InfoBrief - January 27, 2003


InfoBrief is a weekly news summary of events in the U.S. and Colombia produced and distributed by the U.S. Office on Colombia. Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London. Other sources include U.S. and Latin American newspapers, and reports from non-profit and grassroots groups. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Office on Colombia. If you would like to receive InfoBrief please contact indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.


U.S. Current Affairs & Media


CIP Publishes Colombia Report, “The ‘War on Drugs’ Meets the ‘War on Terror’” The International Policy Report, released on January 24 by the Center for International Policy, asserts that U.S. assistance and Colombian efforts have failed to protect human rights, promote democracy and the rule of law, and decrease drug production because the strategy emphasizes military and police assistance. “Security is of crucial importance,” declares the CIP report, “but it is achieved through neither helicopters nor a focus on drugs and oil pipelines.” The report recommended several changes to U.S. policy in Colombia in order to achieve true security, lower drug production, and demobilization of armed groups. The report is online at:


AUC Detains Three Americans On January 13 the AUC paramilitaries detained Robert Young Pelton, a Canadian-American war reporter, and two American citizens near the border of Panama. Pelton and Americans Mark Wedeven and Megan Smaker were freed to representatives of the Catholic Church on January 23 and appeared to be unharmed.


ELN Holding Two International Reporters British reporter Ruth Morris and U.S. photographer Scott Dalton were on assignment for the Los Angeles Times in Arauca when the ELN guerrillas detained them. The guerrilla group warned that the release of the two reporters would depend on undefined political and military conditions. Although Colombian journalists are frequently targets of kidnappings and killings, foreign journalists are rarely singled out. According to a statement released by the ELN, the two journalists were detained for entering the area without permission.


The S&P Affirms Colombia’s Long-term Sovereign Rating On January 22 Standard & Poor’s Rating Service affirmed that Colombia’s long-term foreign currency credit is less vulnerable to nonpayment, but it continues to face ongoing uncertainties to adverse economic conditions. Analyst Richar Francis stated that the negative outlook reflects the uncertainty surrounding a proposed referendum to freeze spending for two years and reduce pensions, in addition to other political and economic changes to the constitution. According to Mr. Francis, despite the negative outlook there has been a boost in domestic confidence due to the passage of fiscal measures in late December. The S&P asserted that the rise in confidence should stimulate private sector demand, leading to higher economic growth.


The OAS Accuses Nicaragua of Negligence On January 20 a report released by the Organization of American States (OAS) accused Nicaragua of negligence for authorizing a deal that allowed 3,000 rifles meant for Panama to go to the AUC paramilitaries. The Washington-based OAS faulted Nicaragua for not doing more to verify the authenticity of falsified Panamanian purchase orders it used to go ahead with the sale. The scandal erupted in November 2001, after a Mexican-crewed ship under the Panamanian flag unloaded the rifles in Colombia, where they were subsequently delivered to the AUC.


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Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London


Colombia This Week editing date: 01/27/03




Fri 17 - FARC reportedly kill 16 peasants in Antioquia; Economic cuts hit Uribe Velez’s popularity

FARC members reportedly kill 17 peasants in San Carlos (Southern Antioquia).

Uribe Velez’s campaign for a public spending freeze prompts a fall in his high approval rating by 8 points, (from 75 to 68). The Government plans to hold a referendum by midyear to approve cuts in public spending and state pensions to meet austerity targets agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría del Pueblo) takes “Formal Action” against the Interior and Defence Ministry, the Army and the Police to ensure compensation is paid to those affected by the attack on Bojayá last May

A Police helicopter crashes in Nariño killing one officer and injuring three more. Authorities blame the crash on mechanical failure, El Tiempo reports.

Police arrest a man involved in a car bomb attack that killed five people in Medellín. The attack occurred after troops and police conducted raids in poor neighbourhoods of the city, arresting 60 people, El Colombiano reports.

