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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Victims stigmatized in hearing against 'Julián Bolívar' - Paramilitary Commander of the Bloque Central Bolívar

Justicia y Paz

Thursday, February 10, 2011


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

Leader of this para's victims maintains they continue to be stigmatized in Justice and Peace proceedings.


One of the weaknesses of the Justice and Peace Law is that the victims' versions are disregarded. Photo VerdadAbierta.com


The indignation was written on Magdalena Calle Londoño's face. In silence, she made no secret of what it caused her to hear the victims named, among them her husband, and listen to the justifications given by the former paramilitary vigilante to explain their deaths: "guerrilla informers, rustlers, drug peddlers, neighborhood thieves, highway robbers, receivers of stolen livestock...".


In the courtroom, the victims contained themselves throughout the nearly three hours of the third arraignment session against Rodrigo Pérez Alzate, alias 'Julián Bolívar', former chief of the Bloque Central Bolívar of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), held on Wednesday in Medellín, before judge Álvaro Cerón Coral, tasked with assuring constitutional guarantees.


During the hearing, the prosecutor, Fiscal 41 of the Justice and Pease Unit, Ana Fenney Ospina Peña, accused 'Bolivar' of the crime of aggravated homicide for events in the municipality of Yarumal, North Antioquia, during 1997 and 1998, at which time he led an illegal armed group there known as "the Pérez group", which left 22 people, men, women and minors dead.


During the proceedings, the official read the cases one by one, giving the victim's name and occupation, the date of the event, how the deaths occurred and the confessions the accused had made months earlier in voluntary depositions.


One of the details that most outraged Magdalena is that Fiscal 41 of the Justice and Peace Unit described each case exclusively in terms of the justifications given by the former paramilitary to explain each murder, giving no prominence to the victims' families' statements, as was the case with her husband, Alonso Jaramillo López, murdered on September 19, 1997, in the rural zone of Yarumal.


This the official reported as follows: Jaramillo López "was detained by Roberto Velásquez, alias 'Tolima,' and taken to the farm, Finca Los Urales, located in the Llanos de Cuivá district of the municipality of Yarumal, where he was interrogated intensely about his alleged connections with subversive activities. These he at first denied, but finally acknowledged them as a result of the bullet wound he received in one leg. After this, Velásquez murdered Mr. Jaramillo by shooting him several times and ordered patrolman Raúl Machado Rovira to make sure the corpse disappeared, which he did by burying it in a trench."


According to Magdalena, what is being done during these hearings is to re-victimize the people who were murdered: "The cases are not being detailed completely, and that leaves us vulnerable and makes our families victims once again".


Magdalena – who represents the organization Mothers for Life (Madres por la Vida) in North Antioquia, as a member of the Antioquia Department Victims' Round Table (Mesa Departamental de Víctimas de Antioquia) and its offices in Yarumal – was constantly surprised when the case reports were read, and particularly at how they were being explained.


For example, with regard to Alonso Arango Madrigal, who was murdered on February 23, 1997, the prosecutor declared: "According to Rodrigo Pérez Alzate, the deceased acted under instructions given to him as an informer of the ELN battlefront, Frente Héroes de Anorí."


In the case of Luis Gonzalo Cuartas, a driver who was killed on March 11, 1997, the prosecutor reported that "Rodrigo Pérez Alzate confesses that he ordered him killed on the basis of the information he received identifying the victim as a rustler."


Isaura Arenas Montoya, a housewife with various occupations, was bludgeoned to death on March 8, 1997 in the yard of her home. In her case, the prosecutor referred to the ex-paramilitary's confession, saying that "Rodrigo Pérez Alzate declares that this deceased followed instructions given her as a member of the gang known as Los Escorpiones and as proprietress of a drugs outlet."


A similar justification was given in the case of Alberto Zapata Patiño, a pupil at the high school Liceo San Luis, who also worked at the local sanitary landfill and was murdered on May 30, 1997: "Rodrigo Pérez Alzate confesses this killing because the victim was a member of the gang Los Escorpiones, which specialized in holdups of buses and trucks."


Another case that left Magdalena indignant was the murder of José Paternina Ruíz and Jorge Castaño on May 31, 1997. They were travelling from the municipality of Medellín to Llanos de Cuivá on public transport, a bus of the company Coonorte. On the way they were detained by armed men and murdered minutes later.


According to the prosecutor, "Rodrigo Pérez Alzate confesses that he ordered Paternina and Castaño to be killed because he received information that they sympathized and collaborated with the ELN unit Héroes de Anorí".


To Magdalena, "when the cases are presented like this, the victims of Yarumal are stigmatized as being guerrillas, drug addicts, whatever else. Nobody mentions that they were innocent." She talks about the case of José Paternina Ruíz and Jorge Castaño, whom she knows about because there are relatives of both in the women's group she leads: "they were not collaborators with the guerrilla; what he said is untrue."


In this connection, a lawyer representing several victims, who asked for his name to be withheld, agreed with Magdalena's objections and explained that the Justice and Peace Law "is political in origin and was drafted too hastily." In his opinion, "it does not seek solutions that actually lead to the real truth being discovered." One of its failings, he argues, "is that it does not characterize the victims in any depth, and thus makes them doubly victims."


