Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nothing is Safe: Israel's War on Lebanon in 2006

Hello folks,

In my two previous posts, I've already alerted you to some of our guests for this Friday Morning's Wake Up Call on WBAI - Dr. Paul Rogers of will join us in the first hour to discuss the buildup in Afghanistan, U.S. policy in Iraq, and the impact of the global economic crisis on security issues; and in the second hour, we will have a preview of the international conference on the state of U.S. Military bases worldwide, which is taking place this weekend in Washington DC.

So now I want to let you know what else we have in store for you tomorrow morning.

Within the context of our discussion about global (in)security and U.S. power and militarism, we will take a look back at the 2006 invasion of Lebanon by the Israeli Defense Forces, an invasion that was repeated most recently in Gaza. Both of these events have been universally condemned, with the one dramatic exception of the U.S. government under George W. Bush, and now, under Barack Obama. The tragedy of this approach to policy is that what actually occurred in Lebanon was for the most part blacked out in the U.S. corporate press, a white wash that repeated itself with events in Gaza.

On Friday morning, we will look back at Lebanon 2006, featuring the recently completed documentary series produced by Deep Dish TV called Nothing is Safe. We will feature highlights of the series, and talk about the nature of the programs with a long-time member of Deep Dish TV, media activist and producer Brian Drolet.

This segment will begin at about 7:30am ET, so I urge you to tune in and catch it live ( Below are some details about the documentary series, Nothing is Safe.

"Nothing is Safe" slices through the layers of propaganda of the Lebanon War like a laser. A brilliant and crisply edited collection of voices and images. Essential viewing. – David Barsamian, Director - Alternative Radio

About the Series
The devastation of Lebanon caused by the Israeli bombing of homes, schools, medical facilities, roads and bridges in southern Lebanon is horrific. The extent of this destruction and the loss of life went largely unreported in the U.S. media. As in Iraq, the public's field of vision has been sanitized to the human cost of the mass homicide. Hundreds of dead and maimed children cannot be reduced to numerical calculation. The destruction of much of Lebanon’s infrastructure cannot be simply quantified. Like the story spun about the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the U.S. media narration obscures the larger strategic reasons for this war and blocks examination of the U.S. agenda in the region, typically euphemized as defending Israel and “protecting American interests.”

This series is based largely on interviews with ordinary Lebanese citizens, heart-wrenching stories of loss and determination against a backdrop of unimaginable destruction. In war it is not only the innocent civilians who suffer the most, their voices are the first and most effectively silenced. These programs let them speak.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Security Without Empire - Put an End to Foreign Military Bases

President Obama indicated in his speech before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night that his Administration was looking for ways to cut waste in defense spending, while vowing to keep the nation safe from contemporary threats. He said this within the context of his highly publicized plans of sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan in an effort to curtail the "gains made by the Taliban" in recent months, as the policy is often described in the corporate press. But there are other areas where the U.S. could lessen its military footprint and begin redirecting billions of dollars of much needed funds for other programs, domestic and foreign, which are not even on the policy-making table. I'm referring to the hundreds of U.S. military bases and installations scattered around the world, many of which have been criticized vociferously for years by the local inhabitants of these areas occupied by the most deliberate symbol of U.S. empire.

From Okinawa and Guam to Honduras, Germany, Iraq, and beyond people who have suffered from the abuses inherent to foreign military bases have been calling for their withdrawal. People in the U.S. have joined this call, outraged by the damage done by U.S. bases abroad and by their expense, which diverts $138 billion a year from addressing human needs and revitalizing our economy.

This is the subject of a major international conference taking place in Washington, DC this weekend, sponsored by the American Friend's Services Committee.

The conference will feature base opponents from many "host" nations and will include leading activists as keynote speakers, panelists and workshop facilitators. It will culminate on Monday, March 2, with a lobbying day on Capitol Hill, in which many conference attendees will participate.

On Friday, February 27th, beginning at 7:10am ET, we will highlight this issue of foreign U.S. bases and their impact on local populations worldwide, on Wake UP Call over WBAI Radio in New York.

My guests will include:

Raed Jarrar is an Iraqi architect, blogger, and activist resident in the United States. He is currently the Iraq consultant for the American Friends Service Committee. Born and raised in Baghdad, he is half Iraqi and half Palestinian. He first gained prominence as the person referenced in the title of the blog "Where is Raed?” written and maintained by Salam Pax, to which Jarrar himself made infrequent posts.

Jarrar, along with his family, compiled their blogs into The Iraq War Blog, An Iraqi Family's Inside View of the First Year of the Occupation (2008). The book explores how their lives were affected as the American military and coalition allies devastated the city. The Jarrar family, while chronicling their daily lives amid the destruction, also provides descriptive analyses of the political climate that resulted from the American occupation of the country.

Dr. Lisa Linda Natividad is a member of I Nasion CHamoru (Chamoru Nation) and is involved in organizing to stop the expansion of U.S. military on Guahan (Guam). She is also active with organizing to promote indigenous sovereignty, women's rights, social and environmental justice, and human rights on her native land. She has also represented Guam at the regional planning meeting in Tokyo, Japan in 2006 preparing an Asia-Pacific position for the International Conference for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases in Ecuador. In summer of 2008, together with fellow activist, Julian Aguon, she completed a month-long national tour of Australia, garnering international support for the human rights violation of the United States inhibiting CHamoru self-determination and the expansion of the U.S. military on Guahan.

Dr. Natividad is Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Guam. She teaches courses on social justice, multicultural counseling, and cultural competency for working with Micronesian populations. She was honored as Guahan’s Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers in 2001.

Wilbert Van Der Zeijden Wilbert van der Zeijden is the Executive Coordinator of the International No-bases Network. Based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, he runs the Network's International Secretariat, and supports the activities and plans of the hundreds of local grass-roots campaigns around the globe in their efforts to close bases and to solve the problems caused by bases. Wilbert is has an MA in International Relations from the Vrije University in Amsterdam and regularly publishes articles and op-eds on bases, the struggle against bases and other peace and security issues.

So tune in on Friday, February 27th, from 7-8:00am, on WBAI 99.5FM in NY (

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Global Security: Paul Rogers of Open Democracy will be guest on Friday's Wake Up Call

Hello folks,

This is just to call your attention to one of the issues we'll be discussing this Friday on Wake Up Call on WBAI Radio 99.5FM (, for February 27th. At about 6:30am ET, we'll be having an interview with Dr. Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University, in northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy. We will discuss Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and the global economic crisis and its potential impact on security. Take a look at his latest commentary:

The "AfPak" war: Washington’s three options

The United States's strategic predicament in Afghanistan and Pakistan is deepening. What will Barack Obama do?

(This article was first published on 23 February 2009 in Open Democracy)

The United States decision in the closing months of 2008 to send an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan was largely in response to an escalation in Taliban activity that has now lasted through the current winter. Those troops, from the 10th Mountain Division that has repeatedly been deployed in Afghanistan since the start of the war in October 2001, are now installed in Logar and Wardak provinces south of Kabul (see "Afghanistan's critical moment", 6 February 2009). President Barack Obama announced on 17 February 2009 that he is deploying 17,000 more US soldiers, many of whom will attempt to limit the free exchange of paramilitaries between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001

In the past two weeks there has been a much greater media focus in the United States on the deterioration in security in Afghanistan, much of it prompted by the decision to send the extra troops. This has even made headlines across the domestic news-channels, occasionally even displacing the dominant concern with the economy; but this rare focus on an international story is accompanied by commentary that tends to underplay impact of more troops on the wider strategic environment. Indeed, one result of the Republican efforts to define a narrative of victory in Iraq around the effects of the 2007-08 "surge" has been an assumption that what "worked" there will have a similar effect in Afghanistan.

