Friday, May 29, 2009

Parole Process Underway for Puerto Rican Political Prisoner

Hi folks,

You may have heard that Carlos Alberto Torres may be home soon! This morning I spoke with attorney Jan Susler in Chicago about the parole hearing for Carlos Alberto. You can catch it on the WBAI Radio Archives. The interview was about ten minutes into the final hour of the show. But here are some details that I think you might be interested in. So many years in prison, is there a chance he'll soon be freed?

Check it out below.


Carlos Alberto Torres may be home soon!

Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres appeared this morning with his attorney Jan Susler at FCI Pekin, Illinois at a videoconference hearing with U.S. Parole Commission hearing examiner Larry Glenn.

The hearing took place after Carlos Alberto had served over 29 years in prison, and 15 years after his initial parole hearing in 1994, when the Parole Commission told him to come back after serving another 15 years.

The hearing examiner opened by saying he would make one of three possible recommendations at the conclusion of the hearing: 1) set a presumptive parole date; 2) tell Carlos Alberto once again to come back after serving another 15 years, at which time he would be considered for possible release on parole; or 3) deny parole entirely.

For some 45 minutes, the examiner posed questions, including some very pointed political questions about Carlos Alberto’s views on the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico, and whether his thoughts on this issue have changed throughout his years in custody. He reviewed his accomplishments in prison and asked about his plans if he were to be released: to open a pottery studio in Puerto Rico.

Significantly, Glenn noted “the large number of documents showing community support sent to the parole commission.” He was referring to the thousands of letters and resolutions from all of Puerto Rico’s civil society, as well as from supporters throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

After a brief break, Glenn announced his recommendation: a presumptive parole date of April 3, 2010.... which would mark the 30th anniversary of Carlos Alberto’s imprisonment.

The parole commission has 21 days to issue a decision, of by June 16. Should the commission adopt the examiner’s recommendation, Carlos Alberto would be eligible for transfer to a halfway house 180 days before April 3, or on October 3, 2009.

Letters urging the commission to adopt the hearing examiner’s recommendation should arrive no later than June 17 at the office of Jan Susler, Attorney, People’s Law Office, 1180 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL 60622,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Dark Side of Plan Colombia

Hi folks,

It's been a while since I last posted materials on this space, the result of lots of distractions and busy work. But there's so much to catch up on. Here I send you a link to an important article that will be published in the June 15th edition of the Nation Magazine, which is written by friend and colleague Teo Ballvé, an independent journalist and former editor of NACLA, based in Bogotá.

As he wrote in a mass email, his "
findings, based on new evidence, show that grant money from the US Agency for International Development (USAID)—paid for through Plan Colombia, the multibillion-dollar US aid package aimed at fighting the drug trade—appears to have put drug-war dollars in the hands of a confessed narco-paramilitary and of two accused paramilitary-linked drug traffickers. A third USAID grant applicant, a company accused of ties with paramilitaries, nearly won approval for a grant before its application stalled because of missing paperwork. Colombia’s paramilitaries are on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations. Critics say such grants defeat the antidrug mission of Plan Colombia and may put USAID in violation of federal law.

Read the entire article here:

Congress will be debating the next round of funding (2010) for Plan Colombia in July. This information should be part of that debate, there and here in Colombia.

Please help spread the word by sending the article out to relevant email lists, reposting on your websites, and/or highlighting in your blogs, media organizations, etc.

Oil Firms and Loggers 'Push Indigenous People to Brink of Extinction'

by John Vidal

Five "uncontacted" tribes are at imminent risk of extinction as oil companies, colonists and loggers invade their territiories. The semi-nomadic groups, who live deep in the forests of Peru, Brazil and Paraguay, are vulnerable to common western diseases such as flu and measles but also risk being killed by armed gangs, according to a report by Survival International, which identifies the five groups as the most threatened on Earth.

[Mashco-Piro woman on the Las Piedras river, south-east Peru (Photograph: Heinz Plenge Pardo/Frankfurt Zoological Society)]Mashco-Piro woman on the Las Piedras river, south-east Peru (Photograph: Heinz Plenge Pardo/Frankfurt Zoological Society)
Sixty members of the Awá tribe are said to be fleeing from gangs of loggers and ranchers on their land near Maranhão, Brazil. "Logging roads have been bulldozed through a part of their territory, where the uncontacted groups are living. The ranchers want land to graze cattle for beef. The loggers regularly block roads to prevent government teams from entering the area to investigate," says David Hill, a Survival researcher and co-author of the report.

Little is known about the group of 50 Indians who live along the River Pardo in the western Brazilian Amazon, although there is plenty of evidence for their existence, including communal houses, arrows, baskets, hammocks, and footprints along river banks. "Loggers operating out of Colniza have forced them to be constantly on the run, unable to cultivate crops and relying solely on hunting, gathering and fishing. It is believed that the women have stopped giving birth," says the report.

