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Friday, January 29, 2010

My dear companions,

A tender greeting. I submit to you this report of the threats against forcibly displaced female leaders and organizations defending their rights. With solidarity on our journey,
Alba Teresa
(Translated by Emily Hansen)
January 27, 2010
The SISMA MUJER Corporation and the “Observatory of the Human Rights of Women in Colombia: in a situation of forced displacement women also have their rights” publicly report to the national and international public opinion, and vehemently reject the grave threats that the female social leaders and leaders of human rights organizations that work to demand and protect the rights of the displaced population are receiving.
       Today the SISMA MUJER Corporation received in its mail the Seventh Black Eagles Bulletin that contains grave threats against the lives of various displaced male and female leaders.  In this context, what is most worrying are the disproportionate and specifically directed threats to women involved in the Observatory of the human rights of women in Colombia and the National Committee for the Strengthening of Organizations for the Forcibly Displaced.  Moreover, this letter is proof of a plan to “annihilate” various social organizations, including the SISMA MUJER Corporation.
       The gravity and systematic nature of the treats and attacks against the displaced population, specifically the men and women who lead the movement to protect their rights, profoundly affects the process of political empowerment and of demanding rights.  This has been recognized by the Constitutional Court of Colombian and the High Commission of the United Nations for Refugees – ACNUR-

The Molano Case and the error of the hound dogs

By Maria Teresa Herran
(Translated by Emily Hansen)
Freely expressing your opinions only experiences the limits delineated by the responsible attitude of the writer. The error that these novices committed was to believe that Alfredo Molano is irresponsible.  Perhaps they have not read a single one of his books, nor did they notice that little ant that is like an investigator.  To describe political inbreeding and the nepotism is not a crime but rather, on the contrary, prevents crime and strengthens the maturity of the citizens.
This is an excerpt from journalist Maria Teresa Herran’s column “Escarbando” (Scratching) of the daily El Espectador of Bogota.

On the 13th of January United Nations Indigenous Populations Special Reporter James Anaya published his report regarding his visit to Colombia following the recommendations of his predecessor.

(Translated by Emily Hansen)
Reporter Anaya’s press release follows below.
Additionally, on Thursday January 14
The first global report regarding the indigenous communities of the world, produced by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Affairs, revealed alarming statistic data regarding poverty, health, education, employment, human rights, the environment and more.  The report was presented simultaneously in New York, Brussels, Canberra, Milan, Mexico, Moscow, Pretoria, Rio de Janeiro and Bogotá.
UN Special reporter of indigenous towns makes public his report regarding his visit to Colombia following the recommendations of his predecessor.
January 13, 2010
            The Special Reporter on the situation of human rights and fundamental liberties of the indigenous made the following declaration:
            “It has been registered that the State of Colombia is paying attention to indigenous affairs and the development of plans and proposals oriented to respond to the recommendations of my predecessor.  However, I am preoccupied by the multiple indications that the situation of the indigenous communities in that country has not been met with the urgency that the gravity of the situation demands,” said the UN expert in his report today.
            “In general the laws, programs and politics of the government do not allow for the effective protection and satisfaction of the human rights of the indigenous communities in Colombia, “ stated the special reporter.
             Today the UN Special Reporter made public his report regarding the situation of the human rights and fundamental liberties of the indigenous communities that he visited between July 22nd and 27th, 2009.  This report presented the observations of Mr. Anaya following the recommendations made in the 2004 report by the previous Special Reporter, Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen.
            The report demonstrates that the situation of the indigenous people of Colombia has become exacerbated and intensified by the internal armed conflict the country is afflicted with.  “I have received information regarding an extremely worrying situation of violence and other crimes against indigenous communities as well as forced displacement and confinements, that threaten the fiscal and cultural survival of the indigenous communities of that country,” declared Professor Anaya.
            Despite the level of attention on the part of the State of Colombia regarding the indigenous affairs, the report reveals that there still exist great challenges that the government must confront in order to fulfill its obligations of protection and effective promotion of the human rights and fundamental liberties of the indigenous, including the material rights to lands and natural resources and the right to prior consultation with the indigenous communities in decisions that affect them. At the same time, there exist significant breaches in the general enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights of the indigenous communities in comparison with the average population.
             In his report, the Special Reporter presents a series of recommendations with the concluding suggestion that Colombia contribute to the cessation of the challenges as well as to the substantial advancement in the recognition and protection of the human rights of the indigenous communities of the country in accordance with the obligations and compromises of the State regarding these changes.  We invite you to review the complete report and the recommendations at the following web page: www.hchr.org.co


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clowns, aromatherapy and suckling pig for the 46 military men tried and released in the ¬Ćfalse positives=?ISO-8859-1?B?uSA=?=case

(Translated by Emily Hansen)
El Tiempo
January 26, 2010
            The ‘civic-military’ conference that the families of the uniformed men participated in culminated in raffles and a greeting by Military Forces Commander General Freddy Padilla.
            The uniformed men accused of ‘false positives’ in Soacha that were set free due to a breaching of terms in the trial and who were at one point confined in the Artillery School in the South of Bogotá upon orders from the Ministry of Defense just enjoyed a ‘conference of civic-military action’ that included psychological orientation, clowns, and a lunch including suckling pig.
            The meeting, which was organized by the Human Rights Department of the Military Forces, included the presence of the families of the uniformed men, even though some of them had to be brought in from different zones.
            The 46 men forming part of the group of military men that recovered their liberty during the beginning of this year had been “confined” upon orders of the Ministry of Defense and the Military Forces Command Unit until the judicial situation had been cleared up.  The event began at 8 in the morning with a mass that the institution generals attended and was followed by a conference given by various psychologists.
         During the middle of the morning the uniformed men were separated from their families: the military men were taken to a club that was equipped with candles and aromatherapy scents. There, according to one person who was at the event, they had a large relaxation and meditation therapy session.
            At the same time, the wives, mothers and sisters of the uniformed men were taken to a ‘spa’ in another club. They received facials, massages and dyes provided by a well-known beauty brand. Meanwhile, the children were being entertained by a group of
Unease and discomfort between families
           El Tiempo spoke with five of the families that attended the conference and was told that the military men were to be sent on vacation once liberty was ordered, but when the Ministry gave the order to confine them they were sent back to Bogotá immediately.
            “The General told us that he lamented their situation and that he supported us and our boys but that we had to wait for the justice decision.  But for us that party that he threw us was a slap in the face,” stated the mother of one of the military men.
            Everyone tried to talk to Padilla, but once he greeted each family he abandoned the military unit. That same day each uniformed man received a small lot of market goods and tickets for their families to return to their places of origin.
            When asked about this day, the Military Forces Commander confirmed the reunion and stated that “the intention was for the families to verify that the military men were in perfect condition, and for this reason they had psychological support.”

