06/25/2001 Support Colombia's Indigenous Peoples:
Oppose Military Aid to Colombia
06/09/2001 Colombian Tribe Is Threatened by an Encroaching Civil War
09/19/2000 URGENT ACTION: MORE INDIGENOUS GROUPS UNDER ATTACK
09/14/2000 U'wa given 7 day Eviction notice!
01/13/2000 Protest Clinton's Military Aid Proposal
01/03/2000 Purge of guerrilla unit alleged following Washinawatok slaying
08/20/99 Please help save the Embera Nation
05/29 Crisis in Colombia
07/28 Colombia Support Network's statement on the Barry McCaffrey Proposal
03/17 More than 50 rebels killed, Colombia says
03/16 Colombia prepares for assault on Marxist rebels, aided by U.S. money
06/09 Colombia Answers - Plan Colombia: A Plan For Peace, Or A Plan For War?
Colombian Tribe Is Threatened by an Encroaching Civil War
May 14, 2001
By Juan Forero
The Arhuacos, an tribe whose nation stretches across the mountains of northern Colombia, are facing a force they say could destroy their tribe. Simonorwa is a village in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, home to the Arhuaco Indians.
Colombia - Spaniards in clanging armor trudged up the mountain first, subjugating Indians in the search for gold. Farmers, clear-cutting forests, came next. Catholic missionaries followed, forbidding the Arhuaco Indians to speak their native tongue or practice their religion.
It amounted to five centuries of encroachment. But the Arhuacos, an agrarian tribe whose nation stretches across the thick forests and fertile valleys of these mountains of northern Colombia, managed to preserve their way of life through stubborn resistance and, later, modern-day political savvy.
Today, in 28 villages like this one, a tribe of 18,000 people operates schools where the ancestral tongue is taught. They hold religious rituals in forest clearings, giving thanks to the creators of the divine mountains and rivers of the range where they live, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Theirs is a traditional life in which men farm, dressed in long white robes, while women maintain homes of adobe and thatched roofs.
But now, the Arhuacos are facing a threat their leaders consider most serious - the arrival of Colombia's brutal civil conflict, a force they say could destroy their tribe.
The concerns are well founded. Across Colombia, leftist rebels are forcibly recruiting Indians to work as guerrillas and jungle guides, while paramilitary gunmen mount retaliatory killing rampages. Some Indian populations, already precariously small, have shrunk by half or more. Entire languages and, in isolated cases, whole tribes that have survived tumult for centuries are now being lost.
Thousands have fled their homelands. Some Indians - their tribes in tatters - beg on urban streets.
"The last two years have been catastrophic," said Augusto Oyuela Caycedo, a Colombian anthropologist at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. "These are groups that have their own language, that have their own race. But in some cases, only 50 people in a tribe are talking the language, and what will happen is they will disappear."
The Arhuacos, while among the strongest, most traditional of all Colombian tribes, have felt powerless as leftists rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have increasingly trod through their villages. Much to the Arhuacos' alarm, the rebels have insisted on buying provisions and have forcibly recruited young Indians as fighters.
The tribe fears that the guerrillas could soon attract right-wing paramilitary gunmen - who specialize in massacring those they accuse of collaborating with rebels. That is what happened to the Arhuacos' neighbors, the Kankuamus, who were killed by the dozens and relocated to shantytowns by paramilitary gunmen.
"What is coming now are men with guns," said one Arhuaco elder, 43, who asked that his name not be used. "And that has affected us. We don't feel like we did before. We were alone, free. We didn't worry. Now, we feel things are not so normal."
Of Colombia's 84 tribes, about 30 are considered to be seriously endangered because of the conflict and other factors like land invasion, oil exploration and development, according to the Indigenous Organization of Colombia, a nongovernmental group. Four are in imminent danger of disappearing altogether: the Bari of Norte de Santander Province; the Sikuani and the Cuibas of Arauca Province; and the Macaguaje of Amazonas Province.
Advocates for Indians said the threat was most dire in the Choc - - Antioquia region of the northwest, here in parts of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta where the Arhuacos live, in Arauca Province and in the Amazon region.
In the jungles of the Colombian Amazon, as many as 58 tribes are facing encroachment from guerrillas, paramilitaries, the army, gold miners, drug traffickers and gun runners. Unsophisticated in modern- day lobbying and organizing, many of the Indians have simply withdrawn deeper into the jungle.
Advocates for the Indian tribes say that among the most endangered groups are the Nukak hunter-gatherers of Guaviare Province, in southeastern Colombia, whose population has been cut nearly in half, to 500 today from 900 five years ago, because of illness and conflict. In C - rdoba Province in northern Colombia, leaders of the Embera-Katios were assassinated and hundreds fled to cities as violence escalated.
In Putumayo, dozens of Cofanes fled to Ecuador after American-supported defoliation of their coca fields and legal crops. Another group from a conflict-ridden region in the south, the Karijonas, has dropped to 70 members, from 280 in 1993.
"The indigenous communities are considered a military objective by all the armed groups," said Alberto Achito, a director at the Indigenous Organization and an Embera-Siapiadara Indian. "Not for belonging to any one side, or having connections, but rather for defending our position."
The Arhuacos of the Sierra Nevada have avoided the fate of many Indian groups, but they are increasingly feeling the pressures from armed groups, notably the rebels.