Perenco, an Anglo-French oil company working in a proposed Indian reserve in northern Peru, is endangering several uncontacted tribes, says the report. "The company plans to send hundreds of workers into the region. In recent weeks, indigenous protesters have blockaded the Napo river in order to prevent Perenco boats from passing. In response, a naval gunboat was called in to break the blockade."

One group is believed to be a sub-group of the Waorani, and another is known as the Pananujuri. Perenco denies the tribes exist.

Other tribes in trouble include several living near the Envira river in the Peruvian Amazon. "They are being forced to flee across the border into nearby Brazil. Despite being provided with evidence of their existence, Peru's government has failed to accept that uncontacted Indians are fleeing from Peru to Brazil. Peru's president, Alan Garcia, has suggested the tribes do not exist," says the report.

Ranchers are bulldozing land where a fifth group lives - the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode in the Chaco forest of western Paraguay. This week a Paraguayan court ruled that a company had the right to log on their land, further endangering their existence.

There are believed to be more than 100 uncontacted groups in the world. They are concentrated in Latin America, and aerial photographs of one uncontacted tribe in Brazil's Acre state captured headlines a year ago. But as many as 40 could live in West Papua, where vast areas of forest and mountain have been barely explored.

"They remain in isolation because they choose to, and because encounters with the outside world have brought them only violence, disease and murder. They are among the most vulnerable peoples on Earth, and could be wiped out within the next 20 years unless their land rights are recognised and upheld," said Stephen Corry, director of Survival.

Marijuana and Cocaine Should Be Legalized, Says Latin American Drugs Commission

. By Duncan Campbell

Marijuana and cocaine for personal use should be decriminalised because the "war on drugs" has been a disaster, according to some of Latin America's most powerful politicians and writers.

The current international policy on drugs encourages corruption and violence that is threatening democracy throughout the continent, according to the former president of Brazil, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, who is a co-president of the Latin American commission on drugs and democracy. As well as politicians, the commission includes the writers Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, and Paulo Coelho of Brazil.

The election of Barack Obama has opened up the best opportunity for decades to address the failure of the "so-called drugs war", Cardoso told the Guardian today on a visit to London. He said he was hopeful that the international community would acknowledge that the time had come for a "paradigm shift" in the debate on drugs. "The war on drugs has failed in spite of enormous efforts in places like Colombia - the area of coca crops is not reducing," he said.

The current system of prohibition encouraged corruption among police officers, politicians and even judges. "It poisons the whole system, it undermines democracy," Cardoso said. "The war on drugs is based on repression ... How can people believe in democracy if the rule of law doesn't work?" Users should be offered treatment rather than jail, he said.

"The starting point has to be the United States," he said. "Now we have a new American administration, which is much more open-minded than before." He said he had held talks with the US state department in the later years of the Bush administration and found that, privately, many of the officials there shared his views.

Cardoso said that the changes would have to be co-ordinated. "We need an international convention, otherwise you will have different countries doing different things," he said. "But the climate is changing for the first time for many years. Even in the US, they recognise we are in deadlock now." Obama had already made it clear that the idea of a "war on drugs" was not workable. The need for change is urgent, said Cardoso, because of what is happening in Latin America. "There is a very grave situation in Mexico," he said. "More people are being killed there (through the drugs war) than in Iraq." He said that it was easier for former presidents who were no longer in office or running for election to speak out on such a controversial issue. He added that ending the war on drugs would be not be a signal that drugs were acceptable but a recognition that current policies had failed.

"You have to show that drugs are harmful, even light drugs, like marijuana - it is better not to use drugs - but tobacco is harmful also yet its use is being reduced by education," said Cardoso. He added that the vast quantities of money being used to enforce "repressive" policies on drugs could be put into treatment and education. Hundreds of thousands of people were being unnecessarily criminalised and sent to prison, "which are schools of crime."

The previous UN drugs policy that aimed to eliminate all drug use by this year was ill-conceived, he said. "You can never stop drugs use," he said, likening it to some of the failed policies in the past over HIV/Aids. "You can't have zero drugs any more than you can have a zero sex policy but you can have a safe sex policy." He said that Brazil's success in halting the HIV/Aids epidemic, which meant promoting the use of condoms in a Catholic country, was an example of how people's behaviour could be changed by education rather than repression.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Military Base Plans for Colombia - From Fellowship of Reconciliation

Fellowship of Reconciliation

May 18, 2009
, Oakland, CA: The United States is planning to establish a new military facility in Colombia that will give the U.S. increased capacity for military intervention throughout most of Latin America. Given the tense relations of Washington with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, as well as the Colombian military’s atrocious human rights record, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) believes the plan should be subjected to vigorous debate.

