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Colombian Senator Juan Fernando Cristo answers President Uribe
(Translated by John I. Laun, a CSN volunteer translator)
Senator Juan Fernando Cristo's Statement for the Record Regarding Declarations of President Uribe
August 27, 2008
This is not the first time I have been a victim of persecution and the aggressions of President of the Republic Alvaro Uribe Velez. During all these years of disagreement with the National Government I have always maintained and will in the future maintain respect for the person of the president and his office.
Unfortunately he does not respect the persons who question his actions, for the purpose of eluding the answer which we Colombians deserve to one single question which we have today: Why did delinquents enter into the "House of Nari" (the Presidential Palace, Casa de Narino, named "Nari" by paramilitary murderer "Job" in a telephone conversation recorded after he left from a visit to the Presidential Palace) as if it were their home?
The intolerance of Uribe and his authoritarianism are dangerous for the nation's institutions. Today I have more reasons to repeat what I said two years ago in the face of an equally imprudent accusation of the head of state: "The President inspires fear in me."
I have never delivered one single peso to anyone's campaign and that is what the justice system determined forcefully at the time. My first reaction to this knavery, which is not unusual in Uribe, was to file a complaint against him in court for insult and slander. But then I immediately remembered that the present president is protected for all his crimes in Colombia and enjoys complete impunity given the makeup of the Commission of Investigations and Accusations of the Chamber of Representatives. For that reason, from this day forward I identify as the only person responsible for any physical or moral harm which may befall me or my family Mr. Alvaro Uribe Velez, and I request that hearings be held in the Congress of the United States, the World Inter-parliamentary Union, the Human Rights Commission of the OAS, the European Parliament, the Socialist International, the Latin American Parliament, the Andean Parliament, and non-governmental organizations in the United States and Europe to denounce internationally the form in which President Uribe, who tries to show himself to be a democrat on the international stage, acts here in Colombia like a President who pursues and assails ferociously Magistrates, Judges, journalists and the leaders of the opposition who do not share his totalitarian and antidemocratic obsession with perpetuating himself in power come what may.
President, explain your conduct and do not raise smokescreens to hide the shameful episodes of these days which are repugnant to decent Colombians. And hopefully you will not continue to invite delinquents to the Casa de Nari (Presidential Palace) on the condition that they bring information against magistrates, journalists of Members of Congress who question your government.
Mr. President: your slanderous statements will not quiet my voice.
Juan Fernando Cristo B.
of the Republic
the Liberal Party)
Uribe Persecutes Vendors of Raw Milk to Meet Demands of the FTA
(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
Like all the agrarian and animal-raising areas that make up the basic diet of Colombians, milk production was handed over by the government during the FTA negotiations with the US. And the same as always, the losers will be the domestic producers who will not be able to stand up to the competition of the big multinationals that produce and market milk. The FTA will suppose massive imports of powdered milk from the US, whose producers receive close to 11.3 billion dollars annually in subsidies. In the FTA with that country there was an agreement for a mutual quota of 9000 tons of milk for the first year, which produces an asymmetry in favor of the North, the largest producer of fresh milk in the world (15.2% of the world total), while in our country there are no stimuli for export, as the president of Colanta [a big Colombian dairy company], Jenaro Pérez, said himself (El Espectador, July 25, 2008). The US produces 77.5 million tons of powdered milk, while Colombia produces 6 million. But beyond that, the Uribe government eliminated the tariffs on milk sera, a waste product which is used in place of fresh milk to manufacture dairy products, with the hope of a greater quota by the US, which was never carried out.
If Colombia under the FTA succeeds in exporting milk to the US, it must first register and ask for import permits from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the Food Labeling Office. With the FTA there was barely created a Permanent Committee on Safety and Plant Safety Measures, which does not obligate any of the two governments, and in which the US is committed to receive and take into account the analyses of risk in Colombia, which in no way implies a real access to that market.
The emitting of two decrees (6161 and 2838) which prohibit the sale of raw milk are based in the demands put forward in the material on sanitary and plant sanitary norms of the FTA with the US and the commitments undertaken by Colombia in the WTO, without taking into account that the World Health Organization itself recommends boiling raw milk and applying hygienic norms to avoid the so-called cross contamination during the preparation of food.
But the decrees, in addition to benefiting the North American oligopolies, do the same with milk originating in the European Union, with which the Andean Community is negotiating an FTA. Eight of the ten main exporters of dairy products in the world are in the EU, and they control %7% of the world market in exports in the area.
Decrees 616 and 2838 will concentrate production and marketing of milk in an oligopoly, leaving more than 160,000 people—those directly or indirectly live off the market that is generated around the sale of raw milk, as bottlers, makers of cheese and cheese-related and other dairy products—throughout the country without work. The Minister of Agriculture, Andrés Felipe Arias, himself has declared that he is “working so that the agro-industrial firms (pasteurizers) can absorb more product, and at the same time, that the amount that enters through informal channels (raw producers) be less.” (Portafolio, July 25, 2008). If this were not enough, consumers will have no option but to buy pasteurized milk, which costs 1,930 pesos per liter, while raw milk costs 900 pesos. That situation, in a country with more than 22 million people living in poverty and some nine million in misery, should be a source of outrage from all sectors of the nation.
Such is the policy of “investor confidence” of this government, whose only goal it to benefit foreign capital above valuable national interests. While they persecute those who—to survive—sell raw milk, they open the door wide to transnationals, without any concern about the consequences that this brings. The FTA with the US, for example, permitted the entrance of chicken and old hens from the day it went into effect, without having to pay tariffs (El Tiempo, May 15, 2006) and the importing of meat from cows more than 30 months old, even though the World Organization for Animal Health has determined that the US is not a country free of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) or “mad cow disease.” Is it more serious for the Uribe government that their population consume boiled milk, on which they were raised, than that they consume waste products imported from other countries?
In accord with the arbitrary decrees 6161 and 2383, the country will be able to do nothing more than repeat actions like the discoveries in December, 2002, when the multinational company Nestlé imported 320 tons of out of date milk, not fit for human consumption. Minister Palacio: What is harmful? Boiled milk or out of date milk?
The mobilizations and protests that more than 10,000 producers of milk carried out on August 19 in Bogotá against the persecution by the national government are fuel that encourages the resistance that has developed on the national level and that must continue in order to denounce the economic, social and cultural model that the powers of the North, thanks to submissive governments like that of Uribe, are trying to impose with the FTAs with the US, Canada, the AEL and the European Union.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
A CALL TO COLOMBIAN AND FOREIGN JOURNALISTS
FROM THE FAMILIES OF THE DISAPPEARED FROM THE PALACE OF JUSTICE
Esteemed Colombian and Foreign Journalists:
A cordial greeting.
The families of those disappeared in the Holocaust of the Hall of Justice approach you, the media, to ask your involvement in securing an intervention and pronouncement by the nation’s Attorney General’s office with respect to the following fact:
On August 11, 2008 the outgoing director of the INPEC, retired Major General Eduardo Morales, authorized a communiqué, that may be found in the case file that the third specialized court of Bogotá, which is charged with moving forward the historic case about the disappearances from the Hall of Justice (for the first time the civil justice system will prosecute military personnel for crimes of lese humanity [forced aggravated disappearance]). In the above-mentioned memo the director of the INPEC declares that said prison lacks the infrastructure to provide health care for the real or supposed illness of the eyes suffered by the retired Coronel Edilberto Sánchez Rubiano, commander of the B2 at the time of the holocaust.
Mr. Sánchez Rubiano and his “job” in the florist’s house to which the civilians evacuated from the Hall were brought (three of them are currently disappeared: Carlos Rodríguez, Cristina Guarín, and Irma Franco) have the first judicial hearing on September 8, 2008 (Human Rights Day) in the third specialized court. Mr. Sánchez has been named by the prosecution witness Virginia Vallejo as one of the persons responsible for the tortures, murder, and dissolution--in buckets of acid and quicklime--of the bodies of those who disappeared in the Hall
We are asking that the diagnosis of ex-coronel Sánchez Rubiano’s illness of the eyes, which according to the INPEC and Legal Medicine would imply staying at home for the immediate future (and help in carrying out daily chores) be made by a physician not from the INPEC and Legal Medicine, so that this not be--as we believe--a “trick” to exchange house for prison for one of those presumed responsible for this tragedy of 23 years ago and crime of lese humanity committed against our family members.
