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Thursday, October 28, 2010

ASOGRAS Santander Agricultural Association

August 12, 2004 by Min Social Protection
Affiliate – CUT – NIT – 900118191-1
Public Statement No. 77
(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN’s Volunteer Editor)

A Police Inspection by Sabana de Torres ordered that Cristhyam Albeyro Castellanos Gomez evict one of the plots of the El Silencio farm located in the area of Provincia, where seventeen families affiliated with the Asogras committee have lived since 1982.
Before the State-controlled organizations: the Human Rights office of the Vice President of the Republic, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for human rights, Farmer organizations, unions, international organizations, national and international human rights organizations, the general means of communication and members of the Santander community.
ASOGRAS, the Agricultural Association of Santander, nationally and internationally states publicly that, on Thursday September 30th at 09:00 AM the Sabana de Torres Police Inspector ordered that CRISTHYAM ALBEYRO CASTELLANOS GOMEZ occupy the El Silencio Farm in the locals of the Provincia area.  Doctor CECILIA ROJAS knew that the rights of the ASOGRAS farmers had been violated by CRISTHYAM ALBEYRO CASTELLANOS GOMEZ and Mr. OSCAR MAURICIO JAIMES MENDIETA who, on an arbitrary Saturday at 1:00 P.M. untied a herd in the farm of one of their affiliates and, in the hours of the evening, fired shots on two occasions, an event which was presented before the Sajín de Sabana de Torres.  Then, on the morning of Tuesday the 28th of September, they took the herd to a different plot of another ASOGRAS affiliate.  We would like to highlight that what the employees of Mr. CRISTHYAM ALBEYRO CASTELLANOS GOMEZ did were acts of vandalism and firearm intimidation when they engaged in breaking fences, locks, knocking down doors, leaving gates open and taking shots at our affiliates.  These are affiliates which have occupied this land for more than 27 years; affiliates who enjoy the possession of the land and use of different plots which allow for their survival and work opportunities.  Most importantly, these facts are known to competent authorities.
With the decision that the Sabana de Torres police inspector took it is clear that the men were violating the rights of the Asogras affiliates which, as demonstrated, is protecting the law.  It is hoped that the opportunity exists for the revision of the case of ALFONSO YEPES PATIÑO, a well-standing citizen and local Asogras affiliate, whose land was invaded in 2007 but has yet to see any action taken toward the protection of his rights.
We would like to remind the mayor, Dr. URIEL VELANDIA GUTIERREZ, that his administration exists to protect the rights of the citizens rather than allow for people to appear out of nowhere only to violate the rights of workers who have given more than 27 years of their lives to the El Silencio Farm.
In response to this situation we ask that human rights defender organizations, farmer organizations, union organizations, the Santander and Magdalena Ombudsmen and Sabana de Torres legal capacity, the International Peace Brigades, the human rights attorney in Santander, universities, lawyers and all means of communication accompany us in solidarity and support in the case of the El Silencio Farm of Providencia in the Sabana de Torres municipality.
We call the solidarity trade union movement, the social peace movement, the human rights defenders present in both Santander and nationally, and international human rights organizations who provide permanent land accompaniment and the guarantee of constitutional rights to farmer communities in the municipality of Sabana de Torres.
Bucaramanga, October 1st, 2010
Department President     Department Secretary
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

Two Indigenous Leaders killed in Arauca

Written by Humanidad Vigente

(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN’s Volunteer Editor)

Thursday August 19, 2010

Included among the victims encountered was the Saravena coordinator of Indigenous Affairs, who is part of the U’wa community and a member of the El Esperanza Sikuani Indigenous chapter.

The deaths occurred in Saravena and Tame in the department of Arauca.

Carmen Elisa Mora Uncacia, four months pregnant and an U’wa leader for 31 years, well-known for her work in the Saravena mayor’s office on indigenous issues, was assassinated this past Friday, August 13 in front of her husband and children.  Unknown attackers entered her home located in the José Vicente ll Etapa neighborhood and shot her.

Another violent act against the indigenous community occurred on Saturday, August 14th, when the 34 year-old Sikuani indigenous leader Jaime Reyes Sampier, member of the Esperanza chapter, fleeing the violence that displaced him from La Siberiawas, was assassinated in Barcelona, municipality of Tame.

The Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and the Association of the Indigenous Authorities of Arauca reported the two incidents as violations against indigenous rights and demanded the events be clearly explained to civil, military and judicial authorities and “to punish, with the entire weight of the law, those physically and intellectually responsible for the assassination of our indigenous brothers.”

Additionally, the statement issued by the Permanent Committee for the defense of human rights respectfully urges “authorities and the Araucana community to protect and respect our indigenous as part of the region’s heritage and of humanity.”

Latest update Monday, August 23 2010 at 20:42

This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

Reflections: Afro-Colombians do not celebrate bicentennial Independence of Colombia.

By: Daniel Garcés Aragón


(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN’s Volunteer Editor)

July 15, 2010



Nowadays, in order to refer to the commemoration of the bicentennial celebration of the independence of Colombia, it is both necessary and indispensable to look through a rearview mirror.  A look to the past helps clarify the situation of Africans and their descendants established in the New Granada viceroyalty and the ruptures and impacts the independence project of 1810 had on colonial conditions at that time.


The racism and racial discrimination which occurred through uprooting, commercialization and submission of Africans into slavery, seen throughout the Atlantic alongside centuries of systemic negation to educational access, has created disadvantages through the impoverishment of Africans and their descendants in Colombia and America.  These disadvantages make up part of our society and hold Africans back against Europeans and their descendants – today whites and mestizos (indigenous and European blood) – while making the construction of equality impossible in the midst of existing affirmative actions and reparations of historic debt to Afro-Colombians.  In regards to African and African-descendant education, the cry of independence did not generate tensions against the existing colonial system of 1810.

It is important to keep in mind that institutionalized education was established early in the “new world”, as requested by the Dominicans of the Pope.  The first university institution arose from the Dominican Convent of Santo Domingo in Spain, created by Bula de Paulo III on October 28th of 1538.  These university foundations were later to expand to Lima, Mexico and Carcas in 1551-1552 and the Tomistica de Santafé, which was founded at the end of the XVI century.  This educational system was adopted by both higher and lower educational institutes and was directed toward those with Spanish blood.

John Lynch examines a number of considerations, highlighting the following issues:  One explains how Creoles had two forces against them; one coming from the influence of the Spanish in America whose caste system, established in the Peninsula, prevented Africans from obtaining the best positions in colonial public office and the other resulting from the influence of popular classes fighting to keep Africans and their descendants, mainly pardos (Indigenous and African blood), mulatos and Africans, kept down.  

It must be noted that the Bourbon politics (1759-1808) offered more opportunities for social mobility.  For example mulatos and free blacks were received in the military and could buy the right to legally be considered as “whites” through a Grace Identity Card system.  Additionally, mulatos who were given accepted permission were also authorized to receive education, marry a white person, hold public office and enter into priesthood.  These ideas leave behind the established theory and practice of “whitening”, institutionalized through a caste system and further solidified in the colonial period.  These practices remained valid until 1810, despite the cultural and racial realities of this era.

The Creoles rebelled against the 1789 Identity Card which designated educational instruction, treatment and occupations to slaves.  Aranjuez, on May 31st of 1789, was a summary of ordinances and black codes in America.  Its publication received strong rejection from American Creole slaves.  The 1789 Identity Card and the 1795 February Law 10 that offered basic education to mulatos, Africans and their descendents only increased skepticism among Creoles.  Creoles stubbornly opposed any type of advantages for Africans or African descendants and manifested against the legal status of whites, popular education and the entrance of pardos to higher education.  Education for Africans and African descendants in the Nueva Granada viceroyalty was limited to evangelicalism, Castilianization (The process through which a group of people is forced to adopt the Castilian languagee and ways of life), and the repression of previously established norms.


