Colombia This Week -- November 17, 2003

Fri 07- Congressman shot dead in Cali ; HRW call for independent investigation in Comuna 13.

· Colombian Congressman and member of the Liberal Party Arcangel Clavijo, is shot dead in a nightclub near Cali by a gunman. The latter fled the scene and remains at large, a police spokesperson reports. The motive was not known but Wilson Borja, a fellow Congressman, said Clavijo had recently received death threats from unknown sources, El Pais reports.

· Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Jose Miguel Vivanco calls for an independent judicial investigation of paramilitary abuses in Comuna 13, in the city of Medellín. He said the area is still controlled by paramilitary forces supported by Colombian armed officers and that residents complain that these illegal armed actors are violating their rights and forcing them to pay tributes, El Colombiano reports.

· The U.S. State Department reports that it will not recommend to the Department of Homeland Security that temporary protected status (TPS) be granted to Colombian citizens living in the US. According to the State Department, improved security conditions in Colombia have made it unnecessary to adopt such measures for Colombians in the United States. The decision is taken days after the US Senate approved millions of dollars in US military aid, Washington Post reports.


Sat 08- Attorney frees 128 people detained in raid; two paramilitary groups join peace talks.

· The Regional Attorney of Sincelejo, Orlando Pacheco releases 128 people held by the authorities for three months. The suspects were arrested in August in Sincelejo (Sucre) in one of the government's increasingly controversial mass roundups of alleged supporters of the FARC. On their release, based on lack of evidence, some have said they plan to sue the government for wrongful detention, El Espectador reports.

· Colombian Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo reports that two paramilitary factions, the Central Bolivar Block and the Conquerers of Arauca, are to join other paramilitary factions in the peace process with the Colombian government with a view towards demobilisation. In a statement from both factions, whose combined forces total at least 4,500 fighters, they reported that they would join peace talks with the government but have demanded the government scrap arrest warrants against them, El Espectador reports.

· In an open letter to Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez, President Uribe Velez retracts his previous comments concerning corruption allegations against Ecuadorian army officials saying that "the grave accusations (&ldots;) must not be interpreted as an affront to the Ecuadorian armed forces, which deserve all our trust," CNE reports.

· In a statement on their website the National Liberation Army (ELN) reports they have made no financial demands for the release of the seven foreigners held hostage, warning against an attempted military rescue of the hostages. They also ask the international community and the government to take measures to ease the plight of native people of the Sierra Nevada, who they say are suffering from a blockade by paramilitary groups.

· President Uribe still appears determined to slash the government budget, as required under an International Monetary Fund loan agreement that his administration signed in January. He is contemplating a refinancing of government debt, harsh cuts in social programmes, a sales tax hike, and new taxes on pensions. Juan Carlos Galvis, President of the United Workers Central (CUT) reports in a visit to New York that, "It is antidemocratic for Uribe to insist on reforms the Colombian people have already rejected", AP reports.


Sun 09 – Kofi Annan: no military solution in Colombia's conflict; Defence Minister resigns.

· While visiting the Andean region, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reports from Ecuador that there can be no military solution to resolve long-term Colombian conflict, underlining concerns about the conflict spilling over Colombian borders into neighbouring countries. He also said that the UN officials in Colombia are not directly involved in peace talks with paramilitaries or guerrillas "because it is the Colombian government that needs to do so", AP reports.

· Colombia's Defence Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez abruptly resigns, becoming the second Cabinet member to leave President Alvaro Uribe's government in a week. Under the defence minister's stewardship, nationwide security had reportedly improved, with the government claiming that homicides had declined 22 percent, kidnappings were down 35 percent and illegal drug crops had fallen by 70 percent, CNE reports.

· Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutiérrez Borbúa's office says that he is satisfied with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Vélez's retraction of an accusation that the Ecuadorian army sold guerrillas a missile fired last month in Bogota, El Espectador reports.

· UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the local NGO Programme for Development and Peace in the Magdalena Medio (PDPMM) launch a health project in the settlement of San Pedro (Santander). The local population has been considered at high risk of displacement since May 2002. Since the local health post in San Pedro was abandoned two and a half years ago because of the violence, the population have not received any health assistance, UNHCR reports.


Mon 10 – Uribe names new Defence Minister; Amnesty reports increase in attacks on defenders

· President Uribe names the head of the insurance company Lima, Jorge Alberto Uribe (no relation), as the new defence minister. He is a U.S.-educated economist with no military experience. Analysts suggest that by choosing an old friend the president is ensuring implementation of his policies, Washington Post reports.

· Amnesty International (AI) warns that the persecution of human rights campaigners in parts of the Americas is reaching emergency proportions. Colombia is singled out as the worst offender, BBC reports.

· Medellin's police chief, Gen. Leonardo Gallego is sacked after a scandal breaks in Colombia's media when a woman turns over receipts to authorities that she claims she has been hiding for a police captain in charge of department funds. Gen. Gallego confirmed there were more than 1,000 receipts covering a three-year period and showing extravagant spending. The total amount of money involved has not been released. President Uribe Velez condemned the "waste" of public funds, Semana reports.

