Friday, July 30, 2010

U.S. Groups Welcome the United States’ Decision to Grant Visa to Hollman Morris

The Center for International Policy, Washington Office on Latin America, Latin America Working Group and U.S. Office on Colombia welcome the U.S. State Department’s decision to reverse their initial denial of a visa to Colombian independent journalist Hollman Morris. Our groups, which have worked with Mr. Morris for years, were greatly disturbed when Morris was denied a visa in July under the terrorist activities section of the Patriot Act. When Mr. Morris’ visa was denied, we joined others in urging U.S. policymakers to change this decision.

Mr. Morris’s work is instrumental in raising awareness regarding the victims of Colombia’s internal armed conflict and their rights to justice. Mr. Morris reports from Colombia’s most conflict-ridden areas and on some of the country’s most controversial and politically sensitive topics. He served a key role in raising global awareness of many human rights abuses, including the 2005 massacre in the San José de Apartadó peace community. Always with a view to reporting from the perspective of those affected by Colombia’s legal and illegal armed groups, corruption and adverse effects of anti-narcotics policies, Mr. Morris’s work sheds light on Colombia’s reality to Colombians and the world.

His courageous independent reporting made him the recipient of prestigious human rights awards. It has also made him the target of political persecution and the recipient of multiple death threats. Mr. Morris was one of the many human rights defenders and government critics who were victimized by Colombia’s Administrative Security Agency (DAS). As per our report Far Worse than Watergate, on the DAS intelligence scandal, Mr. Morris was subjected to illegal surveillance, wiretapping and a defamation campaign.

We thank U.S. policymakers for reversing this decision in favor of Mr. Morris and freedom of expression in Colombia. We also look forward to Morris’s time in the United States as a Neiman Foundation Fellow. It is our hope that Mr. Morris’s time in the United States will enable him to educate and inspire others in the field of investigative and independent journalism. We also hope that in the future he will be able to make his important contributions as a journalist without the fear of physical harm and political persecution.

For more information contact:

Gimena Sanchez, Senior Associate
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
(202) 797-2171;

Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
(202) 546-7010;

Kelly Nicholls, Executive Director
US Office on Colombia (USOC)
(202) 232-8090;

Abigail Poe, Director of Latin America Security program
Center for International Policy (CIP)
(202) 232-3317;

Friday, July 16, 2010

Colombia Reports: Morris' visa case shows little change in Obama policy

Morris' visa case shows little change in Obama policy

The rejection of Hollman Morris’s visa application shows that, in U.S. policy toward Colombia, the line between terrorism and political dissent is appallingly blurry.

Some of us hoped, but there was no change. Even under Obama, it seems, the U.S. government struggles to distinguish between the Colombian terrorists, drug traffickers and political dissidents. Last week, the victim was Colombian journalist Hollman Morris. Morris, one of twelve journalists participating in Harvard University’s prestigious Nieman Fellowship program, had his application for a U.S. visa denied, apparently due to suspicions of terrorist activities.

In some ways, this is hardly surprising. Morris has a long history of problems with the authorities, mainly because he is one of few prominent journalists willing to investigate the Colombian government’s ties to paramilitary groups. President Uribe has publicly insulted Morris on more than one occasion and even called him “an accomplice to terrorism”. (Of course, despite repeated efforts, the government has never proven any links between Morris and terrorist groups.) Moreover, after the September 11th attacks, there is nothing at all shocking about a foreigner - especially a Colombian - having his or her visa request unjustly denied.

But what makes Morris’s case perplexing is that he is a famous journalist whom many high-ranking American officials hold in high esteem. Not too long ago, for example, Morris visited the U.S. and met with Dan Restrepo, the U.S. National Security Council’s top official for Western Hemisphere affairs, to discuss human rights abuses in Colombia. Several high-ranking State Department officials are fans of Morris and have called his work ‘courageous’.

So what explains the U.S. government’s rejection of Morris’s visa request? One possible explanation is that it was merely a mistake somewhere along the bureaucratic assembly line that manages American visa applications. His professional history is certainly prone to such misinterpretation by foreign officials. For example, Morris is known to have maintained contact with FARC guerrillas while reporting on Colombia’s armed conflict. On the other hand, the fact that Morris has been granted U.S. visas many times before raises the question of why this time was different.

Perhaps the answer has something to do with Colombian government’s rapidly intensifying campaign to discredit Morris. Having been called an accomplice to terrorism by the most U.S.-friendly President in the Americas is probably not a good thing when applying for an American visa. In fact, given that Colombia is among the most dangerous countries on Earth for journalists, a visa denial is probably among the mildest things that could have resulted from Uribe’s baseless accusations.

Although Uribe’s public spat with Morris probably some indirect influence on his visa application process, a more likely direct culprit is the Administrative Security Department (DAS in its Spanish acronym). Colombia’s infamously corrupt intelligence agency has a long, well-documented history of harassing and illegally monitoring critics of the government. Moreover, the DAS has the ability to spread information around the international intelligence community. American NGO Human Rights Watch has already accused the DAS of playing a direct role in the denial of Morris’s visa and some recently revealed documents do indeed reveal an active DAS campaign to tarnish Morris’s reputation.

