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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Economic Crisis Has a Negative Impact on Workers

Gustavo Rubén Triana Suárez, Second Vice President CUT, Informativo CUT, Bogotá
July 25, 2009
(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)

The speculative ventures of international financial capital, taking over of internal markets of dependent nations, sacking of their primary resources, free trade treaties, in sum all the policies utilized by imperialist powers for their enterprise of recolonization, were the causes of the world economic crisis. In Colombia, the effects of that crisis were augmented by the effects of the strict application of neoliberal policies that caused a real instability in our economy: rates of unemployment at 11.7%, informal work at 57%, industrial decline at 8%, decline in exportation, decline in foreign investments, a negative commercial balance, increase in fiscal deficit, loss of food sovereignty, among other disasters.

And at the bottom of such a terrible panorama are the rural and urban workers who lose their jobs, whose rights are taken away, whose unions are destroyed, as a consequence of the owners’ and government’s attitude of allowing workers and the people to shoulder the effects of the world economic crisis. Also harmful are the privatization policies that favor multinational business and monopolizing groups, implemented by Álvaro Uribe in his seven years of governing. The complaints are not heard in their totality, the offensive against the workers’ movement and the damage caused to production have no precedent.

Espinal Textiles, TEXPINAL Inc., laid off 148 cooperative workers and began to liquidate, which implies the laying off of 130 contractual workers. CI FATEXTOL of Ibagué, from the same economic group, began to liquidate and laid off 450 workers. And to close out the dark scenario of the textile industry in Tolima, Fibratolima, of the Fabricato group, announced that production will move to Antioquia and that it will close the factory in Ibagué, firing more than 250 workers, whom they had already forced to reject their contract and the union, in order to move them into cooperatives and freelance work. Siderúrgica del Pacifico, Sidelpa, recently aquired by Gerdau of Brazil and the only producer of special steels in Colombia, has closed and laid off its 300 workers who had rights and a union more than 40 years old. They based the decision for such nonsense on the supposed damage to the environment. The San Carlos de Tulúa sugar mill took advantage of a maintenance break and, undermining the law, forced its 360 workers to reject their rights and any direct contract so as to work by outsourcing. The Superintendent of Public Services and the mayor of Cali privatized Emsirva, ending the contract and the union and putting out on the street 450 compañeros from this cleaning business. Global de Pinturas, previously Pintuco, in Guarne, illegally laid off 80 temporary workers and 50 union members. The La Francia mine in Cesar, owned by the multinational Canadian company Coalcorp, opeated by United Mining Consortium and Coals of the Cesar, laid off 350 miners without permission of the ministry and without any legal procedures at all. The metallurgic companies of Boyacá have laid off more than five hundred workers in Belencito, Tuta and Sogamoso, alleging economic motivation and a decline in orders. The shoe industry in el Valle has closed several factories. And because of implementing the mechanization of cutting sugar cane by sugar mills, 80 cane cutters do not have work in each operation and it is calculated that the companies bought more than 30 of these machines. In the second semester of 2008 the Occidental company laid off more than 500 workers from its projects of expansion in Arauca, on the pretext of a decline in crude oil prices. The major of Barranquilla Alex Char restructured the District and laid off more than 3,000 wokers.

Hundreds of large and medium-size companies have closed because of imports, smuggling, and laundering of dollars. This is about the destruction of the national productive apparatus, as a consequence of official policies that favor multinational companies and financial capital.

In the face of such an offensive, we workers must mobilize in solidarity with the rest of those affected by imperialist policies, in order to effect a change in government that would reestablish national sovereignty, radically change the economic model, and return economic rights and democratic freedoms to the people. The cause of our ills springs from the sacking of our resources and work by multinational companies, the loss and shrinking of the internal market, and the authoritarianism and exclusion with which the flunkey oligarchy governs. For a decent nation, let us unite to achieve real change.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Divide and You Shall Conquer

Laura Rico Piñeres of The Empty Seat (La Silla Vacia - www.lasillavacia.com)
Original in Spanish

Monday, July 6, 2009

(Translated by Emily Hansen, a CSN volunteer translator)

Divide and you shall conquer. This has been the political motto of Uribe's government with regards to groups that resist and oppose issues as important as the negotiation of the Free Trade Agreement, the result of various megaprojects and the Democratic Security. To wrest the power from the traditional indigenous, Afro Colombian and union authorities, the government has created or stimulated black, indigenous and labor organizations that support "Uribismo".

Few groups have realized such organized and persistent resistance against the government as have the indigenous people of Cauca, lead by the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) and the Indigenous City Council Association of Northern Cauca (ACIN). The government created OPIC (Indigenous Villages Organization of Cauca) in the zone of the most traditional and emblematic indigenous resistance and struggle in Colombia. OPIC, a civil non-profit indigenous organization, gathers indigenous protestors or evangelicals without the endorsement of any city council and disrespects the traditional indigenous authority and its processes of representation.

