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The Cold Winds of Caramanta
WAR IN THE LOWER ARIARI RIVER
( Translated by Anne Boylon, a CSN volunteer translator )
In April, while Uribe was in Spain being awarded the “Premio Cortes de Cadiz a la Libertad” for his fight against terrorism and enjoying hugs and statements of support from the king and Zapatero, Colombia was shaken by yet another scandal when links between narco-paramilitaries and people connected to the Presidency were made public.
And while this was going on, a commission headed by the Director of the Asturian Agency for Cooperation arrived in Colombia to investigate human rights conditions in six regions of the country.
El gueyu del ferre
Guerra en El Bajo Ariari
Javier Orozco Penaranda
From an old DC-3 we made out the rainforests of the southeast and the Sierra de La Macarena, biodiversity sanctuaries and the area where the war against the Farc is being carried out. We landed at a small airport under the control of thousands of counter-insurgency soldiers whose equipment is arranged under a giant sign that reads: “We are ordinary people who are doing extraordinary work.”
The people who live in Bajo Ariari are descendents of campesinos who fled the violence a half a century ago. They are seen as the enemy by troops who threaten them with paramilitary incursions.
The commander of the Macarena police warns us that we are entering a “theater of operations,” their name for war zones. Between ten thousand military and police search for one half thousand guerrillas who had recently killed four soldiers somewhere in Puerto Cachicamo, a village we would visit. The campesinos said that there were 40 dead militaries. There is much fear here. In February the army sprayed a school with machine gun fire wounding three children. And they daily threaten the people living there with death in attempts to get them to tell “where the bandits are.” The soldiers get very frustrated because they are under a lot of pressure to find the guerrilla, but they have little success because the guerrilla hide in the underbrush with the stealth of the jaguar.
We accepted the invitation of the organizations to go into the area of on-going military operations because, as we were told by their spokesperson, “it is necessary to go where we are needed.” It was dangerous to go by river, which was the only way to get to and interview the communities trapped in the middle of the military conflict. However, except for two army checkpoints on the river and an armed motor boat, the settlements along the Guayavero and Guaviare rivers seemed peaceful.
There is little traffic on the river. People avoid it for fear of the army which kills civilians, controls the transport of gasoline and restricts the selling of foodstuff and medicines. “The army sees us all as terrorists,” says Lucila who told us that there are five hundred unidentified bodies in the La Macarena cemetery. She believes that the army murdered her husband two years ago. “The soldiers told me it was a mistake,” but there was no investigation and she didn’t ask for one. She fears that if she did, there would be another “mistake.”
The communities of Puerto Cachicamo, Puerto Nuevo, Nueva Colombia and Tigra welcomed the Asturian commission from their landing at the river where they had formed themselves into rows of smiling appreciative children and adults. They were wearing the green shirts that identified them as Bajo Ariari Human Rights defenders. They later provided dozens of testimonies of daily horror and had the courage to represent them in theater form..
“The 7th brigade grabbed my 14 year old son Gilberto as he was coming home; they took him off his horse and beat him in the stomach; they threw him on the ground and made movements with a machete as though they were going to cut his throat. Later they took him to the mountain where various soldiers raped him. The public prosecutor did not want to investigate; to get me to leave the soldiers threatened me”. This testimony was given by Armando M. who lives in fear for his life and whose son now refuses to leave his house.
On July 2nd, 2008, the marine infantry shot and killed Nicky Ortiz and his son, Diomedes Losano, in Angoleta, a rural area, according to a family member’s account. The militaries claimed that they were members of the guerrilla. “We know that they were not,” said the witness, “but we didn’t dare go to San Jose to ask about an investigation.” They fear the infantry that is deployed along the river and the paramilitaries who are called by the alias “Cuchillo” and who control the capital of Guaviare.
“The army beats women; that’s why instead of feeling at ease when they come, we’re afraid,” says Graciela, a member of the human rights committee. “On March 29 the 52nd counterinsurgent battalion arrived at my house without identification or anything to distinguish them as soldiers. They broke in and wrecked everything in their search for the list of those who make up the human rights committee. They took my two children and tortured them. Afterwards both were forced to sign something attesting to their good treatment, and they were told to leave the area or they would be skinned alive.
As night fell a dark-skinned man came near and told how the troop commanded by Major Roldan and non-commissioned officer Rodriguez came to his small farm during an operation to eradicate his coca plants and gave him five minutes to get out of his house before setting it and all its contents on fire. Between sobs he told how in five minutes he saw everything he had worked for his entire life turned into ashes. They did not allow him to return to his property and he now earns his living selling sweets for children on the street.
A Lot of Green
The Colombian government acknowledges that the army has executed many civilians and has discharged twenty-seven militaries, including three generals. However, the violations continue. ”To commit terrorist acts is very easy, but to come up with proof of authorship is very difficult,” explains the police chief by way of justification for these killings as he points to a big hole made in the roof of the police station by a hand grenade.
In spite of the fear, the spirit of life is evident. To the green of the forest is added the green of the soldiers’ camouflage and the bright green worn by the local human rights defenders who hope that their denouncements will force the army to distinguish between civilians and combatants. These “green shirts” are part of a national movement which identifies the troops and the Uribe government as responsible for “state crimes.”
The DC 3 shudders on the return trip. Among the passengers there is a parrot which walks around the cabin and over a sick woman and a wounded soldier who are both lying on the floor. Looking down you see a broad extension of rainforest broken up by patches of African palm used for biofuel production.
In the Colombian rainforest violence and impunity against the poorest repeat themselves in cycles like the floods of these enormous rivers whose brown waters raise high and flow through the rainforest to the Orinoco and the Amazon.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
For Life, Dignity, Land Ownership and Defense of our Territory!/Catatumbo
The Communities of Lower Catatumbo declare that we are in a humanitarian
( Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
The Campesino Association of Thursday, May 14, 2009
The communities of the rural settlements La India and Morro Frío, belonging
to the municipality of Tibú; Caño Azul and the Sapadhana Cooperative of the
municipality of Convención; and Caño Mariela, Caño Escondido, Caño Tomás
and, El Suspiro, of the municipality of Teorama, declare that we are in a
humanitarian refuge camp in the settlement of Caño Tomás in the district of
Fronteras de Teorama of the municipality of Teorama in the department of
Norte de Santander (Colombia), beginning April 29, 2009.
This action is in fact one response more of the organized community in its
legitimate right to peaceful resistance to avoid the displacement of
hundreds of us campesinos and campesinas who economically depend on
illicit use crops [a euphemism for coca production—SC] to survive.
