Colombia This Week -- November 15, 2004

Dear friends,Apologies for the recent lack of CTWs. We hope you have noticed the absence.We have not forgotten you!!, so here is the latest issue.Regards,Mikel PrietoABColombia Group.

Fri 05 - Four international Trade Unionists deported; four officials fired after prison escape.

·	The Colombian Administrative Security Department (DAS) deports four international labour leaders on October 30, soon after their arrival at Bogota's international airport. The four, Victor Baez, general secretary of the International Confederation of Trade Unions' Inter American Regional Organisation; Duncan Cameron, regional secretary of Washington-based Public Services International; Antonio Rodriguez, regional secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation; and Rodolfo Benitez, regional secretary of Union Network International-had planned to attend a Bogota meeting of the Global Federation of Unions. Vice President Francisco Santos on 2 November called the expulsions "a mistake" and said the unionists could return to Colombia. But the unionists said it wasn't a slip-up, Associated Press reports.

·	President Uribe directly dismisses four military officers after the escape of an army major jailed for taking part in an assassination attempt on Wilson Borja, a Trade Union leader and left-wing politician, from a military prison. Maj. Cesar Maldonado is the most recent imprisoned army official to break out of a military prison, rekindling suspicion that former colleagues are aiding the escapes of jailed officials. Vice President Francisco Santos told local radio Friday the escape "is an embarrassment" and added that any military officers who aided Maldonado's escape would be punished, AP reports.

·	The Regional Council for Indigenous People in Cauca (CRIC) reports that 500 Nasa indigenous living in the settlement of Tacueyo, municipality of Toribio (Cauca) remain in the area trapped between the Colombian army and the FARC group that are still fighting. Two soldiers have been reportedly killed, El Tiempo reports.

·	Colombia has lifted arrest orders on three paramilitary leaders, one wanted in the U.S. for drug trafficking, to allow them to coordinate the demobilisation of 3,000 of their troops. "The AUC has shown the will and commitment to carry out the demobilisation," the presidential resolution says. One of the three leaders is AUC chief Salvatore Mancuso, whom the U.S. wants to extradite for cocaine smuggling. The others are Ivan Roberto Duque and Ever Veloza. They had been wanted in Colombia for crimes including murder, massacre and kidnapping. The trio are now allowed to move freely in the country to carry out the demobilisation.


Sat 06 - Air bombardment kills one child and injures more; Official resigns for fumigation policy.

·	The Colombian Prosecutor's Office (Procuraduria) reports that they intend to investigate a counterinsurgency operation carried out by the Colombian air force in Nariño which resulted in civilians being bombed for several hours and during which one child was killed and two more suffered injures, El Pais reports.

·	Alberto Rueda, a Colombian Interior and Justice Ministry advisor resigns in protest at the government fumigation of illicit crops. In his resignation letter, he complained the government has neglected to monitor the effect of the spraying on human health. The letter called the amount of money spent on fumigation "absurd." It added that the U.S. does not live up to its responsibility in reducing drug consumption. The Colombian government last year received U.S. aid totalling more than $750 million, about 20 percent of which was devoted to maintaining a fleet of crop dusters and supporting aircraft that make almost daily sorties, fumigating crops of coca and opium poppy, the raw materials for cocaine and heroin, El Tiempo reports.

·	The Colombian Prosecutor's Office (Procuraduria) gives its approval to the extradition to the United States of the leader of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), Salvatore Mancuso and the FARC commander Simon Trinidad, El Tiempo reports.

·	Rep. Wilson Borja Diaz, injured in a 2000 assassination attempt, suspects that the Colombian authorities have 'disappeared' Mayor Maldonado, a jailed Army major, to prevent him from incriminating other officers behind the hit, El Tiempo reports.

Sun 07 - New threat to kill President Uribe; UN study highlights worsening poverty in Colombia.

·	Colombia's FARC group reportedly calls on all its fighters to concentrate on assassinating President Uribe Velez, according to a message intercepted by Colombian officials. Although Mr Uribe has been a target of the rebels since he first appeared on the national political stage, security forces have taken the renewed threat seriously and redoubled his protection. On Sunday, an unidentified man threw a grenade at a police station in the southern city of Pasto, shortly before Mr Uribe was due to arrive for an event at a theatre four blocks away. Officials said it was unclear if Mr Uribe was the target, BBC reports.

·	One in four Colombians suffers from hunger, the UN Development Programme reported at the end of October, in the latest study suggesting the country's poverty is expanding. About 25.9 percent of the country's 44 million inhabitants, (up from 21.8 percent in 1997), try to survive on less than $2 a day, the report said. The study found poverty most widespread in the provinces of Choco, Huila and Boyaca. U.N. World Food Programme chief Peter Goossens, said malnourished Colombians receive less food assistance than people in Sudan. Colombian Family Welfare Institute director Beatriz Londoño said that a Colombian dies from hunger every two days. Other recent studies have shown declining Colombian school attendance, literacy, health care and life expectancy. Poverty hits rural residents hardest, but those internally displaced by the conflict arriving in urban shantytowns have brought the dire conditions closer to Colombia's developed areas, Reuters reports.

