this and other massacres to functionaries of the Technical Investigations Corps (CTI) of the Attorney General in Medellín.
He also testified about the participation of the Uribe brothers, of which there were recordings on magnetic tape, he indicated. But “the recordings ended up in the hands of Mancuso,” explained Villalba, and the functionaries of the CTI were murdered in September of 1999. “They killed them in Medellín, the guys of the group from La Terraza killed them, and the told me to shut up,” he said. La Terraza is an enormous agency of murderers on salary in Medellín that has operated under the direction of powerful drug traffickers and paramilitaries. Villalba said that he also spoke a number of times about the meeting in which the Uribe Vélez brothers participated with the director of the CTI in Medellín,” a man with eyeglasses, young, and Y told him about [the meeting] in La Caucana aqnd he didn’t say anything, he remained slient.”
The witness affirmed that he also spoke on these topics with María Teresa Gallo, a prosecutor specialized in terrorism and human rights. “She promised me a lot of things, like a change of identity, to take me out of jail and send me to another country,” he said.
In January of 2007, Villalba [was] moved to Medellín to testify against the military officer Juan Manuel Grajales  for his role in another massacre committed by paramilitaries en November 0f 1997 in La Balsita, in the municipality of Dabeiba, Antioquia. In that case 15 persons were murdered, and he affirmed that among the people responsible “there was also the brother of Alvaro Uribe, Santiago who loaned about 20 “kids” (assasins) for that.” Villlb has a second sentence of 37 years in prison for the massacre of La Balsita. The kids” that the brother of President Uribe would have loaned belonged to the paramilitary group “The Twelve Apostles,” which, according to various judicial stories was commanded directly by Santiago Uribe.
Villalba ffirmed that on February 13, 1998, he decided to voluntarily turn himself in to the prosecutors, as active military, narco-traffickers and paramilitaries were planning various crimes which he did not agree with. The plans were carried out. According to the witness, this group murdered the journalist and humorist Jaime Garzón, the lawyer Jaime Umaña and the human rights defender Jesús María Valle Jaramillo. Valle had warned since 1996 that narco-traffickers, military and death squads were getting ready to commit the massacre of El Aro. In reply, Uribe, who is currently president and was then governor of Antioquia, publicly accused Valle of being an enemy of the armed forces and the army tried him for libel. Later he was murdered in Medellín. Valle, says Villalba, “was killed by the La Terraza gang and they told me to keep my mouth shut[…]they had him killed because of the investigation he was doing of the massacre of El Aro. He was one of the people who helped me because he learned when I gave myself up that they were going to kill me so I wouldn’t say anything.”
The prosecutor who was in charge of the investigation of Valle had to leave the country, he said. In addition to President Uribe and his brother Santiago, in the judicial files appear the figures of the ex-general Carlos Alberto Ospina—commander of the armed forces during uribe’s first government—who at the time of the events was the commander of the Fourth Brigade of the Army, based in Medellín and general of the army Alfonso Manosalva Flórez, who according to witnesses like Villalba and Mancuso, gave the list of persons who were to be killed in la Granja and El Aro to the death squads.
President Uribe pointed out as one of the inconsistencies of Villalba’s testimony the assertion that Manosalva was present in a meeting in November of 1997 with paramilitary leaders when he had died in April of that year.
Villalba related that he has been the subject of three attacks. The first occurred in the jail of the city of Palmira after having spoken with the prosecutor Gallo. “A guy from the self-defense forces, Edison Parra [condemned for homicide in El Llano] stabbed me in the left side, at the level of my chest.” Two months later, “in the same place they made another attempt on my life with cyanide in a Pony Malta [a brand of malt beverage]. Edwin Tirado, also of the AUC, who know is in the jail of Montería, an ex-worker for Mancuso, did it to me.” “The attempts on my life he attributed to Mancuso, in those days I was testifying agains the public security forces,” he added.
—Ider Parra Lodoño

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

------ End of Forwarded Message

Monday, June 16, 2008


( Translated by Stephanie DiBello, a CSN’s volunteer translator)

From  TPP ( Permanent People’s Tribunal) and ONIC ( Colombia’s  National Indigenous Association )

This weekend the indigenous people of Motilon Barí will denounce the transnational carbon and petroleum companies because they are impinging on their rights.

(Colombia) (Author: TPP-ONIC)

Everything is ready for the fourth stage of hearings before the Permanent Tribunal of Villages to be carried out June 13th and 14th in the city of Norte de Santander. With the National Authority of the Indigenous Government of the ONIC (National Indigenous Organization of Colombia) the indigenous group Motilon Barí from Norte de Santander will host its brothers in Venezuela, the Uwas from Boyaca, Arauca, and Santander as well as human rights organizations.

The Barí people will focus on some central themes, without doubt to debate and denounce  ‘Petroleum and Carbon’, and the event will be held at the public library Julio Perez Ferrero, located on 1st Avenue Number 12-35 Barrio la Playa.

Apart from the indigenous villagers, human rights organizations are expected to participate along with international organisms, national authorities, and the states and cities of Tibu, Teorema, Tarra, Convencion, and El Carmen, where there is a presence of the people of Motilon Barí in Colombia.


In the past Barí territory covered the entire region of Catatumbo up to Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela; but historically we have faced a constant loss of our territory. Not only have the Barí had to fight in colonial times for our land, but our more recent history as well has been marked by the exploitation of natural resources, namely petroleum, and the colonization of land that since the 1910’s and 1920’s has significantly diminished the Barí territory. And now that the multinational companies have arrived the Colombian government has been gradually giving away our indigenous territory to them.

