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Interview with Senator Piedad Cordoba
(Translated by Susan Tritten, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Opposed to the Short-sighted Self-interest of Many Countries
A Negotiated Political Solution Is Necessary to End the Conflict
To Reduce the Risk of Regional Conflict
In Colombia a significant internal conflict brings tragic humanitarian consequences. There is no military solution; a politically negotiated solution is essential. This is the principal thesis of the liberal Senator Piedad Cordoba, 55, a key mediator in freeing prisoners from the guerrillas and one of the major critics of Alvaro Uribe Velez during his last eight years in power.
A few weeks before the coming presidential elections of May thirtieth, Cordoba , who is making a Tour for Peace through a half-dozen European countries, analyzes the harsh reality of the internal Colombian conflict. She advocates immediate political action by her government as well as by the international community to reverse the profound humanitarian crisis which affects the South American country.
Q: In this second week of April, you have just begin a European tour which you had postponed for some time. What is the purpose of your trip?
A: The international community needs to recognize that there is a serious armed conflict in Colombia. We are concerned about the short-sighted self-interest of many countries who are motivated by their economic interests and those of their transnational companies and are blind to the reality of life in my country. In this sense, we are here once again to speak of the grave humanitarian crisis that we confront today. And to emphasize the necessity of a politically negotiated solution for Colombia. We also want to share information about the work that we are doing with Colombians for Peace, promoting humanitarian exchanges, and to establish committees in each country. And to launch the project Europeans for Peace in Colombia. We also want to introduce our initiative, begun with the cooperation of the former President Ernesto Samper, of the Coordinating Committee for Humanitarian Exchange. In short, we want to encourage the international community to act in support of negotiations in my country. Right at the moment when Uribe is closing the door on exchanges.
Q: But government officials reiterate their willingness to negotiate. . .
A: That's just rhetoric. It doesn't correspond to any real action. For example, the FARC has been proposing an arrangement for a prisoner exchange for two years. That the last unilateral release, at the end of March, was delayed almost a year is mainly the government's fault. They're putting their money on a military solution.
"The Democratic Security Doctrine"
Q: You refer to the democratic security concept that President Uribe has promoted all during his administration. And that he assures us has brought about evident successes.
A: As an example of their great success, the government points to Operation Jaque (NDR: Ingrid Betancourt's release in July of 2008), and the military operation that included the invasion of Ecuador (NDR: in March of 2008)and that killed Raul Reyes, the head of FARC. But if we compare these examples with almost five million displaced persons in Colombia or with five thousand "false positive" cases - innocent civilians assassinated and then falsely identified as guerillas killed in combat - , or the two hundred thousand disappeared in the last decade (reported by the last public prosecutor), we come to the conclusion that democratic security is a complete and utter failure. Not to speak of the ten percent of the national budget that goes to the military.
Q: If we weigh the results - more negative than positive?
A: Aribe's promotion of a preemptive war policy (which originated in the United States) seemed impressive and convincing at first. But behind this policy there was nothing but the strategy of territorial control - benefitting the big military and economic interests. That strategy permitted the government to condemn as terrorists anyone who didn't support it. I am even accused of being a terrorist in my own country. I have never taken up arms. I have never been a member of any armed organization and I do belong to a legal political party. We could speak of effects of this humanitarian crisis that the official strategy has produced: the discovery of two thousand people buried in a mass grave in Macarena. . . Another sensitive topic that the international community is hardly aware of is the situation in the prisons: tortures, illegal detention... Not to speak of revelations by paramilitary leaders of crematory ovens where they disposed of the bodies of political adversaries. In addition if you want to weigh the results, you have to keep in mind the current social situation.
Q: What do you mean by the current social situation?
A: Uribe Velez leaves eighteen million poor, eight million destitute and an official unemployment rate of 16%. None of this could be considered a positive result of the democratic security policy.
No More Unilateral Action
Q: The last unilateral prisoner release at the end of March by the FARC - does that give you hope for some more significant humanitarian exchange before the end of Uribe's term in August?
A: It's hard to say. The exchange is a very important aspect of a war. And we agree on the principal that the freed guerrillas will not rejoin the rebel forces. In addition, there are still details to be worked out with the FARC as well as with the Colombian people. What is certain is that neither the FARC, nor we, as mediators, are going to work on new proposals for a unilateral exchange. It would be much better if we could make progress on this important issue before Uribe finishes his term. To leave it until after the election, considering that the candidates don't even want to touch that topic, would be to shelve the whole business.
Repeat the Legislative Elections
Q: Since we're talking about elections. . . How do you see the March legislative elections in which you were re-elected as a national senator?
A: There were so many irregularities, corruption, vote buying. . . that although I myself was easily reelected, much to my surprise, considering the government's personal attacks against me during the campaign, I would like to do the elections over. We hadn't seen such a fraudulent election in years in Colombia. One basic human right was violated: to elect and be elected.
Q: What do you foresee in the presidential elections of May 30?
A: I don't see any big changes. Especially when the candidate with the best chance of winning, according to the polls, is the former minister of defense of the current government, the one responsible for false positives and for so many serious human rights violations. If this trend continues, the failed policy of democratic security will widen.
International Solidarity, No Charity
Q: I would like to finish where we began. . . What concrete measures do you expect from the international community?
A: No charity. Just support in the search for negotiated solutions. Commitment, responsibility, solidarity with a country experiencing a bloody war. Please understand that Colombia is turning into a spearhead to destabilize other countries in the region and through negotiated solutions we can avoid sinking into a regional conflict. And three essential points in summary: commitment to an end to the humanitarian crisis in which we live; understanding that the paramilitary is always a force; that extra-judicial assassinations must end and the persecution of human rights defenders and social, community and student leaders must also end. Finally, monitoring of and hands-on social assistance for political,community and social prisoners.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
Phone: (608) 257-8753
Fax: (608) 255-6621
NEW AGGRESSIONS AND PERSECUTIONS
( Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó once again wishes to make a record, before the county and the world, of the latest aggressions with which agents of the Colombian government have victimized us:
-Beginning April 12, 2010, by means of local radio stations, members of our Peace Community have been notified that they are to present themselves at the headquarters of the Army's 17th Brigade to give testimony. The Community considers that those who have perpetrated so many hundreds of crimes against the members of our Community and against the farming population in our area have no right to set themselves up as "investigators". This constitutes an insult to the most elementary and universal standards of justice, since a criminal institution can never investigate itself.
-On April 12 and 13, 2010, paramilitaries wearing camouflage and carrying rifles sent a message to the members of the Peace Community, announcing that they intend to exterminate the community and that the list of victims has been ready for a long while and they will begin the executions sooner or later.
-On April 13, 2010, around 7:00 a.m., seven men dressed in camouflage and carrying rifles entered several homes in the town of Miramar. The armed men said they were "self-defense forces" and they said they were carrying out searches in the different towns.
-On April 14, 2010, around 6:00 p.m., a soldier told a member of the Internal Council of our Community that the military had a list of 60 local people to be arrested, among them several members of our community. In that way, he said, they would "do away with that sonofabitching community".
-On April 19, 2010, around 8:30 a.m., members of the Army again threatened the members of our community in the settlement of La Resbalosa, claiming that they were going to finish off the community and everybody in it. The members of the community requested that they respect the decision of the Inter-American Court and of the Constitutional Court, but the soldiers answered that they are above all of that, that they don't have to obey any decision of those courts. In the same way, Colonel Rojas, the Commander of the Voltígeros Battalion stationed in this area, has made clear to international organizations that he will not respect the measures ordered by the Court and by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. He says that he works with alias "Zamir", the FARC deserter who has spread numerous false and defamatory statements against our Community, and with Wilfer Higuita, an admitted paramilitary in the service of the Army, who has announced beforehand the most recent extrajudicial executions carried out in the area.
