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Thursday, September 25, 2008


The Committee For the Integration of the Mountain Region of Colombia
Social, Civic, and Peasant Organization
Plan for Life, Water, and Dignity

We are fighting an uphill struggle for a life of dignity, regional integration and self-development in the southern and mountain region of Colombia
Ever González, the CIMA leader, defender of human rights, was assassinated on Saturday September 20, at about noon, by two hired assassins on a motorcycle. He was working in the village of Guachicono in the township of Bolívar, a crossroads between the towns of Sucre and  Patía.
Since 1994, our peasant leader Ever González had been defending the human rights of the people of the mountains, especially in the township of Sucre. In 2000 he had begun to be protected by the Ministry of the Interior, because of the multiple threats against the social organization CIMA, its leaders, and its communities, who were constantly fighting for a life of dignity, regional integration, and self-development. Since 2003 he had been helped as well by the precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Colombia.
In May 2004, he fell victim to the policy of mass arrests and trials. That exacerbated the risk to him and his vulnerability since the designations began from the time that that policy began to be applied. In his case, his innocence, the frame-up, and his social leadership of peasants were proved.
Currently he had been helping the families of victims and the District Attorney of the town of Cauca with clarifying some cases of extrajudicial executions that had occurred in the town of Sucre in 2007.
The social peasant organization Committee For the Integration of the Colombian Mountains (CIMA) demands that the Colombian government, civil and military authorities, Public Ministry, Attorney General, and Ministry of the Interior investigate, clarify, and punish those responsible for this crime, committed against the peasant leader, defender of human rights, Ever González, who had been given the protection of the Ministry of the Interior and precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
We call upon national and international human rights organizations to stand in solidarity for the defense of a life of dignity for these communities and their leaders, and for the right to defend and strengthen our social organization of peasants. We request that letters be sent to the appropriate government and state agencies demanding clarification of the facts.
Our gratitude to, recognition and eternal memory of Ever González and our peasant compañeros and compañeras assassinated in our constant struggle for a life of dignity, regional integration, and self-development in the mountains.
The Committee For the Integration of the Mountain Region of Colombia (CIMA)

Foundation Orographic Star/Basin of the Colombian Mountains—(FUNDECIMA)

Popayán, September 21, 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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How Can Our Country Approve a Trade Treaty with a Government Like This?


            Workers in the sugar industry in Colombia’s Cauca and Cauca Valley have gone on strike in response to the refusal by the Sugar Cane Growers’ Association, Asocana, to negotiate with them for better pay (they now make about $200 per month), shorter hours (they now frequently work 14 or more hours per day), a healthier work environment, better housing and educational facilities for themselves and their families, and a formal work contract with labor and union rights. President Alvaro Uribe response was to order the military into the mills to remove striking workers. The mill owners have called upon the national police to stop and inspect mill workers. Paramilitary groups have threatened several workers.

    The strike comes at a time when the sugar cane growers and processors propose to expand crops to produce bio-diesel fuels as well as sugar. Yet they refuse to consider improvement of working conditions and pay which the sugar cane workers have sought through their union organization.

    These developments in Colombia are taking place during the visit this week of President Uribe to Washington, D.C., where he and numerous other Colombian government officials are seeking to convince Congress to approve the bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia.

    Congress has properly refused to approve the FTA without the Colombian government’s recognition of labor rights and protection for labor union leaders and members---precisely the failings being demonstrated right now by President Uribe and his government.

    Please write your representatives in Congress to say “no” to the cynical attempt of the Uribe government to win passage of the FTA at the very time it is undermining Colombian unions and showing callous disregard for union organization and workers’ rights to seek fair pay under safe conditions with reasonable hours. And let Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab know of your concerns. Please contact Senator Obama’s campaign about this serious trade issue.

    And write President Uribe to tell him he is wrong to ignore workers’ rights and will face a united front against the FTA from unions, workers and human rights organizations in this country. Please also send copies of your letter to President Uribe to Asocana and the Governor of Cauca, showing our support for the sugar cane workers.

Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de Colombia
E-mail: auribe@presidencia.gov.co
Fax: 57 1 566 2071
Or check his website www.presidencia.gov.co

Luis Fernando Londono ,President of ASOCANA :contactenos@asocana.org
Guillermo Gonzalez Governor of Cauca  :webmaster@cauca.gov.co
Juan Carlos Abadia Governor of Valle del Cauca : despachogobernador@valledelcauca.gov.co
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Permanent Assembly for a work stoppage in all sugar companies in the Geographic Valley of the Cauca River

(Translated by David Brown, a CSN volunteer translator)

Here, we attach the press bulletin for the work stoppage of the Sugar Cane Industry Workers Association.  You can contact the spokespersons for the Movement at Palmira-Valle phone:  011 57 2-270-1063

Press Bulletin
Palmira, September 15, 2008
Permanent Assembly for a work stoppage in all sugar companies in the Geographic Valley of the Cauca River