"They want us to do things for them, everything," said one leader, 48, who like other Arhuacos who talked about the conflict asked that his name not be used. "And as for the youth, they want every family to give a son for the war. They want the war to mix with this culture, and that cannot be."
In an effort to articulate their concerns - and highlight the richness of a culture they want to preserve - Arhuaco leaders invited a reporter and photographer to spend four days on their reservation, observing rituals, learning about ancestral practices and visiting their sacred capital, Nabusimake. In interviews, the Arhuacos spoke in Spanish.
To reach the Arhuacos means a two-hour walk along winding paths from the non-Indian town of Pueblo Bello to here in Simonorwa, the foothills of which rise to become the world's highest coastal mountain. At 19,000 feet, the Sierra is considered among the world's most biologically diverse mountain ranges - featuring eight separate climates, 35 rivers, 1,800 species of flowering plants and 635 species of birds, many of them found nowhere else.
The spectacularly rugged terrain also affords the Arhuacos a measure of isolation - and the chance to live as their ancestors did.
Arhuaco men work and socialize with a mouthful of coca, which they mix with crunched seashells from a pear-shaped gourd. Greetings with other men mean exchanging handfuls of leaves. The women spend much of their time weaving the men's woolen conical hats, colorful pouches and robes that most Arhuacos wear. The villages lack electricity, and most homes lack plumbing.
When it comes to religion, the Arhuacos follow the teachings of wise men called mamos and believe in several "mothers and fathers" who created nature. A central tenet holds that the Sierra is the "heart of the world," which the Arhuacos, wiser than outsiders, must protect.
In monthly rituals held simultaneously across the Arhuaco nation, families gather in forests or hillsides under the guidance of mamos. Holding little cotton threads, rocks or tree shavings, which the Arhuacos see as representations of the many facets of nature, the worshipers project their thoughts into the objects as a way of purifying and honoring nature. The items are later meticulously arranged and left to the mamos to give up as offerings.
"We are happy about living life like this," said Jeremias Torres, 40, an Arhuaco leader. "The point is to live, to live a tranquil life, without being dependent on anyone."
It is a way of life that, at one time, had been on the decline. The tribe, however, made a resurgence from the early 1980's, when they ousted Capuchin missionaries who had squelched its language and religion.
Now, a majority of people in the tribe can speak the native language. A dictionary of Arhuaco is being completed. Indian stories, once passed on orally, are in written form. And in all 28 villages, children are taught in Arhuaco - an increase from just two villages in 1990, said Rubiel Salabata, the tribe's university-trained linguist.
"We are getting our culture back, learning that we should not be ashamed of our way of life," said Aquilino Ramos, 16, who is slowly learning Arhuaco.
Modernity, of course, has touched the Arhuacos.
Baseball caps and running shoes and shiny watches abound. Jeeps ferry Arhuacos from one town to the next, and many live in lowland towns with non-Indians. The young people often prefer the Vallenato music of northern Colombia over traditional pipe and drum melodies. And on nights when the cantinas in non-Indian towns are hopping, some Arhuacos come down from the hills to drink themselves into a stupor.
Isael Ni�o, 80, a mamo priest and among the tribe's most respected elders, worries about the intrusions. "Now there are many white people who come to hinder," Mr. Ni�o said. "They come in with their roads, their progress, their electricity."
But it is the conflict that is most distressing, already having touched Arhuaco towns to the west like Yeibin, Singuney and Barranquillita. Rebels, promising adventure, weapons and pay, have recruited youths in those villages.
The Arhuacos, who have learned the art of lobbying and political arm- twisting in their battles to keep non- Indians off their reservation, have sent delegations to Bogot� to meet with ministers, foreign ambassadors and human rights groups.
Indian leaders propose that the government urge the paramilitaries and rebels to declare the Sierra off limits. The proposal may not be realistic, since the government refuses to negotiate with the paramilitaries. Arhuaco leaders, however, say there is no other way.
"We could have, at any moment, a war and they could finish us off, commit genocide," said an Arhuaco leader in Nabusimake. "But we don't carry arms. We must comply with the laws, the mamos say. That's the way we must do it. We are not warlike communities."
September 19, 2000
U'wa given 7 day Eviction notice!
|In this Alert:|
CALL FOR SOLIDARITY ACTIONS!!
The U'wa people of Colombia are facing the final showdown in their eight year campaign to prevent Occidental petroleum from desecrating their ancestral lands. The Colombian Military and Police have increased their forces occupying the proposed drillsite and have told the U'wa that they will be removed from their legal, communal property within the next seven days! The U'wa are being barred from assembling on their own lands and are being assaulted by the military. We must act now to help the U'wa by showing Al Gore and Colombian President Pastrana that we will hold them accountable for Oxy's actions on the U'wa territory.
President Pastrana and Colombian legal entities have called for the eviction of the U'wa. According to the U'wa the military has said they are designating the area around the Gibraltar 1 well-site, land which legally belongs to the U'wa, as a "mining reserve" for Occidental Petroleum. Occidental has stated that they plan to sink the first exploratory well at the Gibraltar 1 before the end of September. This eviction will pave the way for Occidental to bring in the final machinary needed to begin drilling. The escalation of violence is already occurring and the U'wa's human rights are being violated by the military on a daily basis.