The petroleum companies have violently usurped our land, and their workers have brought a sharp increase of settlers. Since 1983 we have lost 90% of our land- THE REASON WE EXIST- and we have suffered a considerable demographic reduction caused by this violent invasion; In the past the Barí were many and we would fight guided by our own people.

Today the indigenous territory legally constitutes only 1,200 square kilometers within Colombian and Venezuelan territory, and it is being reduced and under the constant threat of an invasion of our lands.

Within Colombian territory we have posession of the indigenous reservations of Motilon Barí and Cautalara, who operate under the Forest Reserve and the Catatumbo Barí National Park and are recognized under the 102nd Resolution of November 26th, 1988 and the 105th Resolution of December, 1981, respectively. However, the land the Barí people occupy now, which is the same land our ancestors lived on, reaches beyond the territory delimited by INCORA and falls in five zones. Barí territory is defined in the following manner: in the town of el Carmen lie the communities of Iquiacarora, Ayatuina, Aratocbarí, Adosarida, Corrancayra, Ichirrindacayra and Pathuina; in the town of Convencion lie Batroctora, CaxBaríngcayra, Saphadana, and Bridicayra communities; in the town of Teorama lie the Brubucanina, Ocbabuda, Suerera, AsaBaríngcayra, ShubacBarína, Yera, and Sacacdu communities; in the town of Tibu lie Caricachaboquira, Bacuboquira, Beboquira and Isthoda communities; In the town of Tarra lies the Irocobingcayra community.

Our land currently continues to be threatened, now by more powerful invaders, whose intention is to explore and exploit sources of petroleum and carbon. This is because our land is rich in biodiversity, minerals, hydrocarbons, and sources of water. The incursion of the multinationals has caused not only a dwindling of our land, but also the loss of natural and cultural worth, which puts at risk the continuance of the Barí ethnicity; these kinds of invasions are brought forth with a persistent and blatant ignorance and disrespect for the principles vested in the Constitution and the national and international laws that protect indigenous people. Therefore the result of the exploitation of the petroleum companies is nothing more than the extermination of autonomous populations, who are accused of being obstacles to progress by “progressive” groups who suffer from near-sightedness and unfettered ambition.

Now we are few and we have been tolerating so much- the consequences of a war that is not ours, the Militarization, the fumigations, the violations of human rights, the infractions of International Human Rights.

The indigenous community Motilon Barí has a territory full of natural riches and is characterized by its flora and fauna. In this environment we have transmitted generation by generation our cultural values in order to conserve our indigenous ethnicity; this is what impels us to conserve our culture, protect and defend our territory, and maintain our traditional and ancestral cultural practices and customs. It is very important to us to maintain the land that our ancestors lived on because nourishes us, it is the way we live with mother nature, to maintain a relationship with sacred beings, with the spirits and the allies through the god Sabaseba.

Because of the aforementioned situation, we are calling the Traditional Authority of the Autonomous Council of Chiefs of the village of Motió Barí and the National Authority of the Indigenous Government of the ONIC to the Hearing of the Permanent Tribunal of Villages, Colombia chapter, Indigenous session, with the goal to present our culture and cosmovision, the history of agression to which we have been subjected, the recent threats and violation of rights, and the process of resistance that moves the Village of Motilon Barí forward.



“INCHIYI ITAN BAYT SATCHRIDRY” “We will rise up to fight for our land!”

For the autonomous government of the indigenous people of Colombia!!!

Contact: ASCOBARÍ: Carrera 6 No. 6-34 Casa Indigena. Tibu. Norte de Santander. Colombia

Fax: 5663591


For information: email: paraquehayajusticia@gmail.com


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 Peter Lenny, a CSN volunteer translator)

Thursday, 12 June 200
by: Prensa - Colectivo

(Colombia) (Author: Asociación Municipal de Usuarios Campesinos)

The Fortul Municipal Association of Peasant Users (Asociación Municipal de Usuarios Campesinos de Fortul) rejects this sixth crop-dusting campaign carried out once again in the province of Arauca. President Álvaro Uribe Vélez’s disregard for our lands and their people is manifest in his Democratic Security Plan (Plan de Seguridad Democrática), which is based on warfare and consumes our nation’s budget and swells its foreign debt.

Aware of the social and political contradictions that the planting of coca has generated in our province, we peasants decided voluntarily to stop planting this crop, as we have stated publicly on a number of occasions. Nonetheless, in response, our province is being poisoned once again. Contrary to all the political, social, ecological, economic and health reasons given and demonstrated by the communities as to why this is a gross error, and acting as tyrants do, Uribe Vélez – in complicity with the provincial and municipal governments – has renewed his onslaught, turning his back of the people and a deaf ear to their proposals.

We peasant farmers reject this policy of repression and once again reaffirm our decision to put an end to this social problem of “coca plantations” and to embark on a social campaign to demand that the State improve farm production and commercialization, prepare and harmonize debt relief plans with credit institutions, improve public service provision, improve highway infrastructure, improve health care and educational quality and coverage, defend food sovereignty, and respect and guarantee human rights and environmental conservation.

We invite other progressive democratic forces to support this decision and to claim the rights that have been denied by the Colombian State.