In the last few months, an indigenous organization has also emerged in the Sierra Nevada that begins to defy the authority of city council member Kankuamo. This new group believs, for example, that the realization of megaprojects in the port of Dibulla in Guajira or the Los Besotes dam are beneficial for the community, and their positions have obviously strengthened their exchange with the regional and local governments of the area.

Last year the government created the Intersectorial Commission for the Advancement of the Afro Colombian Population as a medium of exchange between the government and the black communities. This entity, lead by Vice-President Francisco Santos is a duplicate of the High Consultive Commission and the Departmental and Regional Consultive Commissions, created by the Negritude Law two decades ago so that the government and the representatives of the Afro Colombian communities could dialogue and make decisions jointly regarding issues that affect their collective territories. For example, the construction of the port of Buenaventura and the highway that would connect the port with Tumaco must be discussed and approved in this way.

Similarly, the Colombia First Movement, headed by the ex-presidential advisor Jose Obdulio Gaviria, created the National Workers Confederation (CNT) a few months ago. CNT is a new central worker's confederation whose president is Ricuarte Garcia, director of a union of the Public Health Ministry. This new union seeks to counteract the central "antiruribistes" on key issues, such as the negotiation of the TLC.


Traditional Powers and

New Power Pro



The traditional indigenous
organizations on the national level and in Cauca include: ONIC (The National
Indigenous Organization of Colombia), CRIC, and ACIN.



The High Consultive Commission
and the Departmental and Regional Consultive Commissions, are the
opportunities for exchange between the government and the Afro population
created by Law 70 in 1993. Similarly, Afro Colombian movements exist:
NGOs, Communitarian Council, Communal Action Boards, and Arenas that
represent the interests of the Afro Colombians. Some of the most
important movementsthat are against the TCL are: PCN, Cimarron, AFRODES, ASOMUJEH,
and CEPAC.

Intersectorial Commission for
the advancement of the

Afro Colombian population,
created by Decrees 4181 in 2007 and 4401 in 2008.


In Colombia there are three
traditional workers unions independent of the Uribe government. The
General of Central Workers (CGT), the Colombian Workers Confederation (CTC)
and the United Workers Confederation (CUT).

CNT, created by the Colombia
First Movement that represents Uribista thought and headed by Jose Obdulio

What is the strategy?

"Cooption" and "parallelism" are not new. Nevertheless, the concrete results of the various outcomes of these strategies are just beginning to be seen. On one hand sympathy is strengthened for groups that, as is the case with the Afro and indigenous populations, live in zones of high economic interest that can only be exploited if the communities of these territories endorse it through the consultive mechanism created by the Constitution of 1991.

A large part of the Afro Colombian population is located on the Pacific, an increasingly strategic area for the development of large agroindustrial, touristic and industrial projects. Since the government constitutionally has to rely on the approval of these communities in order to intervene in this area, the community councils, the city councils and the Afro organizations like PCN and Cimarron have become a nuisance for the president.

The government intends to avoid this obstacle through the Intersectorial Commission, created upon the suggestion of United States Black Caucus Senator Gregory Meeks. Meeks had in mind the commission created by Bill Clinton to avoid the structural barriers of racism in the United States. In practice, the Intersectorial Commission tends to gather only when the government calls a meeting and it convenes to discuss issues of its interest, excluding the issues and initiatives proposed by the base organizations, local authorities, Afro NGOs and community councils.

Different members of the Afro organizations assure The Empty Seat that the Intersectorial Commission was created to facilitate the execution of an eventual Free Trade Agreement, since those who participate there assume that the poverty of the black communities will disappear through a more extensive implementation of large projects that promote the industrial development in these zones. Nevertheless, the traditional leaders of the Afro communities reject these strategies that in many cases go against their cultures and uses of the land.

On the other hand, Uribe's strategy seeks to legitimize his political project on the international level by making it counteract the Afro Colombian lobbying of foreign members of similar groups that externally criticize Uribe's strategy.

For example, during almost all of his most recent trips to Washington, Uribe has traveled accompanied by an Afro delegation integrated in the Ministry of Culture and by other prominent Afro Colombians of the Color Foundation. This group is comprised largely of the intellectual and political Afro Colombian elite and counts on the support of the United States Embassy, but is far from representing the visions and interests of the Afro Colombian base communities (that in any case are largely divided).

The government has also tried to do something else with the indigenous population, but with less success. "With OPIC, the government has tried to illegitimatize the indigenous traditional authorities and their resistance and mobilization movement, diverting information from their methods of communication with national and international allies, generating confusion among social movements," Javier Sanchez, Territories and Natural Resources Advisor of ONIC, said to The Empty Seat. "They play with the needs and hunger of the indigenous communities. They take photos and parade them around trying to show that all is well and that the indigenous population is with Uribe."

Different opinions regarding the establishment of OPIC.

ONIC, CRIC and ACIN have publicly demonstrated that OPIC illegitimatizes the power of the organizations and traditional authorities. OPIC seeks to make invisible and silence the Social and Communal Labor union that has uncovered threats and deaths among the indigenous villages and has caused so much unease for the government.