A transcendent yet fundamental debate took place at this time between two conflicting ideas: one supporting Enlightenment and the other supporting scholastics.  On one hand lay the importance and significance of continuous scholastic education and, on the other, embracing Enlightenment and the continued promotion of the secularization of higher education and study of science.  This debate played an integral part in the education reform of Francisco Antonio Moreno and Escandon.  Held in Santa Fe, Bogotá in the University of General Studies in 1768, it remained effective throughout both the end of the XVIII century and the beginning of the XIX. These academic movements placed the appropriation and education of science against scholastic teachings, as they were linked to an increased understanding of nature to obtain, utilization and social importance of new technology.  Thus, around the period of 1810, scientific utilization had taken a leading role in social transformations and had converted into one of the principal agents of cultural and material transformation in the New Granada viceroyalty.

As these ideas were transforming life for European whites, Creoles and Mestizos in America, the situation for Africans remained centralized in Evangelism and rotated around rules of the Catholic Church and Castilianization.  It was affirmed that “the Evangelical educational project and Castilianization of the crown was taxing in the New World, as it denied the acknowledgment of both indigenous and African wisdom and cultural evolution.”

It is important to note that, regarding scholastic education and the formation of higher and lower education, it is said that “all colonial university activities revolved around theology and one worrying priority: the Salvation of the Soul.” This rationality was imposed through colonial slavery by the Catholic Church in a manner oblivious of established human and social conditions but rather augmented the contingency of souls at the end of the established Cavalry of life.

As mandated by the king, it was instructed that: “loyalty to the sovereign, love of the Spanish nation, acknowledgement and gratitude for your masters, subordination to whites…” and was accompanied by respective obligations and repressive norms; norms which were to be taught by masters or butlers of respective homes.  It was eminent that opportunities for slaves to learn Catholic dogmas, Castilianization and obedience and caste norms were a continuation of the workday, trespassing the standard “sunrise to sunset” workday to 14, 16 or even 18 hour days.


From reading documents and letters of the actors and events of the independence process, the incorporation of education as part of social development of the Independent Republic was never derived for Africans and their descendants.  Around 1813 the abolishment of slavery was proposed by Juan del Corral which led, during its supportive work, to the encounter of a reliable but forgotten testimony; a result which conserved the state of African and descendant education.  It was a proposal which was never put into practice.

The cry of independence took an international turn.  Prior to Haiti’s independence from France, within the framework of the French revolution of the XVIII century, slavery was abolished.  And that was how Simón Bolívar arrived in 1816, with the legacy of Toussaint Louverture, who had planted the seeds of liberty in the American nations and abolished slavery through the bloody battles of 1791 during the French Revolution.  In 1816 the president of Haiti, Alejandro Petion, promised Simón Bolívar the liberation of slaves, due to ongoing support and favors, as a testimony in a letter dated February 8, 1816 in Cayos, when it said:

“To his Excellency the President of Haiti:  Mr. President, I am exhausted from the weight of favors of your Excellency.  Sir Villarret has returned, having been dispatched by your Excellency in an incomparable manner.  Through it all, your Excellency is magnanimous and forgiving and (…) if it is possible, I will personally go to show the extension of my appreciation.  In my proclamation to the habitants of Venezuela and through the decrees which issue freedom to slaves, I do not know if I would be permitted to express the feelings in my heart toward your Excellency, leaving out an irrecusably philanthropic monument of your Excellency as author of our liberty.  Therefore, I beg your Excellency to manifest his will on the matter.
(…) Accept, Mr. President, the respectful homage of the high regard to have the honor to be the most humble and obedient servant of Your Excellency. Bolívar.”

The previous events demonstrate the breach of promises made, despite the participation of great contingencies of Africans and their descendants in the campaign for freedom.  The executions ordered by Simón Bolívar to Manuel Piar and José Prudencio Padilla, plus the prolongation of slavery in Colombia until the first of January 1852, explain the indolence of Bolívar against Africans and their descendents established in the Americas.


With annotations completed, the commemoration of the bicentennial of the Independence of Colombia divides Colombian society into two large groups: one of the whites and mestizos, who assisted the right to celebrate the consummation and consolidation of the cry of Independence of 1810.  The other group, the Afro-Colombians, who do not celebrate, and commemorate a scenario of reflection, analysis, discussion and debate derived from the constitution.  It is a debate which considers its condition during this historical moment and the long processes of “cimarronaje” (the process through which black slaves escape and found their own community), the establishment of runaways, fighting for claims to ethnic rights and the conformation of social movements to guarantee success that was negotiated and obtained over two hundred difficult years.

This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A 14-Year-Old Girl and her Two Younger Brothers were Assassinated in Arauca

A 14-Year-Old Girl and her Two Younger Brothers were Assassinated in Arauca
SOURCE :Humanidad Vigente

(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Assistant Program Director)
Tuesday, October 19, 2010 9:07 p.m.
Tame, Arauca
On Thursday, October 14, 2010, three siblings, ages 14, 9 and 6, disappeared from their house where their father had left them while he went to work on a nearby farm. Three days later, their bodies were found by peasants of the region who were responding to the call for search help sent out by the family and the authorities.
The bodies were found in a pit 300 meters from their house in the rural area of the municipality of Caño Temblador where peasant José Álvaro Terres had reported the disappearance of his children to the local authorities and the People’s Defender’s Office Signs of torture, strangulation and knife wounds were found on the bodies.
The victims were identified as Jenny Torres, age 14, Jimmy, 9, and Jeferson, 6.
According to the father of the children, he left his daughter and sons on their farm to go work on another farm nearby, and at two in the afternoon, after various attempts at contacting them via cell phone but not receiving any answer, he returned immediately, but his daughter and sons were not there.
Investigating the Presumed Responsibility of the Military Men
Representatives of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CPDH), teachers at the siblings’ school, Tame social leaders and Deputy Ferney Tique, president of the Assembly Commission of Peace and Human Rights, made a verification visit to the pit and gathered testimonies from peasants that link the military men with the incident.
According to an announcement made by Deputy Piqué on a local radio station, it seems that the military men who were camped nearby raped the girl and, upon realizing that the younger brothers were aware of what had happened, assassinated and buried the three children.
In response to the announcement made by the deputy, General Neira, commander of the 18th Brigade that operates in the area, called upon the speaker to classify as the “game of the guerrilla” the denouncements made by the Humanitarian Mission that works for the clarification of what happened.
Other members of the Humanitarian Mission that visited the pit told Humanidad Vigente that the hypothesis of rape is very believable since the body of the girl was found half naked with knife wounds on her back.
Martin Sandoval of CPDH pointed out that in the last twenty days the community of Tame and neighboring rural areas have denounced two cases of rape and the appearance of intimidating graffiti signed by the Black Eagles.
In a communiqué emitted on October 17, CDPH points out that “on October 8 and during the following days a patrol of the National Army, of the 45th Batallion of the 5th Mobile Brigade pertaining to the Eighth Division of the National Army stationed themselves in the sector visiting on two occasions the children, asking them for their father. The site where the military patrol camped for various days was approximately 100 meters from the mass grave.”
Approximately 6,000 people organized themselves in the main streets of Tame on Tuesday, October 19 in solidarity with the affected family and in condemnation of what happened. The general feeling was fear in the presence of armed actors, including the National Army.
The large march that took place during the morning stretched from the entrance of the town to the main park where a peaceful protest took place. The march then went to a church where a mass was held in honor of Jenny, Jimmy and Jeferson.
The community is grateful for the presence of the International Red Cross Committee (CICR) and calls to the international community and human rights organizations to demand that the investigation be carried out quickly and overtly, keeping in mind the presumed responsibility of the members of the Armed Forces.


