Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Country of Peoples Without Owners: Jackson Heights Screening

WBAI’s Wake Up Call & First Voices Indigenous Radio, in collaboration with Momentos de Cine, present the Jackson Heights Premiere of the long anticipated documentary…

A Country of Peoples Without Owners: The Indigenous and Popular Minga of 2008

Wednesday, July 1st at 7:00pm La Terraza 7 Train Café, (40-19 Gleane Street, near 83rd St. & Roosevelt Ave.) in Jackson Heights, Queens

This documentary shows us what happens when the poorest and most marginal people confront, without weapons, the most powerful regime of Latin America. The response is apparent in the wisdom of the five-point agenda that provided the fuel for the Popular Minga.

The film “A Country of Peoples: Without Owners” was conceptualized, written, edited and produced by the Communication Team of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN. Proceeds from both events will be used to help get ACIN’s community radio station Radio Payumat, back on the air after it was sabotaged in late December.

The screening will also feature the documentary “HUMAN FACES BEHIND THE RAIN FOREST,” a film that gives direct testimony of the drama lived by the peasant and indigenous people in Colombia, as a result of the social crisis caused by the harvesting of the poppy crop, produced and directed by Colombian film maker and journalist Mady Samper, who will also be present.

The screening will be hosted by WBAI’s Mario Murillo, host of Friday Wake UP Call, and Tiokasin Ghosthorse, host of First Voices-Indigenous Radio on WBAI Radio, along with guest Mady Samper.

For more information, call (212) 209-2978 OR VISIT http://mamaradio.blogspot.com

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pedro Arenas, Mayor of San Jose, Guaviare, Attacked by FARC

Earlier today I received disturbing news from a good friend of mine in Colmbia who apparently was the victim of an attack against him and his entourage by rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC.

I'm talking about long-time social justice activist, community organizer and independent politician, Pedro Arenas, the current mayor of the city of San Jose, in the southern department of Guaviare.

Pedro has been an outspoken critic of U.S.-led counter-drug policies in Latin America, and has risked his life on several occasions to expose the dangers of the aerial fumigation campaign that successive governments in Colombia have carried out in southern Colombia with the total support of Washington. He has marched with the peasantry in southern Colombia, and was involved in the 1997-1998 mobilizations against the fumigations that received national and international attention, as they denounced the toxic effect of the chemicals used in the eradication effort, the government's failure to provide alternative solutions to the problems facing the rural poor, and the role this all plays in the forced displacement in the countryside.

Arenas was a former city council member of San Jose, and later became a departmental assembly member, under the banner of the Independent Movement for Youth in Guaviare. With that organization, Pedro founded the sole community radio station in San Jose in 1998, Juventud Stereo, which I have had the honor of working alongside on a number of occasions over the years. They are the lone voice of unfiltered information for the many communities most affected by the political violence in the region, violence spearheaded by right wing paramilitaries, their allies in the security forces, and guerillas of the FARC.

As a result of this activism and organizing, Pedro was forced to leave Guaviare for some time in the late 1990s, which is when I first met him, when he came to NYC in 1997. His charisma and clarity on these issues impacted many people here as the debates began regarding the so-called Plan Colombia program, which since 1999 has funneled more than $5-billion to the Colombian regime, mostly in military and police assistance.

Arenas eventually was elected to the Colombian Congress, where he served a three year term, as an independent, aligning himself most often with the progressive wing of the legislature, taking strong stands, for example, against some of the counter-reform measures promoted by President Uribe, such as the Forestry Laws, measures designed to win the favor of Washington in its negotiations over the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

The FARC's 70th Front apparently carried out the latest attack on Arenas and his colleagues, claiming that the mayor has not "spoken out against the fumigations," an ironic, if not deliberately misleading statement given Arenas' long track record of denunciation and resistance. He has been invited to take that critical message to meetings, conferences and forums on four continents, and is seen as one of the foremost experts on the issue of counter-drug policy, militarization and development.

Now his biggest concern is the whereabouts of a campesino leader Marcos Baquero, who has not been seen since the attack this weekend.

As the President of Colombia meets with Barack Obama today, it is important that we recognize the dire situation facing human rights activists, independent opposition leaders, and the broader social movement in Colombia today. While this latest attack came at the hands of FARC, we cannot de-link their intransigence from the continued application of failed counter-drug approaches in places like Guaviare by the Uribe government, and their close friends in Washington.

Nevertheless, here is a link to a story which focuses on the government's condemnation of the attack against Arenas, posted in El Tiempo.

Here is a report from El Nuevo Herald, which focuses on the disappearance of Marcos, who had been accompanying Pedro Arenas during this work visit in the department.

Below is the message from Pedro, in Spanish, where he describes the attack that occurred, and their rsponse so far. I'll have more in the coming days as I find more information.


Ayer a las 11 am cuando me desplazaba desde San Jose hacia la Carpa (una inspeccion municipal ubicada a unos 50 kilometros de esta ciudad), fuimos objeto de un atentado con bombas y rafagas de fusil, yo alcance a salir en una camioneta blindada del sitio pero alli quedo herido un diputado -al que rescatamos dos horas mas tarde- y perdimos al presidente del concejo municipal, el compañero Marcos Baquero quien pertenece al Partido Verde.

Desde entonces no tenemos razon de Marcos y deseamos que aparezca bien. Guerrilleros del 7o frente de las farc cometieron el atentado, pues varios de ellos condujeron a nuestra secretaria de educacion y un periodista de la radio comunitaria durante casi media hora hasta el jefe del grupo quien se presentó con el alias de Jesus. Este le dijo al periodista que su ataque iba dirigido contra el Alcalde y que era un mensaje para demostrar que estaban vivos y que -segun ellos- "nadie habla contra las fumigaciones".

