About our logo


The latest news for the struggle for human rights for all in Colombia

Share with Friends

Monday, March 07, 2011

Los Andes Students

National Conference of the Afro-Colombian Organization (CNOA)
(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN volunteer editor.)
**All monetary values in this article are expressed in Colombian Pesos**
It has been awhile since feeling an embarrassment for others; a feeling perceived when someone is "sticking their noses" where they shouldn't but fails to realize it or the consequences of their actions. These feelings are uncomfortable because they are internal experiences of which nothing can be done to avoid. And so, with the words of president Santos, in a gesture of generosity (perhaps better expressed as solidarity for the elite), shame was felt when he promised to double compensation amounts upon finding those responsible for the death of two University of Los Andes biology students. The $250 million reward increased to $500 million. What dedication and generosity to find the guilty. It's perfect! There is only one tiny difficulty which not even diligent means of communication in Bogota could detect. It is obvious that front page news is misleading, as it showed the burial of the two students, and tramples the remaining "provincial" Colombians who do not belong to the Bogota elite. What do they have that makes them so special? What categories of Colombians deserve this unusual display of open news broadcast and such an astronomical reward?
The Governor of Córdoba said it well: "And where were the means of national communication that were not aware of more than 500 assassinations in the department of Córdoba? Did they not deserve this display or monetary rewards? Why were these two victims from Bogota recognized while the rest of the dead were ignored?" After time, such a strong sense of overbearing discrimination is no longer felt as it was following the death of these students. Assassination deserves national repudiation. It also reveals with clarity difficult to hide that, in Colombia, there are first class citizens and second class citizens. News sources intended to convert the death of this student, the grandson of a powerful business entrepreneur in Bogota into a "national tragedy." The photograph of his burial took front page news, was announced in the forefront of news broadcasts and ended with Santos's inflated offer. Meanwhile, monetary rewards for the assassination of the mayor of Puerto Asís's grandson are only valued at $50 million. Even political power was stronger than economic: winning money over democratic hierarchy. The death of a "provincial" boy, assassinated a week later, did not make front page news nor open emissions. He is from the "other" category of Colombians…
A few unfortunate declarations from University of Los Andes classmates helped further reinforce the difference between these "two Colombias:" of those with economic power and those without. They expressed with surprise, stating they didn't understand "why these things happen in Colombia." Which country do these students live in? They don't know the risks and dangers existing in this country, of which they intellectually "study" but of which they do not seem in tune or synchronized? Here again, the responsibility of the media was capitalized: they intended to make it a national tragedy creating hateful discrimination that could not be balanced even three days later in Puerto Asís. Not even the government!
Now is the time to realize how the manipulation of information ends up being a slap to the dignity of those Colombians who do not belong to the elite class.
National Conference of the Afro-Colombian Organization (CNOA)
Fax: (57-1) 3455520
Calle 67 No. 14A-26 Bogota, Colombia
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