The U'wa have called for increased solidarity actions. The future of the U'wa people and their homelands depends on activists around the world taking actions for the U'wa. Whether its a demonstration at a Gore campaign office, a picket at the Colombian embassy or a teach-in in your community - we must draw attention to the crisis in U'wa land!
Call on Al Gore and Colombian President Pastrana to stop the violation of the U'wa's human rights! Al Gore, Pastrana and Oxy will have the blood of the U'wa on their hands if any more violence occurs. In the early 90's, Gore supported the Penan, an indigenous people in Borneo whose rainforest home was threatend by logging operations. Why has he failed to take action for the U'wa? Apparently his concern for the environment and human rights only matters when it doesn't conflict with the corporations like Oxy that fund his campaign.
The Republicans are drawing attention to Gore's hypocrisy on this issue (see their website -http://www.rnc.org/GoreFiles/oxyal1_082300) which is of course ironic since Bush and Cheney have even deeper ties to the oil industry. We need to be a clearer voice of support for the U'wa that demands that Gore sever his ties from Oxy, pressure the Colombian Government to protect the U'wa people and not oil interests. Gore needs to do this because we will no longer stand for his hypocrisy around human rights and environmental issues.
Please take the time to call, write and fax Al Gore Gore2000
601 Mainstream Dr.
Nashville, TN 37228
Phone: 615-340-2000, Fax: 202-456-2685
Organize a lobbying visit, demonstration or direct action at a Gore 2000 or DNC office! Join the U'wa in putting your body on the line!
International activists and US Activists:
Fax President Pastrana and let him know that we, the people and organizations who defend human rights, will not tolerate the continued violation of the U'wa's culture, rights and ancestral territory.
(Template letter below)
Fax the Colombian Embassy in Washington D.C. at: 202-232-8643
Association of U'wa Traditional Authorities
Decree Number 1088, 1993
Registry resolution Number 003, February 1997.
Minister of the Interior
Communique to the National and International Public
Kera Chikara - Ancestral and Sacred Territory of the U'wa People, September 11, 2000
The U'wa People want to make known the National and International Public the repressive nature of the public forces, military, and anti-riot police who are, on a daily basis, physically and morally assaulting members of the U'wa community who are living on the Santa Rita and Bellavista Farms in Cedeno, Toledo, North Santander. Our community is the rightful owner of these lands.
This past July 8th, the U'wa community returned to occupy the Santa Rita and Bellavista farms thanks to a judge's injunction decision which ordered the revision of the formalities which granted the land to Occidental of Colombia, Inc. In this process of revising these formalities, the U'wa, the representative of the municipality of Cubara, Boyaca, the Agrarian judicial attorney of Arauca, the People's Ombudsman of Arauca, and the commander of the military forces of the region, agreed to mutually respect each other, thus guaranteeing the respect for our constitutional and legal rights. It was also stated that the universal human rights and international humanitarian rights would be respected, including: freedom of movement, freedom from physical or moral agression, the right to work, the right to a home, the right to privacy, etc. But today we would like to tell Colombia and the world that the public forces haven't respected our rights, and they continue to restrict the entry to our land, they prohibit us from using the interior road that connects with the central road to our property, they sound gunshots in the night. U'wa women have been the victims of violent sexual acts carried out by military soldiers, and on the 8th and 9th of September due to the restricted movement, we had to traverse a mountain to enter our property.
Today the public forces informed us that in eight days they will remove the U'wa community members that are living contentedly on the Santa Rita and Bella Vista farms. According to statements from the head of the military, this is an order handed down from the President of Colombia, Andres Pastrana Arango. Due to this decision, we would like to say to our Colombian brothers and sisters that this is the result of the Plan Colombia, the negation of all of our rights.
The U'wa people reject the despotic nature of the Andres Pastrana government, the lies and the deceit that he attempts to legalize by means of informing national and international citizens of a process of alleged respect for our rights, which in reality doesn't exist. While the government dialogues in Bogota, the machinery is arriving to the drilling site and the process of violence is growing stronger. For these reasons, we want to make clear that if in the future an U'wa leader or any U'wa person is attacked physically or morally, we will hold the Colombian government Occidental of Colombia Inc. directly responsible.
The U'wa are not going to abandon our farms because this is our home and our land. We will continue to gather there and to make known to the Colombian community and the world each inhumane act that is committed by the military forces. We will communicate these events not to provoke pity, but to garner support for our people who fight to maintain our culture, our beliefs, our ancient laws; We are an example a community that seeks to live in peace and harmony with others and with nature. The Plan Colombia only benefits the multinationals who,in their efforts to seize and take control of our riches and of our wealth devastate all that is around them. We the U'wa people stand as a clear example of a community defending our right to live in peace, unity and harmony; to live within the territory that was created by Sira (God), and to care for and and coexist peacefully on this, our land.
Roberto Perez Guitierrez
President, U'wa Council, U'wa Association
SAMPLE LETTER TO PRESIDENT PASTRANA
September 11, 2000
Dr. Andr�s Pastrana Arango
President of the Republic of Colombia
Casa de Nari�o
Dear Mr. President:
We are profoundly concerned about recent news we have received from the U�wa community in Cubar� (Boyac�, Colombia). We are aware that the anti-riot police arrived in the area on September 7. According to the U�wa , the police stated that they have an order direct from the Colombian Presidency to evict all civilians present in a 500 meter radius surrounding the exploratory well site of Gibraltar.
