The latest news for the struggle for human rights for all in Colombia
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CSN 'S STATEMENT ON THE KILLING OF INDIGENOUS LIDER
It is with a mixture of sorrow and anger that we of the
Colombia Support Network (CSN) received word of the murder of Jose
Edwin Legarda, companion of the extraordinary indigenous leader Aida
Quilque. We are tremendously sorry for Aida and her daughter who have
lost a spouse and father. But we are also outraged that a Colombian
Army unit carried out the killing, firing at least 17 shots at the
vehicle Jose Edwin was driving. Witnesses have denied the Army’s
account that Jose Edwin approached a military checkpoint and failed
to stop when ordered to do so. Instead, it appears clear that the
vehicle was ambushed with the intent of killing those inside, who the
assailants may have thought included Aida, who had just returned from
a meeting of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in
Geneva, Switzerland. There she had described the terrible threats
facing the indigenous peoples in Colombia and the numerous abuses to
which they have been subjected.
Aida has been one of the leaders of the Minga Indigena,
which demonstrated on behalf of protection for the lives of the
indigenous peoples, and recognition of their rights to their native
lands. The Uribe Administration has failed effectively to protect
these rights as it promotes the interests of multinational businesses
and their Colombian business partners, who seek access to these lands
for mining and monoculture projects. We believe that the murder of
Jose Edwin may have been part of a calculated, intentional strategy
designed to eliminate those who have led the Minga, and to scare away
those who support it.
We therefore declare our solidarity with Aida and with
the others who have with great courage organized and participated in
the Minga, including community leaders who are very close to CSN. We
call for a thorough investigation of the circumstances of the attack
upon Jose Edwin and punishment of those who planned and carried out
this outrageous maneuver. We call upon the Colombian government to
respect and protect those who participate in the Minga and to
recognize and protect the indigenous peoples’ rights to their lives,
their lands and their traditions. We support the organizers and
participants in the Minga in their activities on behalf of these goals.
Please write to President Alvaro Uribe to let him know
you support the indigenous movement of which Jose Edwin Legarda was
an important part and you are monitoring developments to see that
justice is done in his case. Also please write Colombia’s Minister of
Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, to express your concern about this (and
so may other) atrocities committed by the Colombia Army. And write
your representatives in Congress and Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice (and/or Secretary-nominee Hillary Clinton) to let them know your
concerns about how U.S. military aid to Colombia continues to be
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
THREATS AGAINST THE PEACE COMMUNITY IN SAN JOSESITO DE APARTADO
The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado has informed CSN of specific threats made in the last few days to eliminate the community. Referring to the community as SOB’s and guerrilla supporters, paramilitaries spoke of a plan, apparently being developed with the military, to attack the Peace Community during this holiday season.
The Peace Community of San Josesito living in La Holandita Farm are concerned that a demobilized member of the FARC guerrillas named SAMIR has been observed at the Seventeenth Brigade Headquarters in Carepa providing false information concerning supposed links between Peace Community Members and the FARC.
The Peace Community is concerned about threats against peace community members due to their presence in an area where construction of the Urra dam is reportedly being planned. The Peace Community reports that the Eleventh Brigade of the Army, based nearby in Cordoba Department, has implemented a registry for area residents and required them to carry an identification document developed by the Brigade.
We need to publicize the threats against the Peace Community and tell the Colombian government we are watching and expect it to disarm any attempt to attack the Peace Community and its members. We expect the Eleventh Brigade and the Seventeenth Brigade, based in nearby Carepa, to provide safety to the members of the Peace Community, not to attack or facilitate attacks against them.
We ask you to contact those listed below to express your support of the Peace Community and your expectation that protection be provided to its members against threats from the paramilitaries and the Colombian Army.
ACTION : PLEASE WRITE
To send messages to your members of Congress, please go to our website and see CSN’s Action Center: www.colombiasupport.net
Assistant Secretary Western Hemisphere
Ambassador William Brownfield
IN COLOMBIA :
Presidencia de la República
Dr. Alvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de la Republica
Or via his website http://web.presidencia.gov.co/presidente/perfiling_auv.htm
Scroll down and click on “Escribale al Presidente”
General Hernan Giraldo
Commander of the Seventeenth Brigade
Colonel Rafael Forero
Juan Manual Santos
Minister of Defense
Colombia's structural problems and unsuitable solutions
( Translated by Rolf Schoeneborn, a CSN volunteer translator)
Monday, December 1, 2008
Senator Parmenio Cuellar, a member of the leftist Polo coalition, analyzes the pyramid schemes phenomenon, also known as Ponzi schemes.
