InfoBrief - September 29, 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 indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.


U.S. Current Affairs & Media


Members of U.S. Congress Urge President Uribe to Sever Military-Paramilitary Ties On September 23, 57 Members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to President Uribe urging him to terminate all links between the Armed Forces and paramilitary groups, who have been classified as terrorists by the U.S. State Department. The letter also expressed concern about Uribe’s proposed amnesty law, which would permit paramilitary leaders who agree to disarm to replace jail time with community service and fines. Initiated by Tom Lantos (CA), the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, the letter encouraged Uribe to ensure that any peace agreement with the paramilitaries includes “accountability for human rights violations.” 53 other Democrats and three Republicans, including Jim Leach (IA), Christopher Shays (CT) and Katherine Harris (FL), joined Lantos in signing the letter. It is available online at


Members of U.S. Congress Encourage Protection of Human Rights Defenders Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and 18 other Members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Powell requesting that he take substantive action to protect human rights defenders and NGO workers in Colombia. The letter, sent on September 23, is a response to the remarks of President Uribe, who recently equated the work of Colombian NGOs with that of terrorists, jeopardizing the safety of NGO workers. The letter is available online at:


Human Rights Watch Says Uribe Must Emphasize Commitment to ICC before U.N. In a release issued on September 29, Human Rights Watch (HRW) encouraged President Uribe to reiterate Colombia’s support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he speaks before the United Nations General Assembly on September 30. Colombia, a long-time supporter of the ICC, recently disappointed advocates of the ICC by signing a bilateral agreement with the United States that effectively grants U.S citizens in Colombia immunity before the court. José Miguel Vivanco, the Executive Director of the Americas Division of HRW, noted that, “It is appalling that the United States would bully Colombia into signing an unprincipled immunity agreement, and deeply disappointing that President Uribe would yield to this demand.” The press release is available online at: press/2003/09/colombia092903.htm.


U.S. Pilots in Colombia Face Dangerous Hazards The September 21 death of Mario Alvarado, a native of Costa Rica working for an unidentified U.S. company, underscores the dangers faced by U.S. government-contracted pilots in Colombia. Alvarado was killed when his plane crashed while fumigating coca crops in the guerrilla controlled area of Catatumbo. According to the U.S. State Department, Alvarado’s plane was struck by ground fire. Two senior Colombian Army commanders reported that the pilots are flying beyond areas cleared of guerrillas by military forces, a tactic not normally used in the anti-drug campaign because it exposes planes to potential ground fire. Adam Isacson, of the Center for International Policy, expressed concern that authorities are sacrificing the pilots’ safety in exchange for expediency. More information is available online at:


U.S. Southern Command Funds Medical Program On September 23, the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá reported that $80,000 in U.S. Southern Command funds went to a humanitarian civic assistance program in Caquetá on September 19-21. Governmental authorities and volunteers provided medical care to some 4,000 children under the age of 15, pregnant women, and elderly citizens. More information is available online at:


Upcoming Events and Seminars in the U.S.


The Colombia Media Project will host its Fall 2003 Conference, entitled “Colombia: Communication, Conflict and Democracy” in New York City on October 17-19. In its sixth annual conference, the Colombia Media Project will examine the state of the conflict in Colombia, including Washington’s expanding role, and the ways in which it is presented in major media. For more information, contact the Colombia Media Project at (212) 802-7209 or


*Note – There is no CTW for this week. We apologize for any inconvenience.


Peter Clark, Senior Associate

US Office on Colombia

1630 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 201

Washington DC 20009

Tel: 202-232-8090 Fax: 202-232-8092