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Monday, May 23, 2011

Multinationals would rather pay the ridiculous fines of the Ministry for Social Protection than respect the rights of their workers

Letter from Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo to Mauricio Santa
María, Minister of Social Protection, Bogotá, March 31, 2011

(Translated by Diana Méndez, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a
CSN Volunteer Editor.4)


In keeping with Colombian law, when it is shown that a company has
violated the rights of its workers, the Ministry of Social Protection
must imposes fines of up to one hundred times the minimum wage.
Regardless, in Colombia, multinationals prefer to violate labor laws
because it is cheaper to pay the Ministry's ridiculous fines rather than
to obey labor legislation.

In the last two years, the Ministry has fined Goodyear ten times for
violating the agreement signed with Sintraincapla, the workers'

union. The fines add up to about 33 million pesos, close to
$17,000, with an average of 3.3 million pesos per fine, which is
to say, $1,700, a laughable sum on a world scale.

Icollantas-Michelin has been fined five times for violating labor laws
and the collective agreement with Sintraicollantas. But the sum

of the fines is only 9 million pesos, which means that for five
violations on the part of a multinational, the Ministry's fines are
less than $5,000, a truly ridiculous sum on a world scale.

Likewise, the Ministry proved that Telmex had violated workers' rights
to unionize when they fired several unionized workers and union
founders. The fine imposed on Carlos Slim, one of the richest tycoons
in the world, was 40 million pesos, a bit more than $21,000 dollars,

another laughable sum on a world scale.

And this situation repeats itself in mining multinationals, whose
workers suffer grave health problems due to the terrible conditions
under which they have to work. For example, Drummond was found
responsible for the death of a worker who suffered a workplace
accident and was fined only 30 million pesos ($16,000), once again,
another laughable sum on a world scale.

It is unacceptable that the Social Protection Ministry be so lax with
multinationals that violate labor laws. It is not possible to affirm that
Colombia is a democracy when these types of things occur. For this
reason, I ask that you take necessary measures to prevent workers'
rights being violated.


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

Communique from the “Coordinacion Colombia Europa Estados Unidos”

[Translated by Sharon Bagatell, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN
Volunteer Editor.]

Dear Friends,

I remit here for your information a Denouncement from the Social Organizations of Putumayo.
This organization has been subjected to threats, detentions, and legal charges, after holding a
Public Truth Hearing where they called attention to cases of violation of human rights.

We ask human rights organizations to send messages to the State and the Colombian
Government showing concern for the lives of the leaders of the Putumayo and supporting the
requests that are presented in the attached document.

As a southwestern node of the "Coordinacion Colombia-Europa-Estados Unidos", we are
sending on April 5 a public communiqué regarding this document.

We must move with urgency since arrest orders have been put out for some of the social

We await your quick response.

In brotherhood,
Martha V. Burbano A.
Coordinator Colombia-Europe-United States, Southwestern Node

Date: Monday, April 4, 2011, 11:39 am


COMMUNICATE to the authorities of the national departmental governments, to the
International Organizations, and to all the human rights organizations at the departmental,
national, and international levels, that, after holding a Citizen Truth Hearing, THE
OF THE PUTUMAYO are victims of stigmatization, threats, stalking, and on-going finger-
pointing by members of the security forces in the Putumayo, and by functionaries and directives
of the oil companies that do exploratory and exploitative work in the department..

DESCENDENT FARMERS OF THE PUTUMAYO - Because we have already had so many
victims of war, we work decidedly to build peace.


After the Citizen Truth Hearing held on February 11 and 12, 2011 in the city of Puerto Asis,
which included honorable Congressional representatives, the National Movement for Victims
of State Crimes (MOVICE), the Standing Committee on Human Rights, representatives of
the United Nations, the Catalan Center of Spain and the delegates of the IPO, very serious
situations have arisen that concern us because they put the physical and moral integrity,
individual safety of the directors, and the stability of the organizational process at risk:

