InfoBrief - March 31, 2003
InfoBrief is a weekly news summary of events in the U.S. and Colombia produced and distributed by the U.S. Office on Colombia. Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London. Other sources include U.S. and Latin American newspapers, and reports from non-profit and grassroots groups. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Office on Colombia. If you would like to receive InfoBrief please contact firstname.lastname@example.org indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.
U.S. Current Affairs & Media
* UN Reports Increase in Violations by Colombian Security Forces in 2002 On March 18 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released its annual report on Colombia. The UN reported that in the context of the Uribe governments more aggressive security policy and declaration of a state of internal commotion, there was an increase in the number of human rights violations committed directly by state security forces, as well as cases of open collusion with paramilitaries. The report noted the expansion and consolidation of paramilitaries in several areas, and called on President Uribe to take all necessary steps to sever links between the paramilitaries and the Colombian military. The UN expressed concern about the increasing use of terror and cruel methods of combat by the illegal armed groups, particularly the FARC. The UN also emphasized the importance of a structured peace negotiation process in order to end the violence in Colombia. The full report is available on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights website, http://www.hchr.org.co/documentoseinformes/informes/altocomisionado/informe2002_eng.pdf.
* Bush Asks for Supplemental Aid for Colombia, Part of the Coalition of the Willing On March 25 President Bush sent a request to Congress for supplemental funding to cover military operations, relief and reconstruction in Iraq, and on-going operations in the global war on terrorism. The request included an estimated $104 million for Colombia, which would bring total U.S. military and police aid in 2003 to over $600 million. Of the $104 million, $34 million would go towards drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, another $34 million would go to support extension of police authority, and an estimated $36-$37 million would be included as foreign military financing. This supplemental request is meeting some resistance in Congress. On the House floor on March 27, Representative James McGovern (D-MA) argued that in Massachusetts communities are laying off police, firefighters, and other emergency first responders and that the $104 million for Colombia is more money than the state of Massachusetts will receive under the supplemental for critical homeland security priorities. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are expected to mark-up the supplemental bill on April 1. The bills may be voted on by the House and Senate on April 2 or 3.
* Uribes Personal Advisor Advocates Intelligence Operations to Target NGOs On March 28 Pedro Juan Moreno, a close friend of President Uribe and cabinet official in Antioquia when Uribe was governor, stated that intelligence not only needed to be gathered on the illegal armed groups, drug traffickers, and common criminals but on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well. Moreno claimed they are vehicles that the guerrillas invented in order to position themselves politically.
* Three Americans Die in Plane Crash in Colombia On March 25 three Americans working for the Pentagon died in a plane crash in southern Colombia as they searched for three other Americans captured by the FARC guerrillas on February 13. Evidently the plane hit a sheer mountain face behind the town of El Paujil around 7:30 p.m. shortly after losing radio contact with ground controllers. Colombian troops searching for the missing Americans arrived quickly at the crash site and found the planes wreckage and what appeared to be the remains of the three-member crew.
* National Colombia Mobilization Protests Corporate Influence in U.S. Policy on Colombia On March 24 the National Colombia Mobilization held coordinated protests at the corporate headquarters of Occidental Petroleum, United Technologies, Monsanto, and Coca-Cola. Mobilization organizers called for an end to fumigation and military aid to Colombia. Some protesters were arrested after they engaged in acts of civil disobedience.
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Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London
Colombia This Week editing date: 03/31/03
Fri 21 - UNHCR reports more displacement in Colombia; Police destroy IDP houses in Cali.
· UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports the displacement of 1,150 people, including 200 children in San Francisco (Antioquia) under the Army "Operación Marcial. Other new displacements have been reported in the departments of Chocó, Cundinamarca and Dabeiba (Antioquia).
· Colombian NGO Coordinadora Nacional de Desplazados reports that Police forces burned down the temporary dwellings of 2000 IDPs (internally displaced people), in Aguablanca (Cali), in an aggressive attempt to evict them.
· Army reports that nine guerrilla members and two paramilitaries were killed during operations around the country.
· Attorney Generals Office charges Colombian Marine official Jhon Fredy Alvarez for the rape and attempted murder of a nurse in Bahía Solano (Chocó).
