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Friday, December 31, 2010

Survey by the Attorney-General: 10,000 unidentified bodies

7 November 2010 - 7:54pm

(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)

With reports in from only half of Colombia's municipalities, the survey (which began last July) has now passed that figure, and warns: other similar initiatives must be scrutinized.

The Justice and Peace Unit of the Attorney-General's Office has now received the records submitted by local governments in Colombia on 10,084 unidentified deaths. That figure is all the more impressive considering that over half of Colombia's 1,103 municipalities have yet to send in records on the unidentified bodies buried in their private and public cemeteries. Although the project has proceeded relatively successfully and without incident, the Attorney-General's Office has now started to express reservations about parallel endeavors apparently being pursued without regard for the technical standards and protocols required for this kind of undertaking in Colombia and elsewhere.
To date, the districts that have reported the largest number of such cases is Antioquia (3,573), followed by Meta (1,363), Santander (776), and Caldas (723). The authorities regard these figures as corresponding to the historical presence of armed outlaw groups, such as the guerrilla, paramilitary or drug traffickers. Particularly in the past twenty years, such conflicts have escalated as a result of confrontations between illegal organizations and agents of the State; disputes between these same illegal organizations for territory; attacks on the civil population; and targeted murders.
The municipality heading the list continues to be Mutata (Antioquia), with 1,500 unnamed bodies, but now El Carmen de Chucuri (Santander) ranks second, with 515, displacing Granada (Meta), which reported 510. Next is the municipality of La Macarena (Meta), with 464 (although currently the subject of controversy over a purported common grave holding more than 2,000 bodies). San José del Guaviare reported 389, Marsella (Risaralda), 383, and La Dorada (Caldas), 378. The first large capitals to show in the survey are Barranquilla, with 412 bodies unidentified, then Cali, with 348, and Medellin, with 312. Curiously, localities with significant statistics of violence in the past twenty years, such as Barrancabermeja (Santander), reported only 108 cases of unidentified bodies.
There has also been an evident lack of haste on the part of certain districts in sending in their reports. This has happened, for instance, with Cordoba, which, after subversives were present, suffered a strong paramilitary offensive whose echoes are still to be felt in that region. So far reports have been received from only five municipalities, with records totaling 66 unidentified dead. Something similar is true of Sucre, where the Attorney-General's Office has information of only 98 nameless bodies in seven municipalities; Arauca, 37 bodies reported by two localities; and Caquetá, with 184 dead in con 6 municipalities; Casanare, 30 cases reported by one single municipality; and Magdalena, with only seven victims in two villages.
Over and beyond the survey figures, however, there is a larger concern: "Similar initiatives have started to be taken at the district level which may not be complying with the protocols set down for procedures of this kind," warn sources at the Attorney General's Office. "Often the number on the grave does not match the post mortem number, and that means that when we go to check, instead of the man described in the record, we find a woman or that the person who should be buried there was 1.8 meters tall and the remains we find are of a body no more than 1.60 meters tall," they add. As if that were not enough, there are the traumatic consequences of returning bodies to families and then having them prove not to be those of their loved ones.
That was why the spokesperson stressed that this endeavor cannot be undertaken individually, but that it has to be organized among the agencies of the State with centralized coordination, as the Attorney General's Office has been doing. This is the situation in Antioquia, which heads the list of nameless bodies (see box below). Four months after starting to receive information from all over Colombia, the Justice and Peace Unit feels the balance is satisfactory, to the point that in the next few weeks the first consolidated figures will be available on possible cases with probable identities. The final goal, however, is to give answers to the families of the more than 32,000 people who have disappeared.

The case of Antioquia
Last October, El Espectador published an article titled "Muertos que buscan su hogar" (Dead looking for home), claiming that a program to identify nameless bodies had been underway in Antioquia for a year and that, to date, it had managed to recover the names of about 22 people buried as unidentified corpses. Also, exhumation orders had been issued for another eight bodies. In that district, Rionegro had been made the pilot locality and the initiative was being led by the state government with the support of the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation, the forensic authorities, UNDP and the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS). In view of the mistakes made during burial of the dead, the Antioquia peace advisor, Jorge Castaño, declared: "Technically an unidentified body is a disappeared person and that is the connotation we are giving them in order to identify them more easily. During training for municipal attorneys, gravediggers, police inspectors, physicians and more generally all those who have anything to do with unidentified bodies, we are teaching them how to draw up the file with the postmortem protocols, where as much information as possible is recorded so as later to facilitate possible identification."

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


Declaration by members of EUROLAT about current events

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)
RE: Attempted coup, wellbeing, TLC, migration, human rights, regional integration, environment
We, members of the Parliaments PARLATINO, PARLANDINO, PARLASUR, PARLACEN and the European Parliament, met in Cuenca, Ecuador, November 3-5, 2010, in the context of the IV Meeting of the Commissions of the Euro-Latin American Assembly (EuroLat):

1.     We declare our complete support of democratically elected governments and condemn coups d'etat that have overthrown or threatened to overthrow legitimately elected governments, with the support of mass media concentrated in certain economic groups. Therefore, we support the government of President Correa of Ecuador and condemn the attempted coup that occurred on September 30, 2010.

2.     We agree that the free trade agreements signed between the European Union and Latin America are rooted in the primary matrix of export that has predominated in the history of Latin America. The focus on "insertion" into the world market limits the possibilities of structuring new visions of sustainable development, such as the one in use in several Andean countries, known as "Wellbeing." The agreed-upon treaties are asymmetrical; above all, they benefit the interests of the European Union in the region, while for Central America, Colombia, and Peru the advantages translate into the consolidation of access to markets already available through the European Union under SPG plus. At the same time socio-environmental conflicts are intensifying in the region. We invite all Parliamentarians involved in the ratification of the agreements in Europe, Central America, Colombia, and Peru to participate in public discussion about the social, ecological, and economic impact of these agreements, and to vote accordingly: NO to the ratification of agreements that undermine the social, economic, cultural, and environmental interests of the peoples of the Andean and Central American regions.

