Articles and Updates
Colombian rebel wanted in the murder
Conviction for murder of Indian activists
September 11, 2001
A member of a rebel group has been convicted of killing three American Indian activists, the Colombian government reported on Monday.
But German Briceno, whom the government says is a senior member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in Spanish), may never see a jail cell for ordering the killings of Terence Freitas, Ingrid Washinawatok and Lahneenae Gay. He was convicted of homicide, kidnapping and rebellion and sentenced to 40 years in absentia, meaning he was not present to receive the punishment.
The report of the convictions of Briceno and a lower-level guerilla comes as Secretary of State Colin Powell travels to Colombia for a two-day visit, which begins today. Powell will meet with President Andres Pastrana to show the United States' support for Colombia's drug-fighting campaign.
At the same time, the United States is facing questions about its relationship with the Andean nation. The U.S. has been funding Colombia's anti-drug efforts -- which have been challenged by Indian farmers -- to the tune of $1.3 billion but has expressed concerns how Pastrana handles the rebel groups, who frequently target Indian communities.
The State Department in February, in fact, criticized Colombia for abuses dealt out by the guerillas. Indian tribes "suffer disproportionately" at the hands of groups like the FARC said the department in its annual review of human rights practices throughout the world.
More specifically, however, the United States cited the lack of justice for the murders of Freitas, Washinawatok and Gay. In 1999, the three traveled to northeastern Colombia to help the U'wa Nation oppose attempts by Occidental Petroleum, an American company, to drill for oil on traditional land.
Their bullet-ridden and blindfolded bodies were later found dumped just over the border in Venezuela.
The struggle of the activists and the U'wa represents one reason why tribes are targeted. Rebel groups who already control vast swath of land the size of Switzerland also eye the more than 50 million acres of federally-recognized reservations, which often contain vast natural resources.
According to Indigenous Organization of Colombia, about 30 tribes out of 84 are endangered. The nearly 40-year civil war has claimed 40,000 lives, many of them Indians.
The news organization Reuters said yesterday it last saw Briceno -- nicknamed "Granobles" -- in June. Briceno's brother is Jorge Briceno, the military commander of FARC.
Freitas, of Oakland, California, was 24 when he died. Washinawatok, Menominee who lived in New York was 41 and and Gay, a Native Hawaiian activist, was 39.
The State Department is expected to discuss the handling of rebel groups while in Colombia.
On Friday, March 5,1999 the family of Ingrid Washinawatok, Peqtaw-Metamoh (meaning Thunderbird Woman in the Menominee language) was notified that three Americans were found murdered on the Venezuelan border of Colombia. Venezuelan police officials stated that Ingrid Washinawatok was among the three found.
Ingrid Washinawatok was a proud member of the Menominee Nation and a humanitarian who fought for Indigenous peoples' rights throughout the world. On this specific trip, Ingrid was invited by the native peoples of Colombia known as the U'Wa Tribe to assist them with an educational and cultural preservation program for their children. She was not visiting Colombia for political-related purposes, it was for traditional religious purposes as a guest of the U'Wa.
Ingrid was an activist when it came to promoting Indigenous cultures and traditions. She was Executive Director of the Fund for Four Directions based in New York City where she directed the grant-making policies and led a new effort to revitalize Indigenous language. She was active in the 1970s where Indian People rose again to claim Self-Determination.
Ingrid was co-chair of the Indigenous Women's Network were she voiced concerns for Native women through activism, literature and community work. The Indigenous Womens Network was founded to assist women of the younger generation through education of the women and the struggles they faced before them.
Ingrid was recently selected by the Rockefeller Foundation as an outstanding leader to participate in the National Generation Leadership Program. The Rockefeller Foundation is a philanthropic organization endowed by John D. Rockefeller for the well-being of humankind throughout the world. The Foundation seeks to identify and address at their source, the causes of human suffering and need.
Ingrid was a member of the Indigenous Initiative for Peace, convened by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberto Menchu Tum and had organized and participated in the first, second and third State of the World Forums. In addition, she served as an Official translator for an International Indigenous Conference and was a delegate for the Commission on Human Rights and the Working Group on Indigenous populations. She was Chair of the Native Americans in Philanthropy and served on the Board of Directors for the Sister Fund, the National Network of Grant- makers and on the selection committee for the Letelier Moffit Human Rights Award.