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Monday, October 25, 2010

A Call and A Mandate from the Women of the Americas

(Translated by Janelle Nodhturft, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor)

Gathered at the military base in Palenquero, 2,500 women said no to U.S. military bases in Colombia <http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article4499>

Video of the March of Light, August 21st in Barrancabermeja

The resistance pursued by the people of Latin America, led by the women, will allow Mother Earth and human life to be preserved forever.
Colombia has been decorated with the faces of women, the faces of children, the faces of men; the faces of us, the people. The people who, filled with hope, dreams, experiences, struggles and resistance, came from all over to participate. We came from Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, and Germany, as well as from all corners of Colombia, including Nariño, Cauca, Valle, Huila, Chocó, Antioquia, Tolima, Cundinamarca, Bogotá, Magdalena Medio, Bolívar, Santander, Norte de Santander, Arauca, and Atlántico. We came intently, happily to participate in the International Meeting of the Women and the Peoples of the Americas Against Militarization from the 16th to the 23rd of August.

At this point more than ever we see how the threat of world war resounds and dominates across our different geographies and how humanity is at the crossroad of its survival. This meeting takes place at a moment when North American imperialism is designing and executing aggressive re-colonization strategies in order to reposition itself and try to recuperate from the massive crisis its capitalist system just experienced. Their strategy has unfolded to include stripping towns of their natural resources and using the militaries to violate human rights.

Colombia is a vast territory with mineral riches, oil, energy sources, water, biodiversity, flora, fauna, and traditional, ancestral knowledge from the afro and indigenous peoples and rural countrymen. These resources are very coveted and regularly exploited by transnational corporations only interested in their profit, as shameful and inhumane as it is. To secure this profit, corporations are feeding into and strengthening the processes of militarization, war, displacement of groups of people, dispossession, and deaths that damage communities, towns, and whole territories. This logic of the corporations is extensive and dominant; it’s being applied across our land in the Americas.
Colombia is shaped by a large diversity of indigenous peoples, afro descendants, mestizos, rural communities, and urban populations. They are all tired of the war and violence that has been affecting the country for the past 50 years and has left 4.5 million people displaced and thousands of people assassinated, disappeared, and imprisoned. Many of these communities valiantly and creatively resist the violence through a process of declaring their own sovereignty over their bodies, their land and territories, and their means of survival and subsistence. They affirm themselves in their own diverse identities - organizationally, culturally, spiritually and through ancestral world views and knowledge of the cosmos. They propose unity as a central axis for their lives and in their search for and implementation of a dignified life, including autonomy and self-determination.
Women, the protagonists of these processes, have been and continue to be the force and strength of their communities despite the fact that they are on the receiving end of violence, poverty, exclusion, and discrimination. For the women who resist violent dominance in the midst of social, political, and economic conflicts, their resistance often means misery, sexual abuse, lack of sexual freedom, and violations of their basic human rights, all orchestrated to bring about a loss of belonging, persecution and death.
This meeting allowed for the organizing of solidarity and humanitarian missions to different regions of the country. During these missions, participants were able to exchange knowledge, experiences, and reflections with the women, rural communities, and urban Colombians in attendance. The visits made possible not only an understanding of the reality in those regions, but also put faces to the names of all those who have been living under militarization and resisting in their territories and in their daily lives. This opportunity allows the international community to continue denouncing the horrific human rights violations occurring in Colombia. These violations have reached new levels of perversion in practice, including false positives (falsely linking innocent people to activities that lead to assassination), imprisonment, forced disappearances, and displacement. These abuses make it evident that Colombia is not in a post-conflict phase, as the government assures it is.
Over two days, we shared experiences of resistance in Colombia and throughout the entire South America continent, denounced the impacts of militarization, and reaffirmed the conviction that we are tired of oppression, exploitation, and a culture of patriarchic, racist, death-inducing capitalism.

As a result of this meeting and in a collective spirit of justice, respect, and continental solidarity we speak out to the world to reiterate our promises as women and as peoples against militarization, and we position ourselves to:
Fight for justice for women and for an end to violence, intimidation, control over women and the use of women as war plunder.

Energetically reject the imperialistic strategy of the United States to militarize the lives, territories and the demand for country’s riches. We say OUT Yankee military bases, out of Latin American and the Caribbean.

Reject the presence of North American bases in our countries and territories, demanding their immediate retreat.

Fight against the interference of occupying military forces, such as MINUSTAH in Haiti.

Fight for the closure of military bases in Abya Yala. Fight against energy megaprojects, oil exploitation, mining, the privatization of water, and the dispossessing peoples from their land in favor of large multinational corporations.
Reject the imminent threat of military intervention in Costa Rica.
Reject the attempts to destabilize the legitimate government of Venezuela and provoke the people of this country.

Reiterate our solidarity with the national resistance movement in Honduras, concentrated in the FNRP, the political group who bases their action on a platform of a national re-founding. Standing with them, we also call for national government sand states to refuse to recognize the regime of Porfirio Lobo. He is a continuation of the coup d’etat and of policies that support human rights violations against Hondurans who continue to oppose his regime.
Repudiate the criminalization of the fight of the people for their rights. This criminalization means death and repression against men, women, and their ability to organize.
Denounce the anti-immigration policies that dominate in the United States.

Reject the appointment of Álvaro Uribe Vélez to the investigatory commission on crimes committed by the Israeli government against Palestinian solidarity brigades.

Continue the fight for the liberation of the five Cubans currently imprisoned unjustly in the United States.

Support the action of the Republic of Congo in the World March for Women, on October 17th.
Welcome December 10th as the Day of the Continental Struggle Against Foreign Military Bases.

Welcome the mandate of the Assembly of Social Movements of the 4th Social Forum of the America that took place in Paraguay. We equally welcome the mandates from the 1st and 2nd hemispheric meetings against the militarization that took place in Mexico and in Honduras.

Dedicate ourselves to energizing and promoting the 4th Continental Meeting Against Militarization.

Link ourselves with the campaign against the militarization happening across the continent.

In regards to Colombia we call out across the continent and propose that the world:
Hold firmly to the demand for a negotiated, political resolution to the social, internal armed conflict in Colombia.
Strengthen and reconstruct social movements such as those around fundamental public policies for peace.
Promote, energize, and support the courts, and women representing the people at the local, regional, national and international level in recuperating the truth, justice, reparations and assurance that there will be no repetition of the crimes to which they were subjected.
 Creative incentives for unity, the strengthening of sensitivity and awareness campaigns, improved organization, alternative communication, and the mobilization of important elements of independence and the struggle for resistance.
Support women victims in court at the local, regional, national and international levels as they try to recuperate their rights to history memory and truth, justice, reparations and the right of non-repetition of the crimes committed against them.
Today we reaffirm our commitment to a dignified life, the defense of our territories, sovereignty, autonomy, self-determination, our culture, and our heritage. We defend these elements through our social movements, understanding that the fight against militarization and military bases is a fundamental pillar for peace.
My body is my house.
My house is my territory                                                                                                                                                       My territory is my country                                                                                                                      My country is my continent.

Barrancabermeja, Colombia, August 23, 2010.