The coordinating committee and, in its name, the Negotiating Commission for the June 14th Sugar Cane Industry Workers Movement, hereby informs the citizenship of the Rio Cauca Valley, Cauca and Risaralda as well as national and  international public opinion that beginning today, Monday, September 15th at 3:00 AM, we have decided to form a Permanent Assembly to organize the stoppage of all planting, field work, harvesting, and processing activities in all sugar cane enterprises in the Valley region of the Rio Cauca, due to the refusal of the Sugar Cane farmers association, ASOCAÑA,  to negotiate the working conditions proposals presented on July 14, 2008 with the workers.  In spite of the many activities that we have carried out searching for a dialogue our requests have all been ignored.
We remind you that we are not responsible for this Permanent Assembly for a work stoppage.  It has been ASOCAÑA who, with its aggressive attitude, and the intent to ignore our rights and to intimidate us with the militarization of the sugar mills, along with the continuing threats of suspension and dismissal, has brought us to this decision.
We, the planters, field works, harvesters and processing workers at the service of the sugar industry, demand dignified working conditions because we cannot continue to be enslaved under the system of contractors and cooperatives working more than 14 hours daily, just to receive a miserable salary that does not even amount to 400,000 pesos (around $200 US) per month.  Because we cannot continue being the entrepreneurs of hunger, we demand decent salaries, a formal work contract, clear labor and union rights in the sugar industry, a healthy working environment, health, housing and education for our families, rights that are codified in the National Constitution and under Law.
Because of this, we make a call to all workers in the sugar cane industry in the Cauca Valley, Cauca and Risaralda and their families and communities, as well as to all regional, national and international public opinion to accompany and support this Permanent Assembly work stoppage by sugar cane workers that has begun today in all the sugar milling enterprises.
In the same manner, we call out, in particular, to the workers in all of Colombia, to the union organizing centers and to the unions, and mayors and municipal councils of all the municipalities of the departments in the Cauca Valley, Cauca and Risaralda, impacted by this labor and social conflict, that they accompany us in this struggle the vindicate the workers’ rights and the dignity of the people and to mobilize in solidarity with this process
Lastly, we reiterate that this is a peaceful movement, that we do not want to have any type of confrontation with the public forces, and that we will not organize any type of violent action against the infrastructure of the sugar mills.  We request that forces outside the workers movement not be contracted to make attacks against the workers as was done in 2005 in order to defame our struggle.
We ask that the National Government and to the Governors of the departments of the Cauca Valley, Cauca and Risaralda and all the authorities comply with their constitutional responsibilities to defend and protect the rights of the Colombian Workers and those of the citizens:  (We ask) that the public (armed) forces not beat up nor mistreat the workers in their organizing of this Permanent Assembly.   We make a call to the human rights organizations in Colombia and to the local, regional and national communications media that they objectively accompany us and demand respect for the rights and integrity of our movements, our workers and their families. By the same token, we request that they report the events of our struggle objectively.

ACCOMPANY US (in our struggle)

www.corteros.com <http://www.corteros.com


Monday, September 15, 2008


( Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator )


La Corporacion Humanidad Maestra Vida denounces to the national and international communities the following:


1.    On August 25, 2008, the workers of the sugar cane industry in the Departments of the Cauca Valley and the Cauca held an assembly in the town of Candelaria, Valle, an assembly of more than 7,000 people, in which was approved, among other measures, the decision to strike as a result of the lack of will of the owners of the sugar cane industry who are members of Asocaña to negotiate with the workers about the list of conditions presented on July 14, 2008. After that event, the sugar mills of the region have been completely militarized: the workers are being escorted by motorcycles with armed men and with balaclavas; in some cases the armed men also climb onto the cars and travel with the workers.


2.    On August 28, the wife of the worker Efraín Muñoz Yánez of the Cauca sugar mill INCAUCA, received a phone call in which she was told to tell her husband not to “fuck around” anymore or attempts on his life and those of his whole family would be made. On August 29, Efraín got a call in which we was told the same thing.


3.    On September 1, 2008, in Daniel Aguirre’s house (he is also a worker at the Cauca INCAUCA sugar mill), a man appreared who in 2005 had threatened to kill Mr. Aguirre’s wife because of facts related to the defense of workers’ rights carried out by this worker.


4.    The worker Luis Aguilar, of the Mayaguez sugar mill, has received in the past few days a call in which he was told to choose whether he would either get some money to stop participating in the workers’ movement or even more money for his funeral.


5.    Some engineers from the Central Castilla sugar mill have threatened the worker Feliciano Saa, telling him that because he is a union member they will fire him, and that they are watching him.


6.    Denunciations have been received in the sense that members of paramilitary grouops have indicated that the workers’ movement has been infiltrated by some “long-hairs” who have been passing themselves off as cutters and that they should be careful because the paramilitary troops have their eye on them.


7.    The workers have been subjected to stops and inspections by the national police, during which they have been threatened should they carry out the strike.


8.    Thirteen workers from the Mayaquez sugar mill were fired after participating in an organizing meeting in the town of Palmira. They were verbally informed that their firing constituted reprisal for their having participated in various meetings and events of the workers’ movement.


The above represents a serious violation of the rights of organization, assembly, and expression insofar as the way in which the just struggle of the workers has been attacked through the aforementioned threats, as well as through a deceptive media campaign organized by the sugar company—television commercials in which the community is lied to, falsely told that the sugar workers enjoy life and working conditions and economic benefits that they do not in fact have.


We request that the national government:

1.     Through its Ministry of Social Protection immediately verify the working conditions of the sugar cane workers in the Departments of Valle del Cauca and Cauca, as well as warning the sugar mills that these workers have the right to organize themselves and demand better working ocnditions and a better life for themselves and their families and that this right should be respected.


2.     Through the Ministry of Defense, the army and the nacional police in the Departments of Valle del Cauca and Cauca be ordered to respect the rights, lives, and integrity of the workers, cease the intimidation and harassment, stop committing any crimes of violence against them, and instead, make themselves available to protect them, as the Colombian constitution and laws demand.


To the sugar mills that are part of Asocaña in the Valle del Cauca and Cauca:

1.     That they respect the workers’ rights of organization, association, and expression and as a result stop the pressure, harassment, and firings.


2.     That a negotiating platform be installed immediately to discuss the list of petitions presented by the workers on July 14.


3.     That they stop the disinformation campaign being conducted in the mass media about the conditions in which the sugar cane workers find themselves.


To the security organizations:

1.     We ask that the Defense of the People Office and the Attorney General of the country smooth out and deepen the process of following and accompanying sugar cane workers and that they intervene so that the military and police authorities and sugar mills of Valle del Cauca and Cauca ensure that these workers’ rights are protected.

In the same way we call upon the national and international communites, human rights NGOs, and social organizations, to support, surround, and accompany the just struggle of the workers in the sugar industry in the Departments of Valle del Cauca and Cauca, so that they may present their fundamental rights.

