InfoBrief - April 7, 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 indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.



U.S. Current Affairs & Media



* Colombia Military Aid Almost Blocked by House of Representatives On April 3 Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill to eliminate $61 million of the $105 million in aid to Colombian security forces and transfer the funds to a Department of Homeland Security program to support state and local first-responders, such as police officers and firefighters. Though the amendment was defeated by a vote of 216 to 209, it was the first time more than 200 Members of Congress voted against military aid to Colombia. Rep. McGovern argued that military aid to Colombia should be reduced because, “links between the Colombian armed forces and the paramilitaries remain unchanged.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), expressing her support for the amendment and concern about human rights in Colombia, remarked, “I know it’s important for the United States to support our neighbor&ldots;[but] the Colombian government is still implicated in gross human rights abuses.” To find out how each Member of Congress voted, please log-on to



* State Department Releases Human Rights Report on Colombia On March 31 the State Department released its annual human rights report. The report showed that the Colombian government’s human rights record remained poor, stating, “Some members of the security forces collaborated with paramilitary groups that committed serious abuses.” The State Department noted that the paramilitaries committed numerous political and “social cleansing” killings, attacked labor leaders and human rights workers and displaced thousands of people. The report also revealed that the rate of guerrilla abuses increased during 2002. The guerrillas, particularly the FARC, killed non-combatants – including mayors, journalists and off-duty members of the government security forces – and kidnapped thousands of civilians. The full report is available online at



* Search for Americans Continues Three contracted Pentagon workers remain missing after their plane crashed in southern Colombia on February 13. The Washington Post reported this week that “for the past seven weeks, about 7,000 Colombian soldiers and dozens of U.S. military personnel and FBI investigators have been combing the southern jungles of the country” looking for the Americans taken captive by the FARC guerrillas. Apparently the cost to the U.S. has been more than $500,000 per week, nearly one-fifth of the $25 million of the U.S. anti-kidnapping assistance already provided to Colombia.



Upcoming Events and Seminars in the U.S.



* On April 25 and 26, Chicagoans for a Peaceful Colombia will host a conference entitled “Natural Resource Exploitation and the Survival of Afro-Colombians” at the Lincoln Park campus of DePaul University in Chicago. More information is available at



* The Institute for Policy Studies website now features the personal testimonies of labor unionists who have been forced to leave Colombia because of the violence. The unionists participated last year in the Colombia Trade Union Training Program of the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center. Their testimonies are online at



Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London




Colombia This Week editing date: 04/07/03


Fri 28 – Police fire tear gas at anti-war protesters; EU extends Colombian trade preferences.


· Police fire rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of more than 1,500 demonstrators who tried to march on the US Embassy in Bogotá to protest against the war in Iraq. 16 people were arrested and two journalists injured, AP reports.


· After a meeting between EU representatives and the Andean community, European Commissioner for Trade, Pascal Lamy announces that the EU will extend Colombian trade preferences for one year.


· Local Defensor del Pueblo Jorge Gómez Lizarazo reports the kidnapping and rape of a 19 year-old woman by a member of the paramilitaries in Barrancabermeja. 20 similar reports have already been made this year.


· During the Assembly of Colombian Governors Uribe Vélez announces he will ask the Congress to include an article in the Political Reform Initiative for the establishment of Regions in Colombia. This measure aims to decentralise the Colombian State and reinforce local government according to El Colombiano.


· Senator Hugo Serrano reports that ECOPETROL has not found oil in the Gibraltar well in Norte de Santander. Initial explorations estimated reserves of more than 200 m barrels.


· General Auditor for Colombia Antonio Hernandez and Congressmen from different parties urge Uribe Vélez’ government to re-negotiate the contract with Chevron-Texaco for the extraction of gas in La Guajira. Under the present contract the State Oil Company ECOPETROL will lose more than US$150 m according to El Tiempo




Sat 29 – RSS need US $120m for Colombian IDPs in 2003; FARC blow-up oil pipeline in Nariño.


· Director of the Red de Solidaridad Social, (RSS) Alberto Hoyos requests US $120m from the international community to assist more than two million IDPs (Internally Displaced persons) in Colombia this year. The Pacific Coast, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Antioquia and Catatumbo are the regions most affected by forced displacement.


· According to the Army, FARC members blow-up the trans-Andean oil-pipeline in El Boquerón (Pasto).


· The National Administrative Department for Statistics (DANE) reports there are 3,315,000 unemployed people (16,5%) in Colombia. 5,731,000 people (28,6%) are “Under-employed” or have irregular work


· According to Jorge Fernando Hoyos, Secretary of Government in San Luis, the ELN has ended the armed strike in southern Antioquia.


· At their general meeting in Paipa (Boyacá), the Conservative Party issues a statement supporting the Government in the Democratic Security Policy and a major political state reform.


· In a visit to Villavicencio (Meta) Uribe Vélez asks Colombian media to disseminate the government’s Programme for de-mobilisation. He also criticises the media for giving excessive attention to guerrilla leaders.




Sun 30- Venezuelan Army fires on Colombian paramilitaries; three policemen killed in Medellín.


· Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reports bombing and exchange of fire between Venezuelan Army and Colombian Paramilitaries near the border with Colombia.


· Authorities report three policemen killed in different barrios in Medellín by unknown armed group.


· Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez accuses FARC of using bullets “soaked in liquid cyanine”, which is prohibited by international treaties. According to Associated Press she did not say when the bullets were found or if they had killed soldiers.


· Canada’s group from Colombia Solidarity Network (Quebec) reports that international presence is arriving in the River Jiguamiandó area (Chocó) where paramilitaries are threatening local communities.