Ingrid was an award-winning lecturer who spoke on the rights of Indigenous peoples regionally and internationally and a co- producer of the film documentary, "Warrior". She received numerous awards from the Asian American, Hispanic American and African American communities throughout her lifelong struggle to promote each community.
Ingrid is sadly missed by the Washinawatok family, Dodge family and members of the Menominee Nation. She had many friends through-out the world in her lifelong struggle to promote culture, traditions and human rights. We will all miss her energetic and zealous presence. She was a dynamic warrior and an inspiration for Natives throughout the world. She served her people selflessly in life and in her struggle continued until her life was taken from this world.
Ingrid was preceded in death by her father, the late Honorable James Washinawatok of the Menominee Nation Supreme Court. Ingrid carried on much of the work that her father actively supported thoughout his lifetime.MENOMINEE INDIAN TRIBE OF WISCONSIN
P.O. Box 210
Keshena, WI 54135-0910
By Julie Freitas
Saturday, 22 May 1999
I have watched in disbelief as editorial commentators and some members of Congress have attempted to use the murder of my son, Terence Unity Freitas, and of his two companions, Lahe'ena'e Gay and Ingrid Washinawatok, to justify an increase in military aid to the Colombian armed forces. I am equally appalled that the killing of my son by left-wing guerrillas is being used to undermine the peace process in Colombia, a process aimed at ending years of violence that has taken thousands of lives, including now my son's. Amid my grief, I am further distressed to see the ideals my son lived and died for -- nonviolence, indigenous sovereignty and justice -- diminished by vocal pro-militarization politics in Washington.
I am specifically referring to Rep. Benjamin Gilman's (R-N.Y.) March 23 remarks reported in the Miami Herald following the murders and to Robert D. Novak's syndicated column "Terrorism Close to Home" [op-ed, April 17]. Rep. Gilman asked that the killings of Terence, La'he and Ingrid be taken as a "wake-up call to the United States" to end its support for the Colombian peace process by "refusing to deal with terrorists." The terrorists to which he refers are the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC), the long-standing Colombian guerrilla group responsible for these murders.
Mr. Novak reprimands members of the Clinton administration for continuing to support efforts for peace in Colombia in the wake of the killings. He repeats Rep. Gilman's claim that Colombia is "Balkanizing." Both men have requested increased militarization.
Let me be clear. I deplore the use of kidnappings and executions as political, economic and military tools. I demand that those responsible in this case be arrested, given a fair trial and, if proven guilty, sentenced severely, with full respect for due process of law. However, I differ from Rep. Gilman and Mr. Novak. I do not believe that violence is a legitimate means to obtain justice and peace.
I strongly object to having my son's murder used to pressure the Clinton administration to abandon support for peace initiatives in Colombia. Employing his death as a means to continue perpetuating violence in Colombia grossly contradicts everything my son believed in.
I urge the Clinton administration, our elected representatives and the people of the United States to reflect on why my son was in Colombia. He and his companions traveled as guests of the U'wa's, a traditional indigenous nation, to learn more about U'wa culture and spirituality. The U'wa's lush ancestral land is coveted by both the Colombia state oil concern, Ecopetrol, and the U.S. multinational Occidental Petroleum Corp. The U'wa face violence from all fronts. But they continue to sustain their land and their culture without taking up arms.
In a report my son wrote, he said that the cycle of violence that threatens the U'wa's survival -- the same cycle that consumed his life and the lives of his companions -- stems from the dramatic increase in militarization that accompanies oil development. He clearly understood that the U.S. military training and assistance to Colombia would bring more violence from all sides.
If our congressional representatives hear any "wake-up call" following the execution of my son, I urge it to be this: Remember your high standards of justice and peace by refusing to further U.S. military aid to Colombia. Doing the hard work of peace takes a lot more guts than empowering more men with guns.
North Hollywood, Calif.
Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
Condolences and regards may be sent to Ingrid's family at the following
Thank you for your expressions of concern and love at this time. As plans for memorial services and recognitions for Ingrid and her work evolve we will keep you informed. Please bear with us as we honor this time of grieving and ceremony. In order to assure that actions of honor and remembrancefor Ingrid are done in a good way we must take proper care of Spirit. I know that she would expect no less of us.
Tthe Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin and Ingrid Washinawatok's Family are setting up a Trust Fund to deal with retrieving her remains, investigating the tragedy and related expenses.