Fumigations with glyphosphate, compulsory manual eradication carried out in
recent days, and the lack of political will of the government of President
Uribe to come to a definitive solution to the problem of coca in the region
with the organized communities, once again demonstrate the absence of a
real economic and social policy that tries to resolve the problems of the
campesinos of Cataumbo, through a solution other than war to the problems
of illicit crops.
We, the campesino communities of Catatumbo, in the face of the lack of
attention by the government to the different necessities, have felt
ourselves obliged to survive by cultivating coca, but on repeated occasions
we have expressed our willingness to dialog and come to an agreement with
the government over a real proposal for a substitute crop, respect for
human rights and a dignified rural life, but the only response we have
received has always been state violence.
Although coca cultivation was introduced into the Catatumbo region at the
end of the 80s, massive cultivation became widespread in the beginning of
the 90s as a result of the fateful and anti-people economic opening, a
policy imposed by the IMF and World Bank, and carried out to the letter by
the current government, at that time headed by Cesar Gaviria Trujillo,
bringing as a consequence more misery and poverty in the Colombian
countryside and obliging the campesinos of Catatumbo and other regions of
the country to search for other alternative sources of subsistence,
different from traditional legal crops, and to dedicate themselves to the
production of coca as the only source of income for subsistence. En
Catatumbo, the settlement of La Gabarra, of the municipality of Tibú, was
sanctified as the principal epicenter of coca production.
In 1996, the peasants, asphyxiated by economic policies and the abandonment
of the state in terms of social investment in the region, decided to march
on the city of Cúcuta to demand of the national government improvements in
the conditions of living of the communities and infrastructure investment.
Through this great mobilization, in which more than 20 thousand campesinos
participated, they achieved a number of agreements with the national
government that supported the implementation of programs and commitment of
resources for social and sustainable development in the region. With the
signing of these agreements, the campesinos returned to their settlements
in the expectation that the government would carry out what had been agreed
In the face of the failure to carry out the agreements arrived at in 1996
between the government and the campesinos, and with the threat of
establishing and anti-narcotics base in the region, the campesinos felt
obliged to mobilize again, an in 1998, there was another exodus, with the
participation of more than 30 thousand campesinos, who occupied the road
that goes from Tibú to Cúcuta for more than 30 days, paralyzing this entire
zone of the department and once again obliging the government to sit down
with the campesinos at the negotiating table. This time the agreements were
that a negotiating panel would be created with representatives of the
government and representatives of the campesinos, who would design a
development plan that would bring together the necessities of the
campesinos communities. This was called the Development and Peace Plan for
the region of Catatumbo.
However, while the pertinent steps were taken in the process of designing
and formulating that development plan, the paramilitaries came into the
region beginning in May, 1999, with the complicity by commission or
omission of the state, which left in less than five years a figure of more
than 400 leaders murdered and more than ten thousand campesinos dead,
without counting the disappeared, who might reach to a similar or even
higher figure. This led to the design and formulation of the development
plan being carried out without the participation of the campesinos
delegates, who were systematically annihilated.
Paradoxically, the consolidation of paramilitarism happened precisely at
the same time as the implementation of Plan Colombia in the region. While
the Catatumbo Bloc, under the command of Salvatore Mancuso, and the
Northern Bloc, under the command of Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, aka “Jorge 40,”
massacred, displaced tortured, raped and disappeared campesinos, and stole
all their belongings and goods, on the other hand they monopolized the coca
trade, this period being that of the greatest expansion of coca cultivation
in the region, under the control of the paramilitaries, without any
civilian or military institution of the state doing absolutely anything. On
the contrary, the army and the police were always a direct support for the
paramilitaries, sometimes openly and at other times secretly.
With the demobilization of paramilitary groups in 2004 and 2005, the region
went through a period of intense militarization. The military forces rose
from having 1,500 men to ten thousand, a situation what made the political,
social and armed conflict more acute.
Far from fighting the narco-traffic, Plan Colombia was consolidated as a
counter-insurgency plan, and as a plan to exterminate the campesinos, who
after having returned to the region because of the supposed demobilization
of the paramilitaries, have been affected by the constant human rights
violations and the systematic infraction of International Humanitarian Law,
today at the hands of the military forces. It’s the case of the famous
so-called “false positives:” from June of 2006 to October of 2008, 68
campesinos were murdered and presented as guerrillas who had been brought
The anti-people and reactionary government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, within
the framework of its policy of “democratic security,” wants to impose a
rapid solution to the political, social and armed conflict in the region
without creating any social or economic reforms, through a growing North
American military intervention, and behind the banner of the war on drugs.
The second phase of the implementation of Plan Colombia, the fumigation,
the forced manual eradication and the imposition of cuts in social programs
through Social Action, show that this policy of aggression against the
campesinos has as its true goals political, economic, social and military
control of the population, the appropriation of our lands in order to
guarantee the development of oil extraction, of exploration and creation of
open-pit coal mines, the implementation of monocultures like oil palm,
genetically altered cacao, bitter cassava, rubber, sugar cane genetically
altered plantains, among others. These do not develop into a proposal for
alternative development to be gradually substituted for the illegal use
crops, but rather favor the imposition of an obligatory development
centered on the interests of the great multinational firms.
In the face of this critical panorama, and in an act of peaceful
resistance, we campesinos and campesinas of Catatumbo have decided not to
abandon our territory and to struggle to defend it, we oppose once again
fumigations with glyphosate because of its serious environmental, social
and economic consequences and do not accept manual eradication of the
illegal use crops. We continue proposing a solution to the problem of coca
agreed upon by the government and the organized communities.
The government cannot continue in its attitude of resolving a social
problem through repression; so the solution has to come through economic
and social investment in the region, and not military means.
For all these reasons, the Campesino Association of Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT),
an organization that works for the integral defense of the human rights of
the Catatumbo campesinos, calls on the national and international community
for solidarity with the humanitarian camp, and we invite the rest of the
campesino communities of Catatumbo and other regions of the country to join
this alternative of peaceful resistance.
In the midst of state violence, life blooms in Catatumbo!
