InfoBrief- March 17, 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 email@example.com indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.
U.S. Current Affairs & Media
· 11 Guerrillas Killed During Search for Americans On March 13, U.S. officials stated that troops searching for three captured Americans in Colombia killed 11 FARC guerrillas during the military operation to find the men. U.S. troops are aiding the search for the Americans, but Curt Struble, acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, asserted that "99% of the search effort" is being carried out by the Colombian army. During a congressional hearing last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized that the kidnapping would not change U.S. policy in the region, "It is sad that it happened, but it is a risk that we must run in order to defeat terrorists and these narco-traffickers."
· Colombia's Neighbors Decline to Label the FARC Terrorists Last week Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela separately rejected Colombian President Uribe's request to deem the FARC a "terrorist organization." Under United Nations Antiterrorism Resolution 1373 if a country were to declare the FARC a "terrorist organization," it would be able to freeze bank accounts, prohibit financing for the group, and deny FARC members refuge in their countries. The U.S. government has already identified the FARC and ELN guerrillas, as well as the AUC paramilitaries, as terrorist organizations. However, Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela explained that they want to remain mediators in the event of future peace talks in Colombia.
· Paramilitaries Enter Afro-Colombian Peace Community in Cacarica Amnesty International expressed its serious concern for the safety of the Afro-Colombian civilian community of the Cacarica River Basin in Chocó because of the reported arrival of 500 paramilitaries in the area on March 11. Since returning to their traditional lands after they were displaced by paramilitary groups, community members have had the support of the international community, including permanent accompaniment by Peace Brigades International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Also, last year the U.S. held a congressional briefing where a leader of the community expressed his grave concern about the situation. Amnesty International is concerned that the paramilitaries will threaten and harm the population in the area and is asking all concerned citizens to send appeals to U.S. and Colombian officials. For more information, please log-on to their website at www.amnestyusa.org.
· World Bank Approves $100 Million for Urban Development in Bogotá On March 13 the World Bank, headquartered in Washington, approved a loan to help improve urban infrastructure and services in the Colombian capital of Bogotá. The loan is aimed at improving urban standards of living by increasing access, quality, and reliability of the transport of water, sanitation, and other basic related services.
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Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London
Colombia This Week editing date: 03/17/03
Fri 07 - Increasing death-threats against human rights defenders; Lula supports Uribe's policy.
· Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Soraya Gutierrez, her family and other members of the Lawyer's Collective, (Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo). The latest threats include anonymous phone-call threats and intimidations. On 14th February unknown gunmen in Bogotá fired at the armoured car in which she was travelling.
· Brazilian President Lula da Silva promises "total solidarity in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking" to his Colombian counterpart Uribe Vélez. Reuters reports.
· The Colombia Project of Peace Brigades International reports that it is profoundly concerned by the threats and harassment directed at the Popular Women's Organization (OFP) by suspected paramilitary groups, as a result of their work in Cantagallo (Santander) and the municipalities of the Magdalena Medio. .
· US Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman says in Bogotá that progress has been made in eradicating coca crops and the war on terrorism in Colombia. He also says that the enhanced Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) signed in 2002 will provide "economic opportunities" to Colombians, Washington Post reports.
Sat 08 -Attorney General's Office arrests Army officer; Castaño wants peace negotiations.
· The Attorney General's Office arrests Lt. Col. Orlando Pulido Rojas for the killing of five civilians in the town of La Cabuya in 1998. The Attorney General's office is also investigating two other officials. Soldiers and a group of paramilitaries carried out the massacre, Associated press reports.
· US officials report that coca crop spraying is hurting the FARC by depriving them of millions in revenue. Other analysts suggest that the FARC is taking advantage of the resentment created by the spraying of coca crops to attract new recruits, France Press reports.
· According to the Washington Post, Uribe Vélez's attempt to link Colombia's guerrilla insurgency with the Bush administration's global war on terrorism's has failed because the primary US goal in Colombia is to fight drug trafficking. Colombian officials also recognize that this could mean significantly less US help within the next three years.
· OXFAM reports that coffee communities in Colombia are facing hunger, migration and debt since the collapse in 1989 of a quota deal between coffee growers and consumers. Corporations such as Nestle, Sara Lee and Phillips Morris are, however, making huge profits. In the 1990's coffee farmers worldwide earned US $ 10-12 billion and retail sales were US $30 billion. Today retail sales are US $70 billion but producers get US $5.5 billion.
· Paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño calls on the government to start peace negotiations. El Espectador claims that Castaño recognises that the US extradition warrants issued against him and Commander Mancuso for drug-trafficking have weakened the AUC's political project.
Sun 09 - EU Commission grants humanitarian aid; Rehabilitation Zones: Contradictory results.
· The European commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) grants US $8.1 m in humanitarian aid to help victims of the conflict in Colombia. More than 200,00 IDPs will benefit, UN news reports.
· Six months after the establishment of Rehabilitation and Consolidation Zones in Sucre, Bolivar and Arauca, El Tiempo reports that the results leave more questions than answers. Locals are protesting about the impunity of the Security forces, and the arrival of the paramilitaries in these areas. Analysts suggest that the Zones only respond to the need to protect oil pipelines and US interests.
· Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warns that "any Colombian armed group entering Venezuela would be driven out by force of arms" after some Colombian politicians and media suggest that FARC leader Manuel Marulanda is residing in Venezuela, France Press reports.