You may contact them at: Ingrid Washinawatok Trust Fund, PO Box 910, Keshena, WI 54135, phone: 715-799-5113. There is also a condolences, thoughts and feelings webpage for those who would like to leave messages about Ingrid on the National Indian Telecommunications Institute website at: http://www.niti.org/. Click on: In Memory of Ingrid Washinawatok.
More information on the three activists and their
work can be found at several websites:
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
IN MEMORIAM: INGRID WASHINAWATOK
By Jos� Barreiro/Native Americas
Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, beloved daughter, sister and wife to her family, and a relative and friend to thousands of Native and non-Native people throughout North America and many other lands, passed into the Spirit World on March 4, 1999.
She went to Colombia to help an Indian people struggling to survive. But contemporary Colombia is violence inexorable and Ingrid Washinawatok, whose wide, sweet smile seemed limitless, who was naturally charming and without guile, whose laughter could quiet a theater, was no match for the perpetual wrath of Colombia, where kidnapping and murder are the order of the day.
As director of the indigenous support foundation, Fund for the Four Directions, Ingrid's work was helping Indian people. No one was ever better suited or more integral to seek remedies to the needs of Indian communities. Simply put, she loved the People. She was a bright light, a uniquely positive beacon for her generation and the next. Everyone who knew her, and the list is quite extensive, loved Ingrid Washinawatok.
A luminary of her generation, Indrid was a woman of continous promise. From a proud, activist Menominee family, Ingrid joined the world of social change while a teenager in the 1970s. She is related to many among the founding families of the American Indian Movement, and logged many miles of travel to dozens of traditional Native communities, among which she is remembered and loved by a great many people.
Ingrid went to school abroad, married and settled in New York City, where she became a valued member of the American Indian community. She grew professionally and travelled widely as a young delegate for various international Indian organizations, including the International Indian Treaty Council. She became a board member of the American Indian Community House. She was a founder and main force behind the Indigenous Women's Network. She was a regular at the United Nations Working Group On Indigenous Peoples. She was on the committee for the UN Decade on Indigenous Peoples. She was a primary force for organizing the Native Council of New York, a representative network of Native professionals and organizations that has excellent reach in the city and internationally. As an Indian woman director of a major foundation, she was also a strong voice within the U.S. philanthropic community, consistently arguing for a better understanding of and intelligent assistance to Indian communities.
Of all visited places, she loved Cuba most, where she once studied at the University of Havana. She met her husband there. In the 1990s, she helped institute the annual Indigenous Legacies of the Caribbean conference in Baracoa, Cuba, a town which this week is in mourning for Ingrid Washinowatok.
In Colombia on February 25 to visit the beleaguered U'wa people, who have been fighting oil extraction on their lands, she was kidnapped along with two companions. She had gone to help, representing the Fund for the Four Directions. But security consciousness was minimal. The Uw'a people received her, welcomed her presence, but could not protect her. Two Uw'a men with the visitors were pulled aside, pistols to their heads, and left behind. No one could protect them. It was Colombia, the most dangerous country in the hemisphere, a cauldron of hostage-taking.
Many mobilized to help her. The world mobilized. All of her friends, all of her networks that were available played a role. Pressure was exerted. There was hope, if the kidnappers took their time, that they could be reached. Seasoned journalists on the scene took up the trail. The FBI got on it. The Catholic Church, experienced negotiators for such cases in Colombia, got on the case. With pressure from friends of Ingrid's such as Rigoberta Menchu and various embassadors and dignitaries, the Red Cross mobilized quickly. The Red Cross international delegate in the field, often the point of first contact in these cases, made contact with the likely abductors, identified a source, who set up a meeting for a week hence. Again, there was hope. If they want to, rebel forces can hold hostages for weeks, even years. But it was all a long shot, defeated by the twisted logic of a brutal, faraway war. The abductors never made any contact. They marched them for a hundred miles with orders to execute them. Never mind that Ingrid was an indigenous woman, as was her travelling companion, Lahe'ene Gay, who also died. Americans were to be killed; and the three were there, trying to help the people, but easy targets in a war without mercy.
Ingrid Washinawatok, Lahe'ene Gay and Terence Freitas died on Thursday morning. A ray of light that was walking upon the earth has been taken up. The one that walked among the people, who brought the people a reason for living, Ingrid, Flying Eagle Woman, passed on that Thursday morning. Beloved to her son and husband, beloved to her family, beloved to her Menominee people and beloved to all her chosen peoples, Ingrid Washinawatok is mourned and saluted as she lays down to rest upon the Mother Earth. Condolences to all her family.It is the saddest day of the saddest century.
