Colombia This Week -- editing date 03/10/03


Fri 28 – Colombia's Ombudsman challenges Government; Spain gives Colombia jet fighters.

·Eduardo Cifuentes, Colombia's Human Rights Ombudsman says he will challenge the Colombian government in court over a decision to increase the concentration of a herbicide used to eradicate coca crops, because it endangers people's health and the environment, Associated Press reports.

·Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez reports that Spain has given Colombia eight warplanes, two military transport planes, intelligence equipment and the use of two satellites to help fight terrorism and drug trafficking. This is the first time that a European country has given military aid to the Colombian Army, El Tiempo reports.

·Suggesting that the kidnapping of the three US citizens is the result of the deepening American role in the Colombian conflict, the Chicago Tribune editorial criticises the US President's decision to send additional Special Forces to Colombia.

·Peasants from Pailitos (Cesar) confirm that they saw guerrilla groups and heard gunshots before the crash of the Colombian Army helicopter last Thursday. Authorities suspect that the Black Hawk was shot down, El Tiempo reports.

·Colombian NGO Justicia y Paz reports that paramilitary troops broke into a settlement in Puerto Lleras (Chocó) threatening civilians and reportedly killing Anibal Salas. They are demanding action from the Colombian State against this armed group, which they say has been operating in the area since January with the participation of units from the XVII Brigade.


Sat 01 –FARC warns US against rescue of Americans; Migrating Colombians choose Spain

·FARC Spokesman Raul Reyes warns against any attempt to rescue the three American prisoners "by force of arms" adding that they will be freed along with Colombian prisoners of war in exchange for the release of guerrilla members in Colombian jails. Presidents Uribe Vélez and George Bush reject any notion of negotiating, Washington Post reports.

·The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) office in Bogotá reports that it is working with the Colombian and Spanish Governments following an agreement between the two countries to assist labour migrants from Colombia travelling to Spain. 200,000 Colombians leave the country each year and do not return.

·Teodoro Campo, Director of the Colombian Police reports a "reduction in delinquency in Colombia's urban areas in February". On the Presidency's web-site, the report shows a reduction from "15 to 14 cases of terrorism in Bogotá and from 20 to 7 in Medellin. Cali's figures show an increase from 1 to 4 cases.

·PDPMM (Programa de Paz y Desarrollo del Magdalena Medio) reports in the Bulletin Pertinentes that it is preparing a bid to increase funds from the World Bank together with the National Planning Department. They also announce a proposal to work with US-based NGO Colombia Support Network (CSN).

·Commander of the Colombian Air Force General Hector Velasco criticises the military aid donated by Spain saying that the Mirage F-1 warplanes are older than those in use by the Colombian Air Force and it will be too costly to maintain them, El Tiempo reports.

·The United Steel Workers of America and the International Labour Rights Fund have sued Atlanta-based Coca-Cola for using paramilitaries to bust unions in their Colombian plants, Colombia Support Network reports.


Sun 02 – Government announces anti-terrorist bill; Minister criticises Air Force Commander.

·The Government proposes an anti-terrorist bill that will modify 31 articles of the penal code and add 10 new clauses. Bogotá Reporter's Association (CPB) claims that the bill is unconstitutional and runs counter to freedom of press, Inter-Press service reports.

·Defence Minister Marta Lucía Ramirez publicly criticises the arguments of Colombian Air Force Commander Hector Flavio Velasco after he commented on the Spanish' donation of warplanes. Analysts suggest that differences between the Minister and the Army Commanders are growing.

·A partnership between Colombian NGO Organización Femenina Popular (OFP) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) delivered new homes to 100 internally displaced families in Barrancabermeja (Santander). US Aid has funded the project.

·Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that the Colombian government "should approve the extradition of guerrilla and paramilitary leaders accused of crimes against humanity and wanted by the international community, independently of any peace process".


Mon 03 – US certifies Colombia on drug-control; ECOPETROL discovers reserves in Samore.

·US State Department presents the report on "International Narcotics Control Strategy" to Congress, which certifies the Colombian Government's progress in implementing "Plan Colombia". The report also says that Colombia remains the world's leading producer of cocaine. According to official figures 124 tonnes of cocaine were seized last year, El Espectador reports.

·Isaac Yanovich, President of Colombia's state-owned oil company, ECOPETROL announces that exploratory drilling close to the border with Venezuela has located reserves of up to 200 m barrels of light crude oil. US oil company Occidental Petroleum abandoned the well in May 2002, after a decade of legal wrangling and international campaigning to halt the drilling, Vanguardia Liberal reports.

·In a statement on their website, FARC says, "it would negotiate with Colombia but not with the United States" for the release of the three American servicemen they are holding. They also warn that "their lives were being endangered by Colombian military operations in the area", Associated Press reports.