That Uribe and the DAS are treating innocent domestic critics as terrorists is nothing new. What is most perplexing worrying about Morris’s case is the fact that the U.S. government remains so susceptible to such nonsense. As mentioned above, many high-ranking U.S. officials see Morris as a courageous journalist, not a terrorist sympathizer. Nevertheless, the denial of his visa request reveals a huge gap in attitudes and perceptions between the upper echelons State Department and the White House on the one hand and American security agencies on the other.

The most prominent recent example of this fragmentation was the public relations debacle surrounding an agreement to allow the American military to use several Colombian military bases. Soon after the deal was revealed, Colombia´s neighbors expressed concerns about the apparent secrecy of the deal. When top American diplomats struggled to explain their country’s plans for the bases, it became clear that the U.S.’s military leadership and its diplomatic corps were not on the same page about what the agreement consisted of and what its purpose was.

The root problem behind this fragmentation is the Obama administration´s failure to define its stance on Colombia policy. On the one hand, the President and his top appointees seem to be more cautious and skeptical of the Uribe government than was the Bush administration. As a candidate, for example, Obama expressed reservations about a free trade agreement with Colombia due to the country’s high murder rate for union members. The administration’s top officials dealing with U.S.-Latin America relations, including Mr. Restrepo, also seem more willing to sit down and listen to some of Uribe’s harshest critics, like Morris.

On the other hand, the current administration is also sending clear messages of continuity from the Bush years. During and following Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Colombia, top American officials have showered Uribe and his soon-to-be replacement Juan Manuel Santos with praise and confirmed the strength of U.S.-Colombia relations. The rejection of Morris’s visa application is illustrative of the fact that the opinions of the Colombian government, even if they have no proven basis in fact, can still influence the behavior of the American government.

As a result, on a number of key issues – from the free trade agreement to human rights to whether Hollman Morris is a terrorist or a courageous journalist - the highly fragmented U.S. government is sending incoherent, contradictory messages. The new administration’s vision for relations with Colombia remains unclear and time will tell how Juan Manuel Santos’s election will fit into this confusing picture. In the meantime, we can only hope that growing pressure from journalists´ groups, human rights activists and Harvard University will lead the U.S. government to rescind its rejection of Morris´s visa application.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

AAUP on Hollman Morris Visa Denial

Free Speech Groups Ask Secretary Clinton To Review Exclusion Of Colombian Journalist

New York– The American Civil Liberties Union, American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center today sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing alarm over reports that prominent Colombian journalist Hollman Morris was denied a visa to travel to the United States. Morris was one of 12 international journalists selected to participate in the Nieman fellowship program at Harvard University during the 2010-11 academic year. However, when he applied for a visa in order to attend the program, he was informed by the U.S. embassy in Bogota that he had been found permanently ineligible for a visa under the Patriot Act.

According to today’s letter, the exclusion of Morris limits the ability of his “colleagues and hosts to exercise fully their First Amendment rights,” and is out of step with “this administration’s stated commitment to fostering a free exchange of information and ideas between the U.S. and the world.”

Earlier this year, Clinton signed orders effectively lifting the exclusion from the United States of prominent scholars Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan.

The full text of the letter is online (.pdf) and below.

July 13, 2010

Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We are writing on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University Professors, and PEN American Center to express our alarm over reports that prominent Colombian journalist Hollman Morris has been denied a visa to travel to the United States.

Mr. Morris has traveled to the United States numerous times in the past at the invitation of leading human rights and journalists’ organizations interested in his experiences as a journalist covering the armed conflict in Colombia and his perspective on the political situation in his country. In 2007 he was honored by Human Rights Watch with its prestigious Human Rights Defender award, and he was one of 12 international journalists selected to participate in the Nieman fellowship program at Harvard University for the 2010-2011 academic year. The Nieman fellowship program is the oldest and most distinguished program for mid-career journalists in the world. It was in applying for a visa to attend this program that Mr. Morris was reportedly informed by a consular official at the U.S. embassy in Bogota that he has been found permanently ineligible for a visa under the security provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Earlier this year, our organizations wrote to thank you for signing orders effectively ending the exclusion of Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan, two internationally-recognized scholars who had been barred from traveling to the United States by the previous administration. Professor Habib and Professor Ramadan were among dozens of prominent foreign intellectuals and writers who had visas canceled or denied between 2001 and 2008 to prevent them from assuming teaching posts at U.S. universities, fulfilling speaking engagements with U.S. audiences, and attending U.S. academic conferences. Deeply troubled by this resurgence in the discredited practice of ideological exclusion, we were gratified by your efforts to lift the ban on these two colleagues and hopeful that this signaled a willingness on the part of the Obama administration to end the practice of barring those whose views the government disfavors from the United States. No legitimate interest is served by the exclusion of foreign nationals on ideological grounds. Ideological exclusion impoverishes intellectual inquiry and debate in the United States, suggests to the world that our country is more interested in silencing than engaging its critics, and undermines our ability to support dissent in politically repressive nations.