According to the U�wa, a member of the anti-riot police said: �There must be no civilians inside a 500 meter radius of the well.� Neither indigenous nor campesino leaders have yet received a written judicial or administrative eviction order. However, according to what the anti-riot police communicated to the U�wa, the purpose of the eviction is to bring in Occidental Petroleum�s machinery from Saravena to the drill site.
We believe that this eviction would constitute an open violation of the recent ruling of the honorable Superior Court of Norte de Santander, which authorized Occidental Petroleum�s use of only the land previously set aside for such activity in a judicial order.
Additionally, we have learned that on September 11, the executive board of Incora created a Petroleum Reserve Zone around the the Gibaltar well site. This constitutes a new attempt to disregard the rights of the U�wa people to their traditional territory and to their communal ownership of farms to which they have legitimate, written, and duly registered titles.
1. that Article 63 of the Colombian Constitution states that communal territory of ethnic groups is inalienable;
2. that the land slated for petroleum exploration forms part of the immemorial patrimony of the U�wa people and of their traditional territory; and
3. that the U�wa people were not consulted with regarding the work that is currently being carried out by Occidental Petroleum;
We implore you to take action to protect the rights of the U�wa and to take action to prevent a turn of events like that which occurred on June 25th and 26th, on February 11th, and on January 25th of this year, when actions of the public forces against the U�wa resulted in the drownings of three indigenous children and caused multiple injuries to indigenous people and campesinos.
We believe that the conflict between the U�wa and Occidental Petroleum must be resolved through nonviolent means, especially through consultation under the terms of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, which was signed and ratified by Colombia and through consideration of the terms of Article 330 and Articles 63 and 93 of the Colombian Constitution. Under no circumstances can we individuals and organizations actively defending human rights accept continued violence against the U�wa and against the people who stand in solidarity with them.
Jan. 13, 2000
Please distribute this urgent action from the Colombia Support Network.
In the 1960s in Viet Nam it was "communism." Today in Colombia it is "drugs." The excuses change but the effect of United States military aid in Colombia today is every bit as devastating as it was in Southeast Asia over a generation ago.
The Colombia Support Network opposes the Clinton Administration's proposed $1.6 billion military aid program for Colombia. This planned aid will provide funds to a military which has collaborated with illegal paramilitary forces engaged in killing innocent Colombian citizens and forcing them from their homes.
Just six weeks ago, a clear example of the collaboration occurred in the Middle Magdalena region of Colombia where eyewitnesses reliably reported that the 45th Battalion of the Fifth Brigade of the Colombian Army assisted paramilitary forces in the capture of two peasant leaders, Edgar Quiroga and Gildardo Fuentes, whom the paramilitaries "disappeared" and whose killing has been rumored. Edgar Quiroga has been a notable human rights defender and the Colombian military's apparent involvement in his capture and "disappearance" indicates, as have many other previous actions of military leaders, that the Colombian military has little use for or commitment to protection of human rights.
Assistance provided by the Colombian military to units of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia paramilitaries in facilitating a massacre at the town of Mapiripan in Meta department is another clear example of this pernicious collaboration.
This United States aid package will simply enhance the Colombian military's capacity for carrying out "dirty work" against Colombia citizens, including human right workers, school teachers, union leaders, journalists, university professors, and any one else who dares to criticize Colombia's facade democracy with its long tradition of impunity for those military officers who commit or facilitate the committing of atrocities.
The fact that hundreds of millions of dollars already spend by the United States government on the Colombian military and police in past years supposedly to fight a "war on drugs" have neither slowed the entry of drug from Colombia into the United States nor curbed human rights abuses by the Colombian military suggests it is folly to expect this latest $1.6 billion package to have any other result than more innocent Colombians killed, more military abuses of human rights, and greater paramilitary involvement in massacres and displacement of peasants and townspeople from their lands. And since many of these paramilitaries are reliably reported to be engaged in drug trafficking, we can expect a likely increase in drug trafficking from Colombia to the United States.
The Colombia Support Network calls all people of conscience to contact President Clinton in protest of the proposed military aid to Colombia. We urge you to encourage your Representatives and Senators oppose the escalation of the war against the people of Colombia.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Secretary of Defense William Cohen
Your respective Representatives and Senators
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701
(608) 257-8753 fax (608) 255-6621
From: Native Americas Journal email@example.com
The following article is provided by Native Americas, published by the Akwe:kon Press at Cornell University. For more information on how to stay informed of emerging trends that impact Native peoples throughout the hemisphere visit our website at http://nativeamericas.aip.cornell.edu
January 3, 2000
As counterinsurgency war spreads in Colombia, an Army general claimed that the 10th Front of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC)-which killed three U.S. indigenous rights activists in March-had carried out a violent purge related to the crime. In a further development in early September, government forces killed a guerrilla alleged to be one of the killers.
The March 4 slaying of Ingrid Washinawatok (Menominee) of the Fund of the Four Directions, Native Hawaiian leader Lahe'ena'e Gay and environmentalist Terence Freitas shocked world opinion. The three had been visiting the U'wa Indians in the foothills of the Colombian Andes to help design a culturally appropriate educational program for U'wa children. They were abducted Feb. 25 near the border of Arauca department. The victims were slain across the border in Venezuela a week later (see Native Americas, Summer 1999).