Asociación Agraria de Santander
Asociación Campesina de Arauca
Asociación Campesina del Valle del río Cimitarra
Asociación de Desplazados Asentados en el Municipio de Barrancabermeja
Asociación Regional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado del Magdalena Medio
Bloque de Unidad Sindical de Santander - Central Unitaria de Trabajadores –
Centro de Estudios de la Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Industrial de
Colectivo Antígona, Universidad Nacional
Colectivo Brecha, Universidad Nacional
Colectivo Huasipungo (Nueva York)
Colectivo Integración Rural, Universidad Nacional
Colectivo Pensamiento Latinoamericano
Colectivo Siembra, Universidad Nacional
Colectivo Vivo Arte
Coordinación Nacional de Organizaciones Agrarias y Populares
Corporación Acción Humanitaria para la Convivencia y la Paz del Nordeste
Euskal Herria Sozialista
Federación de Estudiantes Universitarios, Universidad Industrial de
Humanidad Vigente Corporación Jurídica
Kimetz Liburuak (Euskal Herria)
Movimiento Nacional de Victimas de Crímenes de Estado, Capítulo Norte de
Periódico El Turbión
Templando El Acero Artitaletxea (Euskal Herria)
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Impunity Eight Years After the Naya Massacre
(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)
Actualidad Étnica/Tejido de Comunicación de la ACIN
A ceremony commemorating the eighth anniversary of the Naya Massacre was held in the indigenous area of Kitek Kiwa, a flourishing land in the township of Timbío, Cauca. The massacre, which occurred on April 11, 2001, and during which more than 100 people were brutally assassinated and their bodies thrown into the Cauca River, was carried out by paramilitary groups in the jurisdiction of the township of Buenos Aires. Eight years later, the task of finding and identifying many of the victims in order to give them a proper burial has still not been completed.
Participating in the event last April 17 were some family members of victims of these crimes against humanity, social and popular organizations from the Cauca, representatives from the Prosecutor’s Office, Internal Affairs Agency and the Department of Defense as well as human rights organizations such as Minga and Justicia y Paz. The community was well represented especially by its women and children, and also by traditional leaders. Jerson Acosta was in charge of coordinating the event.
Voices of the Victims
The families of the victims first called for ending impunity and for all due clarification of the case, in order to judge those directly responsible for the massacre. They asked, as they always have, for truth, justice and guarantees that such actions would not be repeated, as well as for reparations for the victims because, as the majority asserted, “they’ve had lots of paperwork and run-arounds going from office to office, but there have never been any results.”
For this reason, they requested that a larger appropriation be given to the government agencies and non-governmental organizations handling the cases, to carry out justice and so that truth would prevail, in spite of the impunity they have seen during the past years and the magnitude of the reprisals. It is clear that the State does not guarantee that family members of the victims would be permitted to continue the legal proceedings before the appropriate authorities, so that each case would be investigated in a more efficient manner, and that it would be solved.
“The Colombian government has impeded any possibility of administering justice nationally through laws and decrees that go against fundamental principles, and it is a violator of international treaties and conventions, in spite of being a signatory of those documents. It employs mechanisms to prevent the truth from coming to light, such as democratic security and Plan Colombia, in order to control the territory by means of war. It also implements laws that forgive all acts committed by the government as well as legal and illegal armed groups and persons.
For instance, the Law of Justice and Truth that, besides undermining rights, discriminates through inequality of the conditions and opportunities for administering justice. Because it isn’t possible for a perpetrator to have an expert defense attorney to handle his or her case, while a citizen who is a victim of crimes against humanity is not offered this possibility. The government should guarantee a lawyer, so that conditions would be equal. Besides, “for the government these actions make no sense, because its priority is the drug trafficking and when we denounce these acts of violence, they call us–the victims--terrorists and guerrilleros,” stated Alex Quintero, representative of the Asociación del Alto Naya.
Testimony About Complicity
Alex Quintero tells the story of how the authorities protect the criminals: “In 2000, when the paramilitary groups arrived in the town of Timba, they went to the towns of Buenos Aires, Suárez, and Santander de Quilichao, and assassinated ordinary people, throwing them into the Cauca River from the Balsa bridge. These acts were denounced, but since nothing was done, people kept silent, afraid for their lives. During this time, the Cauca River became the largest cemetery in the country. Besides, the paramilitary groups had the freedom to mobilize in towns with no restrictions whatsoever. We would run into them 20 minutes after passing a military installation or a police station.”
“The country continues to live this scene of death and war. Those responsible are not judged or tried; instead, those who denounce these acts are investigated and even prosecuted for speaking out and bringing reality to light. How is it possible to say today that nobody saw that then? Let’s talk about the town of Timba, where the paramilitary groups drove through in 4 and even 6 trucks. There were camps where there were probably 1600 paramilitary personnel only 10 minutes from the Police Inspection Station of Robles, half an hour away from the town of Buenos Aires and 40 minutes away from the town of Santander de Quilichao.”
“They all cover for each other. I remember that they detained a peasant in an army camp because he wore boots. He was there until they dismantled the camp. The paramilitary groups arrived, took the man away, and threw him into the Balsa. I don’t understand why when today victims demand their rights, which we have done in different venues on the national and local levels, things that before seemed to improve have gotten worse. I have heard that they say that we talk too much and denounce things that didn’t happen, that nothing happens here. I have an investigative report done by the Cuerpo Técnico in Santander de Quilichao, in which they have identified a new armed group that travels around Morales, Timba Cauca, Lomitas, Honduras, and Palo Blanco. They have taken the area by force and said that we are liars; and in those same towns, in the procurator’s offices, there are already 50 threats from these groups.”
The Government’s Response
Faced with all this impunity and constant threats, participants in the commemoration, and especially family members of the victims, testified or ratified that the government has the obligation to make reparations and take into account their real need, and not come up with projects worked out in an office by those who do not know the reality of the victims.
“They put us in different towns to do a job and approve the project, and the result was that we gave them ideas but they weren’t taken into account. They approved it as they wished, for their convenience. Therefore, we reject this project of the law of victims, because it doesn’t reflect the community’s feeling. They want to intimidate us, saying that if we don’t fill out the forms we’ll be left with nothing. We are not interested in resources, we are interested in the truth, a worthwhile and collective reparation; that is the interest of the families of the victims,” emphasized Lisinia Collazos, leader of the Naya.
Just as Collazos brought to light all the paperwork they have had to file, without gaining anything, the Governor of Kitek Kiwe town asked that the victims’ voices be heard, that they not be used only to obtain resources. They are doing everything possible to rebuild their way of life, destroyed so barbarically that April 11, in the middle of Holy Week: “The social fabric of the Naya should be reconstructed based on the community’s needs and not coming from government offices. We will continue to push for our demands from the framework of the Social and Communitarian Effort. For that reason, I invite you to participate in collective work in the Naya so that our case is made stronger and all the orphans and widows might have a life of dignity,” said Jerson Acosta.
As family members of victims communicated their great pain to the community and those government agencies present, they committed themselves to supporting and aiding the pending cases until they are properly resolved. Then the government delegates swore to the community that they would continue to actively search for the truth, saying also that it was a long process because they were carrying out in-depth investigations, in order to see that justice and proper reparations are given to the victims: “Of the cases we have, until now 80 people have been tried and we will continue investigating, in order to punish all those who committed the crimes,” declared Carlos Alberto Camargo Hernández, delegate of the DDHH of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.