This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

The "Interest" of Colombia in a Treaty that will be our Ruin

October 12, 2010
Mario Alejandro Valencia, member of the Centro de Estudios del Trabajo.
(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN Volunteer Translator, and edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor)

In May 2010, with the electoral campaign in full swing, the then candidate Juan Manuel Santos, was asked about the FTA with the European Union. His answer was that these agreements “always leave winners and losers,” adding that he would sign it all the same.
True to his promise, on October 6 Colombia’s vice-president, Angelino Garzón, embarked on a fourteen-day tour of Europe to drum up approval for a Free Trade Agreement that will ruin Colombian dairies – and not just the small and middle-sized ones, but all the dairies. This FTA will end up bankrupting what remains of our food production. It will serve up the non-renewable natural wealth of our territory on a silver platter to Europe’s transnational corporations (e.g. BP, Hocol, Unión Fenosa, Endesa, Gas Natural, Anglogold Ashanti), as is evident from the mining, oil and environmental policy left by the previous government, which de Santos has promised to pursue and extend in the form of the “locomotives”.
So as not to leave any doubt, on October 8, Angelino Garzón spoke for an hour in Madrid at the Wall Street Journal’s New Economy Forum, sponsored by Endesa, to declare that “it is good business to invest in Colombia,” because it is “a tradition of the State to guarantee not only legal security, but administrative security, political security and security for domestic and foreign investment.” In her speech she lavished praise on the president of Endesa for the “labor he is performing in Colombia,” adding – to soothe the Spanish foreign investors present at the event – that “we are going to maintain all of President Alvaro Uribe’s policies that have been endorsed by the Colombian people,” including signing “free trade agreements with as many countries as possible”.
With the story of “winners and losers” in the FTA, vital sectors of Colombian industry have been forfeited in the illusory hope of gaining access in other goods that Colombia does not even produce. There has not been one single study by the Colombian government to show what these famous new products are that we are going to sell on the European market, nor what Colombian firms are going to invest on that continent. But then, as reciprocity is being proclaimed in these purported negotiations, it might be worth asking the government “What sectors of European industry are going to be ruined by a FTA signed with Colombia?” Has anyone heard any European officials saying “there will be winners and losers?” I haven’t, simply because the only losers are going to be on this side of the pond.
Vice-president Angelino Garzón went to Europe to express “Colombia’s interest in European Parliament approval for the trade agreement.” On the 518th anniversary of the Spanish conquistadores’ arrival in America, Garzón should be asked “How can it be in Colombians’ interest for them to re-colonize us?”
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

The Internal Armed Conflict in Colombia

By the National and International Campaign for the Right to Defend Human Rights in Colombia

(Translated by Rudy Heller, a CSN Volunteer Translator, and edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor)

Colombia, located in the upper northwestern corner of South America, has close to 46 million people. It has a vast natural and cultural wealth — including Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. The country has been involved in an internal armed conflict for over 60 years. Legal armed groups (the National Army and the Police) and illegal armed groups (revolutionaries, paramilitaries and common criminals) seek to control geostrategic regions or belts. The lack of a State presence and the precarious socioeconomic conditions favor penetration by illegal armed actors into the regions and exacerbate the vulnerability of the civil population. In Colombia, basic rights are seriously and systematically violated. These attacks against civilians are characterized by forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, forced displacements, threats against life and limb, and many other serious violations of human rights. So much so that the NGO Coordinación Colombia/Europa/Estados Unidos, reported recently that between 2002 and 2009, 3183 cases of extrajudicial executions took place.

The Local Context: Soacha

Just Southwest of the capital city, Bogotá, lies Soacha, with 363,019 inhabitants. Unemployment is at 22%, twice the national average of 11.8%. Due to its geostrategic, economic and political relevance, Soacha is part of a corridor that connects several states (called departments in Colombia) to the South, making it easy for illegal armed groups to pass through it. The guerilla group FARC and their counterparts, the paramilitaries, have seen the opportunity to expand their structures and activities into urban areas, especially areas known for precarious living conditions and low State presence. In fact, the lack of a state presence, socioeconomic problems and lack of security favor penetration by unlawful groups and increase the civil population’s vulnerability.

In addition to people from impoverished and excluded sectors, Soacha is a city with many people who have been forcibly displaced or demobilized from illicit groups. Between 1993 and 2003, Soacha’s population grew by 58%. Women single-heads of household also increased by 28%. These families not only experience the traumatic geographical, cultural and socioeconomic changes caused by forced displacement, but they also are subject to rejection, pressures and stigmatization by armed groups. These displaced people are very vulnerable and are the object of threats, persecution, attacks, homicides, torture, retention. And in the past few years, forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.  

Background and Requests for Protection for Serious HR Violations in Soacha

The forced disappearances of youngsters in Soacha began in January 2008, although the local ombudsman, through the Early Alert System, reported on May 31, 2007 in Risk Report No. 12, that there was evidence of illegal groups in the municipality of Soacha, state of Cundinamarca. They were intimidating the civil population and especially threatening and harassing youngsters. At first, indicated the report, there were attempts to recruit them into illegal groups. That is why the Early Alert was activated, to create awareness of the high risk to the civil population ran and looking towards the adoption of preventive measures. On June 28, 2007 the CIAT met, but did not activate the Early Alert.

On December 3, 2007 the SAT of the Ombudsman issued Follow-up Note No. 048 which highlighted the presence of illegal armed groups in the period after the paramilitary AUC demobilized in Ciudad Bolívar and Altos de Cazucá. This caused problems between the authorities and members of the civil population when defining the difference between common criminals and paramilitary groups. They tend to mingle and mix, and at times their affairs seem common and shared. Other times, they engage in violent confrontations.

Despite the risk reports and follow up notes, both of which implored the National and District authorities to implement measures to protect Soacha’s civil population, the Colombian authorities never activated the EARLY ALERT.

How Colombian Civil Society Learned of these Serious Human Rights Violations

In January 2008, many relatives of the young victims of extrajudicial executions in Soacha and Bogotá began a tireless search for their loved ones. They filed complaints at the Prosecutor General’s Office (fiscalía), searched in hospital, morgues and prisons; all to no avail. In August and September 2008, several relatives of victims who had left photos of their disappeared relatives at the National Forensic Institute, were called to see photo albums of some people who the National Army had reported as fallen guerillas, dead in combat and buried as No Names in common graves in the municipality of Ocaña, in the department of Norte de Santander. At that time, mothers and relatives of the disappeared went to the medical examiners offices and confirmed that the youngsters who had disappeared in Soacha were the same people found in common graves in Ocaña. That attracted the attention of the press to what later came to be known as the story of the “false positives.” Among those victims were Julio César Mesa Vargas (age 24), Jonathan Soto (age 17), Daniel Pesca Olaya, Eduardo Garzón Páez, Jaír Leonardo Porras (all 26), Elkin Gustavo  Verano (25), Julián Oviedo (19), Diego Alberto Tamayo (25), Víctor Gómez Romero (23), Andrés Palacio (22), Joaquín Castro Vásquez (27), Jaime Estiven Valencia Sanabria (16), Jaime castillo Peña (38), Alexander Garzón Arenas (35), and Daniel Alexander Martínez (24).  

At first the media related the story of 11 youngsters from Soacha, victims of extrajudicial executions, and later it became known that they were 17. The number of incidents denounced by inhabitants of Soacha is much greater, but official reports have not been filed for fear of retaliation.

After finding the common graves and other irregularities during the investigation, the government expelled 25 people from the military, including three generals. This decision was made public on October 28, 2008, at a press conference run by President Álvaro Uribe and General Freddy Padilla, head of the Armed Forces. This event caused mixed reactions and messages, including one from General José Joaquín Cortés, one of the generals retired after the false positives were made public. He stated that he tried to warn about the penetration of drug traffickers in the troops in Ocaña but he was removed from his post without being able to present his findings. The former Commander of the Army’s Second Division also stated that there were indications that this penetration was not just by drug traffickers but also by smugglers, and it involved two or three squads and was at the level of sargents, commanders, second lieutenants and lieutenants.

The Road to Death

The Soacha case is one of the most iconic of what has come to be known as the “false positives” and perhaps opened the door to reveal that these were not just isolated cases but a problem that is prevalent nationwide.

In the investigations of the forced disappearance and subsequent extrajudicial execution of the 17 youngsters from Soacha and Bogotá reveal “the road to death” which began in Soacha, south of Bogotá and ended in Ocaña, very close to the Venezuelan border.

According to mothers and relatives, the assassinated youth had never expressed any intention of leaving Soacha. Due to their precarious economic conditions, several of them had never even been outside of Soacha, and that is the reason why nobody understands how the Army argues that the youth were killed in combat, particularly if you consider that the places where the Army reported combat are more than 14 hours away from Soacha and the autopsies show that the victims were murdered 2 days after their disappearance. These times can be confirmed with the last sightings of the victims and proves that these young men were never away from Soacha and their families for any length of time. There was no time for these youngsters to receive military training and be part of the illegal groups.