The debate surrounding the European Union=?ISO-8859-1?B?rQ==?= Colombia Commercial Accord divides the major parties of the European Parliament

By Lourdes Castro
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
         A new debate surrounding the Commercial negotiations between the EU and Colombia took place yesterday in the European Parliament (EP) in the Commission of Development initiated by Gay Mitchell, member of the European Popular Party.
         His initiative of discussing the issue with a focus on human rights is inspired by his worry about the grave violations perpetrated against the Colombian union movement; 60% of the assassinations of union members world wide occur in Colombia.  Mitchell calls this situation “intolerable.”
         Faced with this dramatic situation, the debate has turned to weather or not the trade with Colombia should continue.  In practical terms the debate faces EP members with the dilemma of whether or not to ratify the business accord.
         The debate illuminated the positions of its two major political groups: the Popular Party and the Socialist Party.
         Some members of both political groups agree that the EU should suspend business negotiations with Colombia for coherent political reasons corresponding with EU principles.  Others, on the other hand, argue that the negotiations should continue, citing the human rights compromises and advances required of Colombia as well as the positive and dynamic aspects of the Colombia-EU relationship.
         The debate becomes even more complex – above all for the Socialist party – if you take into account the prior Commercial Negotiation Accords between Colombia and the United States, Canada, and members of EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) in which their respective Parliaments have suspended trade due to human rights considerations. The specific reason stated by the various Parliaments are the numerous crimes perpetrated against the Colombian union movement.
         Returning to yesterday’s debate, the most disconcerting for the attendees was to witness the “closing of ranks” between the Spanish Socialist members and the Popular members, in favor of concluding the negotiation. This situation can be explained through the compromise made between the government party (Socialist) and the opposition (Popular) regarding the defense of fixed priorities of the Spanish President.  Among the priorities was the signing of the accord between Colombian and Peru this semester.
         It could not be clearer! In the middle of a debate jeopardizing the community space, and moreover bringing into discussion the coherency of European foreign policy regarding its human rights debates, the Spanish members of Parliament are taking a position of national defense: the interest of the Spanish President.
         The Greens Parliament member Catherine Greze, in a statement given to the press immediately after the debate, expressed, with reason, that it is “evident the that Spanish President wants to present the Accord as a victory” in the EU–Latin America summit that will be held in Madrid during the month of May, but she asks if when they speak of a “qualitative leap” (alluding to the phrase contained in the text of the priorities of the Spanish President in relation to the Accords) “you should not consider the wellbeing of the population with respect to the workers and the freedom of expression.”

Sector of European Parliament asks for the cessation of commercial negotiations with Colombia

Efe – Brussels
(Translated by Emily Hansen)
Espectador.com – Economy
26 January, 2010 – 6:18 a.m.
           This petition was made by The Greens in response to the human rights situation.
           The Greens group in the European Parliament (PE) asked the European Commision (CE) today to cease all commercial negotiations with Colombia due to the human rights situation in the country. They also called for a profound investigation be launched regarding the assassinations of union members.
            In a communication, the ecologist members of the European Parliament denounce the collaboration of the European Union with “a country that neither respects the human rights nor the social and environmental agreements that it has made with the European Union.”
            The Greens remind that in 2009, 37 Colombian union members were assassinated.  Data indicates that these 37 assassinations represent 70% of the union assassinations in the world.
            “The efforts of Colombia to hide the deaths and present itself as a great defender of human rights is in vain,” the communication stated.
            The Greens – who are the fourth force of the European Parliament – remind that in the United States the Democrats have blocked free trade agreements with Colombia since 2006.  Similarly, in Canada and Norway negotiations are also frozen.  The Greens ask the European Union to do the same.
            “I am ashamed that the European Union, that purports to be a champion in the defense of human rights, is doing less than the United States,” said the French EU Parliament member Catherine Greze.
            Parliament believes that the current Spanish EU President wants to conclude the commercial accords to present them “as true victories” in the EU-Latin American summit in the month of May.
Web source:

Columns of the winds

By Arturo Guerrero, The Colombian  
(Translated by Emily Hansen)
January 27, 2010
Molano committed the valiancy of signing a last name.  He presented himself and his solid facts to the hound dog lawyers.  He let himself be a scapegoat, he offered himself as a redeemer like Christ, and now he is being crucified.  One of his readers hit the nail on the head, “Molano was cut up along with his last name,” and he asked that, “Molanos continue to tell his story throughout the four corners of the country.”
The accused columnist is Colombia’s legendary narrator of the profound country, its jungles, rivers and trails. It is probable, then, that they gathered evidence of his affirmations to present to the judges.  What is doubtful is that the evidence will be scientific and capable of destroying the legality with which he manages this Santaderist country.
Final public hearing judgment: Friday January 29, 9 a.m.
The Judgement will be given in the Fourth Municipal Penal Court
Carrera 29 No. 18A-67
Block C
Floor 4, Room 2