In this context of impunity and displacement, the victims have succeeded in reorganizing themselves and following traditional leadership, in order to continue their communitarian life style, working on an educational level to reinforce their language, usages, and customs. This work was reflected, for instance, notably with children, who at the beginning of the event sang the ational Anthem and the Anthem of the Child of the Cauca in Nasayuwe.
Because of this, they have developed several programs to reinforce their life style, such as: youth, environment, land, nutrition, production, education, identity and culture, social wellbeing and living, and communication, so that they are not silenced. These programs are developed with all those who live in these areas, for the benefit of all, so that their fabric of life, which calls for solidarity, continues to develop.
A delicious sancocho [meat and vegetable stew] was prepared by and for the community members who live on a ranch in the township of Timbío, where 70 families of the 6,000 displaced persons in the region of the Naya live. The meal followed speeches and clear commitments to continue to monitor this community’s situation: “It makes me sad to think about the compañeros and compañeras who could not come because of the distance and lack of resources; they remained in the region of the Naya, but next year we will do everything possible to meet there,” declared again Lisinia Collazos.
After lunch, everyone marched to the park one kilometer away, to pay homage to the victims of the Massacre. There, in a symbolic act, the community placed themselves around some rocks on which were inscribed the names of the assassinated people. They spoke, sang, and shared a spiritual moment in harmony with all. And so ended the commemoration of the massacre of the Alto Naya.
More Militarization and Fumigation in Catatumbo
(Translated by Leo Torres, a CSN volunteer translator)
The Peasant Association of Catatumbo (Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo – Ascamcat) denounces, before the national and international community, the critical humanitarian situation in the Catatumbo region that has recently resulted from aerial fumigations using the chemical Glyphosate.
On March 13, 2009, “Colonel Fernando Burgos, director of the Anti-Narcotics Police, denied that there would be fumigations in Catatumbo, stating that the fumigation efforts would be concentrated in other regions with more extensive coca crops.” (VTV/
> Caracol Radio <http://www.vtv.gov.ve/noticias-internacionales/15632>).
Approximately one week ago, it was announced on Radio Catatumbo and Radio Sonar that aerial fumigations and manual eradication would soon be taking place in the Catatumbo, specifically in the six municipalities of San Calixto, Teorama, Convencion, Hacarí, El Tarra and Tibú. The threatened actions were, in fact, carried out in the region. The fumigations have begun and, with them, the repression of the civilian population. Here we report some specific cases:
Last April 23, in Mira Montes (in the region of Versailles and the municipality of Tibú), two light aircrafts of the Anti-Narcotics Police were seen flying overhead from 8:00am until 9:00am. They then began to fumigate, which lasting approximately seven hours. According to reports given by local campesinos, they did not only fumigate illicit crops, but also damaged potato, banana, yucca and other agricultural crops planted in the region. Additionally, they contaminated the water of the Orú and the Catatumbo Rivers, which flow into the lake of Maracaibo. They also fumigated the houses, regardless of whether there were people inside them or not. The same thing occurred in the rural areas of Bocas de Orú (Tibú) and of San Isidro (in the region of Filo Gringo in the municipality of El Tarra).
Since April 24, there have been fly-overs in the rural areas of Brisas del Catatumbo, La Unión Baja, Filo La Virgen, and El Martillo (in the region of Gringo (El Tarra)), where campesinos have expressed their concern about not having been presented with a viable proposal for the gradual replacement of illicit crops. This situation will surely bring about hunger and displacements in the zone due to a lack of guarantees that they will be able to remain in the territory.
On April 25, the rural areas of Beltrania, Campo 6 and Guachiman of Zone 1 of Tibú, were fumigated from 9:00am until 1:00p.m.
Local campesinos reported that, on the morning of April 26, three helicopters arrived in El Suspiro (in San Juancito in the municipality of Teorama) and each made six landings. The militarization of this area is alarming and there is a fear that human rights violations will increase. For this reason, we ask that the actions of the Military in this zone be very carefully monitored.
At 10:00am on April 28 in Morro Frio (in La Gabarra in the municipality of Tibú), the Military took 20 people to a ridge called El Ñeque, where they forced them to carry water for the troops and where they also interrogated others. After several hours the troops let them return to their village.
We call on the national and international community to do something about this critical situation. The fumigations do not only eradicate illicit crops but also licit ones, sterilizing the earth for more than seven years, contaminating and drying out water sources, and contaminating the environment as well as the health of human beings. “Toxicological studies have shown adverse effects in all of the categories of standard tests: wounds in salivary glands, gastric inflammation, genetic damage to human blood cells, damage to the reproductive system, etc."
Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo
Urgent Action on Law Suit by Afro-Colombians and the Indigenous People of Ellausakirandarra
(Translated by Nancy Beiter, a CSN volunteer translator)
Thursday, April 31, 2009
The Supreme Court of Justice will be charged with resolving an action brought by Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Communities for breach of trust, which was rejected at its first hearing on April 23, 2009.
The breach of trust action was instigated Wednesday, April 24 by delegates from the Indigenous Communities just as Congress was beginning a debate on the current mining code, which allows mineral extractions that unfairly benefit multinational corporations while generating serious social and environmental issues in the affected regions.
Civil society organizations interested in enforcing the requirement of the rights of the Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities of Murindó and Jiguamiandó supported the challenge by filing a amicus curie brief with the Civil Division of the Supreme Court advocating that the rights to cultural identity and pre-consultation be made a reality for those communities.
This past April 13, 2009 the indigenous communities of the Resguardo Urada and the Resguardo Jiguamiandó Murindó, and the Afro-descendant communities of the Zona Humanitaria del Pueblo Nuevo, located near the Jiguamiandó River, filed an action against the Ministry of Environmental Supervision, Housing and Territorial Development, the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of Social Protection for the violation of the rights to consultation and participation, existence, cultural identity , autonomy, and social and cultural integrity of peoples of indigenous and African descent.
The action sought to enforce the right to prior consultation, as enshrined in ILO Convention 169 and the Constitution, which implies that these tribal peoples can have input prior to the implementation of the projects that encroach on their territory such as the one in Mande Norte, which is headed up by Muriel Mining Corporation, which itself has a risk sharing agreement with the multinational, Rio Tinto. The objective of the mining project is the exploration and exploitation of gold, copper and molybdenum in the municipalities of Carmen del Darién, Chocó and Murindó, in the Department of Antioquia. The project directly affects the ancestral lands of people of indigenous and African descent.