The investigations that have taken place during the judicial process have shown that the military had contact with a band of recruiters who deceived the youngsters with false promises of employment to get them to move to Ocaña, lured by promises of work. They moved to Ocaña where the recruiters then turned the youngsters over to the military. The military took their ID cards and simulated encounters in order to report their deaths as guerillas gunned down during combat.  

Family members of the victims have stated that they had brief cell phone conversations with the youngsters the day after they disappeared. They indicated that they were in Ocaña, that they had been arrested but that they would return soon. Long after the youngsters’ deaths had been registered, family members continued receiving telephone calls from the cell phones that the youngsters had with them when they disappeared.

Family members retraced this road to death. They left Soacha and went to Ocaña to recover the bodies of their children. They found decomposed bodies, some in plastic bags, others buried in the nude.

How These Serious Crimes were Carried Out

The IG’s Office revealed that in most cases the youngsters were lured to Ocaña with false employment promises by recruiters who then turned them over to members of the Army as soon as they arrived at the Transportation Terminal in Ocaña. Most victims were taken to a house owned by one of the members of Ocaña’s Fifteenth Brigade, where they were kept under lock and key. They were subsequently taken out in private vehicles and taken down intermunicipal roads. The military set up false inspection stations where the victims were told to hand over their ID cards. They were then moved to another vehicle and taken to the place were they were ultimately assassinated. All of these youngsters were buried as “No Names” and their bodies were identified by their family members 6 months after their disappearance. It has been established that the military involved paid the recruiters $200,000 pesos (approx. USD 100) for each youngster.

Who were these Young Men who Disappeared and then were Reported as “No Names” Killed by the Colombian Army During Combat

Most victims were youngsters of precarious socioeconomic backgrounds, many of them heads of households who held informal jobs or worked in the construction industry. This made them very vulnerable and easy prey for the bands of recruiters who knew that any offer of employment would be attractive to them. This offer was also the perfect pretext to get these youngsters to travel to distant places such as Ocaña without arousing suspicions. These youngsters were in no position to reject job offers as they were always looking for anything that would improve conditions for their mothers and relatives. This was precisely the argument used by the recruiters to deceive their victims.

By living in one of the areas with the greatest number of displaced people, where crimes are committed often as a result of the region’s social deterioration, the recruiters thought that the disappearances would not be noted. They certainly never thought that the entire nation would be concerned. That is why they went to different neighborhoods in Soacha to recruit youngsters to later be sold as chattel to the Army. The recruiters also thought that because these were very low income people they would never find legal representation nor would they denounce these crimes or raise any kind of an alert about these serious crimes. As a result, these grave violations would be considered isolated incidents.

Most of the victims had close ties to the Soacha community because this was where they worked and lived with their families. The families have indicated that they were friendly boys with hopes and dreams to move forward, to have meaningful jobs, to be good workers despite having no access to healthcare, education nor formal jobs. Many of these youngsters had had to mature and to take on serious responsibilities at a young age because they came from single parent homes with their mothers as heads of household. So as a result it is the older sons that take on the role of father who must care for their younger siblings.

It is important to point out that several of the victims had steady jobs in Soacha and some were also going to school. Two of the victims were minors and one had a mental disability so that although 26 years old, his mental capacity was that of an 8 year old. These facts combined with the other evidence, counteract the Army’s assertion that the victims were part of armed and illegal groups, and that they had traveled to other cities to join up with criminal gangs.

Threats Against the Victims’  Families

Several relatives of the victims have denounced to different government authorities that they have been objects of threats and harassment. They have been told to stop their accusations and their involvement in the legal processes. They have been told that if they do not desist, they will be murdered. Some of the victims’ relatives have had to move in order to protect their lives. They still continue receiving threats, and are aware that they are often being followed on their way to and from work and home.  

Given the frequency of the complaints of threats and harassment by the victims’ relatives, the Ministry of Interior (through its Protection Program) has assigned them material protection, including providing them with cell phones. These were given on May 4, 2010. However, two days after that, one of the relatives began receiving threatening calls to that phone demanding that she remove the SIM Card that had been given to her. These facts were brought before the office of the Ombudsman in Soacha and also before the National Police.

To date, the victims’ relatives have no knowledge of any progress made in their denouncing of what has happened.  


• The investigations of the homicides of youngsters in Soacha and Bogotá were initially carried out by military criminal justice (with the resulting limitation in bringing forward evidence). Several cases have stagnated for over a year in the files of military criminal investigation authorities.

• Despite the fact that 17 of the victims were from Soacha and Bogotá, and that they disappeared and were murdered in similar circumstances, the investigations of these events were split up and assigned to different jurisdictions. Some were removed from the Bogotá area and were sent to faraway cities like Cúcuta, Bucaramanga and Cimitarra, making it impossible for the relatives of the victims to help out in the investigations or to be in touch with the investigating officials.

• Colombian law establishes terms for the criminal processes to move forward. However, in the Soacha cases, these timeframes have been ignored. Thus, some of the members of the military who had originally been detained have been released because the terms for detention have expired.

• There has been an unjustified delay in the development of hearings, which has kept the victims’ families from having timely access to judicial decisions regarding the events.

• Hearings are regularly suspended and continued for 30 and 45 days, which again results in keeping the authorities from reaching timely decisions.

• The disturbance of crime scenes has also been a systematic factor in the case of extrajudicial executions, particularly in the simulations of the supposed military encounters. Add to this that in most cases it was members of the military who did the initial analyses of the cadavers. It resulted in the impossibility of collecting evidentiary materials that could clear up the facts.

• Two years after the events, criminal justice and discipline continues to avoid providing definitive decisions regarding these cases.

• Of the 25 members of the military who were removed from office in October 2008, none have been processed criminally nor have they even been connected in any way to these very serious crimes.

• Despite the fact that these processes have been remitted to the appropriate jurisdiction of civilian justice, because there should be no jurisdiction within the military because of the gravity of the violations of human rights, the members of the military who were initially detained were kept in military quarters, where they were afforded special benefits.

Recommendations to Move the Soacha Cases Forward

• The Prosecutor General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la Nación) should define as soon as possible the petition to transfer the investigations that were filed in Cúcuta and Bucaramanga, to the National Human Rights Unit and the DIH in Bogotá.

• The Fiscalía General de la Nación should guarantee the means needed for the relatives of victims to have access to the State’s information on the status of the investigations, particularly in those cases in which the investigations are not taking place in Bogotá.

• The investigative judges who become aware of delaying tactics and procedural misconduct by defense attorneys, should process the corresponding paperwork so that the appropriate disciplinary measures are started.

• Prosecutors, judges and a judicial police team should be designated to support and foster the investigations with the purpose setting close dates for all the hearings that need to take place.

• The judges in charge of quality assurance must keep in mind that the members of the military that are ordered for detainment by the prosecutors must not be held in military districts but in regular places of detention, where they are to remain until they face the crimes for which they are being investigated, knowing that these are serious violations of human rights.

This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

Letter to President Juan Manuel Santos on the 17th anniversary of the promulgation of Act 70 of 1993.

