InfoBrief - July 7, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.
U.S. Current Affairs & Media
· U.S. Suspends $5 Million in Military Aid to Colombia The United States suspended military aid to Colombia and 35 other countries on July 1, because the nations failed to sign waivers exempting Americans from prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC). U.S. officials report that almost all of the approximately $100 million in military aid allotted to Colombia for the year by the International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds has already been delivered, however, which means that only $5 million of the total sum will be affected. Colombian Defense Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez spoke confidently about resolving the dispute at a press conference last week, while another senior Colombian official reportedly expressed hopes of settling the matter before next years military aid budget begins in October. Regardless, much of the Colombia aid money is drawn from anti-drug funds that will not be impacted by the ICC-related sanction. More information is available online at: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030702/ wl_nm/crime_ usa_colombia_dc_1.
· Colombian Government Responds to Circulation of Confidential Report Colombias Office of the High Commissioner for Peace released a statement on July 3 denying the authenticity of a confidential report that had been cited by The Washington Post in an article on June 26. The report, which highlighted the paramilitary forces deep involvement in drug trafficking and the Colombian militarys ties to these illegal groups, was attributed to the Colombian Exploratory Commission, a group assembled by President Uribe to engage in dialogue with the right-wing paramilitary group AUC. The Office of the High Commissioner maintains that the Exploratory Commission did not prepare any such confidential report, nor has it been presented to President Uribe.
· Wellstone Successor Reaches Opposite Conclusion, Advocates Anti-Drug Aid Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), the late Paul Wellstones successor and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, arrived at the conclusion that the United States ought to continue providing Colombia with anti-drug aid after traveling to Bogotá and Bucaramanga on June 20-23. Having met with President Uribe and military officials, Coleman concluded that U.S. aid is working. Senator Wellstone also traveled to Colombia, but in contrast, was one of the most outspoken critics of aid to Colombia in Congress and sought to divert Colombia funds to domestic drug treatment. Coleman attributes their difference in opinion to the fact that Wellstone never met President Uribe, who was elected last year and Coleman calls an outstanding individual I have great hope with him as president. More information is available online at: http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/ breaking_news/6161142.htm.
· Representative Hyde Requests Temporary Suspension of $37.1 Million in Aid to Colombia The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported last week that Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), the chairman of the Committee on International Relations, wrote a letter to Assistant Secretary of State Paul Kelly requesting that $37.1 million in aid to Colombia be suspended until the Colombian government, the DEA and the State Department explain how two tons of cocaine disappeared from Barranquilla last year. U.S. officials told El Tiempo that they were confident that the issue would be resolved by July 1.
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: www.afsc.org/central/stl/wi0202.htm.
Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London
Colombia This Week editing date 07/07/03
Fri 27 Confidential report published on paramilitary talks; Uribe divides ECOPETROL.
· The Washington Post publishes a classified report highlighting the Colombian militarys ties to paramilitary drug traffickers. The report, commissioned by Uribe Vélez, estimates that paramilitaries control some 40% of the drug trade in Colombia. It notes that the highest ranks of the Colombian army are thwarting efforts to dismantle the paramilitaries, because they believe that their dissolution would cause problems for the army.
· Uribe Vélez issues a decree, which divides ECOPETROL in three parts and ends its status as an Industrial and Commercial State Corporation, turning it into a company whose owners will be its shareholders.
· Uwe Jensen, former member of Denmarks parliament, pleads guilty to involvement in an attempted cocaine-for-arms exchange worth $25m with Colombian paramilitary forces, the US Attorney office reports.
Sat 28 Government will not suspend fumigation; USO rejects plans for ECOPETROL.
· The Colombian government announces that the fumigation programme will not stop in spite of the judicial decision made by the Superior Administrative Court of Cundinamarca. This latter verdict is in line with earlier declarations by the Colombian Constitutional Court, which ordered the suspension of spraying in indigenous territories, and by the State Council.
