Colombia This Week -- editing date 02/24/03


Fri 14 – Explosion during police raid in Neiva (Huila); US Intelligence plane crashes in Caquetá.

·A bomb reportedly planted by the FARC kills 18 people and wounds 37 others in Neiva (Huila) as police raid a house trying to stop an alleged presidential assassination plot, Reuters reports.

·Colombian and US officials report that a US plane hired by the US Defence Department carrying four Americans and a Colombian Army officer crash-landed in Florencia (Caquetá) according to The Times.

·Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children reports that Colombians' access to health care is faltering, adding that the Colombian Government has abdicated its responsibility to provide reproductive health services and the result is a tragic dearth of services for IDPs.

·The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó (Antioquia) reports that community leaders Wilson David and Gildardo Tuberquia, were detained with other people by Army officers in a roadblock near Apartadó.

·Colombia and United States have reached an agreement on safety procedures that would allow them to resume anti-drug flights suspended after the deaths of a US missionary and her child in Perú in 2001, when their plane was shot down, Reuters reports.

·Caroline Longanecker, spokeswoman for DynCorp, the US contractor for the State department, says that its personnel were not on board the plane which crashed in Caquetá but DynCorp is helping with the rescue and recovery, according to Associated Press.

·Three civilians and two Police officers injured in Santa Marta (Magdalena) after two bombs explode in the centre of town, El Espectador reports.


Sat 15 – Human Rights lawyer attacked in Bogotá; Police seize arsenal in Medellin;

·Colombian NGO Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo reports that unidentified gunmen have attacked one of its members, Dra. Soraya Gutierrez, in Bogotá. Prior to the attack she received several anonymous telephone calls.

·Police seize an arsenal in Medellín and capture 10 alleged members of the ELN. Director of the Colombian Police General Teodoro Campo says this is the biggest arsenal confiscated in the country, El Colombiano reports.

·Rescuers find the US plane that crashed on Thursday near Florencia and the bodies of two of its five passengers, US citizen Jennis Thomas and Colombian intelligence officer Luis Alciades Cruz. They were reportedly killed by gunshots, Reuters reports.

·According to UNESCO's report on Education only 50% of Colombian children receive a high school diploma nationwide. Colombia ranks below average for Latin American countries in attendance rates, teacher-to-student ratios and literacy.

·President of Brazil Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva considers the Colombian conflict a "dangerous source of instability in the Andean region" and asks UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for more involvement in reaching a solution to the internal conflict, El Tiempo reports.

·A group of 4,000 displaced families declare themselves "refugees" in the barrios of Northern Medellín. Many of the displaced are peasants and indigenous groups uprooted from rural to urban areas and forced to flee again from one urban barrio to another, in search of security and survival, El Colombiano reports.

·The Colombian Central Bank is due to sell US$ 1,000 m in international stocks. Director of the Bank, Miguel Urrutia Montoya says that this is necessary to control the Peso exchange rate, and that the measure is included in the International Monetary Fund agreement signed recently by the Colombian government, El Espectador reports.


Sun 16-Troops hunt for US nationals kidnapped by FARC; Gene Taylor criticises US involvement.

·Armed forces Commander Gen. Jorge Mora says that intensive operations are under way to find three US nationals kidnapped by FARC near Florencia, El Tiempo reports.

·Colombia's security forces will get US $100 m more this year in US military aid. The protection of the Cobeñas-Caño Limon pipeline accounts for most of the increase. US Democratic Representative Gene Taylor says "It is insane for United States to spend US $98 m to protect a pipeline that Occidental owns in Colombia with American lives", Newsweek reports.

·State Department spokesperson says that those aboard the US plane were US-contracted experts conducting a routine mission. He also demands the crew members be released unharmed immediately, El Espectador reports.

·Colombian Army Commander Carlos Ospina rules out the possibility of US intervention to rescue the US hostages. According to the Washington Post, FARC considers Washington's support for the Colombian government an act of war and has said in the past that they would target US citizens and interests.

·Authorities say that the bodies of two missing Colombian soldiers have been found buried in Venezuela, near the border with Colombia. Gen. Carlos Lemus said they disappeared on Feb.1 from the Venezuelan village of El Amparo, across the border from Arauca, Vanguardia Liberal reports


Mon 17 – Amnesty urges FARC to respect humanitarian law; Paramilitaries target peace activists.

·Amnesty International calls on FARC to respect the lives of three US captives reportedly contracted by the US Intelligence Agency (CIA) following the crash of the plane they were travelling in. Amnesty also urges this group to respect its commitments under international humanitarian law.


·Commander of the paramilitary group Bloque Bolivar issues orders to kill non-governmental organisation workers and people involved in grass-roots organisations in Barrancabermeja and Yondó according to Vanguardia Liberal.