The decision in the first instance of the civil division of the Superior Court of Bogotá was to deny the breach of trust, finding that meetings had in fact been held in the community and the trust honored. These meetings did not include representatives of all of the communities and the communities directly affected had not been informed of the meetings. As soon as this decision favoring business interests was known, Muriel initiated both a legal and media strategy to generate political pressure to defend its interests. Through the use of press releases and the dissemination of partial information to columnists, it sought to discredit national and international organizations of human rights, like the Commission of Justice and Peace and Peace Brigades International, (PBI), through false accusations.
Subsequently, through press releases or interviews, the manager of Muriel Mining, Guillermo Brown, has hurled false accusations against our Commission of Justice and Peace and has announced a meeting with Alvaro Uribe Vélez to resume exploration.
We have also seen the design of a legal strategy aimed at linking the communities and organizations which assist them to the FARC EP, seeking at the same to time to discredit the Consulta de los Pueblos. Muriel Mining Corporation, which is responsible for executing the Mande North Project, was awarded a concession on 16,006 hectares for the exploration and exploitation of copper, gold and molybdenum. The company continues its false arguments about the consent of the community in order to begin its exploration activities. Its position is supported by the Ministry of Interior and Justice, which insists on recognition of a prior consultation procedure, which is not consistent with the criteria of international law. In exercising their rights and their autonomous authority, more than 782 Indigenous succeeded in at least temporarily getting the company to withdraw from the La Rica zone in mid-February. As a result of the exploration activities done without community consent, Muriel Mining Corporation has desecrated a sacred hill, caused various ecosystems to deteriorate or be destroyed, and polluted water sources. Three (3) hectares of primary forest were cleared to build the camps where operatives of Muriel Mining Corporation, together with the national army, have settled.
With this history, if the Supreme Court of Justice does not make a reasonable and right decision, we are at the doors of a new corporate occupation which denies the rights of indigenous communities.
Now is the time to join forces with the indigenous communities in their decision to defend their territory, protect the survival of the ecosystems, and to recognize and respect the decision taken by the Primera Consulta Interétnica de los Pueblos last February 24th and 28th and to voice a resounding “no” to exploration and exploitation of their territory.
Jorge Noguera has been called to trial
Jorge Noguera, former DAS Director and the President’s Right Hand, has been:
Called to Trial
For the Homicides of Trade Unionists, Human Rights Defenders, and Politicians
who Denounced the Pact between Paramilitarism and the Political Class in Colombia.
Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective
May 13, 2009
Impunity has begun to fracture. Now we must hope the impending trial against
Jorge Aurelio Noguera Cotes, former director of the DAS,  is surrounded with
the proper guarantees for due process and respect for the victims’ rights to
truth, justice, and reparation.
Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguarán Arana has just recognized the
criminal responsibility of Mr. Noguera for the homicides of trade unionists,
human rights defenders, and politicians who denounced the pact between
paramilitarism and the political class in Colombia. The Attorney General also
recognized that during his administration the DAS was put to the service of
paramilitarism in Colombia, as had been expressly requested by the
representatives of the civil party, attorneys from the Corporación Colectivo
de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective.
Unfortunately, the representative of the Procurator General’s Office requested
the investigations on the homicides be closed, that is it did not examine the
abundant evidence of the prosecution against Mr. Noguera with respect to his
responsibility for the homicides of trade unionists, human rights defenders
and politicians who denounced the pact between paramilitarism and the
political class in Colombia
Consequently, Mr. Noguera Cotes must face the charge of Aggravated Conspiracy
to Commit a Crime, since he encouraged, promoted, financed and carried out
activities jointly with paramilitarism. He must also face the charge of
Aggravated Homicides for the murders of human rights defender Alfredo Correa
D’Andreis, trade unionists Ms. Zully Esther Condina and Adán Pacheco, and the
politician and sociologist Fernando Pisciotti Van Strahen, who denounced the
pact between paramilitarism and the political class in Colombia. Furthermore,
he was also charged with the crimes of Improper Use of Classified or Secret
Information, when provided intelligence information to paramiltiarism, and
Destruction, Suppression or Concealment of Public Document, when he eliminated
the background records and other infromation on paramilitaries “and” drug
traffickers. Lastly he was charged with Abuse of Authority by both Arbitrary
and Unjust Act, as he removed multiple DAS officials who carried out actions
to persecute paramiltiarism, and Misappropriation and Bribery, as he charged
and received percentages in the form of sums of money sent to paramilitarism,
which were illicit commissions taken from the cntracting at the DAS.
Jorge Noguera Cotes was the director of the DAS from September 2002 to October
2005. Then, he was appointed consul in Milan, Italy, but had to return to
Colombia to be prosecuted for grave crimes. Later, he was initially detained
on February 22, 2007, but was released by way of a Habeas Corpus granted by
the Superior Council of the Judicature on March 23, 2007. On July 6, 2007,
Jorge Noguera was arrested for the second time and called to trial on February
1, 2008, for the crimes of Aggravated Conspiracy to Commit a Crime,  in
conjunction with Improper Use of Classified or Secret Information, and Abuse
of Authority by Both Arbitrary and Unjust Act, as the investigation continued
for Homicides. However, during the trial stage on June 12, 2008, the Criminal
Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice overruled the measure because Attorney
General Mario Iguarán did not directly carry out the investigation and
therefore the Court ordered his immediate release from prison. Abiding by the
Supreme Court’s decision, the Attorney General newly opened an investigation
against Mr. Noguera Cotes, summoned him to provide a statement, and examined
dozens of pieces of new evidence that continues to demonstrate his criminal
responsibility. As a result, he ordered Noguera’s preventive detention and he
was newly detained on December 12, 2008. Presently he is being held at the La
Picota Central Penitentiary in Bogotá, Colombia. Lastly, due to the
irrefutable evidence concerning his intervention in the previously mentioned
homicides, on May 6, 2009, the Attorney General’s Office presents criminal
charges against him as the co-perpetrator of the investigated conduct.
It has been proven a criminal structure was established over the legal
apparatus of the DAS –at its most senior levels- with the arrival of Jorge
Aurelio Noguera Cotes. It has also been proven that, through the use of his
public privileges, Noguera provided the necessary contribution for
paramilitary actions, including both that deployed on behalf of the
“counterinsurgency war,” which actually has been a persecution of the civilian
population, as that concerning the definitive taking of power, as seen in the
proven events of the so-called “Pact of Ralito.” 
It has been proven Jorge Noguera placed persons in key positions within the
DAS to be functional for his crimes. As such, they were members of the
Organized Power Structure he partially controlled as the director of the DAS.