El periodista y la secretaria fueron liberados, el diputado esta fuera de peligro. En la Carpa estamos desarrollando una actividad como Alcaldia con el apoyo de varias entidades que nosotros llamamos "ferias de servicios", en el marco de una estrategia de prevencion del desplazamiento; llevamos salud, asistencia tecnica, sena, sisben, regimen subsidiado, deportes, cultura entre otras de caracter social, para asistir al campesino en sus lugares de origen. Yo sali de la Carpa en un helicoptero del ejercito, despues de hablarle a cerca de mil campesinos que se agolparon en el lugar.

Esta vez nos hemos salvado de una emboscada, pero tenemos desaparecido al concejal y les invito a pronunciarse por su regreso. Marcos es un campesino, lider de una asociacion de productores, estudiante de la ESAP, de nuestra misma colectividad politica, es su primera vez en la politica y representa justamente la region en la que ocurrieron los hechos.

No deja de ser curioso que este atentado lo hagan las farc contra mi persona, acusandonos de no decir nada contra las fumigaciones, cuando lo cierto es que hemos llevado una vida de compromiso con el campesinado y de denuncia por los daños que causan las aspersiones en la economia local y el medio ambiente. Tremenda equivocacion de una organizacion armada que nos ha atacado desconociendo el hecho de que, quizá la unica voz que se ha mantenido viva y en alto por los efectos de la fumigacion ha sido la nuestra.

Absurdo que pretendan acabar con nuestro proceso politico en el Guaviare y acallar estas, nuestras voces.

Pedro Arenas


Here is a translation of Pedro Arenas’s statement on what happened. The attack also received coverage in Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper, and on the AP wire.

Yesterday [Sunday] at 11 AM, when I was going from San José to La Carpa (a town about 50 kilometers from the county seat), we were the object of an attack with bombs and gunshots. I managed to get out of the area in an armored truck, but a departmental legislator was wounded - we rescued him two hours later - and we lost the president of the municipal council, compañero Marcos Baquero, who belongs to the Green Party. Since then, we haven’t heard a thing from Marcos and we want him to reappear unharmed.

Guerrillas of the 7th Front of the FARC committed the attack. Several of them took our secretary of education and a reporter from the community radio for half an hour to the chief of their group, who presented himself with the alias of “Jesús.” He told the reporter that his attack was aimed at the mayor, and that it was a message to show that they were very much alive, and that - according to them - “nobody is speaking against the fumigations.” The reporter and the secretary were freed, the departmental legislator is out of danger.

In La Carpa we were carrying out an activity of the mayor’s office with the support of several government agencies, which we call “services fairs [ferias de servicios],” in the framework of a strategy of preventing displacement; we bring health, technical assistance, SENA [vocational training], SISBEN [central government assistance to municipalities], subsidized regime [central government health care], sports and culture among other social services, to help the campesinos in their places of origin. I left La Carpa in an army helicopter, after speaking to about 1,000 campesinos who gathered there. In the same helicopter were also five police who were in the caravan and who were “lost” for nearly 3 hours in the zone.

This time we have saved ourselves from an ambush, but our councilman has disappeared, and I ask you to raise your voice for his return. Marcos is a campesino, leader of an association of producers, student in the ESAP [national public administration school], and a member of our political movement. This is his first time in politics and he represents the very region in which the attack occurred.

It is quite curious that the FARC would carry out this attack against me, accusing us of saying nothing against fumigations, when the truth is that we have a lifetime of commitment with the campesinos and of denouncing the damages that the spraying causes to the local economy and the environment. For the past 15 years, every day we have asked for more commitment and investment in alternative development, in roads and productive projects to help the campesinos. I did it as a councilman, departmental legislator and representative in Congress, and now as mayor I have not lowered my guard on this issue. I am still working constantly to get decisionmakers to change this policy, and instead to carry out a program of integral rural development.

This is a tremendous error on the part of an armed organization that has attacked us, ignoring the fact that, perhaps the only voice that has remained alive and aloud about the damaging effects of the fumigations has been ours. It is absurd that they would try to do away with our political process in Guaviare and to silence our voices.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ECONOMY: More Democracy the Cure for Broken System, U.N. Says

By Henry Parr (For Inter-Press Service)

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 25 (IPS) - The United Nations General Assembly kicked off a three-day conference on the world financial crisis Wednesday with calls for a substantial overhaul of the decades-long model under which the world's richest countries set the terms of global fiscal and trade policy.

"At this critical moment, we must all join our efforts to prevent the global crisis, with its myriad faces, from turning into a social, environmental and humanitarian tragedy," General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto told attendees.

"It is neither humane nor responsible to build a Noah's Ark only to save the existing economic system, leaving the vast majority of humanity to their fate and to suffer the negative effects of a system imposed by an irresponsible but powerful minority," D'Escoto said. "We must take decisions that affect us all collectively to the greatest extent possible."

The decision to hold a U.N. summit on the global economic crisis was taken by all 192 member states - by consensus - at an international conference on financing for development held in the Qatari capital of Doha last November.

The summit is considered by some observers to mark a key moment for the future of the United Nations, particularly in terms of its role in forging a new, more democratic roadmap for global financial and economic governance.

However, both World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn are skipping the conference, as are virtually all of the political leaders of Western nations, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

Participants in the Jun. 24-26 meet include two heads of state, four vice presidents, 10 heads of government, three deputy prime ministers and 32 ministers - an overwhelming majority of them from the developing world.

Overall, 142 countries have sent delegates. They are currently discussing a draft outcome document that includes references to preserving "hard-won economic and development gains...including progress toward the MDGs" (Millennium Development Goals), fostering a green and sustainable recovery, strengthening the role of the United Nations in responding to the crisis, and reforming key global institutions like the IMF and World Bank, "based on a fair and equitable representation of developing countries."

Endorsing the venue of the 192-member U.N. General Assembly to debate solutions to the financial crisis - a debate that thus far has been largely confined to groupings of the world's most powerful economies like the G8 and G20 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored that the problem is "not a cause for any one person, nation or group of nations. It is a challenge for us all."

Ban called for approaches that widen access to education, promote environmentally sustainable growth, help subsistence farmers and increase resources to fight diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis.