Uribe convinces students to be informants for the Public Force of Medellin

(Translated by Emily Hansen)
           The program will be conducted through an alliance between the Government of Antioquia and the Mayor of Medellin.
            The program will be a new strategy to help fight crime in Medellin, where crime rates in the last few months have seen a dramatic rise.
        “Each student will receive 100,000 pesos each month under the title of bonus,” explained the leader of the measure.
            The people who sign up to be informants must be studying.
            The sending of 1,300 police and 137 investigators to fight the crime was also confirmed.
            The President arranged for 160 Police soldiers to be sent to Medellin this very afternoon.
            Declaring himself worried about the increasing crime in this city, Uribe said, “If everyone helps, we will be able to eradicate homicide from this city.”
            The homicide index in Medellin has increased in a surprising way this year compared to the same time last year.  Since 2009 the increase in crime has worried Uribe and the local and regional authorities.
            In 2009 there were 2178 homicides according to Legal Medicine, which represents an increase of 108% over the 1044 homicides in 2008.
            The worsening of the crime in Medillin has been attributed to the mafia surpluses of the narco-trafficking.
            The Ministry of Defense and the high military commanders have been asked to lead this operation in order to obtain a result as soon as possible.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Solidarity with Molano from the PDA-Switzerland

(Translated by Emily Hansen)
January 25, 2010
Geneva, Switzerland
ALFREDO MOLANO: Journalist and Writer of truth.
Cordial Greetings.
The Alternative Democratic Polo of Switzerland has the pleasure and honor of greeting you and expressing our profound solidarity and support in these times when the official narco-paramilitary gag of the government of Uribe Velez, along with his entourage, including the Araujo de Valledupar family, wants to replace justice with the silencing of opinion. They want to silence the liberty to write, and the liberty “that each citizen has” to express themselves freely.
         The judicial system is now being used to silence journalists, writers, common citizens and political opponents since the other means such as persecution, assassinations, death threats, displacement, exile, etc have already been exhausted, and continue to be used.  The perpetrators of these breaches of liberty are the recent Colombian governments, especially the government of Uribe Velez, associated with the corrupt narcoparamilitary mafias and many congressmen who have supported and currently support this government.
         Esteemed Alfredo, from these faraway lands of Switzerland, a handful of Colombians, both political refugees and fortunate Colombians, raise the flags of the Alternative Democratic Polo with dignity and hope for an imminent and truthful democratic change in Colombia.  We send you a big hug of solidarity and our firm conviction that you will come out on top of this “judicial trap” that the enemies of truth have set.
         Go, Alfredo, keep your head held high, and your dignity firm.  We hope that the cowardly hound dogs and enemies of truth will scream their hate out loud for having been discovered.  Colombia needs journalists and serious and honest writers like you so that the world will know what is happening in our country.
         We will remain attentive and vigilant and maintain an attitude of rejection and denunciation toward any attack on the democratic press or serious journalism, and above all toward anything that tries to silence the liberty that every human being has to express his or her opinions and thoughts.
         We affectionately send you our Polo hugs of solidarity.
National Spokesperson

Cauca Greets the New Year 2010 With More Violence

(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Popayan, January 25, 2010
In the first part of 2010, The Human Rights Observatory of the Network for Life and Human Rights in Cauca registered the assassination of 17 people, with the most common method being the use of a hired hit man.  These statistics make Popayan the city most affected by this kind of violence. Similarly, four threats against leaders of social organizations, principally of the indigenous and Afro movements, have been registered.  Three Afro organization and union leaders have been assassinated in acts that have been concentrated in the Northern Pacific zone.  
Paradoxically, these acts occurred after the transfer of the III Division of the National Army to the department of Cauca in December of 2009, and after the development of various security councils and innumerable discussions about the first head of state of the Department on the 10 of December.  These acts and discussions coincided with the Day of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when it was declared, “Human Rights is one of the most important agendas that cannot be ignored and must be reviewed.”
On the 1st of November Melba Guetio, the Indigenous Governor of the town of Cerro Tijeras, received multiple death threat telephone calls.  During the afternoon hours of the 5th of January Jarley Muelas Vivas and Milton Cruces Sanches, Governors of the towns of Agua Negra and Chimborazo, received a death threat text message. These threats, that the leaders of this area have been receiving since October 2009, were precursors to the assassinations of Robert Guachet, Marly Carolina Huila, Renaldo Bomba, Nilson Campo, and Egidio Obando Huila during 2009.
On the 18th of January in the district of El Caramelo, municipality of Caloto, teacher Jaime Bazante Guzman, 48 years old, was assassinated. Guzman stood out as a professional union leader and participated actively in activities demanding rights.
COCOCAUCA, the Coordination of Communal Councils and Organizations based in the Black towns of the Caucano Pacific was also a direct victim of violence this year; at 7p.m. on the 21st of January community leader Jose Feliz Orejuela was assassinated as he passed by the basketball court in the community of Noamito. Orejuela was a teacher of the Educational Institute in the locality of the Community Council of Manglares, municipality of Lopez de Micay.  The victim was the President of the Communal Action Group of Noamito and supported COCOCAUCA’s ethnoeducation strategy.
Then, on the 22nd of January, Milton Grueso Torres was assassinated in the same community. Torres was a well-known leader in the Regional COCOCAUCA and the Treasurer of the Community Council of Manglares of Black communities. This organization has additionally denounced the reception of anonymous calls to one of its leaders in the Unified Territory, and the continued Glyphosate fumigations in the area during 2009.
The member organizations of the Network for Life and Human Rights in Cauca have announced their solidarity with the CRIC (Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, the ACIN (Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca), COCOCAUCA and the Teachers of Cauca, and are calling to the Governmental Institutions of National and International Control that protect human rights, and the international humanitarian right, so that they can demand that the Colombian state investigates the denounced acts.  We are similarly calling to the non-governmental organizations, and sister social organizations to announce their solidarity, denounce the acts, and to monitor the acts registered here, and others that have occurred in the department so that we can insure that they do not remain with impunity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Inconveniences of the Painful Truth