On May 20, the Colombian Armed Forces launched "Operation Nemesis" against the guerrillas, with the added mission to capture regional leader "Grannobles" (German Briceno Suarez). On June 17, at a public hearing attended by 2,500 citizens in Saravena, Arauca, a broad coalition of social organizations denounced the Colombian Army, FARC and National Liberation Army guerrillas, and the right-wing paramilitary groups for atrocities and human rights violations. The coalition demanded that the unarmed civilian population be left out of the escalating war and asked the Interamerican Human Rights Commission to set up an office in Arauca. More than 23,000 peasants from all seven municipalities of Arauca came to Saravena to show their support.
Heavy combat continued in western Arauca through the summer. According to intercepted communications, Grannobles, the regional guerrilla commander and brother of FARC's top military strategist Jorge Briceno Suarez ("Mono Jojoy"), found his units seriously outnumbered and asked the supreme secretariat for all possible support. The Army had not determined whether Grannobles was still in the area, but intercepted communications indicated that he was in the rural zone of Saravena, where confrontations continued.
NTC television news in Colombia reported on June 27 that bodies of 21 guerrillas from the FARC unit that killed the three Americans were found along several rivers in Arauca near the Venezuelan border. According to the report, the guerrillas were killed in an internal purge of the unit, headed by Grannobles, who remains under arrest orders by Colombian authorities for ordering the deaths of the activists. Neither the guerrillas' identities nor the reason for the alleged purge was reported.
Grannobles, under almost constant pressure from government forces since February, has seen at least 10 percent of his men killed this year. With training, equipment and intelligence supplied by the United States, the Colombian forces are using new strategies based on air support and night fighting. Agence France Presse (Sept. 2) and the Bogota weekly La Semana (Sept. 6) reported that 47 guerrillas were killed in early September in heavy fighting around the town of Hato Corozal in the oil-rich department of Casanare. Among the dead were "Rogelio" (Napoleon Herreno), second in command of FARC's 10th Front and a close confidant of Grannobles; and "Robledo" (Pedro Rangel), another leader of that front. Army Commander Jorge Rangel said Rogelio was one of the killers of the three activists.
Colombia's indigenous peoples are the real losers in the fighting. Leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and Army and police forces operate with impunity on indigenous lands-against the will of the communities, which want to remain outside the armed conflict.
Occidental Oil still plans to begin test drilling on land within traditional U'wa territory. The U'wa are suing the Colombian government, petitioning the Organization of American States, appealing directly to Occidental's top executives and reaching out to shareholders. Oxy's original partner in the exploration, Royal Dutch Shell, pulled out last year, saying it did not want "another Nigeria"-referring to the negative publicity Shell suffered after being accused of involvement in killings of Ogoni activists in West Africa.
Over the past year, rightist paramilitaries have killed, abducted or threatened numerous members of the Embera community in the department of Cordoba, forcing dozens of families to flee. Seizures of Embera land continue under threat of massacre, which the paramilitaries justify by accusing the Indians of collaboration with the FARC. In the north of Cauca department, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) charges that Colombian army planes have carried out bombing raids on Paez indigenous communities this year, killing residents and livestock and destroying forests.
On June 28, El Espectador reported on indigenous Huitoto communities (Boras, Ingas and Ocainas) in the Predio Putumayo reservation along the Igara-Parana River in the remote jungle department of Amazonas. FARC units moved into the area after the army abandoned a small base in July 1996. A FARC report obtained by the newspaper tells of "the usefulness which this region, abandoned by the State, has for [our] Organization." According to the report, "there is no visible authority and the communities live with no major risks or threats. We have given them the opportunity of interchange with the modern world and the development they need." It is true that food and medical supplies have reached the area.
But the Indians say they are afraid.
August 20, 1999
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Colombia Support Network)
The Embera Peoples of the Jurado and Riosucio Municipalities of Colombia are suffering horrible human rights abuses at the hands of both paramilitaries and FARC.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701
(608) 257-8753 fax (608) 255-6621
Crisis in ColombiaMay 29, 1999
You would never know it to follow the mainstream news media but the carnage that is occurring on a regular basis in Colombia is worse than what is happening in Kosovo. It is also far greater than what is happening in Chiapas, as bad as that is. And like Chiapas, the evil that is being perpetrated in Colombia is done with the support of the US government--in your name and using your tax dollars.
Consider the following:
There are now 2,000,000 internal refugees in Colombia, twice the number of Kosovo refugees. These people have fled the threat of death at the hands of paramilitaries linked to the Colombian Army. With impunity they are driven from their homes to allow "development" for such purposes as the construction of a "dry canal" to parallel the ("wet") Panama Canal.
The threat of death is only too real. During 1998 there occurred 201 massacres of Colombian civilians.
On May 21 of this year 15 armed men abducted Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba de Castro. She sits on the Senate Human Rights Committee and the Congressional Peace Commission and has striven to reach a negotiated settlement of the armed conflict. She met recently with 500 campesinos protesting paramilitary attacks in San Pablo. The paramilitary group AUC took responsibility for the abduction and complained that Cordoba and others had made concessions to the rebels. They said her abduction has sent a "peace message" to President Pastrana.
