InfoBrief September 15, 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

· President Uribe Identifies Human Rights Groups as “Terrorist” Sympathizers On September 8, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe verbally attacked human rights groups, calling them “terrorist” agents and cowards who “[hid] their political ideas behind human rights.” Uribe’s harsh words were delivered at a nationally televised military ceremony in Bogotá and came as a response to the release of a report issued by 80 respected human rights groups and other NGOs earlier that same day. The report, entitled “The Authoritarian Curse,” criticized Uribe’s “security measures,” noting that “strategies of war and repression have been directed against the civilian population.” Human rights and policy organizations around the world promptly reproached Uribe for making such dangerous statements, voicing concerns that the President’s comments would increase the chances that legitimate human rights groups would be targeted by armed actors. More information is available online at: colombia_uribe_1.

· UN Human Development Report Calls for a “New Deal” on Drug Policy “The Human Development Report,” which was commissioned by the United Nations (UN) Development Program and made available on September 9, urges the United States and Colombia to design a “New Deal” on drug policy. Specifically, the report recommended that the United States and Colombia shift resources away from spraying coca crops grown by poor farmers to targeting drug traffickers. According to the report, which was prepared by Colombian experts, “It is necessary, as much as possible, to avoid treating peasants as criminals.” Recommendations were also made for agrarian reform, so as to afford poor farmers the chance to make a living growing legal crops. More information is available online at: reg=AMERICAS.

· U.S. Donates Additional $400 Million to Colombian National Security On September 12, U.S. Ambassador William Wood signed a document in Bogotá promising the transfer of almost $400 million in anti-narcotics and anti-terrorism aid to Colombia. These funds are in addition to the more than $2.5 billion Plan Colombia, which also contributes money to these areas. The Ambassador’s speech on the occasion of the signing is available at: wwwsww11.shtml.

· Annual Global Report on Banning Landmines Cites “Disturbing Findings” in Colombia The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) issued its annual global report on September 9. Although the report found that this past year was marked by encouraging progress worldwide, it cited “disturbing findings” in Colombia. According to the report, guerrilla and paramilitary forces in Colombia have significantly expanded their use of antipersonnel mines, which has caused a marked increase in casualties among civilians. The full report and summary are available at: 2003/09/lmm090903.htm.

· Michael Deal Assumes Position as New Mission Director of USAID for Colombia Last week, Michael Deal was sworn in as the newest mission director to Colombia for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Deal, a veteran of the foreign service, previously served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Latin America and the Caribbean and the Deputy Mission Director for the Dominican Republic. According to USAID, their mission in Colombia through 2005 is to strengthen Colombia’s democracy, reduce illicit crop production through alternative development, and provide assistance to internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups. More information is available at:

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