21 July 1999
Rebel commander indicted in slayings of U.S. activists
By Vivian Sequera
BOGOTA -- The brother of a top Colombian guerrilla leader and an Indian allegedly working for the rebels have been charged in the slayings of three U.S. Indian rights activists, prosecutors said Wednesday.
German Briceno, a regional commander of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was charged with ordering the March killings. Gustavo Bogota, a member of Colombia's native U'wa tribe, was charged as an accomplice.
Arrest orders against the two were issued months ago, but the indictment was not handed down until Friday, the public prosecutor's office said. Both men are still at large.
Briceno is the brother of Jorge Briceno, the FARC's No. 2 leader.
The Americans were on a humanitarian visit to the group's eastern reserve when they were abducted, taken across the border into Venezuela and shot.
The guerrilla group has admitted one of its units killed the activists -- Terence Freitas, 24, Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, and Lahe'ena'e Gay, 39. The group denies, however, that German Briceno was responsible, saying the slayings were carried out by a lower-ranking squad leader and two fighters under his command.
The Clinton administration severed diplomatic contacts with the rebel group after the killings and has demanded it turn over the guilty fighters to authorities.
In an interview last week in La Tunia, a rebel-held southern village, FARC senior commander Raul Reyes suggested the killings were the result of a growing anti-American sentiment in rebel ranks, fueled by increasing U.S. aid to the country's military.
In parts of Colombia, said Reyes, "when people run across a U.S. citizen the first thing they think is that he's a military adviser or a CIA man."
US says sentence for killers of American activists 'outrageous'
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Friday, 28 May 1999
WASHINGTON -- The United States on Friday blasted reports that Colombia's most powerful rebel group had handed down community service sentences to its members who murdered three American activists.
"This would be outrageous if the report is true," State Department spokesman James Rubin said, adding that US demands for justice in the case would not be met until the killers were handed over to "the appropriate authorities" for trial.
"Nothing short of this will satisfy our demand for justice," Rubin said.
Earlier Friday, a spokesman for the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said those implicated in the murders could be required to teach reading and writing to illiterate Colombians or work on a highway construction project.
"These are the punishments under consideration by the revolutionary justice," the FARC spokesman said.
Rubin lambasted the proposed punishments, seizing on the road building option.
"The suggestion of working on road construction for murder is completely and utterly inadequate for a crime as serious as murder," he said.
"We would reject this and would note that this does not come even close to meeting what we have previously called for."
FARC has said low-ranking members of its group kidnapped and executed environmental activists Terence Freitas, Laheenae Gay and Ingrid Washinawatock in March.
Their bodies, riddled with bullets and bearing signs of torture, were found March 4 just inside Venezuela's border with Colombia.
But Colombia's military high command and US authorities insist the executions were authorized by Jorge Briceno, one of the leaders of the group.
The FARC leadership has steadfastly refused to hand over the culprits.Copyright 1999 Agence France Presse
FARC to announce the sentence against rebels who murdered US nationals
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Sunday, 11 April 1999
BOGOTA -- A leader of the FARC rebel group said it would announce the punishment to be meted out to rebels who killed three US citizens within the next two months, the Colombian Ombudsman has reported.
The rebel leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Manuel Marulanda, known as "Sureshot", refused to be drawn on what the sentence might be, Jose Fernando Castro said Saturday. That would have to await the outcome of an internal investigation, Marulanda told him. And although he admitted that the killing of the three US activists was a "grave error," he was steadfast in his refusal to hand the culprits over to Colombian or US authorities.
Marulanda made the pledge in a meeting Friday with Castro in a so-called demilitarized zone designated for peace talks between the FARC, the country's largest and best-equipped insurgency, and President Andres Pastrana's government.
The bodies of Terence Freitas, 24, Laheenae Gay, 39, and Ingrid Washinawatock, 41, were found in March just inside Venezuela's border with Colombia. Their bodies were riddled with bullets and bore signs of torture. The three, members of a New York-based group that defends Andean natives' rights, were working with environmental and indigenous rights groups when they were kidnapped on February 25.