La Corporación Humanidad Maestra Vida [Humanity’s Teacher of Life Corporation]

www.corteros.com <http://www.corteros.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

In Timbiqui the Colombian Government Continues to Poison Afro-Colombians

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
Pacific Region, September 11, 2008
On September 1, 2008, a new stage in the fumigations in the Municipality of Timbiqui began. The spraying, which lasted for a week, devastated the different plants grown for family consumption (plantains, bananas, potatoes, bread tree sometimes called “monkey bread tree”--SC, among others) that the Afro-Colombian communities of the Renacer Negro (Black Reawakening) Community Council of the middle and upper Rio Timbiquí depend on for their nourishment and food security.
We want the world to know that in the collective territory of the Renacer Negro Community Council, at the level of the communities of Santa Maria and Chete, the planes spilled the chemical with which they were fumigating in the river, and they also fumigated the water intake of the community of Santa María, where the human population is now feeling health problems as a result of this. This proves once more that the resources from the United States that arrive in Colombia through Plan Colombia for military aid are leading to the death of our communities and the destruction of natural resources and the environment.
The appearance of crops for illegal use [a common euphemism for coca—SC] occurred only in 2002.Paradoxically,in this year the policy of “Democratic” Security started. From that moment and in a systematic way the organizations of the Black communities and the community councils have warned about the negative impacts of the presence of invaders from outside the area, people of bad faith, who have planted these crops in the area, and with that the presence of people involved in the internal armed conflict. Despite the way this happened and the cooperation between these invaders and the different forces of the State, we can see that the planting of these crops together with fumigation in the area is an integral part of the strategy of displacement and de-territorialization of the native Afro-Colombian population [i.e., getting people to lose their collective title to the land—SC],and with that, the effects on their fundamental and ethnic rights.
We in the community councils support a process of reaching an agreement with the national government for the autonomous eradication of the crops with illegal ends. This process must give our communities guaranties and opportunities for wellbeing in accord with our cultural heritage, and must make it possible for the people from outside the area to leave our ancestral territories.
It is worth noting that the Afro-Colombian communities in this area are part of the territory with the greatest biodiversity in the world, and the second most important ecological area at the global level. In this sense, in addition to damaging human health, the fumigations throughout the region of the Pacific are contributing to the increase of irreversible damage to the environmental ecosystems in a period of climate change and global warming.
The crops with illegal uses, the fumigations and the militarization of our territories have an enormous effect on cultural identity, autonomy and governability in the collective territories, and in general on the collective project of the Black communities in the Pacific region. We are therefore working on the formulation of plans for environmental and territorial management with a view to environmental and ecological protection of the territory, strengthening our organization, and community participation that would make it possible for our communities to live in dignity in our territories.

“Assembly of Community Councils and Ethno-Territorial Organizations
of the Southern Pacific”
Tumaco, October 1 to 4, 2008

With our traditional affirmation of Life and Joy, Hope and Liberty.
Proceso de Comunidades Negras

Friday, September 12, 2008


(Translated by Kevin  Funk, a CSN volunteer translator)

Different media outlets have profusely spread information that has shed light on the link between the one-time director of the Antioquia chapter of the district attorney's office, Guillermo León Valencia Cossio*, with paramilitary groups.
The forcefulness and gravity of information concerning criminal infiltration in the top spheres of the prosecuting body of Antioquia has brought about the dismissal of Guillermo León Valencia Cossio and public apologies from the country's attorney general, doctor Mario Iguarán Arana, to the community of Medellín.
As long-time representatives of victims, we condemn the fact that Mr. Valencia Cossio's management was directed towards neutralizing and distorting investigations into such relevant events as the extermination of the Patriot Union Party and the financing of paramilitary structures in Urabá on behalf of businesses in the banana industry.
Making use of the broad faculties available to senior employees of the district attorney's office, Mr. Valencia Cossio reassigned investigations that explained the linkage between paramilitary groups and business and political sectors, one of the most relevant being related to the violent removal of peasants from their lands in La Niña, located in the Vereda Nueva Colonia of the municipality of Turbo, Antioquia, where strangely an instruction that came before the crime of an agreement to commit a criminal offense, was reduced in its scope to being punishable for fraud and obstructing justice.
Paradoxically, in the period in which Mr. Valencia Cossio officiated as chapter director of the district attorney's office, there was an increase in the persecution of communities residing in areas supposedly under the influence of insurgent organizations, a situation which had its expression in arbitrary processes of large-scale detentions in different municipalities in Antioquia, where hundreds of citizens were deprived of their freedom until they no longer questioned the presumption of guilt that fell upon them.
The serious questions that are today being put to the prosecuting body must transcend the current situation and go beyond the evidence that they jeopardize in their favoring of paramilitary organizations and ex-officials from the district attorney's office such as Luis Camilo Osorio and Guillermo León Valencia Cossio. What should be put forth as the order of the day at the current time is questioning the lack of autonomy and independence of the officials from the district attorney's office, whose top dignitary is elected from a list of three candidates presented by the country's president; the vertical structure of the district attorney's office and the temporary status of the majority of its employees make it vulnerable to improper mismanagement from the executive, and its infiltration by corrupt politicians and criminal organizations.
September 5, 2008

*Brother of the current Minister of Justice Fabio Valencia Cossio

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hector Mondragon: on my choice for civil resistance

[encamino-info] hector mondragon: on my choice for civil resistance


On my choice for civil resistance
Hector Mondragon
September 7, 2008

/[Translator's introduction: this statement is a response to an August
29/08 article in El Tiempo
Colombia's national newspaper, which claims that an email to Hector
Mondragon was found on the laptop of FARC guerrilla leader Raul Reyes,
who was assassinated by the Colombian government in March 2008. We read
this claim as an attempt to draw nonexistent links between the social
and political movements of which Hector is a part, and the guerrillas,
of which Hector is not, to delegitimize the former and justify
government violence against them.]/

To those who know me well, those who work with me, there is no doubt
that I live and practice a total commitment to nonviolence. Risking
everything, giving my whole life to this commitment, I have dedicated
myself to civil resistance, to the struggle for individual and
collective human rights, in a country where the powerful use violence to
impose their interests and where armed groups believe that violence can
be stopped with violence.