The recent news that Mr. Morris has been denied a visa runs counter to this administration’s decisions in the Habib and Ramadan cases. Not only does his exclusion limit the ability of his Harvard colleagues and hosts to fully exercise their First Amendment rights, it also, by virtue of the reach and stature of the Nieman program, projects a particularly visible and troubling message—a message that clearly does not accord with this administration’s stated commitment to fostering a free exchange of information and ideas between the U.S. and the world. We therefore ask you to review the exclusion of Hollman Morris as a matter of urgency, with an eye toward allowing him to join his colleagues at Harvard University in early September.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter. If you have any questions, please contact ACLU Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin.

Anthony Romero
Executive Director

Gary Rhoades
General Secretary

Kwame Anthony Appiah
PEN American Center

cc: Harold Koh
Legal Advisor to the Secretary of State

LA Times STory on Hollman Morris Visa Denial by US

Denied a Nieman, by the U.S.

For the first time, the U.S. has denied a journalist entry to participate in Harvard University's Nieman Fellowship program.

By Robert H. Giles

4:41 PM PDT, July 13, 2010

It is not uncommon for international journalists who come to Harvard University as Nieman fellows to be out of favor with their governments. They often work in countries where free expression and the rule of law exist in name only. They report in an atmosphere of danger where threats, and sometimes violence, are common tools to encourage self-censorship and silence truth-telling.

Colombian journalist Hollman Morris has long worked in challenging conditions, producing probing television reports that document his country's long and complex civil war. He has built contacts with the left-wing guerilla group known as the FARC and told stories of the conflict's victims. He has revealed abuses by the country's intelligence service and enraged government officials, including the president, Alvaro Uribe, who once called him "an accomplice to terrorism."

Morris was awarded a Nieman Fellowship in journalism this spring and planned to travel to the United States to begin his studies at Harvard in the fall. But then, last week, he was told by a U.S. consular official in Bogota that he was being denied a visa under the "terrorist activities" section of the Patriot Act.

In the 60 years that foreign journalists have participated in the Nieman program, they have sometimes had trouble getting their own countries to allow them to come. The foundation's first brush with the harsh reality of journalism under repressive regimes came in 1960, when Lewis Nkosi, a black South African and writer for Drum, a magazine for black South Africans, was awarded a fellowship. His application for a passport was denied by the country's apartheid government. Angry and bitter, he applied for an exit visa. It enabled him to leave, but he was forbidden to ever return.

Morris, though, is the first person in Nieman history to be denied the right to participate not by his own country but by ours. The denial is alarming. It would represent a major recasting of press freedom doctrine if journalists, by establishing contacts with so-called terrorist organizations in the process of gathering news, open themselves to accusations of terrorist activities and the possibility of being barred from travel to the United States.

For the full story, go to: LA TIMES.

Comunicado – Sobre la situación migratoria del periodista Hollman Morris

Comunicado – Sobre la situación migratoria del periodista Hollman Morris

La FLIP pide que el Departamento de Estado excluya información proveniente del DAS y la Presidencia de la República de su análisis sobre la situación migratoria de Hollman Morris.

Públicamente se ha conocido que el Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos le negó la admisibilidad en ese país al periodista Hollman Morris, por consideraciones contenidas en la Ley Patriota contra el terrorismo.

Desde el año 2004 la FLIP se ha pronunciado sobre la situación de riesgo del periodista Morris, asociada a denuncias públicas del presidente de la República a las que nunca se ha aportado prueba real y en cambio varias que sí demostraron ser infundadas.

En investigaciones actuales de la Fiscalía General de la Nación y la Corte Suprema de Justicia, se han encontrado documentos relativos a un plan de “desprestigio nacional e internacional” contra el periodista Morris. Los autores de esos documentos son directivos del Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS), entidad adscrita a la Presidencia de la República (que por lo demás es la autoridad migratoria de Colombia), sobre quienes en este momento pesan medidas de aseguramiento de la Fiscalía General de la Nación y sus destinatarios eran funcionarios de la Presidencia de la República que también son objeto de investigación por parte de la Fiscalía.

De acuerdo con las consideraciones que hasta este momento han sido discutidas frente a Jueces de Garantías los funcionarios investigados fabricaron y ordenaron fabricar documentos con hechos apócrifos para involucrar al periodista en relaciones con la organización terrorista, con el propósito de neutralizar una amenaza al Estado, que también ha resultado ficticia.

En consecuencia, la Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP) le quiere solicitar a las autoridades correspondientes en Estados Unidos que consideren los hechos de conocimiento público que contaminan la información que pueden haber recibido del Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS) y la Presidencia de la República sobre el periodista Hollman Morris.

En consecuencia, nos unimos al llamado de las organizaciones norteamericanas de libertad de expresión, para que la persecución contra Morris pueda cesar y él pueda cumplir con una beca en la Universidad de Harvard que ganó por su coraje y por la calidad de su trabajo periodístico.

Obama Administration Keeping Award-Winning Investigative Journalist Out of Harvard University


I know it's been a while since I last posted anything on this blog, making it somewhat irrelevant, BUT I thought I'd share this urgent story with you, in case you haven't heard about it.

Indeed, as if you needed more evidence of the permanence of Bush Administration policies under the "enlightened" Obama team, here's the latest:

The U.S. government has denied a visa to a prominent Colombian journalist who specializes in conflict and human rights reporting to attend a prestigious fellowship at Harvard University.