The so-called pyramid schemes flourish in countries with very lttle banking, very little financial depth and public finances in disarray.
The former Attorney General suggests 'a national pact' as a solution to this terrible catastrophe that has befallen the country, to get Colombians to do legal banking and suggests in addition that 'other financial systems should be conceived that would really benefit the most vulnerable segments of the Colombian society, in keeping with the Political Charter of the Colombian Constitution of 1991, which specifies that banks should serve the interest of the people and not that of oligopolies.'
The initial chaos caused by the proliferation of pyramid schemes did not surprise all people, some thought it would just last for a couple of months more, and others never imagined the magnitude of the social upheavals which had been in the making for about two years. Experts like Christopher Jarvis, chief economist of the IMF Policy Development and Review Department, who has been researching this type of scheme for some time determined tha the so-called pyramid schemes proliferate in countries with very little formal banking, very little financial depth and public finances in disarray. Jarvis has intimate knowledge of what happened in Albania in 1997 and in 1998 when powerful operators like VEFA, Gjallica, and Kamberi just about ruined the country that had just introduced a market economy.
As far as Colombia is concerned, the different factors that contributed to the emergence of parallel financial systems are fairly evident: just 44% of the poulation has access to financial products of any kind, and furthermore, according to studies done by the World Bank 50% to 80% of the adult Colombian population have no access to any form of formal or legal banking. Also, the dubious state of public finances became obvious, when the government, although it had all the necessary administrative tools to deal with this parallel system, tried to sit out the problem and remained passive; this in view of the fact that Ponzi schemes proliferated for all to see at an alarming rate in areas with a large number of cities. Christopher Jarvis was thus in a position to show in one of his papers that the sitation in Albania in 1997 was very much like the situation in Colombia in 2008.
The deficiencies of public finance did not only beome apparent as a result of the passive role of the government regarding the steps that needed to be taken in dealing with the companies involved with Ponzi schemes. These deficiencies became apparent also when the government simply wanted the legislature to deal with the problem by having a bill passed with no teeth at all that not only was completely unnessary but also inadequate as far as the dangers of Ponzi schemes are concerned. First of all, a law against criminal activities such as 'massive and habitual soliciting', had been on the books for two decades already, but yet had never actually been enforced in cases involving pyramid schemes. This new bill just called for harsher penalties. Secondly, given the fact that the government has the necessary administrative tool, it is hard to imagine that it would go ahad and ignore the penal code, but at the same time impose harsher sentences, and never enforce the law because of legal loopholes which these companies made use of. The question needs to be asked now what the effectiveness of all this has been in terms of handling the crisis brought about by Ponzi schemes.
Now as far as the article is concerned that deals with financial transactions and the different ways of stashing cash, the wording chosen was such that anyone could be found to engage in criminal activities; not only small businesses that have a corresponding cash flow, but also the affluent, smart investor who would like to evade the fiancial transaction tax, known as the 4x1000, even the incautious who forgot to report their working capital. This of course not only weakened the trust in our currency, but also hampered all economic activities in an economy such as ours, which is largely of an informal nature.
This provision would probably have the intended results in countries like Switzerland or any other country with a picture book economy, being very formal as far as its governing forces and activities are concerned, but for an economy such as ours this provision would have to be fatal.
It needs to be pointed out that there are two solutions to this problem: one that has to be implemented immediately and the other one requires structural changes. The immediate solution requires that the government intervene given that it has the necessary tools provided by the Constitution of 1991. The structural solution requires a national agreement or pact with appropriate policies that encourage all Colombians to do legal banking. Alternative fiancial systems are also necessary that would finally benefit the most vulnerable segments of our society, which would be in accordance with our Political Charter, which demands that banks should serve the people and not the oligopolies. This would not only improve the fiancial situation of many Colombians and help them to start their own business, but also help to improve the general financial climate und culture of the Colombian society.
NEW THREATS AND TERRORIST ACTIONS
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
We must continue to make a record of new actions taken against members of our community, actions that continue to evidence the extermination that they are planning for us.