For the full report, go to Open Democracy.

And make sure to tune into Wake Up Call on WBAI Radio 99.5FM ( on Friday, February 27th at 6:30am ET for an interview with Dr. Paul Rogers. We will discuss Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and the global economic crisis and its potential impact on security.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why They Massacre the Awa of Colombia - A Profound Analysis from the ACIN

Last week, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, accepted responsibility for the brutal massacre of eight (8) indigenous Awa in the southwestern department of Nariño, justifying their barbarity by saying the victims were "informants" for the Armed Forces operating in the region. The leadership of the Awa, as well as the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, say that the number of people killed in early February was actually 27, and that FARC was responsible every one of these deaths.

The Awa, a people that has been targeted for years by all the armed actors in the region, say FARC entered two separate villages between February 4-6, and began to accuse them of collaborating with the Colombian army.

According to eyewitnesses from the community, the guerrillas then started to bring people into their homes and execute them ‘as a lesson’ to the rest of the village.

Among the victims were women, and children between the ages of 3 and 6.

Faced with this latest atrocity, and the ongoing displacement and murder of the Indigenous peoples of Colombia that, for generations, has been accompanied by the theft of land and constant accusations and charges from all sides in the decades-long conflict (that they are “collaborating with the enemy”), the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) “condemned the systematic genocide we have been experiencing, which after the National Minga of Indigenous Resistance (of October-November 2008), and so far in 2009, has taken more than 50 Indians, wounded hundreds and displaced thousands.”

As part of their urgent call, ONIC is calling on the national and international communities, human rights defenders, and the UN to play an active part in curtailing this humanitarian crisis, sparked by aggressive attempts of controlling important strategic territory in southern Colombia. ONIC, the Awa, and other Indigenous Peoples of Colombia are in a state of high alert. On Friday, February 20th, Awa leaders and ONIC called on FARC to turn over the cadavers of the victims of this massacre.

This attack is part of a much broader pattern of aggression against the indigenous movement. While it is yet another indication of the depths that FARC has fallen in terms of any legitimate claim to struggling for the rights of the Colombian poor and for truly social transformation with justice, a false ideal that, unfortunately, too many of its apologists still continue to precariously hold onto, the government should be equally held accountable for the cycle of violence directed at the Awa. Indeed, the government of Alvaro Uribe is using this latest massacre as an excuse to further militarize a part of the country where the population rejects all armed actors as a direct threat to their life plans.

Below I share a very important analysis of the situation facing the Awa people of Colombia, and why it should be seen as perhaps the most tragic example of the failure of Colombian society to accept the vision and the message of the country's original inhabitants. This piece was written by the members of the Communication Network of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, one of the most vocal sectors of the larger national movement of indigenous organizations in Colombia. This piece was originally published on ACIN's website in Spanish. Here I share with you the English translation put together by several of the movement's international allies.


Written by Network of Communication and External Relations for Truth and Life of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN)

Translated from the original Spanish available here:

12 February 2009

We write these lines overcome by tremendous pain and sadness. We write from the shared rage we feel towards this criminal act, apparently committed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cauca, FARC, whom we condemn for these irreversible horrors and the shedding of innocent blood.

As we write, the Colombian Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, is arriving in the Department of Nariño to conduct the military operations that constitute the government’s response to the massacres and terror these indigenous communities are now facing. Referring to the difficulty the government authorities are having in obtaining the cooperation of the indigenous peoples, Minister Santos stated to the media: “We hope we can convince [the Awá] that the best position, the best attitude they can have is to collaborate with the authorities, with the Armed Forces.”

“Kick them while they’re down” is the phrase that best describes the government’s reaction to these terrible circumstances, basing its response on the supposition that, according to the information available, the FARC committed the massacre. The result is that the atrocity—this massacre, the ongoing massive displacement, and disappearances, all faced by the indigenous communities caught in the middle of this terror—is blamed on the victims. It is their fault, implies the Minister, because they refused to collaborate with the Armed Forces. He tries to convince us that, if the Armed Forces had been in the territory, the violence would not have happened. As a consequence, the complete militarization of the territory is underway with the pretext of protecting the Awá, who in turn run to the forests while some of their leaders, seeing no other option, call for the help of the Armed Forces. The Colombian corporate media, the government coalition and their spokespeople all echo these calls, and Colombians -terrified by the horror of this ongoing genocide, in turn call for the same.

United in calling for the protection of these people and for justice to be served, we denounce the assassins, whoever they may be; in this case, we denounce the FARC, who in carrying out these actions have confirmed a terrible truth: they have evolved into one more agent of terror against the people. These perverse acts are the same as those carried out by the paramilitaries, the Armed Forces, and all others who use violent force to subjugate Colombia’s peoples and communities. We have denounced them before, and we denounce them now: at its core, terror is used as a means for achieving certain ends that ought to be acknowledged. If these ends are ignored, the only expected result is atrocity; without objectives, massacre and terror have no motive. They would be ends in themselves – terror for terror’s sake. But terrorism, from wherever it comes, is a mechanism to achieve objectives other than those stated; that is why the truth demands a different reaction, one that comes from the entire Colombian population, from indigenous peoples and organizations, and one that is backed by governments and peoples of the world.

The truth can be found in the answer to a necessary question: Why do they massacre the Awá? It is absolutely critical to ask this and to react coherently and firmly in consequence. To do otherwise is to allow the terror of this massacre to serve as an excuse to commit further massacres, as a mechanism to displace the people from their territory, culture, and way of life, and to make them disappear in a premeditated genocide. If this happens, those who have sacrificed to defend their lives, cultures and territories will have fought for nothing. Once again, we will have allowed ourselves to be convinced that these massacres against the Awá in Nariño have nothing to do with the massacres in San José de Apartadó, Urabá, Catatumbo, Amazonía, Cauca and across the country. That these massacres have nothing to do with the murders of women, trade unionists, peasants, human rights activists, and the entire package that accompanies acts of terror, no matter who the perpetrators are [1].

Because we understand terrorism to be a perverse means to achieve perverse ends, we refuse to forget, we point out the crimes, and we denounce and condemn the FARC with pain and rage, not only for this latest crime in which they have sown pain, death and misery, but also for contributing to the pillage that forces indigenous peoples from their communities and lands.

The Facts:
1. Terror as a Tool

“We are People of the Mountain, children of the wild forest, and for these reasons they are going to have to take our lives” was the premonitory statement of Eder Burgos, coordinator of Camawari, of August 10, 2008. It was made during the hearing to review the critical situation of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights Law (IHL) faced by the Awá people. The hearing took place in the presence of officials from various levels of the Colombian government, watchdog officers, UN representatives, and NGOs from the Human Rights sector, under the watchful eye of over seventy people from indigenous groups, most of them members of this people who had mobilized in southern Colombia. According to the communiqué from the National Organization of Indigenous People of Colombia (ONIC, by its Spanish acronym), “during the hearing, authorities and representatives of the Awa people submitted a report obtained through grassroots consultation, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Ombudsman’s Office and SAT”. Both the hearing [2] and the report evidence the dramatic developments of the pillage for land by all the armed participants against the indigenous population. The communiqué points out that communities in the townships of Tumaco, Barbacoas, Roberto Payan, Samaniego and Ricaurte have brought forward specific abuses, such as “‘three days of bombardments, including places where the displaced population [was] coming together in the town of Ricaurte, specifically in the indigenous reserves of Magui and Imbima,’ as had already been made clear by the regional Ombudsman for the Department of Nariño to his superior in a letter dated today”. These are the territories where the community is currently being massacred.