Hollman Morris, who produces an independent TV news program called “Contravia,” has been highly critical of ties between illegal far-right militias and allies of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, Washington’s closest ally in Latin America. We have posted a number of his reports on this blog, as well as stories about Morris' role in trying to confront the media darkness that has been prevalent under the eight years of Uribe.

The curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, which has offered the mid-career fellowships since 1938, said last week that a consular official at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota told him Morris was ruled permanently ineligible for a visa under the “Terrorist activities” section of the USA Patriot Act.

This is preposterous, and fails to take into consideration the manipulative and deliberate actions taken under the Uribe government to discredit opposition leaders, elected officials, journalists, trade union leaders and human rights workers. Hollman Morris has been the direct recipient of this vicious and systematic attempt at discrediting his work.

As you can see from this report put out recently by a coalition of Latin American and U.S.-based human rights researchers entitled "Worse Than Watergate," the campaign has been well documented in Colombia, but for some reason has been ignored by the State Department in accepting the Uribe government's claim that Morris is a threat, thus denying his visa.

Morris has been a frequent visitor to the U.S. in the past, and we've organized several public screenings of some of his work in the New York Metropolitan area, including at NYU in 2007. His reports about the Colombian war zone have frequently rubbed the Uribe PR team the wrong way because they consistently challenge the conventional wisdom that "Democratic Security" has worked for the last eight years. Hollman tells the stories the major corporate media in Colombia refuse to tell, and in a way that audiences can relate to.

The report from the Latin American Working Group and Center for International Policy clearly states:

A still-unfolding scandal in Colombia is revealing that the government’s intelligence agency not only spied upon major players in Colombia’s democracy—from Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judges to presidential candidates, from journalists and publishers to human rights defenders, from international organizations to U.S. and European human rights groups—but also carried out dirty tricks, and even death threats, to undermine their legitimate, democratic activities...

The tactics outlined in these operations included: framing a journalist by placing him in a fabricated guerrilla video and requesting the suspension of his visa (possibly to the U.S.); conducting sabotage against Constitutional Court judges; making it appear that opposition politicians and nongovernmental leaders had links to illegal armed groups or were engaged in corruption or adultery; stealing passports and ID cards; making threats; using blackmail."

The independent website Colombia Reports reports on documents from April, allegedly from the Colombian security agency, that appear to call for surveillance and harassment of Hollman, including requesting “the suspension of visa.”

We'll keep you posted on this story.

For more information about this development, go to

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

US NGOs to Colombian Presidential Candidates: What Steps Will You Take to Guarantee Human Rights?

Washington, May 12, 2010- In an open letter released to Colombia’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates earlier today, the Washington Office on Latin America, US Office on Colombia, Latin America Working Group Education Fund and the Center for International Policy urged the candidates to outline their strategy for building a new Colombia that respects human rights and works towards a politically negotiated solution to the country’s internal armed conflict.

"Colombia's next president has a historic opportunity to say, never again: Never again will its armed forces commit systematic abuses like the 'false positive' scandal," remarked Lisa Haugaard, executive director of the Latin America Working Group. "Those involved in ordering and carrying out these abuses must be brought to justice for once and for all."

The four US-based groups asked Colombia's candidates to outline what steps they will take to end the internal armed conflict. "Colombia's conflict has killed more than 30,000 people--both combatants and non-combatants--over the past eight years. Before the conflict claims another 30,000, Colombia's next president must seize the initiative and take steps toward a negotiated solution," said CIP Associate Abigail Poe.

According to the four signatory organizations, which have years of experience working on Colombia issues, the future President can lead the nation in building a more just and inclusive society that promotes and respects the rights of all of its citizens. They can do this by combating impunity, supporting human rights defenders, guaranteeing the rights of victims, addressing internal displacement, dismantling existent paramilitary structures, and protecting the territorial rights of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities.

"The next President can no longer ignore the over 4 million Colombians who suffer daily due to internal displacement," said WOLA Senior Associate Gimena Sanchez. In 2009, 280,000 new persons were internally displaced. Currently, thirty four indigenous groups are at risk of physically disappearing and becoming culturally extinct due in large part to violence and internal displacement. "The next administration cannot allow 34 indigenous groups to become extinct or massacres and brazen abuses of Afro-Colombians to continue to take place."

"The new Colombian administration must make the protection of Colombia's human rights defenders a top priority and should embrace opposition voices," underscored Kelly Nicholls, executive director from the US Office on Colombia. "The systematic threats, attacks, and harassments against human rights defenders must become no more than a shameful memory from the past."

Please find the full letters in English and Spanish

For further information please contact:

Gimena Sanchez, WOLA, (202) 797-2171 ext. 205
Lisa Haugaard, LAWG, (202) 546-7010
Kelly Nicholls, USOC, (202) 232-8090
Abigail Poe, CIP, (202) 232-3317

Thursday, April 22, 2010

CIP Provides us with a Startling Statistic to Remind us of the Tragic War in Colombia

It’s a good idea to visit the Colombian Defense Ministry’s website every once in a while to view their latest “Operational Results” report (PDF). You get a long powerpoint presentation with the official versions of statistics about the country’s security situation.

You also find some really shocking numbers. Take combat deaths, for instance.