* On December 13 at about 10 a.m., four paramilitaries dressed in civilian clothes and carrying pistols arrived in Las Claras, near Naín, on the banks of the river Zinú. They identified themselves as paramilitaries. Ten families of our community were there. The paramilitaries asked them if it was true that they belonged to the SOB peace community that’s purely guerilla. The families answered that yes, they belonged to the community and the paramilitaries started saying that that peace community was purely guerrilla, that it carried out meetings and actions against the paramilitaries and against the army because it was just an arm of the guerrillas and had to be got rid of in one way or another. The paramilitaries said the people better all get out of the area and out of the community while they still had time. They said that they were looking to see how they could line up a major action against the heads of that SOB guerrilla community and that the scheme was ready to be carried out.
The families told them that they would not leave the peace community or the area and that the community was not with the guerrillas. They said that if the paramilitaries wanted to kill them, they should go ahead and do it, but that they would not back down because of the threats. After that exchange, the paramilitaries said they would be going, but that they should give the message to the other people in that SOB community. Then they left.
* The area of Naín is next to the town of La Resbalosa and the Sinú River. There are a number of families from the community there, and we have established an alternative school and two more are getting ready to open. That will create an alternative education nucleus there. On November 12, the Public Defender’s office set up a meeting with more than 200 people from the various towns near the Sinú River. The people were able to establish the human rights violations perpetrated by the Army in the place known as Frasquillo, part of Tierra Alta. They also complained of human rights violations by the guerrillas. Those actions are as follows:
* The Army forced all the people who pass by Frasquillo to register. That is illegal and prohibited by the Constitutional Court.
* They forced everybody to carry a badge in order to move about. The badge is a piece of notebook paper with a stamp that says “11th Brigade”, along with a photocopy of their identity card. You have to show it every time you pass Frasquillo.
*The Army has blockaded the passage of food, of gasoline and agricultural products in Frasquillo.
* On October 10, the FARC murdered Antonio Jaramillo Borja near Frasquillo. Three days earlier, the Army had deceived Antonio. They hired him and his horse to transport some officials from Urrá. But it wasn’t true. The men were soldiers dressed in civilian clothes who were going to pick up a guerrilla deserter.
* The Army burns houses and steals chickens and pigs in the different towns along the Sinú River.
* The soldiers have threatened people that they would be killed if they didn’t leave their land. They need the land in order to construct the Urrá 2 dam.
* On December 10 at 12 noon in the town of Playas Altas (located about an hour from San Josesito) Leonardo Rios Londoño was detained by the Army. ( Leonardo was a member of the community but he resigned a year ago.)
An Army soldier took his identity card, wrote down the information, and asked him if he was a member of the community. He said no. He said that he had been a member but had left because he wanted to live in the town. The soldiers told him it was lucky for him that he had left because the community was all guerrillas and the main goal that the Army had in the area was to finish it off one way or another. They said they now had a plan for doing it and a good scheme to get the heads of this SOB community. The action was going to be very strong because, if they can shut the community up they will be able to leave peacefully in the area. Leonardo told them that that was a lie. He said that while he had been in the community all the people did was work and they filed complaints whenever there was any kind of attack against any farmer, no matter who it was. Another uniformed man, who was next to the commander of the Army troop, answered that the main problem with the SOB community was that it was complaining about the paramilitaries, and that “some of us have demobilized, but now we are operating again.” Leonardo asked them whether they were soldiers or paramilitaries. The man answered that he was either stupid or acting stupid because he ought to know how things are in this area. They told him not to say anything, and so that he could see that they weren’t lying, he was to stay two days in his house without going out and if he went out, they would kill him. Leonardo had to stay in his house until Saturday. He was finally able to leave his house when the soldiers left for La Balsa ( a place located on the road between Apartadó and San Josesito).
The threats, the schemes, and all the actions against our community are clear. You can tell it from the various terrorist actions by the armed actors against the civilian population. It confirms the necessity for us to follow our principles more firmly than ever: neutrality and solidarity, working for a just world without impunity.
We know that they are trying to finish us off, but we won’t be silent. We won’t give in to death for speaking the truth. We will continue to shout it, in spite of all the different attacks of which we have been victims. We know that national and international solidarity will join in our efforts, so that these death threats from those who spread death will not be carried out and their actions of extermination and illegality will be stopped.