“This base would feed a failed drug policy, support an abusive army, and reinforce a tragic history of U.S. military intervention in the region,” said John Lindsay-Poland, FOR's Latin America program co-director. “It’s wrong and wasteful, and Congress should scrap it.”

The new facility in
Palanquero, Colombia would not be limited to counter-narcotics operations, nor even to operations in the Andean region, according to an Airlift Military Command (AMC) planning document . The U.S. Southern Command aims to establish a base with “air mobility reach on the South American continent” in addition to a capacity for counter-narcotics operations, through the year 2025.

With help from the Transportation Command and AMC, the Southern Command identified Palanquero, from which “nearly half of the continent can be covered by a C-17 without refueling.” If fuel is available at its destination, “a C-17 could cover the entire continent, with the exception of the
Cape Horn region,” the AMC planners wrote.

President Obama’s Pentagon budget
, submitted May 7, includes $46 million for development of the Palanquero base, and says the Defense Department seeks “an array of access arrangements for contingency operations, logistics, and training in Central/South America.” A U.S. Embassy spokesperson in
Bogota told FOR that negotiations were not yet concluded for the base.

The Southern Command is also pursuing access to a site in
French Guiana that would permit military aircraft to reach sites in Africa , via the Ascension Islands, according to AMC. SouthCom apparently sought use of facilities in Recife, Brazil for the same purpose, but “the political relationship with Brazil is not conducive to the necessary agreements,” AMC wrote.

The lease for the
U.S. “Forward Operating Location” in Manta, Ecuador expires in November 2009, and Ecuador notified Washington last year that it would not renew the lease. The facility in Manta was authorized to conduct only counter-drug operations, but drug traffic in the Pacific, where aircraft from Manta patrolled, has increased in recent years , according to military spokesmen. U.S. forces in Manta also carried out operations to arrest undocumented Ecuadorans on boats in Ecuadoran waters. But public documentation of U.S.operations conducted from Manta does not indicate use of C-17 cargo aircraft, so their use in Palanquero apparently would represent an expanded U.S. military capacity in the region.

The “mission creep” in the proposal for continent-wide operations from
Colombia is also evident in President Obama’s foreign aid request for Colombia. While the budget request for $508 million tacitly recognizes the failure of Plan Colombia drug policy by cutting funds for fumigation of coca crops, the White House is asking for an increase in counterinsurgency equipment and training to the Colombian Army.

Colombian and U.S. human rights and political leaders have objected to continued funding
of the Colombian army, especially after revelations that the army reportedly murdered more than 1,000 civilians and alleged they were guerrillas killed in combat, in order to increase their body count. The Palanquero base itself, which houses a Colombian Air Force unit, was banned from receiving U.S. aid for five years because of its role in a 1998 attack that killed 17 civilians , including six children, from the effects of U.S.-made cluster bombs. The
United States resumed aid to the unit last year.

Colombian Defense Ministry sources said
Colombia was attempting to obtain increases in U.S. military aid as part of the base negotiations. Palanquero offers the U.S. military a sophisticated infrastructure – a 10,000-foot runway, hangars that hold more than 100 aircraft, housing for more than 2,000 men, restaurants, casinos, supermarkets, and a radar system installed by the United States itself in the 1990s.

U.S. law caps the number of uniformed U.S. soldiers operating in Colombia at 800, and the number of contractors at 600. Until last year, a significant number of them were intelligence personnel assigned to the effort to rescue three U.S. military contractors kidnapped by the leftist FARC guerrillas. With the rescue last year of the three contractors, many U.S. intelligence staff left Colombia, leaving space for soldiers to run operations in the prospective new U.S. base or bases.

“That the Colombian government asks for a
U.S. base now would be a serious error,” says former defense minister and presidential candidate Rafael Pardo .

FOR believes replacing one military base that was set up for the failed drug war with another base to intervene in South America and to support the abusive Colombian army would be a serious error for the United States as well.

Ethan Vesely-Flad -- communications co-director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
845.358.4601 ext. 42,,
Since 1915, building a nonviolent world of justice, peace, and freedom.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Colombian Government’s Role in Human Rights Abuses

LinkHere is the latest article from our friends at Colombia Journal:

Colombian Government’s Role in Human Rights Abuses

by Garry Leech

It seems that new revelations about the Colombian government’s links to human rights abuses are appearing almost weekly. In recent weeks there have been allegations that Colombian political and military officials conspired with right-wing paramilitaries to burn the bodies of massacre victims in an effort to conceal the number of people killed by the militias; the country’s largest paramilitary organization funded President Alvaro Uribe’s 2002 election campaign; and the military’s counterinsurgency strategy has contributed to a worsening humanitarian crisis. These revelations come on the heels of evidence that the military has increasingly used extra-judicial executions as a counter-insurgency strategy in recent years and the para-politics scandal linking elected officials to the paramilitaries.