"The world institutions, created generations ago, must be made more accountable, more representative and more effective," he said, conceding that the issue of reforming financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank has divided member states, and urging a "renewed multilateralism".

Parallel to the conference, side events are taking place on a variety of topics such as health care, migration and gender rights.

At the German Mission, the Freidrich Ebert Stiftung foundation held a panel discussion where economic experts discussed flaws in the current global economic architecture and how it could be changed.

"We do not have a system of global economic government," said Jomo Kwame Sundaram, the assistant secretary-general for economic development.

"What we’ve had since the end of 1971 is a non-system instead of a system," he said, referring to the demise of the gold standard (the elite World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland was also founded that year).

Jomo acknowledged that "in the mid-1990s, a number of proposals did come out, especially for something called the World Financial Authority...none of which materialised."

He listed the myriad challenges that the global community now faces: heavy debt, a lack of accountability, and a "lack of coherence in the international multilateral system".

Roberto Bissio, the coordinator of Social Watch, said the current global economic structure favoured wealthier countries over poorer ones.

"When you start looking at the money and where it’s going, you find that the flow goes upstream, and it’s actually going from the south to the north, and that is a very well documented situation in which the financial architecture has vanished," he explained.

"This is nonsense, because those are the same countries where the majority of the world’s poor live, and they are spending all their money to subsidise the unsustainable highly invested rich countries," he added.

The best way to reform the current system would be to "enforce transparent methods" and a "rule-based system" that would equally discipline wealthy and poor nations and require the opinions of the South to be taken into account by the North, the panel concluded.

Many other civil society activists appear to agree with this assessment, and note that women's concerns have been largely sidelined as well.

"In failing to reform the conditionalities of institutions such as the IMF, which force governments to cut social spending and consequently place an even greater burden on women by forcing them to pick up the slack caused by the withdrawal of these services, rich countries betray their lack of willingness to address the gender dimension of this crisis," said Diana Aguiar of the International Gender and Trade Network in a statement.

Added John Foster from North-South Institute/Social Watch, "We remain deeply concerned that the Conference has failed to address reforms deep and wide enough not only to adequately relieve the horrendous impacts of the current crisis on so many, but to prevent further such crises."

"We will continue pressuring our governments to ensure that every paragraph of the declaration leads to concrete actions for a just and sustainable world," he commented.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama, Latin AMerica and U.S. Trade Policy - A Change or Business as Usual?

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama posited himself as the "Fair Trade" candidate in opposition to Hillary Clinton, whose support of NAFTA during her husband's administration was seen as a liability. But as soon as Hillary was out of the picture, Obama began to backpedal on trade and told Fortune magazine that his anti-NAFTA stance was “overheated and amplified.”

Nevertheless, Obama won some points from grassroots human rights activists and trade union leaders when he also openly spoke out about what he called "bad trade deals" such as the Colombia-USA Free Trade Agreement, which was signed in 2006, but has been stalled ever since in the U.S. Congress over issues relating to human rights of Colombian trade unionists.

Now that he’s in the White House, what do we know about his trade policies?

For one, Obama is scheduled to meet with his Colombian counterpart, President Alvaro Uribe Vélez, on Monday, June 29, and all indications are that his tough stance as a candidate has evolved into one of friendly appeasement. Indeed, his spokesman said the President is eager to jump-starting talks on the US-Col FTA.

Furthermore, how does Obama's "tough" stance on Colombia compare to his open embrace of the US-Peru FTA, which he voted in favor of when he was still in the Senate, calling it "a better agreement?" Perhaps we should not be surprised about the deafening silence out of the White House a few weeks ago when Peruvian security forces opened fire on Indigenous protesters in the Amazon, communities that were specifically mobilizing against government-imposed measures designed to make the country safe for the FTA.

These are some of the issue we discussed yesterday on the independent cable and web-based talk show GRIT TV, which is hosted daily by journalist and author Laura Flanders. I sat in for her as guest host on Tuesday, and we had a round-table discussion on the issues relating to Obama's trade policies.

My guests included Lori Wallach, Executive Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Jose Schiffino, Chair of the Fair Trade Committee of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Ana Maria Quispe, a human rights activist from Peru (photo, left), and Christy Thornton, Executive Director of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA; (photo below) on Obama and free trade.

Then, later in the program, I did an interview with Hamza Perez, a Puerto Rican rapper who gave up his life as a drug dealer 12 years ago and converted to Islam. He is the subject of the film New Muslim Cool, an exploration of Perez’s efforts to build a religious community in post 9/11 America, which premiered last night on PBS' award-winning documentary series POV.

To view the entire show, click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cambio Magazine: Extraditing the Truth

Hi folks,

Here is another important public service which the folks at CIP recently posted, an English translation of an exclusive interview with Colombian Paramilitary boss Salvatore Mancuso from a Federal US Prison in the magazine Cambio. In it, Mancuso discusses how the Uribe government's extradition of he and 14 other right ring heads of the AUC was a way to "extradite the truth." I think it reveals some interesting details about the paramiltary project in Colombia, and the way the so-called Justice and Peace process there has unfolded under Uribe's watch. It also should be considered by President Obama, as he gets ready to meet with Uribe later this month to discuss a slew of bilateral issues, including the US-Colombia FTA.


Here are translated excerpts from an interview with extradited paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, given at the DC Jail where he is being held pending trial. The interview was the cover story in last Thursday’s edition of the Colombian newsweekly Cambio. Thanks to CIP Intern Cynthia Arévalo for the translation help.

According to the Government, you were playing around with the process…

Look, I am going to give you a “scoop.” The prosecutor-general, Mario Iguarán, and the attorney in charge of my case said in this same prison that there was no evidence that I, in particular, had committed any criminal offense when I was in the Itagüí prison [between December 2006 and his May 2008 extradition]. They said that if that evidence had in fact existed, I would have been out of “Justicia y Paz” [the Justice and Peace process], and I’m still in “Justicia y Paz.”

