The U.S. Office on Colombia is pleased to announce the new resources available on our website at www.usofficeoncolombia.org. The USOC website now offers a page dedicated to Educational Tools for Concerned Citizens, including our new Understanding Colombia series, as well as a Spanish language page.
Understanding Colombia is a collection of one-page briefs on key issues related to the Colombian conflict. Issues addressed include U.S. policy towards Colombia, Afro-Colombians, anti-drug aerial fumigation, paramilitaries and guerrillas (combined into two pages on illegal armed actors), the internally displaced and civil society participation in the peace process. Understanding Colombia is designed for a general audience seeking a basic knowledge of these subjects or searching for key facts. USOC encourages the reproduction and distribution of Understanding Colombia in its original format, but requests that you first contact USOC.
The website now also offers an expanded list of links to other websites, including U.S., Colombian and international organizations, government institutions and media outlets.
We hope you find these additions to the website helpful!
InfoBrief - May 5, 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
* President Uribe Visits Washington to Meet with U.S. Government Officials Colombian President Uribe met with President Bush on April 30 followed by meetings with congressional leaders, the Secretaries of State, Commerce, and Treasury, the President of the World Bank, and others. Uribe sought to win support for further military assistance and a bilateral free trade agreement with the U.S. The Bush Administration, however, stated that trade negotiations would go forward within the framework of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), with President Bush expressing confidence that it would help Colombias economy to grow. Uribe also requested the shipment of any military equipment the U.S. no longer needed from the war in Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz responded, I dont know if theres anything in that category, but President Bush told us to look so were going to look. Following their meeting, President Bush praised Uribe for his determination and commitment to fight terrorism and drug trafficking. Bush stated that the U.S. would continue standing as a strong friend and supporter of the Colombian people as they take on difficult tasks. For the full White House press release please log-on to www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/04/20030430-25.html.
* Antidrug Flights to Resume After a two year suspension the U.S. and Colombian governments decided to resume drug surveillance flights. The agreement was signed on April 29 in Colombia. A State Department official reported that the flights would begin during the summer, after the U.S. confirms that Colombia has taken the necessary steps to ensure that only drug-trafficking planes are targeted. The program was suspended in April 2001 after a Peruvian fighter plane acting on U.S. intelligence shot down a missionary flight over Peru, killing an American woman and her daughter.
* Panama Forces Repatriation of Colombian Refugees On April 21 the Panamanian National Guard and immigration officials forcibly removed 109 Colombian refugees who were living in Punusa, Panama. The refugees were required to leave all their possessions behind and families were separated in the process. The U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) denounced the violation of the rights of refugees and urged the Panamanian authorities to not forcibly return other Colombian asylum seekers. The forced repatriation of the refugees also violated an agreement between the government of Panama and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) because the Panamanian government did not inform UNHCR of the repatriation of Colombian refugees. Amnesty International also expressed its concern for the repatriated refugees and asked concerned citizens to take action by contacting Colombian and Panamanian officials. For more information please log-on to www.amnestyusa.org/news/2003/colombia04282003.html.
Upcoming Events and Seminars in the U.S.
* On May 12 the Internally Displaced Persons Working Group, Lutheran World Relief, SAIS Center for Displacement Studies and SAIS Refugee Policy Forum will host a symposium on Current Challenges of Internal Displacement in Colombia. The symposium will be held between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm in the Rome Building Auditorium (Lobby level) of Johns Hopkins University at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, DC. Please RSVP before Tuesday, May 6 by contacting Kirsten Anderson-Stembridge at email@example.com or (202) 626-7947.
Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London
Colombia This Week editing date: 05/05/03
Fri 25 UNHR Commission deeply concerned about Colombia; OREWA denounces the Army.
- The UN Commission on Human Rights concludes in its Chairperson Statement that it is deeply concerned about the Human Rights situation in Colombia, appealing to the Colombian government not to pursue proposals to grant judicial police powers to the armed forces, El Espectador reports.
- Indigenous organisation OREWA calls the Colombian authorities to investigate the killing of 14-year-old Arcecio Dumaza from the Mubu community in Lloró (Chocó) by soldiers of the Colombian Army. They also report that another person was injured at the same incident and the money they were carrying from the Cabildo authorities was stolen.
- The Inter-American Development Bank announces the approval of a loan for US$ 14 m to the Colombian Prosecutor Generals Office.