Please contact the national office of the Law Enforcement Office for Public Employees (Procurador General) Dr, Edgardo Maya-Villazon, asking that he receive us for a hearing and respond to our petition. We want a diagnosis from a doctor who is not from one of the aforementioned institutions. A negative response to this petition will be assumed by us to confirm that a lie is being woven, to exchange the benefit of home over jail. An acceptance would dispel our doubts about the real or supposed illness. We have every right to ask this of the Colombian government and the government should see that it happens. We do not want further impunity than what we have lived with for 23 years.
EDGARDO JOSE MAYA VILLAZÒN
Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.
HELP TO SAVE ONE OF THE LAST NOMADIC TRIBES IN THE COLOMBIAN AMAZONIC REGION
(Translated by Stephanie DiBello, a CSN volunteer translator
Sent by CINPRODEC ( Centro Alternativo de Investigacion y Proteccion de los Derechos Fundamentales en Colombia)
Humanitarian Crisis in the Guaviare Middle River Region
Since the end of 2002, the indigenous areas and the civil population in the Guaviare middle river region have been increasingly suffering. Right now the armed conflict is heightened in the department of Guaviare, and in the past few days it has generated more incidents of forced displacement. This is especially prevalent in the indigenous towns of Guayabero and Nukak, which are situated in the Guaviare middle river region, an area comprised of the departments of Meta, Sur del Vichada, Guaviare and Guainia.
Since the end of 2005 100% of the ethnic group Nukak, approximately 186 indigenous people, were forcibly displaced by criminal armed groups. Before being displaced they had lived in that region of the country for centuries. And if that wasn’t enough, a member of the same group named Monikaro Nukak Maku was murdered in February 2008 in the reservation Barranco Colorado, and Daniel Nukak Maku was murdered in that same reservation in March 2008. Both victims were part of the same nomadic tribe.
The town of Guayabero is undergoing the similar hardships as a result of the degradation of this intensified war within their territories, with 186 habitants of the town displaced. To this date 86% of the population of Guayabero have been forcibly displaced as a result of the worsening war, confinement, restrictions on mobility, forced recruitment, orders to abandon their territory, mines, and selective killings. For example, on July 19th an indigenous person from Guayabero, Marquito González, was extrajudicially executed in the reservation Barranco Colorado, causing a massive forced displacement from the reservation to the town of Mapiripán.
Historically abandoned by the Colombian State, these towns suffer the consequences of a lack of attention regarding education, health, infrastructural development, and lucrative projects that are socially, environmentally, and economically just and equal. Since the conception of the foul “Democratic Security” policy, the arrival of members of the National Army in the zone has worsened the war and deteriorated the humanitarian crisis. Colombia needs now more than ever a State presence that goes beyond just a military presence. It must recognize the civil population as an entity with rights and create projects aimed at integrally improving the quality of life of the indigenous and non-indigenous population that resides in the Department of Guaviare.
We want to remind the Colombian State that:
ü The Political Colombian Constitution of 1991 grants a wide range of rights, where institutional responsibilities fall to the executive branch, which should be the principal guarantor of said rights, and where the security forces are subordinates to the instructions of the civil government.
As we have pointed out, the “Democratic Security” policy favors the abuse of the current institutional mechanisms and stimulates the violation of human rights; it equally promotes the involvement of civilians in the armed conflict by creating networks of informants and providing rewards for information leading to the litigation of social leaders that work to restore rights. This is worsened in the case of the indigenous communities of Guaviare, where president Uribe himself has offered rewards to informants to resolve land conflicts.
Lastly, we urge the national government, in coordination with the organisms of State control and the human rights agencies of the UN, to arrange a high-level meeting with social organizations as soon as possible. It is with the social and human rights organizations, movements, and platforms of the Colombian civil society that it is possible to present what the threat of the armed conflict and the consequences of the “democratic security” policy mean to the indigenous communities. This meeting would aim to find solutions to this crisis, or at least to minimize the risk and anxiety that affects the indigenous, afro, rural, and urban communities of Guaviare.
TO THE COLOMBIAN STATE:
· The immediate compliance with the reiterated recommendations about the observance of International Human Rights Law that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and other international organizations have formulated.
· An end to the repressive measures and the intimidation towards the indigenous communities in the Department of Guaviare who are being subjugated by the legal and illegal armed actors of the Colombian State.
TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF GUAVIARE
· An end to the repressive measures and the intimidation towards the indigenous communities in the Department of Guaviare who are being subjugated by the legal and illegal armed actors of the Colombian State.
· A guarantee to the right to life, personal security, physical and psychological integrity, and personal privacy. A guarantee to the honor, reputation and the right to free mobility within the indigenous reservations, which are affected by the illegal and arbitrary activities of the legal security forces of the Colombian State.
TO THE DEFENSORIA
· To fulfill its institutional role to monitor the protection of and respect for human rights; to guarantee to the right to life, personal security, physical and psychological integrity, and personal privacy. To guarantee the honor, reputation and free mobility of the indigenous people of Guayabero and Nukat Maku, who are affected by the illegal and arbitrary activities of the legal security forces of the Colombian State.
TO THE OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER OF HUMAN RIGHTS (OHCHR):
· Within the framework of your mandate, work to ensure that the actions of the Colombian State correspond with the domestic and international laws that it has committed to respect, and that investigations are carried out to account for government actions.
WE URGE HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISMS AND ORGANIZATIONS TO STAY ATTENTIVE AND ALERT TO THE CRITICAL HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF GUAVIARE IS CONFRONTED WITH.
INSTITUTIONS WHERE THIS LETTER SHOULD BE SENT
ALVARO URIBE VELEZ
Presidente de la República
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Nariño Bogotá
Vicepresidente de la República
Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C.
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS
Ministro de la Defensa
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.
FABIO VALENCIA COSSIO
Ministro del Interior y de Justicia
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.
MARIO GERMAN IGUARAN ARANA
Fiscal General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 570 20 00
WOLMAR ANTONIO PEREZ ORTIZ
Defensor del Pueblo
Calle 55 No. 10 – 32 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 640 04 91
EDGARDO JOSE MAYA VILLAZÒN
Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.
Programa Presidencial De Derechos Humanos Y De Derecho Internacional Humanitario.
Calle 7 N° 5 – 54 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 337 46 67
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Open Letter to the communities and participants in the Permanent Tribunal of the Peoples (TPP) session in Colombia.
( Translated by David Brown, a CSN volunteer translator)
Resent from: COSMOS Association
(Fundación Ecológica COSMOS a Colombian Ecological Foundation)
Open Letter to the communities and participants in the Permanent Tribunal of the Peoples (TPP) session in Colombia.
Sierra Nevada, Santa Marta (SNSM) July 17, 18 and 19, 2008
For us, the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada of Gonawindua (SNSM), this is our sacred house, and as such man should pay special attention to its preservation because this territory is a privilege for all humanity not only for the Koguis, Arhuacos, Kankuamos and Wiwas.
Man has still not been able to understand that our mother, THE EARTH, is the sum of all logical things and since the thinking that the earth must be taken care of, guarded, preserved and rendered tribute to, a mission that is carried out by our MAMOS (indigenous elders) as traditional authorities, but our elder brother* has allowed themselves to be carried away by a manner of thinking that preaches the destruction of the planet, this with sole objective being that of achieving economic benefits.
Our MAMOS elders continue reflecting regarding the confusion that exists on the land and about what road to follow to conserve it when the suns heats up more, the moon is sadder, the wind brings differing messages, the rain is no longer a constant, the environment is being contaminated and the animals that previously lived in a state of equilibrium with nature are harming to man. The cat devours in the same manner as society is devouring itself.
What is happening with the water is a message. If our elder brothers were not in this sacred mountain area, the would not even be a river there today, but we have been making offerings to the water, speaking with her, with the clouds, with the rivers, the starts and with all that is symbolic of life; but man, instead of interpreting our water as a symbol of vitality, is interpreting it as a symbol of war, of death.
Today, our Sierra Nevada finds itself less covered by glaciers, sacked of her valuable wood, invaded at the base of the mountain with African palms for the agro based fuels for export, confronting attacks by badly named “development” plans that look to end our cultures, deprive us of our autonomy and make us more and more dependent on hand outs and on projects of foreign governments and NGOs.