· Colombian General Inspector (Procurador) Edgardo Maya launches an investigation into the nature of the Colombian military's bidding practices with public funds. Former Defence Minister Martha Lucia Ramirez recently recommended that contracts for providing food to Colombian soldiers be open for public bids. Gen. Jorge Enrique Mora, commander of the armed forces, fiercely objected, insisting the job should remain with the military, El Tiempo reports.


Tues 11 – Scandal ousts Colombian Police Chief Teodoro Campo and four other Generals.

· President Uribe Velez accepts the resignations of Police Chief Gen. Teodoro Campo and his four closest deputies, Gen. Hector Dario Castro, Gen. Luis Alfredo Rodriguez Perez, and Gen. Victor Manuel Paez Guerra and Gen. Leonardo Gallego, following the media reports of scandals involving officers of this institution in the last few months, El Tiempo reports.

· Colombian Housing and Environment minister, Cecilia Rodríguez, steps down. She is the third minister to quit the Colombian cabinet following a government defeat in a referendum on reform, El Tiempo reports

· Esther Codina Perez, a radio journalist from local radio station Rodadero de Toledar is shot dead outside her home in Santa Marta. Codina Perez also worked at a hospital in Santa Marta and was a member of a trade union, Associated Press (AP) reports.

· BBC's Jeremy McDermott reports that at the start of his administration, Mr Uribe said that his ministers would serve the full four years of his administration and that the fight against corruption was the top priority. After just over a year of government, he says, five ministers have gone and corruption seems more prevalent than ever.

· New York Times reports that with the bill that President Uribe has proposed in the Congress, he is trying to meet deficit-cutting targets set under a $2.1 billion standby loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund. But the bill is far from assured and faces a deadline for approval within the next month. Many members of the Congress are accusing Mr. Uribe of trying to push through a watered-down version of the referendum.

· Army officers rescue musician Julio Acevedo in the municipality of Dagua (Valle). The US-Colombian citizen was kidnapped in March this year reportedly by paramilitaries, Efe reports.

· Government officials say privately that ex-defence minister Ramirez was forced out. Local news media speculated that she was a scapegoat following a spat with neighbouring Ecuador over Uribe's public allegations that corrupt Ecuadorian military officials were selling weapons to Colombian rebels, including a rocket launcher used in an attack in Bogota last month.


Weds 12 – Commander of Armed Forces resigns; NGO criticises Attorney General Osorio.

· General Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel steps down. He had reportedly requested retirement last month. His departure follows key defence and interior ministers, as well as the police chief, Teodoro Campo. Under Mora, Colombia's military has received more combat troops and more money from the government, forcing a rebel retreat. However, top rebel commanders are still at large, Reuters reports.

· The Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights (CPDH) condemns the decision made by the Attorney General Luis Camilio Osorio to sack the Regional Attorney of Sincelejo, Orlando Pacheco. CPDH believe that Pacheco was sacked for conceding that authorities had committed an error in holding 128 people for three months without evidence and subsequently freeing them.

· Mark Henderson, the British tourist held hostage for two months by the National Liberation Army (ELN), appears in a video pleading for the action of the British government to secure his release. This is the first communication since his kidnapping along with seven others, The Guardian reports.

· Humberto de la Calle, a political commentator who served as former interior minister and as vice president in the mid-1990s, says in El Tiempo that President Uribe Velez has mishandled the leadership changes. "What should have been a favourable presentation of a rejuvenated Cabinet full of potential for improving the government ... has become a crisis".


Thurs 13 – Director of ACCI German Bula resigns; massacre in Tolima leaves 4 peasants dead.

· Director of the Colombian Agency for International Cooperation (ACCI), German Bula resigns. The Colombian government reports the merging of the "Plan Colombia" programme with the Social Solidarity Network (RSS) and Colombia's Development Agency (ACCI) into one entity under the direction of Luis Alfonso Hoyos.

· Four people are dead after an armed group carried out a massacre in the municipality of Cajamarca (Tolima). The Colombian army reports that members of the paramilitary faction from the Bloque Tolima carried out the attack. Local ombudsman Francisco Laborda reports on denunciations made to its office that members of the Colombian army participated in the massacre, El Espectador reports.

· An editorial in El Tiempo suggests that the decision to name former Plan Colombia director, Sandra Suarez as the new Environment and Housing Minister sends a confusing message to the environmentalists after reports of the effects of the fumigation campaign in recent months across Colombia.




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.

If you would like to be put on the mailing list, please send an email message to the address below, indicating why you would be interested in receiving this summary.


ABColombia Group

PO Box 100

London SE1 7RT

Tel: +44-(0)20-7523-2374

Fax: +44-(0)20-7960-2706



ABColombia Members: CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam GB, Save the Children UK, SCIAF, Trocaire.


ABColombia Observers: Amnesty International and Peace Brigades International.