August 27, 2010.
(Translated by Nancy Beiter, a CSN Volunteer Translator, and edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor)

Esteemed President Juan Manuel Santos:
We are a group of academics, intellectuals and students of the Pacific Region of Colombia and of Afro-Colombian culture.  We come from different parts of the world, different disciplines, but we are united in our concern about the grave situation in the region and its effects on the black and indigenous communities and on the region’s biodiversity.   We write to you to share our concern and to call upon you and your government to develop an integrated approach to addressing these problems in an expeditions and constructive way.
 The 1990s were very important for the Territory of the Pacific Region and to the rights of its black communities. This decade was marked by two particularly important milestones: the recognition of cultural diversity in the 1991 Constitution and the passage of Act 70 of 1993, which together heralded the emergence of a general awareness of the value of the Pacific region in terms of biological and cultural diversity, both for the country and for the planet.  These policies of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development implemented by the government are also notable for the crucial participation of ethno-territorial organizations of the region in their formulation and implementation.
Sadly, the situation has been very different during the last decade, which has seen a marked increase in the ritual destruction of the tropical rain forest, on the one hand, and the abrogation of the rights of those of African descent throughout the country, on the other.   In the Pacific Region, this has been caused by a number of factors including mining activities, armed conflict which expanded far and wide into the Region after 1996, conventional development strategies, policies that ended up becoming threats to the territories’ biodiversity and cultures, and the increase in the cultivation of coca for illicit purposes. Among the most important problems associated with these issues are:
• the increase of mineral and gold mining activity in many of parts of the region;
•  fumigation of the entire territory –  truly a form of biological and chemical warfare – which not only fails to control the expansion of  coca cultivation,  but also kills nutritional crops traditionally grown by the locals and poisons the rivers;
• the militarization of much of the territory by the increasing presence of armed actors which often leads to the repression of local organizations;
• development macro-projects, such as promotion of palm oil for biofuel production, the expansion of ports and the construction of pipelines and highways such as the Ánimas - Nuquí highway or the Transversal de Las Americas highway - most of them without the required consultation with the affected population and without many guarantees that the social, environmental and cultural damages will be mitigated, compensated and repaired;
• the constant threats to local leaders and activists, including massacres and assassinations, principally by paramilitary groups and insurgents;
• the frequent complicity of state agencies with the abuses and environmental destruction perpetrated by many of the above groups.
These events have caused massive displacement of ancestral collective communities, corralling populations and using them as human shields.  Their livelihoods have been destroyed, they have lost their land, their local organizations have been dismantled and their rights as articulated in international treaties have been violated.   Local organizations and human right activists are endangered. The cumulative effect of this can be characterized as not only crimes against humanity but also ecocide and ethnocide.  The situation is aggravated by a lack of attention by the government and by the impunity with which these acts are treated.
The foregoing illustrates that many of the important successes that stemmed from Act 70 are being rapidly dismantled often through the use of force and arbitrary administrative measures at variance with the Constitution, Law 70, the Decision 005 of 2009 of the Constitutional Court, and international treaties such as Convention 169 de la OIT. In recent years, the situation has reached crisis proportions in many areas of the South and North Pacific Regions and in northern Cauca, as in the case of the Afro-descendant community of La Toma in the town of Suarez and the communities of the Communitarian Council COPDICONC-formerly known as Palenque El Castigo - or in the rivers such as the San Juan, the Baudo, the Atrato, the Mira, the Tapaje, the Satinga, the Patia and the Naya, among many others.
These communities, among the oldest and most symbolic for free Afro-descendents in the Americas, are being sacked and destroyed  by national and international actors as well as by armed actors of various types who are interested in extracting  the gold and other natural resources in the regions.
We believe this situation requires action on multiple fronts:
• on the cultural front, to safeguard conditions for the exercise of identity and cultural practices of indigenous and black communities;
• on the social front, to insure respect for communal rights, including communal rights to their land;
• on the political front, to provide protection of ethno-territorial organizations and the lives of their leaders, and to strengthen communal forms of government;
• on the ecological front, to reduce biodiversity loss and deforestation of the rainforest and mangrove ecosystem and restore the territorial integrity of the Region. This includes the right of communities to develop and sustain their ecological systems in and ways that are culturally appropriate and sustainable;
• on the judicial front, to ensure access to justice and to provide guarantees against impunity, to ensure a right to the truth, to provide reparations to these communities and to guarantee that there will be no repetition of crimes and human rights violations.  
We believe a substantial change in the politics of the State is required and a new round of attention needs to be given to the Pacific regions similar to what took place in the decade of the 1990’s when this region was discovered to be one of the most biologically diverse areas of the planet.  We call on the government to develop a special holistic strategy for the Pacific regions and for these critical Afro-descendent populations, capable of  halting the current trends so  destructive to biological and cultural diversity, and to return to the Territory Region-and to the country-the assurance that another development model is possible. We insist that, as in the 1990’s, this new strategy be developed with the full participation of the local communities and their organizations. This should be a real participation of grassroots communities and organizations which are truly representative, not groups who manipulate the situations to pursue only their own interests, as has unfortunately been the case over the past eight years. This is the only way to ensure the success of this important social, cultural, political and ecological project.
We express our best wishes for your work as President during the four years that are just beginning.
Yours sincerely,
Signed (en alphabetical order):
Mauricio Adarve, Anthropologist
Adolfo Albán Achinte, Professor, Department of Intercultural Studies, University of Cauca
Tatiana Alfonso, Doctoral Student in Sociology, University de Wisconsin-Madison
M. Gonzalo Andrade C., Associate Professor, ICN, Vice President of the Research Advisory, National University of Colombia
Juan Ricardo Aparicio Cuervo, Assistant Professor, University of the Andes
Jaime Arocha Rodríguez, Professor of Anthropology and Director, Afro-Colombian Study Group, National University of Colombia, Bogota,
Kiran Asher, Professor of International Studies and Women’s Studies, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
Anthony Bebbington, Professor of Geography, Clark University, Massachusetts
Mario Blaser, Professor of Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Marisol de la Cadena, Professor of Anthropology, University de California, Davis
Juana Camacho, Anthropology, University de Georgia
Roosebelinda Cárdenas, Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Camilo Castellanos, Attorney, Fedes
Miriam Cotes Benítez, Independent consultant in the area of communication and education, Medellin
Esperanza Ceron Villaquirán, Physician and Independent Consultant, Cali
Gustavo de Roux, Independent Consultant, Cali
Rafael Diaz, Historian,  Javeriana University, Bogotá
Arturo Escobar, Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania
Margarita Flórez, Environmental and Ethnic Researcher, Bogotá
Juliana Flórez, Professor of Psychology, Javeriana University
Ramón Grosfogel, Professor de Ethnic Studies, University de California, Berkeley
Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Author and Professor of International Law, Birkbeck College, University de London
Eduardo Gudynas, Director, CLAES (Latin American Center for Social Ecology), Montevideo
Ernesto Guhl Nannetti, Director, Institute for Sustainable Development, QUINAXI
Charles Hale, Professor of Anthropology, University de Texas, Austin
Julianne Hazlewood, Researcher, Department of Geography, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Denise Humphreys Bebbington, Researcher, School of Law and Environmental Mediation, University de Manchester
Søren Hvalkof, Director, Solstice Foundation y Senior Advisor, Rainforest Foundation, Norway
Gladys Jimeno, Independent Consultant
Joseph Jordan, Director, Center for Black Culture and History and Professor of African-American Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Sara Koopman, Doctoral Candidate in Geography, University de British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Yukyan Lam, Attorney, Bogotá
Agustín Laó Montes, Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, University de Massachusetts, Amherst.
Claudia Leal, Professor of  History, University de los Andes
Enrique Leff, Professor of Political Ecology, National Autonomous University, México, D.F.
David López Rodríguez, Anthropologist
Lars Lovold, Director, Rainforest Foundation Norway
Betty Ruth Lozano, Independent Consultant, Cali
Martha Luz Machado, National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and Its Legacy, NiNSEE, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Amsterdam
Nelson Maldonado Torres, President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association and Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Rutgers University, New Jersey
Joan Martínez Alier, Ecological Economist, Autonomous University of Barcelona
María Isabel Mena, Profesora, Department History, District University
Joaquín Molano Barrero, Geographer, National University of  Colombia
Alfredo Molano Bravo, Sociologist and Journalist, Colombia
César Monje, Doctoral Research, Latin American Study Group, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
Jaime Moreno Quijano, Environmentalist, High School of Public Administration
Claudia Mosquera Rosero-Labbé, Professor, National University of Colombia, Bogotá
Martha Cecilia Navarro Valencia, Anthropologist Ph.D, Spain
Angélica María Ocampo Talero, Professor, Psychology Faculty,  Javeriana University, Doctoral Candidate in  Development Studies, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Oscar Olarte Reyes, Writer, Colombia
Natalia Orduz, Attorney, Bogotá
Ulrich Oslender, Professor of Geography, Florida International University, Miami
Alejandro Parellada, International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs, IWGIA, Copenhagen, Denmark
Adriana Elisa Parra-Fox, Deparment of Geography, University de California, Davis
Tianna Paschel, Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, University de California, Berkeley, and Founder, Afro-Latino Working Group
Alvaro Pedrosa, Environmental Designer, Professor University of Valle, Cali
Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Professor of Music, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, USA
Joanne Rappaport, Professor of Literature and Anthropology, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.
Eduardo Restrepo, Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, PENSAR, Javeriana University
Jaime Rivas Díaz, Indpendent Consultant
Tatiana Roa Avendaño, Environmentalist, Censat Agua Viva
Manuel Rodríguez Becerra, Professor and Administrative Faculty, University of the  Andes y President, National Environmental Forum
César Rodríguez Garavito, Director, Observatory of Racial Discrimination, Colombia
Cristina Rojas, Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Jeannette Rojas Silva, Independent Socail Consultant, Cali
María del Rosario Rojas, Biologist and Environmentalist, National University of Colombia
Amanda Romero, Consultant and Doctoral Candidate in Education,  National University of Pedagogy
Rocío Rueda Ortiz, Professor, Doctor of Education, National University of Pedagogy
Jhon Antón Sánchez, Doctor of Social Science, Professor and Researcher, FLACSO, Sede Ecuador
Luz Marina Suaza Vargas, Research Group on Education and Cultural Politics, National University of Pedagogy,  Teacher at the Iberoamerican University
Michael Taussig, Professor de Anthropology, Columbia University, New York
Astrid Ulloa, Professor, Department of Geography, National University of Colombia, Bogotá
Peter Wade, Professor of Anthropology, University de Manchester
Tukufu Zuberi, Professor of Sociology and Director, Center for African Studies, Universidad de Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Cc : Dr. Angelino Garzón, Vice  President the Republic
Dr. Germán Vargas Lleras, Minister of Justice and the Interior
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Revealing report by the POLO Senator Jorge E Robledo