· The Trade Union Confederation of Oil Workers (USO) rejects the division of ECOPETROL, reporting that this decision will affect the national sovereignty of Colombia. The new status would mean that from now on the legal control of the information and resources would lie with the multinationals, which is what the US Embassy on Colombia has been asking for. In response to this, the Union has declared itself in Permanent Assembly of Patriotic Resistance and Dignity, calling on the government to defend public assets.
Sun 29- Government publishes paper on Security; 2005 end date for US military aid to Colombia.
· The Colombian government publishes a 68 page-security plan for combating armed groups and drug trafficking. The plan stresses the duty of the civilians and its obligation to aid the authorities and the public participation in the democratic security plans. It also calls for the creation of a unified intelligence body and strengthening of the armed forces.
· In an interview in El Tiempo, Anne Patterson, US Ambassador on Colombia says that by the end of 2005 US authorities will expect to turn the control of counter-narcotics programmes over to the Colombian authorities. She also says that from 2005, the United States will resume large amounts of aid to Colombia.
· Anna Cederstav from the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defence says that it would be highly irresponsible for the US to continue the eradication programme in contravention of the Colombian Court.
Mon 30 Increasing pressure on Colombian government to suspend fumigation programme.
· The Colombian Ombudsmans office acknowledges the verdict of the Superior Administrative Court of Cundinamarca on the suspension of the fumigation programme. It also recognises the risks that this herbicide and the manner in which it is being applied pose to human health and the environment in Colombia.
· Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of street-sellers in Pereira (Risaralda). Three traders have been killed in the last three weeks as a result of the beatings carried out by municipal officials and Police.
Tues 01 US suspends military aid to Colombia; British personnel training Colombian Army.
· United States suspends the military aid-package to Colombia because the Colombian government has not agreed to make US nationals exempt from extradition to the International Criminal Court, (ICC).
· British Defence Minister Adam Ingram acknowledges in the House of Commons that in addition to the military personnel attached to the British Embassy in Bogotá, there are a number of other personnel providing advice and training assistance to the Colombian Army, the nature of which is confidential between governments.
· The US General Accounting Office reports that Colombia is not in a position to take on responsibility for funding Plan Colombia from 2005. Adam Isacson, from the Centre for International Policy says that the United States is fearful of having to spend US $700 m annually over an extended period to sustain Plan Colombia.
Weds 02 Minister dismisses US suspension of aid; Swiss citizen kidnapped by FARC.
· Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez reports that all but US $5m of the US military aid-package to Colombia for 2003 has already been delivered, adding that the Colombian government hopes to resolve the dispute over the International Criminal Court, El Espectador reports.
· Members of the FARC kidnap four people in Caldono (Cauca). Among the victims is Swiss citizen Florian Arnold Benedite, director of the NGO Hands for Colombia.
· The Bush administration is planning to expand their commitments in Colombia, with a 2004 budget request for up to US $147 m to protect another private oil pipeline. Colombian oil represents 2% of total US imports, AP reports.
Thurs 03 Bomb kills 2 in Huila; Uribes Democratic Security: 11,000 killed in six months.
· A motorcycle bomb kills two people and injures at least ten others in the market of Isnos (Huila). Authorities blame the FARC for the attack, El Espectador reports.
· Despite the implementation of the Democratic Security policies by the government, Colombian authorities have reported 11,000 murders and 1,000 kidnappings in the first half of the year, El Espectador reports.
· In a public statement, the French Green Party reports its indignation over the legal termination of Colombian Green Party Verde Oxigeno, at a moment when its leader Ingrid Betancourt, remains a hostage of the FARC.
· Swiss citizen Florian Arnold Benedite, director of the NGO Hands for Colombia, is released after being kidnapped by the FARC. His release followed the mobilisation of more than 2000 people from the indigenous communities with whom he worked, who pressured the FARC into setting him free.
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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