In the western region of the Sierra Nevada and as part of the despoiling of our land, for the last 80 years banana production in the hands of multinational corporations with their history of death.
The massacre of the banana workers in 1928 carried out by the Colombian Army headed by General Cortez, defending the interests of United Fruit and, since the decade of the 90s with the flowering of the paramilitary groups it has been Chiquita Brands that has financed the activities developed in the interior of our territory by supposed counter insurgents. We also remember with pain the death of three great leaders headed by Luis Napoleon Torres, assassinated by the National Army as a reprisal for a kidnapping carried out by another group of poisonous wasps but wearing armbands of “the Army of the People”.
We have been victims but also witnesses to the activities unleashed by the drug trade since the 1970s with the so called “Marimbera Bonanza” and later with the coca leaf trade leaving its lesions of depredation in our forests and the alteration of all the signs of life produced by the fumigations ordered by the anti narcotics office of the US embassy.
In the interior of our ancestral territory demarcated by the black line and recognized by the National government through resolution #837 of August 28, 1995, economic and social development plans have been being carried out in recent years that define “Strategic lines to promote an integrated and sustainable environment for the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta” This development plan has it basis in the study of the Pro-Sierra Foundation (Fundación Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta), directed by Juan Mayr, ex minister for the Environment, that was carried out in our territory with financing from the World Bank.
The specialists in political economy indicate that the principle productive activities depend directly or indirectly on the environmental services of this eco region, especially on the hydraulic resources of which only 8% is for human consumption, the rest being used for productive activities in Agriculture, Cattle and Mining, which allows us to better understand the megaprojects. For instance such as the El Cercado dam on the Rancheria River with its irrigation districts in the port, Multi use Brisa S.A in Dibulla that includes a metal working plant, a cement plant, an industrial free trade zone and the Besotes dam in El Cesar.
Together with the development of this megaprojects, Ingeominas (Colombian Government Geology and Mining Institute) charged the B & G company with developing and completing the geological map of the Sierra Nevada along with the carrying out of fine sedimentology studies in the river basins that descend from the Sierra Nevada, which, taken together with the accord between the governments of the town of Bello and the Agua de Manizales firm, is leaving us in the hands of the marketers of water and their processes of privatization.
The exploitation of the mineral resources is also found with special metals such as titanium, ornamental rocks, and construction materials; also on the part of the multinationals the advancement of the study of the continental shelf of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta considering this promising for the discovery and development of hydrocarbons.
The tourist industry is one of those benefiting, the concession of the firm Aviatur of Sr. Bessudo of the National Tayrona Park and in Cesar that has the eye of Nabusimake Capital in the territory of Arhuaco; the tourist packet is made more attractive by the the Social Action organization of the Presidency of the republic. Our millennium long spiritual barriers have been converted into a series of barrier towns, near the various municipalities that look to recreate the traditional aspect of the indigenous peoples that would protect 35 river beds and 350 micro river beds.
We continue being displaced in our own territory, this time in the resettlement to the lower parts of our mountains, “in order to leave comfortably” in accord with civilized parameters while the sacred sites in the higher elevations of or dense mountains High Mountain military bases are established.
The prior permits us to conclude that the principal resource that the government, the financial entities and the multinationals look to take over is the hydraulic resource considered today by the world as blue gold.
If we want to count on this vital resource we propose to, our younger brothers, a policy that we have always had, of RECIPROCITY (you help me, I help you), in this case for the care and preservation of the resources from our ancestral ¨best practices¨.
We need to look for and achieve an accord in the thinking about this that permits us to understand the mountains of the Sierra as a sacred house of humanity and in this way carry forward spiritual thinking together with the progress of man to preserve nature.
We want to express our categorical rejection of all the plans of economic development inside our sacred territory, because we have always existed to take care of the thinking regarding our mother nature and our message is the search for a true love that identifies us with all the assets that were left us and we call out to humanity to plant the great truth that has been developed and planted in so many marvelous forms and in this way to develop a school of permanent dialogue, interacting with nature and in this manner to protect and take care of the world.
Associated with: TPP, Indigenous rights, conservation, Sierra Nevada, Tradiciones, Culture Comummnications.
Network for Humanity and Solidarity – Colombia
A NOTE BY CSN
*”elder brother is how the indigenous from the Sierra Nevada call non indigenous outsiders
The Para-Uribe Regime, the Extraditions, and Justice in Colombia
The Para-Uribe Regime, the Extraditions, and Justice in Colombia
by Justin Podur, Dawn Paley, and Manuel Rozental
A New York Times article by Simon Romero on August 15 suggested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo was going to investigate the FARC in Colombia, and its connections to other countries. In the 12-paragraph article, one paragraph (the 10th) noted that the ICC would also look at paramilitarism:
"In relation to the paramilitaries, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he was concerned that there had been few convictions of paramilitary warlords, despite the extradition of more than a dozen to the United States and a scandal over paramilitary ties among senior members of Colombia's political establishment."
The NYT article is deceptive. The ICC's main concern was with paramilitarism, not the FARC, whose crimes are dwarfed by those of the paramilitaries. The Supreme Court of Colombia have been seeking convictions of the politicians involved in the 'scandal over paramilitary ties', not just the paramilitaries themselves. These cases are going to be harmed by the extraditions of the main witnesses, the mentioned dozen paramilitary leaders. The paramilitaries (and politicians) are guilty of major massacres, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, but they will be tried in the US exclusively on drug charges. Above all, the motive for the crimes is lost in the article. The paramilitarism, and for that matter the drug trafficking to help finance it, was done to destroy social opposition and displace people from territory, to facilitate the plunder of the country through violence.
Some background is necessary. Colombia's civil war has been running, by some counts, for sixty years, since change through the political system was closed when Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated in 1948. For the first few decades the instrument of destruction of social movements and indigenous and afro-colombian peoples was the national army and police, supplemented by private armies affiliated with political parties. Starting in the 1960s, the United States became heavily involved in sponsoring counterinsurgency warfare. The paramilitarism currently seen in Colombia, in which private armies act as auxiliaries to the military, conduct narcotrafficking, perform 'social cleansing', and contract with landowners, multinationals, and politicians to commit murder and massacre, has been around since at least the 1980s, when the Castano brothers helped found Muerte a los Secuestradores (MAS), which then became Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).
Colombia's current President Alvaro Uribe Velez' political history is intimately tied with paramilitarism. He was mayor of the then drug-trafficker controlled Medellin in 1982, and when he became governor of Antioquia in 1995-1997, he supported the legalized paramilitarism of groups called CONVIVIR. Elected president in 2002 he changed the constitution so he could be re-elected in 2006, and reams of evidence have accumulated of links between politicians in his party and the paramilitary death squads. During Uribe's nearly three decades in politics, paramilitaries have ravaged the country, killing several thousand Colombians every single year, carrying out spectacular public atrocities like playing soccer with victims' heads and creating mass graves.
As President, Uribe's strategy was to attack the FARC continuously, politically and militarily, to capitalize on the political errors of the guerrillas and suggest a military solution to the conflict with them. In tandem, he also initiated a full-blown 'peace process' with the paramilitaries. The idea of a peace process between the government and the paramilitaries, which were basically the clients of the state and multinationals, performing the killings and terrorism these institutions did not want to be openly associated with, was always preposterous, a mechanism for legalizing paramiltarism. But the process went forward over a number of years. Many paramilitaries who came forward and surrendered their arms were allowed impunity for their crimes and in some cases, were also allowed to keep the territories of the peasants they had driven from the land by terror. Others were incorporated into Uribe's 'democratic security' apparatus as paid informants. Still others came forward to confess to lesser crimes than they had actually committed.
The peace process and the 'demobilization' of paramilitaries did not end paramilitarism. Assassinations and death threats proceed as normal despite the supposed demobilization. The new generation of paramilitaries on August 11/08 made genocidal threats against the indigenous of Cauca, saying the region had been surrounded by their agents and that "there will be a significant number of you murdered and disappeared. We know that your population will not go above 1 million people in Colombia. We want Popayan, Bogota, and Cali free of Indians..." The current indigenous population of Colombia is about 1.4 million.