In another case remeniscent of the murder of the El Salvador Jesuits, on May 4, 1999, University of Antioquia Professor Hernan Henao, whose research includes methods to solve social problems through dialogue, was attacked by armed men who broke into a faculty meeting. He died soon afterwards. Currently his research has included a study of 1.3 million of the peasants forced off their lands by paramilitaries. He is the seventh professor involved in studying social conditions to be murdered in the last ten years.
Congressman Devine has now introduced a bill to increase funding of the "drug war." In Congress it is an open secret (but one kept from the public by the mainstream news media) that the US-supplied weapons for conducting the "drug war" are used mostly to repress dissenters who have nothing to do with the drug trade. Even the last president was found to have received financial support from a major drug cartel. Drug money corrupts the core of the Colombian political system. Meanwhile some two million people are refugees within their own country.
Call and/or write your congressional representative and senators and ask that all military aid to Colombia be halted until the Colombian government severs the links between its military and any paramilitary group. Ask also that those who abducted Professor Betancourt and the murderers of Professor Henao be vigorously prosecuted. (One step in that direction was finally taken recently when a general, Jaime Humberto Uscatequi, was charged with links to right wing paramilitary groups and with complicity in the massacre of 40 civilians by paramilitaries in July, 1997.)
The above material was furnished by the Colombia Support Network http://www.igc.apc.org/csn/
AND the Weekly News Update on the Americas http://home.earthlink.net/~dbwilson/wnuhome.html
Colombia Support Network's statement on the Barry McCaffrey ProposalJuly 28, 1999
The Colombia Support Network calls upon President Clinton and the U.S. Congress to reject the call of General Barry McCaffrey for increased military aid to Colombia. Drug policy czar McCaffrey couched his request for $1 billion in emergency assistance in terms of strengthening the Colombian government's efforts against drugs. General McCaffrey has in the past blurred the distinction between combatting drug traffickers and fighting a counterinsurgency war against Colombian guerrillas.
In practice, U.S. aid has assisted the Colombian military which has maintained links to paramilitary organizations led by Carlos Castaqo and other persons known to be participants in drug-trafficking. These links were clearly revealed when the military, advised by a judge in the town of Mapiripan in the Meta Department that paramilitaries were engaged in carrying out a massacre of townspeople, did nothing to intervene - even though the Colombian government has classified these paramilitaries as illegal. In other words, U.S. aid to the Colombian military and police, in the name of the War on Drugs, helps them collaborate with drug trafficking paramilitaries to slaughter innocent civilians. The U.S. government should support the peace process and grass roots community organizations which seek peace with justice. More military aid will increase military action and make it even harder to achieve peace.
We call for the protection of innocent peasants, teachers, priests, human rights workers, labor leaders and all the others whose lives are threatened by militarism. The underlying cause of the war in Colombia is not drugs, but rather a very inequitable distribution of economic resources in that country. We call upon the U.S. government to support the grass roots organizations working to improve economic conditions for the great majority of Colombian people through community action. Examples of supportive community action are groups such as the Peace Community in Uraba and the civilian organizations in the Middle Magdalena region who renounce arms, oppose the guerrillas' strategies and tactics of assasinations and kidnapping, and have born the brunt of attacks from the paramilitary thugs.
Please write letters or send faxes of protest to the following individuals.
| President William Clinton
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
fax: 202 456-2461
Secretary of State
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fax: 703 697-9080
| General Barry McCaffrey
Executive Office of the President
Washingtion, DC 20503
fax: 202 395-6640
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More than 50 rebels killed, Colombia says
March 17, 1999
Web posted at: 6:06 p.m. EDT (1806 GMT)
BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- The Colombian government claimed Wednesday that at least 50 leftist rebels were killed in an army attack on a rebel stronghold in northwest Colombia.
The attack began Tuesday in La Llorona, a canyon in the foothills of the Cordillera Occidental mountains where the FARC, Colombia's largest rebel group, maintains a compound. Fighting continued Wednesday, and military sources said more deaths were expected.
The fighting is along a highway linking Colombia's main banana-growing region, Uraba, with the country's interior. FARC and right-wing paramilitary groups have long battled for control of Uraba. While an official statement issued in Bogota said at least 50 rebels died, a commander in the area, Col. Diego Gutierrez, said 40 to 50. He said four government soldiers had also been killed.
"The combat has been intense since" Tuesday, Gutierrez told local radio. Troops backed by air force bombers and helicopter gunships were pitted against a FARC force thought to be at least 700 strong, he said. There was no independent confirmation of the number killed.
73 reportedly killed near Cartagena
Tuesday, the government's human rights ombudsman said 73 people had been killed during a week of clashes in a rural area south of Cartagena, Colombia's leading Caribbean resort city. The fighting there involved FARC and a right-wing paramilitary group. Sixteen civilians were killed, along with 26 FARC rebels and 31 paramilitaries, according to the ombudsman's office. Military sources would confirm only that 16civilians had died.
Government steps up war
The latest attacks indicate the government may be stepping up its war against rebels, who have been battling the government for more than three decades and have de facto control over about 40 percent of the country.