Those who know me know very clearly that I am not part of the FARC
(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), because I disagree with their
strategy, their political line, and their methods.

For 18 years, I have publicly and privately differed from the FARC's
strategy. That strategy is centered on the role of the guerrilla
converted into a revolutionary army, through which the people can seize
power and transform society. Mass mobilization and popular movements are
relegated to a secondary role. This conception has been demonstrated to
be completely inapplicable to Colombia. The FARC were once stronger than
other organizations that emphasized the military over the political:
later, for reasons that were probably related to the way that the Union
Patriotica were massacred*, the FARC came to underestimate mass struggle
and dedicated themselves to military strength as a first priority. This
is a political error. It has become a tragedy for popular struggles. It
has permitted the strengthening of the extreme right, which today is
running the country. Not only has it failed to stop the displacement of
hundreds of thousands of peasants and afro-Colombians, but it has
actually exacerbated that process, and even provoked the forced
displacement of indigenous peoples in various parts of the country.

In the majority of Latin America, it is mass mobilization that has begun
to provoke change and challenge neoliberalism, the dominance of the
transnationals, and the concentration of lands (latifundia). Even in a
country where the agrarian sector has a greater proportional weight,
like Bolivia, mass mobilizations have a primary role in social change.
In Venezuela, too, social sectors in conflict resolve their
contradictions on the terrain of mass struggle. In Ecuador, in
Argentina, and in other countries, the masses have led the way. In each
of these places the level of mass consciousness determines the success
or failure of these torrential mobilizations. In Colombia, on the other
hand, the military conflict has served as a curtain behind which the
extreme right has managed to massacre the union and peasant leadership
and thus impose the destruction of labor rights and the legalization of
displacement from territories.

Despite the tragedy suffered by the Union Patriotica, despite the
physical extermination of 3,000 of its activists, the party had earned
the love of the people. Their struggle for a democratic peace accord
that would open the way to popular participation had won the hearts of
the people. Even though it would have been absurd to continue to expose
senators, representatives, councillors and leaders to assassination on a
daily basis, we need not confuse the need to go into hiding from
murderers and take measures to avoid assassination with a policy of
moving the struggle on to the terrain preferred by power, on the path of
an indefinite war. Many revolutionary and democratic parties in many
parts of the world have had to pass through a period of clandestine or
semi-clandestine work but have maintained a policy of nonviolence
centered on the organization of the people and their mobilization for
their vital interests. In this moment the vital interests of Colombians
are to stop the advance of neoliberalism, defend labor rights, social
rights, and public enterprises, and to win a democratic peace.

The 1991 peace accords could have opened the way for Colombia, which by
now could have been part of the Latin American movement. That Colombia
is an exception to that movement is partly because of those who signed
the accords but abandoned the struggle for social change, but it is
mainly because the accords did not progress to encompass the two largest
guerrilla groups, the FARC and the ELN (National Liberation Army).
Negotiations took place in Caracas towards accords, but they were
frustrated. It is obvious that the right, especially the landholders,
narco-politicians, and some of the transnationals knew they would not
benefit from peace and dedicated themselves to the stimulation of
paramilitarism, assassination, and massacre. But it must be said that
these two guerrilla groups, FARC and ELN, lacked a strategy congruent
with peace accords and lacked an analysis that allowed them to
understand the decisive importance of mass mobilization as the true
focal point for the change we need.

Other serious errors flowed from this mistaken conception of the
guerrillas. The underestimation of the masses, their consciousness and
their struggles, allowed the FARC to justify and to use methods of
warfare, such as pipe bombs in populated areas, that harmed the people,
as I wrote about in my 2005 article 'Toribio attacked'
The kidnapping of civilians, which years ago the FARC considered a
mistaken method of struggle, has become a central tactic of theirs,
reaching the point where one FARC front ended up displacing some groups
of Nukak indigenous people in order to maintain an area for holding
hostages. For some years we have known that some of the murders of our
beloved popular leaders or activists were actually committed by the
FARC. In various cases activists have to fear not only the government or
the paramilitaries, but the FARC. This has especially affected the
indigenous movement. How could the majority not reject these actions by
the FARC? What I have written here I have also said every day in the
indigenous and peasant regions where I have worked. I have tried to say
it so that they could hear it, in the hopes that it might produce some
change in their actions, but even though they have at times responded to
the demands of indigenous peoples, the problems keep occurring because
they are based on erroneous conceptions.
I wanted to state these strictly political concerns first, to summarize
the analysis that I have held to and deepened over 18 years. To these I
must also add my personal commitment to nonviolence, which, although it
is also essentially political, need not be shared by those who do not
share my faith, nor by those who consider the legal right to the use of
violence in self-defence to be legitimate.

The guerrillas came into being as self-defence for peasants against the
assassinations and massacres perpetrated by agents of the state and
landowners. The paramilitaries were formed with the pretext of fighting
the violence of the guerrillas. The country has has suffered a chain
reaction of violence. The beneficiaries have been the mafias, the
'gamonales' (politically-connected major landowners), and especially
transnational capital, interest groups who continue to change the rules
to tilt the playing field in their favour.

Since 1994 I have opted for a personal commitment to nonviolence as the
way to contribute to radical social change. I renounced the use of arms
in self defence under any circumstance. I got rid of two revolvers that
I had legally carried since I had been threatened with assassination for
my belonging to the Union Patriotica. I stopped working with bodyguards
because I did not want to save my life at the expense of another. I
ended up abandoning all routines, and thus the possibility of a stable
job, in order to avoid being assassinated. I believe in the struggle for
radical social change but I believe it must be accompanied with a
radical change of method, the abandonment of armed struggle and the
abandonment of the notion that the end justifies the means. The radical
means of nonviolence can help us reach the objective of truly radical
social change.