In HECHOS DE PAZ No. 57: Land and human development

By Absalón Machado C.
Technical Director of the 2011 Human Development Report for Colombia
 (Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN volunteer editor.)
The issue of land and rural development has been thrown open again in Colombia, after agrarian problems have spent over 20 years sidelined from public debate.
The debate has grown out of the struggles of rural workers' organizations and recent government moves towards restitution of lands and is advancing very quickly towards taking up the broader problem of overall land and rural development policy.
The agrarian issue is a national problem once again, as it was in the 1930s and 60s, pointing to the fact that it continues to be "unfinished business." Accordingly it has to be asked: "How important is solving the land problem to human development?", "what underlies such a solution?" and "what is the gamble behind it?".
The National Human Development Report for Colombia that the UNDP is preparing addresses the issue of land and rural development. It builds on the hypothesis that the agrarian structure built up in Colombia through a diversity of historical processes has become an obstacle to development. What is more, it considers that there is extreme vulnerability in the rural sector, which has continually been left exposed by markets, public policy, drug trafficking, and illegal armed groups. These circumstances represent enormous constraints on the possibilities for human development in rural life and have opened up gaps and imbalances between rural and urban living and even within rural contexts.
Various factors and processes hinder human development in the countryside. The most notorious include: high concentration of rural properties; land use conflicts; widespread (40%) informal land tenure; improper use and continuous destruction of natural resources; spread of smallholdings (poverty and extreme poverty); the presence of armed groups, criminals and drug traffickers who restrict freedoms and violate human rights; the precarious State presence in rural areas and public policies that, by failing to consider issues of equity, become discriminatory and exclusionary.
These factors are expressed in rural workers' inability to generate income and in restrictions on their opportunities to express and develop their skills and engage in new activities or to diversify existing ones in order to discover new sources of income and decent employment; they also constrain the freedom and social movement of rural individuals and groups, undermine trust in public institutions and the State, limit the development of participatory processes and democracy in the countryside and do not facilitate the development and proper use of public goods. In other words, they obstruct human development and leave rural society highly vulnerable to its own dynamics and to exogenous factors.
If not just the rural sector, but society as a whole, is to develop, it is imperative to remove these elements. There can be no doubt that the scope for human development will expand if Colombia really decides to confront these factors systematically and with an overall understanding of the rural problem. Accordingly, there is a need to move towards rural development that is inclusive and sustainable, and affords rural society the basic components necessary for growth with efficiency, appropriate food and development with democracy. 
Meanwhile, bear in mind the argument that is gaining ground in the United Nations: the right to land that derives from the right to food. Given that land is the key factor in food production and that poor communities lack other income generation options, guaranteeing the right to food entails access to land. In rural societies like Colombia's, the poor have never been offered significant options to ensure their food security.
The political decision to remove the factors in agrarian structure that prevent development is a step towards modernization that must encompass the factors constitutive of human development.
The big gamble
It would be a very limited gamble if lands were restituted and property rights assured without addressing the factors that stimulate the concentration of land in so few hands, that make land a factor for market speculation, and give rise to political powers that consolidate to hinder progress so as to defend personal and group interests. The gamble would be even more limited if it left the present structure of land tenure untouched; that is to say, the coefficients of land concentration – which according to the official statistics agency, Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi (IGAC), stand at 0.86[2] – are among the highest in the world, along with Brazil, Paraguay and Peru. These rates reflect great inequity in a sector with high rates of poverty and extreme poverty and have no place in the challenge of modernizing such an unequal society.
There are economic, social and political reasons for reconfiguring the agrarian structure, and there are powerful reasons of equity and policy to sustain that process. The reasons of equity include poverty – standing at 65% of the rural population – and extreme poverty – affecting around one third of rural people – which can be overcome not by subsidies, but by access to factors of production (land, capital and technology) and by developing the capabilities and freedoms of rural populations. The reasons of policy are associated with the model of democracy that the society wants and needs in order to develop and live together in peace.