Between 2002 and the end of March 2010:

  • 13,653 members of “subversive groups” have been killed.
  • 1,611 members of “illegal self-defense groups” were killed between 2002 and 2006 (source is an older version of the same report – PDF).
  • 1,080 members of “criminal gangs” have been killed since 2007.
  • 4,571 members of the security forces were killed in acts of service.

That’s a total of 20,915 people. Most of them young Colombians — many under 18 years of age — serving as foot-soldiers or low-level recruits in the armed forces, the FARC, the ELN or the paramilitaries.

And that’s combat deaths only. This horrifying statistic does not include civilians killed or disappeared in conflict-related violence, which the Colombian Commission of Jurists estimates (PDF) at 14,028 people between mid-2002 and mid-2008. It does not count people wounded, whether by combat, terror attacks or landmines. It does not include the 2.4 million people that CODHES (PDF) estimates were displaced since 2002. (It may, unfortunately, include thousands of civilians falsely presented as armed-group members killed in combat.)

Had the FARC and the Colombian government successfully concluded good-faith negotiations between 1998 and 2002, these 20,915 people would be alive today. That is the cost of the failed peace process of the Pastrana years. It is also the cost of the “successful” security policies of the Uribe years.

Perhaps the most important task Colombia’s next president will face is how to avoid the combat deaths of another 20,915 Colombians over the next eight years. (Plus the civilian dead, disappeared, wounded and displaced.) How to break with a war of attrition which — with as many as 20,000 guerrillas and “new” paramilitaries still active in Colombia — promises to drag on for many more years.

Proposing and pursuing a policy other than continued war will take great political courage. But if a Colombian leader chooses this path, the Obama administration must support him or her unequivocally. The numbers alone demand it.

Evo on Earth Day: Greatest Threats to Planet Come from Capitalism

Published on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 by Environment News Service (ENS)

Bolivian President Blames Capitalism for Global Warming

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia - Bolivian President Evo Morales said capitalism is to blame for global warming and the accelerated deterioration of the planetary ecosystem in a speech today opening an international conference on climate change and the "rights of Mother Earth."

[Bolivian President Evo Morales addresses indigenous, environmental and civil society delegates. 'We all have the ethics and the moral right to say here that the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism,' he said. (Photo courtesy ABI)]Bolivian President Evo Morales addresses indigenous, environmental and civil society delegates. 'We all have the ethics and the moral right to say here that the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism,' he said. (Photo courtesy ABI)
More than 20,000 indigenous, environmental and civil society delegates from 129 countries were in attendance as President Morales welcomed them to the conference at a soccer stadium in the village of Tiquipaya on the outskirts of the city of Cochabamba.

"The main cause of the destruction of the planet Earth is capitalism and in the towns where we have lived, where we respected this Mother Earth, we all have the ethics and the moral right to say here that the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism," said Morales, who is Bolivia's first fully indigenous head of state in the 470 years since the Spanish invasion.

Morales is the leader of a political party called Movimiento al Socialismo, the Movement for Socialism, which aims to give more power to the country's indigenous and poor communities by means of land reforms and redistribution of wealth from natural resources such as gas.

"The capitalist system looks to obtain the maximum possible gain, promoting unlimited growth on a finite planet," said Morales. "Capitalism is the source of asymmetries and imbalance in the world."

The Bolivian president called this conference in the wake of what he considered to be failed United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

Those talks produced a weak political agreement, the Copenhagen Accord, instead of a strong, legally-binding set of limits on greenhouse gas emissions to take effect at the end of 2012, as Bolivia and many other countries had hoped.

Named "World Hero of Mother Earth" by the United Nations General Assembly last October, today, President Morales warned of dire consequences if a strong legally-binding agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions is not reached.

A new agreement is needed to govern greenhouse gas emissions after the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012. This year's round of international negotiations towards an agreement began earlier this month in Bonn, Germany, and the next annual United Nations climate conference is scheduled for Cancun, Mexico from November 29.

"Global food production will be reduced by approximately 40 percent and that will increase the number of hungry people in the world, which already exceeds a billion people," Morales warned. "Between 20 and 30 percent of all animal and plant species could disappear."

Global warming will cause the melting of the polar ice caps and the glaciers of the Andes and the Himalayas, and several islands will disappear under the ocean," he warned.

The convocation this morning included a multi-cultural blessing ceremony by indigenous peoples from across the Americas. Speeches by representatives of social movements from five continents focused on the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for bold action that protects both human rights and the environment.

The delegates are meeting in working group sessions this week to develop strategies and make policy proposals on issues such as forests, water, climate debt, and finance.

President Morales has pledged to bring these strategies and proposals to the UN climate conference in Cancun.

"We have traveled to Bolivia because President Morales has committed to bring our voices to the global stage at the next round of talks in Cancun," said Jihan Gearon of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, who is a native energy organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

"Indigenous rights and knowledge are crucial to addressing climate change, but the United States and Canada have not signed on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and are pushing corporate climate policy agendas that threaten our homelands and livelihoods," Gearon said.

"President Morales has asked our recommendations on issues such as REDDs [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation]," said Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel for the International Indian Treaty Council.

"REDD is branded as a friendly forest conservation program, yet it is backed by big polluters," Saldamando said. "REDD is a dangerous distraction from the root issue of fossil fuel pollution, and could mean disaster for forest-dependent indigenous peoples the world over."