[Translator's note: Democratic Polo, an opposition party in Colombia]


(Translated by Diana Méndez, a CSN Volunteer Translator, and edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor)


AngloGold Ashanti and other multinational corporations were granted concessions of 43,000 square kilometers [16,603 sq miles] as large as the [departments] of Boyacá and Cundinamarca put together.  Through tax exemptions, Drummond did not pay Colombia almost a billion pesos between 1995 and 2007.  In Cerro Matoso due to bad investments, the nation may have lost 210 million pesos since 1998. The state's audit was awful.  See intervention in today's (September 14) senate.


The multinationals of the mining industry impose conditions upon Colombia and the country gets the worst end of the deal, said Jorge Enrique Robledo today in the debate that took place in the Comisión Quinta (one of the Commissions of the Colombian Senate). The companies do not pay the taxes and royalties they should. They are not subject to proper audits and they do whatever they feel like in terms of labor law and industrial safety.  In contrast, smaller and medium sized miners are subject to punitive policies which attempt to drive them from the market.


After reiterating that foreign investment is welcome, as long as it is beneficial and does not affect sovereignty, Robledo reported that "in this country the chain tends to break at its thinnest link when the interests of the country and foreign monopolies come into conflict." He emphasized that the conditions of labor in the mines are abhorrent, where the independent contractor system rules, with twelve hour shifts and salaries 70% below those who are on the regular payroll. Occupational diseases are widespread but the Administradoras de Riesgos Profesionales, ARP (Administration of Professional Risks) refuses to recognize them as such.


To illustrate the point, the Polo senator cited various critical cases. Among them, the case of the Frontino Gold Mines in Segovia and Remedios, Antioquia, Colombia Gold field in Marmato, Caldas, Greystar resources in the plateau of Santurbán, Santander, Anglogold Ashanti in Cajamarca, Tolima, Cosigo Frontier en Taraira (Vaupés), and the goldmine of the Suarez river, Cauca.  He was in solidarity with the strike of the citizens of Segovia and Remedios for the firing of 1600 workers. He also warned of the great harm that the open air exploitations that are being planned in Marmato, La Colosa y Santurbán will cause. About the carbon mines in César, where Drummond and Glencore are located, Robledo citing Salud-Hernandez Mora, said "What we have here is a conspiracy. A plot to make rivers disappear, ruin life projects, devastate a region, and line a few pockets."


He referenced Cerro Matoso, where, according to Audit Age S.A an auditing firm, the nation did not receive due to bad settlements in 2004- 2008 over 23,000 million pesos and accused Ingeominas [the Colombian institute of Geology and Mining] of  having accepted arbitration with a foreign company when Colombian law prohibits it.  Also due to the bad settlement in the Prodeco-Glencore contract, Colombia lost $420,000.  He added that Drummond did not pay Colombia almost a billion pesos between 1995 and 2007, through the value added tax, compensation and returns. He asked the government neither to renew the Cerro Matoso contract nor to proceed to new negotiations regarding contracts with any multinational companies unless they were debated before the Comision Quinta.


The Democratic Polo senator warned that Juan Manuel Santos would shower privileges upon the foreign mining industry and seeking to exclude the smaller and medium sized companies citing León Teicher, president of El Cerrejón, "just like the country was fortunate in having president Uribe during so many years,  we are fortunate with president Santos."


This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

The Situation of Victims of Land Seizures Worsens in Uraba

From the José Alvear Restrepo Collective

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator, and edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor)


Thursday, September 23, 2010, by IPC


After the murder of Hernando Pérez, which occurred this past September 19 in the community of El Totumo in the municipality of Necoclí, in the Uraba district of Antioquia, the situation for the campesinos who have been the victims of land seizures in the agro-industrial region has become so difficult that most likely five leaders will be forced to leave their municipalities in the coming days.


Urabá / Victims of Crimes by the State


This is how Carmen Palencia, a leader of the Association of Victims of Urabá for the Recovery of Land and Goods [Asociación de Víctimas del Urabá para la Restitución de Tierras y Bienes (Asovirestibi)], described it. She did not hesitate to describe the murder of Pérez as a hard warning about what the process of land recovery that the Government intends to move forward in the region will be like.


According to Palencia, a number of the members of the Association received death threats weeks ago while several campesinos from Necoclí were pressured to abandon their claims. Now, after the tragic disappearance of Hernando Pérez, several of those who were threatened are thinking of leaving the area.


"Right now we have two leaders of the community El Totumo who were threatened, and we are seeing how we can get them out of here because they are at great risk. We have another associate in Apartadó in the same situation; last week some armed men went to the house of a female associate from Chigorodó looking for her. About three months ago we got an associate out of the area under cover because they were going to kill him and we sent him to a city in the interior of the country. We "tossed" him there, but what else can we do?" said Palencia


This leader spoke of intimidations that come from armed groups that operate in the area and are in the service of figureheads and landlords who function as the owners of extensive acreage devoted to cattle raising and agro-industrial crops such as oil palm.


"Here we are in the hands of these violent men. They travel around the region without any problems. They are threatening those of us who are reclaiming our lands. How can it be that not even the presence of the Minister of Agriculture prevented them from murdering Hernando?" said Palencia, alluding to the fact that hours before his death, Hernando Pérez attended the ceremony in which 34 land titles were handed over to the same number of families from the communities of La Teca, California, Calle Larga and Nueva Unión, which belong to the community of Nueva Colonia, in the municipality of Turbo, an event at which Juan Camilo Restrepo, the new Minister of Agriculture, was present.


The situation is so serious that on September 24, members of the Association will meet in Bogotá with the Vice President of the Republic, Angelino Garzón, in order to look at possible measures to protect the victims of this scourge. Also attending will be non-governmental organizations that accompany these processes, like the Fundación Forjando Futuros ["Forging Futures Foundation"].