Hernando Valencia, ex-Executive Secretary for the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights presents a new book about the tragedy of Bojayá in Madrid. He outlines the difficulties that human rights defenders and journalists face in Colombia.


Sat 18 – Colombian villagers flee after massacre; Army detonates “house-bomb” in Meta.

Three hundred people are displaced from the hamlets around San Carlos (Southern Antioquia) after suspected FARC members killed 16 people. More than 8,000 peasants from this area have already been displaced to Medellín, according to El Colombiano.

500 kilograms of dynamite explode inside a house in Puerto Rico (Meta) as the authorities were trying to deactivate the material, destroying 21 homes but causing no injuries. It isn’t clear who placed the dynamite, Associated Press reports.

The Ombudsman’s Office reports more than 1,240 killings were committed last year in Cúcuta, (Norte de Santander). According to Police Commander Edgar Orlando Mosquera, the paramilitaries and guerrillas have been fighting for control of the city, yet eight out of ten of the victims are civilians, Cambio magazine reports.

US Ambassador in Colombia, Anne Patterson visits the US Special Forces present in Arauca where 70 US army trainers have already arrived. Patterson says, “they will stay for about three months” to train 6,500 Colombian soldiers to protect the Occidental Petroleum pipeline ”.

In a statement from the Dioceses of Apartadó (Antioquia) and Quibdó (Chocó), the Communities of the Jiguamiandó river say they are still threatened by paramilitaries. They are demanding that the Government guarantee their security.


Sun 19- NGO ASFADDES reports disappearance; Pardo Carmona criticises security policy .

Colombian NGO ASFADDES, (Association of families of the Detained-Disappeared) fears for the safety of Juan Ovidio Otalvaro García after he was abducted by paramilitaries in a roadblock at the municipality of Castillo (Tolima).

Luis Guillermo Pardo Carmona, ex- Advisor for Peace in Antioquia, says in an article in El Colombiano that the Government’s policy on Security is blurring the line between civilians and the Armed Forces, turning civilians into military targets.

Swiss specialist on Colombian Land reform, Stephan Suhner presents a new study financed by the UN Research Institute for Development in which he considers the distribution of expropriated land to peasants and displaced population as an essential part of the land reform that Colombia needs, El Colombiano reports.


Mon 20 – Armed groups target schools and teachers; 7 Police officers killed by FARC ambush.

Some 12,000 children in northern Colombia are unable to begin the school year on Monday due to the intimidation and murders of teachers by armed groups and the destruction of schools, Colombia’s teachers’ union FECODE reports.

7 Police officers are killed by FARC members after they were ambushed in Zambrano, (Bolivar), Vanguardia Liberal reports.

Colombian Government and paramilitaries launch formal peace talks. Last week Uribe Vélez warned AUC’s Commanders that crimes against humanity carried out by death squads will not go unpunished, France Press reports.

Attorney’s General Office captures Army Commander, Mayor Renato Acuña and two more officials in Rioacha for trafficking arms in exchange for cocaine with the paramilitaries, El Tiempo reports.

Rodrigo Rivera, President of the Liberal Party in Colombia says they will decide whether or not to support the Referendum only after the Constitutional Court has ruled on the process. He also says the Government has changed the text after it was approved by the Colombian Congress

The Organization for American States, (OEA) accuses Nicaragua of negligence after investigating a big arms shipment sent to the Colombian Paramilitary forces last year. It also accuses the Israeli citizen Simón Yelinek of trading in illegal arms and the Colombian authorities of corruption, El Espectador reports.

Four people reportedly killed by paramilitaries in Barrio Santo Domingo, Medellín, after Army forces raid this neighbourhood area for several days, according to El Colombiano.


Tues 21 –Attorney ’s Office hands over remains of Nidia Bautista; L.Garzón fears for his security.