3.     We condemn the criminalization of social movements of women and indigenous peoples, defenders of human rights and community leaders, and invite the European Parliament to absolutely ensure human rights in the negotiation and ratification of free trade agreements.

4.     We underscore the importance of novel ideas for the protection of the environment and struggle against climactic change, in which there is compensation for not polluting, not extracting, and not destroying. Therefore, we invite our governments in Latin America, the European Union, and its member states, to support the Yasuni ITT fund and we call for Support of the Declaration of Cochabamba on climactic change.

5.     We think that the Euro-Latin American assembly should be a motivator for member states to improve participation in their respective processes of integration, within the framework of their institutionality. Therefore we salute the new process of regional integration of UNASUR, as well as the new contributions by the PARLACEN and we also affirm our support of new concepts of financial architecture, like the Bank of the South.

6.  Acknowledging that our continents have been regions of emigration and immigration for centuries, we call for integrated migration policies and in that respect, for human beings to be at the center of such policies. We declare our complete rejection of the criminalization and stigmatization of migrants, and reiterate that all migrants, no matter their immigrant status, have all rights guaranteed by the Universal Pacts.


Gloria Inez Flórez (PARLANDINO, Colombia)

Jürgen Klute (PARLAMENTO EUROPEO, Alemania)

Dorindo Cortez (PARLACEN, Panamá)

Angel Barchini (PARLASUR, Paraguay)

Sonia Escudero (PARLATINO, Argentina)

Rebeca Delgado (PARLANDINO, Bolivia)

Silvia García (PARLACEN, Republica Dominicana)

José Bayardi (PARLASUR, Uruguay)

Ulrike Lunacek (PARLAMENTO EUROPEO, Austria)

Everardo de León (PARLACEN, Panamá)

Helmut Scholz (PARLAMENTO EUROPEO, Alemania)

Raul Patiño (PARLANDINO, Ecuador)

Francisco Lopez (PARLACEN, Guatemala)

Elsa Malpartida (PARLANDINO, Perú)

Lloyd Bushey (PARLACEN, Nicaragua)

Catherine Grèze (PARLAMENTO EUROPEO, Francia)

Bertila Espinoza (PARLACEN, Honduras)

Paulo Tóffano (PARLASUR, Brazil)

Eliseo Fabio Nuñez (PARLACEN, Nicaragua)

Rodolfo Dougherty (PARLACEN, Guatemala)

Jacinto Suárez (PARLACEN, Nicaragua)

Cecilia Castro (PARLANDINO, Ecuador)

William Hernández (PARLACEN, Salvador)

Patricio Zambrano (PARLANDINO, Ecuador)

Jose Huerta (PARLACEN, Panamá)

Cuenca, Ecuador, November 5, 2010

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


Another one of the people demanding their land is murdered

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)
Medellín, November 25, 2010
La  Asociación de Víctimas para la Restitución de Bienes (ASOVIRESTIBI) [The Association of Victims for Restitution of our Goods], La Fundación Forjando Futuros [The Forging Futures Foundation], and El Instituto Popular de Capacitación –IPC [The People's Training Institute] denounce before the domestic and international communities and public opinion the murder of another leader of those demanding their land in Colombia.
• We need more commitment and guarantees from the nation and the government to protect the lives of the victims who are reclaiming their land.
Yesterday, November 24, Mister Oscar Manuel Mausa Contreras, a leader in regaining land, and a director of the cooperative COOTRAGLOBAN, was murdered. He had been working to regain land since 1997 in the municipality of Turbo, in the rural communities of Blanquicet and La Esperanza, in the Urabá region of Antioquia.
Mister Mausa was murdered at about six in the evening, in the rural area of the municipality of San Juan de Nepomuceno, in the department of Bolívar. He had moved to that area in 2008 to protect his life and that of his family. The homicide of Oscar Maura was carried out after he was tied to a tree, stoned and brutally tortured. This was done in the same way as the murders of Albeiro Martínez and Hernando Pérez, that is, without a firearm.
We demand of the national government and the Colombian state a more radical decision to protect the lives of victims who are reclaiming their land. It is paradoxical that while in the center, Bogotá, a new restitution law is approved, in the regions the victims who try to get their land returned are murdered. The principal obligation of the Colombian state is to guarantee the safety of and respect for the life of the victims whose lands were taken from them.
In meetings held last September 23 and November 3, called by the vice president of the Republic, the Minister of Agriculture, functionaries from the highest level of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, the military forces and attended by international organizations in attendance worked on strategies to protect the victims, especially in Antioquia. This work is obviously incomplete, since the murders and attacks continue. We reiterate and we insist that the national authorities make progress towards an integral protection and security strategy that fulfills the points that we presented last September 23, for which we are still awaiting a reply:
1. Results in the investigations of the homicides (8 in Antioquia, 42 at the national level).
2. Publication with wide release of the names of front men and victimizers who have seized land.
3. Creation of a specialized unit of the prosecutor's office, the judicial branch, the police and the vice presidency for the investigation and later punishment of those responsible for these homicides.
4. Creation and/or strengthening of the associations of victims to demand the return of land.
5. Strengthening of the presence of national bodies in the areas or territories where land was taken.
6. Permanent and everyday accompaniment by the international community in the areas where land was taken.
7. International spokespeople for the victims who are demanding their land.
8. Participation by the organizations of the victims who are demanding their land in the government agencies that will design and carry out the restitution policies.
9. Economic and political support from the government for the organizations of victims who are demanding their land.
The Fundación Forjando Futuros, the Asociación de Víctimas para la Restitución de Bienes (ASOVIRESTIBI) and the Instituto Popular de Capacitación (IPC) express our solidarity with Mrs. Edith Caldera Benítez, and her children María Magdalena and Juan Carlos Mausa.
Further, we reject this new murder that appeared one month after the attack on Mister Fernando Enamorado, and we call upon all the victims to organize in order to demand and win the return of the land that was taken from them and the recognition of all their rights.

