Colombia This Week -- February 10, 2003

Fri 31 – Kidnapping statistics mount in Colombia; Paramilitary bloc severs peace contacts.

Colombian NGO País Libre reports that last year 2,986 people were kidnapped in Colombia, 61% reportedly kidnapped by guerrilla groups. Bogotá, with an increase of 71% since last year and Antioquia are the most affected regions.

The paramilitary bloc “Elmer Cardenas” pulls out of the exploratory peace contacts with the government. This group is reportedly responsible for the killing of Panamanian Indians, according to Reuters.

Uribe Vélez meets with 120 Ambassadors accredited in Colombia. According to El Colombiano, during the reception they discussed the peace talks between the government and the paramilitaries and the political status of this armed group.

The Guardian reports that in the chaos of the Colombian civil conflict freelance kidnap gangs have appeared in the cities, hiring themselves to armed groups. It also says that 62 people died in captivity last year, among them children, for non-payment of ransom.

Mayor of Medellín Luis Perez names 35 new “peace judges” elected by the local community in the barrios. He says that local and community leaders should play a major role in the resolution of small conflicts within the city, El Colombiano reports.

Reuters reports that Colombian paramilitaries were the fastest growing illegal armed group in Colombia up to December last year. It also says that their rapid growth and involvement in the drug industry have caused divisions within the AUC.


Sat 01 – Government names Commission for FARC contacts; H.R. group reports death-threats.

Government announces that the ex-minister Argelino Garzón and the Vice-President and the Secretary of the Colombian Conference of Bishops, Luis Augusto Castro and Dario Echeverri, will facilitate the contacts with FARC to negotiate a Humanitarian Agreement.

UK-based Colombia Solidarity Campaign reports death-threats received in London directed towards Andy Higginbottom prior to a trip to Colombia.

The Colombia Project of Peace Brigades International reports the increasing level of death-threats received by Danilo Rueda, member of the Inter-Ecclesiastic Commission for Justice and Peace. They urge the Colombian authorities to guarantee his security and protect the life of Colombian human rights defenders.

Speaking at a ceremony at the Tres Esquinas military base Uribe Vélez aborts a humanitarian commission requested by ELN to retrieve journalists Scott Dalton and Ruth Morris, accusing the guerrillas of trying to gain respectability abroad, Associated Press reports.

Washington Post reports that the intensification of war against the guerrillas that Uribe Vélez promised last year is taking shape, causing an increase in combat and violence after a year in which guerrillas and paramilitary attacks declined. So far this year, the guerrillas have stepped up military activity in northwestern Antioquia, southwestern Nariño, central Bolivar and eastern Arauca.


Sun 02 – UN Office suggests regional peace talks in Arauca; ELN releases two foreign journalists

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia presents a report on Arauca, stressing that civilians are suffering from increasing violence and reporting high numbers of selective killings. In the city of Tame alone, 144 people were killed in 2002, compared to 86 in the previous year. The Office also proposes regional talks with armed groups to ease the violence.

Colombian authorities order a curfew from 8pm till 5am in the Rehabilitation Zone of Arauca after unnamed armed group blew up an electrical transmission tower. Police blame both ELN and FARC groups for the attack, Vanguardia Liberal reports.

Uribe Vélez launches the 13,000 strong Sixth Division of the Colombian Army in Tres Esquinas, thanking US for its aid through Plan Colombia and encouraging Army commanders “to take whatever decisions they have to, to defeat terrorism”, El Tiempo reports.

National Council of Economic and Social Policy (CONPES) passes the Development Plan (Plan de Desarrollo) of Uribe’s government for the next four years, increasing the final budget by 4 billion pesos, (US $1,3 m). This Plan needs to be approved by the Congress and the Senate next week.

George Bush asks the US Congress to approve US$ 574.6 m for military aid to Colombian anti-narcotic and anti-terrorist strategy. According to the US State Department these funds have been blocked for more than 18 months, El Tiempo reports.


Mon 03 – Government rejects UN proposal for peace talks; 6 people massacred in La Guajira .

Defense Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez rejects the UN proposal for regional peace talks with armed groups in Arauca, saying peace talks must be handled on a national level, El Tiempo reports.

Six taxi-drivers are killed by paramilitaries in Villanueva (La Guajira). Relatives say they attended a meeting with a paramilitary commander with another 29 drivers and were later found dead, El Espectador reports.

Colombian Communist newspaper VOZ launches a donation campaign in European countries and US to collect $ 136,000. Director Carlos Lozano says they do not receive help “from a single Communist party” and are asking Colombians living abroad for support, El Tiempo reports.