-On April 15, 2010, at 7:30 a.m., a car was parked next to the house where the family of Eduar Lanchero lives. One of the occupants of the car, along with another man who arrived at the same time on a bicycle, broke the lock and forced their way into the house, which was empty at the time. They stayed inside a half an hour and turned everything upside down in the place where books and papers were kept, but took absolutely nothing with them.
-Beginning April 22, 2010, graffiti attacking Father Javier Giraldo and various human rights organizations have appeared in several places in Bogotá, threatening death and calling them guerrillas.
These events evidence the persecution that is being carried out against our system. It simply does not cease. To all of this, we have to add the ineffectual attitude of the Public Defender's Office. Our local Public Defender office was eliminated several years ago and the Public Defender has not paid any attention to the order of the Constitutional Court in its Decision # T 1025/07, acting in contempt of the Court. In the same manner, the Army has brazenly manifested its contempt for national and international law and for the institutions that protect human rights. There is no name for their shamelessness. Meanwhile, the connections between the military and the paramilitaries, of which our community has complained for years and always denied by the Government and by the Army, continue to come to light while justice agencies keep silent and look the other way.
This deadly system that has scourged us for so many years is continuing its efforts to destroy us, using, as always, the most vicious methods. They believe that by these actions they can annihilate our alternative system, one that is based on conscience, on liberty, on choosing life and choosing a peace that comes from respect for each other and for human dignity.
Their efforts to destroy us do not cease and they cover up the actions with speeches that distort reality. A government that claims that it has taken every measure to protect us and that has made progress in the fight against impunity is distorting reality with falsehood. They are trying to cover up their utterly perverse actions that are coming to light from day to day, but they are always trying to hide what they are doing in order to obstruct justice.
Nevertheless, we who are victims have a memory that is more active and lively than ever, because we are not relying on a past that is dead and buried. We are working for the victims and for their dignity, for their past which will always be alive and present, and for their stories, which are now much more real and alive than ever. That is why we cannot remain silent in the face of the terrorist actions that continue to be carried out, in the face of the continuous threats and intimidation. To do that would be to believe in the logic of the oppressors and to justify it, to rely on their method of extermination and exclusion. That is why we are continuing day to day, believing in our principles and in the daily necessity to keep our desire for truth and justice alive. That makes possible a world that is different, a world we call reparation.
Once again we request the people who live every day with growing awareness not to give up their search for a different world, their solidarity. We know that that solidarity is what permits the survival of places and communities that are different from those systems that are built on killing, on crime, and on impunity.
PEACE COMMUNITY OF SAN JOSÉ DE APARTADÓ
APRIL 23, 2010 ort.net
Urgent: Declaration of Buenaventura
(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
From the Semillas Group:
Dear Friends, we are sending you a statement from the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific organizations, which emerged in the meetings of Mesa Manglar that the Jenzera Work Collective sponsored in conjunction with the PCN and the base groups of Indians and Afro-Colombians. This statement is a result of the devastation that the Pacific territories are suffering from the overwhelming advancment of mining interests into the rivers of the Pacific, with the consent of official agencies.
We request that it be circulated,
Statement of Buenaventura
My Pacific, they are selling you,
we are destroying you, which is worse,
To the curse that breaks,
With you, my heart!
The Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples of the Pacific region and its base organizations, declare a social emergency of our communities, caused by the ecocide being carried out against our jungles, rivers, and mangrove swamps. This destruction of biological diversity contributes to the extinction of many species of animals and plants, ripping us from our ancestral territories and placing our communities on the edge of ethnocide.
We cannot close our eyes to or remain silent about the gravity of what is occurring in our territories. Nor can we hide the fear that overpowers us when we see advancing the destruction of the jungles that have offered us refuge and that give us life, joy, and freedom. We fear losing what we blacks and indigenous peoples have built during so many years of peaceful co-existence between our peoples, respecting the laws that nature gives us. We have linked our lives to nature, and depended on its laws for our wellbeing and the future of the present and future generations of our peoples.
While we discuss the dignified permanence of our communities in the region, planning our development and ordering our operational practices in accordance with environmental resources, other economic and egotistical interests have arrived which overwhelm our forces, ruin our cultures, wound to death the land, and tear apart the organizations of ancestral peoples, the true owners of the Colombian Pacific.
We believe that the territory of the Pacific region is similar to the human body. It has life. Should any of its parts be damaged, it affects the entire organism. The mistreatment of one of its river mouths damages the entire territory. This is what our ancestors believed and we continue to teach our children that wise precept, because that is where the key to our survival lies, and from that derives the solidarity and mutual aid that we should continue practicing between the rivers.
Today we find ourselves debating the defense of the mangrove swamp, a space of life unique on this planet and crucial to the lives of many of its inhabitants. We find ourselves at a crossroads. Either we defend the mangrove swamps, and the thousands of species that live there, or our lives will be wiped out, but also the lives of the indigenous and black children who have yet to be born and who deserve to live in these vital ecosystems. The mangrove swamp is so important for the lives of humankind, many species, and the planet, that we propose that the damage to this ecosystem be categorized as a crime against humanity.
With the Social Emergency that we declare today, we are calling upon all our brothers and sisters of the Colombian Pacific, black and indigenous organizations, friends of biological and cultural diversity, scientists, scholars, and lovers of this rich and fertile region. In sum, we call upon all those who value diversity, to respond to the serious violations occurring in all these territories, especially those that are the private collective property of the indigenous and black peoples:
1. Gold Mining. The exploitation of gold is out of control in Zaragoza (Dagua River), leading to irreversible damage to the environment and ecosystems downriver and highly prejudicial to the black and indigenous communities of the Middle and Lower Dagua. There, almost 300 excavating machines work day and night, churning up the river bed and changing the course of the river. This situation has been tolerated, and even permitted, by local, regional, and national governments. The dead, wounded, prostitution, alcoholism, higher price of life, and arrival of new and "legalized" businesses have caused uncertainty and fear in the region. This mining extends like a cancer to other Pacific rivers. A dredging machine for great depths works in the mouth of the Mallorquín. In the Anchicayá River (San Marcos) there are also several excavating machines working.
With great concern, we see the maps of applications and titles that INGEOMINAS and the Ministry of Mines are granting in the Colombian Pacific. This ignores the agreements that the Colombian government has committed to with international agencies and seriously weakens the rights of the communities, since it destroys ecosystems vital for feeding the communities. As the environmental authorities of our lands, we only allow traditional mining, barequeo, ancestrally practiced by the communities, as one secondary form of income.
2. The spraying of pesticides that equally affects the cultivation of coca leaves and of all cultivation. These fumigations do not succeed in controlling the production of cocaine paste, but they do contaminate soil and water, and destroy the genetic basis of our crops and of biodiversity. Worse still, they violate rights to nutrition, health, and a healthy environment. We know the evils that coca crops produce. They not only damage the environment, but also are embedded in violence, in order to force the native population to grow coca. The assassinations and displacements created by the production, synthesis, and trafficking of illegal drugs are a disaster for our communities and organizational processes. The social order imposed by armed groups destroys legitimate community governance. Worst of all, they rope in many young people for security activities, thus undermining community authorities. The consequent abandonment of proper practices of food production and dependence on the flow of resources from these illegal economies leads to the uprooting of the population, a situation that for ethnic-territorial peoples leads to ethnocide, to the disappearance of those ethnic characteristics that give them social cohesion.
3. The permissiveness of environmental authorities and concretely the CVC (Autonomous Regional Corporation of the Cauca Valley) when faced with these serious attacks on nature, enlarges the picture of strikes against our peoples. The aforementioned mining, the exploitation on a commercial scale of the mangrove tree, the illegal felling of milpesos palm tree and the naidí, the oil spills in Málaga Bay, and the dumping of garbage into rivers and sea, should be stopped immediately. The Attorney General and Agricultural office, and the Environmental Ministry, should also take emergency measures, acting without hesitation.
