Colombia This Week -- editing date 17/02/03


Fri 07 – Car bomb explodes in Bogotá; Minister Londoño missing after possible plane crash.

·A car bomb explodes in El Nogal social club in Bogotá, killing at least 25 people, wounding more than 150. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, El Tiempo reports.

·Colombian Minister Juan Luis Londoño is still missing after his aircraft was presumed to have crashed in the Andes with three aides and a pilot on board. Londoño, 44, is a prominent figure in Uribe Vélez's plans for social and economic reform, and heads the Ministry of Social Protection, El Tiempo reports.

·Army says seven soldiers were killed in Valledupar after accidentally detonating a grenade, El Tiempo reports.

·Former FARC member Edwing Rodriguez explains to a court in Bogotá how he witnessed three foreigners giving weapons training to guerrilla members. The trial of the three Irish men is adjourned till March 25, Financial Times reports.

·The White House sends Congress a request for US $110 m in "good old-fashioned military assistance" for Colombia, an increase of 15% from last year. Human rights activists express concern about this increase due to the military's association with paramilitary groups, Washington Post reports.

·Colombian Constitutional Court passes the investigation of the Santo Domingo case to the Attorney General's office after encountering obstructions and irregularities in the Military Justice system, according to El Colombiano.

·Bernard Valero, spokesperson from the French Foreign Ministry, says that France is backing the Commission named by Uribe Vélez to facilitate contacts between FARC and the Colombian Government.

·Unknown armed groups attack the police station in Saravena (Arauca), El Colombiano reports.


Sat 08 – Vice President blames FARC for car bomb; Coalition launches Referendum campaign

·Vice-President Francisco Santos says he has no doubt it was FARC that placed the car bomb in El Nogal. Colombian officials earlier said that drug traffickers angered by Uribe's vows to wipe out the cocaine trade were among the suspects for the attack, El Espectador reports.

·President of the Central Trade Union Federation of Colombia (CUT) Carlos Rodriguez launches the Campaign to Abstain in the Referendum. He calls on armed groups not to obstruct it, El Tiempo reports.

·Uribe Velez issues a new appeal to armed groups after suspected guerrilla members fire at a helicopter searching for the missing airplane carrying welfare minister Juan Luis Londoño, El Espectador reports.

·US State department blames FARC for the El Nogal car bomb. President Bush condemns "this barbaric act of terrorism ", offering help to find the bombers, Reuters reports.

·In a statement on their website FARC do not claim responsibility for Friday's explosion. They claim that Club El Nogal is "where politicians and businessmen often meet with spokesmen for the paramilitaries". Interior Minister Fernando Londoño has until recently been President of El Nogal, Reuters reports.

·Uribe Vélez complains of what he says is "international tolerance for terrorists and the drug money that funds them", after visiting the Club El Nogal. El Espectador reports.

·El Tiempo reports that 8 municipalities in Putumayo and 15 in Casanare have no electricity after suspected FARC members explode a power station in Agua Azul (Casanare).

·Michael Fruhling, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia calls on armed groups to respect International Humanitarian Law and allow the Red Cross, medical missions and other teams to work freely.


Sun 09–UNSecretary General condemns attack;National and International NGOs call for dialogue.


·Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan condemns the El Nogal bombing "and all other terrorist attacks by any actor in the Colombian conflict", expressing sympathy for the victims and the families, UN news reports.

·Chicago Daily Law Bulletin criticises the Colombian justice system, arguing that judicial proceedings are often used to block rather than serve justice. It also says that Colombian prosecutors and judges often find themselves and their witnesses threatened or murdered.

·Colombian NGO El Colectivo de Abogados reports that various members of the Colombian Police have been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the kidnapping and killing of six FARC militia members in Bogotá in 1996, in the case known as the ‘Massacre of Mondoñedo' .

·El Tiempo reports that the timetable for the peace talks between the paramilitaries and the Government will take one year and will include a possible demobilisation process before December, with ex-US president and Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter acting as a principal witness.

·According to El Espectador, last December the Foreign Ministry created 81 new diplomatic posts around the world, increasing the budget by 3,555 m pesos (US$ 1.3m). Un-named sources from the Ministry say that functionaries doubt the commitment of the Minister Carolina Barco to the austerity and meritocracy policies that she announced last August.

·Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Colombian NGOs condemn in different statements the El Nogal bombing, calling on armed groups to respect international humanitarian law and the government to reach a humanitarian agreement to ensure the protection of civilians.





Mon10–Carlos Castaño threatens the Abstention Campaign;ELN declares armed strike in Arauca.