"We are here from the far north to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the South," said Faith Gemmill, executive director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), who spoke from the stage at the invitation of President Morales. "We have a choice as human kind - a path of life, or a path of destruction. The people who can change the world are here!"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


“Los derechos humanos y los derechos de la naturaleza son dos nombres de la misma dignidad”

Lamentablemente, no podré estar con ustedes. Se me atravesó un palo en la rueda, que me impide viajar.

Pero quiero acompañar de alguna manera esta reunión de ustedes, esta reunión de los míos, ya que no tengo más remedio que hacer lo poquito que puedo y no lo muchito que quiero.
Y por estar sin estar estando, al menos les envío estas palabras.

Quiero decirles que ojalá se pueda hacer todo lo posible, y lo imposible también, para que la Cumbre de la Madre Tierra sea la primera etapa hacia la expresión colectiva de los pueblos que no dirigen la política mundial, pero la padecen.

Ojalá seamos capaces de llevar adelante estas dos iniciativas del compañero Evo, el Tribunal de la Justicia Climática y el Referéndum Mundial contra un sistema de poder fundado en la guerra y el derroche, que desprecia la vida humana y pone bandera de remate a nuestros bienes terrenales.

Ojalá seamos capaces de hablar poco y hacer mucho. Graves daños nos ha hecho, y nos sigue haciendo, la inflación palabraria, que en América latina es más nociva que la inflación monetaria. Y también, y sobre todo, estamos hartos de la hipocresía de los países ricos, que nos están dejando sin planeta mientras pronuncian pomposos discursos para disimular el secuestro.

Hay quienes dicen que la hipocresía es el impuesto que el vicio paga a la virtud. Otros dicen que la hipocresía es la única prueba de la existencia del infinito. Y el discurserío de la llamada “comunidad internacional”, ese club de banqueros y guerreros, prueba que las dos definiciones son correctas.

Yo quiero celebrar, en cambio, la fuerza de verdad que irradian las palabras y los silencios que nacen de la comunión humana con la naturaleza. Y no es por casualidad que esta Cumbre de la Madre Tierra se realiza en Bolivia, esta nación de naciones que se está redescubriendo a sí misma al cabo de dos siglos de vida mentida.

Bolivia acaba de celebrar los diez años de la victoria popular en la guerra del agua, cuando el pueblo de Cochabamba fue capaz de derrotar a una todopoderosa empresa de California, dueña del agua por obra y gracia de un gobierno que decía ser boliviano y era muy generoso con lo ajeno.

Esa guerra del agua fue una de las batallas que esta tierra sigue librando en defensa de sus recursos naturales, o sea: en defensa de su identidad con la naturaleza.
Hay voces del pasado que hablan al futuro.

Bolivia es una de las naciones americanas donde las culturas indígenas han sabido sobrevivir, y esas voces resuenan ahora con más fuerza que nunca, a pesar del largo tiempo de la persecución y del desprecio.

El mundo entero, aturdido como está, deambulando como ciego en tiroteo, tendría que escuchar esas voces. Ellas nos enseñan que nosotros, los humanitos, somos parte de la naturaleza, parientes de todos los que tienen piernas, patas, alas o raíces. La conquista europea condenó por idolatría a los indígenas que vivían esa comunión, y por creer en ella fueron azotados, degollados o quemados vivos.

Desde aquellos tiempos del Renacimiento europeo, la naturaleza se convirtió en mercancía o en obstáculo al progreso humano. Y hasta hoy, ese divorcio entre nosotros y ella ha persistido, a tal punto que todavía hay gente de buena voluntad que se conmueve por la pobre naturaleza, tan maltratada, tan lastimada, pero viéndola desde afuera.

Las culturas indígenas la ven desde adentro. Viéndola, me veo. Lo que contra ella hago, está hecho contra mí. En ella me encuentro, mis piernas son también el camino que las anda.

Celebremos, pues, esta Cumbre de la Madre Tierra. Y ojalá los sordos escuchen: los derechos humanos y los derechos de la naturaleza son dos nombres de la misma dignidad.

Vuelan abrazos, desde Montevideo.
* Hoy empieza en Cochabamba, Bolivia, la Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre el Cambio Climático y los Derechos de la Madre Tierra, convocada por el presidente boliviano Evo Morales.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Feliciano Valencia: La paz que merecemos se gana con la resistencia por la libertad.


El hecho es que ante el reflujo de la derecha a través de golpes y procesos electorales, se requiere la acción consciente de resistencia de los pueblos. El hecho es que Feliciano Valencia no es el criminal, sino quienes lo arrestan y mientras el no esté en libertad y sus victimarios enfrentando a la justicia, no nos dejarán en paz. La paz que merecemos se gana con la resistencia por la libertad.

La Consejería de la Asociación de Cabildos del Norte del Cauca – ACIN, convoca a Audiencia Pública hoy, 11 de abril de 2010, en la Ciudad de Popayán, con carácter urgente, para exigir la libertad de Feliciano Valencia.