4. But if we denounce the latitude that the CVC allows in the destruction of the environment, we are also aware that those who sack and destroy the Pacific would not have it so easy and would not be able to act without reprisal if they did not have mentors in the government and collaborators and beneficiaries inside our communities who further such endeavors, aided precisely by the corporation's negligence. Lack of initiative, as we have already said, is destroying life in the planet's most productive ecosystems, the mangrove swamp, causing damage to fishing communities, especially to the women who make a living from collecting shells, crabs, and mollusks.
5. The threats being received by our leaders, for having brought to light these facts, is an indication that the capital that today controls resources comes from equally illegal activities.
6. Absence of true prior consultation about large infrastructure projects carried out behind the communities' backs, in spite of the negative impacts of these initiatives. The communities have not been informed, even less duly consulted, about the construction of Aguadulce Port, the port development in the deltas of the Anchicayá and Dagua rivers, or about the urbanization of the lower course of the Dagua river, where black and indigenous communities live.
7. The development project of expansion and modernization of the port in Buenaventura merits special mention. It is being carried out behind the backs of the people of Bajamar. These communities will be forced from their homes and moved without attention being paid to international standards and without respecting their conditions and rights, above all, without considering the dynamic of river-people, which if it were broken would affect the entire population of the rivers. We also warn that the kinds of projects, their impact, and plans for managing possible impact are not known.
8. Increasing militarization of the rivers. With the massive arrival in the Pacific of cocaine and the increasing presence of armed groups, for the government the social problematic of these areas has become a phenomenon that should be treated in military terms. Proposals for economic development take second place, with first belonging to the military solutions of the problems of cocaine and armed groups. The biggest inconvenience of this policy is that the population of the rivers where there are illegal crops come to be categorized as aiding the armed groups. In that sense we worry a great deal about armed control of the territory, with actions such as improvements to the military base in Málaga Bay and the overwhelming presence of the military in the rivers area. This contributes to the further erosion of regional institutions, which favors increased military presence and more violence by all armed groups.
9. Public policies, economic plans, and political redistricting are changing the character of the territory and modifying guarantees to access, use, and management of our collective territories, such as the reform of Decree 622 of the Parks Department and the Water Department Plan. These are governmental initiatives that not only violate our rights, but also ignore international standards that respect the rights of our peoples, such as Agreement 169 of the International Labor Organization and the Declaration of the United Nations for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Keeping in mind this situation, we declare that:
1. We are convinced that saving the Pacific from this unchecked exploitation of all its ecosystems means saving the planet.
2. We are the ancestral owners of the Colombian Pacific and our lives and history are connected to these ecosystems; therefore, we have a legitimate right to demand a halt to the destruction of our lands.
3. We point out that, as the Swedish Academy has recognized by awarding Elinor Ostrom the Nobel Prize in Economics, the best and most efficient means of preserving natural resources is when their owners manage them collectively, paying attention to the necessities for good living.
4. We have made the firm decision to work together and in solidarity among the organizations that sign this statement, assuming the principle that whatever happens to one community or one territory happens to all of us and we will act in accordance.
5. We will develop political and legal initiatives so that the damage that harms all the ecosystems of the Pacific, from which we derive our subsistence, is declared a crime against humanity. We resist being future displaced persons because of the environment.
6. We will remain alert and continue to denounce the threats against and assassinations of members of our communities who, because they dare to denounce these outrages against nature, are the target of armed groups.
7. We invite all Community Councils of the Afro-Colombian peoples and Governing Councils of all the indigenous peoples of the Pacific to join this statement and unite with us as one in this supremely important initiative to declare the Pacific a social emergency. Our lives and the future of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples are at stake.
Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Valle del Cauca, región Pacífica. ACIVA-RP.
Palenque El Congal, Buenaventura
Proceso de Comunidades Negras - PCN
Consejo Comunitario del río Yurumanguí
Consejo Comunitario del río Cajambre.
Consejo Comunitario de Llano Bajo
Asamblea de Consejos Comunitarios del Valle del Cauca.
Consejo Comunitario del río Mallorquín
Consejo Comunitario del río Raposo
Consejo Comunitario del río Anchicayá
Organización comunitaria de base Mina Vieja
Organización de Negros Unidos del río Anchicayá-ONUIRA
Consejo Comunitario de Bahía Málaga
Consejo Comunitario de La Barra
Cabildo Indígena Joaquincito, río Naya
Cabildo Indígena La Meseta
Mujeres piangüeras de Santa Cruz, San Joaquín y Puerto Merizalde – río Naya.
Colectivo de Trabajo Jenzerá
Matía Mulumba Center, Buenaventura, April 11, 2010
Megaprojects are behind the Suarez massacres
By Diego Escobar
(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Along the banks of the Oveja River in the afternoon of April 7, 2010, after having finished the cut in the Balanta artisanal mine, eight miners were massacred. The act occurred in the municipality of Suarez in an area known as the Hato Santa Marta, located in northwest Cauca. It is a region rich in precious minerals which are coveted by multinationals such as Anglogold Ashanti and Cosigo Resources. The region is a scenic paradise for Smurfit Kappa Colombian Cardboard inversions and also serves as an energy deposit for Fenosa Union. Presently, Colinversiones, the Antioquian Business Group, has attained this area for a great sum of money through a public acquisition offer.
This artisanal mining group, known as ¨barequeros¨, consists of José Yulbel Ocoro Balanta, Deiber, José Asnoldo and Wilber Fernando Mosquera, natives of the region, and Pablo Cesar, Macedonia, Henry Ibarguen Mosquera and his nephew Jeison Antonio Ibarguen Ramirez who along with Peter Gomez Sanchez arrived from Condoto, Choco and the Zaragoza mines in search of an opportunity to find gold sources and obtain dividends. All were attacked with high power firearms and a dagger. According to local accounts the assassinators, three dressed in camouflage along with other civilians, one with a coastal accent, were transported in white, double-cabin vans.
Deiber Mosquera intelligently appeared to be dead and managed to slip away as soon as the victims were removed from the sight to inform authorities of what had occurred in Suarez´s urban center. From generation to generation these eight humble miners, now finished in cold blood, had derived their income to support their families through the artisanal mine. Unfortunately the national government has sold and mortgaged territories and resources. Those who hold monetary power and ambitions have few scruples and for this reason, as seen in other parts of Colombia and the world, have committed abominable, cruel and merciless acts.
According to Deiber Mosquera, before the trigger was pulled, the victims were told that they ¨should not be in this site because the area was private property¨. They were then made to kneel and were shot in the back. These mercenaries are paid by their bosses to protect investments. This implies that, apart from the perpetrators, investigations should also be had for those holding supposed licenses to explore and exploit these lands.
In regards to the previous hypothesis two details which could irrefutably determine those responsible both intellectually and materially for this horrific crime should be kept in mind: firstly, it appears that the multinational Anglogold Ashanti holds a license to explore and exploit gold and other minerals in this area. Secondly, a tunnel, which could permit the Ovejas River to transfer into the Salvajina Reservoir, can be found in the vicinity surrounding the massacre sight. As stated in the opening paragraph, this tunnel is operated by the Spanish subordinate company´s Fenosa Union which recently acquired property previously owned by the Antioquian Business Group.
What is called to attention is how this group of assassins mobilized themselves in luxurious, openly exposed cars carrying long-range arms and executing eight people in an area whose importance for foreign capital remains guarded by two high mountain battalions who watch left and right over the margins of the walls of the Salvajina Reserve and who were a half-hour from the site when the massacre occurred. Here as well an anti-guerilla group of the National Police quarters troops in the urban center of Suarez, which also were one hour from the massacre site.
