Colombia This Week -- editing date 01/13/03


Thur 02 and Christmas Period:

Colombia's Senate extends the State of Emergency; ELN suspends peace talks in Cuba.

·Colombia's Senate extends the state of emergency declared in August. This is the third and final 90-day period under the current law.

·In a statement on their website, ELN suspends exploratory talks with Uribe Vélez's government after criticising the measures adopted in its anti-guerrilla campaign and for leading the country into an unjust war.

·The US, British and Italian embassies in Colombia announce temporary closures over the Christmas period as a response to the bomb threats made by unidentified armed groups.

·Three soldiers are killed when alleged FARC members ambush a military patrol in La Hormiga (Putumayo). Officials report that another soldier is missing and one other is wounded.

·Uribe Vélez gives a New Year's Eve ultimatum to the guerrillas and paramilitaries, warning them "to negotiate peace or face defeat on the battlefield", according to Reuters.

·Combat between FARC and AUC members leaves 50 people dead near the village of San Pablo (Bolivar).

·According to officials from UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), last year more than 200,000 people were forced to flee their homes in Colombia, a country that presents the worst humanitarian situation in the Western Hemisphere.

·ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) authorised by Uribe Vélez to facilitate a possible humanitarian exchange of prisoners with FARC.

·Uribe Vélez's administration is due to start peace talks with paramilitary groups on January 20 after agreeing on a preliminary timetable, El Colombiano reports.

·Two officials from the Colombian Army sentenced to 18 years for the assassination attempt against Wilson Borja, President of Trade Union Fenaltrase, in 2000.


Fri 03 – Police report 28,230 killings in 2002; Five bus drivers killed by ELN in Antioquia.

·Director of Colombian Police, General Teodoro Campo reports that 28,230 people were killed in Colombia in 2002. In the cities, Medellín with 4,933, Cali with 2,661 and Bogotá with 2,448 have the worst statistics. This confirms the intensification of the urban conflict over the last six months.

·Monseñor Flavio Calle, Bishop of Sonson-Rionegro, makes an urgent appeal to all armed groups in the Eastern Antioquia region to sign a Humanitarian Agreement after five bus drivers were killed in San Luis (Antioquia) by suspected ELN members.

·Carlos Lozano, leader of the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) and editor of the VOZ magazine says that Uribe Vélez is trying to close the special protection programme for members of his party and the Union Patriótica by reducing the budget for personal protection and vehicles.

·Uribe Vélez signs the Labour Reform Bill approved by the Parliament and Senate. The bill, which has been criticised by Colombian Trade Unions and groups representing civil society, provoked a general strike and includes some demands made by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a new loan of more than US$ 9 m for next year.

·Spanish authorities say that after the first year with visa requirements for Colombians travelling to Spain they have reduced drug-smuggling and detentions in Spanish airports, delivering a much better service to Colombian citizens.

·German businessman Heiner Hanse kidnapped by unknown armed group near Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca).


Sat 04 – Colombian emigrants send home US $ 1,756 m; Army aborts kidnap of 22.

·In a new report on Colombian Migration, Colombian NGO Codhes says that the 1.36 million Colombians living abroad sent US$1,756 m home last year. These figures represent more money than the export of Colombian products such as coffee or coal.

·Government troops free 22 people detained by ELN members after a gun battle at a roadblock near Santa Marta (Magdalena) El Colombiano reports.

·The Colombian Congress estimates that Colombians moved more than US$ 30 b out of the country last year, according to El Colombiano.

·Fernando Treviño, Mayor of Fortul (Arauca) leaves after receiving new threats from armed groups. 10 councillors from this municipality already resigned their posts, leaving Fortul without any civil authority.


Sun 05 – Foreign Debt increased last year; Plan Colombia NGOs investigated for corruption

·Colombian external debt represents 47% of GDP, increasing last year to US$ 37.727 m, according to El Tiempo.

·El Espectador reports that five NGOs contracted by the Colombian Government to deliver programmes with funds of Plan Colombia in Putumayo are being investigated on allegations of corruption and accounting irregularities.

·Foreign analysts recommend investing in Colombia and other world emergent economies this year as a result of the trends of the global economy, according to The New York Times.

·Uribe Vélez says he will not request the suspension of arrest warrants for paramilitary leaders before the first round of talks scheduled to take place this month, according to El Colombiano.

·Nica Pacari, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, underlines the need to reduce the negative impact of Plan Colombia in Ecuador by reinforcing the security measures and immigration procedures between both countries.