After the Hearing, the Minister of Defense created an inter-institutional commission to follow up
on the results of the Hearing. This commission is composed of members of the security forces
and intelligence organisms of the state. This situation causes us to mistrust because the Citizen
Hearing was organized and held with the objective of demonstrating and denouncing to the
authorities and to national and international human rights organizations the social and
humanitarian crisis of the Department of Putumayo; this crisis is a consequence of ten years of
the work of the "Plan Colombia." The Hearing was called by the Departmental Board of Social
Organizations of Putumayo, a group of united the organizations of the towns of Alto Putumayo,
Orito, San Miguel, Valle de Guamez, Puerto Asis, Puerto Guzman, Villagarzon, Puerto Caicedo,
y Puerto Leguizamo. We were able to show that the majority of the acts of violation of human,
social, economic, and environmental rights and of international humanitarian law have been a
consequence of the denial of the right to participation and decision-making by the people of
Putumayo and other Colombians affected by policies of the government. These policies follow
bilateral agreements with the government of the US, prioritizing investment of 86 percent of the
monies from Plan Colombia in fortifying the military forces with the effect of increasing acts of
war in our territories. As a consequence, in the hearing it was observed that of the 486 cases
denounced and received by the event's judicial commission, 99.9 percent involve members of
the security forces and functionaries of other institutions of the Colombian state, such as the
Fiscalia (Prosecutor General), the Police, Hospital Centers, the Ministry of the Environment,
CORPOAMAZONIA, and the National Hydrocarbon Agency, among others.

This legal and legitimate action of condemning publicly, for the first time, the systematic
violation of the International Law of Human Rights and of the International Humanitarian
Law, has generated in the implicated institutions reactions that seek to discredit the work of
the resistance organizations. They seek to discredit the fact that, in the midst of war, we
have learned to do investigations, document personal stories, carry out humanitarian and
organizing activities with our populations that have been victimized, and support those who
individually raise their voices to condemn appalling acts and demand truth, justice, and
reparation. With the Citizen Truth Hearing we only look for a place of trust to give face to
our country and have them know, in a united voice, that the social and armed conflict
continues to affect us; and that it continues to displace us from our land, only to turn it over
to the big companies and petroleum monopolies which are backed by the security forces.
We were also able to speak out against the grave social and environmental problems that
the oil companies have created for us throughout the department since the decade of the
1960's. We have been able to demonstrate that our resistance has been characterized in
the last five years by peaceful mobilizations which have always ended with the signing of
agreements and accords with delegates of the national government, ministries and the
national hydrocarbon agency. In these arenas, the Defensoria del Pueblo (People's
Defender), the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice have participated as
guarantors. These agreements and accords have never been carried out, while the oil
companies continue, with the consent of governments and the protection of the national
army, to violate the civil, political, social, cultural, and environmental rights of the farmers,

workers, and indigenous groups of the territory. The oil companies have assumed a radical
position to the point of refusing to meet with representatives of our organizations, arguing
that we are subversives. This is putting us at high risk without giving us the opportunity to
express our concerns and make proposals before the boards of said companies

As directors of organizations, this alarms us and has caused us sadness, as we realize
how the interests and politics of the private sector are above sovereignty of the state and in
detriment to our rights as custodians of this territory. Because of all that we have described
above, the farmers' and indigenous organizations that live along the banks of the Rio
Putumayo in the towns of Puerto Asis and Puerto Leguizamo have made a sovereign and
autonomous decision to paralyze commercial and public transport activities that cross this
important river hub of the country. At root is the municipal, departmental, and national
governments' repeated failure to comply with the signed agreements of December 2009,
and the continual fumigations and forced manual eradications, which increases the problem
of violation of human, social, and economic rights. This is even more problematic when the
government does not carry out the orders of the constitutional court of Decision 218.

We also have knowledge that from deep within the military intelligence and the security
forces there are movements against the leaders of the farmers, indigenous, and afro-
descendents of the Putumayo with purpose of breaking up the organizations and our
process of resistance, by bringing individual and collective legal cases against them. In
response to this very serious situation we show that as directors we have been transparent
and direct with the demands and the proposals of solution to our problems, Although all of
the institutions have met with us in arenas such as the Platforms of Civil Society, the Board
of National Guarantees, the Regional and Municipal Boards, and we have sought help
from the Honorable Members of the Colombian Congress, the national government has not
allowed us an arena for participation and effective decision-making. Therefore, directors,
traditional authorities, and communities of the Putumayo will continue strengthening these
organizations. We have resisted massacres and forced disappearances, assassinations
of our leaders and forced displacement because we are convinced that we fight for a just
cause; we fight for our rights, for right livelihood, so that when the petroleum is used up we
aren't left with only misery and sadness and so that we will not be deprived of our freedom
or our lives.