On the other hand, and in accordance to the habitants of neighboring districts, this massacre was neither an isolated nor chance event. Groups of armed people throughout various hours of the day mobilize in these types of vans. At night, driving without headlights, they search out civic leaders of the region with the alleged intention of taking their lives.
This contradicts the reckless and unfounded affirmation of 4th Regional Police Chief General Gustavo Adolfo Ricaurte who, perhaps in attempts to divert the investigation and escape a scenario of human rights violations in northwest Cauca, stated two versions before media sources both very distant from reality: in the first place there is no possibility of war or vendetta between the artisanal miners in the region, such as indicated by General Ricaurte. As has been well known by all for some time, the wealth of gold in Suarez is incalculable to the point in which extractive multinationals such as Anglogold Ashanti and Cosigo Resources have it in the spotlight. While hunger and misery are experienced daily throughout the region and artisanal mines swarm the territory high and low, disputes over location and extraction quantities have never beforehand presented themselves.
Secondly, the high official affirmed that those responsible are the 30th FARC Front. However in accordance to local versions these guerillas, along with the National Liberation Army have maintained their presence in the region but have never attacked the public in this manner. There has been only one raid, years ago, when FARC took Suarez and precisely directed social and armed conflict against security forces. It seems the light manner of General Ricaurte´s statements have pretentions to deviate the attention and the investigation from the true culprits and interests behind this massacre.
Appeal to Public Opinion
(Translated by Richard Henighan, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
From: The Senior Community Council of the Alto Atrato Peasants Popular Organization
To: The national & international community, organizations defending Human Rights, State Officials, especially those concerned with public health services, which are characterized as fundamental rights protected by the political constitution of Colombia.
Re the following:
1. That since January of this year, in the communities of San Marino, Samper and Cuchadocito, among others, all belonging to the Municipality of Bagado in the Alto Andagueda, there has somehow developed among the populations of these places massive fever, diarrhea, headache, stomach ache, loss of appetite and pallor, creating a crisis that has reached the point of claiming its first fatality, a six year old boy from San Marino.
2. That in the chief municipality of Bogado there have occurred outbreaks of malaria which greatly worry the residents of this location since it is an illness which can be fatal to those who suffer it.
3. Given the constant requests and the TV publicity about the sanitary emergency in the zone, The EPS CAPRECON, under the State’s authority, deployed a brigade of health workers to the communities on February 24. This deployment to attend to the people lasted only two days, which is totally insufficient for such a large problem, and on top of this, they did not aid all the places where there was a serious emergency, such as the community of Samper. It should be noted that this medical brigade arrived in the zone without medications; these arrived late on the second day and in amounts insufficient for the number of ill persons. All of this is plainly an unsatisfactory response to such a sanitary tragedy
We demand that the State and other public and private authorities charged with guaranteeing the Right to Health organize work projects sufficient to a satisfactory response to the health emergency that today causes suffering to our people. We demand projects that can identify the causes of the epidemic, carry out fumigations for prevention in the fight against malaria, administer appropriate medications, and accomplish the remaining preventive measures. We ask anew that CODOCHOCO, as the competent environmental authority, control mining activities moving ahead in the zone, which is certainly illegal and which continue to worry us due to the fact that the contamination of the rivers and the blockage of water flow as a result of this activity can be the cause of illnesses such as malaria, among other calamities. We insist that the State’s organs charged with such control and vigilance make sure that the above demands are complied with.
We call for the solidarity of national and international NGOs concerned with the defense of human rights in assistance in publicizing and spreading information about the problems and the violations of fundamental human rights that we denounce today.
Our organization expresses solidarity with the communities of Alto Andagueda and calls again for the effective presence of the State, through the authorities with this responsibility, in implementing programs and activities which guarantee the enjoyment of the rights to life, equality and health which our community has.
Quibdo, March 3, 2010
The Senior Community Council of Ato Atrato Cocomopoco Peasants Popular Organization
Reparations without Funds
(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Tuesday, March 13, 2010
Link to original story: http://www.semana.com/noticias-justicia/reparacion-fondos/137563.aspx
Four years after the demobilization of the “paras” [paramilitaries—SC], very little has gotten to the Fund for Reparation of the Victims. Although the ex-paramilitaries have not made an adequate commitment, victims and victimizers complain about bad management by Acción Social [the government agency responsible for disbursing domestic and international funds to government social programs and social agencies—SC]
Three Toyota pickup trucks, seven motorcycles, a truck and 28 million pesos [about $14,000 USD—SC]. This is the meager booty that the Fund for Reparation of Victims has for the 8 thousand victims certified until now of the Bloque Norte [Northern Bloc, of the paramilitaries—SC], a group that took over the drug trafficking routes, thousands of hectares of productive land, millions of pesos in municipal contracts, and that was responsible for one of the worst massacres in the history of Colombia.
Certainly the paramilitary ex-chiefs and mid-level officers have not turned over enough for reparations for their victims. But there is a clear unhappiness among the victims, the demobilized and even prosecutors because of the presumed bad management by Acción Social of the Fund for Reparation of the Victims, the state structure that collects the money and the possessions that the ex-“paras” turn over for all the victims they left.
A lawyer for victims of the Bloque Catatumbo [another para bloc—SC] told VerdadAbierta.com “Acción Social has thousands of hectares, businesses and money of the “paras” in their hands and they do nothing to speed up the reparation process.” [See all the possessions and money that the Fund for Reparations of the Victims has: http://www.accionsocial.gov.co/contenido/contenido.aspx?catID=455&conID=1667]
One of the recent episodes that show the unhappiness with Acción Social occurred with possessions that belonged to Salvatore Mancuso, ex-head of the Bloque Catatumbo and Bloque Norte. According to the minutes of the Fund for Reparation of the Victims, Mancuso, one of the main landholders of the Coast, has only turned over four farms in Santa Fe de Ralito, Córdoba, four in Tierralta, Córdoba and five in El Guamo, Bolívar
[See he account of the possessions delivered by Mancuso: San José, El Escondido, Villa Rosa, Providencia, Vizcaya, La Esperanza 2, La Esperanza 1, Mi Refugio)]
However, since May of 2007, Mancuso has wanted to turn over nine more haciendas and two businesses (Enteca del Atlántico and Sociedad Inclusol), possessions that the lawyers of the ex-“para” calculate are worth several billion pesos. But Acción Social does not want to receive them, because they say they are not appropriate for reparations for the victims. A year ago, Mancuso had complained that “Acción Social and the Fund for Reparation of the Victims have put up many obstacles to receiving these possessions; I prefer to do it coordinating the delivery through the US government.”
In the face of these problems, on March 19th, after Mancuso’s defense team entered a complaint against Acción Social for not receiving the possessions, the Superior Court of Baranquilla ordered that government body to receive all the possessions of the ex-paramiltary and ruled that Acción Social is not competent to determine whether the possessions can serve for reparations, but rather that it is the recognized magistrates who will determine that at the proper moment.
But the problems of Acción Social do not stop there. That presidential agency, in addition to receiving the possessions of the demobilized, also must maintain and conserve those that are already in the Victims’ Fund. But, according to Mancuso’s lawyers, the government agency has not yet even occupied the haciendas that are already in their hands. “The farms that Mancuso handed over have been invaded by unknown persons, they are in bad condition, we don’t know who is going to take responsibility for this,” a lawyers of some of the victims of the old paramilitary chief. That is why the defenders of the victims and of the ex-paramilitary asked the Inspector General and the Comptroller to open an investigation of Acción Social for what they consider to be irregularities in that government body. These complaints, however, are not the only ones that have been made against Acción Social within the reparations process. In an interview with VerdadAbierta.com, Manuel de Jesús Pirabán, aka “Jorge Pirata” [“Jorge the Pirate”—SC] said that he turned over properties and possessions that were sold off as bargains below their commercial value. “I delivered a young bull worth 800 thousand pesos [about $400 USD—SC] and Acción Social sold it cheap for 400 thousand.” “Pirata,” ex head of the Bloque Centaures added that now he would prefer to sell his good himself and deliver the money in cash to Acción Social.