I have publicly maintained my commitment to struggle for radical social
change. Radical change, as Carlos Gaviria teaches, means going to the
root, not believing that a cosmetic change is a deep one. It is not
about replacing one corrupt, right-wing government with another. It is
not about exchanging one set of gangsters for another, so that our
friends can rule instead of our enemies. It is not about demonstrating
³governability² without meeting the basic needs of the 80% of Colombians
who live in poverty. Colombia needs deep changes, especially on the land
and in its relationship to the transnationals. And the only way to win
these changes is to deploy the widest civil resistance, to construct
alternatives from the base, and to have massive and committed civil
mobilization. Absolutely everyting I have done in these years, every
single day, has been to work towards this with all my strength and all
my experience.

Today, I still carry wounds from the torture that I suffered in 1977 and
also from 20 years of being threatened with death, pursued by the
paramilitaries. Sometimes I lose hope, especially when I know that some
of my friends have been killed. I ask myself why continue in this
struggle with indigenous people and peasants, why not give up. But then
I am struck again with the passion for the people I love and the
certainty that they deserve lives with dignity, and solidarity. They
failed to kill my body but today they are threatening to kill my words,
and I feel it like a re-opening of my old wounds. But the word is a seed
and it grows, whatever happens, in the peasant on the land, in an
indigenous person in her territory, in Afro-Colombians returning to
their communities, in those who live in the popular neighbourhoods of
the cities who will eat better after the land reform that we will win,
in every working family that will get a just wage for work, there the
word will live. They won't be able to kill it.

Hector Mondragon is a Colombian activist and economist.

/*Translator's note: the Union Patriotica were a political party and
movement of the left, with similar left economic and political positions
and ideas as the FARC guerrillas, that tried to enter the Colombian
political arena in the 1980s. Thousands of them were assassinated./

/-Translated by Justin Podur/

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Cross of the Detained Disappeared Went Through the Streets of Medellin

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)

“For 16 years I have been going through cemeteries. I go everywhere in them, and I cannot find the place to put the flowers or to put the cross.”
Said with sadness by Lucila Restrepo, these words were heard with respect by dozens of people gathered in the Plaza Botero at the end of the March of Silence that took place last Saturday, August 30, to commemorate the International Day of the Detained Disappeared under the motto: No More Disappeared.
“Like me, many mothers have not the place to put their flowers or to put their cross. Please, help us find them,” called out the aged mother, affected by one of the great tragedies that the armed conflict has visited on the country: forced disappearance.
In Medellín there was a short march, silent, filled with pain but also with hope, which set out from the Parque Bolívar at 1 PM. In its brief route, relatives and friends of detained disappeared people from different epochs once again displayed the faces of their husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends, with the intention of avoiding loss of memory and demanding justice.
Carried out in diverse cities around the world, especially in Latin America, where the drama of the detained disappeared has been a historical constant, the call for this march went out for the second year in a row and responds to a demand of Nations that this crime be ended. In the Antioquian capital, the march was promoted by the Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crimenes del Estado (The National Movement of Victims of State Crimes) and the Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad  (Seeds of Liberty Human Rights Collective)
Voices against the loss of memory:
María Elena Saldarriaga walked the route convinced that in the face of this crime, considered a crime against humanity in international humanitarian law, it is not possible to be silent. “We have to mobilize and be sensitive to such and atrocious crime.”
Her tragedy began on Thursday, August 18, 1994. “My husband was a worker in the Leonisa company. After his shift, two cars with heavily-armed men came. They detained him and they took him to an unknown destination. Today, fourteen years later, we continue looking for him and hoping.”
In Antioquia, the Attorney General of the nation has documented 7,000 cases of forced disappearance since 1990, and it is estimated that for the whole country the figure is as high as 30,000cases in the last 30 years. However, specialists in the field consider that there is an underestimate which prevents our knowing exactly the dimensions of this crime, which means that the number might be higher.
In Colombia, forced disappearance has been investigated as a crime since 2000, when Law 589 went into effect, which classifies it as a crime and the Comisión Nacional de Busqueda de Personas (National Commission to Search for People) was created. However, during the time it has been in effect, nobody has been convicted.
Forced disappearance is defined as “detention or kidnapping of a person against their will by agents of the government or of organized groups or of private individuals who act in the name of the government or with its direct or indirect support, its authorization or its consent, who refuse to reveal their fate or where they can be found, or to recognize that they are deprived of liberty, thereby removing the protection of the law from them.”
That is Aura’s history: My husband has been disappeared since February 24,soo6.He left Medellín that day for Puerto Boyacá and the paramilitaries disappeared him exactlyin San Pedro de la Paz.” And to the pain of her loss, this woman has to add the impunity which surrounds these cases and the discrimination that they suffer, since, according to her, “kidnapped people have rights and we as relatives of the detained disappeared don’t.”
The stories the families who are victims of forced disappearance tell lead to the conclusion that the victims are not only members of the political opposition, nor members of social movements that work in areas of guerrilla or paramilitary control, but indigents, sex workers, cross-dressers and drug addicts.
Nohelia knows about this: “They disappeared my son, a young cross-dresser on June 6 last year. The discrimination against these people doesn’t end, despite the campaigns, despite the struggle, it doesn’t end,” she said in her anguish, and finished off her testimony with a harsh critique: “The indifference of the authorities hurts. Today the victimizers have more privileges than the victims.”
According to the figures of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of the United Nations, there are 41,257 cases pending in 78 countries. Between November, 2006, and November, 2007, the Working Group transmitted 629 new cases of forced disappearances to 29 governments. The last report of the Group, among the ten countries with the most cases of unsolved disappearances, five belong to Latin America: Argentina (3,303), Guatemala (2,899),  Peru (2,368), El Salvador (2,270) and Colombia (957).
The local, national and international figures, sustained by the stories of those who suffer them, establish that the atrocious crime of forced disappearance persists as a political practice.That’s why there is validity to the words of Maria Elena, one of the marchers this Saturday in Medellín: It is not possible to be silent. We have to mobilize and be sensitive in the face of this atrocious crime.”
IPC Press Agency