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 ANNE BOYLON, a CSN volunteer translator)

The delegates from the various associations which make up the Catatumbo Committee of Social Integration - CISCA : the Communal Action Boards,  the Women’s’ and the Displaced Persons’ Associations, the guilds, the organizations for economic solidarity and the youth groups met for two days in the El Tarra municipality in order to analyze and reflect on the problems of the cultivation of illegal drugs.  The product of that meeting is the following public declaration:
Diagnosis of the Problem
State Responsibility
  1. The Catatumbo region has historically been neglected by the Colombian government.  This abandonment by the State is one of the factors involved in the deepening crisis in the rural economy.  It has also resulted in a lack of access to credit, the absence of technical support, an appallingly poor infrastructure and government policies designed to favor rural entrepreneurs.  Health and education services have also seriously deteriorated.  Making this crucial situation even worse is the war which has caused territorial instability and the subsequent conditions that favor the cultivation of illicit drugs. These illegal crops have become, of necessity, one of the principal sources of income for many families.
  2. In addition to all of this, the central administration has earmarked Catatumbo for the exploitation of its natural resources.  However, the national government and the multi-nationals have not found this to be clear sailing.  They have met with opposition from the indigenous communities who have a historic claim to their collective territories, from the social organizations of rural families, and from groups concerned about the environment.  In order to remove these obstacles, the government is using the illegal cultivations and the general coca economy as an excuse to justify the militarization of the area, the fumigations and the forced displacement of the population.
  3. For the above-stated reasons we, the communities, call attention to the obligations of the State:  it cannot ignore its constitutional responsibilities which require it to be the guarantor of the life, honor and goods of the citizens who live in this part of Colombia.  Therefore, we will continue to demand the safeguarding of our fundamental economic, social and cultural rights - but not in exchange for the substitution of coca.  Such a substitution would not solve the problems created by the historical abandonment to which the region has been subject.

Illicit cultivations and their effect on our communities:
1.    The coca economy has brought about the social decomposition of a part of our young population.  Many of our youth now lack the motivation to become involved the community or to continue their academic education.
2.    The number of young people leaving school in order to help their parents with the coca crops is increasing.
3.    The coca economy encourages individualism and diminishes consciousness of the importance of community work and organizational strength.
4.    The coca culture leads to the loss of regional identity and the sense of connection to our land and thus creates difficulties for working collectively.
5.    The substitution of food crops for coca has created food insecurity; another result of the coca economy has been the lessening of attention formerly given to problems affecting social development and to the meetings focusing on these issues.
6.    The coca cultivation has distorted the local economy. The economically active population no longer wishes to work in jobs offering remuneration inferior to that gained by working in the coca economy. This affects regional agricultural supplies and the rural economy.
7.    Coca does not promote social development; on the contrary, its cultivation destroys traditional customs and ways of life that are the foundation of social development.
8.    Coca cultivation generates the development of particular interests to the detriment of the collective good; it creates divisions and fosters violence for which the communities pay a high price:  the violent deaths of its members.
9.    The coca economy has fractured the family unit and the social and community fabric; the cost of living has gone up for all families – both for those who are involved in the coca economy and those who are not.
10. The coca economy causes critical environmental problems for which, in a great part, we are responsible.  This harm done to the environment is also an attack on our lives and land.
Because our territorial integrity and the unity of our communities must be preserved and because we already have a social organization that is leading the discussion about our local problems and the search for solutions, proposed alternatives to the cultivation of coca and ideas for development must also have a regional character. Therefore, negotiations and local agreements should not be made with entities responsible for alternative development policies nor with the national government. The tactic of bringing in small projects only serves to divide communities and, because it is not a true response to the nature of the problem, can be very risky and create regional problems that are even worse than the ones caused by the coca economy.
Due to the complexity of the problems that have been diagnosed in this meeting, we consider the proposals that have come out of it so far to be insufficiently developed and, as such, incapable of achieving a real and regional solution to such problems.  Thus, the community commits itself to carry on its work through the organizational process, the creation of space and time for meetings dedicated to continued work on the proposals and the creation of a plan for living that will make it possible for the region to have a future.
Meanwhile, we propose to freeze or temporarily stabilize the coca growing areas and, at the same time, provide incentives for the cultivation of food crops.  We also propose to guarantee the supply of food to the region.
In the meeting we established that we do not accept the existence of coca in the region; it justifies the permanent violation of our human rights and the permanence of the violators in our territory.
In our search for alternatives we took into account the fundamental importance of the presence of strategic natural resources in the region.  However, the forceful extractive methods being used to exploit these resources do not generate the regional economic growth that the national government and companies claim they do.
For that reason we are against the privatization and the irrational exploitation of our natural resources.  This only results in wealth for a few investors and poverty, abandonment and serious irreversible social and environmental damage for the majority.
We also reject the coca fumigations because this is a strategy that does not solve the problem but rather generates forced displacement, poverty and environmental destruction; nor has the ““rainforest ranger families”
” program had results. Both have demonstrated their complete and utter failures as anti-drug policies.
The defense of our territory has been a principal banner of our organizational work; it signifies the existence and recognition of our ethnic, cultural and.  regional
 diversity which is what sustains our economy and developmentAccordingly, we refuse to allow the national government to stigmatize El Catatumbo as a coca region at the service of criminal elements, thus legitimizing its military interventions while refusing to recognize the existence of its communities, the validity and legitimacy of its rural economy, of its collective territories and its diverse cultural identity.
We also consider it unacceptable that the national government has militarized Catatumbo as a way to provide security for capital and to affirm the legitimacy of the State.  What is needed to confront the present problems is not this mean and depredatory approach but policies of a social character that would lend themselves to a sustainable economic and environmental development that would benefit all the inhabitants. Local democracy also needs to be supported and strengthened.  This includes widening the role of the mayor’s office in the regional development process and community participation in the decisions that affect its future.
El Tarra, May 24, 2008