After attending the arraignment, Magdalena was left in no doubt that the lack of balance in this kind of hearing, where no mention is made of the versions given by the victims' relatives, is one of the major weaknesses of the Justice and Peace Law: "we are relegated to the background and are at a disadvantage," she said, quickly leaving the courtroom.




... The victims and their families are, and continue to be, alone in this struggle.... You just have to go to the hearings....




Asamblea de Mujeres de la Sociedad Civil por la Paz

móvil: (57) 300 823 66 34



Bogotá. DC- Colombia- Sur América

 Defensores de Derechos Humanos abajo Amenaza

 Campaña Defensores Colombia


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Territorial Consolidation in 95 Colombian Municipalities

PODEC <davide@podec.org>

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)

*The investment was more than $697 billion pesos [almost $395 million USD—SC] last year
*35 percent of the returns in the country have been in consolidation zones
*60 percent of the inhabitants of municipalities covered by the Consolidation Center have changed their perception about the presence of the State.
Bogotá, April 19, 2011. The return to their places of origin of 53,000 persons, the decreasing number of homicides, and the increases in coverage of education and health, demonstrated the advances in social recovery of 95 municipalities of Colombia which were previously centers of operations of terrorism and narcotics trafficking and which today, thanks to the work of 15 agencies of the State, are returning to legality.
Those institutions, grouped in the Coordinating Center of Integral Action (CCAI) under the leadership of Social Action [a government agency—SC], in 2010 brought their offer to 153,611 families located in 14 regions of our country: Sierra Nevada, Catatumbo, Macarena, Río Caguán, Montes de María, Cauca, the south of El Chocó, Arauca, the south of Córdoba, the Bajo Cauca in Antioquia, Nariño, the south of Tolima and the north of Valle, Buenaventura y Putumayo.
In these areas, the work was focused on strengthening governability, return and restitution of their rights to the displaced population, eradication of illicit crops, social management and development, road infrastructure, electrification, productive projects, food security and cultural identity.
In 2010 more than 697 billion pesos were invested, which served to promote 1,051 social development projects, 256 infrastructure projects and 324 economic development projects. In addition 896 humanitarian missions and 116 inter-institutional work projects were carried out and 181 donations with a value of 15.397 billion pesos [a little over $8.7 million USD—SC]. In another area, more than 3,290 land parcels—248,958 hectares [Over 615,000 acres—SC]—belonging to displaced families were protected.
With the work of CCAI the previous year, health coverage in the 95 municipalities that were focused on increased to 92.5 percent. Programs like that of Families in Action rose to 82 percent and education coverage reached 103.7 percent.
This helped homicides to diminish 43.8 percent in these areas of the country. As well, displacements were reduced from 15 persons to six persons for every thousand inhabitants of the region, while 13,149 households, approximately 53,000 persons, returned to their places of origin, which equals 35 percent of all returns in the country.
Change in perception.
A study done by CCAI in 40 of the municipalities that were focused on allowed a change to be seen in the perception that the inhabitants have with respect to the offer by the State, which resulted in 60 percent of the inhabitants manifesting confidence in state institutions, while 83 percent considered that security in the area has improved.
In another area, 85 percent has seen an improvement in education services, while 53 percent perceive an improvement in health services. In the theme of regional governability, 49 percent of those surveyed have participated in a structure of social and community participation in their municipality.
Finally, in the theme of return of the displaced population, 78 percent would recommend to a relative that had been displaced that they return.
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From the Revolutionary Independent Workers’ Movement (MOIR)

Senators Jorge Enrique Robledo and Alexánder López, of the Polo Democrático.

Visit our pages: http://www.moir.org.co, http://tribunaroja.moir.org.co , http://www.robledosomostodos.comand http://www.deslinde.org.co


The FTA in 2012: Worse than in 2007

Aurelio Suárez Montoya, Bogotá, April 19, 2011


[Translated by Buddy Bell  a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.]

Manipulating opinion, an idea has been propagated: that the FTA [U.S. - Colombia Free Trade Agreement] was not approved because of missteps by the U.S. government. After the intense debate between 2004 and 2006, when it was clear that Colombia was the net loser under the agreement, it has been implicated that through saying no to Uncle Sam, Colombia has rebuffed its "ally."

Since January, in his State of the Union address, Obama said that pushing U.S. exports is part of sound strategy for economic recovery. It is one more thing, in addition to war, bailouts, and state subsidies like Buy American, which is supposed to accelerate a dynamic economy. Echoing this chorus, Santos and Angelino have not been ashamed to push the FTA in Washington; quantifying the losses that could be incurred by U.S. corporations should it fail.

The growing inequality between the two nations was not addressed through the negotiation, nevertheless it has risen to become admittedly one the most notorious iniquities: the numerous agriculture subsidies of the North, the downpour of cheap excess goods into the market, the extension of medicine patents, and the super protection of gringo investments. In 2012 this will be even more serious than in 2007. For example, the volumes of agricultural and livestock charters granted without tariff for 2007 will increase in 2012 thanks to the trend of annual increase in charters granted, but also the new discount in tariff, which was adopted on the actual day of the negotiation, not the day it takes effect. Also, in 2012, the tariff-free limit for imports of rice will not consist of 79,000 metric tons but 90,000. Corn imports, already at 2 million tons will increase by 55,000 tons. Pork meat comes in duty-free in whatever quantity, and if you quantify dairy capital with other kinds, you must include oversupply and whey. Any negative balance carried by big industry is going to put pressure on the government to revalue the peso, something which has already strained flower exports.