Both the Resolution and the Report denounce and give clear evidence of the presence of terror in that territory, the dirty war against the civilian population that implicates the Armed Forces as well as illegal armed actors, supporting the claims that terror is being used against the indigenous communities as a strategy for submission and to deprive them of their land [3].

The evidence contained in the Report, the Hearing and the Resolution, put together, demonstrate the groundlessness of the allegations made by the Minister of Defense. The Armed Forces have been and currently are spreading terror against the Awá; therefore, far from being a warrantor against abuse and the violation of Human Rights, they are a direct threat against its application. All the armed actors are exercising violence against the Awá.

2. Greed and Megaprojects

a. Agribusiness and plantations: The Colombian Pacific Coast and the lowlands, all of which include the ancestral territories of the Awá now suffering massacres and forced displacement, are zones of strategic interest for projects of capital accumulation, both legal and illegal, including monocrop operations of rubber, and palm oil, as well as the cultivation of coca and laboratories for the processing of coca leaves. As is the case for the rest of the country, these agribusiness projects demand the use of, and rely upon terror inflicted against the ancestral inhabitants of these lands [4]. Their displacement coincides with the theft of their land [5] [6].

b. Mining and Vital Resources:

As the Situation Bulletin on Human Rights and IHL in Nariño concludes, “The geographical resources in Nariño have brought about investment analyses by multinational corporations to explore the viability of projects for strategic resources such as uranium and gold” [7]. As reported by the national agency for the mining industry, INGEOMINAS, Sociedad Kedahda S.A., a division of Anglo Gold Ashanti, submitted 110 applications for mining contracts in Nariño in July of 2007.

These applications are disturbing based on this corporation’s history of intervention: there is a strong correlation between the activity of this corporation and the violation of Human Rights. Resources among the 37 municipalities in Nariño for which Kedahda S.A. has submitted applications are as follows: for the municipalities of Taminango, Leiva, Rosario, Policarpa, Cumbitara, Samaniego, and Barbacoas there is a wealth of gold, zinc, copper, silver, platinum, molibdenum and other minerals, and it is in these townships that there has been a notorious presence of Armed Forces and illegal armed groups that has produced grave Human Rights situations and violations of IHL against the civilian population, which has been subjected to cruelty, degradation and inhumane treatment. The abundance of water and wood resources, biodiversity, biotechnology, hydrocarbons and oxygen in this region is outstanding. The ancestral lands of the Awá are under threat from the interest expressed by the great transnational extractive industry.

c. Infrastructure:

The Multimodal Axis of the Amazon [8] of the Project for Integration of Regional South American Infrastructure (IIRSA by its Spanish acronym) runs across the lands of the Awá, starting from the Colombian Pacific Coast. The 284 kilometers of highway running between the Colombian cities of Pasto and Tumaco cut through targeted Awá lands and are a part of the multimodal corridor stretching along Tumaco – Puerto Asis – Belem do Para (the latter in Brazil) that will communicate the Pacific and Atlantic coasts across South America and through the Amazon region. Beyond the benefits that these modern and expensive highways may generate, not to mention the enormously destructive environmental impact they will bring, these roads are being laid with the clear intention of opening new territories for the extraction of vast resources to be privately exploited by transnational corporations. The roads are to be managed under a private operator scheme. Their existence, construction and use impose the submission, forced displacement and destruction of the peoples who live in its path and the areas it will affect. The Awá live in the midst of this planned infrastructural mega-project and have thus become dispensable. The disappearance or subjugation of the Awá serves the interests of those who seek to obtain benefits from this mega-project, one that threatens and diminishes all peoples who claim rights over the territories that stand in its way [9].

d. Tourism and other interests:

The natural beauty and wealth of resources in the lands of the Awá, both in the Colombian Pacific coast and lowlands of Nariño, are ideal places for the tourism industry, which is frequently used to articulate projects for the exploration, exploitation and private patenting of the life and knowledge of the territory and its peoples. The tourism industry expels or exploits the dispossessed indigenous peoples, raking in enormous profits and seizing autonomous territories and peoples as though they were commodities existing for the sole purpose of accumulation.

Carrot and Stick: Law and Terror

Those who promote and ultimately benefit from death and pillage combine “all forms of struggle” to access the riches and resources they seek. Meanwhile, diverse armed actors, both legal and illegal, carry out the dirty work of terror through criminal war tactics directed against these communities. The strategic, awaited and inevitable result is the privatization and plunder of their territory, a process through which the Colombian government implements policies that provide the legal and institutional framework needed for the exploitation of the land.

The Rural Statute [10] (or Law 1152 of 2007) provides a direct example. The sole paragraph of the law’s Article 123 reads: “procedures involving the establishment, expansion, or reorganization of indigenous reserves shall not be allowed to take effect within the geographical limits determined in Article 2 of Law 70 of 1993, nor in areas of the country that present similar conditions.” Article 2 of Law 70 (1993) delimits the Pacific Basin as a territory located between the Chiles volcano, on the Ecuadorian border, and the Gulf of Urabá, on the Atlantic Coast, to the Pacific Coast. This immense territory spanning mountains, foothills and coasts, includes the Colombian territory of the Awá people of Nariño.

According to the article cited in the Rural Statute, indigenous reserves cannot be established, expanded or reorganized in the Pacific Basin. Thus the Awá people lose, through law, the right to a large part of their current and ancestral territory. As a result, their territory is ‘liberated’ for economic interests that ultimately benefit – whether directly or indirectly – the actors of terror. A total of 27 legal petitions by the Awá community have been suppressed: 4 for the establishment of reserves, 8 for their expansion, and 15 for their reorganization.

Currently, the Constitutional Court is set to issue a ruling regarding the Rural Statute. If this law is declared unconstitutional, as was the Forest Law (Ley Forestal) in April 2008 (for violating the obligation of prior consultation with affected communities) [11], the Awá and the other indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples of the Pacific region might be able to bring forth legal actions to resolve their claims to territorial rights. These necessary legal permits have been impossible to obtain thanks to the actions of those who massacre, displace, confine, and threaten. Meanwhile, new owners of the territories appear with false titles that are legalized all too easily.

Eventually, the inefficiency of the state, laws and terror will have combined to consolidate the pillage and expropriation as an accomplished historical fact. By then, the mega-projects and usurpers of riches will have been established, the territory will have been exploited, and the struggle, sacrifice and suffering of the victims will be buried by the infamy of a history written by thoughtlessness and greed.

The Awá people struggle for their dignity, lives and the life of their territory. They are exterminated for the sake of insatiable greed. Although it is important and urgent to know who committed this terrible and unpardonable massacre, so that justice may be served, to make known the truth and respect those affected and their families, even more important is to understand that they were massacred to strip them from their territories. That is why we must denounce and mobilize to resist the project served by terror against our sisters and brothers. Today, the project kills in order to steal.

An Appeal

First, we join with the ONIC, all indigenous peoples, and all those who feel the commitment and necessity to accompany the victims in solidarity. We call on the Humanitarian Minga to affirm its presence and convert pain into companionship and concrete action.