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 Peter Lenny, a CSN volunteer translator)

dhColombia, is forwarding the following urgent action alert issued by the permanent monitoring group of the Ariari communities (El Castillo Meta).
1. Friday 23 May 2008, 11:00 a.m., La Esmeralda hamlet (El Castillo): local people report that the Colombian army, troops of the 21st (Vargas) Battalion, arrived at the home of the rural worker, EFRAIN CARO ANSOLA, ID No. No. 3.121.559, who lives in the upper part of the hamlet. He was at home, roasting coffee beans for his family. The soldiers surrounded the house and abused him vulgarly and in a threatening tone and accused him of helping the guerrillas and of being connected with subversion. They later threatened to kill him, saying that if the met guerrillas on their way they would come back and kill him. They then made him sign a document certifying he had been treated well and marked it with his fingerprints, using soot from the frying pan where he had been roasting coffee. Finally, these representatives of the Colombian National Army told him to leave his farm or they could not answer for his life. All the same, the soldiers made another threat to Don Efraín: “If the guerrillas ever attack us, we will take off your head and roll it down that hill”. The army units asked Don Efraín about the guerrilla presence in the zone, to which he answered: “If the guerrillas have been around here, there’s nothing I can do about it”.
Mr. EFRAÍN CARO ANSOLA has been ill for the last week and for that reason could not take part in the meeting with the HUMANITARIAN MISSION and this afternoon (23 May) he was forced by the threats from this SPECIAL commission of the 21st (Vargas) Battalion to leave his farm for the hamlet’s school in order to protect his life.
EFRAIN CARO ANSOLA is a peasant farmer who lives alone on his own farm working to subsist and for that reason no-one was with him when these violations of his rights took place.
2. 25 May 2008, La Esmeralda and Caño Lindo hamlets (El Castillo Meta). Local people report that troops of the Colombian National Army belonging to the 21st (Vargas) Battalion have declared: “As all of you turn up to talk to this commission and when we summon you no-one comes, we are going to call a meeting to see which of you come”. This is a clear threat, because the peasant farmers have denounced human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law to the Humanitarian Commission.
3. 21 and 22 May 2008, Campo Alegre and La Esmeralda hamlets (El Castillo Meta): When it visited these hamlets, the Humanitarian Commission heard several witnesses, according to whom the Colombian National Army is persecuting and stigmatizing the young people (children of peasant farmers) who have returned, whom they accuse without evidence of being members of the militia or guerrilleros of the FARC. The soldiers harass and intimidate these young people so strongly that several of them have had to return to the cities for fear of being murdered and presented to the media as guerrilleros and then buried as NN (no name) in common graves, as has occurred with other people from the area.
4. 14 May 2008, around 5:00 a.m., La Floresta hamlet (El Castillo Meta): There were two hooded men dressed in black with rifles who stood for hours beside the hamlet’s school. The Colombian National Army was only 200 meters from the village.
5. 7 May 2008, La Esperanza hamlet (El Castillo Meta): Troops of the Colombian National Army belonging to the 21st (Vargas) Battalion quartered in Granada Meta offered money to children in the hamlet in exchange for information.
6. 7 May 2008, La Esmeralda hamlet (El Castillo Meta), Troops of the Colombian National Army under the command of Major Baquero arrived at the home of peasant farmers, asking arrogantly for Alba Nelly, who is chair of the Community Action Board. Major Baquero claimed that Alba Nelly had denounced the army for ill-treatment in the built-up area of El Castillo. The officer insinuated to the peasant farmer that he was in communication with the guerrillas, warning that he was going to “deliver the news” . Mayor Baquero’s warnings about the complaints had not been presented at El Castillo. It should be pointed out that in the preceding days the hamlet community had met in the hamlet and documented complaints of human rights violations by the Colombian National Army and paramilitary groups.
7. 21 April 2008, La Esmeralda hamlet (El Castillo Meta): The Humanitarian Commission visited the hamlet, where they heard from several sources of the ongoing threats that the family that owns one of the stores (selling groceries and liquor) in the La Esmeralda hamlet. According to the complaints: “Martha Rojas and Carlos Tapias have a store in the La Esmeralda Hamlet. On several occasions they have asked about the couple’s relationship with the guerrillas, because they trade in groceries. On 21 April, the Colombian National Army was asking local people about the traders’ alleged relations with the insurgents. This occurred on several occasions. The soldiers consider that the store’s supplies are destined for the guerrillas and that it is subversives who "consume tinned food". This information is worrying because Mr. Tapias always travels alone to Lejanías and during these trips his rights, and those of his family, may be violated in some way, as has been reiterated on previous occasions. The army’s declarations about the store owners constitute a violation of rules regarding human rights, because they restrict food supplies to the local people...”, it added.
8. March 20, 2008, Puerto Esperanza hamlet (El Castillo Meta). The paramilitary leader a.k.a. “Julian”, who is demobilized and currently in prison, threatened to murder 25 year old father of three, JOSÉ WILFREDO HENAO. José Wilfredo is the son of MARÍA LUCERO HENAO, who was executed by paramilitaries on 6 February 2004 at her home in the same hamlet, after denouncing the atrocities committed by paramilitaries in the region to a verification commission led by the Permanent Human Rights Commission late in 2005. According to the complaint: “a.k.a. ‘Julián’ paid a paramilitary from El Castillo to murder Wilfredo. Everything seems to indicate that the paramilitary hired to carry out the execution is also a known paramilitary, a.k.a. ‘Caregarra’”.
During 21, 22 and 23 May 2008, the social and human rights organizations that make up the La Mesa de Acompañamiento Permanente al Ariari (permanent monitoring group of the Ariari communities) conducted a MISSION TO THE UPPER ARIARI, with the following aims: to carry out a humanitarian mission to El Castillo Meta, during 21, 22 and 23, by means of an inter-institutional presence, in order to alert to the threat to, and exposure suffered by, the people of the hamlets in the Upper Ariari, in terms of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Specific aims:
- To constitute a presence and assist the people of the hamlets.
- To record the situation of exposure and threats to human rights and international humanitarian law.
- To issue a joint report, register it and circulate it among civil oversight bodies at the regional, national and international level.
- To contribute to strengthening the peasant people’s organization.
- To continue and schedule follow-up, monitoring and support for the community.
- To make concrete recommendations as to national and international rules.
The peasants of the El Castillo municipality have been returning voluntarily to their lands, with no guarantees as to their security or their reestablishing themselves socio-economically. The Colombian State has repeatedly failed to fulfill its duty to protect the life, honor and assets of its citizens and, as has been observed repeatedly, continues to violate peasants’ rights. The organizations that make up the Board consider it fundamentally important to monitor the communities that have returned and, jointly with them, to demand of the State that it take steps to guarantee their wellbeing and  safety, and to create the conditions necessary for all the peasants and organizations that were displaced from the region to return.
* 22 May, during the second day of the Mission, a meeting was being held with the peasants of the hamlets at the school of the La Esmeralda hamlet. At about midday, Lieutenant-Colonel MAURICIO MONSALVE DUARTE, Commander of the 21st (Vargas) Battalion, arrived accompanied by plainclothes and uniformed Army bodyguards. The colonel’s group was transported in two private vehicles (4x4 pickups). The colonel and his entourage tried to enter the venue, but the international observers  and the Mission coordinators explained the nature of the activity and the decision expressed to senior government authorities not to permit either military or police personnel to attend. Lieutenant-Colonel MAURICIO MONSALVE DUARTE left. It is important to state that the presence of a plainclothes escort, wearing black shirts and carrying Galil assault rifles, caused a great deal of fear among the local people, who thought they were paramilitaries. “That was the color of the shirts the paramilitaries wore in 2002 when the came to massacre us”, explained one resident.
The HUMANITARIAN MISSION stayed the night accompanying the local people until the following day. At 5:30 a.m., it left to return to Villavicencio and Bogota.
The events denounced above occurred hours after the departure of the humanitarian mission, which comprised national and regional human rights organizations, including: the National Movement of Victims of Crimes of State, CINEP, the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, Fensuagro, Sintragrin, Corporación Claretiana Norman Pérez Bello, Humanitarian Board for Displaced Persons Del Meta, del Meta Civic Committee for Human Rights, Granada Social Pastoral.
* In the course of 21 and 22 May, the Mission came into contact with more than 200 delegates from hamlets in meetings held in the Campo Alegre and La Esmeralda hamlets, and was saddened by more than 80 aggressions and human rights violations by Colombian National Army troops against peasants who had returned to the area. As the Mission was able to establish from testimonies by the peasants who had returned: between 2002 and 2005, the paramilitaries, operating jointly with Colombian National Army troops, carried out the cruelest campaign of terror, massacres, pillage and all kinds of aggressions against the peasant population of the upper region of the El Castillo municipality. More than 350 families were forcibly displaced, abandoning and losing all their possessions, goods, cattle, horses and homes. The peasant families wandered for three years as displaced people in Villavicencio and Bogota until, tired of the Colombian State’s lack of honor, decided to return to their lands individually, facing all the risks that involved.
t must be noted that, although the Regional Public Defender’s Office (Defensoría Regional del Pueblo) was invited to attend, it did not accompany the Mission. In previous actions, that constitutional defender of human rights has become in a sounding board for the official position of the 4th Army Division, contradicting the victims’ versions of human rights violations.
Given the gravity of these threats and information, we ask you to address the Colombian authorities as soon as possible to request:
* that the events reported here be thoroughly investigated and the culprits punished.
* that the Attorney General of the Nation embark as soon as possible on a review and investigation of the intelligence records of the public forces in the region, given that those forces – as evidenced today – are a risk to the people of the region.
* that the right to life, liberty, personal safety and association be guaranteed for the members of the peasant population who have returned voluntarily and that government support and protection programs be put in place.
* that the National Public Defender’s Office (Defensor Nacional del Pueblo) appraise and correct the role currently played by the present Regional Public Defender (Defensor Regional del Pueblo), whose stance has been to support whatever is said by the 4th Army Division, while ignoring the testimonies and complaints of the victims of human rights violations.
Corporación Claretiana Norman Pérez Bello
Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado Movice
Movimiento de Hijos e Hijas por La Memoria y contra la Impunidad de Crímenes de Estado Hij@s
Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria FENSUAGRO CUT
Sindicato de Trabajadores Agricolas Independientes del Meta Sintragrin
Comité Cívico por los Derechos Humanos del Meta
Please address your correspondence to:
Presidente de la República
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26
Palacio de Nariño
Fax. 5662071
Vicepresidente de la República
Carrera 8 No.7-57
Bogotá D.C.
Ministro de la Defensa
Avenida El Ddorado con Carrera 52 CAN
Bogotá D.C.
Ministro del Interior y de Justicia
Avenida El Dorado con Carrera 52 CAN
Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 2221874
Fiscal General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01
Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 570 20 00
Defensor del Pueblo
Calle 55 No. 10 32
Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 640 04 91
Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 80F
Bogotá D.C.
anticorrupción@presidencia.gov.co <mailto:anticorrupci%97n@presidencia.gov.co>
reygon@procuraduría.gov.co <mailto:reygon@procuradur%92a.gov.co>
Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario
Calle 7 N° 5 54
Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 337 46 67
fibarra@pre sidencia.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