In a “version libre” [statement confessing past crimes—SC], on given on January 27, 2010, José Baldomero Linares, aka “Guillermo Torres,” also protested against the management by Acción Social. The ex-head of the Autodefensas [“self-defense units,” the paramilitaries—SC] of Meta and Vichada said that in July, 2007, he delivered for reparations the 400-hectare hacienda Lusitania, located in San Martín, Meta. A large part of the property was planted in oil palm, currently one of the most profitable crops.
According to “Guillermo Torres,” after he delivered the farm, Acción Social did not maintain the plantation and all the palms were lost. The demobilized paramilitary said, “I put more than 800 million into the crop, and they valued it at only 37. A man who is interested in buying the land went by “Villavo” [Villavicencio, a city in Meta—SC] and told me that the crop was in bad condition.”[See the story about the possessions]
VerdadAbierto.com tried several times to contact Marlene Mesa, the Sub-Director of Acción Social’s program of attention to victims, but it was impossible to do. Mesa, however, declared in a recent interview in El Espectador that the Constitutional Court established that the State has the duty to make reparations to the victims, with or without the contributions of the demobilized, but that the most important thing is not that they should turn over properties, but that they feel called upon to make reparations. Mesa also said to El Espectador that “We cannot receive properties whose taxes are more than the property itself, on which money is owed, that are embargoed, or that present problems with the land titles.” “With Mancuso and some other ex paramilitary chiefs we have had many problems. They want us to accept whatever [they offer], and we cannot do that,” indicated Mesa.
The problem is that if Acción Social does not accelerate the process of receiving the possessions of the demobilized, there will not be enough money for reparations for the victims. A lawyer for the victims told VerdadAbierta.com that, based on the Penal Code, they hope that each victim might receive up to a thousand times the minimum wage [a typical way to measure fines and legal penalties in Colombia—SC], more than 500 million pesos. With more than 250 thousand recorded victims of the paramilitaries, it is evident that Acción Social has to find a mechanism by which money and possessions can massively get into the Fund for Reparation of Victims. If the opposite happens, many organizations that represent the victims will not hesitate to bring a case against the Colombian State before the international justice system. And then it will not be 500 million pesos that each victim will be able to try for, but billions of pesos. And, before the eyes of the world, the Colombian State will demonstrate its lack of capacity to compensate the victims of the worst atrocities in the recent history of the armed conflict.
The forts of parapolitics
Taken from: http://colombia.indymedia.org/ <http://colombia.indymedia.org/>
(Translated by Natalia Jaramillo, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
The men that surround democratic security
Political reality of this country leaves us more astonished every day. The population is in lethargy or, maybe, worn out in relation to everything that goes on around them, so they can’t react in real time – confront - to the policies and/or the situations that are imposed in a devastating way.
It is worrying how a great percentage adapts to such unequal and unbalanced conditions in all aspects. Fortunately Colombia hasn’t suffered a “natural” disaster like Haiti, Chile and other countries. But it is living a social, humanitarian and political catastrophe that is sustained and deepened with time, that has a number of victims very similar to the disasters in other countries, if we count persons that have been disappeared, murdered, massacred and displaced.
“This weekend the elections for Senate and the House of Representatives will take place. It is important to remember the situation of Uribist politicians, who fell in the clutches of the narco-parapolitical mafia, to the disgrace of the political class and our poor democracy. Some of them, who are being investigated and prosecuted or who are already penalized, are replaced in their political fief by family members or by friends. Other politicians, who are also members of such circles, have changed the name of their political groups in order to mask their shameful alliances.
The characters Group Delinquent acts in the politics of democratic security
Juan Manuel Santos U Party · False positives · Meetings with Paramilitaries and with the Capital Bloc (Bloque Capital)
Andrés Felipe Arias, aka "Uribito" (Little Uribe) Conservative Party · Carimagua (displacement and land theft, given to the private sector) · AIS (Agro Ingreso Seguro) – “Safe Agro Income” Program (Financing projects to benefit big landowners and the elections of the failed reelection)
Fernando Londoño Ex-Minister · Defendant of the Ralito Pact signed by Jorge Noguera, ex-director of DAS (Administrative Security Department); of the “false positives”; of the massacres taken place in San José de Apartadó, in Santo Domingo and in Cajamarca; of the multinational Chiquita Brands and their support to paramilitary groups in Urabá. He was also defendant of the conspiratorial alliances with paramilitaries against other governments. · Prosecuted in the Invercolsa case
Fabio Valencia Cossio Minister · Linked to the scandals and relations with parapoliticians in Antioquia, like Ramón Isaza. · Also, he has permanent relations with politicians already prosecuted in parapolitics
Guillermo León Valencia Cossio Ex-Director of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Medellín · Public Prosecutor of Antioquia, currently accused as, among other issues, Narco-paramilitary
José Obdulio Gaviria Uribe’s Advisor · Uribe’s Advisor, linked to illegal interceptions to Courts and social organizations. He has been pointed as one of the persons that received reports of the interceptions and, at the same time, ordered the criminal action
Edmundo del Castillo Uribe’s Advisor · Legal Secretary of the Presidency, linked to the illegal interceptions to Courts and social organizations. He was in charge of silencing the employees involved in these processes.
Bernardo Moreno Uribe’s Advisor · General Secretary of the Presidency linked to the illegal interceptions to Courts and social organizations. He was pointed as one of the persons that ordered this criminal action
Francisco Santos Vice President · Inspirator of “Bloque Capital” (Capital Bloc)
Sabas Pretelt Diplomatic · Bribery (public servant that accepts, for himself or for others, money or other profit or promise of remuneration, direct or indirect, for an act that he should execute while performing his duties). · Negotiating votes for Uribe’s reelection in 2006
Diego Palacios Minister · Bribery (public servant that accepts, for himself or for others, money or other profit or promise of remuneration, direct or indirect, for an act that he should execute while performing his duties). · Negotiating votes for Uribe’s reelection in 2006
Luis Camilo Osorio Diplomatic · Links with paramilitarism – without real investigation · Linked to parapolitics in Sucre · Shelved processes against members of the Military linked to crimes against humanity or to paramilitarism, like the case of Rito Alejo del Río, ideologist of paramilitarism and member of the Army
Andrés Fernández Acosta Minister of Agriculture · AIS – Agro Ingreso Seguro (Safe Agro Income program)
The Economic Forum of the Multinationals
By Aurelio Suárez Montoya, Bogotá, April 12, 2010
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
The World Economic Forum of Latin America was held in Cartagena between the 6th and the 8th of April, 2010. This event was sponsored a Swiss foundation called the World Economic Forum. Other programs sponsored by the Swiss foundation include the session in Davos and others in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa.
The Colombian government spent 4,500 million pesos to promote and put on the event, which caused Colombia to be “designated” as the headquarters. Among the attendants were fifty high-level Colombian executives, four foreign Presidents (none of them from the principal economies in South America), and 600 “high level” participants.
The forum would not be significant if it had not coincided with the terminal phase of Uribe’s government and with the Presidential election for his successor. The end of Uribe’s term as President impacted the forum because Colombian officials invited to the conference an inordinate number of people who would speak favorably of Uribe’s Investor Confidence campaign.
“Colombia stands out as an example of economic results and social benefits in equilibrium, and for its solid political environments,” wrote Klaus Schwab, director of the social issues of the World Economic Forum, of the Forum’s host country.