Indigenous leaders told The Empty Seat, but we could not confirm independently, that members of OPIC are enjoying preferential treatment in obtaining military passports and in accessing dwellings of social interest. Only OPIC members are privy to these government initiatives.

The Empty Seat called the Ethnic Director of the Ministry of the Interior, the Delegation of Indigenous and Miner Defenders and the Vice-President of the republic to obtain the government's point of view regarding this topic, but we were unable to obtain a response.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Business of War and False Positives

(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN volunteer translator)

Ricardo Martínez
June 27, 2009


Codhes reports that in 2002 alone there were 412,553 forced displacements, 4,512 political assassinations, 544 massacres with a total of 2,447 deaths, 744 disappearances and 783 arbitrary arrests of civilians

A report on the widespread extrajudicial executions in Colombia is to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, announced Rapporteur Philip Alston.  He contextualized the report within the framework of the program of “Democratic Security” being pursued by President Álvaro Uribe.

Without accusing the State of a policy of extermination, the report does detail the macabre, destructive actions taken by members and former members of the armed forces, paramilitary vigilantes and alleged mercenaries to destroy social groups. All the perpetrators should be investigated, tried and sentenced.

The call is for an investigation with international jurisdiction of at least the 1,250 cases of “false positives” documented between 2002 and 2008.  In these cases, civilians were systematically murdered and then presented as guerrillas killed in combat in order to demonstrate the “successes” in Colombia’s war against insurgency.

After a decade of varying terrorist practices and crimes against humanity that have resulted in social upheaval, the policy of counter-insurgency led by President Uribe does not simply target grassroots organizations and groups sympathetic with rebel organizations, but has declared an outright war against the entire population (particularly the poor).

Through a combination of tactics and strategies of direct institutional confrontation and indirect covert action, the Colombian State has amassed a tally of corpses and disappearances that has yet to be revealed fully—not to mention the perpetrators of the crimes.  The false positives are the outcome of a chain of complicity and a policy of extermination that has affected the entire population, whether directly involved in the armed conflict or not.

The Organization for Human Rights (Codhes) reports that in 2002 alone there were 412,553 forced displacements, 4,512 political assassinations, 544 massacres with 2,447 deaths, 744 disappeared and 783 arbitrary arrests of civilians.  By 2008, the figures had tripled.  The population is being targeted by an overarching strategy of state terrorism.

Three pillars underlie the policy: Plan Colombia, which was drawn up by the United States in 1999 and then extended into the Andean Plan; the all-out international war in the region, which is rich in natural and mineral resources that are controlled by multinational corporations; and the private military companies (PMCs), which are playing an increasingly active role.

Little is known about these companies, but these actors have embraced the “security initiatives”.

Over the past ten years, at least 14 companies of this type have been identified.  The PMCs make up the diffuse but effective guiding hand that fosters, permits and possibly carries out the actions that have resulted in false positives along with other deranged functions of state terrorism.

Among the companies reaping rich dividends is DynCorp, with headquarters at Bogotá’s El Dorado airport.  It provides training for rapid reaction special groups, sells security services and recruits mercenaries to take part theatre of war.

Another, Air Scan, guards oilfields and oil pipelines.  It uses Cesna-337 aircrafts with video and infrared surveillance cameras.  According to press sources (Los Angeles Times, 17 March 2002), the firm carries out assignments to spy and to fly over territories supposedly under guerrilla control.

Defense System Colombia (DSC), an affiliate of the British firm Defense System Ltd. (DSL), specializes in guarding British Petroleum’s oil pipelines.

Amnesty International has reported that DSC purchased military material for the Colombian army’s 14th Brigade, which “has an atrocious record of human rights violations.”

This security and “energy surveillance” project is led by Roger Brown, a former British secret service officer who, in 1997, acquired weapons for the army through the Israeli security firm, Silver Shadow.

The sale involved sophisticated anti-guerrilla warfare equipment, surveillance technology and unmanned inspection aircrafts.  Police and army units were trained in counter-insurgency, social containment and psychological warfare tactics.

Companies of terror have arrived, silent but effective in offering deaths and transforming them into apparent triumphs.

More information:
América Latina <http://www.kaosenlared.net/americalatina>
Colombia <http://www.kaosenlared.net/colombia>
Derechos Humanos <http://www.kaosenlared.net/derechoshumanos>
Guerra/Criminalización/Represión <http://www.kaosenlared.net/guerra-criminalizacion-represion>

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oil Palm Companies Displace 123 Families

(Translated by Emily Hansen, a CSN volunteer translator)