Attorney General’s Officials hand over to the relatives the mortal remains of Nidia Erika Bautista after she was disappeared in 1987 by Army officials. The Prosecutor’s Office sacked former Army General Alvaro Velandia two years ago in one of the most important human rights cases in Colombia, El Colombiano reports.

Colombian ex-presidential candidate Luis Eduardo Garzón from Polo Democrático says he fears for his personal security after authorities reduced the number of his bodyguards and removed the armoured car he’s been using since the general elections last year, El Tiempo reports.

Unknown armed people in Medellín attack Piedad Cordoba, President of the Human Rights Committee of the Colombian Senate. She wasn’t injured, El Colombiano reports.

UK based development agency Christian Aid launches the 2003 Strategic Plan on Colombia, working with 13 partner organisations, promoting rights and assisting marginalized people, including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.

Uribe Velez says after a Security Council meeting that the Government will re-inforce the counter-insurgency programme all around the country, after more than 50 people were killed by illegal armed forces this week, CM&I reports.

Jaime Vera, Director for the Anti-narcotics Police reports that between 30 and 40 helicopters from the fumigation programme have been attacked in the last few weeks. He also said that spraying is now taking place in Catatumbo (Norte de Santander), Guaviare and Nariño.


Weds 22 –Four people dead in a FARC roadblock; Women targeted by paramilitaries in Barranca.

One soldier and three civilians have been killed in Currulao (Antioquia) after FARC members reportedly stopped a car in a roadblock and abducted five people, El Mundo reports.

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of women in Barrancabermeja. Local sources report that paramilitaries are targeting women accusing them of being related to guerrillas or guerrilla’s supporters. Three women were killed in the area this week.

Arauca’s Police commander says that ELN have abducted reporter Ruth Morris and photographer Scott Dalton while they were seeking an interview with guerrillas commanders on a freelance assignment for Los Angeles Times in Arauca, Reuters reports.

Colombian NGO Organizacion Indígena Antioquia, (OIA) says in a statement that paramilitaries killed four indigenous Colombians and kidnapped 18 members of a community, including three children, during the Panamá raid where three other Canadian and US citizens were abducted.

The XVIII Brigade has detained Dr. Ciro Alejandro Peña in Arauca. Relatives of Dr. Peña suggest that his problems with the Colombian Army started when he carried out the autopsies of 18 civilians killed by an army cluster bomb in Santo Domingo (Arauca) four years ago. As a result of the investigation US authorities cut off military aid to the Colombian Air Forces, according to El Tiempo.


Thurs 23 – 1,515 Colombian refugees in Panama; Paramilitaries free three Americans kidnapped;

Police report that paramilitaries free three US nationals seized five days ago on the Colombian border with Panamá. Mark Wedeven, Megan Smaker and Robert Young were handed over to a humanitarian committee in Unguía, (Antioquia).

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Maria Eugenia López, member of the Medellín branch of ASFADDES (Association of families of the Detained-Disappeared), following reports that paramilitaries have been looking for her. These reports also highlight concerns for the safety of other ASFADDES members.

Colombian NGO Organización Femenina Popular (OFP) reports the increase of selective killing as a mechanism of social, political and military control by the paramilitary forces in the streets of Barrancabermeja. Three women were killed in two days. One of them, María Cristancho, was founded dead with a notice accusing her of being an “informer and guerrilla supporter”.

In a public statement, Colombian NGO REINICIAR expresses its concerns for the safety of members of the Unión Patriótica after the Colombian Commissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo names this political party as ” re-inserted guerrillas members”.

Defensor del Pueblo, Eduardo Cifuentes reports attacks and coercion against two Colombian journalists in Arauca, after soldiers from the XVIII Brigade detain them and destroy their materials when they were covering the arrival of US soldiers to the region, according to El Espectador.

Army reports the explosion of a bomb at the Caño Limón Oil pipeline near La Ceiba (Arauca) by unknown armed group, El Colombiano 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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Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London


If you live in the U.S. and would like to receive InfoBrief please contact indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.