The control of drug prices and of social rights remain out of reach as advantages forfeited through the trade deal, like due process rights, free trade zones, the elimination of taxes on repatriated profits, antitrust regulations in mining and petroleum, and much more. Additionally, there will be loopholes negotiated (using international tribunals) in favor of investors--- the solution to ramming through controversial proposals.

The FTA in 2012 will be worse than in 2007. The national economy is weaker, and new projects, like the National Action Plan (2011-2015) or that of the corporate-owned universities, facilitate the crude application of the FTA, a creature of Uribe and Santos--- the former made the terrible thing and the latter is set to finish it; history will not absolve them.

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Urgent Action Needed: Unauthorized eviction at El Tamarindo farm.

Written by CSPP
Tuesday April 26, 2011 - 4:07 PM
(Translated by Buddy Bell, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)

The Political Prisoner Solidarity Committee condemns the violations against the community of El Tamarindo in Barranquilla. We are trying to get the word out to your local community, national and international NGOs, unions, and human rights and social justice advocates.



 Early this morning, armed forces maintained a presence in El Tamarindo farm, located in the province of Juan Mina, on the road between Barranquilla and the municipality of Galapa in Atlántico department. The people surrounding the farm included Barranquilla's 5th inspector of police, BERLYS ROA, members of his force, as well as those of Galapa, ESMAD agents (riot police), customs officers, and soldiers from the National Army.  They were there to carry out legal proceedings regarding 12 hectares of community property claimed by two corporations: INVERMAS y ABDALA SAIEH Y CIA S.C.A. Actually, the former property of these corporations had been seized by the National Council of Mind-Altering Drugs when it was suspected to be a drug trafficking nexus.

Because of the companies' allegations of ownership of the land, today's military buildup crushes the hope of revocation of their claim. This reflects the apparent interest of the Colombian head of state: to favor and to further enrich those connected to narcotrafficking. 

The Tamarindo settlement is composed of a group of approximately 110 families that came from various regions of the Caribbean coast. Initially, this group of displaced families received temporary help from the Presidential Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation. Once this aid was eliminated, these people lived in absolute poverty, and since 2001 they have peacefully occupied El Tamarindo farm, which they had discovered when it was abandoned and fallow [1]. On this land they decided to produce biofuel and to plant yucca, maize, rice, melons, plantains, sorghum, to raise fish, chickens, turkeys, and more.

In this whole process, six farm workers have received death threats. 

First of all, we DEMAND that the ongoing vigilance and harassment against the Tamarindo farm should cease. Within the 12 hectares there are 7 ranches which are home to 15 families who work the land; their homes have been demolished by the Caterpillar bulldozers. Also, the civil police are destroying the campesinos' crops with machetes. 

Please direct your communications to: 

* Sr. Juan Manuel Santos, Presidente de la República, Carrera 8 # 7-26, Palacio de Nariño, Santa Fe de Bogotá. Fax: + 57 1 566 20 71

* Sr. Angelino Garzón, Vicepresidente de la República, Tels.: +57 1 334 45 07, +573772 01 30. E-mail:buzon1@presidencia.gov.coppdh@presidencia.gov.co

* Sr. Germán Vargas Lleras, Ministerio del Interior y de Justicia, Carrera 8 No. 13-31 piso 4to. Tels.: 57.1.4443100 Ext. 2410 Fax: +57 1 2827440 E-mail: atencionalciudadano@mij.gov.

* Sr. Rodrigo Rivera, Ministro de la Defensa, Avenida El Dorado con Carrera 52 CAN, Bogotá. Fax: +; E-mail:mdn@cable.net.co

* Sr. Wolmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz, Defensor del Pueblo, Calle 55 # 10-32, Bogotá. Fax: + 571 640 0491 E-mail: secretaria_privada@hotmail.comagenda@agenda.gov.co.

* Dr. Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado, Procurador General de la Nación, Cra. 5 #. 15-80, Bogotá. Fax: +57 1 342 97 23; + 571 284 79 49 Fax: +571 342 9723; E-mail: cap@procuraduria.gov.coquejas@procuraduria.gov.co

* Dra. , Fiscal General de la Nación, Diagonal 22-B # 52-01, Bogotá. Fax: +571 570 2000; +571 414 90 00 Extensión 1113, E-mail: contacto@fiscalia.gov.co

* Dr. Eduardo Verano de la Rosa, Gobernador del Atlantico. Fax: (5) 3307000

* Dr. Luis Tapia, Secretario de gobierno de Barranquilla. Fax: (5) 3399860.

* Oscar Daniel Vera, Director de Derechos Humanos de la Policia Metropolitana de Barranquilla, fax: (5) 3510054. 

* Dra. FELISA MARÍA SALCEDO REVOLLO, Defensora del pueblo regional. Teléfono: (5) 3606357 - Fax: (5) 3600005 


 [1] The registered ownership of the land by these founding families continues to have legal weight. The Fifth Urban Regiment of the Police, the Police Commissioner, and the Police Commander have the duty to enforce it. Furthermore, the registration of ownership is on file at the Barranquilla Public Deeds Office and in the City Attorney's office.