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Extraditions Cut Short

(Sent in English by the Lawyer’s Colective Jose Alvear Restrepo)

(Return the paramilitary chiefs to Colombia so they may
be processed by the ordinary justice system.)


No Justice, No Truth, No Reparation:

Extraditions Cut Short

José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective
Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”
May 27, 2008
Bogotá, Colombia

In reference to the recent extradition of 14 paramilitary chiefs, the US
Ambassador in Colombia, William Brownfield, recently affirmed that “with this
extradition, Colombia and the United States will become better countries,” [1]
basing this on the harmonious relationship between the two countries and
alleging that all procedures established in Colombian law had been respected,
that information would be shared with Colombian authorities, and that the
“legal system in the United States also recognizes the right of the victims to
ask for compensation y repayment in a legal process […].” [2]

Nonetheless, this decision has severely harmed the victims and the National
Movement of Victims of State Crimes demanded the United States government “to
return the paramilitary chiefs to the Colombian authorities so they may be
processed by the ordinary justice system and not under the framework of the
Law of Justice and Peace, since this framework benefits the victimizers and
not the victims, since they have not told all of the truth, have not made
comprehensive reparations to the victims, and have not dismantled their
criminal structures.” [3]

In turn, the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights emphatically remembered that “[…] according to Colombian law, the
reasons claimed by the President of the Republic to proceed with the
previously-suspended extraditions are also grounds for their removal from the
application of the ‘Law of Justice and Peace’ and for the loss of the benefits
established therein.” [4] Moreover, the Inter-American Commission observed
that the extradition of the paramilitary chiefs “affects the Colombian State’s
obligation to guarantee victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations for
the crimes committed by the paramilitary groups.” [5]

While Colombia sets out on the long march to someday recover a shred of truth
taken with the primary “witnesses of para-politics,” as Rafael Pardo
appropriately called them, [6] within the framework of these sudden
presidential decisions, we also wonder about other persons who –with more than
enough grounds and under the same assumptions serving as the basis for these
extraditions- are also “eligible” for this practice.

For instance, we refer to US citizens, who have committed crimes in Colombia,
yet enjoy complete freedom due to agreements reached with the US justice
system or to immunity agreements, which provide them with immunity –it is
worth repeating- even from the laws of their own country, as is the case of
[7] all of whom have been board members of Chiquita Brands, which for years
made payments to paramilitary structures and participated in the logistics to
enter arms that these groups used to massacre, torture, disappear, and
forcibly displace thousands of peasants in Uraba. [8]

We also refer to members of Plan Colombia’s contracted mission operating in
Tolemaida that distributed a video in October 2004, which showed underage
girls from Melgar who were subjected to sexual abuses. [9] Specifically, we
refer to “Michel J. Coen, an active-duty US army sergeant, and César Ruiz, a
retired US army military member, providing security in Tolemaida,” [10] who
sexually abused a twelve-year-old Colombian girl at the Air Force’s Combat Air
Command No. 4 (CACOM 4) in Melgar on August 26, 2007. [11]

Likewise, we refer to US citizens Alan Norman Tanquary and José Hernández,
firing range instructors at the Army National Training Center in Tolemaida who
belonged to the Seventh Group of the US Army Special Forces. In May 2005, they
were arrested on the road connecting the departments of Tolima and
Cundinamarca as they were trafficking more than 30,000 projectiles meant for
paramilitary groups. The Attorney General’s Office requested the lifting of
immunity, however it was not granted. [12]

And we also refer to the members of the Colombian public force that have
trafficked in narcotics or have favored the processing of these illicit
substances through the trafficking of the chemical precursors. We speak of
members of the special anti-kidnapping unit Gaula, which confiscated 3,000
kilos of cocaine in the city of Barranquilla in 2002 and, in exchange for
1,800 million pesos, returned it to the drug traffickers. [13]

We speak of Army Major Gil Gonzalo Vivero Amador, who -along with Rubén
Oswaldo Ceballos Burbano, another a member of the military- organized the
transport of cocaine base from Puerto Caicedo, Putumayo, to Pitalito, Huila,
in June 2003, while using equip and logistics from the Domingo Rico Battalion
stationed in Villa Garzón, one of Plan Colombia’s emblematic bases “in the
fight against drug trafficking.” These military members were convicted for the
crime of drug trafficking by the Nariño District Court in August 2007. [14]

We speak of Army Colonel Miguel Ángel Sierra Santos and Army Major Javier
Alberto Carreño Vargas, who the Procurator General’s Office filed charges
against due to their alleged collaboration with a paramilitary group operating
in the department of Caquetá in 2003 by allowing the entrance of fuel and
cement, components used to process narcotics and psychoactive substances. [15]