The Colombian Constitutional Court asks the Government and the Colombian Congress for documents, letters and minutes on the process of the agreement for the Referendum text after finding some irregularities in the voting process, El Espectador reports.

El Tiempo reports that Colombian civil groups and NGOs will launch a movement called Confluencia Democrática next month. The movement aims to defend the social democratic state and is against the war. Those promoting the initiative include: Redepaz, Plural, Viva la Ciudadanía, Red Nacional de Mujeres, Planeta Paz, Comision Colombiana de Juristas and Pastoral Social (from the Catholic Church).

According to El Colombiano, Guillermo Gaviria and Gilberto Echeverri (Governor and Commissioner for Peace in Antioquia kidnapped last year by the FARC) are facilitating contacts between the Government and the FARC.

Attending a meeting in Granada (Antioquia), Vice-President Francisco Santos offers 7,500 m pesos (US $ 2.5 m) to invest in the peace laboratory of Southern Antioquia. According to El Colombiano, the 23 Mayors from the region are trying to raise 128,000 m pesos (US $ 44.3 m) for this region badly affected by the armed conflict.

Uribe Vélez says that oil royalties earmarked for Colombia’s poor states and counties are being channelled to armed groups, El Tiempo reports.


Tues 04 – AUC leader rejects terrorist label; Women’s NGO reports threats by paramilitaries.

Paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño says in a radio interview that he is not a terrorist and he will not go to US to face drug charges if he is labelled a terrorist there. He is accused of exporting 17 tons of cocaine to European countries and United States since 1997.

Colombian NGO Organización Femenina Popular reports death-threats by paramilitaries against Jackeline Rojas and Yolanda Becerra in Cantagallo (Bolivar), accusing the local police of connivance with this armed group.

Hernando Hernández, leader of the Oil Workers Union (USO) and member of the Commission to facilitate the peace talks with the ELN group, receives new death-threats from the paramilitaries in Barrancabermeja while he is under house arrest, magazine Cambio reports.

The National Royalties Commission, which collects and disburses the oil royalties in Colombia, freezes US $40 m in funds assigned to Arauca for irregularities. In Colombia, for each barrel of oil produced, 20% goes into a fund that this Commission oversees. Total royalty disbursements from 2002 will be US $630 m, 0.8% of Colombian gross domestic product, Dow Jones report.

Members of the III Army Brigade, the Police and the Department Administrative for Security (DAS) in Valle del Cauca pay $4.8 m pesos (US $ 1,661) to 15 members of the Network of Informers for the information they provide to the authorities, CM&I reports.

The Department for Administrative Security (DAS) raids the family house of lawyer and human rights defender Juan José Landinez in Bucaramanga, Colectivo de Abogados reports.


Weds 05 – Trial of the three IRA members resumes; PDPMM announces more programmes.

A vital witness in the case against three Irish accused of training Colombian FARC forces refuses to testify against them, fearing for his life. The Judge adjourns the trial until Friday, asking authorities to protect the witness, AP reports.

PDPMM (Programa de Paz y Desarrollo del Magdalena Medio) reports in the bulletin Pertinentes that 251 new projects financed by the European Union have been approved in 13 municipalities in the Magdalena Medio region, benefiting 46,930 people. It also reports that the Japanese government will finance two new hospitals in this region this year.

New presidential decree places more obligations on Colombian’s 160,000 security guards, -a force bigger than the Army or the national Police-, to pass potential intelligence to the authorities. Some businessmen see dangers in forcing private enterprise into the government’s security strategy because of fear of reprisals, Associated Press reports.

Environmentalist George Monbiot claims in an opinion piece in The Guardian, that the reason for the recent increase of US military involvement in Colombia is to secure those parts of the country that are rich in natural resources for Colombian landowners and foreign multinationals.


Thurs 06 – Uribe extends state of emergency for final 90 days; 40 paramilitaries dead in combat.

Uribe Vélez extends for a final 90-day period the state of emergency that grants special powers to the Army and the Police forces. The president says he wants to pass legislation in Congress to make the provision permanent, despite the fact this is unconstitutional, Reuters reports.

Colombia’s private telecommunication companies are receiving calls from officials requesting greater cellular coverage for Army and Police forces and demanding total cooperation with their security plans, according to Reuters.

Combat between FARC and paramilitaries in La Hormiga (Putumayo) leaves 40 paramilitaries dead according to El Tiempo.

Colombian NGO Credhos (Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights) reports an increase in forced disappearances in Barrancabermeja, urging the government to re-take control of the city and investigate the crimes committed by paramilitary forces.


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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