The leader of the division responsible for the executions, led by Commander Gildardo, murdered the three US citizens without consulting the FARC leadership, according to Marulanda.
In a separate development, two soldiers held captive by FARC rebels in the northwest of the country have escaped, the Colombian Ministry of Defense said Saturday. The two, who had been held since August 1998, are part of a group of some 300 soldiers and police held hostage by the FARC. The insurgents want to trade the 300 "prisoners of war" for rebels locked up in the country's prisons.
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."
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The death of Ingrid Washinawatok apparently marks a sad milestone -- the first time that a Native North American woman has died doing human rights work among native people in South America.
In an unhappy way, it draws attention to the fact that the growing number of international meetings on the environment and human rights abuses has led to a growing network of indigenous leaders and activists who share skills, resources and information in fighting similar issues. Washinawatok, 41, Terence Freitas and Lahe'ena'e Gay were kidnapped off a bus heading for the airport on February 25, 200 miles outside of Bogota. They had just spent two weeks on the reservation of the U'wa helping develop an education program using traditional culture, language and religion.
Gay, 39, a Native Hawaiian with the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International in Hawaii, had established a similar educational center in Panama.
Washinawatok met the leader of the U'wa and heard how they had closed church-run schools which denigrated their culture. Gay and Washinawatok sought to share the culture-respecting curriculum developed by indigenous people in the United States.
The U'Wa, a tribe of about 5-7,000 people, made international headlines in 1997 when they threatened mass suicide if Occidental Petroleum, based in Bakersfield, California did not cease exploratory drilling on their reservation. In a similar vein, the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin was "terminated" in 1954 by the U.S. Congress. They regained federal recognition in 1969 and are now embroiled in a fight with Exxon to prevent contamination of their lands and sacred sites.
Colombian and U.S. officials were quick to blame the abduction on the leftist guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In a press release, President Clinton expressed outrage and demanded that "the FARC accept responsibility for these crimes and immediately surrender those who committed them."
However, Washinawatok's family and Apesanahkwat, chairman of the Menominee tribe said they held the U.S. State Department at least partly responsible for her death. The week of her death, the U.S. State Department issued $230 million to the Colombian government for a crackdown on leftist rebels. Colombia is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign aid for the drug war, despite having one of the world's worst human rights records. The money, the Menominee assert, led to military/paramilitary killings of about 70 FARC rebels later that week and may have prompted retaliation. In a statement, the Indigenous Women's Network, of which Washinawatok was co-chair, has demanded a full investigation of the U.S. State Department's role in the deaths.
On March 10, Wednesday, the FARC completed an internal investigation and found that a guerilla commander in eastern Arauca state, Gildardo and three rebels under his command were responsible for the murders. The commander will likely face a FARC firing squad. Raul Reyes, a senior commander of FARC said, "we condemn the abominable assassination fo the three Americans," and asked for the forgiveness of indigenous people around the world, the United States, the Colombian government and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
People close to Freitas, 24, an environmental activist who had worked with the U'wa tribe, noted that the FARC knew of his work and had given him clearance. Other evidence -- including the kindappers' costumes and the general pattern of political killings in the country -- also point to the paramilitary forces. They deny any involvement.
The U'wa community reacted forcefully, with some leaders threatening retaliation against the killers. Evaristo Tegria, an U'wa community member, said of the three, "As indigenous people they knew our situation and supported us."
Washinawatok was director of the New York-based Fund for the Four Directions, which focuses on American Indian issues, and sat on the boards of several groups working to help indigenous people. She was also the first chair of the United Nations Committee for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004).
As more and more Native North Americans work with their relatives in Central and South America they must decide how best to use their dual citizenship to further the rights and causes of indigenous peoples. Many are watching the Menominee Nation for clues as to how indigenous nations in North America will deal with international tragedies, particularly with countries like Colombia that have a record of genocide of their own indigenous peoples.
There is a hope that the great care and kind spirit shown by Washinawatok and the others will carry the day.
Jacqueline F. Keeler
March 9, 1999
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, on Tuesday condemned the brutal murder of three indigenous human rights activists in Colombia last week, and urged the authorities to fully investigate the murders and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The victims, who had been kidnapped on 25 February, were found on March 4 blindfolded, handcuffed and shot several times through the head. They had been visiting the Uw'a, an indigenous people of about 5,000 living in the Arauco region of Colombia, who are opposed to oil exploitation on their lands.