It is a shame that this comment does not represent reality. Did he know that Colombia is the second most unequal country in Latin America, and that if anything can be said about its policies and politics, it would be that they are unequal? Does Schwab ignore the chaos of the public health system? Does he know about the glyphosate fumigations and that the system of environmental institutions has been dismantled and that there is no ministry focused on the environment? Did they tell him that in Cartagena, the city that changed its “unjustified reputation” before the Forum, that 75% if its inhabitants live below the poverty line, that 45% are indigenous, and that it is the capital of Bolivar where 200,000 people have been displaced by the violence and are currently suffering from subhuman living conditions? Did he not see the Peripheral Avenue? Has the city really undergone “an unprecedented transformation” as he said?
Regarding the Presidential election, the Forum also served to confirm that the country’s economic policies are in line with free trade, free markets and the Free Trade Agreements. None of the Presidential candidates, Santos, Sanin and Mockus, lifted so much as a finger in objection; on the contrary they joined the chorus that sees the opportunities of the country in the usual areas: natural resources and cheap manual labor (that is now called human capital), and also in the “public-private” associations that exploit the Colombian people to their maximum potential.
Not in vain, Professor Hartmut Sangmeister, of the University of Heidelberg, upon expressing that the Forum did not offer concrete solutions for the problems of Latin America said, “it is not much more than a showcase for politicians in the region that want to win the election”; this is how the multinational forums are.
Visit our web pages:
http://www.moir.org.co <http://www.moir.org.co/> , http://www.senadorrobledo.org <http://www.senadorrobledo.org/> y http://www.deslinde.org.co <http://www.deslinde.org.co/>
For Peace, Democracy and Sovereignty…Gustavo Petro, President 2010-2014!
Say no to the American military bases!
WOLA vs. Honduran Democracy
Pulse of the Planet
By ADRIENNE PINE
America, the past year has seen increasing U.S.-Latin American hostilities, largely centered around the June 28th, 2009 violent military coup d'etat that ousted democratically-elected Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. And while the U.S. role in Honduras appears to many Latin Americans to be a continuation of its imperialist policies in the region over the past century, there is one new twist in the case of Honduras: much of the State Department's behind-the-scenes work is being carried out by one of the most respected human rights NGOs in Washington: the Washington Office on Latin America.
Erasing the resistance
While the scant international media attention given to last year's military coup in Honduras focused on individual players like president Zelaya, de facto ruler Roberto Micheletti, and Costa Rican President Oscar Árias, the issues at stake for the hundreds of thousands of Hondurans who took to the streets and continue today in resistance were far bigger than any one person. Hondurans were outraged that their electoral democracy had been violently wrested from them in a U.S.-supported military coup. That outrage grew as the military began beating, raping, illegally detaining and murdering members of the non-violent resistance; militarizing schools, libraries and cultural centers and (bolstered by emergency laws and curfews) terrorizing people in their own neighborhoods, all in the name of the de facto regime. Various internationally recognized human rights organizations, including Amnesty International <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR37/004/2009/en> and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights <http://www.cidh.oas.org/countryrep/Honduras09eng/Toc.htm> , documented over 4,000 human rights abuses carried out by the de facto regime against Hondurans who opposed it in the months following the coup.
The misrepresentation of the broad and diverse resistance movement in media and policy discourse as "Zelaya supporters" bolsters the main stipulations of the San José-Tegucigalpa Accords, imposed by the U.S. State Department in contravention of the strong early stance taken by the Organization of American States (OAS) against any recognition of the de facto government. These stipulations are: "free and fair elections," the installation of a "truth commission," and a "reconciliation government." In the first instance, the invisibility of the resistance movement in international media obscured the fact that president Porfirio Lobo Sosa was installed following an election carried out under circumstances of constitutional suspension and extreme state violence. The elections, which State
Department officials hailed as a model exercise in participatory democracy, had in fact been boycotted by the resistance as well as the United Nations, the European Union, the OAS and the Carter Center. Furthermore, no international election monitors were present (although the U.S. federally-funded National Democratic Institute, chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, sent "observers" who played a central role in legitimating the theater of democracy), and entirely fictitious results were claimed by the illegally appointed Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal <http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?Itemid=74&id=31&jumival=4573&option=com_content&task=view> . The State Department's argument that the elections ended the crisis was bolstered by its false assertion, first voiced by Tom Shannon <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/nov/04/honduras-zelaya-agreement-obama-clinton> on November 3rd, that Zelaya's camp had agreed to support the election with or without his reinstatement under the San José-Tegucigalpa Accords.
The United States, facing both an international community newly willing to stand up to it and a Honduran resistance movement of unprecedented scope, has nonetheless failed to change its modus operandi from the 1980s. U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens has taken several pages out of former ambassador John Negroponte's 1980s playbook. In addition to helping to obfuscate the coup leaders' responsibility for systematic human rights violations in the recently-released Country Human Rights Report <http://quotha.net/node/798> , Llorens has been working to install the above-mentioned truth commission, which has been denounced by all major Honduran human rights organizations and the broad resistance coalition <http://quotha.net/node/833> , and has attempted to broker the "reconciliation government" by bringing together Liberal Party leaders who opposed the coup and the extremely right-wing National Party precariously represented by Lobo. The position of the resistance movement on both the truth commission and "reconciliation" process is that rather than providing the necessary steps for a peace based in democracy and justice, they provide cover for repression aimed at destroying the demand for a new constitution <http://quotha.net/node/850> .
The Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA, is a human rights-focused non profit organization founded in 1974. According to its website <http://www.wola.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=52&Itemid=20&topic=Institutional+Publications> ,
Since 1975, when WOLA worked behind the scenes to write the first major legislation conditioning U.S. military aid abroad on human rights practices, WOLA has played a key role in all major Washington policy debates over human rights in Latin America. Today, WOLA staff are called upon regularly to provide information and analysis to the executive branch, to multilateral organizations, to members of Congress, and to U.S. and Latin American media.
To say WOLA plays a key role in U.S. policy toward Latin America is, perhaps, an understatement. Regularly the only voice of a "human rights" perspective in Congressional and Senate hearings otherwise stacked with neoconservative and neoliberal experts like Otto Reich and Lanny Davis, WOLA has a much higher degree of access to the legislature than other groups. At a meeting I and three colleagues had last November with the aide to a Congressman who has championed human rights issues in Latin America, in which we lobbied against U.S. recognition of the Honduran elections, the aide brushed our concerns aside; she knew everything there was to know about Honduras, she told us—she and her boss had already spoken to WOLA (which supported the elections) and LAWG (the Latin American Working Group, closely aligned with WOLA).
WOLA's influence is so great that it is spoken of in whispers (literally) by the myriad grassroots-focused DC-based non-profits it overshadows. While a few people have critically opposed some of WOLA's positions from the left <http://www.narconews.com/Issue35/article1166.html> , the price for doing so is high. Since I moved to DC last June, at least two dozen DC grassroots and non-profit activists have confided in me that they've been wishing for years that someone would challenge WOLA, but that, as one of them told me, "you'd have to be suicidal to do it." There are two reasons behind their hesitance, both having to do with WOLA's power as an inside actor on the policy scene: first, because the organization, which does advocacy relating to all areas of Latin America, has been influential on human rights issues in U.S. policy and although many see it as doing more harm than good, it still does do a fair amount of good; second, because it is so powerful and well-connected that challenging it could seriously jeopardize organizations working in solidarity with Latin American advocates for justice and human rights on a grassroots level.
But at what point does the bad outweigh the good?