- Director of the Social Solidarity Network (RSS) Luis Alfonso Hoyos reports that in the first four months this year this institution provided 1,077,897,560 pesos (US $ 382,057) for the reconstruction of the municipalities affected by terrorist acts in Colombia last year.
- During his visit to Colombia, US Treasury Secretary John Snow says that talks on establishing a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) are moving too slowly. Colombia enjoys special trading preferences with US but these expire in 2006.
Sat 26 Human Rights Forum concludes in Bogotá; Ombudsman requests UN Rapporteur.
- More than 1400 delegates from Colombia and abroad met in Bogotá during the Tenth National Forum on Human Rights. The final declaration calls all the Colombians to demand from the government a peaceful solution to end the conflict and to resolve the humanitarian crisis affecting one third of the population.
- Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman Eduardo Cifuentes requests that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Indigenous Peoples, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, visit Colombia to report on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous peoples, due to the assassination of 36 indigenous leaders so far this year.
- Colombian judge condemns commanders of the paramilitaries Carlos Castaño and Salvatore Mancuso in ausentia to 40 years in prison for the massacre of 15 peasants in Ituango (Antioquia) in 1997, El Espectador reports.
- According to the Colombian Department of Planning more than 6 billion pesos (US$ 2,1m) are lost each year in Colombia through corruption in the Administration system. This represents 3% of annual GDP. The report also says that the Attorney Generals Office currently has approx. 30,000 corruption cases on its books, El Tiempo reports.
Sun 27-17 human rights defenders killed in 2002; CODHES: 1,144 new IDPs in Colombia each day
- In 2002, seventeen human rights defenders were reported killed in Colombia, the worst year since 1997. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) the individuals responsible for these and previous attacks remain largely unpunished.
- In its annual report NGO CODHES (Consejeria para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento) reports that 412,553 new persons have been displaced in Colombia last year, the worst figures since 1985. It also says that displacement is directly associated with economic interests in the most affected regions.
- President Uribe Vélez says that FARC is split between two different groups, those who back political negotiations with his government and those who only want more violence.
- The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reports that the indigenous communities of Jambaló, Totoró and Toribió in eastern Cauca have declared an alert following military actions over the past few weeks in their territories.
- PDPMM (Programa de Paz y Desarrollo del Magdalena Medio) reports in its Bulletin Pertinentes that the Peace Laboratory is working with the communities in the Sur de Bolivar region, developing alternative crops to the coca plant. The programme intends to manually eradicate 18,000 hectares of coca believed to exist in the region.
Mon 28- ELN murders kidnapped schoolteacher; ex-presidents support humanitarian swap.
- ELN members were accused for the kidnapping and killing of Ana Cecilia Duque, schoolteacher at the municipality of Cocorná (eastern Antioquia). Colombian Ombudsman Eduardo Cifuentes calls senior ELN commanders to make amends and hand the teachers murderers up to the authorities, El Espectador reports.
- Colombian ex-presidents Alfonso López Michelsen, Julio Cesar Turbay, Ernesto Samper and Carlos Lemos say in a public forum that they support the proposal for a humanitarian exchange of prisoners with the FARC group.
- Ex-FARC Commander Fidel Romero gives himself over to the authorities, urging his former comrades-in-arms to do the same. Authorities report that a Catholic priest reportedly mediated his surrender.
- US based NGO Colombia Support Network (CSN) calls for a full investigation into the case of El Aro (Antioquia) requesting that commander-in-chief of the Colombian Army Gen. Ospina be brought to justice. 13 people were massacred and 30 more disappeared in October 1997 while he was commander of the IV Brigade, reportedly involved in those acts.
- In a public statement on their website the FARC designates Antonio Lozada, Simón Trinidad and Domingo Bihojó as envoys to advance the talks with the Colombian Government aimed at agreeing an exchange of prisoners with the army.
- El Tiempo reports that 250 soldiers are searching for the paramilitary commanders of the Casanare Self Defence group (ACC). Analysts suggest that this is because they have withdrawn from peace talks with the government.
Tues 29 UN: Inequality figures increase in Colombia; health workers strike for three days.
- The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that displacement and humanitarian crisis worsened in 2002 as compared to 2001 in Colombia. Both quality of life and inequality indicators deteriorated last year, moving Colombia from place 62 in 2000 to 68 in 2002 in the Human Development Index which includes 173 countries.