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Military abuses continue in El Colima

Thursday, April 14, 2011
[Interecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace]
(Translated by Susan Tritten, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)
Harassment and intimidation against the human rights defender and African-American leader, GERALDINE BALANTA, and the destruction of 12 hectares of subsistence crops, belonging to Afro-Colombians who live in the El Crucero community in the collective territory of Lower Calima, have been carried out by military forces attached to Brigade 2, Battalion 80.
These acts have combined with barriers to free access to community sites, where Afro-Colombians carry out their daily activities. These barriers protect the implementation of infrastructure projects known as the Sweet Water Project [Proyecto de Agua Dulce], which have not been adequately reviewed in compliance with international law, in particular Article 169 of the OIT [Oficina International del Trabajo-International Labor Office]. This has seriously affected the right of 119 families to survival, food, and property.
Interecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace
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Montes de María: Power, Land and Violence

 (Translated by Rolf Schoeneborn, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)
 Razón Pública /Sunday, April 03,  2011
Montes de María, a zone located in the center of the Colombian Departments of Bolívar and Sucre on the northern coast of Colombia, has been the scene of many human rights violations and  seems condemned never to find ways out of the dead end it is in. A precarious status quo between rich landowners (latifundistas) and very poor peasant farmers is being maintained as a result of permanent violence.

Social Control through Hand-outs  

The rural  elites favor social relief programs to fight poverty as a means to prevent attempts at popular uprisings. This traditional type of redistribution of wealth populist-style does not augment productive capacities of the poor but rather is a way of buying political power in order to perpetuate elite control.

Academic research has concentrated on investigating how oligarchic agrarian economies most likely stagnate in the long run and on the pro-active role of social conflicts given systems of this type. [1]
 Large estates and political  power

When the recent history of rural oligarchic societies such as the Montes María one and public policies which supposedly should reduce the level of peasant poverty are compared and contrasted, it is also necessary to point out that state institutions tend to reinforce class structures and economic measures as the most efficient way to maintain order[2].
This means keeping the land-owning classes in place inspite of grave social conflicts which afflict these societies periodically. .

Large privately-owned estates have monopolized political power early on, which brought about not only the vulnerability of the central State and thus was "trapped by local interests" but also the incapacity of the de facto State to govern and administer the actually existing country [3]. This social order safeguards the organization of political life, which has been inviolable so far.
Within the scope of this paper social movements and the history of violence the Montes de María communities have experienced over the last decades will be reviewed. Also, the actors involved and their respective objectives need to be identified in order to be able to examine the strategies of the elites and to assess at which point they would tend to to accept change and  thus possibly envigorate the existing agrarian economy both in the short and the long term.
The 70's and 80's:  boosts and restraints of agrarian reform

The 70's and 80's were decades of intense social protests encouraged by the official politics of agrarian reform. The land occupations ("tomas de tierras") in the Sucre Department, altogether 194 between 1971 and 1975, and the size reduction of fincas of more than 500 hectares netted app. 214.000 hectares, although not all of this land went to peasant farmers. This progress was soon to be negated by the agrarian counter-reform which was launched under the presidents Pastrana Borrero (1970-1974) and López Michelsen (1974-1978), thus vindicating the rights of large landowners and halting the agrarian reform process.
When the National Association of Peasant Land Users (ANUC) wanted to mobilize its base, the landowners chose to hire armed groups "not only to defend themselves against land invasions and kidnappings as in the past but also to attack peasant farmers and their leaders." According to the organization Justicia y Paz (Justice and Peace) at least 12 ANUC leaders were assassinated between 1988 and 1995.

The 90's: paramilitaries and drug traffickers appear 

At the beginning of the 90s the list of actors consisted of landowners, stockbreeders, agricultural entrepreneurs, peasant farmers and day laborers whose relations were rigidly and hierarchically structured in this backward rural society. . 

But all of a sudden other actors made an appearance: paramilitaries and drug traffickers, who quickly became part of the social fabric of the region. Since the guerrillas were engaged in the struggle for power, the peasants found themselves completely defenseless very soon; it was the only group that did not arm itself nor enlisted armed intermediaries.

Paramilitarism was not introduced from the outside but rather by the local agents of power. Representatives of the traditional power groups instigated the action of the paramilitaries, not only involving overt political violence but also non-political violence. 

Paramilitarism has to be considered to be a criminal enterprise based upon violence and is therefore intimately linked to illegal drug dealing, which in turn involves assassinations, protection money, extortion, blackmail, kidnapping, land grabbing, cattle rustling, and stealing of gasoline. Paramilitaries impose illegal taxes selectively on storekeepers, traders, store clerks and most recently also focus on theft of bank wire transfers, bonus moneys and money for public health and education, which was to be distributed by a weak local government.
Violence as a, instrument of control 

The political and economic changes meant that poor peasant farmers became victims of forced displacement, massive crimes and selective assassinations, which not simply worsened the conflict but had to be seen as a rational instrument of terror with the aim of holding down the peasant population and forcing it to consent to displacement, thus gaining control of  strategic regions

The entire rural and urban population of this region ultimately ended up being potential victims of lawless armed groups simply because they were considered a danger to plans by the powerful. Among the victims were not only their own fighters but also civilians, peasant farmers, workers, stockbreeders, peasant leaders, union officials, indigenous people and intellectuals., 

About sixty massacres were comitted  in the Montes de María region between 1997 and 2004 and names such as El Salado
, Macayepo, Chengue, Pichilín y Colosó stand for particularly cruel and vicious treatment of defenseless people.