·In an interview on Caracol Radio, paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño says that opposition to Uribe's Referendum is subversive, adding that leaders of the Campaign to Abstain are "targets that have to be eliminated", El Espectador reports.

·ELN groups declare an "armed strike" in Arauca for the next five days, claiming that abuses committed by the Army, the US and paramilitary forces are only affecting the civilians of the region, Vanguardia Liberal reports.

·More than 400 human rights workers and peace activists protest against the El Nogal bomb attack in front of the hulk of the club, urging the government to start paving the way for peace talks. Jorge Rojas says, "we call upon the country to denounce terrorism, but also to denounce authoritarianism", El Espectador reports.

·Mayor of Apartadó (Antioquia) Mario Agudelo says that Carlos Castaño's proposal for a de-militarised zone in Urabá is acceptable, El Colombiano reports.

·The Foundation for the Freedom of Press reports that police officers attacked a photographer from El Espectador in Bogotá last Friday while he was covering the El Nogal bombing. Two incidents are reported each week from journalists on abuses by the Army and Police forces.


Tues 11 – FARC wants de-militarised zone to negotiate;Minister Ramirez ties aid request to terror

·In a public statement FARC leaders say "Without a de-militarised area, a meeting between the government and a FARC Commission is impossible". They demand the creation of a senior government team to negotiate the release of 80 high-profile hostages, El Espectador reports.

·Defence Minister Marta Lucía Ramirez says in Washington that she will use the El Nogal bombing to press the US administration for renewed assistance in battling terrorism in Colombia, El Tiempo reports.

·Rescue teams find the wreckage of a small plane that disappeared last week in the Andean mountains and say Colombia's Welfare Minister and four other people aboard the aircraft may be dead, Reuters reports.

·Congressman Wilson Borja criticises the Referendum, saying it is ‘full of tricks', such as allowing people to vote only once instead of for each of the 19 questions. 'The referendum is ridiculous. Almost everything included has already attained legal status, and what are really being decided on are financial policies against workers, such as lowering salaries and reducing pensions' Borja is a member of the Democratic Pole movement that is campaigning for active abstention , Soldepaz reports.

·In a statement on their website the AUC condition their cease-fire on the government's ability to fight the guerrilla groups.

·Uribe Vélez says that the Irish Republican Army and the Basque separatists ETA have helped guerrillas in bomb-making techniques, and adds that the international community should do more to isolate the terrorists by freezing their assets abroad, El Colombiano reports.


Weds 12 – Minister's body found in Andes crash site; Central America condemns terrorism.

·Rescue workers find the bodies of Welfare Minister Juan Luis Londoño and four other people. Londoño had a major role in Uribe's government, leading on and campaigning for pension and labour reforms as required by the International Monetary Fund, El Espectador reports.

·Central-American countries sign a joint declaration of solidarity with Colombia in its fight against "terrorist violence" that "affects the peace and stability of the entire region". Leaders from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá signed the declaration, El Tiempo reports.

·Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio refuses to attribute the El Nogal bombing to the FARC before the investigation is completed. He also says that employees at El Nogal are being investigated to see if they participated in the attack, Deutsche Presse reports.

·A senior European Diplomat says more attacks by the FARC seem likely to happen in the heart of Bogotá in places where the elite go. He believes that FARC are pressuring the government to make concessions on negotiations, Associated Press reports.


Thurs 13 – 24 disappeared in Tame (Arauca); Uribe boosts diplomatic offensive against FARC

·Mayor of Tame (Arauca) Jorge Bernal reports the forced disappearance of 24 people in the last two weeks, reportedly by paramilitaries. The Commander of the XVIII Brigade General Carlos Lemus says he hasn´t heard any reports of disappearances. The Regional Human Rights Committee Joel Sierra asks the authorities to explain how such disappearances can happen in a Consolidation and Rehabilitation Zone controlled by the Army and Police.

·Stepping up a diplomatic offensive against FARC, Uribe Vélez sends a letter to the Presidents of Brazil, Ecuador, Perú and Venezuela asking them" to designate the FARC as a terrorist organisation"

·An international Commission of Solidarity with the Colombian Trade Union movement receives death threats from paramilitaries in Cantagallo (Sur de Bolivar). Trade Union representatives from the United Kingdom, Germany, Uruguay and Perú are participating in the Commission.

· A bomb attached to a bicycle explodes near a drug store in Saravena (Arauca), killing a police officer and wounding another, Vanguardia Liberal reports.

·Police arrest Joaquin Valencia, suspected Colombian drug lord and seizes his home in Cali. The US have issued an extradition request for him on drug-trafficking charges, AP 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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