- More than 100,000 heath workers strike for 72 hours, protesting against the closure of public medical centres by the government. The strike covers 90% of activities in more than 3,000 health clinics and hospitals in Colombia, El Espectador reports.
- Unidentified gunmen kill journalist Guillermo Bravo Vega in Neiva (Huila). Relatives said he had uncovered cases of municipal corruption. In a separate attack, journalist Jaime Rengifo was killed as he left a hotel in Maicao (La Guajira), Reuters reports.
- Clashes between FARC and paramilitaries left eight people dead in the district of Bajo Calima (Valle del Cauca), El Pais reports.
- Attorney General Luis Camilo Ossorio signs an agreement with his Italian counterpart Pier Luigi Vigna in the fight against the mafia and drugs trade, El Espectador reports.
- Luis Alberto Mojica, sues US oil company Occidental Petroleum and its security contractor Airscan for their alleged role in the Santo Domingo massacre in 1998. The lawsuit claims that Occidental supplied key intelligence as well as ground and air support to the Colombian military during the bombing.
- Human rights groups, the Colombian Ombudsman office and the Catholic Church insist that Afro-Colombians forcibly deported from the Darien region in Panamá were physically abused by the Panamanian uthorities, El Espectador reports.
Weds 30 Constitutional Court lifts State of Emergency; Bush plays down Colombia trade pact.
- Colombias Constitutional Court has thrown out a government state of emergency that granted the military force special powers to combat illegal armed groups. According to analysts the ruling has little practical effect but is a political blow to President Uribe Vélez, whilst the Courts decision suggests a willingness to intervene if he tries to overstep his powers.
- US President Bush dampens Colombian hopes for a two-way trade pact with United States, saying that a hemisphere-wide free-trade deal presents the most hopeful prospects. President Uribe told reporters that the US would send Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to Colombia to explore bilateral trade talks.
- UNICEF-Colombia reports that its project Childhood as a Space of Consensus and Peace developed in the departments of Caquetá, Cauca, Meta, Nariño and Putumayo will be halted due to a lack of funds. The components of the project are primary healthcare, education, psychosocial attention and childhood development.
- Gunmen open fire outside a Colombian morgue in Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), killing three people waiting to claim the bodies of friends and relatives killed in combats between FARC and paramilitaries.
- Amnesty International express concern for the safety of Silvio Saúl Suarez Sandoval, who disappeared from his betting shop in Popayán (Cauca) on 24th April. He is member a of the Colombian Communist Party and had reportedly received death threats from army-backed paramilitary groups in recent months.
- ELN Commander Francisco Galán says in a public statement that the ELN recognizes that killing the teacher Ana Cecilia Duque was a mistake, adding that it will make the necessary amends according to the codes of justice and war, El Colombiano reports.
- Interior Minister Fernando Londoño says that the Colombian Government is unhappy with the ruling of the Constitutional Court but it would abide by the decision and would seek normal legislation to ensure a better enforcement of public order.
Thurs 01- Ombudsman calls for protection of NGOs; thousands march peacefully in Bogotá.
- In a letter sent to Uribe Vélez, Colombian Ombudsman Eduardo Cifuentes urges the President to reinforce the security of the Colombian human rights defenders and NGOs, inviting the government to establish dialogue with these organisations.
- Thousands of people marched in Bogotá protesting for the increasing poverty of Colombian workers and against the government Referendum proposal. Director of the Colombian Central Trade Union Federation (CUT), Carlos Rodriguez, says that they reject Uribes policies because they are bringing more insecurity to Colombians. Nine trade unionist have been killed in 2003 and 114 were killed last year, El Colombiano reports.
- Colombian NGO Organizacion Femenina Popular (OFP) reports the disappearance of Henry Campos after he was abducted by paramilitaries in Barrancabermeja, calling on the authorities to regain the control of the city and guarantee the security of its citizens.
- US State Department publishes the Annual Report on Terrorist groups. The list includes Colombian groups FARC, ELN and the paramilitaries of the AUC. Director of the Office of Andean Issues at the US State Department, Phil Chicola, says that United States will support Colombia regarding the re-insertion policy of illegal armed groups.
- Two police officers killed and others disappeared after FARC members reportedly attack the municipality of Cumbitara (Nariño).
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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