In response to the Colombian military’s increasing involvement in human rights violations, the British government recently announced that it was ending military aid to Colombia. In contrast, both the U.S. and Canadian governments continue to disregard the human rights crisis in their push to implement bilateral free trade agreements with Colombia.

Read the full article at:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Shielding the Recession by Hector Mondragon

Hello Folks,

I just received this insightful analysis of Colombia and the impact the economic crisis is having on the country by Hector Mondragon, one of the leading critics of the neoliberal onslaught on Colombia. This was translated at distributed by Justin Podur, who among other things, writes regularly for Z Net, and En Camino. Recall that Hector Mondragon was forced to leave Colombia last year after being falsely accused by unidentified sources in the news media. He has worked as an adviser to the indigenous and peasant movement for years. Here's a link to the original post:

Shielding the Recession
By *Hector Mondragon*
May 3, 2009

The rapid fall of industrial production and sales in the first months
of 2009 has cracked the media shield behind which the Colombian
government attempted to hide the reality of economic recession in Colombia.

In reality industry was in decline since May 2008. By the second
semester of 2008 the economy had completed two consecutive trimesters of
decline and was therefore formally in recession. The construction
figures tell the tale. The area approved for construction declined by
11.7% in 2008 relative to 2007; in January 2009 the decline was 29.7%
relative to January 2008. The housing construction figure was even more
dramatic: a 42.6% decline from January 2008-2009.

By the time the Ministry of Housing declared that Colombia was "shielded
from the international crisis", the crisis had already reached the
country. During 2008 the stock market lost 29% of its value and were 32%
cheaper than they had been at the peak of the bull market.

There was no way the Colombian economy could have escaped the
international crisis. In January 2009 remittances from Colombians living
abroad and exports were 16% and 13.2% lower than the previous year.
During 2008 the devaluation of the dollar (and consequent reevaluation
of the peso) put the brakes on industrial and agricultural exports,
especially of cut flowers, a commodity business that was in crisis long
before the rest of the economy. The quick collapse of demand in the US
and Europe aggravated the situation. The industry hoped the situation
would change with the reevaluation of the dollar (and devaluation of the
peso). Instead the international recession collapsed export prices for
nickel, coal, oil, which pulled the rug out from under Colombia's
flagship agrofuels program, sustained by state subsidies and prices set
by decree.

On the other hand, the Colombian recession is not solely or even
principally attributable to the international crisis. There is an
internal business cycle with its own dynamics that entered into its
descending phase. Certain domestic facts and policies have drawn and
sharpened the characteristics of the Colombian crisis.

First, relatively high interest rates, always higher than international
rates, spurred savings and foreign investment, helped the transnationals
to purchase Colombian banks and other Colombian businesses, and enabled
the Colombian government to sell bonds to support its budget. These
interest rates ended up strangling industry, agriculture, and commerce.

Second, the government set out on a policy of high fuel prices. When the
policy began the international price of fuel was high and, along with
the surging economy, concealed the policy.

There were two goals to the high prices of gasoline and diesel: the
fiscal logic of exporting goods at a higher price, a new tax that was
disguised as the 'suppression of subsidies'. In reality there was no
subsidy at all: the cost of production in Colombia is less than 25% of
the sale price. Ethanol is even more expensive, twice the international
price, in order to sustain the massive investment in agrofuels and
sugarcane and palm plantations of the massive plantations that bring a
higher income than the Latin American average, that in the case of
sugarcane are indigenous territories disputed by the plantation owners
and in the case of palm serve to legitimize the displacement or
servitude of the campesinos in territories dominated by the
paramilitaries and their financiers.

The fall of the international price of fuel in 2009 revealed the
politics of fuel price in Colombia. The result was a domestic price that
was both intolerable for the economy and imperative to sustain the
governent budget at a time when President Uribe hopes for re-election
and needs a minimum budget to surround his electoral campaign with some
achievements. Truck drivers, hopeless because of impossibly high fuel
prices and seeing their operations in free-fall, have declared a
national strike.

High interest rates, the high price of gas, and the agrofuels policy all
contributed to inflation, such that the Colombian recession, far from
being accompanied by a fall in prices like the US and Europe are
experiencing, is a typical case of stagflation.

Third, the illegal economy was another source for the economic boom. The
Ralito accords with the paramilitaries were followed with the laundering
of dollars and euros that helped to inflate the Treasury bonanza
<>, the official budget, and
the "health" of the overall economy. "Pyramids
<>" and Ponzi schemes
multiplied across the country without any controls, serving
simultaneously to launder more hot money, finance drug operations,
multiply the amount of money in circulation, raise overall sales, and
give the economy the illusion of health.