This type of explicit violence has opened the way to what the Slovenian philosopher Zizek calls 'bad political authority', which has allowed the perpetrators and their leaders to exercise power per se and spread corruption without a higher goal.

This has been a kind of violence that had never been known in the history of this type of agrarian society and it continued to exist even in the face of the emerging political violence in the 50's because it could sustain itself due to the immense resources generated by  drug-traficking activities which allowed the intensification of prepolitical violence. 
.The primary victim of this type of violence was the peasantry because it just was not able to organize any collective action of self-defense and much less arm itself and therefore presented itself as the ideal target of paramilitary and guerrilla violence.
It is well to remember that violence has always been part of these agrarian societies in which the powers that be have made use of non-political violence and even making use of the coercive state apparatus. Spokespersons for paramilitarism have often mentioned "that the void left by the State had to be filled in those regions" and this type of discourse was deliberately concocted to distort reality.
  The FARC helped spawn paramilitarism 

Following Mejía and Posada on the one hand and Acemoglu on the other, it was hoped that the landowning elite would try to defend itself against the armed threat posed by the FARC in its very own territory. 

It could be said that the FARC played the role of the 'vanishing mediator' a term introduced by Jameson [5], as far as the upsurge and consolidation of a violent political Right was concerned and comparable to the way the protestant ethic allowed for the rise of capitalism, to quote Max Weber. These theories then became a suitable excuse for paramilitary action.
The landowning elite initially offered nothing but stubborn resistance to the agrarian reform politics and paramilitary violence directed against the peasantry except for populist welfare measures. The poor productivity of livestock raising activities and the high levels of poverty clearly show the economic stagnation of this type of oligarchic society.
This meant that the violence unleashed by narcoparamilitarism was one of the reasons why this society did not change. This in turn benefited the large landed estates and agrarian capital, in other words a social class that benefitted from the ubiquitous violence and which is overrepresented in the Congress of the Republic. 
This type of social arrangement not only became firmly entrenched but also managed to be recognized by the central State and also project itself on the national political life. The local social fabric remains unchanged; i.e., the traditional landowning oligarchy, the political elite, the same uneven wealth distribution and a displaced peasantry humiliated and silenced. 

Insofar as the violent actors are successful with their bullets and bombs the high rates of return on their military investment encourages them  to continue with their apropriative activities instead of  concentrating on productive activities
[6]. It is obvious that this investment is associated with low opportunity costs , which means that war is cheap for those who use violence and very costly for the rest of society. [7]
This cost becomes obvious when a weakened State loses the monopoly of legitimate coercive force and can no longer protect private property, guarantee political rights, economic rights and civil rights of the citizens, that is to say the rule of law in general.
Acemoglu made it abundantly clear that if no social costs are to be paid there is absolutely no incentice for the elite to tolerate changes. The elite did not have to contend with any social costs for being involved with the recent violence except for a small fraction of the political elite in the Montes de María region. 

A dead end without exit  

inally guerrillas and narcoparamilitaries represent pathological models of premodern agrarian societies that try to go back to the past and stay frozen in time with corresponding kinds of order, values and types of agrarian social relations that simply are not viable any longer except with the help of very expensive repressive mechanisms which focus on 'private property rights'. . 

Even more paradoxical is the fact that any attempt at consolidation by State institutions with the intention of eliminating  most armed actors in an attempt to reestablish values and relations that had been typical for agrarian societies which existed in the 70's and 80's ended up legitimizing the very opposite social order [8]. This of course meant that constant violence was necessary to maintain a precarious status quo.

The enormous contradiction that a reformist State such as this one has to face stems from the fact that it needs the support of politically powerful groups and not of the majority of the population especially in times of crisis [9]. But genuine reforms which it would like to introduce are bound to profoundly affect the interests of this powerful class which is tied to its violent past.

* Fernando Bernal*

Sociologist with a PhD from the University of Oxford (England). University professor and international consultant. He is at present member of a group that prepares the National Report on Human Development 2010.

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The Bilateral U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Portends Disaster for Colombia’s Countryside