(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Sunday, January 24, 2010
 The opinion does not need proof.  Investigative journalism is obligated to show it, a complicated issue when there are no guarantees for the sources while the powerful investigators collectively combine elections with business, corruption, crimes and despotism.
 In Colombia the investigated information is in the principle opinion columns and in the books.
 The opinions of the books continue being viewed as alternate altars of liberty, and because of this in this country less is dared against them. The trial against Alfredo Molano for the column “The Spectator” is coming to an end in the context of a failure.
 To read the complete article in Spanish, click here:
aquí <http://todossomosmolano.blogspot.com/2010/01/los-inconvenientes-de-la-verdad.html>

Spanish Politicians Travel to Colombia to Calibrate Respect for Human Rights

(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
           Seven Spanish politicians will meet with representatives of the government in Colombia and with groups from different spheres on Saturday the 23rd to “calibrate the respect” for the human rights of that country.
            As Joan-Josep Nuet, representative of the (mostly communist) Unified Left coalition in the Senate (High Spanish Parliament Branch) told Efe, the intention of this trip is to act as “a type of thermometer” to “calibrate the respect and fulfillment of the human rights in Colombia.”
            The expedition is coordinated by the NGOs Justice Platform for Colombia and Taula Catalana for Peace and Human Rights in Colombia, although the politicians involved absorb all the cost of the travel, room and board during the eight-day trip, explained Nuet.
        In addition to Nuet, the delegation consists of six deputes of Congress (lower branch), representing all groups of Parliament, with the exception of the Popular Party, the principle opposition party in Spain.
            The first meeting on the “closed and frenetic” agenda of this group will be to meet with the Vice-President of the Colombian government, Francisco Santos, in petition, according to Nuet, of the Executive of Colombia that expressed its desire to open “the round of contacts.”
        From there, the Spanish politicians will have about 30 encounters with the forces represented in the Colombian Congress, unions, peasant farmer groups, and organizations of women, to complete, according to the Catalan Senator, “a mission of verification of human rights.”
            Upon its return, this delegation will summarize in a briefing its conclusions to submit to the Spanish institutions, with the hopes of making a tangible social impact.
            “Within our group (Unified Left), we want to take advantage of this semester of EU presidency to ensure that the topic of Colombia does not go by the wayside. We want to reinforce now more than ever the discussion about the American bases,” stated Nuet.
            The Spanish presidency of the European Union (that will last through the first semester of 2010) has, amongst its priorities, the strengthening of relations between Europe and Latin America. This is a theme that will prevail during the summit that will be held in May in Madrid.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

10 Military Men Implicated in the Massacre of San Jose de Apartado Might Be Freed

(Translated by Emily Hansen)

El Tiempo
January 21, 2010
        Lawyers of the victims of the massacre have warned that the military men charged with mass murder could be freed from prison within the next month.
         To prevent that, at their first possible opportunity the victims’ lawyers will ask the Supreme Judicial Council to name a Decongestion Judge to facilitate the judicial process, which has been suspended since December due to the delay strategies of the military defense and the inexplicable loss of much evidence.
         The military men accused of the murders are Colonel Orlando Espinosa Beltran, Major Jose Fernando Castano Lopez, Lieutenant Alejandro Jaramillo Giraldo, Captain Sabarain Cruz Reina, Corporal Ricardo Bastidas Candia and Sargents Angel Maria Padilla Petro, Jorge Humberto Milanes Vega, Henry Agudelo Guasmayan Ortega, Edgar Garcia Estupinan and Dario Brango Agamez.
         The military men were called to justice on the 26th of February of last year for their participation in the massacre that took place the 21st of February 2005, in which eight people were massacred, including four minors.  The charges include barbarous acts, being co-conspirators in first-degree homicide, and conspiracy to commit a criminal offense
“False Positive” Coincidences
The lawyers of the victims have stated that that the Defense Attorney in the case of the military men of San Jose de Apartado is the same that is being investigated by the Judiciary for strategically prolonging the judiciary process in the “false positives” case.  Additionally, that same Defense Lawyer has been found to be part of an organization known as the Integral Military Defense (Demil) which is a private organization headed by officials of the Armed Forces.
         The Board of Directors of this organization includes Generals Carlos Lemus, the current Colombian Military Attache in Chile; Luis Alberto Ardila Silva, Second Army Commander; Carlos Quiroga, Army Inspector General; Colonel Enrique Torres, Commander of the VI Brigade; and Colonel Oscar Lopez, Army Chief of Integral Action.
         The victims’ lawyers denounced that on December 15, during the judicial hearing, the Seventh Specialized Prosecutor appointed to the National Human Rights Unit revealed the loss of nine notebooks in the investigation of San Jose that had been referred to as evidence.
         A statement from the Armed Forces regarding the discussion surrounding Demil will be awaited tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

El Cerrejon Should Respect the Rights of its Workers

Declaration by Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
January 14, 2010
            In a letter addressed to Jairo Quiroz, President of Sintracarbon, the directors of El Cerrejon attack the union for articles published in the newspaper The Miner, in which the workers denounce the violations of the company.  The transnational carbon company, owned by AngloAmerican, BHP Billiton and Xstrata – subsidiary of the Swiss Glencore – has contracted more than 5,000 workers through 300 contracting companies and has prevented all of them from forming unions, with the sole purpose of decreasing their salaries and increasing the company’s exorbitant gains.
            Sintracarbon has attracted attention for its persistent and praiseworthy defense of the human rights of the direct and indirect employees of El Cerrejon, and the communities affected by the mineral exploitation.  The union has carried out activities within its constitutional and legal rights, and its civil and patriotic vocation is recognized nationally and internationally.
            I give the workers of the transnational company my full support in standing against the accusations made by the company against the union and its President.  I plead for the workers to be successful in harmonizing labor relations through dialogue and mutual respect.
            The threats made against Yoe Arregoces, representative of the Roche Community, for his role in the negotiations with El Cerrejon regarding the process of involuntary reassignment caused by the expansion of the mine, are deplorable. I ask the negotiators of the national government and the regional authorities to provide democratic guarantees and respect the economic rights, traditional cultures and chosen forms of organization of its workers.
            The exploitation of carbon should not occur solely to satisfy the interests of the multinational companies, much less if it brings with it violent practices and authoritarian manifestations. The natural resources of Colombia should serve principally for the development of the nation and for the betterment of the quality of life for the residents of La Guajira.