·An editorial in the Financial Times comments on the growing crisis facing the US in Colombia, Venezuela and other Andean nations. "Following bomb attacks in Bogotá and the kidnapping of three Americans in the Colombian jungles, there are signs that the US could be dragged deeper into these conflicts". The leader goes on to say that it is important that US involvement in Colombia is transparent and that any increased involvement is debated.

·Seven people are kidnapped at a roadblock in the municipality of Fundación (Magdalena). Authorities blame the ELN, El Tiempo reports.

·Jorge Gómez, Ombudsman for the Magdalena Medio region reports that paramilitaries killed 17 people in Barrancabermeja this year. He urges the authorities "to do more" El Tiempo reports.


Tues 04 – U'wa vow to resist oil discovery on sacred land; Catholic Church condemns terrorism.

·Following the discovery of oil in the Samore block, the U'wa's Council of Traditional Authorities remind Ecopetrol and the national government that they will never negotiate or sell their mother earth. The area is the ancestral territory of 5,000 U'wa Indians. They believe oil is the blood of the earth and have previously threatened mass suicide if drilling goes ahead, Amazon Watch reports

·The Colombian Catholic Church has condemned the recent spate of attacks carried out by FARC. Archbishop of Bogotá, Cardinal Saenz, described the bombing of El Nogal , that left 35 dead, as a 'crime against humanity'. The Cardinal also warned that Colombia's 39 year-old armed conflict is leading to a 'worrying process of de-Christianisation and loss of essential human values', Tablet reports.

·Gladys Barajas, President of Colombia's photographer's union says that she will flee the country because of death threats against her and other union members. The Colombia's Circle of Graphic Reporters has always condemned aggressive acts against its members, AP reports.

·Fabio Zapata, President of the Colombian Teachers Federation (FECODE) reports that 83 teachers were murdered in Colombia in 2002, twice as many as 2001, most of them by paramilitaries who accused them of collaborating with armed groups. Teachers, paid approx. US$ 200 a month, often represent the only state presence in isolated areas where even soldiers and police do not dare to go, Reuters reports.

·Daily O Estado de Sâo Paulo reports that FARC maintains three bases or hideouts for commanders inside Brazil.

·After meeting with the UN Secretary General Special Advisor on Colombia, James Lemoyne, the European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten gives full support to the UN offices in Colombia "to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict and improve the appalling human rights and humanitarian situation", EU news reports.

·The Regional Committee for Human Rights CREDHOS reports an attack by paramilitaries on member and director Miguel Cifuentes near Barrancabermeja. This human rights activist has precautionary measures from the Inter-American commission for Human Rights due to repeated death threats.


Weds 05–Bomb hits shopping mall in Cúcuta; Colombia to pursue guerrillas in Venezuela.

·A bomb has ripped through a busy shopping centre in Cúcuta (Norte de Santander), killing seven people and injuring more than 60. Police blame guerrilla groups for the blast, Vanguardia Liberal reports.

·Uribe Vélez says that Colombia is prepared to hunt down "guerrilla groups that stage attacks in Colombia and then flee to neighbouring countries, particularly Venezuela". The warning follows two attacks attributed to armed groups, El Tiempo reports.

·According to officials an explosion kills one soldier and injures three others in the outskirts of Carmen de Bolivar (Bolivar) France Press reports.

·Miguel Cifuentes, member of CREDHOS and ACVC is rescued by a search commission, after being wounded by paramilitary fire and spending the night on the Magdalena riverbank.


Thurs 06 – President says Police in Cúcuta is infiltrated; Peasant-soldiers ready for deployment.

·Uribe Vélez has relieved the Cúcuta police chief of his command, saying there is evidence that terrorist groups have infiltrated the Police and the Attorney General's Office. He sends General Luis Alfredo Rodriguez from Bogotá to take charge of the situation, El Tiempo reports.

·Almost 1,500 new peasants-soldiers are deployed to re-enforce Army operatives in Magdalena, Cesar, Bolivar and Sucre. According to officials these soldiers will spend 15 days patrolling and 20 days working as peasants in their villages, El Tiempo reports.

·Eduardo Cifuentes, Colombia's Human Rights Ombudsman reports the murders of Indigenous leaders. Paramilitaries are blamed for 19 of the 36 deaths, while guerrillas allegedly have killed six others. A navy brigade is blamed for the deaths of two of the Indigenous and the authors of the rest of the murders are unknown, El Espectador reports.

·Defence Minister Martha Lucía Ramirez says that urban attacks are a response to government offensives in the countryside. BBC correspondent in Bogotá Jeremy McDermott says that whoever was behind the bombing in Cúcuta, this attack further undermines the security strategy of Uribe Vélez, who promised to crush armed groups.

·US officials say that United States is "tracking Uribe Vélez by satellite to protect him from assassination by armed groups". This includes equipment for intercepting communications and monitoring the President's movement, Reuters 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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