 The Bilateral U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Portends Disaster for       Colombia's Countryside
            As Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visited President Obama in Washington, the U. S. government released several so-called "fact sheets" praising the deal, which President Obama seems eager to pass through Congress. The "fact sheets" tout a predicted increase in U.S. exports to Colombia of $1billion as a result of the FTA. The Agreement calls for protection of Colombian labor union members and a guarantee of unions' right to exist. It helpfully provides that Colombia promise to end the substitution of management-controlled "cooperatives" for worker-formed labor unions. And it calls for prosecution of those who kill labor union leaders and new legislation to extend effective protection to them.
            The problem is that the Colombian government has in the past made promises to protect labor leaders and the right to form unions, but has not followed through effectively on these promises. Killings of labor union members and their leaders continue unabated, many by assassins paid for by transnational corporations such as Chiquita Brands (for which corporate attorney Eric Holder negotiated a $25 million dollar fine, none of which as far as we know has gone to the families of victims of the contract murders) and Drummond Coal. Instead of requiring demonstrable progress in reducing violence against labor union members, the Obama administration is content to rely on promises by Colombia to do better in the future.
            But the more serious failing of the FTA is its elimination of Colombian tariffs on many U.S. exports which will have the very likely effect (as did NAFTA for Mexico) of impoverishing Colombia's small-scale farmers, or campesinos. One "fact sheet"  lauds the Agreement's  elimination of protective tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia. Tariffs on wheat and barley, soybeans and soybean products, cotton and processed products will be eliminated immediately, while 2.5 million metric tons of corn will enter duty free at once, and the remainder of corn exports will enter Colombia duty-free within 25 years.  Moreover, tariffs on beef, bacon, and almost all fruit and vegetable products will be eliminated immediately. Did anyone ask what the Colombia campesino is going to be able to grow at a competitive price, given the influx of farm products from the U.S., many of them highly subsidized by the U.S. government? This country subsidizes many agricultural products, but we do not let other countries do so in our trade agreements. And, given the lack of farm-to-market roads and agricultural credit sources for campesinos, how do we expect them to compete price-wise?
            There are also provisions for protection of intellectual property rights which may undermine Colombians' control of their medicinal resources and cultural heritage, including music and movies. And favorable rules for investment from the U.S., added to already giveaway levels of royalties and taxes on foreign mining interests, mean scant protection for Colombian patrimony.
            While the FTA may be good for the U.S. in several respects in the short run, it portends disaster for Colombia and, as a result, is not in the best interests of the U. S. either. Write to President Obama to express your concern. And write to your representatives in the U.S. Congress to tell them to vote against the FTA with Colombia. 
June 23 , 2011
                                                                                    JOHN I. LAUN
                                                                                    President, CSN

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Colombia: military bases and disagreements

María Isabel García, Radio Nederland [Dutch radio—SC]. February 18, 2011


(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)


The United States government will have signed more than one hundred contracts for an approximate sum of $13 million for construction projects on Colombian military base. This was revealed by Jorge Robledo, a Senator of the Polo Democrático Alternativo [the Alternative Democratic Pole]. Some are among the seven that in past years created a scandal of regional proportions, for which in its time it was said that Colombia "offered its balcony to snoop on the neighborhood."


The alert was given this week by Senator Jorge Robdedo, of the opposition Polo Democrático Alternativa (PDA). He sent a questionnaire to the Minister of Defense, Rodrigo Rivera, asking for explanations of the contracts, about which he said that he obtained information in web sites such as usaspending.gov <http://usaspending.gov>  and ffata.org <http://ffata.org> . Further, the legislator asked about specific aspects like the number of US military personnel in the country; how long they have been here, the places they have been, and the brigades they have been assigned to, and the sorts of functions they carry out (intelligence, training, equipment, arms), the firms to which civilian technical advisors have been assigned, and the funds that the Colombian Government has available to fulfill their role in the bi-national military agreements.


Even before getting a reply, Robledo declared to Radio Nederland that "one thing about which I am certain by now is that there is no agreement between the government of Colombia and that of the United States that allows these investments to be made, because legally it is not possible." To which he added that, "If this is what it appears to be, the issue is a violation of sovereignty and of serious acts that will certainly arouse claims here and there."



In October of 2009 the Government of the then-president, Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) signed an agreement through which US troops were permitted to use and control up to seven Colombian military bases for 10 years, which could be extended. That authorization foresaw the stationing of military personnel within our territory, the construction, updating and control of the military installations and operations named as such, all within the framework of the global struggle against narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Animosity towards the agreement, both in Colombia and among our Andean neighbors, blossomed in July when the secrecy of the negotiations was broken.


In August, the then-commander of the Colombian Military Forces, General Freddy Padilla, said to a Latin American generals' summit that took place in Cartagena that "only terrorists and narcotics traffickers should be afraid," and specified the bases foreseen in the agreement: Malambo, Palanquero, Apiay, Cartagena, Málaga, Tolemaida and Larandia, in the four cardinal points of our territory. "They are not North American bases, they are Colombian, but we are offering them the possibility of having access to our installations," he explained.


To calm feelings, Uribe undertook a tour through the countries of UNASUR [Unión de Naciones Suramericanas—the Union of South American Nations—SC], which organization called an extraordinary [meeting].


Finally, in August of 2010, the Constitutional Court published a decision in which they made clear that the agreement on the bases was not, as the government had said, the broadening of a previous one, but rather that it was a treaty in itself, and as such, had to be put up for consideration by the Congress, which has not happened. Now Robledo affirms that neither that nor other Washington-Bogotá military treaties have a basis in law.


Radio Nederland: On what do you base your affirmation that the government of the United States is investing in infrastructure on Colombian military bases, and what is the reach of that denunciation?


Jorge Robledo: In the documents of the United States government. In the contract that can be seen on the internet, that is not secret information, nor much less, there appears the information that in the bases of Málaga, Laranbdia and Tolemaida investments of this kind are under way; there are 126 contracts for between 12 and 13 million dollars. I have written to the Minister of Defense, Rodrigo Rivera, asking him to explain what the legal basis for this business is, because several of these contracts are from after the [publication of] the idea of the Constitutional Court, which sunk the agreement with the United States about the war bases, which also had to do with these three bases. We are waiting for a reply. But there is something about which I am already certain: there is no agreement between the government of Colombia and that of the United States that could permit them to make these investments, because legally that is not possible.


Radio Nederland: In a preliminary way, the office of the Minister speaks about the idea that the investments are supported by the agreements of Plan Colombia.