Underlying this discussion of the options and scope of public policy for the rural sector is the model of democracy for the sector, over and beyond even the model of development. What is at stake is how to turn rural people into full citizens, recognize their values and contributions to development, enable them to participate in the decisions that affect their wellbeing and their future possibilities, enable them to exercise their political rights and duties freely, integrate them into the life of the nation, acknowledge that they are a potential for the Colombia of the future, and that Colombia has to share with them on equitable terms. They, moreover, also need the State and it needs them in order to exercise sovereignty and peace, to manage natural resources appropriately, for localities and regions to be governable and for them to achieve forms of organization with sufficient autonomy to decide how to suit their ways of life to modernity. In short, what is at stake is whether country people can and should become allies and partners of the State and of the rest of society in their gamble for the rural sector. The Human Development Report considers this indispensable and that progress has to be made in that direction.
The reason for modifying the agrarian structure derives from the questions "what kind of rural society does Colombia want?", "is it to be what exists at present, shot through with multiple conflicts, with control of land and natural resources in the hands of a few, inequitable, exclusionary, resource destructive, with vast expanses of land in uses unsuited to the true potential of their soils and with local populations driven out towards areas of crops for illicit use and the periphery of the agricultural frontier?", "is it to be a society where people feel they are non-citizens or second-class citizens and where others use violence to subjugate rural people and deprive them of their possessions violently or by using legal artifices?", "is it to be a society where young people have no hope for their future and prefer to migrate, where women are treated with discrimination and the State is a precarious presence?", "is it to be a society with no social or political sustainability, a rural society where democracy is still neither solid nor established?".
A historical disjunction
We face the historical dilemma of deciding between a democracy with rural workers or rural workers without democracy. Not the dilemma of a rural society with or without rural workers, because it is inconceivable that rural society in Colombia can progress without the participation of rural workers. The State is still unable to offer them options outside the rural sector or even in non-agricultural rural activities. What it must do now and in the future is to organize decent conditions of life for them within the framework of the present rural context. That rural context now accounts for more than 25% of the population, a figure that derives from the census as the population that lives in "the rest of Colombia". The Human Development Report has established that today the rural population in Colombia may represent 32% of the total population – yet another reason why the rural sector has become strategic to development.
Colombia is not on its way to becoming an industrializing economy that will absorb mass labor. On the contrary, it is moving into "reprimarization" processes, which generates little employment, but causes major damage to natural resources. ["Primarización" is a regression to rural structures where exclusion and poverty are maintained without major changes. The social situation returns to what it previously was or has always been. In these situations development is not occurring.] That is one clear reason for the present agrarian structure to undergo substantial modification and be turned into a source of employment and income for rural people, leverage their specialization in food production and other rural activities, and deploy its full potential, with the State providing public goods and access to factors of production.
One UNDP axiom is that human development requires certain minimum conditions. There can be no doubt that, in Colombia, one of those conditions is a rural sector with established democracy and equity and relations of mutual convenience and reciprocity between town and countryside. No-one is more interested than the urban sector in having a rural society in peace and in a position to progress. This gamble is by all and for all, not by a few for a few. That is the issue the UNDP Human Development Report would like to clarify.
In Colombia, the possibilities for human development are linked to what happens in the agrarian structure. They are directly bound up with the proposals for an overall land and rural development policy, but also with macroeconomic policies that regulate the markets and define the scope of the public sphere. The measure of how backward Colombia is in its development lies in the almost incredible fact that here we are, trying to solve problems of land tenure and recognition for property rights in a society that has already made significant progress in modernization processes. That states quite simply that opportunities to solve structural problems that prevent development have been wasted in the past. It also means that the powers that bind the future to conservation of privileges and exclusion are still with us.
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