La  Asociación de Víctimas para la Restitución de Bienes: asovirestibi@hotmail.com

Fundación Forjando Futuros : fforjandofuturos@gmail.com <mailto:fforjandofuturos@gmail.com>

Instituto Popular de Capacitación IPC : ipc@ipc.org.co <mailto:ipc@ipc.org.co>

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


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Cauca is poised to become an open pit mine without any control

In perspective 56% of its territory would be handed over mining concessions to transnational corporations

Friday, November 5, 2010 11:01  
(Translated by Leo Torres, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor)

In the mining hearing convened by Wilson Narvaez' proposition, who is one of deputies of Cauca, in plenary meeting of the Departmental Assembly of Cauca held on Thursday, November 4, and with the presence of delegates from the Ministry of Mines and Environment, the Regional Corporation of Cauca, the Interior Department, and the military authorities, and the Police, Senator of the Republic, Alexander López Maya alerted the regional authorities, enforcement agencies, and communities about the serious threat hangs over the region under the intensive development of large mining concessions to transnational corporations.

"The mining policy, which now calls up one of the engines of the development plan of the National Government, will hand over 1200 titles (deeds) of mining exploration in the Department of Cauca to the most powerful transnational corporations such as Anglo Gold Ashanti, Carboandes, and Cerromatoso. This territory could cover more than 1 million 600 thousand hectares, making up 56% out of the whole; most of these regions belong to environmental strategic reserves, such as the Natural Park of Munchique, the highest parts of the Western and Central Range, Patia River's basin, the municipality of Timibiqui and the Colombian Massif, itself; areas, on which have already been awarded most of the 252 titles of mining concessions; titles that currently do not have an environmental licenses" noted Senator López Maya.

"These areas considered the largest reserves of freshwater production in the world, located in the department of Cauca. Anywhere else in the world they would be untouchable, however, and thanks to the mining model at stake in Colombia, these are seriously threatened by the boom in concessions and illegal mining, which are under a law that does not offers guarantee for the communities and the protection of the environment and gives all resources without consideration for the transnational corporations," said Congressman Alexander Lopez.

In the developing of the mining audience they affirmed the serious concern of participants about the situation of mining concessions in the Cauca municipalities of Almaguer, Bolívar, La Sierra, Suarez, and Buenos Aires. The areas of these municipalities impacted by concessions to transnational corporations have been suffered serious environmental, displacement of communities, and violation of human rights crisis. Similarly, in the audience also repeatedly denounced the inaction of the authorities and control agencies to perform their duties in the concessional areas to multinational corporations. In the plenary session they voted to call for a new mining audience of the Departmental Assembly of Cauca, which convenes the National Government to discuss the situation of mining in the department of Cauca.