Secondly, we call together those who have been demanding the mobilization of the Social and Community Minga of Resistance. The message is clear: the attempted assassination of Aida Quilcué that left Edwin Legarda, her companion, dead – yet another ‘false positive’ carried out against popular resistance by the National Army under orders from the designers and promoters of the policy of ‘Democratic Security’ – is currently followed by further massacres, this time committed by the FARC, which serve as a means for escalating the pillage before the insensitivity of the society and the world.

This issue is not exclusive to the Awá, nor is it a problem faced only by indigenous peoples or by just one community in Nariño. This act of terror is part of the acceleration of policies of pillage implemented through death. This is Plan Colombia in action, an economic mega-project that hands over our territories and our lives to the greed of global capital.

Facing so much horror, we can no longer watch from afar, waiting for our turn to come. We have to understand why they killed us then, why they kill us now, and why we must rise to stop them, to resist. Now is the time to reject, for once and for all, the horrors committed by the FARC in the name of the people, just as we reject the horrors of the regime.

It is also painfully evident what little use it is to have land, denounce human rights violations and negotiate agreements with an illegitimate government when its development model – which includes agreements and laws that are served by terror, from wherever it comes – means only massacres, displacement and pillage. The obligation to resist the model in its entirety, and as a priority, is paramount. In these conditions, faced with all the terrible facts, what must be recognized above all other concerns (even the political-electoral) is the urgency of an agenda of mobilization and action in a Minga that resists and stops the accelerated course of the pillage, of which this most recent massacre is a part.

We call upon the Social and Community Minga. We are putting forward the agenda to resist the death model that is on the way through the FTA, laws of pillage, broken agreements, terror and in the absence of a people weaving together common struggles for freedom. Let us decide together, in Minga, how to stop the horror of the FARC, the government and the rest of the armed groups in Nariño and Colombia. Let us figure out how we can support the Awá people and, with them, defend their territory. Let us determine how to defend life and our own territories from this assured and approaching death, one that exists so that a few may continue to accumulate.

So that the dead may rest and their families rebuild their lives, so that the dignity of the Awá is restored, so that no one may steal from them their territories, so that those with guns and hate leave us in peace, so that the murderers no longer declare that they fight for the people or that they have come to protect us, so that we have a country of peoples without owners, so that they haven’t been massacred for nothing: the Social and Community Minga. Let us meet in a collective territory and build the Minga from our pain, consciousness and path. The Awá are not alone [12].

[1] These victims include civilians massacred by the Armed Forces, then dressed up as guerrillas and shown as proof of the progress in the War on Terror, a tactic known in Colombia as creating ‘false positives’.

[2]Awá deciden y se arriesgan a contar sus amenazas

[3] Declaración Final Preaudencia Nariño y Putumayo

[4] Resolución Defensorial No. 53. Pueblo Awá

[5] Boletín Situacional sobre los Derechos Humanos y el DIH en Nariño

[6] See Eje Multimodal Amazonas de la IIRSA, página 36

[7] Boletín Situacional sobre los Derechos Humanos y el DIH en Nariño

[8] Eje Vial Multimodal Amazonas ¿oportunidad o amenaza para la región?

[9] See Eje Multimodal Amazonas de la IIRSA, página 36

[10] Estatuto Rural, Ley 1152 de 2007.

[11] Sentencia C-030 de Abril de 2008

En esa medida, de acuerdo con el ordenamiento constitucional y en particular con el Convenio 169 de la OIT, que en esta materia hace parte del bloque de constitucionalidad, la adopción de la ley debió haberse consultado con esas comunidades, para buscar aproximaciones sobre la manera de evitar que la misma las afectara negativamente, así como sobre el contenido mismo de las pautas y criterios que, aún cuando de aplicación general, pudiesen tener una repercusión directa sobre los territorios indígenas y tribales, o sobre sus formas de vida.

[12] HOUGHTON, JC, Editor. La Tierra contra la Muerte

Friday, February 20, 2009

The New Narco-Paramilitary Mafia: From CIP

Lately, we've been hearing more and more about the failure of the U.S.-financed drug war in the Andean region, with the report issued earlier this month by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy which bluntly stated that the war on drugs in the continent has been a complete disaster, and that a "new paradigm" needed to be developed.

At the same time, we alerted you to the report that said
coca production in Colombia went up 27 per cent in 2008, according to the International Narcotics Control Board, a UN-aligned anti-narcotics agency. Notwithstanding these developments, Colombia repeatedly pops up in policy-making circles as the one success story in U.S. counter-drug policy, a smokescreen for what can more accurately be described as a counter-insurgency strategy. Supposedly, according to these rosy observations, security has finally arrived in Colombia because of the get-tough stance of the government of President Alvaro Uribe.

Well, the Center for International Policy is reminding us of an entirely different reality on the ground in Colombia: the continuation, and in some cases, the expansion of right wing paramilitaries linked to the drug trade wreaking havoc in the countryside and maintaining a strong presence of intimidation in many important locations in Colombia, with almost complete impunity.

As President Barack Obama rolls out the new U.S. drug czar, it is essential that we put these alarming developments on the front burner of human rights and drug policy reform activism here in the U.S.

Here is the report CIP posted on its website on February 20th:

The new narco-paramilitary mafia

The last year and a half has seen the extradition of fifteen of Colombia’s top paramilitary leaders to the United States. It has also witnessed the arrest, killing or extradition of nearly every major head of the North Valle cartel, which for most of the 2000s was Colombia’s principal drug-trafficking organization.

Yet the amount of cocaine being produced in Colombia has barely changed. Violence in key production areas and trafficking corridors is as severe as ever.

Clearly, FARC and increasingly ELN fronts are involved in this trafficking and violence. But given the intensity of the Colombian military’s offensive against them, there is little reason to believe that the guerrillas’ market share is increasing.

This means that despite recent attacks, Colombia’s drug mafia is alive and well. And as before, it seems to overlap strongly with paramilitarism - or what are now known as “emerging criminal groups.”

According to Colombia’s “New Rainbow” think-tank, which has performed extensive research on Colombia’s new paramilitary generation, there are more than 100 new militias, many of whose members and leaders have past relations with old paramilitary groups. They use about 21 different names, are active in 246 of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities (counties), and have a combined membership estimated at about 10,000. They are cultivating ties with regional economic and political leaders. They often work with the guerrillas on the drug business. They also threaten and kill human-rights defenders, labor leaders, indigenous and afro-Colombian leaders, and independent journalists.

Today’s narco-paramilitaries, or “emerging criminal groups,” or new drug mafia - whatever one wishes to call them - have no visible heads, nobody playing the role that Carlos Castaño filled for the AUC paramilitary coalition a decade ago. However, when one asks who is “in charge” and paying these new militias, some names do come up frequently. Here, thanks to research help from CIP Intern Stacy Ulmer, are four of them.

Daniel Rendón, alias “Don Mario”

  • The brother of Freddy Rendón, alias “El Alemán,” the former head of the Elmer Cárdenas Bloc of the AUC active in the northwestern region of Urabá, who is now imprisoned in Colombia.
  • Participated in the “Justice and Peace” process, but escaped and is officially a fugitive.
  • His organization is present in Antioquia (including Medellín) northward into Córdoba and the Urabá region and Chocó, as well as Meta department to the south.
  • After the May 2008 extradition of paramilitary leader Diego Fernando Murillo (”Don Berna”), who dominated organized crime in Medellín, “Don Mario” has violently sought to fill the vacuum. His violent efforts to assert control have contributed to a one-third rise in murders in Medellín from 2007 to 2008.
  • In October, circulated pamphlets across northern Colombia announcing the formation of a new group called the “Colombian Gaitanist Auto-defense Forces.”
  • Guillermo Valencia Cossio, Medellín’s chief prosecutor and the brother of Interior Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio, was arrested in September 2008 on charges of colluding with “Don Mario.”
  • In mid-2008, Colombia’s police said that one-eighth of smuggled weapons they had interdicted were destined for his organization.
  • “Don Mario” has offered a reward of 2 million pesos (almost US$1,000) to anyone who kills a police officer in Antioquia and Córdoba.