1. That the competent institutions, and in this case the UNIT OF HUMAN RIGHTS OF
PUEBLO ( People's Defender's Office) and the PROCURADURIA GENERAL DE LA
NACION (Inspector General's Office), be the ones that take responsibility for creating and
coordinating a Special Group for follow-up, investigation and punishment of the guilty in the

2. That the national government and the Ministry of the Interior and of Justice carry out the
agreements made jointly in the different acts of peaceful mobilization and farmer strikes that

have been taken place in the Putumayo.
3. We call urgently upon the Honorable Constitutional Court and the bodies in control of
the Colombian state to follow up and support our demand of guarantees for respect for
human, social, economic, environmental and cultural rights of all the inhabitants of the

4. We call upon the national government to cease placing the interests of the oil
companies over the welfare of the indigenous farmer citizens, inhabitants of the Colombian
territory, and to stop the plundering of our territory that has been gradually given away in
concessions to the oil companies.

Finally, we Urgently demand that the national government, the Ministry of the Interior, and
the Ministry of Justice give special protection to the leadership of the Putumayo, and that
threats of massive capture and threats against the lives of our directors be resolved.

1. that the farmer, indigenous, and social organizations of the Putumayo, demonstrate
solidarity with the farmers and indigenous people that are right now peacefully mobilized on
the banks of the Putumayo River.
2. that the national and international farmer and human rights organizations do follow-
up and accompaniment for the difficult situation and humanitarian crisis that the farmers,
indigenous people, and afro-descendants are experiencing, since we are part of the
Departmental Board of the Putumayo.

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





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Phone:  (608) 257-8753
Fax:  (608) 255-6621
E-mail:  csn@igc.org

Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Colombia ignorance abounds because people are not taught, in context, how things work

(Translated by Deryn Collins, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a
CSN Volunteer Editor.)

"In Colombia ignorance abounds because people are not taught, in context, how things
work. From infancy they acquire useless and trivial bits of knowledge piecemeal, which
creates a limited form of thinking which serves only to look at their real world and
creates a marked inability to think."

This statement, by one of the most important neuropsychologists in the world, the
Colombian Rodoflfo Llinás, is the same thought of the indigenous people and in their
words when we talk of ethno education. We understand that appropriate education such
as the formation of individuals is determined by the expectations of each community,
under the principles that rule the indigenous movement (Unity, Land, Culture and
Autonomy). Education should be not to serve corporate interests but should include the
feelings and thoughts of the elders of the community, which are transmitted by word
of mouth from one to another. And in the words of the rector of what is considered to
be the best school in the country, that improving education does not mean making a
one-storey school into a four-storey one but instead improving human processes to a
high standard.¨ In schools colleges and universities human beings are not created, but

Education has become an efficient machine whose goal is to produce massive quantities
of doctors and high school graduates, to impress with quantity regardless of the quality,
for each child that repeats a year the state has to reinvest the cost of the subsidy,
930,000 pesos. Reducing the number of repeat years to the minimum is to save money
and resources, rather than be based on academic results and improving the deplorable
quality of education that results when students automatically move up" a journalist in
the El Espectador said on the subject. 

Now, apparently, the quantity before quality strategy does not work out well –
the recent PISA results from the last average of 65 countries (eight of them Latin-
American) showed that our country is in pathetic 52nd place in the world education
ranking, which measures quality of education. At all costs, and contrary to our decision
we mean to stop this education system that makes humans docile and deaf now that the
time has come to demand respect. From Bogotá teachers, coordinators and academic
thinkers are imposed. First the responsibility of education was given to the priests
who tried to evangelize us, then the traditional families of Cauca wanted us to submit
(remembering that the ex governor Chaux was tried for parapolitics) and now they
want to privatize us, according to President Santos. All this contrary to the will of the
indigenous people - those who should be the front line in the education our people. We
can and need to educate people to work for the multi nationals and at the same time
respect their rights... From the town council of Cerro Tijeras we ask –Up to where do
they wish to take us with the education we receive? We know if we can understand
the why of the thing we see there is no reason to comply with mandates veiled behind
hidden interests. We will continue to protect our own education because it is inspired
by the spirits and nature, creating proud, dignified and honest individuals, who have
a sense of belonging and community. Therefore, we invite Colombians that before
thinking 'what am I going to study, the first question should be who is the puppet
moving the strings? What game are they playing with us? Think…..act…..