And we speak of retired General Pauselino Latorre, who was detained by order
of the Attorney General’s Office -along with 21 other persons including his
nephew former prosecutor Leobardo Latorre- for trafficking drugs to the
United. [16] During his long military career, retired General Latorre held
such positions as chief of army intelligence, chief of the Army’s Third
Division in Cali, commander of the 17th Brigade based in Carepa (Antioquia),
and was a graduate of the School of the Americas based in Fort Benning,
Georgia, EEUU, among other important positions. [17] According to an
investigator of the case, "[i]t was established that [Latorre] served to
launder more than 2 thousand million pesos that resulted from the drug
trafficking business." [18]

What happens with all of them? Are Colombia and the United States not
interested in bringing US citizens to trial that have committed the very
crimes for which they are supposed to be supporting Colombian security
agencies and which justify their presence and the very existence of Plan
Colombia? Is Colombia not interested in domestically processing US citizens
who are encouraged by their diplomatic immunity to rape girls in their very
military bases (and not satisfied with that also subjecting them to public
humiliation)? Is the US government not interested in processing Colombian
military and police members that ignore their responsibilities and instead
logistically support, collude, and sustain drug-trafficking paramilitary
forces in the processing, trafficking, and commercialization of cocaine? Is
the Colombian government not interested in knowing the truth concerning the
board members of the banana company that financed the crimes against humanity
committed by paramilitaries?

How is it Colombia and the United States will become better countries when
there is a clear imbalance in the obligation of collaborating with the
Colombian justice system in cases involving sexual assault and the rights of
girls, the very trafficking of narcotics, or support to paramilitary
structures? How do they become better countries when the indignation of drug
trafficking falls on para-State structures, but never on the State structures
that participate and direct the commission of said crime? How do they become
better countries by selectively applying the concept of extradition in clear
detriment to the inalienable right to truth of the victims of crimes against
humanity? How do they become better countries when debate centers on the word
reparation, yet devoids it of any meaning?

Reparation is not an economic compensation, since a daughter that has been
disappeared, a father murdered, a people devastated and vanquished, a union
leader, an indigenous person or Afro-descendent, a journalist, human rights
defender, do not have a price in either pesos or dollars.

Reparation means knowing the truth about what happened: finding the remains of
those disappeared, knowing who are the material and intellectual authors of
the murder, returning the stolen land in dignified and secure conditions,
guaranteeing that the violations are not going to happen again or that other
Colombians will never again be subjected to disgrace and impunity.

Reparation is not made through a bureaucratic fund for the distribution of
goods, or through the promise that Colombians who subsist on less than one
dollar a day may access this reparation through lawsuits filed directly in the
United States. Reparation means treating the victims with respect, dignifying
their pain, giving the memory a social connotation and not a private shame.
Reparation means embracing the truth, without being afraid of it.

As opposed to statements made by US ambassador Brownfield, these latest
extraditions of Colombians to the United States will not improve either of the
countries or facilitate the comprehensive reparation of the victims.


[1] Con esta Extradición, Colombia y EEUU serán Mejores Países. Semana
Magazine, May 13, 2008, http://www.semana.com/wf_InfoArticulo.aspx?idArt=111792.

[2] Tendrán Garantías las Víctimas: William Brownfield. Semana Magazine, May
13, 2008, http://www.semana.com/wf_InfoArticulo.aspx?idArt=111778.

[3] La Extradición Otra Maniobra para la Impunidad. National Movement of
Victims of State Crimes, May 14, 2008,

[4] Pronunciamiento sobre la Extradición de 13 ex Jefes Paramilitares y su
Impacto en la Lucha contra la
 Impunidad. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Bogotá D.C., May 13, 2008,
http://www.hchr.org.co/publico/comunicados/2008/comunicados2008.php3?cod=12&cat=73 <http://www.hchr.org.co/publico/comunicados/2008/comunicados2008.php3?cod=12&amp;cat=73> .

[5] “The Commission notes that this extradition affects the Colombian State’s
obligation to guarantee victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations for
the crimes committed by the paramilitary groups. The extradition impedes the
investigation and prosecution of such grave crimes through the avenues
established by the Justice and Peace Law in Colombia and through the Colombian
justice system’s regular criminal procedures. It also closes the door to the
possibility that victims can participate directly in the search for truth
about crimes committed during the conflict, and limits access to reparations
for damages that were caused. This action also interferes with efforts to
determine links between agents of the State and these paramilitary leaders.”
(See: IACHR Expresses Concern about Extradition of Colombian Paramilitaries.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Press Release, Nº 21/08,

[6] "‘The witnesses of para-politics, who had reached agreements with these
politicians, have gone,’ plainly said former Colombian Minister of Defense
Rafael Pardo. And it is true: Salvatore Mancuso, the Mono Mancuso as they call
him in his native Monteria, is one of the persons who had talked the most
about the links between the paramilitaries and the upper echelons of political
power. He was the first to say that 35% of the Congress was hired by the
paramilitaries and, recently, during a television program, he accepted that
they had ‘come up short.’ Today more than 60 legislators have been implicated
in this scandal, 33 of them are in jail, among them Mario Uribe, the
president’s cousin. And he said even more: he claimed that all branches of
power had been infiltrated by the United Self-Defense Forces (AUC). Mancuso
confessed before the justice system some of the hundreds of his crimes and
stained several personalities. He accused the Minster of Defense, Juan Manuel
Santos, of having met with them several times to organize a plot against
former President Ernesto Samper. He assured that Vicepresident Francisco
Santos looked for them to create a paramilitary front for Bogotá. And he also
denounced that banana multinationals that operate in the country paid generous
brides to the organization […]." (See: “Se Van los Testigos de la
'Parapolítica’.” P. Lozano, El País, March 14, 2008,