            The Police Inspector of the municipality of Penon in the southern part of the  Bolivar province, OMALDO GARCIA CAPATAZ, arbitrarily ordered the DISPLACEMENT OF 123 PEASANT FAMILIES OF THE LAS PAVAS COMMUNITY, despite the fact that the current representatives of the Public Ministry (Municipal Community and Resident Defense) opposed this act and called for its suspension.  The Inspector has disregarded this plea.
            Members of the national police and the Mobil Anti-disturbances Squadron, since the early hours of the morning of July 14th, sealed off the aforementioned precinct preventing the entrance and exit of the inhabitants of the area and of the people who accompany them.  Previously, they entered the community at approximately 1 p.m., and after destroying 7 peasant homes and ransacking the household goods, they proceeded to carry out the orders of evicting and displacing 123 families, among which were various pregnant women, and approximately 100 young boys and girls, some of whom were just recently born.
            In this moment the families whose fundamental rights have been violated find themselves displaced in the village of Buenos Aires in the municipality of Penon in the south of Bolivar.
            Due to the aforementioned grievances, the undersigned organizations demand:

  • That the national government guarantees the immediate return of the displaced population to their precinct.
  • That INCODER expedite the procedures corresponding to the demand of the community regarding the expropriation that they are currently suffering.
  • That the community of Las Pavas be economically compensated for the pain that has been caused by the members of the public force while completing the displacement orders.
  • That humanitarian assistance be offered to the displaced population and that special attention be paid to the infant, pregnant and older adult populations.

Federacion Agrominera del Sur de Bolivar
Corporacion Sembrar
Comision de Interlocucion del Sur de Bolivar
Fundacion Comite de Solidaridad con los Presos Politicos
Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia
Coodinator Nacional Agrario – CAN
Asociacion Nomadesc
Corporacion Utopias
Campana prohibido olvidar
Censat Agua Viva, Amigos de la Tierra Internacional
Grupo Semillas
Proceso de Comunidades Negras
Organizacion Femenina Popular –OFP
Asociacion Paz con Dignidad - Espana  

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

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Court Should Not Bend to the Will of President Uribe

(Translated by Nancy Beiter, a CSN volunteer translator)

Press Release

Re: Naming of a new Attorney General

In a letter sent today to the Supreme Court of Justice, 218 civil society and human rights organizations asked the Magistrates of the Court for the list of designated names submitted by President Álvaro Uribe for the position of Attorney-General of the nation, because consideration of such a list does not comport with the principals of independence and impartiality necessary for the protection of human rights.

The letter says The Coordinación Colombia-Europe-United States is aware that, thanks to its independence and impartiality, the Supreme Court has become one of the most important bastions of defense of democracy and law in Colombia, and, therefore, it is called to play a role of great importance to ensure that the demanding responsibilities that can be met by whomever is nominated and elected to the post of new Attorney General.

According to the NGOs that signed the letter, "the national and international community has the just aspiration that the Attorney General designated would be prepared to pledge to the Corporation a guarantee of the right of access to justice under the principles of independence and impartiality, principles which should characterize the administration of justice.   In this spirit the Special Rapporteur for Judicial Affairs of the United Nations recommended in his recent visit to Colombia that, "It is essential, given the key role of the Prosecutor, that the next Attorney General be independent, strong and prestigious. "

According to spokesmen for The Coordinación Colombia-Europe-United States, "The three candidates for Attorney General nominated by President Álvaro Uribe, Camilo Ospina Bernal, Juan Ángel Palacio and Virginia Uribe,  are  far from meeting these criteria and do not constitute a guarantee of independence from  the power of the executive branch. Those on the list clearly lack expertise in criminal law, and, as is evident in the recent past, the country has had negative experiences as the consequence of such failures, such as bad management and the sad advance of impunity during the term of the former Attorney General, Luis Camilo Osorio, who like, those on the current list, came from areas of the law remote from criminal practice." They expressed concern that one name on the list, former Defense Minister Camilo Ospina Bernal, was the architect of a secret directive from the Ministry of Defense that established the payment of rewards for casualties caused by the military. These economic benefits spurred the mass of so-called "false positives", which according to the report of the Judicial Rapporteur, should be better defined as "cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians, premeditated for purposes of profit." It was in late 2008, when the scandal of extrajudicial executions was uncovered, when it became known that behind these crimes was the Secret Directive 029 of 2005, which was designed by Dr. Camilo Ospina Bernal, during his term as Minister of Defense, and which was kept hidden for many years from both the national and the international community.

As stated in the letter, "The concealment of rules such as Directive 029 of 2005 governing military behavior that threatens the fundamental right to life of Colombians, shows a dangerous precedent from someone such as Dr. Ospina who, as Attorney-General, would have enormous discretionary power, affecting the basic liberty of citizens and assessing responsibility for the authors of more than 1,600 cases of extrajudicial killings that took place under procedures he designed.”

They also manifested concern about “The impunity which permeates the serious crimes committed in recent times, which shows a worrying deterioration in the rule of law” citing, for example, investigations carried out by the Attorney General’s office that reveals that at local, regional and national levels the existence of criminal alliances between politicians and paramilitaries (parapolitics), the illegal undermining of the popular will challenging by exchanging the constitutional foundations of the rule of law for perks, favors and bribes, wire-tapping and persecution by government secret agencies of judges, political opponents and human rights defenders, and gross human rights violations committed in recent years by various legal and illegal actors, including the systematic practice of extrajudicial executions. This situation, they said, requires a broad national consensus on who should take on the enormous responsibility to overcome impunity and restore justice as a condition precedent to rebuilding the foundations of the rule of law. In all criminal prosecutions both President Uribe and a significant number of his aides and also former lawmakers from the governing coalition are implicated and therefore have an immediate interest in the outcome. Therefore the guarantee of independence from the executive becomes even more urgent.