Drummond Continues Violating the Human Rights of its Workers

The Press Office of Senator Jorge Enrique
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)

Robledo, Bogotá
January 14, 2010

On the 29th of December, the transnational company Drummond Ltd. Colombia fired Stevenson Avila, Juan Aguas and Libardo Ledesma, directors of three sectors of Sintraminergetica, the carbon workers union.  Including these tree, five directors have now been fired along with two base workers.
         Sintraminergetica denounced the actions of the corporation as retaliation against a peaceful protest organized by the union in March of 2009 with the goal of demanding clear industrial security measures from Drummond.  The protest took place after the death of Dagoberto Clavigo in a work accident.
         Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo rejected the recent measures taken by Drummond and expressed his total support for Sintraminergetica.  He stated that the protest in March was justified, given that the transnational company is not fulfilling its obligation of protecting the health and lives of its workers. “There are more than 255 workers with disabilities caused by work-related illnesses and work accidents, and in the last few years, three operators have died.  The situation is made even more grave because the Administration of Professional Risks does not recognize the work-related origin of the illnesses, and is therefore not paying for 100% of the disabilities,” explained Congress member Polo.
         Robledo made a new call to the directors of Drummon asking them to put an end to the firings and asked the national authorities to take the necessary measures to protect the rights of the carbon workers.

Human Rights Organizations Respond to The Wall Street Journal

Written by Marcelo Virkel
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
An article written by Mary Anastasia O’Grady and published by The Wall Street Journal last December has generated a forceful response from Community and Human Rights Organizations.  The article reproduces the accusations against the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in Colombia poured out by Daniel Sierra Martinez (alias “Samir”), an ex-commander guerrilla who was demobilized in 2008.
            According to O’Grady, Sierra Martinez stated during an interview, “The Peace Community was a refuge for wounded or ill rebels and for storing medicine.”  He continued to say, “the community aided the FARC in their efforts to label the Colombian military men as human rights violators.”  O’Grady apparently accepts these assertions as fact and even suggests that Peace Brigades International (PBI), Amnesty International and the local Peace and Justice organization facilitated activities which supported the guerrillas in the area.  
In a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, the director of Peace and Justice, Father Javier Giraldo Moreno, stated that those accusations are part of a defamatory campaign headed by the government and the military men.  He added that the supposed ties between the Peace Community and the guerrillas is only a way for the Colombian Army to try to justify the crimes they have committed in the region.
            Peace Brigades International rejects “the affirmation that the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado collaborates with the guerrilla organization known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).”  The international organization emphasizes in their declaration that many national and international courts have recognized on various occasions not only the legality and legitimacy of the community, but also the need to protect its members.
             Colombia Support Network also made a public statement regarding the article.  According to this CSN, “O’Grady presented a description of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in which false information and allusions to suspected acts that have no base in reality abounded.”  CSN’s response also points out, “More than 30 residents of the Peace Community have been assassinated since 1997 because the Community does not permit armed forces within the community limits and does not support any armed group.”
            In her article published by Upside Down World on the 29th of December entitled “Mary O’Grady Incites Violence in a Peace Community in Colombia,” Belen Fernandez describes the piece in The Wall Street Journal as an “ad honorem public relations initiative in the name of the Latin American right.”  Moreover, Fernandez asserts that Sierra Martinez “is now a fundamental accomplice of the Colombian government in its efforts to show that the farmers are terrorists.”
            The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado was founded in 1997 in the department of Antioquia, in Northeast Colombia, as a nonviolent and civil resistance to the internal armed conflict with a goal of preventing forced displacement.  Peace Brigades International (PBI) has given fiscal and political aid to the Peace Community since its conception.  Nevertheless, in its nearly twelve years of existence, more than 280 members of the community have been assassinated.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Right conquers the La Moneda Palace with Sebastian Pinera