If, like you said, you weren’t committing any crimes, then why do you believe you were extradited?

The government got scared by what many commanders were doing and because we were reconstructing the truth. I decided to tell all of those who had worked with me to tell the truth, and in the stand I also told some of it.

I reported, to [government peace commissioner Luis Carlos] Restrepo, to the OAS and to the church, that there were 6,000 people re-armed in Córdoba and Catatumbo. But some AUC commanders said they wouldn’t talk because they had been threatened. I was left alone. That truth worried many businessmen, political leaders and others in the economic sector. There had to be some kind of pressure for the government to extradite us all. But if there were commanders who failed [to honor the Justice and Peace terms], we should say as well that the government failed because they ruined any hopes for peace in Colombia.

With you all extradited while trying to negotiate with U.S. Justice, is there any possibility of rebuilding the process and giving reparations to the victims?

My attorneys and I are determined to continue with the reconstruction of the truth as well as with reparations to the victims. However, I want to clarify that when the government extradited me, they said through the Minister of Justice that the agreements and mechanisms existed to allow the process to continue. That is a big lie and what we have done so far owes to the goodwill of the district attorneys in the United States and “Justicia y Paz” in Colombia [the Justice and Peace Unit of the prosecutor-general's office]. The government extradited us, and they will have to figure out what to do in order to avoid impunity and fulfill reparations.

Will the whole truth be known someday?

It is us, the commanders, who hold the important truth, with our extradition to the United States they extradited the truth. The law they passed sought retaliation. For example, when I said that Carlos Castaño and I met with the ex minister [of defense] Juan Manuel Santos in order to promote a coup d’etat against President Ernesto Samper, the minister of Interior said that people should not believe a criminal like Mancuso. The truth is stigmatized and generates rejection from society.

Which of the truths you revealed have not had any effect?

The coexistence of active and retired military, as well as of important political figures, who are presidential candidates today, with the AUC.

Like who?

They know.

In Colombia there is a controversy over an iPod you owned, apparently, that has dozens of recorded conversations with politicians and officials. Some of these conversations have already been revealed. What is the truth about this device?

Evidentlly it was the iPod where I stored the files of my processes in the Colombian courts and the records of the reconstruction of historical truth. I left it in my cell in Itagüí and the INPEC [Colombian government prisons institute] took it. When they returned all my belongings they did not return it, and some judicial authorities have added to the charges against me part of what was recorded there. But these could have been manipulated, added or edited, and therefore I do not acknowledge these recordings. The last I heard, this ipod was being put on sale in Colombia.

You said that the AUC had control of 30 percent of Congress. Right now, there are 68 who have been investigated, nine of whom have been convicted. Are there more?

There are many more, and some commanders have not yet completed their testimonies. And I don’t think that they will do so until they arrange their affairs with the United States. That is the problem of extradition.

What politicians are not detained for their ties to the AUC?

There were many people involved. For example, in early 2002 in a country estate in ‘Macaco’ in Piamonte, near Taraza, there was a big meeting where ‘Cuco’ Vanoy, Vicente Castano, ‘Don Berna’, ‘Macaco’, ‘Julián Bolívar’ ’Ernesto Báez’, ‘Diego Vecino’ and I attended, as well as Colonel (Ret.) Hugo Aguilar (former governor of Santander) and ‘ El Tuerto’ Gil (former Senator Luis Alberto Gil, investigated for para-politics).

What was the meeting for?

For electoral support that some politicians were seeking at that time from the “Bloque Central Bolivar” in six or seven departments.

Why do you recall the presence of Gil and Aguilar in particular?

Because Aguilar presented himself as the person who had killed Pablo Escobar, and I recall Gil because he was with the colonel.

Is it true that one of the largest meetings of polititians and the AUC was on an estate called “La 21?”

Yes, the estate “La 21” was owned by Carlos Castaño, located between San Pedro de Urabá and Valencia. There was a big meeting as well in “La 15” with Vicente Castaño. It was two or three days of meetings towards the end of 2001.

What happened at the meeting in “La 21?”

Carlos Castaño called all commanders to a meeting because “Ernesto Baez,” political leader of the Bloque Central Bolívar, wanted to propose the creation of a “single [candidate] list” for Congress headed by Rocío Arias and Carlos Clavijo. This initiative failed to pass because ‘Jorge 40′ and I said that the AUC acted as a federation, and that each region had its own needs.

And in the meeting at “La 15” what happened?

In the meeting at “La 15,” according to what Vicente Castaño told me, it was with farmers and businessmen from the region. Vicente asked them to support Uribe’s campaign for the presidency.

What do you remember in particular from those meetings?

I remember Juan José Chaux in particular (former governor of Cauca and former ambassador). He was the only one whom I did not know who came to give a speech. He said that his grandfather or great-grandfather had been president, that they had belonged to the legal “self-defense groups” created by Guillermo León Valencia and that they had always been against the guerrillas. At that time he was dealing with the kidnapping of a relative by the AUC. I also recall seeing Carlos Clavijo.

The speech you refer to was in favor of the AUC?

Yes, [Chaux] completely identified himself with the AUC. ‘H.H.’ (Hernando Hernandez, an AUC leader) was so proud, he presented him as the political representative of the Calima [which was based in Valle del Cauca and Cauca departments in southwestern Colombia].

Is it true that former Deputy Director of DAS [the presidential intelligence service] Miguel Narvaez, involved in scandals for the paramilitary infiltration of that office, attended meetings of the AUC?

Narváez is a very structured man who collaborated with the AUC on ideological issues. He was a professor at the “Escuela Superior de Guerra” and taught classes to officers. He was in meetings with Carlos Castano, ‘Jorge 40′, ‘El Alemán’ and me. In our training schools he spoke to the cadres about command structure. He delivered ideological indoctrination to our men in either 1996 or 1998.

How did he get involved with the AUC? Did he get any form of payment for the classes?