They stressed that "the important role that the Attorney General's Office is called to play in the current political and social crisis of the nation demands that whoever takes on the management of this bastion of the criminal justice embodies a broad consensus on the office holder’s moral probity, political independence, prestige in the legal community, and a recognized commitment to democracy and a propensity for justice.”

Finally, the letter said that “Convinced that the existence of an independent and impartial judiciary is a prerequisite for protecting human rights and ensuring non-discrimination in the administration of justice, and mindful of the important role civil society must play in the defense of the basic principles on the independence of the judiciary adopted by the Seventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Offenders, and the Declaration of Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary adopted in Beijing in August 1995” they consequently asked the Court to proceed to reject the three candidates submitted, to suspend the procedure for the selection of the Office of Attorney General, and to demand the submission of a list made up according to a selection process based on merit, consisting of  individuals who enjoy public recognition for their independent positions, their impartiality, their moral standing, and academic creditably in the area of criminal law which they will be charged with administering.

Bogotá, July 8, 2009


Friday, July 10, 2009

The Humanitarian Crisis in Arauca Deepening with Every Passing Day

(Translated by Rolf Schoeneborn, a CSN volunteer translator)

Source: Consultatoria para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES)
http://www.codhes.org/ <http://wwww.codhes.org.co>

June 26, 2009


The Association of Victims of Forced Displacement, Asovidesfor, has called for the creation of a special commission to investigate and verify the humanitarian crisis in the Department of Arauca as a result of the armed conflict.

Flor Maria Trujillo, president of the aforementioned organization informed Codhes that 'it was of great importance to have a human rights commission with international and national accompaniment in place that would make the social drama in Arauca visible to all, and call for appropriate measures that needed to be taken because the actual security situation was quite different from what the government claimed it to be.'

The social activist explained that the wave of assassinations has increased over the last years and that, as a result, forced displacement has also increased. According to a recent study, which was done by an international humanitarian organization in Arauca, there have been at least 3,000 confirmed homicides, of which 327 were committed in 2008.

According to Asovidesfor, victims have been primarily peasant organizers, social activists, indigenous and forcibly displaced individuals. Human rights organizations in the department of Arauca report that at least forty rural teachers have been killed in the last four years, twenty forcibly displaced persons were killed in 2008, and of at least 120,000 people have asked for international protection for reasons related to the internal armed conflict.

Through December of last year, Sisdhes (el Sistema de Información sobre Derechos Humanos y Desplazamiento - Information System on Human Rights and Forced Displacement) of Codhes registered 4007 cases of forced displacement in the municipality of Tame, which is considered to be the biggest source of displaced peoples in the department of Arauca.  And yet, according to the research done here, at least 50% of this municipality's population has been impacted by forced displacement.

There have also been reports of recent cases of threats, forced disappearances, and the return of displaced communities without the necessary institutional accompaniment and without ensuring conditions of dignity, volition, and security that would guarantee the well-being of the affected people.

Many human rights organizations in Arauca have repeatedly expressed their concern for the situation of six indigenous groups that live in this department, which have not only experienced forced displacement as a result of armed confrontations, but also as a result of infrastructural mega-projects and oil exploration done by transnational corporations.

It is to be hoped that the Colombian government opts for a comprehensive solution to this humanitarian crisis in Arauca and not for a military one: 'It is necessary that appropriate measures by taken in Arauca, and we do not want to suggest that the forces of order should intervene to halt the humanitarian crisis. 'What we need is respect and a State that can respond effectively to this crisis.'

For a number of weeks humanitarian organizations have pointed out repeatedly that in this department FARC and ELN guerrillas carry on armed struggle over territory and that, in addition to the Colombian military, there is yet another armed group active in areas close to the Venezuelan border called FBL, short for Frente Bolivariano.

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

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

We Have an Historic Mission: To Defend Our Territory

(Translated by Steve Fake, a CSN volunteer translator)

Prensa Rural
By Laura Lorenzi
June 29, 2009

In the dispute that exists in Colombia over land, the peasants of the Southern Bolivar region, united in the Committee for a Dignified Life, reaffirm their commitment to defend the territory, and their right to possession and use of the land.

The Committee for a Dignified Life, which met in the village of Villanueva in San Pablo from June 26 to 28, is a participatory democracy that provides the opportunity for delegates from the Community Action Committee that make up the Peasant Association of the Cimitarra River Valley to meet periodically and reach an agreement regarding the type of development they advocate for their region.  The delegates are campesinos who are aware of the importance of being active participants in shaping the future of their land and their lives. "We have an historic mission: to defend our territory," say the representatives of the rural communities.

The meeting, attended by 16 villages and various national and international groups involved in organizational activities in the region, addressed 3 topics: the Peasant Reservation Area, the human rights and humanitarian crisis, and the cultivation of illicit crops and their replacement.