When the recession began, the pyramids that were not linked to
narcotrafficking collapsed immediately. Alarm bells rang about the
proliferation of these schemes. The government, so disengaged from the
issue, after failing for so long to fulfill its duty to monitor the
capture of savings, was forced to act. The closing of the pyramids
coincided with the rapid rise of the dollar and unleashed the phenomenon
referred to by Keynesians as the "liquidity preference": those who had
earlier overturned the system by placing their savings into pyramid
schemes now wanted only cash, in dollars.

The paramilitaries, in their peace process, could no longer hide that
they were continuing their narcotrafficking operations. The old
paramilitary leaders were extradited to the US and the process
collapsed. The mafia also showed a "liquidity preference" and a new
generation of paramilitaries arrived on the scene.

Once the Pandora's box of the crisis was open, the Colombian authorities
proclaimed emergency treatment. The Bank of the Republic lowered
interest rates, but it was too late. The effect was neutralized by the
preference for dollars.

Foreign investment during the first 80 days of 2009 was 27% lower than
the same period in 2008. The government's own figures say that the loss
was 15-20%. The result was a turn to external debt, which had been
shrinking just as the internal debt, in pesos, was growing at a
scandalous pace so long as dollars were cheap and Colombian interest
rates high. Dollars were now back to being strong and the external debt
was growing, starting with an issue of one billion dollars of external
debt. What the government started, the IMF would finish, as Colombia
opened an IMF "preventive" line-of-credit of more than $10 billion
dollars, in case of urgent need.

The return of Colombia to the arms of the IMF follows the G-20 meeting
that pulled that institution out of the cemetery to return to its old
work. Colombia is the fifth country to seek the poisoned medicine cooked
up in London. Mexico, the Ukraine, Poland, and Costa Rica preceded it,
although just before Latvia, Hungary, Iceland, Rumania, Serbia, and the
Czech Republic had to turn urgently to the IMF.

As in other parts of the world, public works have been announced. Even
though unemployment never went below 10% even during the boom, the fact
that unemployment has now gone over 14% at the beginning of the year
threatens political instability. If it goes still higher, Uribe can
forget about re-election.

The oft-repeated fall of some narcotrafficking dons may temporarily
increase the price of illegally exported cocaine. Another poison drug
will forge new dons that will benefit from the increased prices and the
elimination of competitors.

The government longs for the approval of the US and Canada that would
come from the free trade agreements. It longs to capture investments by
making perks and concessions available to investors. But increasing
imports at a time when North American products have dropped in price
would be a hard blow to Colombian domestic production.

Even now there are other ways out of the crisis, ways the majority of
Latin America is trying to follow. Colombia could focus on the internal
market, develop state plans for massive construction of social housing,
with state credit institutions, approve an agrarian reform to take
advantage of 5 million hectares of agricultural land now sitting idle
under speculative control, revitalize the Andean community, and recover,
as other Latin American countries are trying to do, its natural
resources. To open the way for this path we need peace.

Hector Mondragon is a Colombian economist and activist.

Translated by Justin Podur

Friday, May 1, 2009

Military Officials Involved in Killing of Indigenous Leader's Husband Captured in Colombia: Will There Be Truth and Justice in this case?

Here is the latest missive, in Spanish, from the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern cauca, ACIN, regarding the recent capture of several military officials involved in the assassination of Edwin Legarda Vazquez, the husband of Aida Quilcué, leader of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC, last December 16th.

Early that morning, on the road between Inzá, Tierradentro, and Totoró, on indigenous territory in the southwestern department of Cauca, the CRIC's car was shot at 19 times by a column of the Third Division of the Army, fatally wounding Legarda Vázquez.
General Justo Eliceo Peña, the commander of the Army’s Third Division, acknowledged that the Army did indeed fire at CRIC’s car. According to the General, his troops fired because the car did not stop at the military roadblock he claimed was set up in the area. General Peña, as well as Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, later expressed regrets for the attack, recognizing that even if Legarda had not obeyed orders to stop, the excessive volley of bullets was not appropriate, and violated the Army’s protocol.

However, CRIC lawyers challenged the official version of what occurred, and discounted the claim that there was a roadblock in the area, describing the attack more as an ambush than an accident. Most people close to CRIC believe the bullets were really meant for Quilcué. As Chief Counsel of CRIC, Quilcué was one of the most visible leaders of the six-week Indigenous and Popular Minga, an unprecedented national mobilization that began on October 11th last year, culminating in a massive march and rally in downtown Bogotá on November 21st.

Quilcué, along with other prominent indigenous leaders, had received numerous death threats in the weeks prior to the attack on Legarda, especially during the 61 days of mobilization that captured the attention of both national and international public opinion. Because of this, and the recent wave of threats and direct attacks against the indigenous movement in Colombia, the indigenous leadership is convinced Legarda’s death was a deliberate act committed against the organization, and specifically an attempt on Quilcués life by the government’s security apparatus. Will this latest capture of those supposedly responsible actually lead to a resolution to this case, and result in justice AND truth regarding who ordered the killing? ACIN's missive raises some important points to consider, so I share it with you here.