Through Commander Castaño, but I don’t know how they met. When he arrived in the area I would sometimes send someone to pick him up at the airport in Montería. I never knew of any payment for his work.

When Narváez came to work in the DAS, what did you think?

That the guerrillas would have a serious problem with this man because of his knowledge of the conflict.

Narváez pursued the guerrillas and he would turn a blind eye to the AUC?

He identified ideologically with the AUC, so this was likely to happen. But these are only assumptions, because can’t really know what he thought.

There are allegations that when the DAS was under the administration of Jorge Noguera, he favored the AUC and his subordinates would pass information to ‘ Jorge 40 ‘…

I am not aware of Jorge Noguera’s relations with the AUC, but with the DAS we had relationships long before, as well as with the Police and Army. To give just one example, the director of the DAS in Cúcuta, Jorge Diaz, was a self-defense group leader. We operated in his cars as did the Police and Military. These were used to transport our troops.

Diego Fernando Murillo, ‘Don Berna’, said, while he was in the United States, the AUC endorsed the nomination of today’s mayor of Medellin, Alonso Salazar, as well as that of President Uribe… What do you know about that?

Politically speaking, I was chief of negotiations for the AUC , however I was not responsible for the decisions of each bloc and therefore would not be able to say what kind of pacts or agreements were reached. But I can say that the vast majority of us supported Uribe because those were the instructions we received from commanders and we did so in all departments with influence of the Northern Bloc [commanded by 'Jorge 40'].

What were these instructions?

Because Uribe’s ideological discourse was very much like ours but within a framework of legality, we decided to support him immediately. We asked people in the towns if they had listened to Uribe and what he was promising to do. Their answer was yes, so we said we would support him and we ‘directed’ the populations to vote for him. There were no direct arrangements, I would lie if I said there were.

From CIP: Confirming Obama and Uribe's Upcoming Meeting in Late June

Here is a recent post from the BLOG of Center for International Policy, which draws our attention to the June 29th scheduled meeting between Barack Obama and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

The White House press secretary’s office (on June 12th) confirmed what the Colombian Presidency told us on Tuesday: that Colombian President Álvaro Uribe will be paying a visit to Washington on June 29, where he will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama. It will be the first private face-to-face meeting between the two presidents since Obama’s inauguration in January.

Here is what the White House statement says, and what it probably means.

President Obama will meet with President Uribe at the White House on Monday, June 29.

That is the Monday of the only week in June or July when Congress is out of session. Most representatives and senators will be out of Washington for the Independence Day “Work Period.” This will limit President Uribe’s congressional agenda.

Colombia is a close ally and partner of the United States, and the President looks forward to discussing a broad range of bilateral and hemispheric issues, including ways to enhance our cooperation on security and development challenges in Colombia and throughout the Americas.

That could mean just about anything. Move on.

The President also looks forward to discussing with President Uribe our economic engagement, including the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement,

The Free Trade Agreement, signed in October 2006, has not been ratified by the U.S. Congress. The agreement is controversial because of Colombia’s severe labor rights problems, among other economic, democracy and human rights concerns. There are several other reasons why Congress is not likely to take it up during 2009:

  • The legislative agenda for the months when Congress is likely to be in session (July, September, October, November) will be taken up by the Obama administration’s ambitious health care and climate change proposals, as well as the 2010 budget. There is little space to debate the Colombia agreement.
  • An “easier-to-pass” trade agreement with Panama is slated to come up for debate first, but even that agreement is awaiting action from Panama on labor and tax law issues.
  • It is very difficult politically to pass a free-trade agreement in the midst of a severe economic recession.
  • The likelihood that Uribe may seek a second re-election casts doubts on the direction of democracy in Colombia. Along with para-politics, “false positives” and the DAS wiretap scandal, this makes the agreement harder to sell in Washington.

Given all of these obstacles, perhaps at least President Uribe will gain some clarity from the White House about the Obama administration’s intentions over the next few months. In recent weeks, the message has been muddled:

  • After the Summit of the Americas in April, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the administration plans to move forward with the Free Trade Agreement “sooner rather than later,” and that it sought to “identify and work through any outstanding issues we might have so we might move forward with that. And that process will begin immediately.”
  • On the other hand, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told an audience in late May that “Colombia needs to address the issue of violence against union leaders before the U.S. Congress votes on a free trade agreement.”

and the long-term, institutional consolidation of security gains in Colombia through effective governance,

This appears to be a reference to “Integrated Action,” a series of programs in specific regions that have long been under the control of armed groups. The Integrated Action model intends to combine military operations with an effort to bring the civilian state into ungoverned territories. As mentioned in three recent posts, these programs show some promise, but are largely military so far and face significant coordination problems. They are, however, being viewed as the future of much U.S. aid to Colombia, and the United States has devoted significant amounts of resources to programs in the La Macarena and Montes de María regions.

In the past month, key Colombian government officials responsible for carrying out Integrated Action programs, chiefly the defense minister and the presidential advisor for “Social Action,” have left their posts. Before investing more in the Integrated Action model, the Obama administration may seek to gauge whether the Colombian government will be as committed to these programs in those officials’ absence.

as well as other ways to further strengthen the bilateral relationship.

This language, of course, is too vague to mean much. But it seems apparent that President Uribe’s principal audience for this visit is domestic. The Colombian president hopes to demonstrate that he enjoys a warm relationship with the U.S. president.

But the bilateral relationship and Colombian domestic politics overlap uncomfortably in one critical area: the president’s possible re-election bid. Uncertainty over whether Uribe plans to run again in 2010 will hang palpably over this official visit.

