InfoBrief- June 30, 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




· Ambassador Patterson Cites 2005 End Date for Major U.S. Assistance to Colombia In an interview with the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo on June 29, Ambassador Anne Patterson identified September 2005 as the date of termination for large amounts of aid to Colombia. At this point, the U.S. government expects to turn control of counter-narcotics programs over to its Colombian counterparts. Colombian Defense Minister Martha Lucía Ramírez, who spoke on the occasion of the release of President Uribe’s new security plan, explained that the Uribe plan aims to debilitate guerrilla forces so completely by 2004 or the beginning of 2005 that they will have no option but to engage in peace talks. The Patterson interview is available online at: co/coar/noticias/ARTICULO-WEB-NOTA_INTERIOR-1150587. html and the Ramírez interview can be found at: noticias/ ARTICULO-WEB-NOTA_INTERIOR 1152420.html.




· U.S. Expects to Fund Paramilitary Demobilization The outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Anne Patterson, stated that the U.S. government intends to demobilize 3,000 paramilitary members during the next two years, with $2-3 million allotted for the first year’s efforts. The Uribe Administration is presently engaged in negotiations with the AUC paramilitaries, and the U.S. government has already surveyed roughly 6,000 paramilitary combatants who are interested in peace talks. Officials expect to spend up to $5 million on training, education and other incentives in the first phase of the program. A front-page article in the June 26 issue of The Washington Post reported that “Although the United States has helped fund similar programs following civil wars in Central America, Africa and Asia, this is reportedly the first time it plans to do so on behalf of a group that the State Department considers a terrorist organization.” The Post article can be found online at: while Anne Patterson’s interview with El Tiempo is available at: http://eltiempo.




· Confidential Report on Paramilitaries Alarms NGOs A classified report highlighting the Colombian military’s ties to paramilitary drug traffickers was detailed in a Washington Post article on June 26. The report was commissioned by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and estimates that the paramilitaries control some 40% of the drug trade in Colombia. It was also found that the “highest ranks” of the military are thwarting efforts to dismantle the paramilitaries because, according to The Washington Post, “Colombian military officials have suggested that the dissolution of the paramilitary force would cause problems for the army.” The U.S. Office on Colombia and other concerned NGOs issued a statement saying that if the report is authenticated, it is further evidence that the Colombian military does not deserve increased U.S. assistance. The Post article is online at: A33676-2003Jun25.html.




· Colombia to Continue Coca Spraying Despite Court Ruling On June 26, a Colombian court in Cundinamarca ruled that U.S.-backed aerial drug fumigation must be temporarily suspended while investigators determine whether the chemical used is harmful. President Álvaro Uribe announced that the ruling will be appealed, and in the meantime, fumigation will continue. The Bush Administration came to the defense of aerial coca spraying, maintaining that it is not harmful to human health or the environment. More information is available online at: newsdesk/N29250089.htm.




Upcoming Events and Seminars in the U.S.




· AFSC Delegation to Communities in Peaceful Resistance in Colombia From October 5-12, an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) delegation will travel to Valle del Cauca, Colombia to assess the impact of the armed conflict on communities that peacefully seek to resist the war. Specifically, the delegation will visit an Afro-Colombian community and a community of indigenous peoples. Applications to join the October delegation are due August 1 and are available online at:








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




Colombia This Week editing date 06/30/03



Thu 19 – Uribe Vélez criticises UN; Concern for safety of young activist from Comuna 13


· In a speech at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, Uribe Vélez attacks the United Nation’s role in Colombia. He says that the UN ‘criticises a lot and solves little’.


· Colombian NGO ASFADDES is concerned for the safety of 15 year old community activist Eduardo Santos, who was abducted by unknown men from his home in Comuna 13 in Medellín (Antioquia) in February 2003.



Fri 20 – Security forces take over refinery; Lawyers condemn proposed weapons legislation


· Security forces take over the ECOPETROL refinery and advance aggressively against protesters in Barrancabermeja (Santander) after the oil workers union USO called for a demonstration against a possible dissolution or privatisation of the state-owned company.


