Colombia This Week -- February 3, 2003

Fri 24 – Foreign journalists abducted by ELN; CREDHOS condemns terror campaign in Barranca.

·The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia condemns the kidnapping of reporters Ruth Morris and Scott Dalton by the ELN, demanding that the Central Command free them and respect the free exercise of journalism.

·Colombian NGO Credhos (Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights) condemns the impunity that paramilitaries in Barrancabermeja enjoy from local and regional authorities, after 14 people were killed in a terror campaign announced last December.

·Kris Janowski, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 472 indigenous Panamanians, including 324 children, fled in search of protection to Boca de Cupe (central Darien region) after their villages were attacked by Colombian paramilitaries. He also said that Panama hosts 1,515 registered refugees in this region, most of them Colombian citizens.

·A delegation from the Inter-American Press Association urges Uribe Vélez to protect journalists operating in Colombia and to punish those who kill and kidnap them.

·Colombian Government names Oscar Muñoz López new Governor of Arauca, El Tiempo reports.

·According to El Tiempo, Jorge Gómez Lizarazo, Defensor del Pueblo in the Magdalena Medio region reports having information about a meeting held by the leaders of the paramilitaries in which they have decided to initiate a "social cleansing programme" aimed at delinquents, drug addicts and anyone connected with the insurgency in Barrancabermeja.

·Mines and Energy Minister Luis Ernesto Mejía renews guarantees and security for the Oil industry El Espectador reports.

·Colombian NGO REINICIAR urges Colombia's Ombudsman office to activate the Early Alert System (SAT) with reference to a possible paramilitary incursion in the city of Calamar (Guaviare).


Sat 25- Uribe says Colombia is major global threat; Government meets paramilitaries for talks

·According to El Colombiano, Uribe Vélez says at the World Economic Forum in Davos that "Colombia is potentially a worse threat for the International Community than Iraq" arguing that "drugs and terrorism will destroy the Amazon and regional and global democracy". He asks for more aid from the international community.

·An official spokesman reports that government and paramilitary representatives met in northern Colombia this week for the first time. According to unofficial sources a Catholic bishop has been acting as a facilitator, AP reports.

·President of Panama Mireya Moscoso says that Colombian paramilitaries have threatened to attack again the indigenous communities in the Darien region. She asks US authorities for two helicopters and humanitarian aid to protect the region, El Espectador reports.

·Ex- Colombian Prosecutor and member of the civil committee for peace negotiations Jaime Bernal Cuellar says he is against amnesties for the paramilitaries, asking their leaders to submit to justice, El Tiempo reports.

·Uribe Vélez promises that he will not issue "a single norm that restricts freedom of the press" during his term and signs an act that aims to promote continent-wide press freedom, after a delegation of International Journalists visit Colombia, AP reports.


Sun 26 – Car bomb kills seven in Arauca; Colombia's Navy seizes paramilitary arms shipment;

·A car bomb reportedly planted by FARC explodes near a military patrol in Pueblo Nuevo (Arauca), killing six soldiers and the civilian car driver. Another nine soldiers and a civilian are seriously injured, El Tiempo reports.

·Two paramilitary boats with rifles, ammunition and communication equipment have been seized by a navy patrol on the San Juan River (Chocó), El Espectador reports.

·In a statement on their website FARC leaders criticise the government's peace talks with the paramilitaries for being "a way to grant political status to this group and later incorporate them as soldier-farmers and volunteers for the network of informers", France-Press reports.

·The Procurator Generals's Office suspends Hector Hernan Sanchez, Police Commander in Heliconia (Antioquia) for 90 days without salary for permitting the incursion of a paramilitary group that massacred four peasants, El Espectador reports.

·Authorities report that an armed group killed four men in Sahagun (Cordoba). Colombian Police blame the ERP (Popular Revolutionary Army) for the killings El Tiempo reports.

·Luis Alfonso Vargas, Secretary at the Peruvian Embassy in Colombia is killed in Bogotá after a shooting incident in a restaurant.


Mon 27 –Violence increases in Arauca; ELN hold kidnapped journalists

·Interior Minister Fernando Londoño insists that the government is still in control of Arauca state despite the violence. Reports from the Colombian press say that the violence has increased in this department since the government declared it a Rehabilitation Zone, The Herald reports.

·In a radio message the ELN claims responsibility for abducting American Scott Dalton and Briton Ruth Morris on Tuesday in Arauca. They also say the two will be released when "political and military conditions permit", El Tiempo reports.