Daniel “El Loco” Barrera

  • A narcotrafficker who first got into the business in Guaviare department, 200 miles southeast of Bogotá, in the early 1980s.
  • He did narco business with the FARC throughout the 1990s. In the early 2000s, he served as a link for narcotrafficking cooperation between the FARC and the paramilitaries.
  • His area of influence is principally Colombia’s eastern plains: Meta, Casanare, eastern Cundinamarca, Guaviare, and Vichada. He is heavily involved in the transshipment of cocaine through Venezuela. He has some influence in Putumayo as well.
  • Semana magazine reported in 2007: “Barrera’s main security force is made up of an army of hitmen with very good contacts with the authorities, who are in charge of making sure that nothing happens to him, warning him about operations being planned against him by national and foreign authorities, and in some cases, even carrying out revenge killings. When Barrera has to go to Bogotá or Villavicencia, he does so in official vehicles. Just for these kinds of ’services,’ Barrera sends 300 million pesos per month (roughly US$150,000) to the capital.”
  • In November, President Álvaro Uribe questioned the army’s lack of progress against Barrera in Meta department. “I ask is the army capable of capturing [him] or if it is protecting him.”

Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, “Cuchillo”

  • A member of narco and paramilitary organizations since the 1980s, he was a top lieutenant of Miguel Arroyave, head of the AUC’s Centauros Bloc, which dominated the eastern plains and even had a presence in Bogotá. “Cuchillo” (the name means “knife,” apparently the way he prefers to kill victims) participated in the plot that killed Arroyave in September 2004.
  • His “Heroes of Guaviare” front participated in a demobilization ceremony in April 2006, but he soon abandoned the process and became a fugitive.
  • His area of operations overlaps much of “Loco” Barrera’s. It includes Meta, Guaviare and Vichada.
  • The current governor of Guaviare department, Óscar de Jesús López, is under investigation for including Cuchillo as a business partner in a mining company in 2006.

“Oficina de Envigado”

  • Since the era of Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel, this name refers to the organized-crime structure that has controlled most of the narco business in Medellín and its environs. Envigado is a suburb to the south of Medellín.
  • It was controlled by paramilitary leader Diego Fernando Murillo (”Don Berna”) until his May 2008 extradition. Since then, the “Oficina” has been in some disarray, with greatly increased infighting, but it remains powerful.
  • Infighting for control of the “Oficina,” which has also involved the “Don Mario” organization, has increased violence rates in Medellín, leading Colombian National Police Chief Gen. Oscar Naranjo to spend a week there at the end of January.
  • Aliases of current leaders include “Nito,” “Yiyo,” “Beto,” “Douglas,” “Valenciano,” and “Gancho.” Other demobilized members of Don Berna’s former paramilitary organization, particularly two nicknamed “Rogelio” and “Danielito,” are also believed to be part of the leadership.
  • The “Oficina” maintains a militia called the “Paisas.” It operates in Antioquia department and along major drug-trafficking corridors in the Pacific and Atlantic coastal regions.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Anniversary of CRIC's Founding to Be Commemorated with a Regional Congress in Northern Cauca

In the midst of the growing global economic crisis and the ongoing aggressions carried out against Colombia's indigenous movement, the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, is preparing a major regional Congress for the week of February 23-28th in Tacueyó, Cauca. The Congress will commemorate the 38th Anniversary of the founding of the CRIC, the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca. More importantly, it is being called to continue the momentum of the Popular and Community Minga of Resistance that took place last October-November throughout the country. Below is the Spanish communique put out by ACIN that breaks down the details of the Congress' Agenda, and puts into a broader context the purpose of this important gathering. In the coming days and weeks, we will fill you in on more developments from this Congress, in the spirit of solidarity and action!

II Minga de Pensamiento del Cxab Wala Kiwe Norte del Cauca

02/16/2009; Autor: Asociación de Cabildos Indìgenas del Norte del Cauca



El II Congreso de los Pueblos en el Cxab Wala Kiwe conmemora otro aniversario del nacimiento del CRIC y nos convoca reflexionar y actuar en unidad para seguir resistiendo. Reiteramos la Plataforma de Lucha y la renovaremos para proyectar el Plan de Vida para el contexto y la realidad en la que estamos.

Dentro del territorio, consolidaremos el camino hacia la autonomía. Desde nuestro territorio, como parte de la familia del CRIC, nos afianzamos en la Minga Social y Comunitaria para que camine por Colombia y se haga realidad. No permitiremos que nuestro Cxab Wala Kiwe tenga dueños: es de nuestros pueblos y así será. Contribuiremos en Minga desde nuestro Congreso, para comprender el país con dueños y sin pueblos que nos somete y para proyectarnos de modo que contribuyamos a avanzar hacia el país incluyente, soberano y justo que todos y todas queremos.

Seguimos enfrentando el desafío que nos impone un “proyecto de muerte” impulsado por la codicia desde el poder inmenso de grupos económicos organizados en corporaciones transnacionales que se han convertido en imperios y están en todas partes. Hacen e imponen las políticas en el mundo entero y se sirven del terror y de la propaganda para despojarnos y someternos. En su afán de convertir la vida en mercancías para acumular ganancias, están destruyendo la Madre Tierra, calentando y pudriendo el aire, acabando con el agua y transformando todo lo que vive en propiedad privada y en basura.

En Colombia, este proyecto de acumulación al servicio de la codicia transnacional, es un modelo que se viene implementando desde hace años y que ahora consolidan desde el terror de un Gobierno ilegítimo para transformar nuestro país en teatro de operaciones para los megaproyectos extractivos. En los “Tratados de Libre Comercio”, las políticas y las leyes que nos despojan de nuestro territorio, soberanía, derechos y libertades, el terror para robarnos y someternos que ahora llaman “seguridad democrática”, la violación de acuerdos y convenios, el incumplimiento de obligaciones de Estado y la destrucción de espacios y posibilidades para la construcción y el ejercicio de la democracia, reconocemos las estrategias del proyecto que ha llegado hasta nuestros hogares para negarnos la vida y la dignidad.

En el Norte del Cauca, contra nuestro Cxab Wala Kiwe, todo esto se impone a través del Plan Colombia en su segunda fase. Acá están las transnacionales del oro y de la minería, del agua, de los agrocombustibles, de los bosques, del aire, de la vida y muchas más. Acá están los proyectos del “encadenamiento productivo” y los de infraestructura. Acá aparecieron las sectas con dinero de origen desconocido que se sirven de la desesperación para dividirnos y confundir. Acá están las políticas que nos obligan a actuar en contra nuestra y a hacernos dependientes sin poder consolidar nuestra autonomía. Acá está la propaganda en todas sus caras y maquillajes para engañar y también para comprarnos, para hacernos dependientes y para señalarnos como terroristas, criminales y narcotraficantes. Está el terror y la guerra para coordinar todo lo demás, judicializarnos, acusarnos y someternos.
A este panorama se suman las acciones de la insurgencia armada que en lugar de respetar nuestro Plan de Vida, construido desde nuestra identidad ancestral como indígenas, nos amenazan, nos intimidan, nos matan, nos difaman, nos persiguen y pretenden someternos en nuestro propio territorio. Estratégicamente se equivocan, le están dando la excusa al régimen para ocuparnos.

