Colombia This Week -- July 14, 2003

· Fri 05 - Army blocks Colombia peace talks with paramilitaries; European NGOs lobby EU. According to a secret Colombian Government document on the prospects of peace negotiations, the biggest obstacle to any agreement with the country's right-wing paramilitaries is the army. The confidential document reports 'The armed forces are considered the principle enemy of the peace process with the self-defence forces. There exists opposition from the high command to any demobilisation'. Human rights groups have long accused the army of maintaining close links to the outlawed paramilitaries, and turning a blind eye to their massacres and assassination of suspected guerrilla sympathisers, Daily Telegraph reports.

· The European Voice in Brussels reports that an appeal concerning Colombia signed by some 20 international campaign groups was sent to the Italian EU presidency. It says that any granting of bilateral military assistance would be in contradiction of the European joint objective of the European Union and the cooperation strategy of the European Commission, which is aimed at alleviating the impact of the armed conflict on civilians and overcoming structural problems.

Sat 04 – Senator P. Cordoba accuses government of undermining the human rights situation

· While visiting Brussels, the chairwoman of the Colombian Senate Human Rights Committee, Piedad Córdoba, urges the EU to adopt a different stance on Colombia from that held by the US. She also berates the changes to the 1991 constitution, recently endorsed in a first reading by the Colombian Congress. These are aimed at reducing the independence of the judiciary, while simultaneously giving police powers to the military, a move denounced by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Tues 08 – UNICEF's submits report on Colombia; human rights defender detained in Arauca.

· The latest figures from UNICEF's report on Colombia conclude that 67% of the population is living in poverty (rising to 80% in rural areas). It says that 11 million people are living below the line of extreme poverty, 60% of the population is outside the formal economy and over 3 million children and young people are not receiving an education. It also says that the levels of inequality in Colombia are some of the highest in the world with 20 % of the richest households concentrating 52% of income. In rural areas this concentration becomes even more pronounced with 1.1% of landowners controlling 55% of all cultivable land.

· The Colombian Permanent Assembly for Peace reports on the detention of Ismael Pabon by members of the Colombian army in Arauquita, (Arauca), calling on the Colombian government to release him. He is the director of the Joel Sierra Human Rights Committee in Arauca.


Weds 09 – Colombian civil groups meet in London; secret UK aid poured into Colombian war.

· A consultation meeting takes place in London between the Colombian government and 50 NGO representatives from Colombia. The civil society groups highlight the insistence upon a peace process to bring Colombia's internal conflict to a close, the prevention of impunity for members of paramilitary groups and condemnation of all forms of violence against the civilian population. They also support the UN efforts for peace.

· Britain is secretly stepping up military assistance to Colombia. Despite continuing reports of serious abuses by the security forces and the concerns of human rights groups about President Alvaro Uribe's tactics, Tony Blair has encouraged the Foreign Office to hold an international conference on support for Colombia, beginning today, The Guardian reports.

· Colombia's Attorney General's office says in a statement that it is asking the authorities of the United States to locate and deliver three American pilots allegedly linked to a 1998 Santo Domingo bombing that killed 17 civilians and strained bilateral ties between both countries.


Thurs 10 –London's declaration to support peace; US certifies progress in Colombia on abuses.

· In London Declaration representatives of the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, European Union, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland, United States, Inter-American Development Bank, IMF and World Bank express their willingness to provide practical help to the Colombian government and the United Nations in peace efforts. They also condemn all violent acts against the civilian population and elected representatives, calling on the Colombian government to fulfil the UN recommendations on human rights.

· The Bush administration has certified that Colombia is making progress in reining in paramilitary forces that terrorize the civilian population. The decision, which releases about $27m in military aid, was sharply criticised by human rights groups. They accused Washington of whitewashing Colombia's record in order to protect its counternarcotics strategy, International Herald Tribune reports.

· The general secretaries of 12 British trade unions, the anti-poverty charity War on Want and the former Foreign Office minister Tony Lloyd, protest outside parliament at the British support for Uribe Vélez. Tony Lloyd says, "the present government [in Bogotá] is the most rightwing we have known for years, and the Colombian armed forces cannot be trusted. They have worked hand in glove with the paramilitaries for years. We need to send a clear message that we need to keep the Colombian regime at arm's length." The Guardian reports.

· Representative from the ABColombia group and from Colombian civil society present a statement at the inter-governmental meeting on international cooperation with Colombia, calling for the support and investment of international donors to assist those most affected by the Colombian conflict and to address underlying issues of poverty and exclusion. They also urge the Colombian government to listen to the views of civil society groups and include them in a sustained way in the development, monitoring and evaluation of cooperation policies and programmes.

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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