Peace talks between rebel groups and the government, begun earlier this year, stalled almost immediately. And the peace process was dealt a serious blow with last week's revelation that FARC was behind the recent slayings of three U.S. humanitarian workers, whose bullet-riddled bodies were found just over the Venezuelan border.
The new offensive against the rebels has the backing of the United States and Colombia's neighbors. Peru and Ecuador have sent more troops to their northern borders under a U.S.-devised plan to contain drug traffickers. Both U.S. and Colombian officials say the rebels are involved in the drug trade.
Throughout the region, U.S. military teams are training armies. More than 470 American servicemen are in Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru, according to Steve Lucas, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command.
This month, Colombia began to overhaul its ill-equipped and poorly motivated military and create a more professional force that could move more decisively against the rebels should the peace process break down irretrievably.
Political observers believe the possibility of direct U.S. intervention in Colombia's conflict is remote. But some observers are troubled by Washington's ever-greater behind-the-scenes role.
"U.S. intervention is based on the deadly equation that they give the military technology and the weapons and we provide the dead," said Alejandro Santos, a columnist in Semana, a leading news magazine.
Colombia prepares for assault on Marxist rebels, aided by U.S. money
Copyright 1999 Nando Media
Copyright 1999 Reuters News Service
By KARL PENHAUL
BOGOTA (March 16, 1999 11:23 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - With Colombia's peace process shattered, the government, backed by the United States and its regional allies, is preparing to step up its war against Marxist rebels.
Colombia launched a program this month to overhaul its ill-equipped and poorly motivated military and create a more professional force that would be "ready for peace or war." Meanwhile, neighbors Peru and Ecuador have moved more troops to their northern borders under a U.S.-devised plan to contain Colombian "narco-traffickers and their associated insurgents."
Washington has shied away from taking a direct hand in Colombia's long-running conflict, which has claimed more than 35,000 lives in the last 10 years alone. It insists its aid packages are devoted to a war against drugs.
But that war is increasingly taking on overtones of a counterinsurgency effort. And in the aftermath of this month's kidnap-murders of three Americans by Marxist rebels, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to urge beefed-up assistance to the Colombian army to fight guerrillas.
"The peace process has been seriously wounded. What can be expected from now on is a hardening of the U.S. government's stance with respect to the FARC," wrote Maria Jimena Duzan, political commentator for Bogota's El Espectador newspaper.
After initial denials, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) claimed responsibility for the brutal killings of Terence Freitas, 24, Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, and Laheenae Gay, 39, who were helping U'wa Indians defend their ancestral lands against a U.S. multinational's plans to explore for oil.
FARC commanders tried to shift the blame to a little-known, mid-ranking field commander. But government officials insist top regional commander German Briceno, brother of the FARC's No. 2 leader and military strategist, ordered the killings.
The U.S. State Department has demanded that the FARC - included on the U.S. list of international "terrorist" groups - surrender the killers for extradition.
Augusto Ramirez of Colombia's church-backed National Peace Commission said the murders were "extremely bad for the peace process."
The internal conflict has been harming Colombia for nearly four decades and President Andres Pastrana, who took office in August, has made a negotiated settlement his top priority. But the FARC broke off talks just days after they got under way in January and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) has also put an abrupt end to exploratory talks with the government.
Washington pledged support for Pastrana's peace efforts and a senior State Department official even held an unprecedented meeting with a top FARC commander in Costa Rica in December. But the United States is due to give Colombia a record $240 million aid package in 1999, including weapons and aircraft, and it is helping to set up an elite 1,000-strong army anti-narcotics unit near rebel strongholds in the south.
Most of the aid is ostensibly to fight the war against cocaine and heroin, but U.S. and Colombian officials call the estimated 20,000 insurgents "narco-guerrillas," blurring the line between counter-narcotics and counterinsurgency.
In tandem with efforts to boost the combat readiness of Colombia's police and army, the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command helped persuade Peru and Ecuador to beef up their troop presence along their borders.
"(Southern Command chief) Gen. Charles Wilhelm encouraged ... Peru and Ecuador to reinforce their borders with Colombia because of the use of those rather porous frontiers by narco-traffickers and their associated insurgents," spokesman Steve Lucas said.
Peru and Ecuador bolstered border patrols in January, soon after the FARC suspended peace talks. Peru has dispatched two battalions, about 1,200 men, to its northern frontier. Ecuador has deployed a special forces brigade but declined to give numbers. Venezuela is also believed to have about 12,000 soldiers in some 70 outposts along its border with Colombia.
Throughout the region, U.S. special forces teams continue to give military training to local armies. Lucas said Southern Command had 160 U.S. servicemen in Ecuador, 136 in Venezuela and 181 in Peru, as of last month.
It is not clear if a scheduled April 20 meeting between government and FARC representatives will succeed in reviving the moribund peace process.
Some critics accuse Pastrana of making too many concessions to the rebels. They cite his decision to let the FARC set up a virtual "independent republic" in a Switzerland-sized area of southeast Colombia after he pulled government security forces out of the area to set the stage for negotiations.
The rebels have offered little in return and reject demands to stop using ransoms from kidnapping and "taxes" raised by protecting illicit drug crops to bankroll their uprising.
"If things go on as they are, Colombia will end up being an archipelago of bloody little independent republics financed by kidnapping and drug-trafficking and manipulated by the paramilitaries or the subversives," former Vice President Carlos Lemos Simmonds said.