The number of paramilitary atrocities has decreased somewhat since the peace process, but the Colombian army and police have taken up the slack. An LA Times report on August 20/08 by Chris Kraul quoted figures from the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) that the military killed 329 people in 2007 compared to 223 in 2006. The murders that would have been committed by the paramilitaries are now being committed directly by the greatly-expanded military forces.
One major political risk in the paramilitary peace process was that, while the killings could continue, for the process to succeed even as theatre at least some people would have to be punished for the horrendous crimes. But no one wanted to be the scapegoat, and paramilitarism was deeply embedded - in the military, in local politics, in Congress, and in relationships with the multinationals on the ground. One general, Jaime Uscategui, on trial for a paramilitary massacre of civilians at Mapiripan in 1997, suggested publicly that if he went down for it, he would bring many others down with him and had the evidence to do so (he was acquitted).
With both founding Castano brothers (Fidel and Carlos) probably dead, the AUC had been under the control of a third Castano, Vicente, and Salvatore Mancuso, a commander with close links to Italian mafias. AUC leaders had a history of making comments embarrassing to the Colombian administration. According to the paramilitary ideology, they were performing a service, exterminating leftists, unionists, indigenous people and peasant leaders, all of whom they deemed enemies of Colombia, and were unashamed of it. Carlos Castano admitted that 70% of their revenues came from drug trafficking. In 2002, Mancuso praised the election of Uribe and said that 35% of Colombia's congress were friendly to the paramilitaries.
At the end of 2006, these admissions spiralled out of the control of Uribe's administration. Mancuso turned himself in. At around the same time, a document called the "Pact of Ralito", signed by paramilitaries and politicians in 2001, was exposed. A paramilitary leader, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo (codename "Jorge 40"), had his laptop confiscated. Jorge 40's computer contained many other documents that the Colombian Supreme Court used as the basis for an investigation into the links between elected politicians, most of whom were in Uribe's camp, and the paramilitaries. Through 2007, between the Jorge 40 laptop documents and the testimony of Mancuso and others, some very uncomfortable realities were being exposed before the Supreme Court and the country. The scandal was called 'para-politica', though opposition Senator Jorge Robledo called it 'para-Uribismo', because most of the dozens of politicians involved were in Uribe's camp.
Indeed, it is remarkable how much evidence of paramilitary and narcotrafficking involvement has emerged about Uribe himself. In April 2007 opposition Senator Gustavo Petro presented photos of Uribe's brother Santiago with a drug dealer (Fabio Ochoa) in 1985 and suggested Uribe's support for the CONVIVIR paramilitaries in Antioquia helped facilitate massacres in that department in the 1990s. A former lover of notorious drug dealer Pablo Escobar (Virginia Vallejo) said in her book that Escobar and Uribe had been great friends in the 1980s. More seriously, so too did the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 1991, as a document published by the US National Security Archive shows: Uribe was said to be "a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar", "dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel", and was against extradition - something the narcotraffickers had always feared. In April 2008, Uribe's cousin Mario was arrested as part of the para-Uribismo scandal, and another paramilitary fighter accused Uribe himself of helping plan a massacre in 1997.
Uribe met these varied accusations with a single response: attacking the source. Thus in Uribe's accusations, Gustavo Petro and his party, the Polo Democratico, were guerrilla supporters. The photograph with an Uribe and an Ochoa existed because both families were famous ranchers and attended common horse breeding competitions. Virginia Vallejo couldn't produce any photos of him with Escobar, and was only the vehicle of journalist Gonzalo Guillen, who Uribe attacked publicly (and who then was forced to flee the country due to death threats from paramiltiaries). He had supported the legalized CONVIVIR paramiltiaries as governor, but when he learned of their atrocities he tried to demobilize them. And the Supreme Court was partisan, political, and should be reformed. In recent weeks Uribe has suggested a reform to put the Supreme Court under the jurisdiction of the executive, to which we will return.
The "para-Uribismo" evidence included specific agreements between politicians and paramilitaries on planning specific massacres, arrangements on how to cover up and erase records of crimes in official databases, and more.
Among the most uncomfortable of the revelations came from Mancuso himself. In March 2007, the American fruit company Chiquita admitted before a US court to paying over a million dollars to the paramilitaries, who massacred banana workers in Uraba. Chiquita made a plea to pay a $25 million fine (in the US) as punishment. A separate case against Chiquita on behalf of the victims of the massacres, represented by Jim Reider, is currently being pursued in a New York Court. Chiquita argued the payments were capitulation to murderous extortion, and that they paid in order to protect their workers from the paramilitaries.
A year later, Chiquita's relationship with the paramilitaries was brought to a wider American audience in a 60 Minutes program aired May 11, 2008. The interviewer, Steve Kroft, spoke to Mancuso:
* * *
60 Minutes did find one person who was willing to name names inside a maximum security prison outside Medellin: Salvatore Mancuso was once the leader of the paramilitaries.
"Chiquita says the reason they paid the money was because your people would kill them if they didn't. Is that true?" Kroft asks.
"No it is not true," Mancuso says. "They paid taxes because we were like a state in the area, and because we were providing them with protection which enabled them to continue making investments and a financial profit."
"What would have happened to Chiquita and its employees if they had not paid you?" Kroft asks.
"The truth is, we never thought about what would happen because they did so willingly," Mancuso says.
Asked if the company had a choice, Mancuso says, "Yes, they had a choice. They could go to the local police or army for protection from the guerillas, but the army and police at that time were barely able to protect themselves."
Mancuso helped negotiate a deal with the Colombian government that allowed more than 30,000 paramilitaries to give up their arms and demobilize in return for reduced prison sentences. As part of the deal, the paramilitaries must truthfully confess to all crimes, or face much harsher penalties.
(CBS) "Dole and Del Monte say they never paid you any money," Kroft tells Mancuso.
"Chiquita has been honest by acknowledging the reality of the conflict and the payments that it made; the others also made payments, not only international companies, but also the national companies in the region," Mancuso says.
"So you're saying Dole and Del Monte are lying?" Kroft asks.
"I'm saying they all paid," Mancuso says.
Mancuso has been indicted in the U.S. for smuggling 17 tons of cocaine into the country. He says he's more than willing to tell U.S prosecutors anything they want to know.
"Has anyone come down here from the United States to talk to you about Dole, or to talk to you about Del Monte or any other companies?" Kroft asks.
"No one has come from the Department of Justice of the United States to talk to us," Mancuso says. "I am taking the opportunity to invite the Department of State and the Department of Justice, so that they can come and so I can tell them all that they want to know from us."
"And you would name names?" Kroft asks.
"Certainly, I would do so," Mancuso says.
* * *
About 24 hours after the program aired, on May 13, 2008, Uribe had Mancuso extradited to the United States for drug trafficking, along with a dozen other paramilitary leaders.
The extraditions continue, disrupting the spiral of revelations and given Uribe a chance to try to return to the initiative. Uribe's attack is three-pronged. First, attack the evidence by deporting the paramilitary leaders who can testify to the links between paramilitary massacre and displacement with Colombian politicians and, more importantly, with multinational and US corporations. Second, attack the Supreme Court institutionally and try to bring it under political control. Also use the legal offices that are under the President's influence to get people close to the President released: Mario Uribe, the President's cousin, and William Montes, another accused "para-politician", were released by Colombia's prosecutors in the past few days. Third, use the popularity gained from successful operations against FARC to attack anyone pointing to the evidence of para-Uribismo as guerrillas.
These popularity-swelling operations are tarred by their own illegality: Uribe admitted that the Colombian government rescued FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt and the other captured soldiers and police by impersonating an international humanitarian organization and using the Red Cross logo, something that is also illegal under international law (AFP, July 17/08, "Uribe Admits Red Cross Emblem Used in Hostage Rescue").
But yet another challenge to Uribe and to "para-Uribismo" has come from an unexpected direction: the International Criminal Court (ICC). Its prosecutor, Argentine attorney Luis Moreno Ocampo, began proceedings against a sitting head of state last month when he sought a warrant for the arrest of Sudan's President Omar Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. Observers of the Darfur conflict argued that doing so was a mistake, that it mixed false accusations with legitimate ones and would damage the prospects for peace in Darfur (see for example Alex de Waal's comment).