H.S. Alexander López Maya

Thank you for its disclosure
H.S. Press Office Alexander López Maya

Website: www.alexanderlopezmaya.com
Popayán, Thursday November 4, 2010  

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

Proclamation of the Congress of the People installation session

(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)
Friday October 15, 2010
We have heard the proclamation of the Congress of the People from the Coalition of Social Organizations and Movements of Colombia, read at the end of a massive march, starting at the National University of Colombia and ending in the Bolivar Plaza, in the center of Bogotá.
We consider this document, along with the open letter, which the Coalition brought to this important encounter, a valuable tool in supporting the foundation of the organizing process.  This is a process through which many adversaries fight daily to create a better world for the children of their country; dignified and supportive of a socially just peace resulting from unity and the popular fight.
Brothers. Sisters.
Our word, which walks and weaves reason with dreams, now rises to unite everyone together; not only those living in Colombia but the brotherhood of all people as well.  On October 8-12, 2010, we called a meeting of all men and women, from all provinces and all ages to unite together to taken upon our hands a historic responsibility for our lives and to motivate our people to combine what is theirs with what is ours.
We are working men and women.
We work in the fields cutting sugar cane and working the land, we are farmers, we are day laborers and harvesters, we are people of the land, we are indigenous peoples, we are liberating descendents of Africa, we are dignified and free women, fishers of the rivers and ocean, we drive taxis and trucks, we are students, teachers, we are popular educators, we are the experience of the capital city, the State and the war, we are poor, marginalized, excluded, artists and artisans, we are peoples displaced due to bullets, threats, chain saws, big corporations, projects, we are the others, who, from sexual diversity, have created democracy, we are habitants of the street, the barrios, from the jails of the biggest cities, we are the detained, we are human rights defenders, we are public communicators, created from our god and, most importantly, created with justice, we are victims, we are boys and girls, a smile and imagination without limits, we are the youth who resist the oppression of a police system, we are the country and the towns, we are the Congress of the People.
This congress was summoned with one fundamental proposal: that it is the country that is subject to its legislation, that towns mandate that the people order the territory, the economy and their own form of governing.
It is that simple.  We are building forces for the people of Colombia, our sovereign character or, as they say, our primary constituents.  Despite the euphoria of the rich and powerful, we are convinced that the political and economic systems in Colombia are exhausted; barely remaining alive due to corruption and crime.  We do not have great hopes for the congress and government.  What we have confirmed in this installation session is that, in many places, people do not have any more hope and they legislate themselves, organize the land and follow their own rules.  Municipal assemblies, regional coexistence pacts, autonomous indigenous and African-Colombian territories, peace communities, participatory budgeting expenses, sovereign food networks, popular consensus building tables, territory assemblies in barrios, and movements to consolidate farmer reserves.  Through the exercise of their own legislature, everyone has encountered more democracy, wellbeing and justice; much more than the republic can offer and has not guarantied in their 200 years of life.  The Congress of the People has begun to join together the dynamics of popular autonomy.  It has called together all sectors of the social alternative to join together and think of a new country, initiate a national deliberation and create a Mandate of the Peoples, or Country Mandate, an Alternative Agenda or a Popular Constitution.  The discussion that we have begun will tell which name we will choose.  Within this spirit, more than 17,000 delegates from more than 220 organizations with popular social processes have been accepted to become the first session of the Congress of the Peoples.  The Congress, however, will make the quorum decision when another hundred of nationally dispersed basic processes assume an active manner and take this space to deliberate and decide the task of legislation and the creation of a new country or, better yet, when the entire country joins together to discuss and decide how they want to live and work.
The Congress of the People is not a meeting.  Its first encounter was only an Installation Session.  What we did these four days was principally to define our Popular Legislative Agenda.  Each one of the organizations and social sectors that participated here shared an experience having passed a general or punctual Mandate, or having elaborated a sectoral Program or proposal, of having adopted laws to exercise our autonomy or of having presented a political statement.  We have the experience of autonomy in common.  We have adopted think lines from a Popular Legislative Agenda and the Legislative Work Route from all sectors, actors, subjects and popular organizations in the country for the next period.
We have decided to create a new Colombia.  In reality, each one of us, in our own way, is constructing it every day.  This time, however, we will build it from our own point of view, in our own manner, speaking daily between all popular organizations.  Our vocation of popular unity is irreducible.  The Congress has decided that we will begin a process of deliberation and action together in all corners of the country, addressing fundamental themes.  Some of issues include:
To think and adopt a new political system based on autonomous government and the democracy of local communities and peoples.  A sovereign and independent State constructed by and for the people.
To re-order the territory of the country so that communities can mandate over their own strategic resources and to find a new way to relate with Mother Earth.  The Congress mandates that we liberate Mother Earth and that we return the right to decide these forms of governing regarding natural resources to the people.
To construct an economy supporting well-being.  In the fight against the neo-liberal economic model that exports and robs and destroys, the recuperation of natural resources and strategies that now find these resources in the hands of trans-nationals, is imperative.
To create our own route to fundamental, popular organization in order to find an alternative political solution to conflict.  It will be a route of mobilizing that will permit us to open paths to justice and peace.  While we awaiting the arrival of this moment, we reject the war of capital, we demand redistribution of our assumed destiny of war and the inversion of the multiple necessities that keep the excluded and denied forever in oppression.
We support the improvement of the most important values of the people who carry the weight of this country, giving themselves to an ethic full of respect and life potential, and reject death.  We promote a culture that breaks with patriarchal oppression, a culture of gender equality, of respect and the protection of the sexual and reproductive rights of women for a life free of violence.  We promote values and ethics opposing these powerful decisions that give lucrative privileges to the common good, speculation of real production, individual achievement of collective realization, the mixing of markets for redistribution, the homogenization of diversity.  We support a culture of solidarity, of accompaniment, of clean production and of harmony with nature; a culture that knows and understands that we must urge a system of national independent communication so that our reflections and decisions arrive to the entire country, giving it body and daily movement.
Our goal is to unite the torrent of the peoples of America who choose liberty, free determination and who exercise sovereignty. 
It is obvious that our proposal to create a new country and make the rights of the people become a reality puts us in clear opposition with the government of Juan Manuel Santos, claimed heir of "democratic security" but rather, who has maintained his intention to continue to give the country over to financial capital and trans-national corporations.  We understand the differences between the new government and the mafias who governed eight years ago could produce conflict; it will be a dangerous period.  Trying to distance themselves from these mafias, we accept the continued looting and invasion of our territories.  Meanwhile the prosecution of the people's struggles, the cutting of social rights, and the destruction of territories throughout the country will continue.  Colombia will be transformed into an immense free-trade zone where commercial law is valued more than public interest or dignity.
The new government claims to be "nationally united."  It is clear that the sectors of the old oligarchy have attempted to unite to further the attempt to reestablish part the disaster Uribe left; the disaster of internal polarization and international isolation: on the way co-opting popular leaders to detain social mobilization.  Nothing has been mentioned of the completion of State obligations regarding social, economic or cultural rights nor in regards to the number of signatures siding with the popular movement, the farmers, indigenous and afro-Colombians, the syndicated and city-dwellers which goes incomplete year after year.
We admit that the daily climate of intolerance imposed by Uribe Vélez has faded in the new government.  Meanwhile we see the same economic agenda against regions.  It is an agenda against national sovereignty and against class laborers; snatching up royalties and legislative territorial law without consulting indigenous or afro-Colombians, treating free trade as daily read, accelerating the privatization of public services, persecuting the economy of farmers and small miners.  Trans-national mining projects, energies and infrastructure continue to invade our territories, sustaining our culture and food sovereignty.
The Congress of the People has determined that it is urgent to concentrate our forces in giving life to intense social, political, cultural and spiritual actions.  We summon mobilization around the greatest challenges of the moment, specifically drawing attention to the following:
For the defense of the territories, the natural resources, the environment and a dignified life against dispossession.
For the right to land the reparation of the victims.
For a political solution to conflict, against the militarization of life and of territories.
For democratic order of urban space against the submission of citizens to the logic of private accumulation.
In regards to this and other themes, the Congress of the Peoples begins to deliberate.  The installation session organized the work that we will accomplish for the entire country, through all organizations and communities, to give this ordnance form in the coming years.  The country is for those on the bottom and, with the assistance of everyone, we weave it daily.  With constant persistence and desire for a different Colombia than we see today, it will bring us closer to the deliberations begun here today from all corners.  It will order us to listen and resume the desires of those who seldom have a voice and who are forever denied, forcing the creation of law and power which today is shamefully only a dream.
Meanwhile, we will hold session in linear sectors and themes.  We summon the regional Congress of the Peoples to initiate discussions and joint action.  We will overcome the dispersion that, today, characterizes the resistance fight, with our hands always ready to tie efforts and jointly link the task with other, alternative social experiences.
Understanding the process to make this become reality, the Congress of the Peoples works as a roundtable integrated by all organizations and processes that were present in the first installation session ending today.  The event left an open space for all the dynamics to resolve to organize and a future plan to meet, in no more than 30 days in Bogota, with the purpose to orderly structure and make prompt decisions in the first session.
At the same time, stimulated by existing diversity, so that the desire to take action is spread throughout the country, we continue to apply our work principles:
Our message and decision will emerge from everyone, from bottom up, around the fire, from the dialogue and search for a transparent and just word.  Some of the verbs full of content that should orient the force of all congress are: diagnosis, reflection, union, creation and transformation.
While we wait for this moment to arrive and, for now, the most important issue is that we leave this first session of the Congress with the conviction that we are legislating, that we are constructing our own political system from fundamental communication and organization.  It is important that we do this because it is our job and because the rich and powerful will not do it.  We are the people, the communities, the popular organizations, those who will draw the country from this terrible place which historic and new leaders from the establishment have brought it.
We propose that the country put urgent stress on overcoming the conflict back on the national agenda.  We endorse the people, communities and organizations that, from day to day, do acts of peace and reject criminalization.  We demand that armed actors compile with International Humanitarian Law.
We will show through our actions that we are for popular democracy, sovereignty, the fight against capital, in favor of a life of dignity, peace and justice.  We will demonstrate that the people of Colombia compose this country, that unity is possible and it is us who will weave it.  We will legislate the country from below and it will be the people who govern.  It will be the people who command the territories, the economy and how it will be governed.  We will live our word.