Seven soldiers arrested for murder of indigenous leader's husband
Authorities arrested seven soldiers for their alleged involvement in the murder of Edwin Legarda, the husband of indigenous leader Aida Quilcue.

Agents from the CTI (Technical Investigation Body) from the Prosecutor General's office arrested two officers and five soldiers for their involvement in Legarda's death on December 16, 2008. Legarda was killed when the army opened fire on the car he was driving.

Local sources reported that Legarda was driving a car usually driven by Quilcue. She believes the army tried to assassinate her.

The seven soldiers are currently detained in Popayán and will be questioned as a suspects in the murder of a protected person.


Capturados militares por magnicidio: ¿Coincidencias, Justicia, o más de lo mismo?

05/01/2009; Autor: Tejido de Comunicación ACIN

Esperamos que el magnicidio -que fuera un mensaje de terror contra la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria- no se convierta ahora en un pretexto absurdo para que unas condenas insuficientes lleven a la aprobación de Tratados de Libre Comercio que le den la absolución política a un Gobierno que debe responder por estos hechos. Sería como el caso del hijo que después de asesinar a sus padres le pide al juez que lo absuelva en consideración a que se trata de un huérfano.

El 16 de diciembre de 2008, se conmemoraba el 17 aniversario de la masacre de El Nilo. Al amanecer, una extraña noticia se escuchó en las cadenas radiales comerciales: una camioneta o ambulancia con armas se dirigía hacia Popayán desde Tierradentro en el Departamento del Cauca. Luego recogimos una noticia en la voz de un testigo presencial: un indígena que se encontraba en el lugar de hechos criminales. El ejército había disparado sin provocación contra el vehículo de la Consejera Mayor del CRIC (Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca) Aida Quilcué. Edwin Legarda, su compañero, quien conducía el vehículo, había sido trasladado, gravemente herido a Popayán. Recibió tres impactos de fusil de frente. El vehículo había recibido 17 impactos de bala. 3 de frente y el resto a ambos lados. No hubo retén ni se hizo señal alguna para que se detuviera. Edwin falleció en Popayán. El atentado era, según toda la evidencia, un intento de magnicidio por parte del Ejército colombiano contra la líder máxima del CRIC

La W, una emisora con enorme audiencia, fue informada por el Tejido de Comunicación de la ACIN sobre los hechos, para que se dieran a conocer al país de manera directa y sin distorsiones. Dimos las coordenadas de un testigo local. Prometieron llamarlo y dar la noticia. Durante un segmento de homenaje al ejército nacional, el General Justo Eliseo Peña, Comandante de la Tercera División con sede en Cali, estaba al aire dando su versión. Fue la versión inicial que escuchó el país. La W y el periodista Julio Sánchez Cristo, no permitieron que la versión de los testigos fuera la primera en ser presentada. El General prometió investigar, pero aseguró que el vehículo no se había detenido en un retén. Uno de los voceros del Tejido de comunicación de la ACIN, quien intentó presentar la versión de testigos directos: un atentado del ejército sin provocación alguna contra un vehículo plenamente conocido e identificado como el de la Consejería Mayor del CRIC, fue señalado falsamente al aire, de tener vínculos con las FARC. Intentaron en la W, desvirtuar al aire un testimonio. Extrañamente, esta entrevista nunca apareció en la página electrónica de la emisora. Se le daba la palabra al ejército, se validaba de manera anticipada la versión oficial. ¿Cómo era posible que un vehículo que no se detuvo en un retén militar tuviera impactos de fusil de frente y de lado y ninguno por detrás? ¿Pasó el retén militar en reversa?

La comunidad y la Guardia Indígena retuvieron a los militares implicados en los hechos y hallaron dos fusiles AK 47 en su poder, sin que pudieran explicar los soldados a quienes pertenecían. Exigieron y obtuvieron dos compromisos antes de liberar a los soldados a manos de la justicia. 1. La justicia ordinaria se ocuparía de la investigación. No la justicia militar. 2. La falsa versión del retén militar inexistente, sería reemplazada por la verdad de los hechos.

Todo apuntaba a un intento de magnicidio encubierto como un falso positivo para implicar al CRIC y a su Consejera Mayor con las FARC. La Consejera regresaba ese día de Ginebra a una evaluación de la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria. El Presidente Uribe pasaba por encima de los compromisos adquiridos por su Gobierno con el esclarecimiento de la verdad y la justicia. En declaración pública, al día siguiente, el 17 de diciembre, reiteraba la versión del retén violentado, después de que fueran entregados los soldados a la justicia, después de que se llegara a los acuerdos mencionados entre las autoridades militares y las autoridades indígenas. Esa versión insostenible que ya no defendía ni el propio ejército en el lugar de los hechos, era presentada como la versión oficial por el propio Presidente de la República.