This included those persons, among other matters, helped finance the
paramilitary structure, as it has been proven Noguera had committed to giving
the paramilitary Northern Bloc a commission of between 5% to 10% of all the
contracting at the DAS.
Up to now, the most representative membrers of this criminal structure have
been detained and charged with the crime of aggravated conspiracy to commit a
crime; while others, like the paramilitary Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, aka Jorge 40,
have been extradited. Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office has decided to
certify the respective copies so that some of the persons who have remained
unpunished may be criminally investigated.
It has been proven Jorge Noguera belongs to this group of politicians and
public figures who have had ties with paramilitaries. He is also from the
Department of Magdalena, which has become one of the departments most affected
by the relationships between members of congress and paramilitarism. 
Moreover, Noguera Cotes’s criminal responsibility has been substantiated
through many witnesses, in addition to Rafael García, who prove his criminal
conduct. There are also more than 50 thousand pages of documents, reports, and
rulings, conclusively demonstrate Noguera’s responsibility as the perpetrator
of the crimes for which he is being investigated.
It is proven that over the last ten years more than 60% of the trade unionists
murdered in the world were murdered in Colombia. It is also proven that there
is rampant anti-union violence, in addition to violence committed against
human rights defenders. Furthermore, several DAS officials have recognized
trade unionists were the object of “intelligence work” and this information
was included in their databases and put on lists Noguera gave to
paramilitaries. Later, these same persons were in fact the object of threats,
forced displacement, murder, and forced disappearances.
In this respect, the DAS gave Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, aka Jorge 40, the lists that
included, among others, the names of professor, member of the teachers union,
ASPU, and social leader Alfredo Correa D’Andreis; the journalist and a trade
union leader in the health industry Zully Codina, and Liberal party politician
and sociologist Fernando Pisciotti Van Strahlen. Later, these persons were
murdered, as recognized by the paramilitary Edgar Ignacio Fierro Flórez, aka
Don Antonio. Furthermore, over years, these persons were also the object of
surveillance and intelligence reports on their personal lives and social and
work-related activities. The trade unions ANTHOC, CUT – Bolívar Chapter, USO,
and other local trade unions, were also mentioned in these reports found at
the DAS. This activity is the initial phase to the dirty war. In short, the
activists Alfredo Correa D’Andreis, Zully Codina, Adán Pacheco, and the
politician Fernando Pisciotti were victims of counter-insurgency policies
based on the notion of the “internal enemy” and “political war” against social
organizations and trade unions. These policies were implemented through the
organized power structure over which Jorge Noguera Cotes had direct control
and related to a plan to exterminate trade unionists and opposition leaders to
be executed by members of paramilitary groups within DAS.
It is proven the DAS created false intelligence reports and manipulated
reintegrated combatants, who were nothing more than paramilitaries or false
witnesses, in order to criminally investigate and prosecute the professor
Alfredo Correa D’Andreis, member of the teachers’ union, ASPU. Later, Mr.
Correa D’Andreis was released after the baseless prosecution failed. With
these same intelligence reports, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, aka Jorge 40, and Edgar
Ignacio Fierro Flórez, aka Don Antonio, proceeded to murder this person, which
is similar to the situation other social leaders as in the case of Adán Pacheco.
Considering there is a file with more than 50 thousand pages containing much
grave and conclusive evidence for the prosecution, which is not limited to the
testimony provided by Rafael García Torres, the Supreme Court of Justice
should be surrounded with the guarantees needed to apply justice. It is
important to remember Jorge Noguera Cotes put the DAS to the service of
paramilitarism. He financed them and provided them with information. He also
eliminated background records, arrest warrants, and extradition requests
against its members. Lastly, he supported the commission of homicides against
those considered opposition. All of these actions were committed by Noguera
Cotes, as he belonged to paramilitarism and took advantage of his position as
the director of the DAS.
According to the ILO, Colombia has the highest murder rate of trade unionists
in the world. Consequently, when Jorge Noguera was called to trial for these
grave and painful crimes, as one of the most responsible persons, it is only a
first step to ending impunity.
We also consider it fundamental that progress be made in determining the
criminal responsibility of the other members of the organized power structure
of the DAS and paramilitarism. Moreover, it is important the victims may
actively participate in the trial and not be hindered in intervening as
witnesses in the case. Lastly, the position of the Attorney General’s Office
should remain consistent with the determinations in the indictment, as these
determinations are logical, legitimate, and fair with respect to matters
proven in the case against Noguera Cotes.
We are still waiting for a definitive historical decision that allows
demonstrating whether or not progress may be made in overcoming impunity in
Colombia and in bringing to trial domestically those who are most responsible
for the grave crimes committed against trade unionists in Colombia, which
would consequently dignify the victims and Colombian society.
 The Administrative Department of Security (DAS) depends directly on
the Office of the President of the Republic. It is the principal Colombian
intelligence agency and has criminal investigation powers. The DAS also
undertakes the “protection” of senior public servents and persons under threat,
as for example trade unionists, leaders from indigenous and Afro-Colombian
communities, human rights defenders, journalists, and persons from the
political opposition, among others.
 The crime of aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime has been the
classification for paramilitarism since the criminal code was reformed in 2000
and penal classifications making express reference to the term “paramilitarism”
 The ‘Pact of Ralito’ was the first documented evidence known concerning
the formal alliances between the political class in Colombia and paramilitarism.
This agreement in particular concerned the committments acquired in the
meeting of July 23, 2001, which was convened by the paramilitary chiefs
Salvatore Mancuso Gómez, Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano, aka Don Berna,
Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, aka Jorge 40, and Edward Cobo Téllez, aka Diego Vecino.
Furthermore, 29 politicians from the Caribbean coast also asserted their
intention of ‘refounding our country’ and establishing ‘a new social contract.”
 According to follow-up carried out by the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’
Collective, 14 members and former members of congress have been implicated
in these ties, which is the totality of representatives elected for the 2006 – 2010
legislative period. Of these 14 members and former members of congress, 9 are
presently under detention, 4 have pled guilty to the charges, and 2 have been
convicted for their relations with paramilitary structures. Furthermore, it should
also be mentioned the former mayor of Santa Marta, José Francisco Zúñiga
Riascos, who was convicted for the crimes of aggravated conspiracy to commit a
crime and coercion of voters, and the former governor of Magdalena, Trino Luna
Correa, who was convicted for the crime of aggravated conspiracy to commit a
crime for his relations with paramilitary chiefs Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, aka Jorge 40,
and Hernan Giraldo Serna, among others.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Neither Justice nor Restitution, Lies, Death and Agrobusiness
(Translated by Steve Cagan, CSN volunteer translator)
The Humanitarian Zones of Jiguamiando and Curvarado, as a response to the proposals put forward in the El Tiempo newspaper by Eduardo Pizarro Leongomez, who, speaking as a spokesperson for the government in the United States, said that the territories had not been given back because the community was divided between those who wanted the palm (i.e., Oil or African Palm—SC), those who wanted to cut down the palm, and those who wanted to reach an agreement with the business people. The lands have not been returned and we are not included under Law 975. The declarations made by the president of the National Reconciliation and Reparation Commission are lies.