The High Commissioner paid tribute to the three and recalled that one of them, Ingrid Washinawatok, a member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin, was well known to the international community for her active defence of indigenous rights. In a message of condolence to the bereaved families, Ms. Robinson recognized the courage and commitment of the slain activists and reaffirmed her Office's determination to protect the human rights of the world's indigenous peoples.
The High Commissioner expressed her concern that despite the growing international consensus on indigenous rights, and the proclamation by the General Assembly of an International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (1995 - 2004) aimed at bringing about respect for indigenous cultures, indigenous rights defenders remained targets of human rights violations.
Source: United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-03-09 http://www.un.org
This is the translation of an article posted (in spanish) earlier this month. The original article, Las FARC asumen asesinato de norteamericanos can be found at the following Swedish web site: http://home3.swipnet.se/anncol/FARC/990311-farc-asumen.html
March 9, 1999
THE FARC ASSUMES RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ASSASSINATION OF THE NORTH AMERICANS
"Gildardo could be shot." - Raul Reyes, FARC
ANNCOL, Bogota - A principal leader of the FARC, Raul Reyes, acknowledged today in San Vicente del Cauguan that the 10th Front of the FARC assassinated Terrence Freitas and two native Americans of the U.S.
Reyes said Gildardo, commander of the 10th Front, ordered the assassinations. As a result of an internal investigation, Commanders Grannobles and Albeiro were exonerated from any responsibility.
According to Reyes, Gildardo violated all of the laws and norms of the FARC by commanding the assassinations.
Reyes indicated that Gildardo will be promptly judged according to statues of the FARC, and that the acts were reviewed before the FARC leaders. Reyes stated that he would not be sent to the U.S. because the FARC does not agree with extradition.
"I demand that this case be investigated to satisfaction, that all aspects of this case be considered in order to find who is responsible, and to apply sanctions with all the vigorousness that it deserves," insists the rebel leader.
Raul Reyes, in the name of the FARC asks for forgiveness for this act from all the people of the world and especially the indigenous people. He asked that all foreigners who visit the FARC's controlled zones, identify themselves in advance to prevent future regrettable and reprehensible acts such as this.
The following is the FARC communiqui:
The headquarters of the Eastern Block of the FARC-EP to the national and international public:
.c The Associated Press
SAN VICENTE DEL CAGUAN, Colombia (AP) -- Colombia's largest rebel group admitted Wednesday that one of its officers kidnapped and killed three American activists found dead last week.
A guerrilla commander in eastern Arauca state acted without the approval of his superiors, said Raul Reyes, a senior commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
The local commander, identified as Gildardo, "captured them and executed them without consulting higher ranking bodies," Reyes told reporters near this rebel-controlled southern town.
Reyes, a member of FARC's ruling council, said the guilty rebel officer may face the death penalty for his role in the slayings, which provoked international outrage and endangered Colombia's fledgling peace process.
The bound and bullet-ridden bodies of Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, Lahe'ena'e Gay, 39, and Terence Freitas, 24, were found in a Venezuelan field one week after they were abducted by armed men.
The three Americans were in Colombia to help set up a school system for a local Indian group, the 8,000-member U'wa nation.
Reyes said the FARC rebels picked up the three Americans after discovering their presence "without guerrilla authorization" on the U'wa reservation along the border with Venezuela.
He said that killing foreigners was not rebel policy, and requested forgiveness from indigenous peoples around the world.
Washington had blamed the killings on the FARC, and requested that the guilty parties be extradited to stand trial in the United States.
Reyes said Gildardo would remain in rebel-held Colombia. "We will not turn over our fighters to any state."
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without prior written authority of The Associated Press.
http://www.ran.org/ran_campaigns/beyond_oil/terryonic.html March 8, 1999
NATIONAL INDIGENOUS ORGANIZATION OF COLOMBIA (ONIC)
Who benefits from the death of our friends?
The perpetrator of this crime must come to light.
The confusion and anger generated by the murder of our friends Ingrid, Larry and Terence must not move us away from a settled reflection about what happened. Above all, we need to examine the deeper causes of this horrible crime. The history of our struggles allow us to affirm to the indigenous peoples of Colombia that this crime was aimed at quieting the voices around the world that support us in defense of our lives and Mother Earth.