Others have argued that the ICC's actions in Rwanda and Yugoslavia were also politicized: US officials would never go on trial for their crimes, nor in most cases would their clients - so what justice was the ICC dispensing? And yet, when Uribe's office received the ICC's letter about the paramilitary extraditions, the Colombian president had to be aware that he was receiving a letter from someone who had issued a warrant for the arrest of a sitting president for crimes committed in the name of counterinsurgency and carried out by proxy forces.
Moreno's letter, addressed to the Colombian Ambassador at the Hague, was diplomatically worded. Its key paragraph:
"How will the prosecution of those primarily responsible for crimes that are under the jurisdiction of the ICC (translator's note - these are genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and aggression), including political leaders and members of Congress presumably linked to the demobilized paramilitaries, be guaranteed? In particular, I would like to know if the investigations into crimes punishable under the Rome Statute will continue and if the extradition of the paramilitary leaders presents an obstacle to the effective investigation of the aforementioned politicians. I should clarify that as of today there is no decision on opening an investigation. The situation remains under the analysis of my office."
Colombia is a signatory to the Rome Statute, but it exempted itself for 7 years from the war crimes article of the statute in 2002, the year Uribe came to power. Should the ICC open an investigation, the legality of this exemption will no doubt be considered.
Colombia is not Sudan: Colombia is a devoted US ally and Sudan, an official enemy. Colombia is a sought-after free trade partner of Canada and the US and Sudan, the subject of sanctions. For the ICC to intervene in Colombia to ensure that the evidence against the regime, its links to crimes against humanity, and the relationship between these crimes and the enrichment of multinational corporations is allowed to emerge would be a different direction for the court, one that could damage support for Colombia's regime in the US and Canada. Perhaps the threat of an ICC investigation could help undermine Uribe's efforts to abuse Colombia's Supreme Court and force Canada and the US to stop their armed plunder of that country.
Justin Podur and Manuel Rozental are activists with Pueblos en Camino (www.en-camino.org). Dawn Paley is a contributing editor of The Dominion (www.dominionpaper.ca)
Manuel Rozental, Que justicia exige la Corte, ALAI: http://www.alainet.org/active/25831
Dawn Paley, ICC investigates extraditions, Dominion Weblog: http://www.dominionpaper.ca/weblogs/dawn/1999
For basic information: see wikipedia on Alvaro Uribe Velez, Para-political scandal, and Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia.
Intensity of Extrajudicial Executions rising in Catatumbo.
(Translated by Derin Collins. A CSN volunteer translator)
With sadness and indignation, the Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT) and Humanidad Vigente (Non-governmental Human Rights Association) make known to the national and international communities that on Thursday 14th August farmer Olivo Peña, approximately 45 years old and inhabitant of the rural area of Manzanares was assesinated by troops of the Brigada móvil No 15 del Ejército Nacional. (15th Mobile Brigade of the National Army). The crime occured in the unincorporated town of Puente Real, located in the Municipality of San Calixto ( North of Santander).
According to the inhabitants of the rural area Manzanares and other nearby areas (also located in the municiplality of San Calixto) , on Tuesday the 12th August at 6 o´clock in the afternoon, Don Olivo was looking after the house of a neighbour when the solidiers arrived and forced him to come out, arguing that he was being detained becouse he had been found “cambuchando” (Picking and pressing coca leaves)
The following day, the farmer was taken from the rural area, to the unincorporated town of Puente Real, where the inhabitants heard various shots around 9pm on Thursday 14th August.
On Friday 15th August, members of the Army informed the inhabitants of Puente Real that they had “dado de baja” (literally signed off) a guerilla and injured another. However, to the surprise of the community, the supposed guerilla who had been shot was Don Olivo Peña, who everyone identified as a farmer who had no connection with any of the armed groups that operate in the zone and who worked for the Junta de Acción Comunal de la rural area de Manzanares. (Council for Communal Action of the rural area of Manzanares).
It was not until yesterday, after having made repeated claims to the authorities, that the family of Don Olivo finally had the opportunity to bury him. However, he will remain officially identified as a guerilla who died in combat.
As if it is nothing to lose one of your members in such violents and absurd circumstances, the community of Manazares actually lives with anxiety and worry knowing that members of the Army have in their possesion the cell phone with camera that belonged to Don Olivo. The motives for the anguish are not unfounded: the soldiers are asking questions of the inhabitants of the rural area and other neighbours – as much about the identity of, as well as the activities of the people who appear in the photos taken by Don Olivo. Many are of neighbours and family who are worried how the Army will use the images.
Taking into account the previously narrated events we demand that the National Government and especially the Fiscalía (Colombian Public Prosecutor's office) and the Procuraduría General de la Nacíon, (Internal Affairs agency responsible for investigating crimes by government employees) that they begin an investigation pertinent to clarifying the events, and to identify and punish those responsible for the assasination of Don Olivo Peña. Also, we insist, particularly before the Defensoría del Pueblo, (Human Rights Ombudsman) that the security of the inhabitants of the rural area of Manzanares and the unincorporated town of Puente Real is guaranteed. Equally, convocamos the natioanl and international community for their support in these requests.
To the family of Don Olivo, from ASCAMCAT and Humanidad Vigente, our thoughts of affection and solidarity are with you. Your pain is also ours.
Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT)
20th August 2008
Every Day in Uraba Death and Terror are Sowed
(Translated by Stephanie DiBello, a CSN volunteer translator)
Various sectors of the media are talking lately about the truths that we have always spoken with regards to the Feb 21, 2005 massacre, when the army murdered 8 people, 7 of which belonged to our community. The truth has come to light more and more everyday. It has been shown that the massacre was orchestrated and carried out by high officials in the State to destroy our process, which explains the complicity and the diversion of the investigation on the part of the government in response to this tragedy. However, none of this information is new because it only reaffirms the truths that we have been reporting. They act as if these horrible acts were things of the past, when unfortunately in reality the same circumstances of death and terror continue with the protection of institutions of the State that stay quiet and turn the other cheek.
It is again our obligation to history to leave proof of all of the incidents so that the truth may permit humanity to judge these atrocities at some point in time.
- August 19th at 8:45 pm: The Public Forces and the guerrilla engaged in combat in San Jose, according to information from the defensoria (Refers to the Defensoria del Pueblo, which is an institution set up to monitor human rights in the country). The fight lasted for 15 minutes. San Jose is a ten minute walk from the community in San Josesito.
- August 17th at around 7pm: Two people in Nueva Antioquia were assassinated by the paramilitaries, and the army did not allow bystanders to get closer in order to identify the remains. This is to show that paramilitaries have a continuous and permanent presence there (in Antioquia), in coexistence with the police and the army.
- August 14th and 15th: 60 paramilitaries heavily armed and dressed in camouflage were present along the Playa Larga and la Esperanza trails (the latter belonging to our community and located 4 hours from Nueva Antioquia). In la Esperanza they went to three houses of members of the community and asked for the guerrilla, saying that they (the paramilitaries) needed to remove people from the zone if they didn’t work with them. This was especially aimed at the residents of Mulatos, la Esperanza, and Resbaloza, with the paramilitaries insisting that they needed to carry out forceful actions against those areas with heavy guerrilla concentration. After that they went back down to Nueva Antioquia.
- Since August 3 the army has kept guard at the exit of Nueva Antioquia in order to record the names of everyone who passes through. Within Nueva Antioquia the paramilitaries control the food supply and charge taxes on the products that those from the rural areas come down to sell. All this occurs in the public eye, right in front of the army and the police.
These incidents speak for themselves, showing that the paramilitaries’ actions continue stronger than ever. The coexistence between the Public Forces and the paramilitaries is absolute, and acts of war continue in the zone, putting the civil population in serious risk, all of which contradicts the government’s false affirmations that this is region is now calm and peaceful.
The paramilitaries’ threats towards those who have returned to Mulatos, Resbaloza, and la Esperanza worry us because they coincide with the same threats made by soldiers just days before. Nueva Antioquia has been a paramilitary stronghold for many years with the complicity of the State, and nothing has come out of the records that we have made. In 2005 before the massacre we denounced this form of behavior by the paramilitaries and the Public Forces and days later the massacre occurred. The murderers left Nueva Antioquia in 2005, and now the death threats against our community are coming from the same place again, which is more than coincidence. The deaths continue without letting up, exterminating the civil population.