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



From the Legal Collective Jose Alvear Restrepo

(Translated by Buddy Bell, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor)

National Report on Decency in the Colombian Workplace 2009
The Socioeconomic Context Impedes an Entire Generation from Finding Quality Employment
by the Colombian Campaign for Decent Employment and the ENS
Thursday October 7, 2010

In 2009 there were close to 20 million Colombians who were below the poverty line, and around 8 million at risk of starvation or in need of shelter. The conditions were even more miserable in rural areas: out of every 100 households, 64 were poor and 29 lived in conditions of destitution. Although the poverty level declined between 2002 and 2009, from 53.7 percent to 45.5 percent, the economic growth that Colombia experienced in the same period did not equip it to substantially improve living conditions for the majority of Colombians.

Right to Work | Workers |

Starvation and homelessness increased between 2005 and 2009. It went from 15.7 percent to 16.4 percent, an immoral and worrying situation, given the fact that it came while the country experienced a robust period for business and a high GDP.

* The gap between rich and poor became wider. Between 2005 y 2008 the Gini Index went from 0.58 to 0.59 (meaning wealth distribution became more unequal). According to a UN-Habitat report (UN Urban Forum, Río de Janeiro, March 25 2010), the richest 10 percent of Colombians received half of all income in the country. The poorest 10 percent received 0.9 percent of national income.

Sectors that Offer Few Jobs are on the Rise and Formal Work Status Disappearing

In 2009 the national manufacturing of goods fell 6.3 percent. Other economic sectors that shrank in 2009 were: stores, repair shops, restaurants and hotels (2.9 percent), which results from a decrease in average household consumption. The transportation sector shrank 1.2 percent. All these sectors used to offer good formal employment, jobs that have disappeared or are now in a precarious position.

Sectors with enhanced growth included: construction (increase of 12.8 percent), thanks to the civil works department, which grew 33.9 percent; the mining sector, registering growth at 11.3 percent; and the financial sector at 3.1 percent. The construction and mining sectors generate jobs which do not pay as much and in relatively dangerous and unregulated work environments.

Work Opportunities
Unemployment is on the rise, more heads of household are out of work, and more are looking for work.

In 2009 the average unemployment rate was 12 percent, up from the 2008 rate of 11.3 percent. The specific rate for heads of household grew more drastically, from 5.5 percent to 6.2 percent, an especially grave situation considering they provide the bulk of income to support their whole families.

In 2009 there were about 2,513,000 unemployed--- 297,000 more than in 2008, a time when the number of unemployed reached about 2,216,000. This means more people are out looking for work.

The employment rate grew by about 979,000 since 2008, and the proportional rate went from 51.9 percent to 53.9 percent. But the population also grew by about 1,277,000 people, bringing the total to 20,941,000. What also went up was the economic participation rate of the population, from 58.5 percent in 2008 to 61.3 percent in 2009. This is to say there were more men and women competing for jobs in the labor market.

Each year more people are leaving home to look for work, with an economy that creates few jobs. Spouses, children, relatives, and others find themselves looking for work so that household income will not be affected. As a consequence, the rate of inactivity decreased from 41.5 percent to 38.7 percent from 2008 to 2009; that is to say in the past year there were 717,000 less "inactive" people compared to 2008. A rise in underemployment is also observed, both for those looking for additional work and for those who are not. The rate is at 29.7 percent and 10.9 percent, respectively.

Explosion of Informality

In 2009 there were more occupational positions available in what is typically characterized as the informal sector. Self-employment rose 8 percent; the sector of unpaid family workers rose 30.5 percent; and other unpaid labor, 17.3 percent.