[7] “On December 7, as revealed yesterday by El Tiempo, the 29th Specialized
District Attorney’s Office in Medellín called the board members of Chiquita,
and the enterprises Probán, Unibán and Sunisa-Del Monte, to make statements
concerning charges for conspiracy to commit an aggravated crime and financing
illegal armed groups. The court order mentions Robert Fisher, Steven G. Wars,
Carl H. Linder, Durk Jaguer, Jeffrey Benjamin, Morten Amtzen, Roderick Hills
(former committee director of Chiquita), Cyrus F. Freidheim (former general
director and currently president of an important media group), and Robert
Olson, former legal counsel. The nine of them, according to the initial data
obtained by the Attorney General’s Office, knew of the illegal operation
through which 1.7 million dollars were transferred to the AUC, a charge to
which Chiquita has already admitted and for which the US justice system fined
it 25 millions dollars.” (See: Diez ex Directivos de Chiquita fueron Incluidos
en Investigación de la Fiscalía por Pagos a las AUC. El Tiempo, December 18,

[8] Concerning the entering of weapons: 18th Attorney General’s Office,
National Unit against Terrorism, Process No. 63.625, Resolution dated August
1, 2003; Report of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American
States on the Diversion of Nicaraguan Arms to the United Defense Forces of
Colombia. Organization of American States, OEA/Ser.G, CP/doc. 3687/03, January
29, 2003, scm.oas.org/doc_public/ENGLISH/HIST_03/CP10739E06.DOC. Concerning
the case of financing paramilitary structures: United States v. Chiquita
Brands International Inc. United States District Court for the District of
Columbia, Government’s Sentencing Memorandum, Criminal No. 07-055 (RCL),
September 17, 2007, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/chiquita091607.htm.

[9] Marines de los Estados Unidos y Contratistas Vejan a Menores en Colombia.
Iván Cepeda Castro, El Espectador, January 8, 2004,

[10] Madre de Niña Violada por Militares EEUU Protestó frente a Embajada de
ese País. Terra Colombia/EFE, December 5, 2007,

[11] Concerning this case it is worth remembering that Ambassador Brownfield
has already stated his support for the extradition of the two military members
(even though up to now there is no information concerning any concrete action
taken to bring about these extraditions). “On the other hand, the diplomat
indicated that his country would also collaborate, if so requested, in a
possible extradition of the two military members accused of raping a girl at a
Colombian Air Base. ‘They have yet to be accused. We are ready to collaborate
with the authorities and in the end it is the decision of the prosecutor to
decide if at this time there are grounds to make an accusation. They are the
ones to decide,’ said Ambassador Brownfield. The two accused military members
are US Army Second Sergeant Michael J. Coen and César Ruiz, who provide
services to US staff at the military base in Tolemaida, Central Southern
Colombia”. (See: EE.UU. Colaboraría con Extradición de Ejecutivos de Chiquita
Brands. La Patria, November 23, 2007,
http://www.lapatria.com/Noticias/ver_noticia.aspx?CODNOT=24286&CODSEC=5 <http://www.lapatria.com/Noticias/ver_noticia.aspx?CODNOT=24286&amp;CODSEC=5> .)

[12] Fiscalía Informa sobre Situación de Norteamericanos. Attorney General’s
Office, Press Bulletin No. 110, May 5, 2005,

[13] Justicia Halló Inocente al General Gabriel Díaz. Diario del Magdalena,

[14] Asegurado Oficial por Narcotráfico. Attorney General’s Office. Press
Bulletin No. 228. July 9, 2004,

[15] Procurator General’s Office, File No. 009-98722-2004.

[16] “This concerns Pauselino Latorre, former chief of the Third Army Division
in Cali and Leovaldo Latorre, his nephew, former prosecutor of the
Antinarcotics Unit of the Attorney General’s Office. […] Neither Army General
Pauselino Latorre Gamboa, who retired two years ago, nor his nephew, former
District Prosecutor Leobardo Latorre, have been requested in extradition,
clarified Iguarán”. (Ver: Ex fiscal Antinarcóticos y General Retirado
Capturados con red de Narcotráfico. El Espectador, January 24, 2008,
http://www.elespectador.com/elespectador/Secciones/Detalles.aspx?idNoticia=20872&idSeccion=22L <http://www.elespectador.com/elespectador/Secciones/Detalles.aspx?idNoticia=20872&amp;idSeccion=22L> .)

[17] Notorious Graduates from Colombia. School of the Americas Watch,

[18] Ex Jefe de Inteligencia, General (r) Pauselino Latorre Lavó $ 2 mil
Millones de la Mafia. El Tiempo, January 24, 2008,

"No podrá haber paz mientras subsistan diferencias tan profundas,
desproporcionadas e irritantes en la suerte de las personas y de los pueblos."
- José Alvear Restrepo

"Peace is not possible as long as such profound, disproportionate, and
aggravating differences exist in the fate of persons and peoples." - José
Alvear Restrepo

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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