Thursday, September 04, 2008


(Translated  by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)

The reality of death and war that we experience in this region and that places the civilian population in great danger, especially our community, was reaffirmed once again. The lies that the government has always supplied continue to be furnished.  It’s not just about the massacre of February 21, 2005, carried out by the Army, but also about the peace supposedly experienced in the area without guerrillas or paramilitaries.  These daily proofs show the real situation:

            On Tuesday, September 2, between 7 and 9 a.m. there were battles in the town of La Esperanza between paramilitaries and guerrillas.  This was just ten minutes from the place where the families of our community live in the town of La Esperanza.
            On Sunday, August 31, between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m., there were battles in the town of La Esperanza between paramilitaries and guerrillas.  This was just 30 minutes from the place where the families of our community live in the town of La Esperanza.
            On Saturday, August 30, more than 200 paramilitaries arrived in the town of Playa Larga, 20 minutes from the town of La Esperanza.  They captured two farmers from the town of Playa Larga, saying that the two farmers were guerrillas and that they were going to get rid of all of the people of La Esperanza, Mulatos, and Resbaloza, because they were nothing but guerrillas.
            For the last two weeks, soldiers from the Army have said that ours is a guerrilla community because we held a wake for Arturo David on August 14 in San Josesito.  Arturo David died in a confrontation with the Army, in the second week of August.  He had belonged to our community until January 2004, when he resigned. And the community made his resignation public.  We held a wake for Arturo because his mother, who belongs to our community, asked us to do it.  He was later buried in the cemetery at San Jose.
These cases, which we leave to history, show the gravity of the situation and the threats from the paramilitaries, who have acted together with the armed forces in Nueva Antioquia and in the Uraba region. (as we have established month after month). They make it eminently risky for us to return and they risk the lives of the members of our community and the rest of the civilian population in the area.  These battles so close to the homes in the community could be a factor in the displacement of families.
The stigmatization of which we are victims just demonstrates the shortsightedness of those who are spreading death.  They treat us like guerrillas because we carried out a humane act—the burial of a human being.  This shows an utterly dehumanizing logic.  To be buried is the right of every person.  It is contained in international law.  It is an act that we have taken before and that we will not stop doing.  We did it with Wilmar Durango, a paramilitary who worked with the Army. He belonged to our community until 2000 and had done horrible things against our community and he was buried in our community at the request of his mother, who is part of our community. He was murdered on December 14, 2005 by the very same Army.  Those who can only act with the logic of death continue to believe that their actions of extermination, of stigmatization, of threats, will make us give up our humanitarian principles, our respect for life, our search for truth, justice and solidarity.  They are utterly mistaken.  The light we have chosen will never be extinguished because it is a light that lives by the judgment of all humanity.

September 3, 2008

Colombia Support Network
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phone:  (608) 257-8753
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e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Colombia Support Network (CSN) Statement on the FARC Guerrillas

September 2, 2008
The Central Command of the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) issued a statement on August 21, 32008 in which the guerrilla organization disclosed the names of 21 Colombian Army officers, a soldier, and 3 policemen, as well as 4 political figures they are holding as prisoners, including a former Governor, Alan Jara. The FARC proposed that the Colombian government enter into an agreement with them for the exchange of these 29, whom the FARC call “prisoners of war”, for FARC guerrillas imprisoned by the Colombian government.
Calling attention to President Alvaro Uribe’s efforts to reform the system of justice, the FARC statement suggests the reform plan is a step toward the imposition of a totalitarian state. It notes the corruption which the President’s buying of Congresswoman Yidis Medina’s vote revealed; the close continuing ties between paramilitary forces (now calling themselves “Aguilas Negras” (Black Eagles)) and high government officials; and the anti-democratic role of the 2 million government-paid informants who, the FARC say, comprise Uribe’s so-called “network of cooperators”. The statement also decries the support and protection of the United States government as “the imperial protection of the White House” for the Uribe government, which it alleges maintains a military offensive against the guerrillas to undermine the popular struggle for change. It criticizes the Uribe government for the kidnapping of Rodrigo Granda in Venezuela; for invading Ecuador to strike at FARC leader Raul Reyes;  and for using improperly the symbol of the Red Cross and identifying news media and non-governmental organizations falsely in the operation which freed Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other FARC hostages.
A number of the FARC’s assertions concerning the Uribe government and its goals are true. The attack on Colombia’s courts, the corruption revealed by the Yidis Medina affair, and the injustice done to many innocent people by false reports of paid informants are serious failings of the Uribe government. And the support of the U.S. government in spite of these failings and its refusal to recognize them by again certifying Colombia’s progress against corruption and abuses by the Colombian military, are indefensible. (For exhaustive proof of continuing abuses by the Colombian military, see the historical compilation of such abuses on the CSN web page.)
But the FARC guerrillas are particularly poorly placed to make these criticisms. Their strategy of kidnapping for ransom and for political advantage is execrable. While the FARC began 43 years ago with a commitment to land reform and social justice, through many of their actions and strategies---kidnapping; massacres of innocent civilians, including repeated attacks on indigenous communities; and use of exploding cylinders, land mines, and bombs in buildings which have taken the lives of many non-combatants---the FARC have lost the moral authority to criticize the forces arrayed against them. Nor has their coercive involvement in cocaine trafficking in rural areas been consistent with the moral precepts they say they espouse.
The FARC should at once release all of their prisoners---who are not, as they frequently claim, simply being “detained”. And they should recognize that, in spite of the history of the genocide of the Patriotic Union, a peaceful alternative to the armed struggle now exists through opposition within the political process, making it possible for them to lay down their arms and work for social justice through that process. The FARC’s military campaign has become so discredited and has so encouraged militarism in opposition to the FARC that it now complicates and impedes the efforts of those seeking justice through a peaceful political process. Recent reports of FARC involvement in the Ituango killings and in the bombing in Cali reinforce this conclusion.