The inhabitants of the Humanitarian and Biodiversity Zones say that there is no will on the part of the Colombian state to return collective property, and that the Ministry of Agriculture continues favoring the agrobusinesses, environmental destruction and the destruction of mestizo and Afro-Colombian campesino identity. The Colombian government has made the presence of the banana firms of Urabá, like Banacol, Uniban and Zunisa, possible in their territories.
In the face of the lack of restitution of their property and the continuation of crimes within the territory as well as total impunity, the communities have made an urgent call.
Following is the communiqué of the Assoication of Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones of Curvarado.
Bogota, April 30, 2009
Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission
Communique to National and International Public Opinion
April 29, 2009
Biodiversity Zone of Cetino, River Curvarado basin, Carmen del Darien, Chocó
We, the inhabitants of the Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones of the Curvarado and Jiguamiando Rivers, members of the Community Councils of the area, declare:
That what was said by Mister Eduardo Pizarro Leon Gomez in a print medium, referring to the fact that collective territories were not turned over because of internal divisions in the communities has made it impossible for that handover to be carried out by the national government.
We deny what was said by Mister Eduardo Pizarro Leon Gomez, since we have always said to the government that the territory must be returned without conditions, and that we, as autonomous communities, will decide how it will be used once it is in our hands.
We thus demand of the government that it delivers the territory to us and not simply the palm plantations, since what was taken from us was the land, together with all our means of subsistence: crops, animals, forests and water. We also lost friends, family members and brothers and sisters. And these crimes continue to go unpunished.
We reject the implementation of other monocultures such as those of yucca, platano, banana, among others, which companies like Zunisa, Banacol and Uniban want to implement in our territory as a development project, and which are foreign to our vision, customs and traditions as communities.
We ask the national government to have the political will to carry out the physical return of the territory, without more complications and in the briefest possible time.
We hope that our brothers and sisters, and national and international friends, will continue supporting us in our defense of life and territory.
The Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones of Jiguamiando and Curvarado
Democratic Security Impels Extrajudicial Executions
(Translated by Emily Schmitz and Susan Tritten, CSN volunteer translators)
Periferia Prensa Alternativa, 47th Edition
In recent years the development of the democratic security policy has promoted extensive military operations over vast areas of the country in an attempt to bring victory over insurgent groups. Instead, the policy has seriouly affected civilians through increased crimes attributed to agents of the State. The Office of the High Commision for Human Rights of the United Nations, "could observe a pattern of extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances associated with violations linked to the administration of justice and impunity. Arbitrary detention, torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment as well as violation of freedom of expression have also been reported."
Certainly Colombia is historically characterized by armed conflict in which insurgents confront regular armed forces who are supported by paramilitary organizations. This confrontation has provoked one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world. More than 3,000,000 people have been forcibly displaced. The perpetration of innumerable violations of human rights have an effect on life as well as people’s economic, social, and cultural rights. A political and negotiated end to the conflict has been truncated by circumstances provoked by the different actors in the conflict, and now the country's fate will be decided by a radicalized and intensified war. Using this situation as their logical basis, the current national government has undertaken the democratic security policy as a national defense and security strategy in order to defeat the guerrillas. However, this policy is also causing the consequences mentioned above.
This policy is based on a widespread view stigmatizing residents of real or supposed guerrilla areas as either members or supporters of the guerrillas. This view was used in issuing the presidential decree of 2002, in which one of the justifications for establishing military action was that "camouflaging members of guerrilla groups as civilians is one of the main bases of criminal action by such organizations."
Due to this general stigma and with the support of the Attorney General, indiscriminate military and police operations are occurring. The military and police are unleashing assults against the right to life, integrity, and personal liberty, in the last case through massive, systematic and pemanent artibrary detentions. The privations of liberty are directed especially against peasants, indigenous peoples, merchants, transportation and health workers, young people, and human rights defenders, as well as political and social leaders whom they consider as part of the guerrilla network. The Human Rights Observatory and the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination for International Human Law prepared a report with the collaboration of the Corporation for Legal Freedom. This report documented 6,332 cases of arbitrary and illegal detention beween August 7, 2001 and Aguust 6, 2004. These types of human rights violations persist.
Liberty: Hostage to Democratic Security
Within the framework of increased military operations by the security forces, arbitrary or summary extrajudicial executions are continuing. Those assassinated are mainly peasants presented publicly as guerrillas fallen in combat, when in reality they are victims detained alive, tortured, disappeared, then killed in simulated confrontation. A group of human rights organizations brought a study before the Commission on Human Rights of the OAS documenting the existence of systematic patterns of extrajudicial executions and the serious situation of impunity. They also promoted the establishment of an International Observation Mission that could attest to this type of deliberate criminal acts in Colombia. The International Mission met between the fourth and seventh of October of 2007. It visited three regions of Colombia: Valledupar, Antioquia and Bogota. It heard 132 testimonies from family members and witnesses of occurrences throughout most of the country. It also established contact with national and regional authorities.
This study carried out by human rights organizations in Colombia leads us to conclude that extrajudicial executions attributed to agents of the State persist and increase. It also indicates that impunity is deliberate and follows clear patterns:
a) The majority of extrajudicial executions occur during military counterinsurgency operations in which the victims and their families are reported as guerrilla supporters.
b) Prior to execution, victims are detained by security forces without a judicial order. In conjunction with the arrest, a new series of violations against the victims or their family are noted, including threats, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, illegal searches and property theft.
c) In many cases, forced disappearances continue to precede extrajudicial executions. The victim's location remains hidden from the family and, although he is identified, authorities report him as “anonymous.”
d) Security forces almost always manipulate proof, hiding evidence of extrajudicial executions immediately after they occur. Agents of the State hide whatever evidence might implicate them. Moreover, as military operations must demonstrate results, extrajudicial executions are reported as progress in defeating guerrillas. In extrajudicial executions security forces characteristically dispose of the bodies. They report victims as armed guerrillas killed in combat. The security forces also place on the body articles or clothing specific to insurgent forces.
