Colombia This Week - October 13, 2003

Fri 03 – ELN responsible for US plane crash; US press critiques “Colombia’s peace bargain”.

In a statement on their website, the ELN group says it shot down a US State Department plane that crashed last month, killing its Costa Rican pilot, Mario Alvarado, while fumigating cocaine-producing crops. Alvarado is the sixth U.S. government contractor killed in Colombia this year. The State Department earlier acknowledged the plane had been "struck by hostile ground fire" during operations near the Venezuelan border.

An editorial in the Washington Post criticises Uribe’s defence at the UN General Assembly of the proposal to grant amnesties to paramilitary commanders, suggesting that the deal reflects Mr. Uribe’s own sympathy for the AUC, as well as that of the Colombian armed forces. It also argues that the President of Colombia has hurt his own cause with his intemperate rhetoric and poor tactics against human rights groups that criticise these impunity concessions, and calls upon the Bush administration to review the amnesty measures.

Brazilian police report that the FARC group is recruiting Brazilian indigenous people into its ranks. "This is the first official documentation of recruitment, based on evidence of family members and those recruited," said a spokesman for the federal police in the town of Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira, Brazil's remote Amazon region.

In a joint effort by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Colombian government, US Ambassador William Wood and Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolina Barco sign an agreement committing the United States to contribute $117.9 million to programmes for democracy, alternative development, and internally displaced persons.


Sat 04 – Procuraduría criticises botched rescue attempt; Santos defends amnesty bill.

The inspector-general's office (Procuraduria) reports the beginning of disciplinary proceedings against a General and three officers regarding the botched rescue attempt of former Culture Minister Consuelo Araujo Noguera, kidnapped and executed by FARC members as government troops moved in two years ago El Tiempo reports. The report says Gen. Gabriel Contreras was responsible for a "very grave" dereliction of duty in not deploying his forces properly and for failing to have them continue to chase the rebels after Araujo Noguera was killed.

Vice-President Francisco Santos defends the government's draft “Alternative Justice Law”, which seeks to demobilise members of the paramilitary groups in return for amnesty. Human rights groups and some members of Congress have criticised the amnesty provision. Santos said, “the law might not be perfect, but the country needs a pragmatic approach to reduce the levels of violence”, Washington Post reports.

A U.S. Embassy official tells Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the U.S. spray planes face increasing gunfire as the fumigation of drug crops extends to the Venezuelan border. "They were hit by gunfire more than 300 times this year&ldots; They take ground fire on a regular basis," the source revealed.


Sun 05 – Paramilitaries responsible for killing governor candidate; inadequate support for IDPs.

The Attorney General’s Office confirms that paramilitaries were responsible for the killing four months ago of the governor candidate for Norte de Santander, Tirso Velez.

According to an official study on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) commissioned by the government in Bogota, only 19 percent of them receive subsidies for income generating projects and less than 4 percent receive help with housing. The study found a lack of assistance in meeting the needs of ethnic minorities in Bogota, particularly indigenous peoples.

According to the US Embassy in Bogota, U.S. Special Forces training Colombian troops in Arauca are helping in the battle against foot-and-mouth disease. The elite U.S. troops joined the Colombian army, government authorities and volunteers in vaccinating almost 1,000 cattle against the disease over the course of one week in Arauca.

Colombian Police report that suspects captured last week, accused of the killing of a mayoral candidate in the city of Soledad appear to be common criminals with no links to any of the armed groups fighting in Colombia’s conflict.


Mon 06 – Video of 3 US hostages held by FARC aired on US TV; another mayoral candidate killed.

A videotaped interview with three Americans held hostage by the FARC is broadcast on US television. The three civilian contractors said that they were "alive and well" and hoped to be released through diplomacy, warning that a rescue attempt would be fatal. The FARC says the Americans are CIA agents and have put them on a list of about 50 hostages they want to swap for jailed guerrillas, Reuters reports.

The Police chief of Boyaca reports the killing of Jorge Roa, mayoral candidate for the Conservative Party. He was shot dead along with a companion as he drove outside the town of Chivor (Boyaca). Mr. Roa is the seventh mayoral candidate to be killed during the election campaign. Eight people running for city councils and one candidate for governor have also been killed, El Tiempo reports.


Tues 07 – Mayor of Bolivar (Cauca) killed; UNHCR issues a report on IDPs in Bogotá.