¿Coincidencias, justicia o maniobras?

1. Voceros de reconocidos Organismos de Derechos Humanos, de Gobiernos e instituciones diversas del ámbito internacional, horrorizadas ante el atentado y el atroz asesinato de Edwin Legarda y ante la evidencia y testimonios que parecen involucrar directamente al Estado y al Gobierno colombiano, reaccionaron con firmeza y declararon su compromiso de no cesar en su empeño de exigir que se hiciera justicia. Este atentado magnicida no podía quedar en la impunidad.

2. El Gobierno del Reino Unido anuncia ayer miércoles 29 de abril de 2009, mientras el Presidente Uribe se encuentra en Europa, que da por terminada la ayuda militar bilateral a Colombia por las grotescas violaciones de derechos humanos cometidas por las fuerzas armadas: para el Gobierno colombiano este es un baldado de agua fría, un “terrible golpe” por parte de “un gran aliado”.

3. El Presidente Uribe se encuentra en proceso de negociar un Tratado de Libre Comercio con la Unión Europea, que espera completar en el mes de junio. Tratado en el que hace concesiones aún mayores a las que hiciera a los EEUU en otro tratado que no ha sido ratificado por el Congreso y el Gobierno Demócrata de los EEUU, precisamente por las violaciones a los derechos humanos que involucran al Gobierno colombiano. A través del TLC con la Unión Europea (y otro que se debate ahora mismo en el Parlamento Canadiense), el Gobierno Uribe pretende obtener una absolución política por los crímenes de lesa humanidad, la parapolítica, los “falsos positivos” y la corrupción. Ello (talvez) le permitiría reabrir la posibilidad de ratificar el TLC con EEUU y protegerse de las investigaciones y cuestionamientos contra su Gobierno.

4. En este contexto, hoy, 30 de abril de 2009, mientras se reúne el XIII Congreso del CRIC bajo el liderazgo de la Consejera Aida Quilcué, quien entrega su mandato, se anuncia la captura de 5 soldados y dos suboficiales involucrados en lo que los medios ahora denominan abiertamente como un “asesinato”.

El 16 de diciembre seguirá siendo una fecha dolorosa de conmemoración del horror del Estado contra los pueblos indígenas del Cauca. Esa fecha fue escogida para cometer un magnicidio que hoy parece reconocerse. Parece, porque acá falta mucha verdad y toda la justicia. ¿Quién dio la orden de que se cometiera el magnicidio? ¿Qué sabían los altos mandos militares y el propio Presidente Uribe? ¿Por qué insistió el Presidente Uribe en reiterar la versión del retén militar cuando esta ya había sido desvirtuada? ¿Qué papel jugaron a raíz del atentado los medios comerciales de comunicación y qué papel pretenden jugar ahora? ¿Por qué se capturan únicamente suboficiales y soldados, acaso pretenden decirnos que actuaron solos, sin mandos, sin órdenes? ¿Qué tiene que ver la gira del Presidente a Europa, la negociación del TLC y el anuncio de finalizar la ayuda militar bilateral por parte del Reino Unido por este tipo de hechos con la decisión súbita de capturar a los soldados?
Esperamos que se haga justicia. Exigimos que se haga justicia. Esperamos que no se busquen chivos expiatorios o que todo esto termine con autores materiales de bajo rango mientras la autoría intelectual se encubre. Esperamos que los 7 capturados digan y puedan decir de donde vinieron sus ordenes.

Esperamos que el magnicidio -que fuera un mensaje de terror contra la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria- no se convierta ahora en un pretexto absurdo para que unas condenas insuficientes lleven a la aprobación de Tratados de Libre Comercio que le den la absolución política a un Gobierno que debe responder por estos hechos. Sería como el caso del hijo que después de asesinar a sus padres le pide al juez que lo absuelva en consideración a que se trata de un huérfano.

Recordamos que la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria rechaza los Tratados de Libre Comercio porque despojan a nuestros pueblos, nos empobrecen, nos niegan libertades, nos expropian y se sirven del terror para sus fines egoístas.

Los medios que encubrieron, que repitieron la versión oficial del retén inexistente, hoy hablan de asesinato. Puede ser un buen comienzo si quienes obedecieron las ordenes de cometer un delito atroz, confiesan y asumen su participación en un crimen y ayudan a esclarecer toda la verdad. Un buen comienzo si se les permite hablar. Un buen comienzo si no fuera porque en Colombia, hasta por los delitos confesos comprobados con evidencias como el de cohecho (hecho entre dos), terminan en condenas a la parte que confiesa y en impunidad para la contraparte del alto Gobierno que soborna y presiona. Un buen comienzo, si empezara por fin el camino hacia la justicia por la verdad.