Colombia Support Network
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phone:  (608) 257-8753
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e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Paramilitary Conspiracy throughout Colombia

( Translated by David Brown, a CSN volunteer translator)

Resent:  Colombian Senate Human Rights Commission
Public Testimony
Plenary Session of the Senate of the Republic (Colombian)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Today, I would like to denounce to the Plenary session of this Corporation and in front of national and international public opinion, in my condition as a citizen and as President of the Human Rights Commission of the Senate of the Republic, the existence in Colombia of a national conspiracy carried out via simultaneous actions by clandestine groups and paramilitaries at the service of large blocks of power, tied to the interests of the trans-nationals, large land owners and legal and illegal entrepreneurs, that in this last period have dared to gravely threaten the communities of indigenous, peasant, miners and of women’s, human rights and workers organizations and their member associations and unions throughout the national territory in a reckless and criminal manner.
On Monday, August 11th, 2008, while the Joint Commissions for Human Rights of the House and Senate in the Municipality of Barrancabermeja were in session, a cowardly threat was made against the Regional Indigenous Council of the Cauca (CRIC) and the Association of Indigenous Communities of the Northern Cauca (ACIN) that represent all the traditional authorities of the Nasa peoples in the northern zone of the department of Cauca.  This unofficial communication was signed only as  “Campesinos Embejucaos de Colombia” (A old song named meaning Angry Peasants) planting an open threat of death, desolation and terror against the indigenous communities in the departments of Cauca, Valle, Tolima, Putumayo and Huila utilizing tortuous and traitorous language that is produced and legitimized in declarations by the commandant of the 3rd Brigade of the National Army, General Jaime Esguerra Santos and that appears in the context in which the President of the Republic and spokespersons from his wing in the Colombian Congress  who have referred to the indigenous communities in the department of Cauca and their traditional authorities, who exercise their jurisdiction with constitutional authority in their territories, as “invaders”    This open threat against these communities and their traditional authorities in the Department of Cauca reveals a conspiracy by clandestine sectors, land owners and paramilitaries in the Department of Cauca that shield themselves with this strange anti-indigenous discourse that springs out of official government declarations and that only serve to cover for the most dangerous and criminal of their intentions.
In this same sense, yesterday the Public Audience session of the joint commissions of Human Rights of the house and senate in the municipality of Barrancabermeja  denounced a new takeover by three advance paramilitary and drug trafficking groups of the municipality of Barrancabermeja. These groups have threatened and intimidated the social, trade union, peasant, human rights and women’s groups in this petroleum port.  This occurs in the midst of a growing climate of violence, during which the number of violent deaths in the petroleum port have doubled in comparison to those that occurred last year.  During this wave of violence, serious threats have been delivered from paramilitary groups that use the name “Aguilas Negras¨ (Black Eagles),  “Heroes de Castano” (Castano´s Heroes)  and the self named “Comandantes Paramilitares¨  (Paramilitary Comandants) against the Agro-Mining Federation of Southern Bolivar, the Association of Families of the Victims of May 16, 1998.  Equally, the presence, during the last 60 days, of operations by paramilitary groups in the popular barrios of Barrancabermeja have been denounced before the senate.  These groups carry out irregular operations and intimidate, in a permanent manner, the communities and victims of these sectors.
All this joins with an asphyxiating climate of impunity in the cases of numerous assassinations against citizens in the region of the South of Bolivar, perpetrated on many occasions by members of the public armed forces.  During the public hearing in Barrancabermeja very serous acts were condemned that presumptively compromise the responsibilities of units attached to the Nueva Granada, Narino, and Calibio battalions as well as the 15th and 4th brigades of the National Army.  These acts were presented to the Fiscal General of the Nation for his investigation and clarification.  These denouncements have been presented during a period and in a region in which 200,0000 hectares have been granted to the trans-national, Anglo Gold Mine Ashanti, for the exploitation of the most important gold reserves  in Latin America.  This is a long standing conflict with the small miners and the peasant communities of this region that are fighting to survive in their territories, surrounded by drug traffickers, mega projects of coal, oil and bio fuels and the resurgence of paramilitary groups.  All this occurs without a security policy on behalf of the State that could contain and guarantee the rights of the local population in the midst of the conflict.  
At the same time, in the municipality of San Onofre, Sucre activists from the victims movement, Aida Melendez and Adriana Porras, have been seriously threatened.  These two have been active in the defense of the process of resistance by the population of this municipality in order to obtain an effective response from the National Government in terms of reparations of materials integral to the grave crimes committed in this municipality by paramilitary groups.  These two persons have been threatened by paramilitaries that today confront investigations under the jurisdiction of Justice and Pease, for grave crimes committed ruing the years of 2002 to 2005 in this locality.  In the same way, these threats against the population occur in a period in which the National Reparations Commission advances its work to develop a pilot reparations program in this zone in the department of Sucre.
In addition to this, in the municipality of Palmira, in the department of the Cauca Valley, this past August 4th, 2008 a grave harassment was carried out by armed men that were mobilized on two motorcycles in a sector of the Zamorano barrio against my aid and member of my Legislative Technical Team, Juan Pablo Ochoa during the moments when he tried to complete a meeting with a group of  sugar cane workers that were carrying out a process of a presentation of special charges on behalf of sugar cane workers before the confederations of this sector.  This act, that has now been brought to the attention of the authorities, is not only a serious provocation against the sugar cane workers that struggle to vindicate their claims in the Cauca Valley but is also a serious aggression against the functions of the Colombian Congress and its functionaries.
Finally, I would like to indicate that the sociologist, recorder and columnist ALFREDO MOLANO might end up being a scapegoat in the process that is being carried out in the district 4 penal district of Bogota by the Araujo family.  What has happened with journalist, ALFREDO MOLANO is a serious attack on freedom of expression in Colombia.  The adjudication of his column Araujos (EL Espectador, Bogota, Feb 25, 2007, could end up costing Alfredo Molano his freedom to write in Colombia.   The demand for slander and insult against Molano seeks to reestablish a jurisprudence that acts against the ¨crime of opinion¨ in Colombia.
I call on the National Government to act to protect the indigenous communities throughout all the national territory and, in particular, that it take measures that guarantee the integrity of the indigenous councils and the population in the northern part of the department of Cauca.  That it achieve the prevention of the actions that have been threatened against the indigenous councils their spokespeople and the communities, with especial emphasis in the northern zone in the Department of Cauca
(I call on them) in the same manner, to take measures that will allow us to guarantee the protection of the social and human rights as well as victims movements in Barrancabermeja, Santander, San Onfre, sucre and in Palmira in the Cauca Valley; that in the same manner they guarantee the integrity of the peasant and mining communities in throughout the southern region of Bolivar.
I also make a public call to the Fiscal General of the Nation that the threats against the indigenous organizations, social and human rights organizations and the victims movement of the South of Bolivar, as well as those in the locality of San Onofre in Sucre, be investigated.
I also call on the international community, the United Nations human rights protection system and the Organization of American States delegation in Colombia so that they make a declaration before the Colombian Government, demanding that they take efficient actions against the continued presence of under cover groups and actions of paramilitary origins that today threaten the communities and social movements in all of Colombia.
Alexander López Maya
Human Rights Commission, Senate of the Republic
Sent by : Network for Humanity and Solidarity – Colombia