Non-involvement in another country’s electoral processes is a very strong principle, and we should not expect President Obama or any other administration officials to comment publicly on the re-election question. If Uribe decides to run, however, U.S. concern about democratic checks and balances in Colombia will have an undeniably significant impact on the bilateral relationship. It is up to the Obama administration to find a tactful way to communicate that.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Reminder: Two Upcoming NYC Screenings of "A Country of Peoples Without Owners: The Indigenous and Popular Minga 2008

WBAI’s Wake Up Call & First Voices – Indigenous Radio, in collaboration with Deep Dish TV and the Movement for Peace in Colombia, present the New York Premiere of the long-anticipated documentary

A Country of Peoples Without Owners:
The Indigenous and Popular Minga of 2008

Mark your calendars for two important screening dates:

Monday, June 29th at 7:00pm
The Labowitz Theater of NYU
(715 Broadway at Washington Place) in Manhattan;


Wednesday, July 1st at 7:00pm
La Terraza 7 Train Café,
(40-19 Gleane Street, near 83rd St. & Roosevelt Ave.)
in Jackson Heights, Queens

Colombia will never be the same after those 61 historic days of the “Indigenous and Popular Minga,” which was initiated on October 11th 2008, and culminated in a massive rally in the Simón Bolivar Plaza in downtown Bogotá on a rainswept afternoon in late November. From the department of Cauca, people of dignity rose up, united together with the “other Colombia,” to walk the word of resistance. The government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe confronted this peaceful mobilization with force, resulting in at least two deaths and 120 wounded, some severely.

This documentary shows us what happens when the poorest and most marginal people confront, without weapons, the most powerful regime of Latin America. The response is apparent in the wisdom of the five-point agenda that provided the fuel for the Popular Minga.

The film “A Country of Peoples: Without Owners” was conceptualized, written, edited and produced by the Communication Team of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN. Proceeds from both events will be used to help get ACIN’s community radio station Radio Payumat, back on the air after it was sabotaged in late December.

The screenings will also feature the documentary “HUMAN FACES BEHIND THE RAIN FOREST,” a film that gives direct testimony of the drama lived by the peasant and indigenous people in Colombia, as a result of the social crisis caused by the harvesting of the poppy crop, produced and directed by Colombian film maker and journalist Mady Samper, who will also be present.

Both events will be hosted by WBAI’s Mario Murillo, host of Friday Wake UP Call, and Tiokasin Ghosthorse, host of First Voices-Indigenous Radio.

For more information, call (212) 209-2978 OR VISIT http://mamaradio.blogspot.com
Web: www.nasaacin.org

Friday, June 12, 2009

Free Trade Pact with Colombia Back on the Agenda of Obama Administration


Here is a piece from Reuters about President Obama's upcoming meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe his intention of discussing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Pact. If last week's events in Peru aren't enough to sound alarm bells in all of us, consider that Obama voted for the US-Peru FTA when he was in the Senate, and once upon a time (a loooonnngggg time ago) he spoke out openly against the same agreement with Colombia, on human rights grounds.


Obama, Uribe to discuss long-delayed trade pact
Fri Jun 12, 2009 1:40pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama is eager to discuss a long-delayed free trade agreement with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe when the two leaders meet on June 29, the White House said on Friday.

Colombia is a close U.S. ally and Obama looks forward to discussing a number of issues with Uribe, including how to enhance regional security and development, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

"The president also looks forward to discussing with President Uribe our economic engagement, including the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement," Gibbs said.

Colombia, the world's third-largest coffee producer, signed the free trade agreement with the United States in November 2006.

But to Uribe's frustration, former President George W. Bush was unable to persuade the Democratic-controlled Congress to approve the pact because of concerns many U.S. lawmakers had about anti-labor violence in Colombia.

Obama, who also opposed the trade deal during last year's presidential election, asked U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in April to work with Congress and Colombia to establish "benchmarks" for Bogota to meet in reducing killings of trade unionists and increasing prosecutions.

Obama and Uribe will discuss how to consolidate recent "security gains in Colombia through effective governance, as well as other ways to further strengthen the bilateral relationship," Gibbs said.

Colombia, supported by billions of dollars in U.S. aid, has made substantial gains in recent years over a four-decade-old rebel insurgency.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Eric Beech)

Some videos on the Peruvian Amazon Crisis

Videos Protestas Sobre el Amazonas del Peru...

Solo escuchalo y piensa...

Protests in Peru
Indigenous rights Protest at Peru's consulate . Los Angeles California .

Peru Indigenous protest in Lima: a Native man speaks out - May 27 2009

Los Angeles protest in support of Peru's Indiginous Peoples rights , May 26,2009
Hilaria Supa: UN Permanent Forum Indigenous Issues / Foro Permanente de Cuestiones Indígenas ONU

Lima rally for Amazon Indigenous Peru - Marcha Lima por indígenas amazónicos Perú - May 13, 2009
Chevron's Amazon Abu Ghraib
Chevron's Amazon Abu Ghraib

Peru Congress Suspends Two Divisive Decrees, but Is it Too Little, Too Late?

Hello folks,

As you must know by now, the violent repression of Indigenous protests in the northern Peruvian Amazon last week has been met with widespread international outcry, as well as solidarity protests held in 11 cities worldwide. Below is a post from Amazon Watch about these developments, making the links between the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement and the violence spearheaded by the government of Alan Garcia.

On Friday on WBAI Radio, we discussed these developments with Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, along with Peruvian author and activist Gerardo Renique, who wrote a detailed analysis about these developments for NACLA's website. To hear the entire hour of the program, click here. Below, I share with you the press release from Amazon Watch.

In struggle,


US Urged to Take Position on the Necessity of Decrees for FTA
Photos, Audio Clips, and Video Footage from Bagua, Peru Available on www.amazonwatch.org
b-roll video of June 5 Incident available

Lima, Peru (June 11, 2009) – Six days after National Police violently attacked indigenous people in Bagua, Peru protesting free trade decrees that threaten to open the Amazon to oil, mining, and logging operations the Peruvian Congress issued a 90-day suspension of legislative decrees 1090 and 1064 yesterday in order to restore dialogue. Indigenous peoples are seeking revocation not suspension of all 10 decrees, and it remains to be seen if the action will lead to a re-start of talks with Amazonian indigenous peoples.