Todo esto ha penetrado a nuestras veredas y a nuestros hogares, las dificultades se van sumando y los desafíos son enormes. La agresión nos convoca a fortalecer nuestro Plan de Vida. Nos convoca a reunirnos con nuestra palabra para enfrentarla y pervivir arraigados en nuestra cultura e identidad.

Objetivo general:

Fortalecer la resistencia para la defensa del territorio, el plan de vida, la autonomía, y la gobernabilidad en la perspectiva de la construcción de los territorios autónomos y del nuevo país.

Objetivos específicos:

• Defender el territorio frente a la agresión integral del régimen y la violación sistemática de los derechos humanos por parte de los diferentes actores armados.
• Consolidar el plan de resistencia con mecanismos prácticos para visibilizar, fortalecer y proteger, el Plan de Vida, la unidad, la cultura, autonomía en el territorio CXHAB WALA KIWE.
• Analizar los vacíos internos del proceso organizativo, evaluar y re proyectar el plan de vida zonal.
• Evaluar y aportar a la proyección de la Minga Social y Comunitaria de los pueblos para continuar el camino hacia la construcción del nuevo país justo, soberano, equitativo e incluyente.

Carácter del Congreso:

Decisorio: mantener firme la posición de resistencia frente a todo proyecto de muerte.
Resolutivo: Acordar mecanismos prácticos, coherentes con los principios culturales para fortalecer la gobernabilidad en el territorio en la perspectiva de la consolidación de los territorios autónomos.
Es zonal con la participación y proyección regional, nacional e internacional para continuar la minga social y comunitaria de los pueblos.

Resultados esperados:

1. Objetivo: defender el territorio frente a la agresión integral del régimen y la violación sistemática de los derechos humanos por parte de los diferentes actores armados.

• Resolución para el manejo autónomo del territorio y de los recursos, partiendo de la evaluación y ajuste a la Resolución de autonomía de Jambaló 1.999.
• Pasos y procedimientos unificados desde el derecho propio para actuar frente a la violación de derechos humanos en el territorio.

Consolidar el plan de resistencia con mecanismos prácticos para visibilizar, fortalecer y proteger, el Plan de Vida, la unidad, la autonomía en el territorio CXHAB WALA KIWE.

Plan de resistencia adecuado para responder al contexto actual de agresión.

2. Aportar en la proyección de la Minga Social y Comunitaria de los pueblos para continuar el camino hacia la construcción del nuevo país justo, equitativo, soberano, incluyente.

Propuesta metodológica y plan de acción para aportar desde CXHAB WALA KIWE al fortalecimiento de la agenda y la dinámica de la Minga Social y Comunitaria de los pueblos.

3. Analizar los vacíos internos del proceso organizativo, evaluar y re proyectar el plan de vida zonal.

• Vacíos y debilidades organizativos del proceso identificados y correctivos definidos colectivamente para superarlos.

• Nuevas metas y estrategias para el fortalecimiento de la gobernabilidad propia hacia la construcción de los territorios autónomos.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

International Narcotics Control Board Has Bad News for Colombia

Colombia coca production up 27%: INCB

Coca production in Colombia went up 27 per cent in 2008, says the International Narcotics Control Board, a UN-alligned anti-narcotics agency.

Colombia remains the world's largest coca producer and grows 55% of the plant that is the basis of cocaine. Peru is second with 29%, followed by Bolivia with 16%.

The annual report stated that Colombian authorities did try to stop the cultivation of coca, but these efforts were hampered by illegal armed groups violently defending their crops.

Colokmbia "has not won the fight against drugs, but hasn't lost it either," INCB director Carlos Albornoz Guerrero told Caracol Radio, adding that better means to detect coca production may have upped the figure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FARC Accept responsibility for Massacre of Awa indians

The ongoing attacks against Colombia's indigenous communities should be condemned regardless of who the actors are perpetrating these atrocities, and regardless of the justification given by those same actors. When an army unit shot and killed the husband of the Chief Counsel of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC, in mid-December, was it acceptable to us the claim given by the Defense Minister that he did not stop at a military roadblock, hence why the vehicle he was driving was shot at 19 times?

Over the weekend, FARC commanders accepted responsibility for the brutal massacre of eight (8) Awa Indians in the southern department of Nariño, saying the victims were collaborators with the Armed Forces. A total of 21 Awa people were killed in early February, so the FARC are not saying anything about the other 13 victims.

The situation in Nariño, as in other parts of Colombia, is very complex, and involves various armed actors operating on indigenous territory, leading to a constant state of emergency for the people in the region, not to mention a process of almost permanent displacement.

Here is a translation of the declaration released earlier this week by the UNIPA and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) related to the most recent massacre:

UNIPA and ONIC Denounce Massacre Committed by the FARC Against Members of the Tortugaña Telembi Indigenous Reserve in Barbacoas - Nariño.

  • We call on an integral humanitarian Minga [joining of forces] to enter the massacre site.
  • A humanitarian plan consulted with the participation of the Awá authorities.
  • That the state, the government and the FARC Secratariat make clear their positions.

The Awá People’s Indigenous Unity UNIPA and the ONIC make clear that the serious situation of violations of human rights, of IHL and of the Nariño Awá people’s collective rights is not new; evidence of that are the following facts:

The social, cultural and organizational dynamic of the Awá people was altered with the insurgent armed groups’ [guerrillas'] arrival at the end of the 1990s, when in their haste to impose their armed political project they have committed various violations of our political and territorial autonomy and against human rights. This situation became much more serious with the appearance of paramilitary groups and their actions in favor of economic interests.

It is important to highlight that the growing militarization of our territories in the development of the Democratic Security policy has also made the communities’ situation complex, since the illegal armed groups accuse them [the communities] of being the facilitators of the military’s entry into the territories, and because members of the Army commit human rights violations and IHL infractions, violations of ILO Convention 169, and the directives of the Ministry of Defense.

In the last 10 years, as a consequence of the armed conflict, there have been 5 massive displacements, continuous individual displacements into and out of our territory, cross-border migration, 4 massacres, approximately 200 murders, 50 affected by landmines, kidnappings, arbitrary detentions, accusations of helping armed groups, threats, forced recruitment, blockades of food and medicine, utilization of civilian facilities for military purposes, and pressure on civilians to serve as informants.

All of this has been the subject of permanent denunciation at the national and international level, to such an extent that in 2008 the Ombudsman’s Office [Defensoría del Pueblo] issued Defensorial Resolution 53 demonstrating the seriousness of the Awá people’s situation and proposing a series of recommendations for the State to guarantee this people’s protection, but to date effective measures have not been taken.

Starting in 2008, paramilitary groups’ presence was reactivated in the region, the insurgency’s actions radicalized, and the state’s militarization increased, bringing as a consequence an increase in human rights violations and a deepening of the humanitarian crisis in all of the Awá territory.

With regard to the acts that are the subject of this denunciation, we highlight:

Starting on February 1, the presence of the Army (Cabal [cavalry?] Group, “Mártires de Puerres” Battalion of the 29th Brigade, part of the 3rd Division) was registered in the rural villages of Volteadero and Bravo in the Tortugaña Telembí Reserve (Barbacoas municipality). They abusively entered people’s homes and, through various mistreatments, obligated members of the community to give information about the location of the FARC-EP guerrillas, exposing the community to a situation of powerlessness and fear.