Jorge Robledo: Yes, I saw something about this in the press. The Minister has not answered me yet. He says that this is based on the Agreement about the military missions of 1974 and on the military annexes of an old agreement of Plan Colombia. I know the detailed text of those documents that the minister cited, and I am absolutely certain that what they are doing cannot be sheltered by those documents that the minister mentioned. Let's wait to see what the reply will be.  But I know that they have a problem: both the Council of State and the Constitutional Court analyzed the topic of the bases, and the Court says that there is no previous military agreement between Colombia and the United States that would permit this kind of thing to be done.


Radio Nederland: How do you explain the fact that despite the recent pronouncements of the Constitutional Court, that being at the start of a new Government, these kinds of irregularities are seen? Therefore, what is the policy of the government of Colombia towards the United States?


Jorge Robeldo: The first thing is that, in these themes, in the government of Juan Manuel Santos there is nothing new. Although they have tried to erase it from the minds of Colombians, Santos was the Minister of Defense of Álvaro Uribe. They did it all together. There is a Wikileaks document in which Santos and Uribe come to an agreement with the North American ambassador that in the agreement about the bases, the bases would not be mentioned, and that it would not go through the process in the Congress: that is an agreement to commit an illegal act. Really, this does not surprise me. I am about to publish a book in which I explain in detail how all, absolutely all, the military relationships between the United States and Colombia have been erected on the basis of illegal actions. If not everything, almost everything, at least what they used as the fundamental [point] in the agreement on bases. The Council of State and the Constitutional Court maintain that they were not put through the correct process because they were international treaties and they were processed as simple agreements between the governments. None of it was brought for review by the lower Chamber and the Senate, nor for review of its constitutionality, first in terms of the Constitution of 1991, a review by the Supreme Court, and afterwards a review by the Constitutional Court. That is, all of this has been based on a kind of castle of illegal acts.


Radio Nederland: Given that regional organizations like UNASUR are increasingly sensitive to this kind of behavior between Washington and the Latin American capitals, what is the immediate future?


Jorge Robledo: It would not surprise me if there were strong reactions. We have already seen those that there were throughout America, from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, against the seven bases in Colombia. These acts, of course, disturb them, and even more if it is confirmed, as it could turn out to be confirmed, that part of the money that is being invested had to do with the agreements about the seven bases. If that is so, of course it would aggravate the case, because then what is going on is that investments in the bases are being hidden. This, of course, is serious. It is already very bad that our national sovereignty is wounded legally and that gringo troops are permitted to operate in Colombia. But, of course, it is worse if they are doing that secretly, violating the open method of our national legality.


Radio Nederland: How far does the call you have made on the Minster of Defense go? And, will the legislative branch operate as overseer?


Jorge Robledo: Right now, the incontrovertible fact is that there are 123 contracts with investments of around $13 million. I am going to wait to see what the Minister says; it would not be surprising if I called for a debate in the Senate of the Republic to deal with this topic, because this is what it seems to be, that is to say, an illegal act that violates our national sovereignty. We are talking about very serious acts.


They are asking for an accounting

Members of the No Bases Coalition—an organization that came out of the World Social Forum in India (2004)— have expressed the same feeling as the letter by the legislator, which leans towards "a great agreement that there not be foreign troops in any country," and therefore towards the abolition of some thousand US military bases in different countries in every continent. For his part, Alfredo Beltrán, an ex-magistrate of the Constitutional Court, declared to the Colombian daily El Espectador that construction projects by foreign governments in national military bases are "a clear violation of our national sovereignty," and he recalled that, during his time, there was an attempt to justify the basing of US troops under what he called "a disguised agreement."


Clara López, the President of the PDA, the party in which Robledo is a militant, joined the demands and manifested her hope that the Minister will not say that those investments are part of the "aid" that Washington gives to Bogotá, and that they will not come out with "cynical excuses" like recent ones, referring to a scandal over US war armaments being placed in Argentina.



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

Incora, '40' and his thieves

(Translated by Leo H Torres, a CSN Volunteer translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)


VerdadAbierta.com documented as had never been done before, how the Agrarian Reform Institute was open to abuse by 'Jorge 40' and his cronies so they could legalize thousands of hectares of land taken by force to poor peasants in the Magdalena.

Incoder returned 37 properties 'Jorge 40' had stolen in the department of Magdalena, and then managed to legalize, when pretending to leave the war. The District Attorney Office is already investigating several Incora (the predecessor institution of Incoder for land reform) officials for the illegal legalization of  the dispossession in complicity with the paramilitaries.

VerdadAbierta.com, after reviewing dozens of documents of the entity, could verify that there were not only 37 lots that the paramilitary group stole.  Those documents were obtained by a guardianship, and with them they could demonstrate that in only one year, 2003, the Incora revoked 134 titles to farmers in 13 municipalities of Magdalena, in areas where the paramilitary leader was committing crimes.

The revoked titles were given by the same entity between the eighties and nineties to address years of complaints about the land of farmers in this region. Each peasant had been assigned a family farm unit, which in this area ranged 20 and 30 hectares.

But after paramilitaries took the region by fire and sword and forced thousands of peasants to move, the entity, renamed Incoder, revoked the titles of the displaced peasants and in many cases re -awarded them to third parties.