·The Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) criticises the Colombian State for nominating Mr. Nieto Navia as a Judge for the International Criminal Court (ICC). They argue that Nieto Navia has no commitment to human rights.

·Colombian government launch a campaign against institutional corruption based on the participation of citizens and the network of informers, El Tiempo reports.

·PDPMM (Programa de Paz y Desarrollo del Magdalena Medio) reports in the bulletin Pertinentes that armed groups left Microahumado last week after intensive negotiations between local leaders, the Catholic Church and representatives of the paramilitaries.


Tues 28– Paramilitary cease-fire under scrutiny; Amnesty fears for civilians in Meta.

·Colombia's government says it is investigating the massacre of five indigenous Panamanians allegedly committed by paramilitaries, who declared a unilateral cease-fire last month.

·Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of civilians living in El Castillo (Meta) after a number of death threats and killings have been carried out by paramilitaries.

·Visiting the Pentagon, the Head of the Colombian Army, General Carlos Ospina says that most allegations of human rights abuses by the Colombian military "are false and politically motivated", El Tiempo reports.

·British Petroleum (BP) announces 120 job losses in Colombia as part of a global reshuffle. BP now employs 600 people in Colombia and produces 220,000 barrels of oil every day, CM&I reports.

·The Christian Science Monitor suggests that a greater presence and involvement of US troops in Colombia may turn reporters into the new target for illegal armed groups.

·In an unprecedented decision the Superior Ecuadorian Court orders the Ecuadorian State to compensate peasants affected by fumigation at the Colombian border.


Weds 29 – FARC releases Colombian TV crew; Army announces deployment of peasant soldiers.

·Five members of the RCN television crew held last weekend by FARC members in Saravena have been released near Tame (Arauca), Associated Press reports.

·Army announces the deployment of peasant soldiers next month to 144 Colombian isolated villages. The plan of turning campesinos into soldiers has been strongly criticised by Human Rights Watch (HRW) because "it could lead to a legalization of the paramilitary partners of the army", Associated Press reports.

·Members of Congress criticise the Government's plan to offer amnesties to paramilitary fighters who demobilise. They say that paramilitaries are not fighting against the State and therefore cannot commit political crimes, which carry the possibility of an amnesty, El Espectador reports.

·ELN says it is prepared to hand over the kidnapped foreign journalists Scott Dalton and Ruth Morris to a humanitarian commission warning authorities that they will not be able to guarantee their safety if the Colombian Army mount a rescue attempt, El Colombiano reports.

·Research carried out in the Arauca region by human rights group Reporters without Borders concludes that local authorities systematically violate the freedom of the press. According to the investigation there is a black list of threatened journalists after paramilitaries declared them military targets, Pravda reports.

·Defensor del Pueblo Eduardo Cifuentes says that the Rehabilitation Zones are formally "a governmental declaration of war zones". This has generated a reaction from guerrilla groups, and a massive paramilitary incursion in the Arauca region, El Colombiano reports.

·Foreign Minister Carolina Barco announces 15 new police stations at the Panama border after meeting with Panamanian minister Harmodio Arias in Bogotá, El Colombiano reports.


Thurs 30 - UN condemns FARC for massacre in San Carlos; NGOs report Police abuses in Cali.

·The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia presents a report on the massacre of San Carlos, condemning FARC for the killings.

·Colombian NGO NOMADESC and Trade Unions in Cali report serious abuses committed by the security forces during a demonstration against the privatisation of EMCALI in Cali of more than 5,000.

·FARC admits responsibility for the killing of 17 peasants in San Carlos last week, according to El Colombiano.

·Four people killed by paramilitaries in Alto de Piedra (Antioquia). An unnamed official source says they had deserted from this group two weeks ago, according to El Mundo.

·Uribe VéIez, fearing excessive devaluation of the Colombian Peso, asks the Bank of the Republic to collaborate with the Government's Economic Policy. The Colombian Peso has been devaluated by 31% against the US dollar in the last twelve months, El Espectador reports.

·Camilo Gómez, ex-High Commissioner for Peace in Colombia says in Madrid that a peace agreement with armed groups is possible in Colombia. He also defends the peace negotiation with FARC and the involvement of the international community in the process.

·The Colombian government is due to take control of the royalties from the oil production (regalías) in Arauca, after reports suggest that some of this money administered by local authorities has been diverted to armed groups, El Tiempo reports.

·FARC members reportedly kidnap Hollman Vargas, Mayor of Sácama (Casanare). He had already resigned from his post months ago but the Government refused to accept the resignation according to El Colombiano.



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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