PEACE COMMUNITY OF SAN JOSE DE APARTADO
December 15, 2008
No Reward for Hostage-Takers
On December 10, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe proposed freedom and monetary rewards for members of guerrilla organizations who deliver hostages under their control to the government. The Colombia Support Network (CSN) has long and severely criticized hostage-taking as a violation of human rights and of international humanitarian law. We believe that those who commit these crimes should be tried for them and punished if found guilty, not exonerated in advance. It is vitally important that the truth of how the kidnappings occurred and who was responsible for them be established and reparations ordered for the victims. We join Amnesty International’s call for the investigation and trial of hostage-takers.
Colombia Support Network
REMEMBERING THE MASSACRE OF THE BANANA FIELDS 80 YEARS AGO
( Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
Friday, December 5, 2008
Ø With this article, María Tila Uribe refreshes our memory sbout how an d why the massacre in the banana fields at the hands of the Army and the United Fruit Company now Chiquita Brands) happened 80 years ago.
Ø “The 25 thousand strikers had in their favor the sympathy of the population and of the very Mayor, of the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada, of the business people and of some cattle raisers who sent them cows to maintain themselves.”
With nearly 7 million inhabitants in that epoch, our country had a certain character of virgin forest. The traditional haciendas with practically feudal customs abounded. It was a country of gold, platinum, coal, salt and emerald mines, of immense coffee banana and tobacco plantations. There was a form of slavery in the rubber areas of the Amazon.
25 years had passed since the “kidnappinf og Panama”—that is what it was called—and with the first payment of 5 million of the 25 million with which the United States paid for that territory, and the rise in the price of coffee, and the external debt contracted in that period and the violent entrance of foreign capital, the 20s became the decade of accelerating industry and the beginning of economic and physical infrastructure necessary for the development of the incipient Colombian capitalism.
That is how modernism came to our country, that is when we learned about the new machines for factory production that speeded industry up and manual labor of artisans, of the coffee processors, the foot-pedal sewing machines that our grandmothers used, the mills and of course everything electrical, as well as automobile mechanics, as cars replaced the romantic coaches drawn by horses.
It was a key and outstanding decade of the twentieth century, not only because of the transformation that the technology of that period worked in the life of the people, but also because of the significance of the two biggest social phenomena of the first 50 years of that century: the birth of a working class and the incorporation of women into the labor market. The first was the result of the changes in the lives of thousands of campesinos who stopped being tied to the haciendas as sharecroppers or renters and began to be incorporated in a massive way into the concentrations of workers through a new pay system: wages. Legions of workers were incorporated into different labor fronts: 20 thousand in railroads, more than 600 thousand men and women made the export of coffee possible, thousands more in the construction of canals, aerial cables, roads, updated of ports. For their part, women who in this period could only work as teachers, nurses or telegraph operators were now needed in the clothing workshops, the textile factories of Antioquia, the match, beer, cigar factories, and others recently opened. In addition, armies of secretaries began to be formed for the offices.
For this oversized mobilization, the government created the circulation law, which permitted whole masses to go to work as laborers in the North American enclaves: the Tropical Oil Company in Barrancabermeja exploited petroleum; the Frontino Gold Mines and Chocó Pacífico, gold and platinum; and the famous United Fruit Company, responsible for the massacre of workers at the end of the decade, in then banana zone of Santa Marta.
The natural consequence of those concentrations of workers was organization and discovering the power of strikes. The abysmal social differences of wealth and poverty and the barbarity of a hegemonic regime in power for 42 years that utilized displacement, death and torture against its adversaries brought the different social sectors together and in the middle of the decade the first National Workers Confederation (Confederación Obrera Nacional) and the revolutionary Socialist party (Partido Socialista Revolucionario) were founded, both groups were a result of an organizing process and years of experience.
Their national leaders, among them Tomas Uribe Márquez, Raúl Eduardo Mahecha and María Cano felt and confronted their struggle in the heat of the great strikes, the last of which was that of the banana zone, led by the very representative Sixto Ospino, Adán Ortiz Salas, Aurelio Rodríguez, José G. Russo, Erasmo Coronel, and as well by women like Josefa Blanco, the secretary of the Orihueca union, who had 100 workers under her responsibility, with them she watched to make sure that there were no bunches of bananas cut, and she smbushed and reduced small groups of soldiers whom she later brought to the strike committee to make them reflect on the truth of the case, or get information from them, or judge them. Another forgotten woman was Petrona Yance, the most distinguished among the 800 women who participated in the strike.