Gerardo Vega, Director of the Foundation, said that he will ask the executive branch to create investigation units made up of prosecutors, judges and police in order to find those responsible for these crimes, so they do not continue in impunity. "We also need to have the presence of the highest representatives of the Government in the regions, so that the violent men will understand that returning the land has been a national decision," said Vega.


The Director of the Foundation will also propose to the vice president that he provide an incentive for the creation of organizations of victims of land seizures in the entire country that would have the appropriate support of the government, and further that measures be promulgated to protect the leaders who have been threatened. And he will also invite international organizations to participate and to accompany the campesinos who are reclaiming their land.


A Worrisome Situation


With the disappearance of Pérez, there are now 47 campesinos connected to the process of reclaiming land who have been murdered in this country in the past three years, of which seven have been in the Urabá area of Antioquia. Just in May of this year there was the strange death of Albeiro Valdez, whose lifeless body was found in an unpopulated area of the community of El Totumo, in Necoclí. While the first forensic reports indicated that his death was produced by natural causes, now there are clear indications that he was a victim of poisoning.


What worries the people who live in the agro-industrial region, perhaps one of those most affected in the country by the seizure of lands, is that all these crime still remain in impunity, "and this has turned into a license for them to continue killing us," indicated Palencia.


For Alberto Yépez, Coordinator of the Human Rights Observatory of the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination, an organization that has been following the situation of the victims of land seizures in the country, things like this ought to lead the national Government to fine-tune their strategies for protecting the campesinos who are reclaiming their land, now that they have expressed their political intention to return lands that have been taken from them in the past.


"Before returning the land, the Government must be present with their security organizations, and confront these mafia paramilitary structures that are still occupying the land and that have already demonstrated in Urabá that they are not prepared to turn over the land voluntarily. The Government will have to go there not only with the law, but with the guns; that is, with military authorities, but in order to support the campesinos," sustained Yépez.


For the Coordinator of the Human Rights Observatory, the fact that the Congress of the Republic is rushing to debate the so-called Land Law, a legislative initiative that is intended to return two and a half million hectares to campesinos who were victims of violence during the last four years, provides a crucial moment not only to provide effective guarantees for the peasants, but also to begin to reveal who was behind the scourge of the land seizures.

"I believe that before proposing actions like social land value assessments with the victims, the national Government must first carry out an evaluation of who the companies or investors are who ended up benefiting from the seized lands, make their names public and find the judicial mechanisms so they can also be connected to the investigations of the deaths of these campesinos who are reclaiming their land," added Yépez.


In addition to asking for quick action in the investigations of the deaths of the campesino leaders, many of which remain in total impunity, Yépez warned about the violent attacks that victims of seizures are suffering in other regions of the country.


"There is very strong pressure against campesinos who reclaim their land in Córdoba, César, Magdalena, Cauna, Nariño, and Norte de Santander. These are areas where there is a strong presence of paramilitary groups, and where important economic conglomerates connected to agro-industry have settled in; these are the ones who in the end benefit from the seized lands," asserted the activist.


IPC Press Agency, Medellín, Colombia

Tel: 567-4-284-9035



This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Declaration by the INGA and KAMENTSA peoples

(Translated by Diana Méndez, a CSN Volunteer Translator, and edited by Buddy Bell, a CSN Volunteer Editor)

The ancestral and indigenous INGA and KAMËNTSÁ peoples of the valley of Sibundoy, Putumayao-Colombia declare:

As ancestral peoples, the Inga and Kamëntsá are thousand-year inhabitants of the Ancestral Carlos Tamoabioy territory which is located in the High and Middle Putumayao and the states of Nariño and Cauca in southern Colombia.  We are protectors of life and guardians of the Earth. This is a duty and natural law inherited from our ancestors for our future generations and humanity. In our territory there is an understanding that our laws, traditional education, worldview and cultural identity are what our survival as ancestral peoples and our lives themselves depend on.
We denounce:
The encroachment upon our ancestral lands, which are in a high risk situation, due to the carelessness of the Colombian government’s institutions. In this case, the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Justice through its Directory of Ethnic Groups and Indigenous Affairs is refusing to acknowledge the existence of the Inga and Kamëntsá peoples in the ancestral lands Carlos Tamoabioy.

The government for ignoring the existence of the Inga and Kamëntsá  peoples on a legal level, which has permitted institutions and projects with interests in the Amazon Piedemonte (translator's note: region of the Amazon region of Colombia near the east mountain range) to enter the ancestral lands Carlos Tamoabioy without permission of the Inga and Kamëntsá peoples. This violates the communities’ ancestral rights, their constitutional rights and their rights to an informed and free decision [regarding access to their lands].

The National Agency of Hydrocarbons (ANH by its initials in Spanish) for ignoring the existence of the indigenous Inga and Kamëntsá peoples in the Valley of Sibundoy in [the drafting of] mining cartography.

The Colombian Institute for Rural Development  (Instituto Colombiano de Desaarrollo Rural INCODER by its initials in Spanish) for abolishing the protections granted by the colonial title (No. 2400 of September 24, 2009), putting the ancestral peoples affected at great risk.

The Autonomous Corporation for Sustainable Development in the Colombian Amazon (Corporación Autónoma para el Desarrollo Sostenible del Sur de la Amazonía Colombiana CORPOAMAZONIA), for the granting of environmental license and NOT CONSULTING the indigenous peoples, which promotes the privatization of the Ancestral Lands.

INGEOMINAS (the Colombian Institute of Geology and Mining) for the mining concessions [of Copper and Molybdenum] granted in the high and middle Putumayo to the South African mining multinational Aglo Gold Ashanti, which endangers human rights in the places where they operate.

aThe Initiative for Regional Infrastructure for South America (Iniciativa de Infraestructura Regional para Sur América -IIRSA ) and the Putumayo area project San Francisco-Mocoa, for misrepresenting itself to the communities as a social investment project by the state, while in reality being a project of the World Bank for the systemic extraction of natural resources (oil, water, minerals, traditional knowledge, natural wealth).

The project of the expanding of the forest reserve of the Cuenca Alta of the River Mocoa, which takes over the Ancestral lands of the Inga and Kamëntsá peoples of the middle and high Putumayo, endangering the communities’ territories, their right to self-determination and their cultures. The communities of the middle and high Putumayo practice rites which involve collection of medicinal plants, this being a sacred place. This leaves open space for the exploitation of the reserves of uranium, gold, marble and cooper in the region without asking for permission, in addition to the permissions granted by the new mining code.

The transnational "conservation” project of the real cordillera proposed by the WWF (world wildlife fund), which spans the mountains in southern Colombian (known commonly as el Macizo Colombiano) until Huancabamba in northern Peru, seeking the privatization of the Amazon Piedemonte. This is an affront given the mercantilist (green markets, carbon bonds and bio-commerce) which this "conservation" transnational wishes to bring to this region without the permission of the communities.

The WWF has been advocating a process of privatization in the land along the length of the regional plateaus in the Amazon Piedemonte, with private organizations such as the Cultural Foundation of Putumayo, Option Putumayo Foundation and the Ampora Association, in the valley of Sibundoy.  They seek the purchase of lagoons, wetlands, springs and rivers under the excuse of conservation and ecotourism.  This results in a commercial image of the communities that has nothing to do with reality and the needs of our ancestral peoples, making them into simple commercial banners, while our communities receive no real benefit. In the same way the US SWING FINING company, under its subsidiary foundation FUSIE of Pasto, aims to privatize access to water without the consent of the indigenous peoples that live here.

For these reasons, the ancestral communities Inga and Kamënstá, will mobilize on July 26, 2010 in order to draw attention to these problems, so that our ancestral rights will be honored, as they are guaranteed by the OIT , the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Political Constitution of Colombia,  Law 21 of 1991, Article 004 of 2009 of the Constitutional Court.

This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.



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