Indeed they want to establish a ‘peace of graves’ which we absolutely reject as well as, in spite of the threats, the impunity and acts of war. To the contrary, all of this reaffirms what we are doing and reinforces the reasoning behind our principles of neutrality and solidarity, and our declaration to say ‘no’ to the impunity and death and ‘yes’ to life.
We are grateful for the national and international solidarity that encourages us to continue creating alternatives in the middle of an armed conflict that we suffer through daily and that seeks to annihilate us.
The Peace Community San Jose de Apartado
August 20th, 2008
THE BUTCHERS OF URABA IN ANTIOQUIA
( Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
EXPERIENCES IN THE DESIGN OF THE POLICY OF DEMOCRATIC SECURITY
Former mayor of Apartado 1995-1997
“There is worry and uncertainty in the breast of the Government, and not for nothing. The proximity of President Alvaro Uribe to Rito Alejo Del Rio, when Uribe was Governor of Antioquia and the General commanded the 17th Brigade in Uraba, headquartered in Carepa, (November 11, 1995 – December 16, 1997) is no secret to anyone. (November 11 1995 – December 16, 1997)” Cambio Magazine, August 7-13, 2008, Number 788.
What connection and responsibility do the political and economic powers in Antioquia in the period of 1995-1997, and extended to the present day, have with the extermination of the civilian population in Uraba?
Why does the implantation of the privatization economic model by the alliance of the ranchers, farmers, banana growers and transnational corporations with the regional government, protected by the military/paramilitary strategy of killing and displacement, remain unconnected to General Rito Alejo del Rio and the now-President of the Republic Alvaro Uribe Velez?
It appears that the answers are implicit in the questions. The voices of the victims of the horrendous massacres that mushroomed every day in the region and the selective murders that are still being committed, have not been heard by our institutions. The victims continue to cry for truth and justice. They continue to complain of the systematic Plan, “The Pacification of Uraba”; the peasant laboratory for professional killing as an instrument of “peace”, consolidated historically with the creation and legitimization of the AUC and legalized by Uribe Velez, Governor, with the so-called CONVIVIR, and continued as an integral government policy by means of the so-called paramilitarism, which from that moment to today, are seeding the prolific soil of Uraba with common graves.
Today, from the office of the President of the Republic, the legitimization of the policy is continued in a more subtle form by means of the artifice of the demobilization and the negotiation between the government and the paramilitaries through the “Justice and Peace Law. This law was negotiated as an instrument of impunity and legalization of the criminals, shown to the world as the commitment of the government to the nation. The paramilitaries, now converted as a body into social groups and forest rangers. This legalization was presented as a success of the policy of democratic security, to be honored and advanced. We were told that thanks to the policy, the paramilitaries would deliver all of the truth, all of their arms and, above all, make “reparation”. They have consolidated the “matrix of society”, the control of the civilian population. Is that justice? Nothing is further from the truth.
The crimes are continuing with impunity. The paramilitaries continue to break the law. The “chosen ones”, elected with their votes, have exchanged their right to continue making laws for the endorsement of the President. I don’t believe that the truth that is coming to light now is coming entirely because of the justice and peace law. It seems strange, and it is strange, that the killers, the butchers, those who are telling how, where, with whom, and with what purpose this strategy has been carried out. Some of them do it because the politicians have not carried out their agreements. Others are resentful because those who planned the strategy of extermination of communities remain immune. They live in silence in daily life, like men of importance, presidents or generals. The policy of lies, of disloyalty, of mistrust, the violation of national sovereignty and that of neighboring countries, are central to the “values” of the policy of democratic security.
I still insist on calling the country’s attention to my testimony. I refuse to keep the silence imposed by the operatives and by the communications media. I denounce the fact that the men and women who were witnesses to the extermination of communities were never taken seriously by those who “carry out justice”. We demand justice; we demand the truth; we demand that all those responsible take responsibility. The evidence is there in the analysis of the political, economic, and cultural context of the region.
Thos who carry out justice refused to consider our complaints of the responsibility of the institutional “butchers”. They said we had no direct admissible evidence of the responsibility of General Rito Alejo and of the then-Governor Alvaro Uribe, among others, for the massacres in Uraba. The voices of the victims were not enough for them. Even with the analysis of the context that we provided, even with the material evidence of the acts, they fenced with us, saying that they required procedural evidence, the kind that carries out formal requisites, as if it would be possible to separate the actual truth from the formal, as if the truth were not one whole, as if the testimony of the victims combined with the events in context were not sufficient, as if the reason for the judicial decision did not depend on the reconstruction of the events along with their context, as if the purpose were not to establish the truth, instead of settling a legal action in favor of the stronger party. As if there were no responsibility in light of the Constitution of those who are charged with the guardianship of life as their principal mandate.
These judicial operatives, whether you call them judges, prosecutors, or judicial attorneys, now have the moral and ethical obligation to answer to the country. How many visits to the Prosecutor’s office? How many times did men and women relate the events that left them displaced, relate the pain of the families of the “disappeared”, of women who were raped, of selective murders? How many times did we go with the women to “rescue” unnamed men from the pressure of the paramilitaries, while the “General” or rather, the “Butcher” rejoiced in promotion, and in making reports to his immediate superior, who knew EVERYTHING that had gone on in the area. And always the questions of judicial proof. The pain wasn’t enough, nor pointing out those responsible. Perhaps today those complicit in those massacres will answer for the “Missing Links” of those responsible, whose names are known, and who don’t dare take responsibility, even though everybody knows who the “Butchers of Uraba” are and where they are.
In the name of peace, of economic investment, of finishing off the guerrillas, then-Governor Alvaro Uribe and his Secretary of Government designed the major strategy. Today I am very sorry that Pedro Juan Moreno is not alive. Who took him out of the game? Who knew of the power and the truth that Pedro Juan Moreno maintained? Who ordered him killed? What wouldn’t I give today to listen to his habitual arrogance that came over his face with every displacement and every dead “communist” and, of course, those reports of mission accomplished from Alvaro Uribe, of which he could tell us as his “truth”. Who killed Carlos Castano, or is that person in Israel?
From this experience in extermination, the banana companies, the politicians, and some church officials who gave a free pass to the military operations, operations that today “H.H.”, El Alemán, Mancuso, Don Berna, Melasa, among others are reporting. These practices, those of yesterday and those of today, are not isolated events. They weren’t done behind the back of the country, nor of the communications media. NO. This demands that today, more than 13 years later, the truth be told to the country and that the country answer. NOT POLITICALLY. (Making excuses, claiming that others did it) as the government now is accustomed to doing in parts of the country. No. We demand that the country respond through the justice system, with personal punishments.
We know now that the policy was simply to assume that it was “necessary to do it” because it would be worth it to save Colombia from communism. It was a task for the “chosen one” who had to impose a moral to save the lambs. Yes, ladies and gentlemen . . .It is time to raise our voices with the victims. Contrary to the immorality of this government, based on falsehood, on lying every day, the empty wordiness of ethics, it is time to demand that the people WAKE UP. The self-appointed ruler made of sand cannot continue to try to be re-elected, with his history of crime, lying, and conspiracy. Will the communications media accompany a march to demand responsibility from those never elected General Rito Alejo and President Uribe?
The silence about the massacres and selective cutting in pieces of people in URABA, that has been in effect up to now, cannot continue. We cannot continue to witness them dragging men and women out of their houses, with the government accusing them of being terrorists. We cannot stay silent while massacres and selective murders continue, while communities are targeted and attacked. They do NOT forget. They will not sell the pain of their past for a mess of pottage.
As a citizen, I demand that the operators of justice who were in Uraba, especially in the period of 1995-1998, furnish their version of what happened. Where was the Public Defender? Where were the medical examiners? Where were the judges, the prosecutors? Finally, I am, as I have always been indignant that the country was asleep and that forgetfulness was imposed. Where is the responsibility of Luis Camilo Osorio? Where are the humiliated faces of the girls and boys who were obliged to grow up feeling that it would be better if their families died in any manner, so that they could wash away their sins in the earth, and now, if they did not take the side of the killers, they would meet the same fate?
Now President Uribe, who not only praised the General of Death, but also, together with him, presented to the country their model, their proposal for government, for security, and their proposal to resolve the conflicts. In homage to the General, he suggested him for President of the Republic and promised that the “valor”, the courage of His General had shown the way to return peace to Colombia. Not dialogs, not political outcomes, but force, violence, revenge, alliance with the drug trade, those policies would be the new rites of the sect.