CABILDO INDÍGENA CERRO TIJERAS (Indigenous Lobby of Cerro Tijeras)

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011



Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN volunteer translator



We are continuing to make a record, before the nation and before the world, because the assaults against our Peace Community of San José de Apartadó are multiplying every week.  The different agencies of the government, as some see them, are every day more blind and deaf to the outcries of the victims; as others see them, they are perfecting their repression in a tight working relationship with the paramilitaries and the gangs that appear to be made up of common criminals.  The result is the same:  their plans to exterminate the Peace Community are advancing with the same malevolence that they have demonstrated for 14 years.  In spite of that, in the midst of this menace, we keep on believing in Life, even though we see ourselves besieged by Death.  The memory of our martyrs keeps us going, as an unshakable energy of resistance.  We know that in the face of so much death the hope for life seems overwhelmed, but for us it is not that way; on the contrary, hope becomes stronger.  In so many parts of the world, this power of peace and civil resistance is stronger than ever.  It is to those militants for peace and justice that we send our stories; to those who have that unquenchable fortitude and who identify themselves by their vitality for Life and for Justice.


On Wednesday, April 27, 2011, around 11 a.m., in the town of Mulatos-Cabecera, Colombian Army troops destroyed a whole hectare of rice belonging to ARSENIO DÍAZ.  In addition, they were using his farm for a heliport, without asking his permission, and destroying other crops that were needed for the subsistence of his family.  This is an open violation of international human rights law.


On Friday, April 29, 2011, around 6:30 a.m., an 18-year old man named MANUEL DE JESUS MORA was murdered in the town of Mulatos-Cabecera.  He was at home when the neighbors heard rifle fire and when they came to check on him they found him dead from two rifle shots.  Manuel's name had been on the lists of people that the paramilitaries had identified.  They read the list with his name on April 25 in the town of Caracolí, a place where the Army is almost always present.  Also, on the previous day at about 8:00 a.m., a masked man had shown up at his house.  He ran away a few moments later without saying anything.  Not only that, some Colombian Army soldiers had asked about him that same week, and at the moment of the murder they were camped only 300 meters from Manuel's house.  The community helped Manuel's mother to take him to her house and have the wake there.  He was buried there on Saturday, April 30.  The community extends its deepest sympathy to his family.


On Saturday April 30 and Sunday, May 1, 2011,  during the morning, there was combat in the towns of Arenas and Bellavista.  The civilians who live in these settlements were terrified.  Also you could hear a tremendous noise on the road that leads from Apartadó to San José and the news media reported that an Army truck had been bombed.  This is further evidence of the worsening of the conflict.  Everyone can see the enormous number of troops and the building of a bunker for the police right in the middle of the civilian population, contrary to the order of the Constitutional Court.  Add to that the presence of at least six huge paramilitary bases in the area.  All of that attracts other armed actors  and puts the lives and bodily integrity of all of the surrounding civilian population at high risk.


On Sunday, May 1, 2011, at around 8:00 a.m., in the town of Arenas Altas, Army troops stopped ELIÉCER GUZMÁN, a member of the Peace Community and formerly a member of the Internal Council.  The soldiers berated him; they told him that he was a guerrilla and that this sonofabitching peace community were all guerrillas.  After subjecting him to some more abuse, they told him that the next time they saw him they would kill him.


On Monday, May 2, 2011, around 4:00 p.m., in the place known as Chontalito, between San Josesito and Mulatos, four members of our community were subjected to a "tax census", in flagrant violation of the mandate of the Constitutional Court.  They took their pictures and took them in front of a masked man.  The soldiers asked the masked man about each of the men and he answered by shaking his head.  After that, they let them go.


We are aided by the conviction that many people in many parts of the world are walking with us in solidarity in a spiritual resistance in the face of all this barbarity, putting our faith in Life, as against Death.  We are inspired to build spaces that are different from those where war is waged; spaces for peace; spaces without violence, as an essential means to create solidarity and transparency which finally will result in a real world of Justice and Life.





May 4, 2011














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





Please be generous - Support our work! Click "Make a donation" from our home page: http://www.colombiasupport.net

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



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