It should be noted that such an act of Congress on Thursday of last week could have avoided the bloodshed in Bagua if Garcia’s APRA party (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) had not blocked congressional debate on the decrees.

Pressure is mounting on the Garcia Government from within Peru and worldwide to end attacks on indigenous peoples’ rights and use peaceful means of reaching agreement with indigenous peoples. Also yesterday, Garcia’s Cabinet Member, Minister of Woman resigned in protest over the government’s public discourse about the Bagua incident.

In a written statement, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the violence that took place on June 5, called for a judicial inquiry into the violence, and reminded the Peruvian government of their obligation to respect human rights at all times and that no State of Emergency may legally suspend such rights. The Commission repeated an early warning against criminalizing protest: “Criminalizing legitimate social mobilization and social protest, whether through direct repression of the demonstrators or through an investigation and criminal prosecution, is incompatible with a democratic society in which persons have the right to express their opinion.”

Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Ms. Gladys Margot Echaíz Ramos, Attorney General of Peru, calling for “a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation that is capable of identifying and holding to account those responsible for the commission of crimes,” adding that they had received credible reports that police violently attacked the indigenous protests and thus fueled the conflict.

This week, Protesters have gathered before Peruvian embassies and consulates in such cities as Lima, Washington D.C., Quito, Houston, and Denver. Today, more demonstrations are planned in Bonn, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Rome, and Turin in solidarity with the general strike and protests throughout Peru. Also tens of thousands of people across the world have sent letters to the Peruvian government demanding an end to the violence and full respect for the rights of full self-determination of indigenous peoples.

Hollywood personalities such as Q'orianka Kilcher, Benjamin Bratt—both of Peruvian descent, Bianca Jagger, and Daryl Hannah made statements denouncing the violence and calling for respect for indigenous peoples’s rights. Q’orianka Kilcher, who is of part Quechua Huachipaire indigenous descent from Peru, decried the Garcia Administration’s use of violence against indigenous protesters and their media campaign of demonizing indigenous peoples in an interview on Democracy Now!

“It’s horrible the way the Garcia regime is, in a sense, is trying to brainwashing Peruvians to think of its indigenous peoples as second-class citizens, as barbarians, as horrible people,” Kilcher said.

Kilcher is on her way to Peru and called on President Obama to get involved to help avoid further violence.

International human rights organizations are also calling on the Peruvian government to cancel arrest warrants for and guarantee respect for the rights of indigenous leaders who were hundreds of miles away from Bagua during the confrontation. No dialogue process will be possible if the representatives of the various indigenous peoples fear for their safety.

In this spirit Amazon Watch urges the Peruvian government to abide by its legal obligations to respect the rights of free speech and assembly and refrain from use of force indigenous mobilizations and protests in Tarapoto and Yurimaguas.

The climate is still extremely tense in the Bagua region. Numerous indigenous people and civilians are still reported missing. It is urgent for the government to demilitarize the region, enable health workers and rescue teams to search for the missing, establish an independent investigative commission, and repair damages.

The Inter-Ethnic Association for Development in the Peruvian Jungle, AIDESEP, announced it is sending a delegation from Lima to Bagua to investigate the number of people killed and missing telling the press in Lima, “People are speaking of more dead, even people whose bodies have been burned, but we don’t want to give numbers until a delegation is able to travel to Bagua and talk to authorities and the family members of those missing.”

Amazon Watch calls on the United States government to call on Peru to respect the indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination established in the Peruvian Constitution and The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Amazon Watch calls on the Peruvian government to fully repeal all decrees that would violate or undermine the self-determination of the indigenous peoples of Peru.

Amazon Watch is continually updating photographs, audio testimony, and video footage from Bagua on www.amazonwatch.org.

B Roll and hi-res photos available here:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Country of Peoples Without Owners: The Indigenous and Popular Minga of 2008

WBAI’s Wake Up Call & First Voices – Indigenous Radio, in collaboration with Deep Dish TV and the Colombian Movement for Peace,
present the New York Premiere of the long-anticipated documentary

A Country of Peoples Without Owners:
The Indigenous and Popular Minga of 2008

Monday, June 29th at 7:00pm The Labowitz Theater of NYU (715 Broadway at Washington Place) in Manhattan

Colombia will never be the same after those 61 historic days of the “Indigenous and Popular Minga,” which was initiated on October 11th 2008, and culminated in a massive rally in the Simón Bolivar Plaza in downtown Bogotá on a rainswept afternoon in late November. From the department of Cauca, people of dignity rose up, united together with the “other Colombia,” to walk the word of resistance. The government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe confronted this peaceful mobilization with force, resulting in at least two deaths and 120 wounded, some severely.

This documentary shows us what happens when the poorest and most marginal people confront, without weapons, the most powerful regime of Latin America. The response is apparent in the wisdom of the five-point agenda that provided the fuel for the Popular Minga.

The film “A Country of Peoples: Without Owners” was conceptualized, written, edited and produced by the Communication Team of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN.

All donations/proceeds collected from this event will be used to help get ACIN’s community radio station Radio Payumat, back on the air after it was sabotaged in late December.

DVD's of the documentary will be made available for donations of $25.00 or more!

This event will be co-hosted by WBAI’s Mario Murillo, host of Friday Wake Up Call, and Tiokasin Ghosthorse, host of First Voices-Indigenous Radio.

For More information, call (212) 209-2978, or go to http://mamaradio.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blood at the Blockade: Peru's Indigenous Uprising

Hello folks,

Below is the intro to a story posted on the website of NACLA about the indigenous uprising in Peru, which was violently repressed last week. It is written by Peruvian historian and author Gerardo Renique. Check it out when you have a chance, it places the entire massacre into a political context that unfortunately has been totally absent in the corporate media coverage of the events.


Blood at the Blockade

Jun 8 2009
By Gerardo Rénique

On June 6, near a stretch of highway known as the Devil's Curve in the northern Peruvian Amazon, police began firing live rounds into a multitude of indigenous protestors – many wearing feathered crowns and carrying spears. In the nearby towns of Bagua Grande, Bagua Chica, and Utcubamba, shots also came from police snipers on rooftops, and from a helicopter that hovered above the mass of people. Both natives and mestizos took to the streets protesting the bloody repression.