I demand that justice, if it still can be called that, show its face to President Uribe, that General Rito Alejo, Luis Camilo Osorio, those demobilized from the EPL, including the current Government aides who are connected with that chapter in the history of the country, take responsibility. Also that the economic collaborators, both national and international, take responsibility. I want to see all of them showing their faces to the victims.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT HAS REQUESTED INFORMATION FROM THE URIBE GOVERNMENT
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
The Extradited Paramilitary Commanders and
The "Parapoliticos" Are Under the Scrutiny of the Court
The Court's Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno has asked how Colombia will assure that those most responsible for crimes against human rights, including the extradited paramilitary leaders, political leaders and members of Congress, will be brought to justice.
A letter from the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to the Colombian government, obtained exclusively by EL NUEVO SIGLO, sets forth a series of interrogatories that have caused a commotion in the highest courts and in the Executive branch.
In June of this year, the Court's special prosecutor, Luis Moreno, send the Colombian Ambassador in The Hague, Francisco José Lloreda, a communication that this publication is revealing today, in which he notes that "as you are aware, my office is analyzing the situation in Colombia, in the light of the Statute of Rome, which Colombia has ratified."
The message grew out of the infelicitous extradition of the paramilitary commanders last May. Because of that, Prosecutor Moreno inquires of the Colombian government: "How will Colombia insure that those most responsible for crimes that are within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, including those of political leaders and members of Congress, presumably involved with the demobilized groups, will be brought to justice? In particular, I would like to know if the investigations undertaken to date indicate the commission of acts penalized under the Statute of Rome, and if the extradition of the paramilitary leaders will present any obstacle to the effective investigation of those political leaders.
If indeed Moreno warns that "up to now, there has been no decision in relation to the opening of an investigation", he makes clear that "the situation continues to be analyzed by my office."
Never, up to now, has a request as clear and precise been presented to the Colombian government by officials speaking for the International Criminal Court, for the purpose of investigating whether it is complying with the provisions of the International Criminal Statute signed by Bogotá six years ago.
As is well known, the Statute provides a penalty for violations of International Human Rights, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
Colombia maintains a reservation of eight years for war crimes, which the Uribe government announced that it would eliminate, but never did so; the crimes against humanity are in full effect and can be investigated by the Court at any moment.
As is also well known the jurisdiction of the Court is alternative or substitute for the internal judicial system. Nevertheless, it has full authority to intervene when it can be shown that there is "pretended justice" or that it is evident that the signatory state has not carried out the investigations and corresponding punishment for violations of International Human Rights.
When Prosecutor Moreno visited Colombia in 2007, he pointed out a clear difference between war crimes and crimes against humanity, even though in a public interview, he made clear that on many occasions there is a combination of the two.
At the same time, it is understood that the Court's investigations are not retroactive, but begin with the record of the signing of the Treaty.
"In October 2007 – states the Prosecutor – I had the opportunity to visit Colombia, with the purpose of analyzing the pending criminal proceedings against those most responsible for crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of this Court. As we agreed in our conversation of last May 30, it is important that the Prosecutor's Office receive information on these cases."
Although, since receiving the request by Prosecutor Moreno, the Government has continued to insist that the extradited paramilitary commanders continue to be covered by the Justice and Peace Law, the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice has asked the Executive Department to clarify the situation. In fact, in a new announcement released yesterday, the high Court repeated its statement that the disconnection of the paramilitary commanders from the extraordinary court system will be decided by the judicial branch and not by the executive.
Meanwhile, the Uribe government has asked that the penalties for the extradited paramilitary commanders be increased. Nevertheless, in the United States they can only be prosecuted for drug trafficking crimes. Up to now, they cannot be prosecuted in the United States for their crimes against international human rights.
At the time that the paramilitary commanders were extradited, it was said that the United States would allow investigation of those crimes by Colombian prosecutors and judges. Up to now, there has not been one such proceeding; meanwhile it is known that they are negotiating to reduce their sentences for illegal drug trafficking.
It has not been made clear, then, whether international criminal jurisdiction will be possible.
As is well known, the United States is one of the few countries in the world that have not signed the Statute of Rome, as they consider it to be counter to their doctrines on multilateral justice. Colombia, for its part, is a signatory and is obliged to comply with its protocols and agreements.
The following is the letter send by Prosecutor Moreno to the Colombian Ambassador in The Hague, Francisco José Lloreda:
Hon. Francisco José Lloreda
Ambassador of Colombia
Groot Hertoginnelaan 14
2517 EG, The Hague
I have the pleasure to address you in my capacity as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. As you are aware, my office is analyzing the Colombian situation in light of the Statute of Rome, ratified by Colombia.
In October 2007, I had the opportunity to visit Colombia, with the purpose of analyzing the pending criminal proceedings against those most responsible for crimes that are under the jurisdiction of this Court. As we agreed in our conversation of May 30, it is important for the Prosecutor's Office to receive information about these cases.
In addition, we have been informed of the extradition of several paramilitary leaders to the United States on May 13, and, the week before, of Carlos Mario Jiménez, alias Macaco.
In mentioning this information, I am aware of the Colombian Government's response sent on May 16, 2008 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I think you also for the information provided informally on the meeting between the Prosecutor General of Colombia and his United States counterpart.
In light of the aforementioned events and of the communications we have received, I would be very grateful if, as a contribution to my efforts, you would be able to furnish the following information:
How will Colombia insure that those most responsible for crimes that would be under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, including those of political leaders and of members of Congress presumed to be connected to the demobilized groups, will be brought to justice? In particular, I would like to know if the investigations carried out up to now indicate the commission of acts penalized under the Statute of Rome and if the extradition of the paramilitary leaders presents any obstacle to the effective investigation of the aforementioned political leaders.
Permit me to make clear that, as of today, no decision has been made in relation to the opening of an investigation. The situation continues to be analyzed by my Office.
If you have any question with respect to this communication, I ask that you direct it to Paul Seils, Chief of Situation Analysis in the office of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
I await your response and any additional information that the Colombian Government may consider appropriate to furnish.
I take this opportunity to express to you my highest esteem.
Asociación 'América Latina Publicaciones'
THREAT OF GENOCIDE OF INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN CAUCA, COLOMBIA
(Courtesy of Colombia Solidarity Campaign in the United Kingdom)
The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca department, South-West Colombia (CRIC), publicly denounces the threat which arrived to the North of Cauca section on 11th August by email, announcing the genocide of Colombia’s indigenous populations, and perversely inferring the government’s strategy to destabalize the unity of indigenous, afro-Colombian and campesino (poor farmer) communities in the department.
It is no secret that President Alvaro Uribe Velez has declared war on indigenous communities which have decided to demand their rights. A determining moment came in March 2008, during a speech in Popayan, the capital of the Cauca department, when Uribe offered to reward those who helped to break the unity of the indigenous community [by informing on the leaders of the ‘liberation of the madre tierra’ process, in which indigenous populations are reclaiming ancestral land to which they are entitled by the 1991 political constitution]. Added to this, institutional spokesperson have consistently reiterated the message that the indigenous population benefts from state guarantees to the detriment of the rights of other sectors of society. One example was the purchase of the Villa Carola farm by the Ministry of the Interior in order to award it to displaced people, when the farm had been promised to the Kokonuko indigenous community since the 1980’s.
The text, which covers itself by claiming to be from an anti-indigenous campesino group, reproduces the same discourse used by the national government with the aim of blaming the indigenous population for the failure of land policies and the lack of agrarian reform in Colombia [.
It refers to the CRIC as ringleaders and guerrillas, and states that from this day forward (11th August) they will be found dead and disappeared, states its wish that the cities of Popayan, Cali and Bogota are free of indigenous people and that they will not allow the indigenous population to pass 1 million in Colombia [there are 1.4 million according to the 2005 census].
Clearly showing the paramilitary essence of the threat, the authors say that they have the indigenous population surrounded by intelligence members of their group, and have prepared teams and logistics support. The call for a process of military occupation and extermination against CRIC members and the paece indigenous population of Cauca. To justify this they refer to comments by the commander of the Third Brigade of the Colombian Army, in which he alleged links between the 6th front of the FARC and officials from the administration of Toribio municipality.