· The Lawyers’ NGO Comisión Colombiana de Juristas issues a statement, criticising the reform of the rules for the possession of weapons approved by a Senate commission. The statement warns that the bill would allow private individuals to carry automatic pistols, blurring the distinction between combatants and civilians.


· In a debate with Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez, the Executive Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, criticises the Colombian Government’s planned anti-terrorism measures. In an interview with Semana, Vivanco says that human rights in the country would suffer a 20-year set-back if the proposed measures were approved and that it would be more effective to act upon the 3000 existing warrants to capture paramilitaries and guerrillas.


· At the Thematic World Social Forum in Cartagena (Bolívar), the Representative of the UN High Commission for Human Rights in Colombia, Michael Frühling, says the anti-terrorism measures proposed by the Colombian Government violate national and international law, reports El Tiempo.


· Governments of Colombia and Brazil sign an agreement on military co-operation to facilitate operations against drug-traffickers and armed groups.


· Colombian NGO Asamblea Permanente de la Sociedad Civil por la Paz criticises Uribe Vélez’ attack on the United Nations and says the UN has played a valuable role in Colombia, writes El Tiempo




Sat 21 – Army captures AUC commander ‘Oscar’; Air Force report killing of 20 FARC members


· Colombian Army in Barrancabermeja (Santander) claims to have captured AUC commander Said Sepúlveda, alias Oscar, who is accused of killing several hundred people.


· Colombian Air Force reports 20 FARC members killed in Pradera (Valle).


· The Lawyers’ Collective José Alvear Restrepo is concerned for the safety of Sonia Morales Crespo, leading member of the University Workers and Employees Union (SINTRAUNICOL) in Neiva (Huila), after unknown men visited her home and threatened to assassinate her family if she does not resign from her union activities.



Sun 22 – More than 100 children kidnapped in six months; Workers call for boycott of Coca-Cola


· According to the Foundation País Libre, 112 children have been kidnapped in Colombia since the beginning of the year, with 20 of them still being held captive. The organisation reports that almost half of the kidnappers are common criminals, 33 per cent are FARC or ELN guerrillas and six per cent are paramilitaries.


· On the International Day of Action against Coca-Cola, the Colombian Food and Drinks Workers Union SINATRAINAL appeals to the international public to take part in a consumer boycott against the company. The union accuses it of financing suspected paramilitaries who killed eight union leaders. They also hold the company responsible for disappearances, kidnappings and sackings of workers at Coca-Cola bottling plants.


· Four civilians and two policemen are injured when suspected ELN members attack a police patrol in San Pablo (Nariño).


· Medical doctor Mario Flores is found dead near Caldas (Antioquia), with his body showing signs of torture. He and a patient had been abducted on their way from Murindó to Medellín; the patient is still missing.


· Unknown attackers kill three people in a village near San Carlos (Antioquia).




Mon 23 –Indigenous groups resist relocation; Unionists condemn ILO for inquiry decision


· More than 350 Guahíbo from Tame are insisting upon staying in Saravena (Arauca), after representatives of the Procuradoría General and the Ombudsman’s Office as well as indigenous leaders visit their communities and report that the area (Tame) is too unsafe for their return. After having fled fighting between paramilitaries, FARC and ELN, the Guahíbo had been assured by army and government that the area was safe.


· Following the International Labour Conference in Geneva, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) condemns the decision of the International Labour Organisation not to appoint a Commission of Inquiry into violations of trade union rights in Colombia. It says more than 3500 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia since 1987.


· Army reports six civilians kidnapped by suspected FARC guerrillas at a roadblock near Algarrobo (Bolívar).


· The Instituto de Medicina Legal in Bogotá reports that a daily average of seven people have been murdered in the capital in the first five months of this year, 22 per cent less than in the same period of 2002.


· A bomb transported on a motorbike explodes in Arauquita (Arauca), killing a toddler and severely injuring his father. The man on the motorcycle also dies.


· Colombia extradites another 13 suspected drug-traffickers to the United States, Reuters reports. This brings the number of suspects extradited on drug charges to 68.


· In an interview with El Tiempo, Ecuador’s former President Rodrigo Borja says the only way to end the armed conflict in Colombia is through the legalisation of drugs at the international level, as this would cut off the armed groups’ money supplies.