[2] On a scale of 0 to 1: the closer the indicator is to 1, the greater the concentration of land ownership.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Minerals should stay where they are! This type of economy is not good for the country

(Carlos Andrey Patino Guzmán, Unimedios)
(Translated by Rolf Schoneborn, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's volunteer editor.)
These are the words of Graciela Chichilnisky, author of the carbon market concept and the carbon finance unit. She is asking the Colombian government, the private sector and even the Bogotá stock exchange to make the most of the nation's biodiversity and not destroy it by way of an extractive economy, but rather make the world pay Colombia for saving its natural resources.
That a country would decide to leave 20% of its oil in the ground and preserve something very precious like the Amazon jungle for all mankind seems to be, ahem, an illusion in a society driven by fossil fuel. But Ecuador cherishes this idea and says to the rich countries of the planet today, "You have to pay us for our stewardship of the forests that clean up the air that you polluted on a massive scale with your carbon dioxide."
The Ecuadorian government is now pioneering with the Yasuní Initiative a formula which is designed  to save the environment rather than ruin it by drilling for oil. The goal is to leave a Thousand Million barrels of crude oil untouched in the Yasuní National Park. 
Graciela Chichilniski is certain that this is the best example for how the carbon market functions, i.e. the system that she developed 18 years ago, designed to reduce environmental  pollution which is the most important goal of the UN Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
At the Universidad Nacional de Colombia conference on a sustainable economy, the  Columbia University and UNESCO professor Chichilnisky sent a message, which was practically tantamount to screaming, "Leave the minerals where they are. That type of an economy is not good for Colombia in any way."
She asked the productive sectors and the Colombian government to make use of the carbon market instead and with those earnings conserve biodiversity. A reporter for the journal of the Universidad National (UN Periódico) talked to the expert of Argentine origin.
UN Periódico: Has the carbon market led to a reduction of green house gases?
Graciela Chichilnisky: The pollution has gone down in Europe because there you have a carbon market that manages US$165 billion and has provided developing countries with $50 billion for clean energy projects. The system works but not in the entire world, not in the United States, which happens to be the greatest polluter on the planet.
UNP: What's the problem with the United States?
GC: They signed because they thought they just needed to pay for emitting pollutants, but the carbon market is more complex than that. They realized that there were serious commitments to reduction involved. They can't back out now and go against the logic of the market, which is a significant concept in the minds of North Americans because this would negate the fact that the market works as a system.  It's important to note that the carbon market works differently.
UNP: What's the difference between a carbon market and a common market?
GC:  A carbon market implies that there are no rights of ownership regarding the atmosphere because it is a global common good. This means that there are limits to the emission of pollutants, and a given country can make use of the atmosphere up to a certain point only, since other nations need the atmosphere also. On the other hand there are property rights in a common market.. Land would be a good example here. The carbon market exists insofar as countries are required to respect the environment. Another difference is that the carbon market sets limits for developing countries that also make use of the atmosphere.
UCP: That's to say, they are allowed to pollute. How so?
GC: The countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia need to develop just like the rich countries did, they have a right to do so. But they also want a sustainable development, which means lowering emissions, and that's why they were in favor of the Kyoto Protocol. But for poor countries it is more profitable, meaning they earn more by not polluting and as a result have a clean development. The Yasuní Initiative in Ecuador is a good example here.  I helped edit one of those chapters.  We are talking about the interests of just one country here, whereas the carbon market and the Kyoto Protocol, given that they constitute international law, also constitute obligations for all countries.
UNP: Now the US is a powerful country. How can that country be made to cooperate with the carbon market?
GC: In fact, the US did not want to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it was found not to be suitable. However, the carbon market is like a virus, which has found its way to the US, which it cannot get rid of. The country is actually benefiting financially from the carbon market. On November 3rd of this year a referendum was defeated in California, which would have suspended Proposition 23 (the Global Warming Solutions Act). The carbon market established itself in the richest state of the Union with this decision by California voters.
UNP: One of the criticisms levelled against the carbon market insists that it  does not obligate the industrialized countries to lower the emission of green house gases in practice.
GC:  It could look as though we are letting the rich countries pay in order to be able to kill granny. How could a society function this way? At the Copenhague Climate Conference (2009)  I recommended an investment fund for the companies in rich nations to try to make use of negative carbon technologies (without pollutants) in developing countries. At this point many might say, "this would mean giving more money to the rich". And my answer is, "but it is money that'll generate super- clean processes in poor countries. This in turn would mean that polluting would really be costly because of the penalties imposed by international law, whereas clean companies could expect additional earnings. That's the logic of the carbon market. The United States presented this recommendation as its own and it turned out to be a great success. The US viewed it  favorably from a capitalist perspective because of the profit motive, and therefore I'd have to say that the carbon market is a double-faced virus and the US sees the face that it wants to see.
UNP; Mining will play an ever larger role in Colombia; there are fears because of possible environmental impacts, however. How can the two be reconciled and what role can the carbon market play in this?
GC: Minerals are not a good business proposition, they should no longer be of any interest! They do not stand for progress and do not help Colombia to break into international markets. Mining is a thing of the past, of the last century that just benefits a few and harms all others as a result of environmental damages.
There are things Colombia could do! It could create a water market, comparable to the carbon market and get the Bogotá stock exchange involved as a political instrument, given the fact that it is doing quite well at the moment. Colombia should also be interested in the growing biomass market, but careful, corn, sugar cane and palm oil should definitely not be considered as a renewable energy source but rather algae as biomass, which can function as CO2 scrubbers and grow at a fantastic rate.
Photo 1
Graciela Chichilnisky, author of the carbon market concept and Columbia University research professor  - Victor Manuel Holguin/Unimedios
Photo 2
Indigenous Waorani in Ecuador know that there are 846 Million barrels of oil right under their feet.       
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