Oscar Jose Pacheco Ospina alias "Tolemaida," a demobilized paramilitary who was part of the band 'Jorge 40', in free version before a prosecutor for Justice and Peace has confirmed what the documents suggest: that the AUC achieved the legalization of the dispossession of peasants by Incoder.

Tolemaida said another paramilitary known by the alias of 'Cordoba' was the one who served as a bridge between management of  Incora and 'Jorge 40' to legalize the theft of land to peasant families displaced by the paramilitaries at late nineties.


The other witness who is cooperating with the justice, but whose name is being withheld for security reasons, told the authorities that he participated in several meetings between '40 'and Incora officials, and how they organized to revoke the land awarded to farmers and how they should be titled to the paramilitaries.


The documents support those versions. Between February and March 2003, the Incora reversed the award of 134 farms; two on average per day, arguing that farmers abandoned the land or defaulted on payment of a loan that was gave to them fifteen years ago. It can be seen from the exaggerated amount, if one considers that between 1996 and 2002, in the last seven years, it had just revoked the titles of 80 properties.


Revocation in 2003 included properties with extensions from 47 square meters, equivalent to an orchard, up to 69 hectares, a large estate. These cancellations of titles occurred in 12 municipalities of Magdalena, but mainly concentrated in four of them, just where the greatest displacement occurred due to the terror of Jorge 40.


VerdadAbierta.com knew that in his defense before the courts, the former Incora manager in Magdalena, José Fernando Mercado Polo, said to the authorities he had never heard of forced displacement of peasants in the area, much less than 'Jorge 40 'have killed or intimidated someone to steal their land.


It is a difficult version to believe, after that, by 2003, everyone in that region for many years listened to the reports by radio and newspaper about the forced displacement of peasants, who were arriving in large numbers every day to Santa Marta creating whole neighborhoods of metallic sheets and cartons.

According to Social Action in the 12 municipalities of Magdalena, where the Incora revoked land, at least 199,746 families were displaced between 2000 and 2009 by illegal armed groups. In the same municipalities, between 1990 and 2009, 9,642 people were killed.

Chivolo was the municipality with the largest number of peasants displaced by violence in the department between 1997 and 2002, where more titles were revoked. According to Incoder's own records, farmers there lost ownership of 47 parcels; the partitions of the largest farms were like the ones called El Encanto, Liana Prieto and La Palma. The second hardest hit municipality was Ariguaní with most cancellations of titles, where farmers have lost ownership of 32 plots, which in 1980 had been part of larger farms called Pacific, Melissa, San Jose and No Te Canses.

The third most affected municipality was Pivijay where Incora reversed 24 farms, which previously were part of large tracts of land called Palmarito, Florence and Santa Barbara. The number four municipality was Sitionuevo, where farmers lost their property over 12 areas that had been part of a global property called La Trinidad. In order for annulment of titles, but on a smaller scale, some of the affected municipalities were Tenerife, Aracataca, Plato, Slough, Foundation, The Bank, and Santa Marta Banana Zone.


Irregular revocation

Much of the land allocation to poor farmers was governed under Act 160 of 1994 on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development which established a selection process by points. This gave land to those peasants with family who lacked properties.

The selection was rigorous: a regional committee formed by the regional manager of the Institute, the chief legal officer, Agriculture Law Attorney, a representative of farmers and representatives of the associations of farmers, attesting to the score. If the peasant was selected for the award, they could not sell their land for 15 years.


The committee also watched how the farmers manage their land. They could not leave, yield, lease or sell their land. And only the committee could authorize the revocation of titles.


So it is noteworthy that in 2003, the Incora's Award Committee of Magdalena reversed so quickly 134 titles without even looking for farmers to explain why they had left their properties. On the decisions of revocation, they only mentioned that the staff of the Management Group visited the respective area and found that farmers had abandoned the plot, and of course, the Selection Committee, which met in late 2002 and early 2003, recommended starting the process for revocation.

But none of the files to which VerdadAbierta.com had access documented those revocations of land allotment; their records of every other administrative decision was complete. In his defense, the former manager of Incora-Magdalena, Mr. Mercado said that for every procedure for revocation, they left written records. These, however, have mysteriously disappeared and even the prosecutors could not find them.

Despite the Farmers affected, Incora never reported to them that their titles would be removed for alleged breach of the obligations of the award.

The new owners

It is even stranger that after the revocation of land allotment, they returned to be awarded in record time. They were usually to new farmers who already had invaded the land. This was reflected in the resolutions of Incora. It was later learned that the new owners were mostly demobilized AUC or their relatives, if not, nominees of former paramilitary leaders themselves.

In less than four months, the Incora signed 137 new awards to other owners. The dates of review and new awards were made on February 7th, 10th, 20th, and March 31st, 2003. Incora used just three months to reverse and then re-award these lands, with a speed never seen before.


In some cases, the land was reversed in February 2003 and titled between April 21, 24, and 25. Curiously, in the revocation INCORA did not specify the number of acres set aside, while in the new contract for the new owners they indicated that these farms were between 32 and 33 hectares. INCORA also applied to them the dispossessed peasants to lapse by default on loans they had contracted with the Agrarian Fund to pay 30 percent of the value of their lands.
The regular process, according to a former manager of Incora consulted by VerdadAbierta.com, could take 6 months to a year. In addition to verifying all the information, the new plot holders had to go through the procedure for getting a loan amounting to 30 percent of the value of the property.


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



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