Feliciano Valencia fue trasladado a la fiscalía sexta especializada de la capital del Departamento del Cauca, por parte de agentes del DAS, de manera irregular, tras su arresto ilegal e inconstitucional en el aeropuerto de Cali en la tarde de ayer. Nuestro compañero, líder indígena y vocero de de la Minga, debe ser puesto en libertad de manera inmediata, pero también, debe permitírsele realizar su trabajo y gira internacional como vocero de la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria. La concentración que comienza en estos momentos en la ciudad de Popayán es, precisamente, para rechazar el flagrante y desvergonzado ataque del Gobierno contra la Minga a través de la detención ilegal de nuestro líder. Este hecho refleja una escalada evidente de la agresión de la "seguridad democrática" contra la libertad y los derechos de los pueblos y obliga a la comunidad a declararse en asamblea permanente.

El hecho es que el Gobierno y el DAS, haciendo gala de su reconocido quehacer criminal que abarca desde "falsos positivos", autoatentados, actos terroristas, desapariciones forzadas y vínculos con el narcotráfico a la vez que persecuciones ilegales contra civiles y opositores (chuzadas), con pleno conocimiento de su violación a la Constitución y a la justicia, proceden ahora a arrestar a Feliciano. El DAS, autor de manuales para perseguir opositores entre quienes se incluyen niñas y niños hijos de civiles inermes, no tiene autoridad ni legitimidad para realizar este tipo de acciones. Este hecho pone en evidencia la desfachatez con la que, a pesar de haber sido objeto de verguenza en el ámbito internacional por su quehacer delictivo, actúa un Gobierno y una institución bajo la dirección de la Presidencia de la República contra la poca libertad que queda en Colombia.

Denunciamos que el Gobierno y el Estado Colombiano se encuentran en manos de criminales, ocupado por bases militares de los Estados Unidos y, por ello, convocamos a la protesta y a la movilización en resistencia. La audiencia que comienza hoy en Popayán se mantendrá hasta lograr la libertad de Feliciano. Feliciano fue trasladado de manera irregular a Cali, de allí a Palmira y, tras no saberse si lo habían desaparecido, es llevado a Popayán, en un procedimiento que refleja una maniobra ilegal que le complica el procedimiento a sus perpetradores. Se trata de impedir que la Minga se conozca fuera del país. Se trata de silenciar a otro líder popular entre muchos que han sido perseguidos, desaparecidos, judicializados, asesinados y desterrados por realizar su labor pedagógica, política y de lucha civil desde y con los pueblos. La tarea del DAS y del Gobierno es callar el pensamiento y la conciencia con la persecución selectiva.

El hecho es que mientras esto sucede, se han reiniciado las masacres, recientemente en Suárez Cauca, otro indígena en Córdoba (hoy hay noticia de otra masacre contra indígenas Awá). Ante los resultados electorales recientes y el triunfo de la derecha como derecha, como parapolítica, como "libre comercio", como "confianza inversionista" y también como un Centro que concuerda con la derecha, la seguridad democrática se siente ratificada en el poder y procede a perseguir, judicializar, asesinar, masacrar, difamar, desplazar y negar derechos y libertades, en cuanto sienten que tienen el respaldo y el poder para profundizar su proyecto de muerte al servicio de la codicia. El hecho es que las mismas prácticas delincuenciales desde Gobiernos al servicio de intereses económicos criminales y transnacionales se aplican en Chile contra líderes del pueblo Mapuche (recientemente condenado a más de cien años de prisión un líder Mapuche), en Panamá, en México y en Honduras, donde siguen asesinando líderes de la resistencia popular con total impunidad. Circulan listas negras internacionales y la derecha de la "Gran Alianza" que abarca los gobiernos afines al capital desde Canadá y Estados Unidos hasta Chile, coordina estrategias comunes de persecución, propaganda, terror y legislación de despojo. El hecho es que ante el reflujo de la derecha a través de golpes y procesos electorales, se requiere la acción consciente de resistencia de los pueblos. El hecho es que Feliciano Valencia no es el criminal, sino quienes lo arrestan y mientras el no esté en libertad y sus victimarios enfrentando a la justicia, no nos dejarán en paz. La paz que merecemos se gana con la resistencia por la libertad.

From ACIN: Feliciano Libre, Pero los Pueblos, No.

Feliciano Valencia está fuera de la cárcel, pero ni el ni los pueblos estamos en Libertad

Feliciano Valencia fue dejado en libertad aunque el proceso en su contra y en contra de otros líderes indígenas que incluyen a la líder Aida Quilcué continúa. La libertad de Feliciano fue concedida en la medida en que se pudo demostrar en derecho que no es un riesgo para la comunidad, que no continuará delinquiendo ni alterando pruebas, entre otras razones.

El recuento que hace el abogado Jorge Triviño, quien actúa en representación de la ACIN, documenta con absoluta contundencia que se trata de una falta de reconocimiento a la jurisdicción y a los derechos constitucionales de los pueblos indígenas, transformando en reos a quienes se han ceñido de manera estricta a la Ley y a la Constitución Nacional.

La intención de desconocer los derechos indígenas para proceder a perseguir a estos pueblos queda en evidencia. Feliciano no puede salir del país a continuar con su trabajo como vocero de la Minga Social y Comunitaria. Las cinco personas falsa y criminalmente sindicadas de secuestro y lesiones personales, están en riesgo inminente de ser capturadas y judicializadas.