The IPC Proposes An Open Debate About Land, Civilian Security, and Peace

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN volunteer editor.)
Medellín, Nov 30 (IPC) – During its week of human rights 2010, the People's Institute of Wellbeing (IPC) seeks, in essence, the following goals: deepening the discussions about the problem of land tenancy in Colombia, letting the victims of the armed conflict help write a Law of Reparation, bringing into the open the possibility of finding a negotiated solution to the armed conflict, and proposing civilian alternatives regarding the challenge of urban security.
Under the slogan, "Campaign for the restitution of land and civilian security: a step toward peace," the NGO hopes to open up the space for debate and at the same time bring together a wide range of opinions to reflect on these themes, which are currently a central priority for both the Executive and Legislative governing bodies.
Toward this end, the IPC has organized a series of academic activities, from which they hope will emerge important ideas that will be brought to bear on the public deliberation of the aforementioned themes. The "Presentation of the Report on Personal Security in Medellín" by the Human Security Observatory, an initiative in which the Inspector General's Office of Medellín and the Institute of Regional Studies (INER) of the University of Antioquia took part, is an example of this.
During the presentation, which will be held in the auditorium of the Barrientos House, beginning at 8 a.m. there will be a report on the activities spearheaded by the Observatory regarding its purpose of making communities aware of the concept of human security. "Human security" can be defined as basically including necessities of the individual (such as the right to a dignified life) that go beyond simple physical threats. At the Event, a report on each of the conflicts that currently tear apart Medellín will be presented.
The same day, at 5:30 p.m., a forum will occur in the Auditorium of the Cooperativa Confiar (Have Confidence Cooperative): "Restitution of Lands and Victims of Armed Conflict." Members of the Equipo de Tierras de la Institución (Institution's Team on Lands) and Gerardo Vega, director of the Fundación Forjando Futuros (Forging Futures Foundation), will participate. The purpose of this forum is to generate a space for critical discussion about the proposed Law of Lands and Reparation to Victims of the Armed Conflict being put forth by the national government. That law is currently being discussed in the Congress of the Republic.
Also to be presented are the preliminary findings from the research that the IPC is currently undertaking regarding the disposal of goods in the Urabá and Lower Cauca in Antioquia regions. 
One of the goals of the NGO is the search for negotiated solutions to the long armed conflict that is tearing apart the country. Proof of this is the "Departmental Meeting for Dialogue about Peace and Reconciliation" that will take place on December 3 and 4 in the St. Ignatius High School. Besides encouraging debate about peace and reconciliation, for which there will also be a consultation of civilians about "The Human Right to Peace," the meeting will also serve to identify experiences of resistance and building peace that might be duplicated throughout the Department.
The Departmental Meeting will include the presence of nationally and internationally recognized personalities such as Peruvian Patricia Abozaglo; Colombian political scientist Natalia Springer; priest Nel Beltrán; and Mauricio García, currently the Director of the Center for Popular Research and Education (Cinep).    
Similarly, on December 3, at 9 a.m., in the NGO's headquarters, the "Report on Human Rights 2010" will be presented. The report discusses the human rights situation in the capital of Antioquia for the whole year. Besides calling attention to violations of the right to life in the city, the ways in which the educational sector is suffering because of the war between different kinds of gangs, among other things, will be discussed.
The Campaign will culminate on December 6 with the international seminar "Cities and Mafias: Between Legality and Illegality," which will take place in the Plaza Mayor Convention Center. The Peace and Democracy Corporation and the Medellín Procurator's Office will also participate in organizing this. Those who know about the Mafia and urban conflicts in El Salvador, México, Brazil, and Colombia will also be present.
As its name indicates, the goal of the meeting is to bring into the open conceptual elements that help to explain the complexity that underlies the current conflict occurring in the most important Colombian cities. This is reflected in the alarming increase in homicides in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Barranquilla; the product of confrontations among armed groups that count on the apprenticeships of the irregular armies (guerrilla and paramilitaries); an abundant flow of resources from drug trafficking; and criminal activities of organized crime. 
For Diana Marcela Barajas Velandia, Coordinator of the Human Rights Observatory of the IPC, these activities may inspire reflection and involvement in the debates on these issues that will be occurring on both a local and national level. For years, these issues were marginalized in the public agenda, in spite of their strategic importance.
"We aim for building informed opinion, so that citizens in general take up these themes, get involved in deliberations about them, since they are essential to national life, so much so that they are now at the center of the government's agenda," stated Barajas. 
IPC Press Agency
Medellín, Colombia
(57 4) 284 90 35
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