Later in the document, to try and hide their paramilitary identity, they again identify themselves as anti-indigenous campesinos.
It is alarming that the communication defends institutions using a tone of terrorist threat, expressing hate for Cauca’s indigenous population using institutional phrases, showing that the nazi paramilitary armies haven’t been relinquished by the President of the Republic nor by the organisms of state control.
The majority of the arguments used to discredit the indigenous population are the same ones which have been generated by political sectors in recent years, driving racial discrimination and the war against indigenous communities, and opposing any agrarian reform.
Claiming to speak on behalf of non-indigenous rural sectors but in reality defending inequality, plundering and displacement of indigenous, campesino and afro-Colombian communities from their territories, similar arguments were used by landowners in the north of Cauca depàrtment days before the Nilo massacre in December 1991. According to the confessions of paramilitary Hernando Villa Zapata, this massacre was planned in the La Emperatiz farm. Current government viceminister Maria Isabel Nieto says that this farm cannot be handed over to victims as it wouldn’t be administrated suitably, placing the victims rights to truth, justice and reparation far below those of big business.
We call on social organizations, democratic sectors, human rights organisms and the international community to denounce this threatened genocide which has already started over the last few years. We call on the national government to respond according to it’s constitutional obligations and international human and peoples’ rights agreements.
CONSEJO REGIONAL INDÍGENA DEL CAUCA -CRIC-(CAUCA INDIGENOUS COUNCIL)
Popayán, August 12 de 2008
ANOTHER SOCIAL LEADER FROM CATATUMBO IS MURDERED
(Translated by Amy Rose Pekol, a CSN volunteer translator)
The Association for Alternative Social Promotion, MINGA denounces and condemns before the Colombian and international community the vile murder of a community leader from Catatumbo (North Santander Department), ELADIO ORTEGA. Mr. Ortega was allegedly murdered by the FARC guerilla group last Sunday, August 3, 2008 in the San Juancito sub-division in the municipality of Teorama.
Eladio Ortega served as President of the local Community Action Council and he had just been reelected by his community on the same Sunday he was murdered. It’s worth noting that Mr. Ortega was also a prominent leader of the Peasant Association of Catatumbo (ASCAMAT in its Spanish acronym) and played an important role in mobilizing Board Associations in San Juancito, El Aserrío and La Cecilia in September of 2007 for ECOPETROL and the Colombian government to repair their roads.
The same guerilla group responsible for Eladio Ortega’s death murdered two regional leaders of the Social Integration Committee of Catatumbo: CISCA TRINIDAD TORRES in July of 2005 and JUAN GUERRA in September of 2006. The recent murder of a Río de Oro (Tibú) Community Action Council president was also attributed to the FARC.
Aside from violating the most precious right, the right to live, crimes such as these break down the social and organizational processes of the Catatumbo where community members have managed to develop life plans for the region while resisting paramilitary repression and military abuse. These life plans are in opposition to the neo-liberal model of social and economic control favored by the Center for Coordination and Integrated Action (CCAI), which favors transnational companies over the local communities.
Bogotá, August 5, 2008
NEW WAVE OF CRIME IN SARAVENA
(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)
“JOEL SIERRA” HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION
Saravena, August 12, 2008
The Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation offers this Early Alert to the regional, national, and international communities and to the justice and security agencies of the State. We demand that the measures that the national system has instituted be activated immediately:
Since Sunday August 3rd, 7 people have been assassinated in the township of Saravena, at the same time that, in some places of its metropolitan area, graffiti alluding to the Self-Defense United of Colombia (AUC) appeared.
- On August 3rd, Mr. WILSON RODRÍGUEZ MOSQUERA, 31 years old, was assassinated in the neighborhood of Puerto Contreras.
- On August 5th, Mr. OMAR YESID TARAZONA, 29 years old, was assassinated in the neighborhood of Cuatro de Diciembre.
- On August 8th, Mr. URIEL ORTEGA CÁCERES, 31 years old, was killed in the neighborhood of Puerto Contreras. That same day, in the Galán neighborhood, at about 8:30 a.m., the social and political leader LUIS MAYUSA PRADA, 46 years old, was assassinated.
- On August 10, at about 9:20 p.m., the young man LUIS ALEJANDRO DÍAZ VILLAMIZAR, 18 years old, was assassinated in the mall, La Chorizada de Papi, on Highway 9 at 28th Street.
- Yesterday, August 11, at about 5:00 p.m., Mr. ALEXANDER TULIVILA, 29 years old, was assassinated at the corner of Highway 16 and 19th Street, in the Seis de Octubre neighborhood. Similarly, at about 7:00 p.m., in the neighborhood of Puerto Contreras, a man about 30-35 years old (who has not yet been identified) was assassinated in a violent manner.
On another matter: graffiti alluding to Self-Defense United of Colombia (AUC) has appeared on several facades of houses in different neighborhoods of the town in the last few days. Slogans like “YEGAN LAS AUC” [the AUC ARRIVE], have engendered fear, because of the threats that some defenders of human rights, journalists, storeowners, etc. have received.
These events remind us of the recent past, when hired assassins acting on behalf of paramilitary groups and who participated in the security cordons of the National Police, assassinated a large number of people, many of whom were social leaders.
The high number of violent deaths, in a region in which the police are so visible, means that democratic security has meaning for the economic interests of transnational companies, but not regarding the lives and safety of the people of the Arauca region.
Because of the above, we reiterate our demand that the Early Alert System be activated immediately, using whatever administrative, judicial, and security measures are needed in order to protect the lives and safety of the community in general.
And we demand that the justice system move forward with pertinent investigations to clarify the facts that surrounded the violent deaths listed above.
FOR THE DEFENSE OF LIFE, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND RIGHT TO REMAIN ON THE LAND
“JOEL SIERRA” HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION
OUR SOCIAL ACTION IS LEGAL AND LEGITIMATE
NETWORK OF BROTHERHOOD AND SOLIDARITY - COLOMBIA
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Three Important Conclusions from the Courts regarding Rough Drafts of Reform
( Translated by Stephanie DiBello, a CSN volunteer translator )
Judges from the 4 High Courts met amongst themselves to discuss the drafting of the Justice Reform, which was sent to them by the Minister of Internal Affairs. There were 3 important conclusions.
It is not a justice reform.
Nothing is raised about the judicial backlog. Nothing is proposed to solve the delays in the resolution of conflicts, which is what most affects Colombians seeking justice. Nothing is stated to give access to justice to those who most need it so that they do not have to resort to guardianship. Absolutely nothing is proposed that would ensure that the sector’s budget does not diminish, as occurs with the fiscal adjustments every year.
The first conclusion from the judge’s meeting: This draft cannot be called justice reform!
Second conclusion: This project is really aimed at redistributing power.
The judges concluded that the proposed norms have to do with who elects whom, who loses power, and who becomes more powerful. According to this second conclusion made the by judges, the project gives more power to the President of the Republic and takes power away from the Courts and the Attorney General’s Office.
Look at the judges’ notes!
First: The High Courts’ power to nominate candidates for Attorney General and Comptroller General is taken away. The President will be the only one who may nominate precisely those who provide presidential oversight: the Inspector General and the Comptroller.
Second: The project says that the President declined to nominate a group of three candidates so that the Senate would choose judges from the Constitutional Court. A fallacy of distraction. The nominations will take until next October, with the current system; the President nominates.
Third: Only the President will nominate candidates for the Inspector General, Attorney General, Comptroller General, and the human right’s Ombudsman.
This is the second grand conclusion from the virtual Congress of the judges!
What are the citizens’ biggest worries regarding the justice system?
The judges asked themselves- what are the citizens’ biggest worries regarding the justice system?
First: It is far away.
Second: It does not exist for the daily life of a citizen.
Third: If it weren’t for the guardianship, nothing would work in the justice system.
Fourth: The bureaucracy is endless and a punishment in itself.
Fifth: There are many problems to which the justice system does not give an answer. What happens when consumers suffer because they have bought a defective product?- nothing more than resignation.
Sixth: For those who have been deprived of their liberty, the terms established by the laws do not exist; they die in prison so to speak, even if they are innocent.
Of course the prisons continue piling up with more than half of their inmates without a sentence.
The third conclusion of the judges… While all this is happening, they present us with a draft that covers everything but justice!
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621