Amid growing frustration with the rebels, Pastrana said he would not extend the demilitarization in the southeast when it expired May 7, a move that could signal the end of official moves toward Colombia's pacification. If talks break down definitively, regional FARC warlords say they are laying plans for a "first, great offensive" to set up a government of "workers, peasants and Indians" by force.
Defense Minister Rodrigo Lloreda, meanwhile, answered "of course" when asked in a recent interview if the government had a "Plan B."
As part of that plan, he said he was already replacing raw recruits with professional soldiers. He is also improving intelligence gathering and turning around the military's poor human rights record - one of the worst in Latin America.
The U.S.-backed 1,000-strong army anti-drug battalion, due to be set up by mid-year, is also seen as a key new weapon. With plans to base it in southern Caqueta or Putumayo provinces - long-standing FARC strongholds - there is little doubt the unit will see frequent action against the rebels.
General Wilhelm believes rebels now pose a threat to the stability of the entire region and warned that the guerrillas could take power within five years if not held in check.
Political observers believe the possibility of direct U.S. intervention in Colombia's conflict is remote but say Washington is playing an ever-greater behind-the-scenes role.
"We should be concerned about Uncle Sam's increasing indirect role," said Alejandro Santos, a columnist in leading weekly news magazine Semana. "U.S. intervention is based on the deadly equation that they give the military technology and the weapons and we provide the dead."
Distribuido por: Distributed by:
Coalition for Amazonian Peoples and Their Environment
1367 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036-1860
Friends : Please distribute this as widely as possible.It just came in English from Bogota. I know the English is not great but it expresses the desperation and anguish of the people. Thanks.
PLAN COLOMBIA: A PLAN FOR PEACE, OR A PLAN FOR WAR?
Statement Made By The Social Organizations, Non Government Organizations, The Human Rights And Peace For Colombia Movments.
We state our decision of supporting the international help attempts to contribute to solve the armed conflict by a political negotiation, by making the society and the Colombian economy more democratic, building up integral solutions to drug-traffic, designing a new and agreed development model and strengthening the new institutions and the rebuilding of the nation.
We reject the Plan Colombia because it is part of an authoritarian concept of the national security exclusively based on a strategy against narcotics, it leads to the escalation of the social and armed conflict, it really fails to solve the drug-traffic problem, endangers the peace process, attacks the indigenous populations destroying their culture and their life styles, it hampers seriously the Amazon eco-system, worsens the humanitarian and human rights crisis, promotes the forced displacement issue and makes even worse the social and political crisis.
We demand the Colombian government and request the international community to re-state the concept of national security developed in the Plan Colombia, by considering the national security which enhances human, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and gives the citizens a sense of belonging, which are the basis of the national sovereignty.
We request the international community to value its support to Colombia considering the humanitarian principles in force, such as the defense of life, the human rights, social development and the protection of the environment, all they have been eroded by the Colombian conflict.
We propose an agreement among the various actors of the Colombian society and the international community, where the civil society be a definite party of the dialogue so as to find solutions to the conflict and to build a stable and sustainable peace.
As social organizations and as members of the Colombian society we are willing to start the dialogue so as to discuss the diagnose, design the strategies, define implementation manners and to monitor a plan intended to these purposes.
The undersigned organizations:
Asamblea Nacional de Jóvenes por la Paz
Red de Iniciativas contra la Guerra y por la Paz - REDEPAZ
Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia
Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo
Red Nacional de Mujeres Regional Bogot´
Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres
Mandato Ciudadano por la Paz, la Vida y la Libertad.
Partido Comunista Colombiano
Asociación Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos - ANUC-UR
Central Unitaria de Trabajadores CUT
Federación Sindical Agraria FENSUAGRO
Frente Social y Político Amplio
Red de Universidades por la Paz y la Convivencia
Instituto de Estudios para la Paz INDEPAZ
Asociación Nacional de Estudiantes Universitarios ACEU
Asociación Nacional de Estudiantes de Secundaria ANDES
Unión Sindical Obrera
Asamblea por la Paz de la USO
Asociación de Trabajo Interdisciplinario - ATI
Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo
Corporación para el desarrollo social Alternativo MINGA
Comité de Solidaridad con los presos Políticos
Benposta, Nación de muchach@s
Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular CINEP
Comisión Colombiana de Juristas
Fundación Cultura Democr´tica
Juventud comunista JUCO
Casa de La Mujer
Consultoría de Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento
Grupo de Apoyo a Organizaciones de Desplazados
Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativas, ILSA
Proceso de Comunidades Negras
Viva La Ciudadanía
Asociación Nacional de Ayuda Solidaria ANDAS
Corporación de Promoción Popular
Corporación de Luchadores de la Paz y la Democracia
CENSAD AGUA VIVA
Coordinación Nacional de Desplazados
Corriente de Renovación Socialista
Comisión Intergregacional JUSTICIA Y PAZ
Unión de Ciudadanas de Colombia
Comité Local de Derechos Humanos
Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris
Corporación Centro de Promoción y Cultura
Red Nacional de Salud
Fundación para la Educación y el Desarrollo FEDES
Confederación General de Trabajadores Democr´ticas CGTD
Colectivo de Abogados Guillermo Marín
Corporación Madre Tierra
Fundación Ecológica Bacat´