Peasant delegates recalled the most important stages of the organizational process that led them to unite and form a peasant organization that defends their interests in the region.  These include the march of ‘96 and the peasant exodus of ‘98 - massive actions that actually achieved important results thanks to the dialogue with the governments of Samper and Pastrana.

Among these processes, the creation of the Peasant Reservation Area stands out.  This legal entity was made possible through Law 160 of 1994, which entails land titling and implementation of a development plan drafted by local communities, prevents the expansion of large agricultural estates, and promotes dignified development that is respectful of the environment, the economy, and of peasant organizations.

This entity is particularly important in a country like Colombia, which ranks third in the world in terms of level of land concentration, and where the level of national sovereignty is worryingly low.  One of the government’s priorities is to generate development by inviting in multinationals and foreign investors that, according to president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, generate employment opportunities and an increase in the living standards of poor Colombians.  As the neoliberal formula of a trickle down economy describes: in a pyramid of glasses where water falls from the top, water drains into the glasses on the lower levels until all are full.

The reality is quite different in Colombia and in the world. The entry of multinationals and large foreign investors has not meant development for the communities of Southern Bolivar. Instead, it only has coincided with rising levels of violence in the population, armed repression and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources. The repression has been manifested mainly in two ways: on the one hand, in the use of force by the army and the paramilitaries that terrorize and abuse the civilian population and, on the other hand, laws such as the Code of Mines, the Informants Law, and programs like Families in Action and Forest Rangers, through which rural development is hampered and the civilian population become involved in the armed conflict.

These two forms of repression that, together, have been set into motion by the government, seek to displace farmers from their farms in order to free up the rural areas for the entry of multinationals. The humanitarian crisis generated as a result of institutionalized violence in the service of this type of economic model has historically been acute in Southern Bolivar and throughout Magdalena Medio--laboratories for the implementation of the paramilitary strategy that were then progressively extended to other regions of the country. Constant reports tell of the systematic human rights violations, injuries and deaths caused by the armed conflict and the generalized violence in rural areas where civilians live in fear and anxiety for their lives. According to the Vice President of the Republic, in the month of May alone, 17 people were killed by violence in the municipality of San Pablo.

In this context of rights violations and an absence of a functioning government, there is an economic crisis exacerbated by fumigations that, in the month of March, forced farmers to stop cultivating their crops. Under the pretext of ending the cultivation of illicit crops, the Colombian government resorted to indiscriminate aerial spraying of glyphosate, destroying food crops eaten by the civilian population. In Southern Bolivar, for the last three decades coca crops have been grown because of the difficulty in selling other products and, despite the dismal state of roadways, became the principal means of livelihood for local people.

Through aerial spraying, a coercive measure carried out by the national government since 1976 and funded, since 1999, by Plan Colombia, the government aims to achieve two results: eradicating illicit crops and putting an end to the insurgency that, according to the government, is principally funded by coca. Governmental attempts have so far met with little success because the guerrillas, who were born long before the rise of the cocaine trade, continue their armed struggle and the illicit crops, far from being eradicated, continue to exist in Colombia. These crops have generated a black market economy from which many sectors of society greatly benefit.

The biggest concern comes from a clause in the Strategy for Strengthening Democracy and Social Development 2007-2013 (EFDDS), better known as Phase II of Plan Colombia, that stipulates if illicit crops are not cut by 50% by 2013, the Colombian government may consider seeking the direct entry of U.S. forces into Colombia to address the issue, further emphasizing the lack of Colombian national sovereignty.

The proposal put forth by the peasants of Southern Bolivar and many other regions has remained the same for many years: that there be a concerted effort to replace illicit crops with alternatives permitting decent livelihoods for the civilian population and social investment in marginalized areas of Colombia. However, the State's response has always been the same—a response announced by the noise of helicopters and planes carrying destruction and despair.

Despite this bleak picture, they have not succeeded in stopping the civil resistance that rural communities have engaged in for decades. As in Swift’s story of Lilliput, the small inhabitants unite against the giant enemy that seems invincible. Today, more than ever, rural inhabitants reaffirm the importance of grassroots organizations as a means of defending their territory and the rights of sovereign people in their own land.  They are not willing to accept the devastating plan that the government has prepared for them.


More than 4500 Indigenous Children Suffer from Malnutrition because of Forced Displacement: Camawari

( Translated by Dan Baird, a CSN volunteer translator)

Source:  Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento [Advisory Body on Human Rights and Displacement] (CODHES) <http://www.codhes.org.co/

Date: 26 June 2009

Bogotá, Prensa CODHES, 26/06/2009.

The Cabilde Mayor [Main  Council] of the indigenous people  Awá of Nariño  Camawari  has reported that between 4500 and 5000 children of both sexes
are suffering from malnutrition through  the hardships they have suffered because of being forcibly displaced.

The indigenous leader Jorge Silvio Hernández explained that, traditionally, members of the  Awá people have always been fed on their own lands with produce that is natural to, and typical of, the regions where they live. But, since they have been forced out of their places of origin, their ways of eating have been changed.