It should be emphasized that in 2009, 42.6 percent of all employed people were self-employed, followed by independent contractors which made up 34.5 percent. The public sector only accounted for 4.6 percent of employed people, an incredible drop of 8 percent between 2008 and 2009.

The data from the first half of 2010 maintain these discouraging tendencies. Employment came to 55.2 percent, and unemployment went from 12.3 percent to 12.5 percent. Underemployment grew, both for those looking for additional work (a rise of 0.4 percent up until June) and for those who were not (a rise of 0.6 percent up until June). The total underemployment rate came in at 32.7 percent.

The analysis also finds a 4.4 percent increase in self-employed people, 3.5 percent in general labor or day labor, and 2.9 percent in independent contracting. Positions in management shrank 3.7 percent. And the number of government employees fell by 1.4 percent.

Social and Labor Insecurity

Two-thirds of workers can not count on any sort of social insurance program. For 2009 only 44 percent were enrolled in health insurance, only 31 percent were in an unemployment insurance fund, 29 percent in family unemployment insurance (only for heads of household), 35 percent in a pension program, and 37 percent in a workers' compensation insurance program which pays in case of job-related injuries.

Colombia officially registered 743 workplace deaths in 2008, and 588 in 2009. The number of people getting sick from workplace exposures climbed 12 percent, from 6,145 in 2008 to 6,891 in 2009. As for workplace accidents, 360,800 occurred in 2008 and 410,410 in 2009.

Workplace Equity: Women Continue to Experience Discrimination

During the last 10 years the female rate of participation in the workforce has been steady at about 48.6 percent globally, while that of males was 73.6 percent. Obstacles for women persist, such as barriers to access, difficulty earning qualifications, and the presence of stereotypes and social norms that assign women to household work and childcare.

The unemployment rate for women came to 15.8 percent in 2009, 6.5 percent higher than for men. The previous year, the difference was 6 percent. Therefore, the inequality between men and women is far from closing, it continues to grow and intensify.

Women find their jobs in a more precarious position and with less social insurances. They make up 95 percent of domestic workers and 57 percent of unpaid workers. They represent 21.69 percent of managers and employers; and finally 38.63 percent of independent contractors.
...and the young, too
Youth unemployment in Colombia stands at 22.6 percent, much higher than the national rate of 11.6 percent, measured in June 2010. That is to say, 1,228,000 youth do not have work, representing 48 percent of total unemployed. Young women face an even worse situation: they make up 28.9 percent of the unemployed.

Of youth who do work, 73 percent of them do so informally, 20 percent higher than the national average. Gender differences prove complicated to analyze, since informal work is surprisingly more prevalent among young men (75 percent) than among young women (69 percent). Women are more heavily recruited for intricate, detailed, or precise work, like small parts assembly or sewing.

Social Dialogue and Collective Negotiation: Non-Existent

Social dialogue in Colombia is practically non-existent, and you can't even find it in the public imagination, either. During the Uribe government the minimum wage was only increased 4 times, while key labor decisions were imposed, such as: cuts to benefits for public employees at the national and local levels; the restructuring of 412 publicly owned companies, like Telecom, the Social Insurance Institute, ADPOSTAL, and Inravisión; and the poor execution of collective negotiation in the public sector.

In its 8 years, the Uribe government diminished the number of grassroots workers' agreements. Between 2001 and 2002, 447 workers' agreements were negotiated, but between 2008 and 2009 only 307 were reached, which represents a decrease of 31.2 percent. With respect to the number of workers covered, it fell from 176,140 to 124,200 over the same time period. As a percentage of population, this is a decrease of 29.48 percent.

Official union contracts have gone up in number, and the most dynamic increase has come in the past three years, amply stimulated by the outgoing government as a strategy to reduce labor costs and to increase labor flexibility.

A similar thing happened with the Collective Pacts that were "negotiated" between companies and groups of non-unionized workers. In this type of contract, the workers are not organizing on their own. Usually the Collective Pacts are an anti-union strategy to pacify worker discontent, so that these workers will not decide to try and form a union. The Pacts are also used as a reward for workers who renounce and abandon a union in the process of forming.
Strikes and Protests

During 2009 there were 103 strikes and protests by Colombian workers, which significantly exceeded what happened in 2008.

These protests happened as a response to the scaling back of labor rights, the restructuring of public companies, and/or to unpaid wages and benefits. There were 28 strikes in the country, 27 protests and marches, 24 all-day protests/marches, and 20 occupations/blockades.

Without Union Liberties, Union Affiliation Falling

In the first months of 2010, the outgoing government, along with some companies, publicly declared their satisfaction with the supposed growth in union affiliation, which they announced as 75 percent. What's ironic about the announcement is that the companies and the government have not tried to prove this estimate of affiliation, simply because it has been years since the Ministry of Social Protection has kept records or made official estimates about the size of unionism in Colombia.
On the contrary, making a comparison between the numbers of union-affiliated workers during 2002 and later during 2008, we find that the devastating losses of unionized workers during the Uribe government came to approximately 120,000 people. The rate of union affiliation in Colombia today is 4.2 percent of workers (as of December 2009), the lowest in Lain America.
The Violence and Impunity Doesn't Stop

In Colombia from January 1, 1986, until August 30, 2010, there have been at least 2842 assassinations of union members (2568 men and 272 women). Of these, 25.7 percent or 731 were committed against union directors. About 270 attempted assassinations, 215 forced disappearances, at least 4770 death threats and 1696 forcefully displaced were also recorded during this time.

Between 1999 and 2009 there were a total of 1717 assassinations of union members worldwide. South America is the most dangerous continent, as 73 percent of the recorded total occurred there, a scandalous figure of 1253 killings. Asia's participation in the political targeting made up 17 percent (233 killings). Central America and the Caribbean accounted for 5.4 percent (92), Africa 4.6 percent (79), the Middle East 3 percent (50), and Europe 0.4 percent (8).