Solamente la presión permanente desde Colombia y el mundo hará que este camino se haga realidad. Un comienzo del camino hacia la paz y la democracia en Colombia, si los Gobiernos de la Unión Europea, del Canadá y de los Estados Unidos, que se proclaman como defensores de la justicia y de los derechos humanos, no se hacen cómplices de un Gobierno que debe responder por delitos atroces.

Edwin Legarda y las víctimas del Nilo, no habrán sido asesinados para que se siga por el camino del exterminio, la pobreza y el engaño para alimentar la codicia y la exclusión.

Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas
para la Verdad y la Vida

CIP: Have "False Positives" in Colombia Stopped?

Hi folks,

Here is an interesting post from the Center for International Policy - Colombia program about the false positives crimes in Colombia, carried out by government forces under President Alvaro Uribe's watch.

This is an atrocity that like so many other crimes against humanity in Colombia over the years, seems to have gone on with complete impunity. Last year, President Uribe supposedly cleaned up house and took some steps to reprimand the officers guilty of carrying out these crimes. Was it more government propaganda, or did it actually put a halt to the killing and dressing up of civilians as "rebel" casualties in Colombia's "war on terror?"

Take a look at this.


Last fall, Colombia was horrified by revelations that members of the Army - or criminals in their employ - had been luring away young men with promises of employment, killing them, then presenting their bodies as those of guerrillas or paramilitaries killed in combat. The dead were called “falsos positivos” - roughly, “false positive results against armed groups” - and the scandal forced the November 2008 retirement of Army Chief Gen. Mario Montoya.

The Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination, a network of Colombian human-rights groups, issued a report alleging that 535 civilians had been killed by Colombia’s security forces between January 2007 and June 2008, about one per day.

Colombian security and defense officials long denied that “false positives” were a problem. Now, they are insisting that they have put the problem behind them. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos has said in at least two recent high-profile speeches that there have been no new cases of “false positives” since October.

We have had problems, as in the cases of extrajudicial executions or “false positives” that have been denounced, but we worked immediately, with all effort and rigor, and we can say that, since last October, no denunciations have been received about cases since then.

Is that correct, though? A recent report by the highly respected Colombian NGO CINEP and a new memo from the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination [PDF] both indicate otherwise. The CINEP report documents three possible new cases between October and December 2008 in Casanare, Cordoba, and Putumayo. The CCEEU memo mentions these cases, as well as a few others in which the victims were executed but not later presented as killed in combat - their bodies were disposed of instead.

The CCEEU argues that forced disappearance is replacing “false positives” as the “new modality” of military human rights abuse.

They seek to give the sensation that the order to end the executions is being followed, but continuing the same practice, only now placing special care in ensuring that the new executions are not reported (publicly) and the cadavers are diligently hidden, in order to leave no traces of the troops’ responsibility for these illegal acts.

Compounding the difficulty of judging the degree to which “false positives” continue is the way in which they are discovered. It may take several months to determine that the armed forces may have had a role in the case of one of the hundreds of people who disappear every year in Colombia. In the notorious case that brought the scandal to world attention last fall - the discovery of the bodies of missing young men from a slum near Bogotá buried in a province near the Venezuelan border - the lag between disappearance and discovery was at least six months.

An editorial in Monday’s edition of the Bogotá daily El Espectador looks at the issue and determines that, indeed, the Colombian defense minister may be speaking too soon.

We celebrate that the Army is carrying out a serious diagnosis to bring an end to this criminal conduct, that the investigations’ advances are communicated to public opinion, and that drastic measures are taken to restore credibility and trust to the institution. But the Minister should think twice before assuring that “false positives” are a thing of the past.

Food Democracy and Sustainability Focus of WBAI's Wake Up Call this morning.

HAPPY MAY DAY everybody!!!

Today on Hour Three of WBAI's Wake UP Call (, we dedicated considerable amount of time to the global food crisis, and the ongoing struggles for food democracy and sustainability around the world.

Previewing the upcoming Brooklyn Food Conference taking place on Saturday, May 2nd in Park Slope, Brooklyn, we examined a number of issues relating to food politics, hunger and the damaging effects of the food industrial complex.

First we looked at the growing challenges facing New York City food banks in trying to feed the growing legions of people needing support to feed their families. The numbers are startling, with up to 3,000,000 people in the city depending on outside sources for their daily bread, according to the New York City Food Bank. We spoke to Carlos Rodriguez of the Food Bank, who was cited in a report this week about the problem of starvation in the largest city of the country.

Then we were joined by the editor of NACLA's Report on the Americas, Pablo Morales, about their latest issue, which focuses on the food crisis and its impact on Latin America.

And finally, we previewed some of the speakers from the Food Conference, including Raj Patel of the organization Food First: The Institute for Food and Development Policy.

To listen to the entire hour of the show, click here. And make sure you continue to support WBAI in its upcoming membership drive, which begins on May 4th!