On February 4, armed men with FARC insignia rounded up 20 people (men, women and children), who were tied up and led away to a stream called El Hojal, in the El Bravo community, and they were observed killing some people with knives. Acording to information from the community, these same men returned the next day for the children who remained in the houses, and we don’t know what became of them. Members of the communities inform us that this FARC action was taken in retaliation for soldiers having occupied the indigenous people’s houses, and because they offered collaboration [information about the guerrillas' activities and location].

According to information from the reservation’s communities, on February 5 at 4:00 in the afternoon there was combat between the guerrillas and the Army, during which the latter carried out a bombing between Bravo and the Sabaleta hill, generating great fear in the communities.

On February 6 at 5:00 PM, there was more combat between the Army and the FARC, which began again on the 7th. As a result of all of this, several families have displaced into the interior of the territory and towards Samaniego, Buenavista (Barbacoas), and Planadas Telembí, despite the presence of anti-personnel mines planted by the guerrillas along the different access roads. Meanwhile about 1,300 people are in a situation of confinement, suffering hunger and sickness with a serious impact on the population of children.


We demand that all armed groups respect the lives and rights of Colombia’s indigenous people and that they let us live in peace like before, that they don’t involve us in a war that is not ours and which we don’t support.

That the FARC Secretariat, the commanders of the 29th Front and the Mariscal Sucre column pronounce, before the national and international community, about their resonsibility for these crimes, that they respect the territorial and political autonomy of the Awá people, that they stop mining our territories and that they stop involving indigenous communities in a war that does not belong to them.

That the FARC, if it is holding people, release them immediately and unconditionally.

That the Ministry of Interior and Justice take the measures necessary to clarify what happened as soon as possible.

That the national government, the state and all its institutions recognize the vulnerability of the Awá people as expressed in Defensorial Resolution 53 of June 5, 2008, and that they completely follow each one of its recommendations.

That the Presidency’s Office of Social Action and the Ministry of Interior implement an ethnic safeguard plan for the Awá indigenous nation, respecting the right to prior consultation in accord with finding 004 of the Constitutional Court.

That the National Army, in the development of its operations, observe strict compliance with human rights and IHL norms, as well as the Defense Ministry’s directives with regard to intervention in indigenous territories.

We call on the United Nations, human rights organizations, social organizations, state institutions, international NGOs, oversight bodies and indigenous organizations to accompany us in the development of an INTEGRAL HUMANITARIAN MINGA [joining of forces] to verify what occurred, and to save the lives of our indigenous brothers at risk.

That the Inspector-General of the Nation [Procuraduría] follow up with each institution to ensure that they are fulfilling the responsibilities that correspond to them.

Let's Get the Voice of the Indigenous Movement in Cauca Back on the Air!

Hello folks,

I just thought I'd share with you some thoughts about the event we participated in over the weekend in Huntington, Long Island, the first of several benefits that we are committed to doing in support of the Communication Team of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN.

On Sunday, February 15th, the LI School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch LI) and the Cinema Arts Center hosted a special benefit fundraiser for ACIN's Radio Payumat, the voice of the Nasa people of northern Cauca, which has been off the air since mid-December after an act of sabotage destroyed the station's transmitter. The urgency of the situation could not be greater, given the current situation in the region, and recent events directly targeting the indigenous movement. It was felt by the people present at Sunday's event.

I was joined by my friend and colleague Tiokasin Ghosthorse and about 120 local activists and community members from throughout the N.Y. metropolitan area, who came together to hear about the struggle of Colombia's indigenous movement, and the importance of community radio in that struggle. Tiokasin, who hosts First Voices Indigenous Radio on WBAI Radio, described why the voices of the south need to be heard here in the U.S., where the social and economic crisis we are facing had been forewarned for generations by indigenous peoples.

As part of the three hour event, which included a hearty brunch prepared by the folks at the CAC, we presented the award-winning documentary film produced by ACIN's Communication Team which depicted the 2006 attack carried out by Colombian security forces against the indigenous community mobilized in the resguardo of La Maria, in Cauca (the film in English is called We Are Raised with the Staff of Authority in Hand). Afterwards, we discussed at length the events of last year's Popular and Indigenous Minga, which lasted over six weeks and moved 40,000 people throughout the country in a mass protest against the government's security and development policies.

Most importantly, we were able to raise some much-needed funds for Radio Payumat, in order to help them get back on the air as soon as possible, which is critical at this point in time. In the coming weeks, we will be holding similar events around the tri-state area, in order to raise money for ACIN's communication team, but also to raise awareness and build solidarity for the indigenous movement as they prepare to continue the MINGA of 2008 throughout this year. We have a special screening scheduled at the Bluestockings Bookstore in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, February 26th, and we are planning other events in Queens, Brooklyn, New Jersey and other areas in the coming weeks.

If you are interested in hosting such an event, with video and other visuals, as well as music, please contact us at

For more information about how you can help support the push to get Radio Payumat's transmitter back on the air, send us an email at

And thanks for all your support!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Drug War a Failure - News Item from IPS

Thought you'd be interested in this...

Latin American Leaders Say 'No' to U.S. Drug War

By Marina Litvinsky

WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (IPS) - A commission led by three former Latin American heads of state has called the 30-year U.S. "war on drugs" in Latin America a failure and urged a drastic change in policy.

The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy issued a report Wednesday, "Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift," which calls for the creation of a Latin American drug policy and proposes three specific actions under the new paradigm: treat addicts as patients in the public health system; evaluate decriminalisation of cannabis possession for personal use; and reduce consumption through public education campaigns primarily directed at youth.

"The available evidence indicates that the war on drugs is a failed war," former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said in a conference call with reporters from Rio de Janeiro. "We have to move from their approach to another one."

The commission headed by Cardoso and former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Cesar Gaviria of Colombia calls on U.S. and Latin American governments to acknowledge the insufficiencies of current policy and to engage in a debate about new alternatives.

"They're (the Commission) saying enough is enough," said John Walsh, senior associate for the Andes and Drug Policy at the Washington Office on Latin America. "There's a real drug war weariness in Latin America and its bad enough to feel like a policy had been imposed, and its worse when the policy doesn't work."

According to the report, Latin America remains the major global exporter of cocaine and cannabis, has become a growing producer of opium and heroin, and is developing the capacity to produce synthetic drugs.

"I think that it is absolutely crucial to have a rethinking of the drug policy," said Mike Shifter, vice president for policy and director of the Andean programme at the Inter-American Dialogue. "There's no policy that has been invested in more that's produced so little."

The report calls for a review of U.S. prohibitionist strategy, which it says has deficiencies, and a look at the benefits and drawbacks of the harm reduction strategy followed by the European Union (EU).

The levels of drug consumption continue to grow in Latin America while there is a tendency toward stabilisation in North America and Europe, according to the report.

The report cites Columbia and Mexico as nations where U.S. prohibitionist policies, despite the large investment of resources and loss of innocent lives, have failed to put an end to drug trafficking and narco-violence. It cautions other countries from adopting these kinds of policies and urges them to search for innovative alternatives.

The long-term solution for the drug problem is to drastically reduce the demand for drugs in the main consumer countries, the report states. As U.S. and European domestic markets are the main consumers of the drugs produced in Latin America, the report calls on the U.S. and EU to share the responsibility faced by Latin American countries to design and implement policies leading to an effective reduction in their levels of drug consumption.