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The desperate lies of a criminal regime/Podur on Hector Mondragon


Colombia Support Network
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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The violence against unionists in Colombia continues unabated

         ( Translated by Anne Boylon, a CSN volunteer translator )                   


                               The violence against unionists in Colombia continues unabated
                                38 unionists have been assassinated so far this year

                    ----The most recent killing occurred last Saturday in Buga---
                      ---------In Santander the threats are ever increasing----------
Labor Information Agency  ENS August 26, 2008
According to information made public by the Escuela Nacional Sindical (National Unionist School), this recent assassination in Buga (Valle department) of Jose Omar Galeano Martinez, a lottery ticket seller and National President of the Colombian Federation of Lottery Sellers (FECOLOC), brings to 38 (34 men and 4 women) the number of unionists that have been killed so far this year in Colombia.
This figure is an indication of the frightening increase in the violence against unionists in Colombia.  The number killed in the first eight months of 2008 is almost the same as the number killed in the whole of 2007 when there were 39 registered cases.  There is one difference, however:  the number of union leaders killed in 2008 is greater – 15 compared with 10 in 2007.
Jose Omar Galeano Martinez was struck down by the bullets of hired assassins at 10:00 at night as he was riding his motorcycle through the streets of Buga.  According to information put out by CUT (Colombian Trade Union Federation), with which  confederation Jose’s union (FECOLOC) is affiliated, Jose Galeano was leading the struggle of the country’s lottery ticket sellers who had united to oppose the privatization of the national lotteries.   CUT is convinced he was killed because of these activities.
He is the third unionist to be killed this month.  On August 13th Manuel Erminson, 32 years old and the father of three children, was shot and killed, his body hit with seven bullets. He was vice-president of the Asociacion Campesina para la Defensa del Putumayo (The Rural Association for the Defense of Putumayo) and a member of the Fensuagro National Council.    
The other victim to fall in August was Luis Mayusa Prada, 46 years old.   He was shot by hired assassins on the 8th at 8:00 in the morning as he was on his way home after accompanying one of his four children to a medical appointment.  The identities of those who ordered this killing are still unknown. Mayusa had been displaced to Saravena from the department of Meta where, until shortly before his death, he was a member of the local CUT council in Meta (Colombian Trade Union Federation).

Cases that reverberate nationally

Among these 38 slain unionists are national union leaders:  Guillermo Rivera Fuquene was the President of Sinservpub; his body turned up on July 15th in Ibague, three months after his disappearance in the Tunal sector of Bogotá.  Leonidas Gomez Roso worked for City Bank and was the leader of the National Union of Bank Employees (UNEB) and a committed activist; he was assassinated on March 7th in Bogota, one day after the National March against Para militarism and all forms of violence in which he had participated.
Luz Maria Diaz Lopez, who was a member of the Putumayo Association of Educators, was killed in an attack on April 1st in Valle del Guamez, Putumayo.  She was pregnant at the time of her death. Emerson Ivan Herrera, also a unionist, was killed in the same attack.
These 38 assassinations are part of a total of 200 violations which have been committed so far this year against the lives, liberty and physical and mental well-being of unionized workers.  These violations include threats, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, attacks and other forms of victimization.  
The Colombian Trade Union Federation (CUT) has been the most affected by these crimes: Twenty-nine of those killed belonged to unions affiliated with CUT.  Five belonged to unions affiliated with the CGT (Confederacion General del Trabajo).  The remaining four belonged to unaffiliated organizations.
Of the individual unions, The  Federacion Sindical Nacional Unitaria Agropecuaria – Fensuagro (Agricultural Trade Union Federation), a CUT affiliate, has born the brunt of the murders, having suffered five registered homicides.  The Sindicato Unitario de Trabajadores de la Educacion del Valle, SUTEV ( TheValle Union of United Education Workers) has also been hard hit, having had four of their members assassinated.  The Asociacion de Educadores del Norte de Santander (The Association of Educators of the Norte de Santander) and the workers union from IMPEC together have registered three murders of their members.  
According to available information, only two people have been detained for all of these crimes. Thus, so far, the perpetrators of these crimes are enjoying complete impunity.
Worrying situation in Santander

Another worrying circumstance is the growing number of unionists who are receiving death threats, particularly in the Santander department. While nation-wide there have been 125 known threats, in Santander there have been 57 reported cases of unionists threatened, almost half of that for the entire country.  The other departments most affected by these threats are Antioquia where there have been 22 reports of threats, the Valle de Cauca with 9 reported cases and the Norte de Santander with 7.
List of Unionists Assassinated in 2008
The complete list of assassinated unionists in Colombia from January 1st, 2008, up to the present is the following:


Agencia de información Laboral ENS
TEL. 5133100 Ext. 129

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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