· According to El Tiempo Army officials free four people in Guayabal (Cundinamarca), after they had been kidnapped by the FARC.
Sat 22 UN urges AUC to comply with cease-fire; Government to abolish Personerías.
· Director of UN Office for Human Rights in Colombia Michael Frühling says that paramilitaries in talks with the Government have violated their cease-fire repeatedly since December. He urges the paramilitaries to stop attacks against civilians.
· In a Forum at the Pontifical University of Bogotá, joint Interior and Justice Minister Fernando Londoño defends the proposal in the referendum text to abolish the Personerias (local human rights offices), saying that they are inefficient and costly.
· The University of Antioquia and Health authorities in Medellín report that 163,400 minors in Medellín (43%) are undernourished.
· In a statement on their website FARC condemns Colombia's support for the United States in the war on Iraq. They claim that Uribe Vélez wants full US intervention in Colombia.
· Colombia is the leading Latin-American country regarding the number of volunteers. More than 700,000 people in Colombia do some voluntary work each week without remuneration. This represents more than 263 m US $ a year, El Tiempo reports.
Sun 23 Government and paramilitaries issue press release; Lawyers concerned on impunity.
· Colombian Commissioner for Peace, Juan Carlos Restrepo and paramilitary commanders issue joint press release. The Government calls on the AUC to suspend all actions against civilians, and the parties invite the international and Colombian community to support the process.
· Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) reports concerns about the Government Decree 128 (2003), that provides for amnesties and pardons for demobilised members of illegal armed groups, because it undermines the right to justice and further deepens the already serious situation of impunity with regard to human rights violations.
· World Food Programme (WFP) reports that armed groups have blocked access to the municipalities of San Luis, San Carlos, Cocorná and San Francisco, forcing the temporary suspension of the food for work programme in this region. They also report threats by armed groups against WFP-contracted transporters.
· In its Bulletin Pertinentes, Programa de Paz y Desarrollo del Magdalena Medio (PDPMM) reports a meeting between communities involved in the peace talks with armed groups in Microahumado and the Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo. Restrepo indicated his willingness to accompany the process.
· Colombian NGO Reiniciar warns of an imminent attack against civilians in Soacha (Bogotá), after paramilitaries reportedly kill some leaders and make threats against leaders in this community.
Mon 24 UN recommendations must be implemented in 2003; Governors reject new fumigations
· In an interview in El Tiempo Director of UN Office for Human Rights Michael Frühling says that the 27 recommendations on Human Rights contained in this years report must be implemented this year. He also says that the government needs to eliminate the ambiguity in their policy against paramilitaries because this seriously undermines the Rule of Law.
· The Governments decision to use a higher concentrate in the aerial spraying of coca crops has alarmed environmental groups and local authorities. Governors Floro Tunubalá in Cauca and Parmenio Cuellar in Nariño have protested against the use of a higher concentration of glyphosate after complaints of skin and respiratory ailments from the affected communities.
· General Secretary for European Council Javier Solana condemns the military strategy of FARC saying that only when they stop targeting civilians will the European Union resume talks with them.
· Inspector Aleyda Rosero says that Police were following orders when they burnt down the temporary housing and assets of 500 displaced families in Aguablanca (Cali).
· Colombian Congressmen report that under the new deal between the Colombian Government and Chevron-Texaco on extracting gas in La Guajira, the State Oil Company ECOPETROL is due to lose more than US $100 m.
Tues 25 US pay back Colombian support on Iraq war; Church reports the killing of civilians.
· Bush Administration requests the US Congress to approve supplemental funding for the global war on terrorism. According to El Tiempo, in exchange for the support on the war on Iraq, Colombia could receive more than US $100 m in this package, raising the US military and police aid in 2003 to $600 m.
· The Diocese of Quibdó (Chocó) reports that Colombian troops killed Leonel Rentería, peasant from Yarumal-Lloró and dressed the corpse as a guerrilla fighter. They say that this is the third case in one month.
· Colombian Indigenous Organisation (ONIC) reports that 50 people were killed by illegal armed groups, 27 forcibly disappeared and 1,550 forcibly displaced in Putumayo in 2002. Some families have received death threats for participating in Plan Colombia projects.