These murders are a direct attack against the U'wa people who have been working for many years to reclaim their ancestral lands in order to survive as a culturally distinct people and who face a difficult fight to keep Occidental Petroleum - Oxy, out of their territory and from bleeding Mother Earth.
National and international support has been crucial in the fight to keep Oxy out of U'wa territory thus far. Our friend Terry (Terence Freitas) was a central ally of the U'wa. He worked in the United States to create awareness around these issues, and promoted activities so that the North American oil company, [previously] working in partnership with Shell under an exploratory contract for the Samore Block, respect the territory and the lives of the U'wa people.
The murder of our friends occurs during a time when Occidental in Colombia is taking the necessary next steps to obtain a drilling license for a project within U'wa territory. This process is moving forward within the Ministry of the Environment and with the support of the Ministry of the Interior, behind the U'wa's back and on the basis of standards the Constitutional Court has considered to be in violation of indigenous rights.
The murders of Ingrid, Larry and Terence are an effort to prevent the continuance of the campaign to defend the U'wa not only in the United States but around the world. It could serve as a pretext to [further] militarize the region and turn it into a war zone. We reject all efforts to use this confusing situation to further the oil interests in the region or relegate the U'wa to cannon fodder in an internal armed conflict, which has been the case in other regions where mega-projects have taken hold.
This is not the first time that violence from enemies has been the response to indigenous peoples' struggle to reclaim and their ancestral territory. The construction of a gas pipeline in Putumayo, the Urra I dam, and the other infrastructure mega-projects on indigenous lands have always been connected to acts of aggression against our peoples by armed groups, and to blackmail, unneeded interference by state institutions and the presence of multinational corporations.
The U'wa and all indigenous peoples maintain our commitment to reclaim our right to life, to be different, to exercise our autonomy and self government, to have our ancestral rights respected, and to fulfill our duty that we have to Mother Earth and to our brother. Terror and death have not been able to make us give up these rights, and won't.
The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia - ONIC, demands that the authorities of the Republic of Colombia find the perpetrators of this crime against our indigenous brothers and sisters and North American friends. We demand that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - FARC, clearly explain their possible connection to the crime.
Peace in the U'wa Region Requires Suspension of Oil Project
Colombian National Indigenous Organization (ONIC), March 7, 1999
Following yesterday's revelation by leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that one of its commanders is responsible for the senseless killings of our three friends and colleagues Terence Freitas, Ingrid Washinawatok and Lahe'ena'e Gay, we condemn this act in the strongest terms and demand that perpetrators be brought to non-violent justice. We horrified that a group that claims to be in solidarity with indigenous peoples commits such barbaric acts. FARC's admission cannot take the place of a full investigation into the deaths. We call on any investigation into the deaths of our friends to include an examination of the roles and responsibilities of multinational oil companies in the ongoing cycle of violence in the region.
In addition to learning the details surrounding the murders, it is critical to understand the cycle of violence in Colombia which created the conditions in which these killings took place. Oil is Colombia's most important export commodity, and is therefore a strategic target in Colombia's ongoing civil war. Guerrilla factions target these areas for bombings and other acts of violence. In response, the Colombian government has increasingly militarized areas of oil exploration and production. The real victims of the conflict are the local peoples and their supporters.
The beginning of this cycle in the U'wa territory coincided with Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum's efforts to drill on their land. The upswing of violence in this region can only be expected to increase-taking with it the lives of more innocent and peace-loving people-as long as Occidental Petroleum continues its oil project. We call on Occidental to suspend operations and withdraw its application to drill on U'wa ancestral lands. This is the single most important step the corporation can take towards fostering peace in the region.
The deaths of these three people who worked for peace and justice must not be an excuse for fueling Colombia's civil war with U.S. tax dollars. Nor should this horrific event be used to impede the peace talks in Colombia. Indeed, the death of our friends is a strong signal that all parties must come to the table to end the violence besieging Colombia.
Peace in Colombia at this time cannot be achieved simply by diplomatic overtures, but must also be built from the ground up. For the U'wa, this peace will only come with the cancellation of the oil project slated for their land, which, in the words of Terence Freitas, "hangs over them like a shadow of death."
May the bodies of our brothers and sisters become stones that will keep the Earth in balance.
May their blood replace the blood that others have taken from our territory.
May their spirits rise together and protect the space of the U'wa and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
May their words and commitment remain strong in our memory and in God's.
--Colombian National Indigenous Organization (ONIC), March 7, 1999