· Regional Defensor del Pueblo in Valle (Cauca) Hernando Sandoval reports more than 900 new IDPs from the municipality of Bajo Calima after fighting between FARC and paramilitaries.


· Three Mayors from La Playa, Hacarí and San Calixto (Norte de Santander) resign after receiving death threats from FARC.


· In an interview at El Colombiano, the commander of a paramilitary group which controls Medellín says they have more than 4,000 armed members in the barrios, most of them recruited from illegal gangs and militias.




Mon 31 - Colombian journalists under threat in Arauca; 150 families displaced in Cundinamarca


· Fourteen journalists named in a death list published by FARC and paramilitaries left the Rehabilitation Zone of Arauca, reporting that Police forces have continuously denied them protection due to lack of resources. The El Tiempo correspondent of was killed in Arauca by paramilitaries two weeks ago.


· El Tiempo reports that more than 100 people have been forcibly displaced in Viotá (Cundinamarca), reportedly by paramilitaries. Locals say that this armed group appeared in the area last week, accusing the community of supporting the guerrillas and killing one peasant in Loma Alta.


· Director of the Colombian Federation of Municipalities Gilberto Toro reports that Mayors and Councillors from 420 Colombian municipalities have left their constituencies because of threats made by armed groups.


· Mayor of Tibú (Norte de Santander) reports attacks carried out by FARC against the water and electricity infrastructure of the region.


· Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez announces the deployment of 8,073 new policemen in 78 municipalities around Colombia.


· Five people, including three minors, injured in an explosion in the Comuna 13 in Medellin, authorities report.


· Cambio magazine reports that members of the government met in the region of Llanos Orientales (Guaviare) with commanders of the paramilitary group Bloque Alianza del Oriente.


· Minister of Finance Roberto Junguito says that the agreement signed by the Government with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requires long-term measures like cutting public expenditure and freezing the salaries of public servants.




Tues 01-Human rights lawyer Alirio Uribe receives award in Geneva; three killed in Cundinamarca


· Alirio Uribe Muñoz, member of the Colombian NGO Lawyers Collective José Alvear Restrepo receives the 2003 Martin Annals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva.


· Two councillors killed after being reportedly kidnapped by FARC members in Villapinzón (Cundinamarca). Soldiers searching for them encountered a minefield. One soldier was killed and nine injured, El Tiempo reports.


· UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that more than 600 Colombians, including indigenous Bari have fled into the area of Rio de Oro, near the Venezuelan border. UNHCR representative based in Caracas calls for application of the international refugee law, asking the Venezuelan authorities to facilitate an assessment mission to reach this population faster.


· In a public statement the UN Office for Human Rights in Colombia condemns the death-threats received by 16 journalists from armed groups in Arauca, urging Colombian authorities to protect their lives.


· The agency Project Counselling Service (PCS) reports its concerns about the proposed referendum claiming that it undermines the protection of human rights by eliminating local Personerias (human rights offices).


· The Human Rights Report of the US State Department highlights impunity as a major contributing factor to human rights violations in Colombia. It also blames armed groups for approx. 6,000 politically motivated assassinations in 2002


· International NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the threats made by armed groups against 16 Colombian journalists in Arauca. They also express their concern for the absence of journalists and other witnesses in this Rehabilitation Zone, calling the authorities to protect civilians.


· Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel says that the conflict in Colombia is aggravating security on the northwestern Venezuelan border, reporting that paramilitaries and guerrillas from Colombia are crossing the border.




Wed 02–NGOs report human rights abuses at UN Commission; French NGOs launch campaign


· Loyola Guzmán, representative of Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared/ Detainees, expresses concern over the human rights situation in Latin America, especially in Colombia, where policies of impunity have made it impossible to investigate human rights violations.


· The French Coordination for Peace in Colombia and Secours Catholique-Caritas launch a campaign in favour of human rights in Colombia. The campaign aims to raise awareness in France and the European Union for a negotiated peace solution to the conflict.


· Friends of the Earth CENSAT AGUA VIVA report continuous harassment by Colombian forces after policemen from the intelligence unit (SIJIN) tried to break into their premises without official search warrant. They also report phone call threats from paramilitary groups.


· Governors from Nariño, Bolivar, Tolima, Antioquia and Amazonas strongly criticize the fumigation campaign against coca crops in Colombia, arguing that poverty forces more than 250,000 families to move to other areas where they continue to grow illegal crops. They are calling for the manual eradication of illicit crops.


· President’s Office announces that 27 civilians from the network of informers have been paid US $ 15,500 in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Risaralda, Bolivar and Meta.


· World Food programme (WFP) reports that armed incursions have caused the displacement of 2,500 people in Cundinamarca, warning that insecure conditions and expected new clashes could cause further displacements into Bogotá.




Thurs 03–Government gives peasants seized land; FARC violates International Humanitarian Law


· Agriculture Minister Carlos Gustavo Cano announces that the government will hand over 6,000 hectares of farmland seized from drug traffickers to 300 poor families.


· General Alberto Ospina reports that FARC violates International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by using anti-personal land mines risking civilian lives.


· Authorities announce that more than 10,000 new peasant soldiers will be sent to rural areas to reinforce security in Colombia, CM& reports.


· Canadian government announces that they have included FARC, ELN and paramilitaries groups in their terrorist list.


· Christian Strohal, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reports at the Commission on Human rights in Geneva that violating human rights in the fight against terrorism is self-defeating and counterproductive.


· US Coast Guard seizes 3 tons of cocaine in a speedboat near the Colombian pacific coast.




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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