·	Jaime Andres Marulanda, a member of a paramilitary group acting in Bogota, publicly admits to the Colombian authorities that he has killed 137 people in 2002, saying he acted on orders of Bogota paramilitary bosses. According to the report, most of the victims were inhabitants of the Ciudad Bolivar and Altos de Cazuca, El Tiempo reports.


Mon 08 - FARC rejects government proposal; Armed forces kill four paramilitary commanders.

·	The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reject the latest proposal made by President Uribe Velez to hold talks with FARC delegates in Bogota to agree on an exchange of captives and jailed guerrillas. In a statement published on their website, the FARC group is asking for the demilitarisation of two municipalities in the Caqueta region, El Colombiano reports.

·	According to the Colombian authorities, four paramilitaries have been killed in the area of Mamon (Cesar). Among them was Major (r) David Hernandez, a former U.S.-trained Colombian military officer who went on to become a leader of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). Originally arrested in 1989 for the murder of a state government peace envoy while still working for the Colombian military, Hernandez escaped from prison and joined up with the AUC, eventually taking on a leading role. While in the Colombian army, Hernandez received training from U.S. military personnel at the School of the Americas, El Tiempo reports.

·	Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo visits the region of Catatumbo as tension grows in the area, after paramilitary commanders announce they will start with the demobilisation of up to 1,600 people in the next week. Villagers from the settlement of Campo Giles (Norte de Santander) have created a Manual of behaviour to use when the demobilised troops arrive in the area as planned in the demobilisation, El Tiempo reports.


Tues 09 - Commune leader killed in Medellin; FARC members kill indigenous leader.

·	Medellin- based Human Rights Collective 'Seeds of freedom' (CODHESEL) denounces the killing of Jesus Estrada in Medellin. He was 'disappeared' on Sunday night by a group of hooded people in the Comuna 3, and his relatives found his body the next day in the morgue of the city.

·	Colombian NGOs condemn the killing of another Mamo (indigenous authority) in the Sierra of Santa Marta. According to reports, a FARC unit killed 70 year old leader Mariano Suarez Chaparro, when he was accompanying a community towards a new settlement, El Espectador reports.

·	The Colombian Liberal party announces they have suspended nine Senators from the party after breaking the party's discipline and voting in Congress for a constitutional amendment in support of President Uribe Velez. The president is seeking re-election despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits this, El Tiempo reports.

·	Member of the ELN facilitation Commission for Peace, Jaime Bernal Cuellar, reports that the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are planning to hold a round of negotiations in Mexico, Colprensa reports.

·	Colombian Police Chief Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro announces the capture of a commander of an urban FARC unit suspected of involvement in the February 2002 bombing of an exclusive Bogota social club that killed 36 people, Colprensa reports.


Weds 10 - Chavez offers to mediate talks with FARC; Paras consolidate support in Congress.

·	After a meeting with Colombian President Uribe Velez, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offers to mediate talks between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), El Tiempo reports.

·	An article in the New York Times argues that the political coalition the Colombian paramilitary forces have created is at the apex of its power. They have placed their advocates in Colombian institutions like the attorney general's office and town and city halls, according to Western diplomats, rights advocates and Colombian lawmakers, but perhaps the most troubling sign of its influence is in Congress. There, Congress Representatives Rocio Arias and Eleonora Pineda are leaders of a group of 16 legislators from rural regions who, to varying degrees, openly support the paramilitary leaders, particularly their demands for a deal in which they would not serve jail time or face extradition in exchange for demobilising their forces.

·	More than 150 Colombian internally displaced people (IDPs) arrive in Ecuador, after being displaced by paramilitary groups acting in Colombia. According to El Tiempo this armed group carried out a massacre last week, pushing the distressed communities towards the neighbouring border.

·	The Colombian Prosecutor's Office (Procuraduria) is re-elected by the Colombian Senate with 90 votes in favour, reiterating his commitment to combat corruption, 'maintain independence and work for human rights issues'. This is the first time in which a Prosecutor is re-elected in Colombia despite the opposition of some legislators, El Espectador reports.


Thurs 11 - NGO office assaulted for third time; 14 killed as Colombia battered by heavy floods.

·	In a short statement sent to the Colombian President Uribe Velez, several high-profile Colombian NGOs angrily call for guarantees to continue their work after the offices of the Permanent Assembly of the Colombian Civil Society for Peace were raided in Bogota by armed men in hoods who broke into the premises and confiscated computer hard drives and information, EFE reports.

·	A state of emergency has been declared in the north of Colombia where floods caused by torrential rains have killed at least 14 people in the last few days, officials say. They say thousands of people in several departments have been forced to flee their homes after weeks of heavy rains. The flooding, which has worsened in recent days, has mainly affected the country's Caribbean coast in the north. The Colombian Red Cross has urged people to donate money as well as first aid and other supplies to the victims, BBC reports.

·	The Colombian President Uribe Velez has re-structured the leadership of the Colombian armed forces. Reports say that Colombian Military Chief Gen. Carlos Alberto Ospina sacked army leader Gen. Carreño and other eight top officers after several months of differences, AP 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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