Colombia: Armoured Recession
Shielding the Recession
Hector Mondragon's ZSpace Page
he rapid fall of industrial production and sales in the first months of 2009 has cracked the media shield behind which the Colombian government attempted to hide the reality of economic recession in Colombia.
In reality industry was in decline since May 2008. By the second semester of 2008 the economy had completed two consecutive trimesters of decline and was therefore formally in recession. The construction figures tell the tale. The area approved for construction declined by 11.7% in 2008 relative to 2007; in January 2009 the decline was 29.7% relative to January 2008. The housing construction figure was even more dramatic: a 42.6% decline from January 2008-2009.
By the time the Ministry of Housing declared that Colombia was "shielded from the international crisis", the crisis had already reached the country. During 2008 the stock market lost 29% of its value and were 32% cheaper than they had been at the peak of the bull market.
There was no way the Colombian economy could have escaped the international crisis. In January 2009 remittances from Colombians living abroad and exports were 16% and 13.2% lower than the previous year. During 2008 the devaluation of the dollar (and consequent reevaluation of the peso) put the brakes on industrial and agricultural exports, especially of cut flowers, a commodity business that was in crisis long before the rest of the economy. The quick collapse of demand in the US and Europe aggravated the situation. The industry hoped the situation would change with the reevaluation of the dollar (and devaluation of the peso). Instead the international recession collapsed export prices for nickel, coal, oil, which pulled the rug out from under Colombia's flagship agrofuels program, sustained by state subsidies and prices set by decree.
On the other hand, the Colombian recession is not solely or even principally attributable to the international crisis. There is an internal business cycle with its own dynamics that entered into its descending phase. Certain domestic facts and policies have drawn and sharpened the characteristics of the Colombian crisis.
First, relatively high interest rates, always higher than international rates, spurred savings and foreign investment, helped the transnationals to purchase Colombian banks and other Colombian businesses, and enabled the Colombian government to sell bonds to support its budget. These interest rates ended up strangling industry, agriculture, and commerce.
Second, the government set out on a policy of high fuel prices. When the policy began the international price of fuel was high and, along with the surging economy, concealed the policy.
There were two goals to the high prices of gasoline and diesel: the fiscal logic of exporting goods at a higher price, a new tax that was disguised as the 'suppression of subsidies'. In reality there was no subsidy at all: the cost of production in Colombia is less than 25% of the sale price. Ethanol is even more expensive, twice the international price, in order to sustain the massive investment in agrofuels and sugarcane and palm plantations of the massive plantations that bring a higher income than the Latin American average, that in the case of sugarcane are indigenous territories disputed by the plantation owners and in the case of palm serve to legitimize the displacement or servitude of the campesinos in territories dominated by the paramilitaries and their financiers.
The fall of the international price of fuel in 2009 revealed the politics of fuel price in Colombia. The result was a domestic price that was both intolerable for the economy and imperative to sustain the governent budget at a time when President Uribe hopes for re-election and needs a minimum budget to surround his electoral campaign with some achievements. Truck drivers, hopeless because of impossibly high fuel prices and seeing their operations in free-fall, have declared a national strike.
High interest rates, the high price of gas, and the agrofuels policy all contributed to inflation, such that the Colombian recession, far from being accompanied by a fall in prices like the US and Europe are experiencing, is a typical case of stagflation.
Third, the illegal economy was another source for the economic boom. The Ralito accords with the paramilitaries were followed with the laundering of dollars and euros that helped to inflate the Treasury bonanza <http://www.zmag.org/zspace/commentaries/2344> , the official budget, and the "health" of the overall economy. "Pyramids <http://www.zmag.org/zspace/commentaries/3366> " and Ponzi schemes multiplied across the country without any controls, serving simultaneously to launder more hot money, finance drug operations, multiply the amount of money in circulation, raise overall sales, and give the economy the illusion of health.
When the recession began, the pyramids that were not linked to narcotrafficking collapsed immediately. Alarm bells rang about the proliferation of these schemes. The government, so disengaged from the issue, after failing for so long to fulfill its duty to monitor the capture of savings, was forced to act. The closing of the pyramids coincided with the rapid rise of the dollar and unleashed the phenomenon referred to by Keynesians as the "liquidity preference": those who had earlier overturned the system by placing their savings into pyramid schemes now wanted only cash, in dollars.
The paramilitaries, in their peace process, could no longer hide that they were continuing their narcotrafficking operations. The old paramilitary leaders were extradited to the US and the process collapsed. The mafia also showed a "liquidity preference" and a new generation of paramilitaries arrived on the scene.
Once the Pandora's box of the crisis was open, the Colombian authorities proclaimed emergency treatment. The Bank of the Republic lowered interest rates, but it was too late. The effect was neutralized by the preference for dollars.
Foreign investment during the first 80 days of 2009 was 27% lower than the same period in 2008. The government's own figures say that the loss was 15-20%. The result was a turn to external debt, which had been shrinking just as the internal debt, in pesos, was growing at a scandalous pace so long as dollars were cheap and Colombian interest rates high. Dollars were now back to being strong and the external debt was growing, starting with an issue of one billion dollars of external debt. What the government started, the IMF would finish, as Colombia opened an IMF "preventive" line-of-credit of more than $10 billion dollars, in case of urgent need.
The return of Colombia to the arms of the IMF follows the G-20 meeting that pulled that institution out of the cemetery to return to its old work. Colombia is the fifth country to seek the poisoned medicine cooked up in London. Mexico, the Ukraine, Poland, and Costa Rica preceded it, although just before Latvia, Hungary, Iceland, Rumania, Serbia, and the Czech Republic had to turn urgently to the IMF.
As in other parts of the world, public works have been announced. Even though unemployment never went below 10% even during the boom, the fact that unemployment has now gone over 14% at the beginning of the year threatens political instability. If it goes still higher, Uribe can forget about re-election.
The oft-repeated fall of some narcotrafficking dons may temporarily increase the price of illegally exported cocaine. Another poison drug will forge new dons that will benefit from the increased prices and the elimination of competitors.
The government longs for the approval of the US and Canada that would come from the free trade agreements. It longs to capture investments by making perks and concessions available to investors. But increasing imports at a time when North American products have dropped in price would be a hard blow to Colombian domestic production.
Even now there are other ways out of the crisis, ways the majority of Latin America is trying to follow. Colombia could focus on the internal market, develop state plans for massive construction of social housing, with state credit institutions, approve an agrarian reform to take advantage of 5 million hectares of agricultural land now sitting idle under speculative control, revitalize the Andean community, and recover, as other Latin American countries are trying to do, its natural resources. To open the way for this path we need peace.
Translated by Justin Podur t ZNeta