Mario Amoros
(Translated by Emily Hansen)
The multimillionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera, candidate of the conservative Coalition for Change, became Chile’s President Elect after defeating Eduardo Frei, candidate of the Agreement of Parties for the Democracy, by gaining 51.61% of the votes against Frei’s 48.38% of the votes in the recent election.
            On the 11th of March President Michelle Bachelet will pass the presidential flag to Pinera, a multimillionaire businessman and intimate friend of Jose Maria Aznar, who he visited in Chile in September.  The recent election has been called “momentuous” due to the fact that a right-wing President was elected while the majority of the countries in South America have progressive or revolutionary governments. Pinera is also an admirer of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who he paid homage to in July of 2008 and of whose political genocide in the name of “democratic security” he is an admirer.  Writer Mario Vargas Llosa was also in Pinera’s company during the last few days of the campaign.
            Pinera’s victory signifies an enormous backwards step in a country that has not completed its transition.  With Pinera in La Moneda, the Constitution of 1980 (ratified by Pinochet) will remain valid and will not be reformed; the workers’ movement will continue suffering under the Pinochet Labor Code (ratified in 1980 by the Ministry of Labor, Jose Pinera, brother of the President Elect) - the Labor Code makes the right to strike very difficult, and impedes the negotiations of collective agreements; almost 800 oppressors of the dictatorship who were condemned will received guarantees of impunity; the public copper business (Codelco) will probably become privatized, at least partly; the one million Chileans living abroad will lose their right to vote; the binominal electoral law will not be reformed; the indigenous towns will continue to be massacred in Araucania (a region where it has been confirmed that yesterday Pinera won 57.51% of the votes); and, the major capitals will be able to continue accumulating wealth in one of the countries in the world where the gap between social classes is most accentuated.
            Among the unknowns that will come with the new political scene is the future of the Agreement, a coalition that brings together demochristians, socialists, liberals, and radicals. In his concession speech, Frei and other directors suggested last night that the coalition that has run the country since 1990 will stay unified. However, this coalition has been united in the last decade by the interest of preserving the power, and the first problem that has arisen was that deputy Marco Enriquez-Ominami left the ranks of the Socialist Party on the 13th of December and obtained 20% of the votes. The weariness in the Agreement, in the same faces that had dominated the political scene during the last twenty years, comes more from the fact that the right has the economic and political memory of dictator Pinochet to thank for their success, and that everyone seems to have forgotten the grave human rights violations.
            With this new political scene comes an even greater sense of responsibility for the forces of the left, the popular Chilean movement, weather they voted for Frei or not.  Face with four years of conservative government rule that will probably use the Pinochet Democratic Independent Union (UDI) party as their main expression on the 11th of March, the necessity of a convergence of all the political and social forces that defend an alternative to neoliberalism, is more necessary than ever.

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Seven military men are condemned for false positives in La Guajira

(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
In the midst of the controversy generated by the freeing of 29 military men involved in the murder of eleven people in Soacha, justice has been brought against two officials, one sub-official and four soldiers for the assassination of four civilians in San Juan del Cesar.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
           Since the discovery of the deaths of eleven youths in Soacha at the hands of military men of the 30th Brigade in North Santander ignited the false positives scandal in 2008, similar cases began appearing throughout the country in which supposed military men, especially in the army, were involved in the deaths of civilians who were dressed up to look like opponents that were killed in combat.
            Even as the country, especially the families of the victims of Soacha, hoped that justice would be brought against the defendants, a verdict was handed down liberating 29 military men due to legal technicalities.  The worst part is that the Defense argued that 18 additional military men accused of the same crime should be set free as well for the same reasons.
            However, some district attorneys and judges have demonstrated that justice can be brought against false positive perpetrators.   The proof is the decision that was just handed down by Judge Promiscuo of the San Juan del Cesar circuit in Guajira.  In this judgment Judge Promiscuo condemned seven military men to 24 years in prison.  The military men were part of the Narino Battalion of Barranquilla. The District Attorney accused them of aggravated homicide, forced displacement and false statements in public documents.
            The cases that one specialist district attorney investigated occurred on the 2nd of April, 2006 in the Guamachal area, where the bodies of Douglas Alberto Tavera Diaz, Dannis Diaz Sarmiento and others who could not be identified were found.  The military men claimed that the victims died in combat.
            The victims disappeared on March 28th of the same year.  They were last seen near the Universal Cemetery of Barranquilla by two people who offered them jobs working on the cotton farms in Valledupar. Inexplicably, they turned up dead five days later.
            The military men accused of the crime are Second Lieutenants of the Army Yamit Diaz Tovar and Wilmer Acosta Vela; the Sub-official is Orley Gutierrez Cabrera; and the professional soldiers are Wilmer Rafael Ramos Cantillo, Jonathan Martinez Ospino, Pedro Manuel Contreras Ricardo and Gilberto Carlos Rosado Rosado.  Initially they were all condemned to 40 years in prison, but after having accepted the anticipated sentence, they received a reduction in the sentence.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

US Places New Restrictions on Foreign Aid to Colombia

El Tiempo
January 12, 2010
U.S. places new restrictions on foreign aid to Colombia in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism.

(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
According to Congress’s new demands established in the aid package at the end of last year, the State Department must now verify that Human Rights defenders, including, but not limited to, journalists, unionists and politicians of the opposition, are being respected before Colombia can receive its annual US foreign aid allotment.
         Congress included this new measure when it approved the budget law for foreign operations in 2010. Colombia is set to receive $530 million dollars in foreign aid from the US in 2010.
         Like all years since the start of Plan Colombia in 2000, Congress included their “conditions package” in which it asks the State Department to certify, before handing over a percentage of the funds (30%), that the country is complying with various regulations, such as stopping and bringing to justice in civil courts military personnel accused of human rights violations, implicated in extrajudicial executions or by paramilitary ties.
But now, they must also verify that no human rights abuses have been incurred by the groups of people mentioned above.
“The new condition is extraordinary because for the first time a link has been established between US aid to Colombia and the protection of human rights activists. Congress sent a clear message…that more should be done to protect human rights in Colombia,” stated correspondent Andrew Hudson of Human Rights First – an NGO that has spent many years working for this change.
Sergio Gómez Maseri, El Tiempo Correspondent

EU Commerce Accord with Colombia subject to "in depth" Human Rights debates

The future EU Commerce Commissioner states that an accord with Colombia cannot be finalized without an “in depth” debate regarding Human Rights

BRUSSELS January 12, 2010 (Europa Press)
         Future Commerce Commissioner Karel de Gucht of Belgium asserted today that the commerce accord that the European Union is working on with Colombia will not come to fruition until the “in depth” debate with this Central American country regarding Human Rights has been resolved.
         In the examination that De Gucht underwent by the European Parliament this Tuesday to evaluate his appointment, De Gucht stated that he is confident that a commerce accord with Colombia and Peru could be reached this semester.
         De Gucht announced that next week a communal delegation will participate in a “technical” reunion in Lima to continue the efforts of bringing this accord to resolution.  According to De Gucht, this new round of debates “will not have political character,” but rather will only take place at the technical level. De Gucht warned that a conclusion might not be reached during this conference due to “many remaining open issues.”
         Brussels began “multipart” negotiations in 2009 with Peru and Colombia after stating the difficulties of carrying out conversations “piece by piece” with the four countries that comprise the Community of Andean Nations.
         De Gucht reiterated that when the technical debates end, “it will not signify the finality of the accord.”  Rather, the outcome of the accord, in the case of Colombia, will be dependent upon an “in depth” debate regarding Human Rights. The Spanish President of the EU mentioned that this accord could be finalized at the EU-Latin American summit that will take place this May in Madrid.