He said:  “For example, maize is grown in our lands and that’s natural food.  Now, however, here in the situation where we are displaced, we have to eat tinned tuna and sardines, rice, and other food that isn’t part of our traditional diet.  And that’s what’s affected our children so badly.”

According to Camawari, the problem of malnutrition among the children of the  Awá people in Nariño has already been reported to Government departments, at both regional and national level, but until now there has been no reply.

Hernández adds:  “Unfortunately, there’s been no reply of any kind.  And it isn’t only on malnutruition.  We’ve also got 115 families waiting in the county seat at  Ricaurte (Nariño) who are asking for land and production plans so that they can produce their own food – and there’s been no reply to that either.”

There are more than 12000 Awá indigenous people of  Nariño, a large number of whom have been displaced many times because of being caught in crossfire between the Security Forces and other armed groups present in the area. Many of them, also, have fled from their places of origin in search of refuge, because of mining in their communities and because their leaders have been threatened and killed. Some families have even crossed the border into  Ecuador and have been there since 2005.

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

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Letter to the President of Colombia: We are ok, but unemployed . . .

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)

[ 06/23/2009]
[ Source: Universidad Nacional ] [ Author: Jairo Bautista]
Oh, and don’t believe that I forgot: I am still waiting for the publication of your statements about your and your family’s income, in which you show us that as a good follower of Christ, you have not fallen into the sin of greed, and that you did not take a little money from the DMG, or that your children did not move from being their father’s children to corporate executives, that they have plans to be the next owners of that little ranch of almost one and a half million square kilometers called Colombia.

Mr. President, Álvaro Uribe Vélez:

From this virtual platform I have attacked the idea that the Colombian economy went through a period of upsurge and flourishing between 2004 and 2007, during the first part of your term. There were multiple reasons for this argument. How can a country say that it is in the midst of an economic boom when the indicators of inequality proliferate? When the country had been for a long time in first place in Latin America in unemployment rates? When 60% of workers were in the informal sector? I know that you have not read any of my opinion pieces, first of all because you do not read any newspapers, according to your former press secretary (but I suspect that he does read El Tiempo); and secondly, because you are surely not interested in listening to any criticism. Besides, a man like you should spend what little time you have left after participating in all forums sponsored by industry and landowners to which you are invited, democratic security councils, and community councils praying a thousand rosaries with your Minister of Transportation, who will undoubtedly remind you that the country’s highways are a disaster, just like your morality and ethics as the national leader.
Allow me to remind you that in no historical period have countries considered unemployment part of happiness and prosperity. Nevertheless, in Colombia, a country that holds second place in the bizarre “contest” of the happiest countries in the world, it has been everywhere claimed (with you as the main spokesperson) that we enjoy an unquestioned economic strength, so strong that six months ago the country was shielded from the international economic crisis, according to the experienced and “highly intelligent” Minister of the Interior.

But unfortunately (for you and your faithful followers), the economic reality is obstinate and silly. And it remains so despite the pack of lies that the functionaries of your government have spread around. They have succeeded in convincing a large part of the uninformed public that the country’s only problem is the “narcoterrorists” of FARC. And built on that enormous lie, they have spread the awful mistakes of an economic policy designed to enrich the elite. You may know a great deal about telling stories and making wars and portraying yourself as “the man with the eyeglasses,” but very little about economics. Really, we must recognize that the only goal in your government’s agenda that has turned out well has been the war, and even that hasn’t worked out so well, since neither Ramírez (Martha Lucia) nor Santos (Juan Manuel) came out looking so well, the first because of the scandal about some “chimba” towels that some of her family’s companies sold to the Army, and the second because curiously, the false positives weren’t a story, or contingent phenomena, but the logical answer to his security policy.