President Abadía Méndez and his minister of war named Carlos Cortes Vargas as general commander, and gave him excessive powers. He fixed the 4th of December as the date to negotiate the set of demands, which contained nine points.
The 25 thousand strikers had in their favor the sympathy of the population and of the very Mayor, of the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada, of the business people and of some cattle raisers who sent them cows to maintain themselves. And an unusual thing, contrary to generally accepted ideas, was the fact that many North American workers expressed solidarity with them. It is also known that there were individual and group desertions in the first period of the strike, recruits who refused to shoot and others that turned their weapons over to the workers.
It is estimated that there were 5000 workers who were in the plaza when they were surrounded by 300 armed men. The survivors related that after a cornet call Cortes Vrgas himself gave the order to fire three times. However, it was never learned how many dead there were; the oral and written narrations of the people differ: between 800 and 3 thousand, and they add that they threw them into the sea. The officers admitted to between 15 and 20.
That was the “baptism by fire” of the Colombian working class. The Councils of War came, later selective murders of other leaders and jail for the national and local leaders.
In defense of the condemned rose the young lawyer Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, who left an unforgettable page in the history of Colombia that ended successfully, since they absolved all the accused.
The decade of the 20s has been correctly called the revolutionary golden age of Colombia.
*María Tila Uribe es the daughter of the leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Parfty, Tomás Uribe Márquez, who supported the 1928 strike of the banana workers. She is author of the book, The hidden years: dreams and rebelliousness in the decade of the twenties.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Support the workers at El Cerrejon coal mine
On December 1 and 2, 2008, the union of coal workers at the Cerrejon
mine in Guajira Department in northern Colombia presented a list of
proposals for changes in their current collective bargaining
agreement with Carbones del Cerrejon ( The Coal Company of the
The Cerrejon mine is the largest open pit mine in the world, more
than 30 miles long and 5 miles wide. It is owned by a consortium of
multinational companies, BHP Billiton, Xstrata (Angloamerican), and
Glencore. Since production began in 1981 the mine has yielded 460
million tons, with this year's production of 28 million tons for
export to increase next year. Illnesses of mine workers have reached
a new high in the last 2 years, of about 700. The union, which has
3,700 members among the 10,000 workers and private contractors
employed at the mine (5,000 in the mine and 5,000 through private
contractors), seeks higher pay for mine workers, inclusion of
benefits for the Wayuu indigenous communities within whose lands the
mine has been located, and improved protections for worker's health
Please join SINTRACARBON and the international union movement to to
seek better working conditions, benefits and pay for the Cerrejon
mine workers . Write to the Presiden to the Compania Cerrejon LLC,
Leon Teicher, expressing your solidarity with the proposals of
Noam Chomsky s greetings to the Minga/ Noam Chomsky saluda la MINGA
I have learned of the remarkable initiative of the indigenous people of Colombia to make a Minga to protest the crimes of the state and its foreign supporters, to defend their most elementary human rights, and to open the way for a decent future for themselves and all of Colombia. The rise of the indigenous populations of South America in recent years has been a real inspiration to everyone who values freedom and justice. Few have suffered such brutality as the indigenous people of Colombia. I would like to express my great admiration and respect for your dedication to the highest values, and my hope that you will have real success in your courageous and honorable efforts.
Se de la extraordinaria iniciativa de los pueblos indigenas de Colombia para hacer una Minga protestando contra los crimenes de estado y sus apoyadores extranjeros, para defender sus mas elementales derechos humanos, y para abrir el camino en la busqueda de un futuro decente no solo para ellos sino para todo Colombia. El levantamiento de las poblaciones indigenas de la America del Sur en anos recientes es una inspiracion para todos aquellos que valoran la libertad y la justicia. Pocos han sufrido tanta brutalidad como los pueblos indigenas de Colombia. Quiero expresarles mi gran admiracion y respeto por su dedicacion a los mas altos valores, junto con mi esperanza de que triunfen en sus honorables esfuerzos tan llenos de coraje.