Translated by Emily Hansen – CSN’s Program Assistant

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

International Capital Eyes Indigenous Lands

International Capital Eyes Indigenous Lands
Edition 46      Nov. 2009
By Olimpo Cardenas Delgado     

( Translated by Rich Henighan, a CSN volunteer translator)
Periferia interviewed Pancha, a lawyer and indigenous woman who defends the interests of the Canamono and Lomaprieta Reserves, to learn about the situation. She tells us that the government has wanted to bypass “preliminary consultation”, but the indigenous peoples hold to a clear position: in their territory no project can move ahead without the agreement of the community.
Periferia: What do “Preliminary Consultations” with indigenous communities involve?
Pancha:  It is more complicated than the government’s version under decree #1320. They call together the community to advise them about the projects which businesses or the State plan to carry out on indigenous lands, and with that they believe they have completed the “preliminary consultation”. But if we are talking about Caldas, then there doesn’t even exist a protocol of how to carry out the “preliminary consultation”. Because of this, we have had to investigate the subject and it is our position that the consultation must be a social process, with debate and consent from the communities, above all, pertaining to our own plan for our territories. There must be discussion and understanding of the project, with analysis of the various factors that might arise, the possibilities that could be realized. In this case, we are participating in the meetings organized by Hector Jaime, our governor, who is indigenous, with the gentlemen who want to construct a hydroelectric project. These conversations have been going on for two years, exploring possibilities and looking for the greatest guarantee for the indigenous communities affected by the construction of that hydro project.

Periferia: What business are we speaking of?
Pancha: That’s where things get complicated. At first, the person seeking permission to construct the hydro project over the Supia River was a Mr. Ever de Jesus Zuluaga, who lives in a little locale called  El Danubio, here on The Reserve. He lives in the Brasil community, but he has always worked with Empressas Publicas of Medellin (EPM); I believe he has since retired. It was he who requested the concession from the Caldas Council and spoke with our governor expressing his interest. In April, 2009 the Governor called us to join him on a verification visit to the area where the work on the hydro-project would begin. But on April 21 we find out that on April 15 the work had already begun, they had opened a ditch for about a kilometer and a half.   
What the Governor did was to order that the 12 workers, who unfortunately were from the same community, withdraw. That was August 3. Then we realized there was a business interest behind it all, which was having meetings with the people and had obtained acquisition papers for some property, and easement rights in notarized forms, and this involved property that was under the municipal council. These easements were bought at prices the community thought very good, very advantageous, because they were located in steep areas where the community planted nothing.  This was all done without consulting us and took advantage of the poverty of the community because, among other things, this area of Brasil is an area of 100% wood panel production. Thanks to ex-minister “Uribito” the people now are unable to produce wood panels because the rules of decree #0779 require very large investments for wood panel production.

Periferia: But aren’t there restrictions on how a community disposes of a piece of property which is part of the commons?
Pancha: That is a general issue for indigenous communities in the entire country. Canamomo is a reserve of colonial origin and as such there is a royal grant from the Spanish Crown which spoke of the borders of our ancestral territory. Legislation now overrides these titles, but at the same time our struggles and resistance to obtain legal recognition of our territory carries on. Through this struggle the four Riosucio reserves there were recognized, more or less in 2002. However, from the colonial epoch until our days, many things have taken place regarding our lands; for example, the Office of Public Documents has registered deeds within the reserves. Some lawyers who defend the interests of the indigenous received land in payment for their work, getting deeds which give property rights. These generate false individual deeds for collectively owned titles.

Periferia: Is the planter Ever de Jesus speaking for himself or representing a business?
Pancha: He requests permission as an individual to construct a Hydro project taking advantage of a Resolution of the Caldas Council which, as environmental authority, grants permits regarding the use of water for community water systems and fish hatcheries. Mr. Ever de Jesus obtained a permit which allows him to build a hydro project along a watercourse, without a dam, what is called clean production. But after our August 3 actions, making the workers leave the work zone, a lawyer, Hugo Zuluaga, visited us and presented himself as the legal representative of Generamos Energia, S.A., (“We Generate Energy”) the business that is really behind this project. The lawyer advised us that the project was being carried out by a business, set up for this purpose, called Hidro Supia, S.A., which belongs to the officials of Generamos Energia and to Jesus Zuluaga ( the planter) and his wife, who will be shareholders of Hidro Supia.

In this way Ever de Jesus delivers the concession as a partner of Hidro Supia to Generamus Energia S.A. ESP, which is from Rionegro, Antioquia, undertaking in Eastern Antioquia the production of energy. They excused themselves for what had happened and promised to send us the Environmental Management Plan and to finish the process of the Preliminary Consultation.  Later, on August 6, another partner of Generamos Energia, Mr. Leon Dario Orozco, visited us. Mr. Orozco, who also claimed to be a City Councilor of Rionegro was accompanied by an official, Oscar Alvarez, the coordinator for Cornare (“Regional Autonomous Corporation of the Valleys of the Rionegro and the Nare”). We do not know what Cornare is doing here, if Cornare is for Antioquia. They were coming from Manizales to talk with the Caldas Council and they said that they also wanted to excuse themselves for their ignorance of indigenous matters. They brought us some business documents and we realized  that Generamos Energia was made up of other firms like Taborda Velez’s Company,  and the one of Taborda Maya, and Prosil, which is a firm of engineers, and another transport business. Those documents revealed the strategy that these businesses were using to insure the acquisition of the concessions.