· The Latin American Bishops' Council (CELAM) holds a Conference in Ecuador with officials of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to analyse and discuss the situation of Colombian IDPs, UNHCR news reports.
· Colombian NGO Inter-Ecclesial Commission for Justice and Peace outlines the interests of paramilitary incursions in the Bajo Atrato region, arguing that warring groups have an inherent interest in displacing Afro-Colombian communities from their ancestral lands, particularly from those territories where the process of collective entitlement is most advanced.
· The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights announces precautionary measures for the protection of Senator Piedad Cordoba after the murder attempt she suffered last January in Medellín, Colectivo de Abogados reports.
· Officials from the US State and Defence Departments announce they will meet other regional counterparts this week in Colombia. Some countries have refused to label the FARC a terrorist group, as requested by Colombia and United States, APF reports.
Mon 10 - FARC denies they planted El Nogal car bomb; ELN declares armed strike in Antioquia.
· In a statement on their website FARC denies responsibility for the car bomb in El Nogal that killed 36 people, saying that they condemn acts of terrorism.
· According to the authorities, ELN imposes an "armed strike" in San Luis (Antioquia). Governor of Antioquia (r) Eugenio Prieto asks the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace to intervene urgently and open talks with this armed group, El Colombiano reports.
· PDPMM (Programa de Paz y Desarrollo para el Magdalena Medio) reports in its Bulletin Pertinentes that they met ELN commanders Pacho Galán and Felipe Torres in Itaguí to discuss the dialogue process with the communities of Microahumado and Sur de Bolivar. High Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo authorised the meeting.
· Analysts suggest that the Government's Referendum text under revision by the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice is due to change, after evidence that changes made by the Congress were illegal, El Tiempo reports.
· Colombian Vice-president Francisco Santos rejects the FARC's denial of the El Nogal car bomb, saying the government is "completely certain" of the group's involvement.
Tues 11 -General Jaime Uscátegui sought over massacre; Car bomb explodes in Arauca,
· The Attorney General's Office orders the arrest of retired Army General Jaime Uscátegui for allegedly failing to prevent a massacre by paramilitaries. 30 people were killed In Mapiripán in 1997 in one of the worst atrocities carried out by paramilitaries in Colombia, Reuters reports.
· According to the Police, a truck bomb explodes on a road outside Arauca, killing one person and injuring six others. It was not clear who left the bomb but authorities blame FARC and ELN for the attack, El Espectador reports.
· Attackers toss petrol bombs into three Transmilenio buses in Bogotá. All passengers escape without injury. Police arrest two women for the attack, El Tiempo reports.
· Faced with depressed international prices for the coffee bean, farmers in Central Colombia's coffee belt are increasingly cultivating more profitable coca plants in order to survive, El Tiempo reports.
· World Food Programme (WFP) reports a fire in a comuna in Medellín that completely destroyed 650 makeshift homes. A total of 2,129 people, 500 of them children, were affected. WFP also reports that field staff are liaising with protection agencies to provide support for community leaders who are being threatened by armed groups
· Oscar Salazar, reporter and owner of a radio station is killed in Sevilla (Valle del Cauca) after receiving death threats. Authorities said they are investigating, Inter American Press Association reports.
· Gen. Jorge García Carneiro, Venezuela's Army chief, rejects Colombian charges that it is letting Colombian armed groups operate from Venezuelan territory. He calls for talks with his Colombian counterpart to discuss border security, Reuters reports.
Weds 12 - HRW reports Colombia's Human Rights failure; LA nations sign international pact.
· Human Rights Watch urges the UN Commission on Human Rights to pass a resolution that would recommend the expansion of the U.N.'s human rights work in Colombia, including an increase in the number of permanent staff of the Office of the High Commissioner in Colombia and renegotiation of the Office's mandate to allow regular public reporting and investigative field visits.
· Colombia, Perú, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brasil and Panamá sign an accord to work together to fight terrorism and drug trafficking. The accord does not specify how they would cooperate, especially in Colombia, Associate Press reports.
· During a visit to London Vice-president Francisco Santos ask British government for aid for military intelligence for the Colombian Armed forces, El Tiempo reports.
· US Secretary of State Collin Powell reports there is no progress on the search for the three captured Americans. He tells US Congress that the kidnappings will not change US policy in the region, AP reports.
Thurs 13 - Peasant force takes shape in Colombia; Paramilitary presence threatens Cacarica.
· In the past month nearly 6,000 peasant soldiers have been deployed in 133 isolated municipalities in rural Colombia. This programme has reminded many human rights organizations of the government-sanctioned community defence groups of the late 1990s that evolved into death squads, Washington Post reports.
· Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities of the Cacarica River Basin (Chocó) following threats received after the reported arrival of 500 army-backed paramilitaries in the area.
· US Head of the Southern Command Gen. James T. Hill says that the Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries will never be eradicated, adding that there will never be a purely military solution to the conflict in Colombia, Reuters reports.
· Amnesty International urges the UN Commission on Human Rights to take action to remedy the human rights situation in Colombia, by asking the Colombian Government to fulfil the recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia.
· Augusto Acosta, President of the Colombian Stock Exchange reports that Colombians have moved US $ 12 b out of the country in the last few years, El Colombiano reports.
· Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, former head of the Cali drug cartel is arrested on new drug-trafficking charges, El Tiempo 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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