·Uribe Vélez renews his calls for a peace process with the ELN according to El Espectador.


Mon 06 – Government to reform anti-terrorist laws; 25 paramilitaries detained in Cauca region.

·Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez says that the government will present new law reforms for defence and anti-terrorism in order to provide judicial powers to the Army after the Colombian Congress and the Constitutional Court rejected the proposal.

·El Tiempo reports that the Judicial Police of the Attorney General's Office arrests 25 paramilitaries in Cauca accused of massacres and selective killings of peasants, trade unionist and human rights defenders.

·PDPMM (Programa de Paz del Magdalena Medio) in its bulletin "Pertinentes" underlines the difficult situation that the community of Microahumado (Sur de Bolívar) is facing after hundreds of paramilitaries occupy houses of civilians.

·More than 3000 people are killed in Colombian each year as a result of revenge and domestic violence according to El Tiempo. These figures represent 16% of the total annual killings,

·Colombian Congressmen and Law experts express uncertainty over the Government's Referendum proposals while the Constitutional Court is due to review the procedures, El Espectador reports.


Tues 07- Eight police killed in a road ambush; 42% increase in aerial spraying last year.

·Eight Police officers killed and five more injured when suspected FARC members ambush a police convoy in a road near Quipile (Cundinamarca).

·Colombian Anti-narcotics Police announce an increase of 42% in aerial spraying of coca crops last year, specially in the Putumayo area were Plan Colombia is being implemented, El Espectador reports.

·The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartadó accuses the Army of threatening civilians, leaving grenades on their crop fields and occupying their settlements. It also urges the government and the international community to guarantee their safe return to the settlement of La Unión after being forcibly displaced by paramilitaries three months before.

·ELN members attack the settlement of El Pesebre in Tame (Arauca) killing Gerardo Neira, leader of the local committee for Civil Defence.

·One TransMilenio Bus destroyed by a firebomb and two bombs de-activated in Bogotá after suspected FARC militias leave unattended packets, El Espectador reports.

·Vice-President Francisco Santos visits Brazil for the first time seeking more co-operation against terrorism and security reinforcement at the Amazonian border.

·Trade Unions and civil society movements will campaign for people to abstain in the referendum vote. They demand the same access to mass media as those in favour of a YES or NO vote, El Tiempo reports.


Weds 08 – Amnesty fears for security of Colombian NGOs; France to accept FARC prisoners.

·Amnesty International fears for the safety of Henry Palomo, from the Colombian NGO ASODESAMUBA (an association for displaced people in Barrancabermeja) and for the members of the Peasant Association of the Cimitarra River Valley after paramilitaries groups detain and torture one of its members near Barrancabermeja.

·Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez says that French government is willing to receive FARC prisoners in France in a possible humanitarian exchange. She also confirms the involvement of the UN in the process.

·A Venezuelan navy ship docks in Barranquilla to pick up basic food items. The Colombian Government has already provided some shipments of milk, meat and other basic food items to Venezuela but rejected a request for gasoline, according to El Tiempo.

·A special Human Rights group from the Attorney General's Office visits the Cauca department to investigate 186 cases related to massacres.

·Colombian Bishop Orlando Corrales says the Colombian Catholic Church applauds the peace negotiations with paramilitaries, and urges the guerrillas groups ELN and FARC to join the official plan for reconciliation, Vanguardia Liberal reports.


Thurs 09 – Car bomb kills 4, injures 15 in Arauca; EU countries to support ELN peace process.

·A car bomb explodes near Fortul (Arauca), killing four people and wounding at least 15 others at a military checkpoint near where US Army Green Berets and other US special forces troops are this month to begin training Colombian troops in counterinsurgency tactics.

·Uribe Vélez meets with the Ambassadors of Spain, France, Cuba, Norway and Switzerland and authorises them to re-activate the contacts with the ELN group after bilateral talks in Cuba failed last December.

·Jorge Gómez Lizarazo, Defensor del Pueblo in the Magdalena Medio region activates the early warning system for Micoahumado. He requests the immediate presence of the Colombian Police and Army due to the presence of illegal armed groups within the civil population, Vanguardia Liberal reports.

·Yolanda Pulecio, Ingrid Betancourt's mother demands that the Government prioritise a humanitarian exchange of prisoners by forming a commission to negotiate the process, El Tiempo reports.

·Uribe Vélez says that Democratic Security, the battle against corruption and the re-activation of the domestic economy are the priorities for his government in 2003.


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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