Golpista (coup-supporting) former Honduran ambassador Roberto Flores Bermúdez, mouthpiece for Micheletti's de facto regime in Washington <http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/rizkhan/2009/07/200972811549987293.html> who has lately been attempting to refashion himself as neutral, has closely worked with WOLA on shaping its Honduras policy since the coup. WOLA's collaboration with Flores Bermúdez is not out of step with the decidedly slippery, pro-State Department stance that it has taken vis-à-vis the coup since June 28th of last year. In a Congressional hearing on July 10th, WOLA executive director Joy Olson, while recognizing Zelaya's ouster as a coup, volunteered that rather than being extradited, Zelaya should have been imprisoned within the country. She also failed to correct any of the blatant lies coming from Congress members or other "witnesses" who had been prepped by Lanny Davis, who was himself there as an witness representing the Honduras chapter of the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL), that financed the coup. These included false allegations that Zelaya was attempting to install himself as dictator-for-life, that he was drug-running from Venezuela, and that the coup (which they referred to as a "constitutional succession") had prevented a Chavez takeover of the hemisphere. (See Kirk Nielsen's article "Canard d’Etat" <http://www.miller-mccune.com/media/honduras-and-the-us-press-3456/> for a refutation of these claims in the U.S. media). "It seems like there was plenty of violating of the law going around on all sides," Olson said, praising "the administration's" handling of the situation (while admitting she did not know if the State Department had yet acknowledged a coup had occurred—it hadn't) and the Arias negotiations. "There can be opportunity in crisis," she said, five days after the regime murdered its first peaceful protester, Isis Obed Murillo.
WOLA's other primary DC-based Honduran collaborator since the coup has been Francisco Machado. As a featured speaker (invited by WOLA) at a LAWG plenary on February 4th, Machado described the Honduran conflict as one between extremist factions, the extreme right wing and the FNRP (the National People's Resistance Front)—an assertion that deligitimizes the broad coalition of organizations and hundreds of thousands of Hondurans who identify themselves as being part of the non-violent resistance movement. This is particularly dangerous at a moment when former death squad leader Billy Joya appears to be training paramilitaries in preparation for a massacre of peasant farmers in Aguán <http://quotha.net/node/838> , similarly identified by Honduran pro-coup media as "extremists" and "terrorists" as a means to justify their extermination.
At the Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference on March 20th in Arlington, Machado was listed as a co-presenter for WOLA's panel on Honduras:
4:50-6:20pm Track Time III Honduras: Back to the Past, On to the Future – Potomac View Room
We thought that coup d’etats [sic] were a thing of the past in Latin America, but on June 28th, 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was sent by force into exile. Despite a tentative resolution, this sharply polarized society must grapple with the political exclusion and social inequality that fueled the crisis.
Speakers: Vicki Gass of Washington Office on Latin America; Honduran Activist Francisco Machado; others TBA.
The language in this panel description is telling: apart from WOLA, only the U.S. State Department and Congress really seem to believe a "tentative resolution" has been achieved, while "social inequality" would have been more accurately phrased as "violent oligarchy that gleans legitimacy from a radically anti-democratic constitution and uses the military to control the rabble when the latter demands self-representation." At the March 20th event, Machado did not actually show up; however, the progressive crowd of 30 or so present responded negatively to Gass's presentation, which numerous attendees later described as pro-coup. She was challenged by a Honduran member of the audience identified with the resistance, who told me she was horrified at what she saw as Gass's extremely dangerous misrepresentation of the situation in her country.
Shortly before the Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference, Representative Eliot Engel, Chair of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, convened a second Congressional post-coup hearing on Honduras. At the March 16th hearing, the focus was no longer on whether or not a coup had taken place (although the issue was brought up numerous times), but rather about how to ensure an ideal climate for U.S. investors. As a witness, Vicki Gass—who worked from 2004 to 2006 in Iraq for the National Democratic Institute before joining WOLA—provided a welcome respite from the seemingly endless monologues equating U.S. investor interests with Honduran democracy, by bringing up the issue of human rights. However, in addressing human rights she repeatedly argued to the nearly empty hall that Honduras's crisis was not new—that, in effect, it had precious little to do with the coup at all (see WOLA's written testimony <http://quotha.net/docs/honduras/3.16.10_Vicki_Gass_testimony.pdf> and a video <http://www.internationalrelations.house.gov/hearing_notice.asp?id=1167> of the hearing). Despite lamenting that "[a] recent poll conducted by the Federation of Development Organizations of Honduras (FOPRIDEH) revealed that 59.9 percent of Hondurans no longer believe in democracy" (with a footnote that reads "January 2010 – find exact quote"), Gass failed to link this statistic in any way to the coup itself. The problem, as WOLA's argument goes, lies not in the usurpation of the elected government on June 28th, 2009 followed by untold numbers of targeted political assassinations of individuals who believe in their right to real democracy, but in the lack of faith in the existing "democracy"—a lack of faith caused by decades of "a seemingly entrenched culture of corruption and impunity." Such a culture-of-crime argument is the perfect segue into a law-and-order solution and impunity for police and military violence, to wit (also from the March 16th hearing):
1:51:00 Mr. Mack: Thank you Mr. Chairman and, you know I listen with great interest to all your, uh, testimony and, uh, I'm not sure that there's a lot that we can—well let me just find a point that I'd like to probe a little bit more. Moving forward, what type of um, activities do you think that the United States should engage in on issues of poverty, human rights, um, what types of things looking forward is it that you think that the United States can do to help, uh, show that we support the people of Latin America and that uh, we might not necessarily support some of the governments in Latin America but that we support the people of Latin America, um, so if you wanna just go down the line and each of you give me a quick thought on that I would appreciate it.
1:51:30 Ms. Gass: Well, I think there are several things that the administration could do, first, is restore military and police aid, they can use that to strengthen the institutions, perhaps by investigating the human rights violations that have taken place since the coup in June and and use that to strengthen an institution that is incredibly weak. And then secondly I would say that they really need to work hand in hand in pushing a, a, a meaningful dialogue over a longer period of time, not a consultation of two or three days but do something that's being centralized in the region and supporting that financially.
It beggars belief that an organization whose mission is to support human rights would suggest sending money to death squads; in fact, that is exactly what WOLA is doing.
The arguments presented by WOLA at the hearing, which include the claim that Porfirio Lobo was elected in free and fair elections, frame a decontextualized portrait of human rights in Honduras. In the WOLA narrative, resistance members are killed not by a de facto regime, but by other violent Hondurans, who kill out of a defective "culture." In a Huffington Post piece on the eve of Lobo's inauguration <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-eldridge/restoring-international-r_b_437293.html> , Gass and WOLA founder Joseph Eldridge (chaplain at American University and husband of United States Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs María Otero, who herself was instrumental in creating the case for recognizing the illegal elections) describe Honduras as "this politically alienated and distrustful country." They proceed to lay out a plan for restoring international relations that exactly mirrors the State Department's distorted version of the San José-Tegucigalpa Accords, omitting any mention of the resistance movement. Given that the "crisis"—as the military coup and de facto regime have been euphemized by coup supporters—was "over," the next steps, Eldridge and Gass posited, were the formation of a truth commission and a "national dialogue process."
As noted above, the broad Honduran resistance coalition and all the major Honduran human rights organizations have roundly rejected both these proposals <http://voselsoberano.com/v1/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4888%3Afnrp-envia-carta-al-secretario-general-de-la-oea&catid=1%3Anoticias-generales&Itemid=1> based on the fact that resistance members are still daily being murdered by the military and police (hardly conditions for dialogue or honest investigation) and that the main demand of the resistance movement—a truly popular constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran constitution—is being swept under the rug by them. Amnesty has already been assured to the worst Honduran criminals who have been punished for their role in crimes against democracy and humanity with sentences like "senator for life" (Micheletti) and being appointed head of the national telecommunications company Hondutel (General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez).