The country has been in a permanent economic crisis during your term as President. Your and your ministers’ incapability and incompetence has been clear: the labor reforms did not succeed in reducing the unemployment rate and if indeed it did go down it was a rebound effect from the economic recovery of the postcrisis of the late ‘90s. The truth, Mr. Uribe, as I said, is that Colombia has the highest unemployment rate of any Latin American country, according to the 2008 OIT report. Surely neither you nor your Minister of Social Protection has read the report, you because of listening to court gossip or murmuring from the opposition, and your Minister because he is giving donations and jobs in Congress, so that you were able to be re-elected a few years ago. Let’s not speak about agriculture: we have we have gone from being the coffee-producing country that fulfills our childhood dreams to being coffee importers, and also (importers ) of rice, corn, and most of what we eat, in order to export and palm oil, an almost useless change that demonstrates the mood of your alter ego in power, the little ex-minister Arias, who now aspires (modestly, it’s true) to replace you, a man who makes people in his party laugh and his opponents angry. Because don’t forget, in agriculture there is a cumulative fall in production of more than 25% in the time that you have been in power, while he has dedicated himself to talking about prayers, chastity, oh yes! . . . and to closing out the Carimagua business.
The pension reform constituted a real attack on workers’ rights and although it was already announced, they weren’t going to fix the horrible mistake committed by Law 100 (your famous initiative when you were a Senator). Today one of the themes of debate is that less than 20% of those who are currently part of the pension plan will be able to get a minimal pension, and that is too serious in a country in which less than two million people participate.
As if this were not enough, the famous policy of investment confidence that basically consists of giving everything to investors, to owners of capital, has been a complete failure: it did not succeed in creating a consistent dynamic of investment. Investing is confused with buying again, so that a business that changes hands (a Colombian one for a foreign one as in the case of SAB Miller-Bavaria) is considered an investment, when economically it is not. And let’s not speak of the first-place prize: taxes: there have been 5 tax reforms during the Uribe administration, all of them to eliminate the income tax on big business and move financing from the State onto the shoulders of workers and consumers. Laws about export processing zones have been passed (well-known now because of the scandals about the President’s children), in which the income tax on those who invest there is cut in half; a law about investment confidence was created to basically freeze taxes on those who could pay at least a minimum fee to enjoy this benefit, a fee that guarantees that the conditions under which they pay will not change for the next 20 years. Mr. President, isn’t it true that the lands that Bavaria sold to your children at ridiculously low prices in the plains of Bogotá are payment for your tax leniency or for not having imposed any taxes on the owners of Bavaria for that wonderful transaction, which at one point was valued at more than 150 thousand million pesos?

But there is even more. In your personal legislative arsenal the famous law of secondary residence is awaiting passage. It almost completely removes payment of any taxes on those who want to buy a second luxury house in any of our ecological paradises available for that purpose. Surely you, the same president who goes around paying out rewards to butchers and assassins, forgot the small detail that more than 1.2 million houses are needed in this country for the poorest; it would be good if instead of thinking about bringing foreigners to live in luxury houses, you thought about finding real solutions for the thousands of families who remain homeless or who have to go into debt to your friends in the financial sector, in order to get a moderately reasonable place to live.

Oh! And the jewel on the crown remains: Familias en Acción [Families in Action]! Mr. Uribe, you institutionalized begging as public policy! It is incredible how you and those who want to imitate you (like Lucho Garzón) have been able to transform the large masses of the population into a huge group of people without dignity, ready to sell you their vote, in hopes that the monthly alms will arrive promptly. But Mr. President, remember not to bite off more than you can chew. Fiscal reality says that there is no money for giving out as many alms as you have promised, and since you have no public assets to sell, because all of them have dried up during your long government, and since taxes are low because we are in an economic crisis, it is up to you to help the debt by financing all the handouts. You, as a good Catholic, should be happy to help or give to community councils, true governmental homilies. And Mr.Uribe, remember that as you say: the debt must be paid.
But at least the educational revolution remains. Deceived for a moment, I thought that we were speaking about some Cuban experiment that would be tried in Colombia, surely on the advice of the ex-extreme leftist José Obdulio. In charge of the Educational Revolution is the  talented Cecilia Vélez, a true revolutionary: during her time working in the District Secretariat for Education in Bogotá she proposed the concession of the public high schools, and increased the contracting of services to private high schools, and fiercely attacked the teachers, policies that form part of the revolutionary expertise of your government. At least she has not had scandals to protest, but her initiative in spite of the increase in coverage achieved by the increase in the number of children per teacher, has not been at all successful: we continue to perform poorly according to international academic standards, we continue to do poorly in inclusion and equality, the drop out rate continues to increase. Much of this is due to economic reasons . . . but your revolution insists that the government has no money to educate children and therefore families have to pay for it. The problem Mr. Uribe, is that your economic policy is so bad that a large percentage of families do not even have enough to pay that small amount. As a result, our children either are not educated or poorly educated . . . Oh! And clearly, the teachers, those professionals who earn an average of 900 thousand pesos a month and have to face 40 children with a blackboard and chalk, are, as usual, the cause of your revolution’s failure.

Mr. Uribe, your government is definitely proof that wealth must be redistributed mostly to the richest, favors must be granted to your family and political followers through public policy, the wealthiest must be courted so that they become multimillionaires, criticism must be ignored, recognition of economic reality must be refused, deliberate lies with statistics to deceive the public must be used, and workers’ salaries must be cut.

Oh! And don’t think I forgot: I am still awaiting the publication of your statements about your and your family’s income, in which you show us that, as a good follower of Christ, you have not fallen into the sin of greed, and that you did not take a little money from DMG, or that your children did not move from being the darlings of their father to powerful business people, who plan to be the next owners of this little ranch of almost a million and a half square kilometers, known as Colombia.

Meanwhile, Mr. Uribe, you can continue telling the country that everything is going well, but the people, nevertheless, will continue insisting that they have no work; you can insist that there are no violations of human rights in Colombia, but, what a surprise, people insist on disappearing; you can insist that there are no displaced persons, only migrants, but they continue to fill city streets; you can insist that the country is in good shape . . . but the country insists on being in poor shape, and every day that you sit on Bolívar’s throne things get worse.

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



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