·Swedish Justice Minister, Thomas Bodstrom and Defensor del Pueblo Eduardo Cifuentes, sign an agreement to finance four new Community Ombudsman Offices in Sierra Nevada Santa Marta, Alto Sinú and Catatumbo.

·Authorities report the killing of Yohan Castro, member of the Colombian Judicial Police (CTI) by unknown gunman in Medellín, El Colombiano reports.

·Financial Times reports that FARC appears to see the three American hostages as a way to force Colombian government into a humanitarian agreement to free imprisoned FARC members.

·Relief agencies meeting at the first conference of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies warn governments and donors that humanitarian action should be impartial and there should be a clear separation between military and civilian actors, Relief News reports.


Tue 18- Income-generating Projects help IDPs; Colombia wants foreign countries to isolate FARC

·The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) launches the second phase of income-generating projects to help internally displaced families (IDPs) in the city of Bucaramanga (Santander). 114 families have participated in the project and 100 others will receive assistance this year.

·Foreign Minister Carolina Barco says that Colombia wants Latin American and European nations to freeze assets of the FARC in those countries. She also says that the government is compiling a list of FARC leaders it wants extradited to face justice in Colombia, France Press reports.

·In a statement on their website the ELN rejects the use of car bombs which target civilians, like the El Nogal bomb, and urge the Colombian government to resolve the conflict through peace initiatives with armed groups.

·Two explosions in Saravena (Arauca) leave the department of Arauca without electricity for the second time this year. Police blame the ELN for the attacks, Vanguardia Liberal reports.

·US authorities are worried by the increasing number of Colombian pilots which leave the Colombia Army to join private companies after the training period. Officials from the Colombian government reject the criticism, saying that companies like Dyncorp offer better salaries., El Tiempo reports.

·UN High Commissioner for Refugees Rudd Lubbers meets with a Colombian delegation in Geneva to launch the Humanitarian Action Plan to tackle the humanitarian emergency that Colombian IDPs are facing. Jorge Rojas from CODHES and Luis Alberto Parra from the Quibdó Diocese are among the participants, El Colombiano reports.


Weds 19 – Minister announces more peasant soldiers; Indigenous communities under Army fire

·After a security meeting in Bellavista (La Guajira) Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez announces that Cesar La Guajira and Magdalena will have peasant-soldiers in three weeks El Espectador reports.

·The Wiwa Indigenous Communities of report the forced displacement of 70 families to the upper part of the Sierra de Santa Marta after Colombian Army reportedly destroyed their properties, homes, school, health centres and the Ceremonial House (Kankuras), Actualidad Ethnica reports.

·Washington-based Centre for International Policy (CIP) reports that US administration is not fulfilling promises of economic aid to peasants whose coca crops the government destroys, driving peasants to joint rebel groups. CIP also say that European allies are "too stingy" and that the Colombian government contributes too little and seems to expect America to fight the war, adding that the US could do more to combat addiction through drug treatment at home.

·One year after the Colombian Army re-take the de-militarised zone in Southern Colombia local authorities report a lack of commitment from the central government to invest in the region. According to El Tiempo armed groups control the rural areas while the police are only present in some municipalities.

·According to Los Angeles Times the kidnapping and killing of American citizens in Colombia might be a devastating blow to Uribe Vélez's hard line strategy because the US public will not accept American blood being spilt in Colombia.

·Launching an appeal, UNICEF outlines a requirement of US $ 3 m to support its humanitarian operations for affected children and women in Colombia during 2003.


Thurs 20 –US Ambassador recommends major response in Colombia;

·US Ambassador in Colombia Anne Patterson has recommended Washington make a "major and appropriate response" to FARC group who killed an American government contractor and captured three others, Reuters reports.

·Tom Davis, member of a visiting Congressional delegation in Colombia says that the killing of an American citizen on duty will provoke very strong retaliation. US State Department declines to say what steps could be taken, Associated Press reports.

·According to an editorial in El Tiempo some observers are worried that the government is focusing too much on the military side, and is not addressing the social and economic inequalities that led to the growth of the insurgency, especially in areas of Colombia where the government has little or no presence.

·Colombian Senators Jorge Robledo, Hugo Serrano and Alba Esther Ramírez report that ECOPETROL is negotiating a disadvantageous deal with US company CHEVRON-TEXACO for gas -extraction in La Guajira.


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.


If you would like to be put on the mailing list, please send an email message to the address below, indicating why you would be interested in receiving this summary.


ABColombia Group

PO Box 100

London SE1 7RT

Tel: +44-(0)20-7523-2374

Fax: +44-(0)20-7620-0719