The numbers are shocking, but conclusive: Colombia is where 63 percent of these assassinations took place. Similar situations, albeit at a lower intensity, were present in the Philippines, with 5.4 percent, and in Guatemala, with 3.5 percent.

Among unionized workers, there were 707 invasions of their privacy and integrity recorded in Colombia during 2009. Also 47 assassinations, 412 death threats, 129 evictions, 53 incidents of persecution/harassment, 34 arbitrary detentions, 18 murder attempts, 7 cases of torture, 3 disappearances, and 4 illegal raids. In this period there was a noticeable rise in homicide against union directors. In 2008, 16 leaders were killed, and 21 lost their lives in 2009.

From January 1 to August 23 of 2010, the violence against workers persisted in Colombia. The first 8 months of this year saw 35 homicides, 11 of them against union directors; likewise, 15 attempted murders occurred, 14 of them against union directors.

Who's Investigating?

Thanks to pressure from the international workers' movement, and much prodding from the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations, the Colombian Justice Department created an investigative subunit, which as of June 2010 has not reported broadly on the results of its work. The subunit has been assigned 1344 cases, but it has only investigated 1150 so far, due to the fact that 194 physical files have been lost. Regarding the 1150 cases that are being investigated, 555 (48.26 percent) are only in preliminary stages. This is to say that in almost half the cases there is no positive ID of the presumed aggressor. Another 312 cases (27.1 percent) are in the "instruction" stage, where there is a formal investigation of some specifically identified suspect. In 175 cases (15.21 percent) There are formal criminal charges. The department has precluded 47 cases (4 percent), that is to say it has made the investigation legally impossible. Finally, in 63 cases (5.47 percent) the department refrained from developing a standard for detaining or restraining accused individuals.

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(Translated by Steve Fake, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor)


National Coordinator of the Early Warning System


In my capacity as Legal Representative of the Black Community Council of Acandí River Basin and Northern Coastal Area, I am writing to you with all due respect in order to explain the following:
First - The Community Council of the Acandí River Cave and North Zone was granted 10,400 hectors by the Colombian state as collective land of the black communities in conformity with Law 70 of 1993 and Decree 1745 of 1995.
Second - This property was delivered without any demarcation or delimitation of individual titles.
Third - In the black and mestizo community, there has never existed and does not exist today clarity on the fundamentals and scope of this law, and therefore many people, without being of the ethnicity, consider themselves owners in the black lands by the simple fact of having purchased land before or after Law 70 of 1993.
Fourth - The various governmental entities of the municipal, departmental, national, and international level are unclear about the extent of Law 70 of 1993, ILO Convention 169, and Law 21 of 1991. This has caused many confrontations between them and the Black Community Councils of Acandí. For these entities, the Black Community Councils are the enemies of municipal progress. To their supporters and followers they depict the councils as something negative, responsible for everything bad that happens in the territory by virtue of the fact that we demand, as mandated by law, that we see the plans that they pretend to undertake in our territory or have to do with our people.
Fifth - The security forces (military, police, coastguard, harbormaster, the Administrative Security Department (DAS), etc.) do not have the clarity of function or competence that we in the Black Community Councils have, and have, on many occasions, expressed ideas that endanger the lives of the black representatives and the process in general. The Permanent Directive Number 007 of the Ministry of Defense, which deals with the ethnic issue, is very little known within the security forces, and therefore very poorly enforced.
Sixth – The INGEOMINAS (the Colombian Institute of Geology and Mining), in violation of Article 49 of Law 70, Convention 169 of the ILO, and Law 21 of 1991, awarded a mining exploration contract to the business Anglo American Exploration for over 1,600 hectors in our land and authorized the presence of the mining companies Gold Plata and Grupo de Bullet, for work in our territory, without any type of prior agreement with the ethnic authority. The above generated the expectation that the municipality of Acandí was very rich in gold, platinum, tungsten, molybdenum, etc.
This expectation generated a stream of migrants onto our land. Greed and the price of land rose, and pressure on the land increased in a clear and visible way.
Seventh - On September 30, 2010, a meeting was held of the three Black Community Councils, Anglo American Exploration, the Interior Minister, the Minister of the Environment, INGEOMINAS, and the municipality of Acandí. In this meeting we were informed by the aforementioned entities that the contract of exploration had been permanently cancelled because the Minister of the Environment had denied the environmental license. At this meeting, we warned of the danger that this news could put us in, because the community could have the idea that we were responsible for this decision, and thus our lives were at risk. In this same meeting, we denounced the death threats that had been made against the legal representative of the Local Council of the township of Capitán and President of the High Council, Mr. Fredy Pestana Herrera.
Eighth - In the afternoon hours of October 11, Ana María Morena was murdered. She was the legal representative of the Local Community Council of Asti, and a member of the Board of the High Council. Her murder left her husband widowed, and ten children without a mother. The same day, we received a telephone call from a number which we gave to the national police and the army, containing the sound of a chainsaw and a voice that threatened the black legal representatives of Acandí.
Ninth - These death threats have led to the displacement of three families.  The other families in the districts mentioned above are awaiting the response of the state to finally know if they can remain on the land or will also be displaced.
Due to the above,
We ask:
1 – Monitoring by the Ombudsman, through the competent authorities:
2 – Humanitarian aid for the family of Anita Moreno and the displaced families from the village of Asti and Capitana.
3 – Special protection for the properties of the family of Anita Moreno and other displaced families in Asti and Capitan.
4 – Urgent visit to the village of Asti and Capitan to assess the situation of the properties that are now occupied by black men and women of the area.
5 – Design of a security plan for the legal representatives of the community councils of Acandí.
6 - Delimitation and demarcation of the collective land of the black communities.
7 – Create a municipal security council in the village of Capuganá, with the participation of the municipal mayor, municipal attorney, police, army, Administrative Security Department, Acción Social (the presidential agency in charge of displacement), prosecutor, and other competent authorities on Thursday, October 22, 2010.
The situation is absolutely critical and dangerous for all of us that defend the black community in Acandí, so each passing day elapses very slowly.

LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE                                     PRESIDENT
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Negligence as Spectacle

by Libardo Gómez Sánchez,

Diario del Huila

Neiva, October 18, 2010

 (Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)

For a few days the Atacama Desert became the chosen backdrop against which hundreds of floodlights and cameras were turned, as if on Hollywood stars, on the Piñeras, who managed to turn a deplorable episode into one of the highest-profile media extravaganzas of recent times. The spectacle successfully buried some obvious questions from TV viewers minds: Why did the accident happen? Did the miners go down in at least minimum conditions of safety or were they, on the contrary, being rushed headlong to their deaths? Even though, every day, numerous incidents put underground and open-cast miners' lives at risk, what seems to predominate is the investors' measureless ambition to squeeze returns out of their business, rather than safeguarding the workers in life and limb, because that would represent costs.

The events that took place at the San José mine are doubly significant: on the one hand, they underline man's ability to withstand, both those who were ready to hold out deep under ground and those who were determined to rescue them and, on the other, they are yet another warning to those who are out to plunder nature with no thought for the risks it entails. At a time when Colombia's mining policy is attracting leading foreign corporations, because of the magnificence with which the State treats them, for the privileges it grants them in taxes, royalty payments, environmental management, employment regulations, legal security and profit repatriations. If the authorities and laws do not force the multinationals to comply with basic industrial safety rules and support small-scale mining with technical and financial resources, then we will be reporting increasing numbers of foreseeable tragedies in the immediate future.

More precisely, one related issue has monopolized the attention of those living in the regions that receive royalty payments for the exploitation of natural resources, such as oil, gold, nickel, coal and so on, taken from their subsoil: a constitutional amendment designed to take management of these resources out of their hands and to put it under central government control has been drafted. In order to discuss this issue, various political, business and government representatives met in the municipality of Aipe-Huila. What caught our attention most strongly were the remarks by some of the media, which summarized the conclusions of the event as being that the governor and mayors are centering their hopes of halting the injustice on hiring a pool of lawyers to demonstrate that the bill is unconstitutional. If that works, it will lay bare either major stupidity or enormous cynicism, because it is no secret that the congress, and approval of a bill, is exactly the chosen avenue for legalizing what is illegal. Both the former and the present governments have given clear demonstrations that they scorn any idea of respect for the will of the communities; at least two law reforms were delivered to cut back fund transfers to the districts and municipalities, and those actions ran counter to the spirit of decentralization; two licenses for the same project were issued by the Environment Ministry, in order to meet the demands of the multinational that had been granted the concession to build the Quimbo Dam. It would be no surprise if others were issued halfway through the process, so as to smooth the terrain and benefit the interests of EMGESA over those of Colombian firms.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Letter from Leaders of the Polo Democratic Party to President Santos

Bogotá DC, October 18, 2010
(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor)
Dr. Juan Manuel Santos Calderón
President, Republic of Colombia
RE: The Law of Victims has too many limitations and gaps

Dear Sir:
The Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) has especially supported the victims of the violence that Colombia suffers, to the point of having been persecuted for its position from the beginning. Therefore it is obvious that we are in favor of a law to fulfill the Constitutional Court's decisions, to give truth, justice, and reparations to those Colombian victims. Congress failed to meet this goal in 2009, given the narrow vision of the government of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
Because of this, and after listening to victims' organizations, we find that Law 107/10 proposed by the Colombian House of Representatives and presented by the government, contains gaps and measures that severely limit victims' rights. Some of the aspects that most concern us are:
There was no prior consultation with victims' organizations or ethnic communities.
It does not recognize as victims people who are victims and excludes from restitution Colombians who had their lands taken away. In addition, it will be a commission named by the government that will determine who is or is not a victim.
It offers as reparation to victims what belongs to them in terms of civil rights for being citizens and lacks adequate measures of judicial support for all victims, so that they may have access to reparations and indemnities.
It does not contain any essential measures to assure that this violence will not be repeated and that the political and economic structures that underlie it will be permanently dismantled.
It does not establish solid mechanisms for arriving at the truth and the historic memory of the horror that occurred.
In terms of the sums of reparation and indemnity, it limits the justice system and administration to those resources that allow for so-called "fiscal sustainability"; it does not determine the amounts, and leaves them to be fixed by the government. Also, restitution to the displaced includes only land and not their whole property and even less is it sustainable.
Besides, nothing is spelled out about reparations and indemnities to political and social organizations.
During parliamentary debate, the PDA will present proposals that overcome the limitations and gaps we have listed, such as assuring universal criteria for the definition of "victim"; guaranteeing to victims concrete mechanisms for judicial defense; accounting for the search for the goods and capital of victimizers to fully support the restitutions and indemnities, so that besides giving restitution of land, restitution of property is also given; designing specific procedures for clarifying the historic truth; policies that assure the dismantling of the economic, political, and military structures of criminal organizations, so that the situation will not be repeated.
Naturally, Mr. President, if these ideas are not incorporated into the law and its essential faults are left unchanged, it would be impossible for us to vote yes, because it would be useless for the purposes of reparation and justice to the victims. Surely, the Constitutional Court would declare the law unconstitutional.
Clara López Obregón
President, PDA

Jorge Enrique Robledo Iván Cepeda Castro

Spokesperson, Senate                                                            Spokesperson,            House of
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