FARC members are presumed responsible for the killing of Mayor of Bolivar Orlando Hoyos after a group of four mayors met with guerrilla commanders in southern Cauca. According to the testimonies, the group was driving back from the meeting when the convoy was ambushed along a rural road near San Sebastian, El Espectador reports.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the private-enterprise initiative "Bogota Como Vamos" launch a study of the situation of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia's capital. The book, "Displaced Population in Bogotá: A Responsibility for Everyone" draws attention to the critical situation of IDPs in the capital, where they have fled to escape the fighting between irregular armed groups and the Colombian Army.

An army officer and two soldiers have been arrested for the murder of Guillermo Reinoso Guevara, local businessman from Santa Ana (Cauca). According to the Colombian Judicial Police, those responsible for the killing robbed 13 m pesos, (US$ 4,614) from the victim before they killed him, El Espectador reports.

In a boost for small coffee growers in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Central American countries, Kraft Foods Inc. announces it will sell "fair-trade" coffee certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The beans will come from coffee farms in Latin America that are audited and approved by the Rainforest Alliance and other members of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, AP reports.

The Health Workers Union in Cauca reports arbitrary detentions and threats made by the Colombian armed forces against rural health promoters and doctors, calling on the authorities to respect the medical mission in this department affected by the armed conflict.

Commander of the Colombian National Police, Gen. Castro reports the detention of Nohora Jaimes Rodríguez, police officer of Valle (Cauca) after US authorities issued an extradition appeal. She has been reportedly involved in drug trafficking, El Tiempo reports.


Weds 08 - Bomb kills 6 in shopping area in Bogotá; ELN commander released from prison.

A car bomb explodes in a shopping district in Bogotá, killing six people and wounding 12. Police say members of paramilitary groups have recently been muscling their way into San Andresito and extorting shopkeepers. Defence Minister Martha Lucia Ramirez has offered a reward of $35,000 for information leading to arrests regarding the bombing, AP reports.

ELN commander Felipe Torres walks free from prison after a judge halved his 20-year sentence. He has been acting as a prison-based go-between for the ELN group and the Colombian government. He told reporters outside the Itaguí prison in Medellín that "I am going to keep working on the activity that I've been engaged in: the political representation of an organisation that is seeking paths to peace," El Espectador reports.

Amnesty International (AI) expresses serious concern after a Colombian Congressional Committee voted in favour of a bill which will give judicial police powers to the military: “The new bill will allow the military to hold suspects for up to six days without a judicial review of their detention, including their right to challenge the legality of their detention”. AI has repeatedly denounced this law proposal which violates the spirit of international human rights treaties to which Colombia is signatory, and repeated recommendations by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States.

Speaking by telephone from a rebel hideout, senior ELN commander Pablo Beltran says he would like to exchange the seven kidnapped foreign backpackers for imprisoned ELN members. “We have comrades in prison, the majority of whom are very sick, and we would like to have them included in an exchange," he said, adding that the four Israelis, one Briton, one German and one Spaniard being held hostage are all in good health, El Tiempo reports.


Thurs 09 – Paramilitaries say extradition blocks peace; Permanent Assembly starts in Bogotá.

In a public statement, the paramilitary commanders negotiating with the Colombian government urge Uribe Velez to drop the arrest warrants against them, claiming that attempts to arrest and perhaps extradite them to the United States would jeopardise peace moves in a decades-old war. "It will only be possible for us to demobilise if ... society guarantees us a dignified return to civilian life," said the AUC, which claims to command 13,000 gunmen.

The annual event of the Permanent Assembly of Civil Society for Peace starts in Bogotá. For the next 7 days more than 2,000 Colombian and international delegates will work on ways to decrease the armed conflict and proposals to carry out a humanitarian agreement with all the armed groups in the conflict.

Doudou Diene, UN Special Envoy on Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia, meets with the co-president of the Colombian Liberal Party, Senator Piedad Cordoba. She reports that levels of poverty and exclusion have increased dramatically during the last five years, especially amongst the indigenous and afro-Colombian minorities.

A paramilitary group in Palmira (Cauca) kills the president of a Neighbourhood Committee (JAC) Efrain Usma. Authorities also report that another person has been killed and one more disappeared in the rural areas of this municipality (El Pais).

The Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights reports the retention and subsequent release of Bessy Pertuz, vice-president of the University Workers Union. She was temporarily abducted outside the National University of Colombia in Bogotá by two individuals who made death threats against her. She also reports the robbery of confidential information. Bessy Pertuz is a recognised academic leader and coordinates the human rights programmes in four universities nationwide.



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.