Periferia: What did you do when you discovered this complicated plot?
Pancha: We looked for what led up to this whole affair. In the month of November 2008 there arrived at our defense office a decree summoning us to a Preliminary Consultation scheduled for December 15 in Supia. I attended as a delegate and no one else came. The Governor, for his part, had decided that they would not present themselves. On the basis of this decree of the Caldas Council we began to investigate the whole matter. What did we find out? That in the year 2006, Generadora Columbiana de Electricidad-- notice this is not Generamos—had been the first to request a concession in San Pablo Community to build a Hydro Project. The Caldas Officials granted the permission, but from 2006 to 2008 no work started, and the Officials withdrew the concession.

But when they gave us the invitation to the Preliminary Consultation of December 15, 2008 it involved Generadora Columbiana de Energia and Ever Zuluaga only.  The Calcas Council, acting out of order, cited in the same decree four communities. Recall that Ever Zuluanga only had sought permission for one, namely Brasil. We continued to investigate and on the web site of Caldas Council we found a certain Ruben Levi who had asked permission to construct Hydro Projects over the Rivers Supia and Riosucio in the Community of Dos Quebradas. That’s why the Caldas Council, in an irregular and underhanded way, invited four Communities to a single Preliminary Consultation to outline the matter once only. There are two irregularities: to grant the concession to Ever Zuluaga when Generadora Columbiana still had the concession, and the resolution gave no mention at all of the Indigenous Communities. Moreover, we realized that the businesses that made up Generamos Energia, which appear with Ever Zuluaga, not only undertake energy production, but  Taborda Maya and Taborda Velez even can acquire lands for the production of crops like African Palm, rubber trees and ultimately, large areas of monoculture.

Periferia: What then are the true intentions of these businesses?
Pancha: In the dialogues with Mr. Leon Dario and the lawyer for Generamos Energia they told us that it is a business which scarcely is surviving, that its capital is small, that they are looking for loans, that their undertaking is altruistic, that they help children, subsidizing open heart surgeries and repair of cleft lips, etc. Nevertheless when our Governor proposes low taxes on them for our community they say that it is impossible. But of course, as a favor, they offer our communities work of the lowest sort, maintenance and security guards, without dignity, or stability.  
We continued investigating and we realized that they are participating with their project of clean energy generation with the United Nations, which consists in taking advantage of a Kyoto protocol in order to charge for the absorption of CO2 (Carbon Gas) , since one of their economic interests is the sale of environmental services. In addition, this business permits them to receive subsidies that the Government is giving for the generation of electricity, for which, to access IMF and IDB credits, they have minimal requirements such as the project be located near a major roadway—the main trunk road is there—and near an electrical energy station in order to transmit the electricity—the Subia Station is there.  All this goes to say that it is all fitting together. They are creating the basis for large megaprojects like the dry port at La Felisa. Tying up the loose ends, the thing is not so small.  
Periferia: What are you referring to when you say “the thing is not so small” ?
Pancha: Taborda Velez and his wife founded the business many years ago; Tabora Maya is their son. They are a very rich family which together with Prosil created Generamos Energia. Add on all the lies that those people spoke from the beginning, Ever Zuliga’s lie, the Hydro Supia lie, the lies of the subsidies and loans of the UN and the IMF, etc. Their lack of clarity, the hiding of information, the pressure to move up the Preliminary Consultation, all that is suspicious.  If we tie it all together, it’s all about the macro project of the “dry port” at Felisa, a tax-free zone that is next to the epicenter where these hydroelectric projects, which we have been talking about, will be carried out      
Pancha: Now, let’s add that Anglo Gold Ashanti, the largest transnational mining company, has requested permits to explore for gold in the region and recently did some helicopter over flights using super modern technology, is prospecting and geo-referencing the distribution of minerals over the whole zone made up of Marmato, Supia, Riosocio, and Quinchia in Risaralda. Let us clarify that now in that zone large mineral businesses such as Rubials, which is in the Eastern Plains and also exploits petroleum, have created disasters and harmed the communities. It arrived here under the name Medoro and is the one that is behind all this wealth. It also involves IRSA, known here as the Archimedes Project, which claims to be connecting Quibdo with Medellin through this zone, having linked a coal-bearing district that runs from Marmato to Quincha, etc., etc.. Additionally, in that zone the soils are reserved for future agro-industrial plantations and eco-tourism. A complete package of megaprojects.

Perferia: What actions have you been able to stimulate against this entire framework?
Pancha: In this, we have supported each other in the early warning system of the “People’s Defense”  and Yesid Beltran advised us. Because of his study, investigation, and denunciations, he received death threats and they forced him to move away.  He used to have a very clear presentation in which there was a model of this whole project and in it, on a side of a tourist lake, the stall that they would give to the indigenous people so they might busy themselves selling sweets. Now it is very clear that the hydro projects are to provide energy to this entire giant regional project. It is why the coverage area for the electricity is almost 100% in the zone, which of course raises the price, but we see that there is no intention to lower it.

In Canamoro, which has been heavily impacted politically, but which has had more understanding of its problems, little by little, the process of using the judicial part in Decree #004 has been made a part of the whole community. This decree was issued by the Constitutional Court ordering the National Government to create plans that safeguard the thirty-four indigenous peoples facing extinction. After our analyzing the topic of the “Preliminary Consultation” we considered it to be a mechanism which opens the door to the multinationals, a double-edged sword. Overall, a way to protect our territories is to require, to struggle that the “Preliminary Consult” be held with the thirty-seven communities and the 22,000 persons that make up the Reserve, basing it on the oldest rights and not on Decree # 1320. Also, we have reunited with all the indigenous communities at the national level to confront together this matter of the expropriation of our territories and the extinction of our culture because international capital has its eyes on our wealth and our lives.

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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