The commission proposes that Latin American countries adopt several initiatives aimed at reforming drug war policies.

One such proposition is to change the status of addicts from drug buyers in the illegal market to patients cared for in the public health system. This will weaken the foundation of the drug business by reducing the demand for illegal drugs and lowering their price.

The report calls the convenience of decriminalising the possession of cannabis for personal use to be evaluated from a public health standpoint and on the basis of the most advanced medical science.

According to the report, available empirical evidence shows that the harm caused by cannabis is similar to the harm caused by alcohol or tobacco. It cites that most of the damage associated with cannabis use - including arrest and incarceration of consumers and the violence and corruption that affect all of society - is the result of the current prohibitionist policies.

The report calls the U.S. policy of massive incarceration of drug users questionable, both in terms of respect for human rights and its efficiency. That policy is not applicable to Latin America, given the penal system's overpopulation and material conditions.

Rather, public policy should be targeted to fighting the most harmful effects of organised crime on society, such as violence, institutional corruption, money laundering, arms trafficking, and the control over territories and populations, the report states.

The commission urges Latin America to establish a dialogue with the U.S. government, legislators and civil society to jointly develop workable alternatives to the current war on drugs strategy. It sees the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as a unique opportunity to reshape a failed strategy and engage in the common search for more efficient and humane policies.

Analysts say the report opens up a debate which is badly needed, though it remains to be seen if it will have any effect on U.S. policy.

"There has been no signal at all from the Obama administration that I've seen that they're really prepared to take serious review of this policy," said Shifter. "I think if Obama has a chance to focus on this he will be very sympathetic," he added.

"I think because of Mexico and the large investment the U.S. has in Columbia, the administration knows that finding a better way to deal with drug problems has to occur," said Walsh. "That doesn't make it a top priority in the coming months."


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wake Up Call Special: Beyond Bogotá - The Struggle for a New Colombia Policy

Hello Folks,

Just sending you all a small reminder about tomorrow's edition of
Wake Up Call on WBAI Pacifica Radio in New York (99.5FM for those of you in the listening range; for those of you who are not).

Our primary focus from
7:00 to 9:00am will be Colombia, the so-called "drug war," and the potential for changes in United States policy.

Our main guest will be independent journalist Garry Leech, editor of the website Colombia Journal and author of the new book, Beyond Bogotá: Diary of a Drug War Journalist, who will discuss his work in some of the most war-torn regions of the country, and why the U.S. must be held accountable.

As many of you already know, the United States has sent more than $6 billion dollars to Bogotá in the past eight years as part of Plan Colombia, supposedly to help eradicate cocaine production and secure rural regions held by illegal armed groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—Colombia’s largest guerilla force—and right-wing paramilitary groups. However, despite significant media coverage of the Colombian conflict, there has been a remarkable absence of firsthand reporting about the situation on the ground. Foreign reporters rarely have the necessary protection to leave Bogotá, and Colombian journalists run serious risks if they report the whole story—with over 30 having been killed since 1995.

Leech has spent the last eight years investigating in the country and has seen firsthand the conditions that have garnered international attention: widespread human rights abuses, collusion between government soldiers and paramilitaries, the effects of violent displacement and aerial fumigation on rural communities, and the consequences of U.S. involvement in the region.

We will also discuss how some of these policies impact the popular social movement, in particular the indigenous communities who have been at the forefront of the struggle for social change in the country. In the second hour, from 8:00-9:00am ET, we will be joined by Manuel Rozental, physician and long time social justice activist, member of the Communication Team of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, who will fill us in on the latest developments from Cauca and other parts of the country, including the recent massacre of 10 Awa indians in southern Colombia.

Plus, we'll have a discussion about Bolivia with the author of a new book about Bolivia's transformation under President Evo Morales, and will be joined by Christy Thornton, the publisher of the North American Congress on Latin America, NACLA's Report on the Americas.

So tune in and spread the word.
Friday, 7:00 to 9:00am
WBAI Radio 99.5FM

BLUE STOCKINGS Thursday Feb 26, 2009 7:00 PM REMINDER!!!

As part of our ongoing effort to help raise some funds for Radio Payumat in Cauca, Colombia, and more importantly, raise awareness about the struggles of indigenous people in that country, we are organizing a number of events in the NY Tri-state area. This is especially urgent given recent events in Colombia directly affecting ACIN's Communication Team, and the larger movement. One of the media workers of ACIN, Gustavo Ulcué, was targeted by the forces of reaction in Cauca, having been visited by two hitmen in his house who did not find him at home at the time. Gustavo is one of the main designers and coordinators of ACIN's website. The threats against the indigenous movement continue, as we also saw recently with the massacre of Awa indians by FARC rebels in southern Colombia. It is important to show solidarity with these struggles in light of the constant attacks and threats directed at a sector of Colombia's popular movement that is at the forefront of the struggle for social transformation and justice.

On Sunday, February 15th, we have the special brunch event at the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington, LI, and on the 26th of February, Tiokasin has set up a talk and screening at the Blue Stockings Bookstore and Cafe in lower Manhattan. Please help us spread the word. Here are the details!

BLUE STOCKINGS Thursday Feb 26, 2009 7:00 PM REMINDER!!!

172 Allen St.
New York, NY 10002
Open Every Day
11am - 11pm

Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm
Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN

Screening and discussion with Mario Murrillo from WBAI's Wake Up Call. A suggested donation of $5 will help purchase a new radio transmitter that was blown up during the recent violent acts against Indigenous people in Colombia.

Last November, after word spread across this Indian reservation that seven people had been kidnapped by leftist rebels, the community's unarmed "Indigenous guard" sprang into action. Within minutes, hundreds of men, women and children were out on roads and pathways searching for the hostages, communicating by radio, cellphone and shouts. Many held lanterns that, as the search continued after nightfall, made the rescue party seem an eerily glowing centipede snaking up and down hillsides.

Soon, the guards had found the hostages. The rebels were holding them in a school, which was quickly surrounded by hundreds of Indians, who, lanterns held high, kept a silent vigil. A guerrilla leader threatened violence and fired his weapon into the air, but no one budged. After a brief standoff, the unarmed Indians secured the hostages' release.

The incident in November was a dramatic example of how many of Colombia's 92 Indigenous communities use a common front and an almost Gandhian stance of nonviolence to coexist with, and sometimes prevail over, the rebels, drug traffickers, paramilitary fighters and government soldiers who for decades have battled one another in the country.

"We forbid violence. All we have is the power to convene," Rodrigo Dagua, leader of the Jambalo tribe, said as he held the so-called staff of command, a ceremonial rod that confers authority on its holder. "It's what keeps us alive."

The peaceful approach doesn't always work for Colombia's Indigenous people, who number about 1.4 million, or 3% of the population.

For the last decade, the Wayuu tribe in northeastern Colombia has suffered killings and extortion at the hands of paramilitary bands who covet the Caribbean coastline bordering their reservation. Indians in Putumayo state's Sibundoy Valley have been chased off their ancestral lands to make way for coca plantations.

In October, an Indian marcher here in Cauca state in Colombia's southwest was shot and killed by police as he took part in a protest against the government's failure to deliver 45,000 acres to local tribes as promised in a 1991 land reform plan. Cauca's 18 Indigenous communities had declared a minga, or collective movement, and had shut down the Panamerican Highway.

Tiokasin Ghosthorse
Oyate Tokaheya Wicakiye

Thursdays 1Oam-11am