From his office in Bagua, a representative of Save the Children, the child anti-poverty organization, reported that children as young as four-years-old were wounded by the indiscriminate police shooting. President Alan García had hinted the government would respond forcefully to "restore order" in the insurgent Amazonian provinces, where he had declared a state of siege on May 9 suspending most constitutional liberties. The repression was swift and fierce.

By the end of the day, a number of buildings belonging to the government and to García's APRA party had been destroyed. Nine policemen and at least 40 protestors were killed (estimates vary). Overwhelmed by the number of wounded, small local hospitals were forced to shutter their doors. A Church official denounced that many of the civilian wounded and killed at the Devil’s Curve were forcefully taken to the military barracks of El Milagro. From Bagua, a local journalist told a radio station that policemen had dumped bagged bodies into the Utcubamba River.

Indigenous leaders have accused García of "genocide" and have called for an international campaign of solidarity with their struggle. Indigenous unrest in the Peruvian Amazon began late last year. After an ebb of a few months, the uprising regained force again on April 9. Since then, Amazonian indigenous groups have sustained intensifying protests, including shutdowns of oil and gas pumping stations as well as blockades of road and river traffic.

The Devil's Curve massacre is not the only instance of repression. García recently sent in the Navy to violently break through indigenous blockades on the Napo River, also in northern Peru. But few expected such a violent reaction from the government. García says the response was appropriate and blamed the indigenous for thinking they could decide what happens in their territories: "These people don't have crowns. They aren't first-class citizens who can say… 'You [the government] don't have the right to be here.' No way." The president called the protestors "pseudo-indigenous."


Crisis in the Peruvian Amazon: The Cold Truth of Free Trade Terror

Greetings folks,

I'm sure many of you ahve been keeping up to date with developments in Peru, where the neoliberal government of Alan Garcia has been relentless in its attacks against indigenous protesters in the Amazon region, who are confronting the government's development plans in their territory. President Garcia has used the terms of "terrorism," "primitives," and "backwards" to describe the protesters, defying the growing class for justice after last week's government sponsored assault on the indigenous people. This is the model we have seen applied in the past in other countries. The hostile defiance of Garcia is not unlike the words we saw coming out of government officials in Colombia during lasy tear's MINGA POPULAR.

Below we post some information about these events, as well as some actions taking place this week, from Amazon Watch, the San Francisco based organization that has been paying close attention to these developments. We will continue keeping you posted on more news and analysis from Peru.

And be sure to tune into WBAI's Wake Up Call (www.wbai.org) this Friday, where we'll have a special report on events in Peru.



On June 5, peaceful indigenous blockades in the Peruvian Amazon were marking their 56th day when they were violently attacked by the police. The protests are about a series of 'laws' that were passed to facilitate the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Eyewitness testimonies that Amazon Watch has helped distribute worldwide, say that Police Special Forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, killing dozens and wounding over a hundred in an orchestrated attempt to open up the road. After days of hard work by the Amazon Watch staff and Peruvian indigenous rights advocates, the truth is finally being reported on CNN and other outlets. We are concerned about the government's threats to attack another peaceful road blockade where thousands, many of them Achuar, continue to protest. Please take action now to urge the government of Peru to peacefully resolve this conflict. You can hear a report from Amazon Watch Peru campaigner on our website, Gregor MacLennan, who is in Peru.
Even before the recent crisis in Peru, Amazon Watch campaigns were running at full speed. The pressure we mounted at Chevron's Annual Shareholder meeting on May 27th was unprecedented, when we co-released the report “The True Cost of Chevron” in coalition with a dozen organizations. Below, you can read more about Amazon Watch's face-to-face showdowns with the CEO and board of directors of Chevron and Conoco, two of the largest oil companies in the US. We thank you for your support. Please share this update with your friends.

For the Earth and future generations

Police Open Fire on Indigenous Blockade in the Peruvian Amazon - 40 Civilians and 22 Police Dead, 150 Injured: On Friday, June 5th, Peruvian Special Forces staged a violent raid on a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua in a remote area of the northern Peruvian Amazon. Take Action today and send a letter to the Peruvian President and other decision makers. Also please donate to the Peru Emergency Fund to help Peruvian human rights groups respond to this crisis.

Chevron CEO Under Intense Fire from Shareholders: Hundreds of activists joined Amazon Watch outside Chevron's San Ramon headquarters to demand that the company take responsibility for cleaning up 18 billion gallons of toxic waste it left in the Amazon. Indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo, Goldman Award Winner Luis Yanza, and Amazon Watch founder Atossa Soltani directly addressed CEO David O’Reilly inside the meeting. Amazon Watch also released an important letter to shareholders explaining the Ecuador liability. Shareholders with $9 billion in shares supported a resolution about the Ecuador case.

US Demonstrations in Support of Peru’s Indigenous Peoples: While demonstrations in Peru escalated demanding repeal of laws passed to facilitate the US/Peru free trade agreement, activists and indigenous leaders took to the streets in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco demanding that the Peruvian government engage in good faith dialogue, not violent repression. Amazon Watch also joined partner organizations in publicizing the situation at a recent UN indigenous rights forum. More protests are planned at Peruvian consulates in New York, San Francisco, and London. Help organize one in your city!

ConocoPhillips Urged to Abandon Peru Concessions: In collaboration with Save America’s Forests, Amazon Watch launched a report outlining concerns about the company’s current oil exploration of 10.5 million acres in one of the Amazon’s most ecologically fragile areas. Campaigners spoke at the company's annual meeting in Houston to challenge CEO Jim Mulva on the company’s operations in Peru, highlighting that uncontacted indigenous people live in one area where Conoco is working jointly with Spain’s Repsol. The report was distributed to board members, shareholders and media, resulting in wide coverage in industry press.