· Unknown-armed group kills Doris Botero, member of the Corporación Picacho and community leader in Comuna 6 (Medellín).
· Two staff members of the World Food Programme (WFP) report that they were stopped and questioned by an armed group in Comuna 13 (Medellín). According to El Colombiano paramilitaries are patrolling the area.
· In a public letter Bishop of Barrancabermeja Monseñor Jaime Prieto urges directors of State-oil Company ECOPETROL to negotiate an agreement with the Oil Workers Union (USO).
· Officials report the killing of three policemen in the municipality of Saravena (Arauca) which is located within a Rehabilitation Zone. They were reportedly ambushed by FARC members, El Tiempo reports.
· Three US activists are arrested during a protest in Monsantos headquarters in St. Luis (USA). The protest was organised by the group Colombia Mobilization against companies supplying chemicals for crop spraying in Colombia, Associated Press reports.
· Colombian Ambassador to the US Luis Alberto Moreno denies any pressure from US authorities to obtain Colombian support on the war on Iraq. Analysts suggest that with this move Colombia is now more isolated from the UN and the rest of the Latin American nations.
Wed 26- Indigenous Senator reports forced recruitment by Army; 3 Americans die in plane crash
· Indigenous Senator Efren Tarapuez Cuaical denounces the Colombian Army for the forced recruitment of more than 250 people in Cauca. General Francisco Pedraza says they willingly signed on as peasant soldiers. Indigenous people are exempt from military service.
· US officials report that three US citizens working for the Pentagon die in a plane crash in El Paujil (Caquetá). They were searching for three other Americans captured by FARC members after a similar accident last month, Washington Post reports.
· After 40 days of negotiations with directors of State-Oil Company ECOPETROL Colombian Oil Workers Union (USO) call a strike.
· Foreign Minister Carolina Barco meets with Colombian Ambassadors in Europe to launch a campaign to change the image of Uribe Vélezs government in Europe, El Espectador reports.
· Antonio Hernandez (General Auditor for Colombia) reports accounting difficulties and financial disorder since Colombia signed the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He adds that Colombia should not increase its external debt just to pay interest on loans.
· Officials report that European Union will decide in April if they will reduce import tax exemptions on Colombian goods, such as flowers or vegetables.
· Colombian NGO Corporación Jurídica Libertad reports the sixth anniversary of the foundation of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. It says the community is facing an intimidation campaign by military forces. Last week a three-year-old girl was shot dead by soldiers.
· According to the authorities 11 guerrilla members handed in their arms in Popayán (Cauca).
Thurs 27 11 soldiers killed in minefield; FARC make new threats to local representatives.
· Eleven soldiers died and eight more were wounded near Aracataca (Magdalena) when troops were searching for guerrillas. Officials blame FARC for the attack, according to Reuters.
· Jairo Pinzón López, Mayor of San Calixto (Norte de Santander) reports that new threats have been made by FARC against Mayors, Councillors and civil servants in the province of Ocaña (Norte de Santander).
· José Vicente Rangel, Vice-President of Venezuela criticises the Colombian government for its fragile protection of the 2,219 km long border with his country. He also says that Venezuela has 20,000 soldiers and 180 bases on the border, compared to Colombia, which has only 4,000 soldiers.
· Colombian authorities report that the plane in which three Americans died crashed by accident. They found their remains charred by the fire, according to the investigation.
· United States identify Joaquin Mario Valencia Trujillo and Guillermo Valencia Trujillo as the two new leaders of the Cali cartel. Along with 28 companies and 28 more unidentified people -all located in Colombia- they have been added to the list of suspected narcotraffickers.
· General Pauxelino Latorre Commander of the XVII Brigade says that paramilitaries and FARC are fighting for control of African Palm and coca crops along the River Atrato (Chocó). He dismisses reports from NGOs on the numbers of IDPs, suggesting that communities are just looking for free humanitarian aid, El Colombiano reports.
Colombia This Week is a news summary produced and distributed by ABColombia Group. Sources include daily Colombian, US, European and Latin American newspapers, and reports from non-governmental organisations and the UN System. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the ABColombia Group.
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