Alarming crime figures committed by paramilitaries, tools of the State, and multinationals

(Translated by Emily Schmitz, CSN volunteer translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN volunteer editor.)
Bogotá, January 13
The Attorney General, on the thirteenth of January 2011, revealed 173,183 homicides, 1,597 massacres and 43,467 documented disappearance cases committed by the supposedly dissolved and self-denominated United Self-Defense Forces paramilitary unit (AUC).
The record, which has recorded dates from 2005 to December 1, 2010, has also documented massive forced displacement records reaching 74,990 communities and recruitment rates of 3,557 minors by the AUC paramilitary unit.
According to the report, without exact specifications, ex-members of said paramilitary group have been implicated in 3,527 kidnapping cases, 3,532 cases of extortion, 677 cases of general violence, 68 drug-trafficking cases and 28,167 other criminal cases.
Based on judicial sources, there have been 51,616 confessed paramilitary acts involved in cases with 65,747 related victims; information gathered by the Justice and Peace Law.
These cases of acknowledgment has helped authorities, according to the report, to find 3,037 mass graves, leading to the discovery of 3,678 cadavers, including 1,323 fully identified bodies.
At the same time, investigations and confessions have permitted the establishment of the alleged link between paramilitary forces and 429 politicians, 381 security force members, 155 civil servants and an additional 7,067 people.
The AUC was created in April of 1997 with the ultimate goal of combining multiple extreme right groups operating in the country, sponsored by farmers, land-owners and drug-traffickers.
More than 70% of their income has been provided by drug trafficking and also has been financed through kidnappings and extortions or from multinationals presiding under their control.
Also, they have received collaboration from various members of the army, meanwhile maintaining close ties to Colombian politicians.
Finally, the AUC dissolved in 2006 in a partial and incomplete process during the administration of ex-president Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010). Despite this, news reports and NGOs and victim associations such as MOVICE argue that many members continue committing crimes from jail and that various armed forces remain active operating under such names as the Black Eagles, The Paisas and The Urabeños, including others.
The "Justice and Peace" law is the legal mark of the "demobilization" that has been reported for families of victims; a lucky prize for victims. In virtue of this law, the maximum sentence for a paramilitary in Colombia is eight years in jail. In December 2010, Iván Laverde, alias "Iguano", paramilitary commander, was condemned with only eight years and charged with the assassination of more than 4,000 people (confessed assassinations), for various massacres, disappearances and attacks. Iguano's confessions included having used crematoriums in the disappearance of his victims.
In Colombia, the longest paramilitary jail sentence is only eight years… a lucky prize for services done for the great capital.
For more information, reference the following annexed videos:
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered,
and the source, author, and translator are cited.



© 2005 CSN
News | Action | Links | About CSN | Donate | Join | Chapters | Delegations | Contact CSN | Contact Webmaster