Tue 24 – AUC on killing spree in Viotá; Eighty per cent of Colombia’s IDPs live in extreme poverty


· El Tiempo writes that suspected AUC members have killed at least 18 inhabitants of Viotá (Cundinamarca) in the last four months. A council member and two other civilians disappeared when they went to an appointment with paramilitaries near the town.


· In a study on food insecurity suffered by Colombian IDPs, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) reports that 80 per cent of displaced people live in extreme poverty and do not have access to sufficient nutritional foods.


· The industrialist Helmuth Bickenbach and his wife, former beauty queen Doris Gil are found shot dead in Villeta (Cundinamarca). They had been kidnapped by suspected FARC guerrillas in December 2002.


· The Peace and Justice Commission of Quibdó (Chocó) is concerned for the safety of the mayor of Murindó, Oswaldo Quejada Ledesma. Paramilitaries of Bloque Metro told him that if he did not resign within 24 hours, he would be killed like Murindó medical doctor Mario Flores. The doctor was found dead on Sunday.


· The mayor of San Carlos (Antioquia), Juan Alberto García Duque, says another 20 families have come to this town from surrounding villages, fleeing a killing spree started by armed groups on Thursday and that has left at least six people dead. In the last four months 700 displaced families have come to live in the municipality.


· The peasant association Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra reports that the army has started military operations near several villages in the municipality of Cantagallo (Bolívar), asking for the whereabouts of the Association’s leader and threatening to take away assets from a community project funded by UNDP.


· The Miami Herald reports that Washington has spent $7 million improving security around President Uribe Velez, Vice President Francisco Santos and Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramírez.




Weds 25 – Paramilitaries invade area near Miranda; Bishop criticises actions against unionists


· Regional human rights organisation Francisco Isaias Cifuentes reports that paramilitaries from Bloque Calima are invading villages in the municipality of Miranda (Cauca) while army units are watching on.


· The Bishop of Barrancabermeja, Jaime Prieto Amaya, issues a statement condemning the deployment of security forces against workers on strike or during protest marches, referring to events at the ECOPETROL refinery on Friday. He says that society should have its say in a political discussion about the future of state enterprises and that public companies should be restructured with social justice in mind.


· In its 2003 Global Illicit Drug Trends Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states that Colombia has achieved a 37% decrease in coca cultivation between 2000 and 2002. The country produces 72% of the world’s cocaine supply.


· El Espectador reports that suspected FARC members kidnapped six civilians near Bosconia (Cesar), releasing four of them a few hours later.


· The Presidential Commission asked to explore possibilities of peace talks with the paramilitaries says in a report that AUC is a drug-trafficking organisation and that paramilitary leaders exploit peace talks to protect their profits, reports the Washington Post. In a public statement, the commission lists ten recommendations for peace talks, saying that all paramilitary groups should sit at one negotiating table once hostilities have ceased.



Thurs 26- Court orders spraying to be suspended; Betancourt’s husband arrested during protest


· The Administrative Court of Cundinamarca publishes its order to suspend aerial spraying with the herbicide glyphosate until studies on the effects of the chemicals are conducted. The government announces that it will appeal the ruling and that, as it is not legally bound to an order while an appeal is underway, the aerial eradication of coca crops will continue in the interim.


· Police arrests Juan Carlos Lecompte, husband of kidnapped ex-Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, after he dumped horse manure outside Congress in Bogotá in protest at the dissolution of his wife’s party. The Verde Oxígeno party is dissolved under a reform of the election law that stipulates a two per cent share of votes for a party to continue to exist.


· According to Colombian press reports, the US Congress has asked the Bush administration to freeze $17 million of Plan Colombia funds until the Colombian government clarifies why it fired General Gabriel Díaz and how two tons of cocaine disappeared earlier this month. Congress also wants to know who is responsible for the assassination of two witnesses connected to the confiscation of the cocaine last year.


· According to press reports, ECOPETROL President Isaac Yanovicz announces that the state company will be split into three companies in an effort to re-structure and cut costs.


· The UN World Food Programme (WFP) signs an agreement with the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar, the Red de Solidaridad and the Colombian Agency for International Co-operation over a $48 million food programme for 375,000 IDPs.




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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