So who should enforce truth and reconciliation? Ambassador Llorens' faltering attempts to resuscitate the imploded Liberal Party by pushing through the truth commission and brokering "reconciliation" have failed, due to the fierce, unwavering opposition of the resistance. As the State Department's program of enforcing the San José-Tegucigalpa Accords flounders, it has looked to its "non-governmental" partners to help Llorens with his task. On February 25th, WOLA sent Porfirio Lobo a letter <http://quotha.net/node/830> , cc'ing Llorens and United States Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, and nominating a member for the truth commission. But WOLA's involvement in the reconciliation process goes even deeper; the non-governmental organization has taken the lead in planning and implementing the "dialogue" on "democratic" development, scheduled to begin Wednesday, April 14th on Capitol Hill.
At least nine Hondurans, who were secretly invited to participate <http://quotha.net/node/831> , were scheduled as of Thursday, April 8th to be flown up for this "Conference on Analysis and Perspectives on Democratic Development in Honduras," which is closed to the press. An email sent from WOLA to participants on that day <http://quotha.net/node/853> , states the following:
Once again, we have invited representatives of the new government and civil society organizations from Honduras, [as well as] representatives of the United States Government, Embassies from other countries accredited in Washington, and other NGO organizations that work on Honduras. The goal of the conference is to provide a space for frank discussions about the current situation in Honduras and explore opportunities for substantive change.
The program itself details several panels led by selected participants. A description of a panel titled simply "Political Analysis" reads in part: "The crisis in credibility and trust of the citizens in the State, its institutions and the major challenge of transforming it into the solid pillars of democracy." Here again we see the crisis framed not as being located not in the absence of state legitimacy, but rather in citizens' belief that the state is illegitimate. A subsequent panel, "The Political Crisis" addresses "advances and challenges in the democratic process, and the goal of reconciling a divided society, thirsty for greater and better benefits from the democratic system." The wording here is similarly specious, including the euphemistic use of "crisis," the allegation that there exists a democratic process in Honduras and that "reconciliation" (rather than justice) is what is needed to fix it, and the idea that "benefits"—not participation—are what Hondurans expect from a democratic system. Other panels, like that led by President Lobo's Minister of Planning and Development Arturo Corrales Álvarez, focus specifically on strategies for carrying forward the dialogue process. The Q & A session scheduled for the noon hour is described as "Questions from conference attendees [literally "public" in the Spanish version, but the conference is closed] and answers from the panelists."
Compare this—in terms of focus and depth—to the Popular Constituent Assembly that took place from March 12 to 14th in La Esperanza, attended by approximately a thousand Hondurans including Father Ismael Moreno <http://hondurasresists.blogspot.com/2010/03/father-melo-from-slogans-to-reality.html> , Jesuit priest, liberation theologian and director of Radio Progreso who rejected WOLA's personal invitation to participate in their "dialogue." That conference is described in an open invitation as follows <http://quotha.net/node/770> :
We are once again invited to construct our utopias, think about who we are, come together and see ourselves as profoundly equal and diverse, as we try to make these dreams come true: the construction and exercise of popular power, water for everyone, respect for land and territory, the value of ancestral cultures, the wisdom of biodiversity, a common good, based on fundamental rights, the dignity of a full life for women, recognition of youth as a force of rebellion and of its contributions and proposals, the importance of a secular political military, the necessity of providing a happy childhood for our children.
The contrast between WOLA's approach in collaboration with the State Department and Lobo administration and that of the Resistance movement is similarly stark in terms of transparency, democratic process and inclusiveness, also evident in the invitation to the La Esperanza conference:
Here, we will engage in the enthusiastic mission to construct a People’s Assembly in which the ideas and dreams that have been waiting for centuries will come together. In the Assembly, we will debate how we will share in the future. Our voices will raise together and we will become one voice.
The people of Honduras will practice their Constituent People’s Power. The Assembly will therefore have to speak for the voice of the absent. We hope that their words will be brought in written form so they are not forgotten or silenced.
The people will meet in great solidarity on the road to La Esperanza but, as well, they should bring as much solidarity in their sack of dreams.
Bring anything you can: water, beans, blankets, corn, rice, and sugar to share these days; as our country is calling us.
On Friday, April 9th, I was invited to debate Francisco Machado about the upcoming WOLA meeting, which had been leaked to the resistance movement, on Radio Globo (a station that has been subject to ongoing harassment and attacks since the coup). To his claims that the meeting was designed to be democratic and inclusive, I responded that in addition to being invite-only, it was being carried out in Washington, DC, not a particularly accessible location for Hondurans. To his claim that it was open to the press, I responded that when a reporter from Telesur had called WOLA the previous day to confirm the event was taking place and ask permission to attend, the person she spoke with confirmed the event but told her it was closed to the press. During the interview I told the program host, Félix Molina, that in fact, I was somewhat uncomfortable having the debate. I do not believe it is my role to debate Hondurans about they should be doing with their country; however, to me this is a case of the U.S. government and NGOs working together to undermine other people's democracy, and to that extent, I had to speak out. The following day, responding to pressure from the resistance movement, the three participants identified with the resistance, Héctor Soto, Víctor Fernández and Edgardo Chévez, pulled out, taking with them the argument that the dialogue could form the basis of a "reconciliation" without justice or constitutional reform.
Critics of the "Non-Profit Industrial Complex" have pointed to the noxious role of what Dylan Rodríguez, writing in the edited volume The Revolution Will Not be Funded, called "the velvet purse of state repression." The policy of coopting the radical left by funding and thus incorporating it into a legal non-profit structure has had the intentional effect of criminalizing truly oppositional movements and justifying the use of police brutality against them in the United States and elsewhere. This is true even in the case of movements that (as in the case of Honduras) are steadfastly opposed to the use of violence. In an era of neoliberal privatization tied to regressive taxation and the de-funding of government services, corporate-funded non-governmental organizations around the world have overtaken government services from education to healthcare to fighting wars, taking with them any notion of democratic accountability. WOLA—which received $1,757,656 from the Ford Foundation in 2009—is now carrying out, behind closed doors, the repressive Honduran government's work of fabricating a veneer of "democracy."
Has WOLA's exclusive policy focus blinded it to what is happening among the Hondurans it purports to defend? Has its insistence on portraying human rights through a liberal democratic lens that filters out non-state, non-"civil-society" actors (where "civil society" is understood to mean corporate-funded NGOs) made it impossible for WOLA to see the Honduran resistance movement? Have all the years spent sidled up to Congress and the State Department made it impossible for WOLA to recognize that the very power structures it supports are the principal violators of human rights—the assassins—of Hondurans? Is the fact that it is beholden to its funders and not to Honduran or U.S. citizens to blame for its anti-democratic actions in Honduras...or has it become the very power it claims to influence?
When my colleague went to WOLA two weeks ago asking to speak with someone about our shared concerns regarding WOLA's actions in Honduras, she was told that it would be impossible; the people involved were at a meeting at the State Department all day. Perhaps WOLA would do well to reflect on the meanings of justice, reconciliation, and tolerance, as the Honduran Resistance movement has been doing:
That which we have been calling tolerance requires a realm containing intolerable ideas <http://quotha.net/node/%3Cbr%20/%3Ehttp://hondurasenlucha.blogspot.com/2010/04/todas-las-ideas-son-tolerables.html> , a social space in which it is possible to discover and indicate which kinds of proposals, ideas and social practices cannot be tolerated: racist practices; violence; corruption; misery created by governments that put themselves at the service of the powerful; torture and death provoked by state terror. There is no way to tolerate the anguish that the majority of the nation suffers while going another day without eating, nor the repression promoted by the State to maintain injustice and exclusion. -- Gustavo Zelaya (resistance member, no relation to President Zelaya), April 3, 2010.
For that matter, perhaps all of us have something to learn from the Honduran resistance movement.
Adrienne Pine is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University and a Senior Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She blogs at: http://quotha.net/ <http://quotha.net/> . Her latest book is Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0520255445/counterpunchmaga> (UC Press 2008) http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/10769.php <http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/10769.php> . She can be reached by email at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> .