Esta libertad restringida de Feliciano, no resuelve el asunto que pone en evidencia: el Estado Colombiano, su Gobierno y autoridades de la Fiscalía, del DAS y jueces, de manera ilegal, criminal y perversa han decidido actuar en contra de los derechos ancestrales de los pueblos originarios. Se requiere de un rechazo internacional inmediato y contundente a esta flagrante violación del derecho y la Constitución.

Este es un precedente no solamente para Colombia, sino desde Colombia: los pueblos indígenas que actúen según sus usos y costumbres en sus territorios, para defender la justicia y armonía, se convierten en sujetos de persecución legal y son perseguidos como criminales. Los criminales capturados en flagrancia cometiendo delitos a nombre del Estado contra los pueblos indígenas y sometidos a procedimientos de justicia como consecuencia de su propia confesión, son tratados como víctimas. Esa es la justicia desde Colombia con los pueblos indígenas.

Quienes los persiguen y violan sus derechos, son convertidos por el Estado en víctimas y las víctimas son perseguidas y castigadas. Esta aberración refleja la calidad de las instituciones que se han establecido contra los pueblos y el derecho. Celebramos que Feliciano esté fuera de la cárcel, a pesar del maltrato que le dieron. Pero no celebramos ni su libertad ni la de nuestro pueblo, sometido a la corrupción y a servirse de las instituciones de justicia para violar y negar los derechos de los pueblos


Santiago de Cali, 10 de Abril de 2010

Acción Urgente!!!

Las Organizaciones abajo Firmantes responsabilizamos al gobierno nacional por la persecución política, amenaza permanente y actual detención arbitraria de la que ha sido víctima el líder indígena FELICIANO VALENCIA, a su vez manifestamos nuestro rechazo por impedirle su participación como vocero de la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria en dos importantes eventos internacionales el primero en la ciudad de Buenos Aires Argentina y el segundo en Cochabamba Bolivia. Exigimos sea puesto en libertad de manera inmediata y se garantice su presencia en las actividades programadas.

Feliciano Valencia Autoridad indígena, Concejero de Paz de la Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca, fue detenido por el Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad DAS, quienes manifiestan que obra en su contra una orden de captura desde el mes de Febrero de 2010. Lo cual consideramos es otro montaje de la justicia colombiana y de sus organismos de seguridad. Si hubiese orden de detención desde febrero siendo una autoridad pública como lo es FELICIANO VALENCIA que permanentemente esta en actos públicos y reuniones con el alto gobierno, porque esperaron hasta hoy para detenerlo, justamente cuando debía cumplir una importante agenda internacional.

La privación de la libertad de FELICIANO VALENCIA se presento a las 3: 30 p.m. cuando el dirigente indígena salía del Aeropuerto Alfonso Bonilla Aragón de la Ciudad de Palmira Valle del Cauca, rumbo a Argentina con el fin de participar de un evento internacional que se realizara del 11 al 15 de Abril en la Ciudad de Buenos Aires.

Feliciano Valencia fue conducido a las 6:00 p.m. desde el Aeropuerto a las instalaciones del DAS ubicadas en la Av3 A N 50 N-20 en la ciudad de Cali. Inicialmente los miembros del DAS, quienes a pesar de la solicitud de los abogados no han presentado la orden de captura a la que hacen referencia, manifestaron que solo hasta el día lunes 12 de abril cuando la Fiscalía del Municipio de Piendamo esté en funcionamiento aclararan su situación jurídica, por lo cual el dirigente indígena FELICIANO VALENCIA se mantendrá privado arbitrariamente de la libertad en los calabozos del DAS hasta el día lunes. Ante la exigencia de esclarecer esta detención ilegal por parte de diversos organismos nacionales e internacionales los miembros del DAS, manifestaron a los abogados que el día de mañana domingo 11 de abril trasladaran a FELICIANO VALENCIA a la ciudad de Palmira para adelantar las diligencias judiciales.

La información con la que se cuenta da a entender que la presunta orden de captura se relaciona con los hechos sucedidos el 16 de Octubre de 2008, en los que el miembro del Ejército Colombiano Jairo DANILO CHAPARRAL SANTIAGO, fue sorprendido por la guardia indígena portando un morral con camuflados, radios de comunicaciones y manuales de armas y explosivos que, según el testimonio de su madre, luego deberían ser encontrados por la policía para implicar a la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria con algún grupo guerrillero, según lo dispuesto desde la dirección de inteligencia del Batallón de contraguerrilla número 15 'Libertadores', donde el suboficial de origen indígena cumplía sus labores. [1]

En Junio de 2009 el gobierno colombiano por intermedio de la Fiscalía General de la Nación, ordeno la captura de cinco autoridades indígenas del Cauca, acusándolos de manera arbitraria de “delitos de secuestro agravado y lesiones personales agravadas la Fiscalía emitió solicitud de Audiencia Preliminar (orden de captura) contra 5 autoridades indígenas entre las que se encuentran los voceros de la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria FELICIANO VALENCIA y AIDA MARINA QUILCUÉ. (Ver anexo No. 1)

Feliciano Valencia fue invitado por la organización Alemana Fundación Rosa Luxemburgo (RLS) como vocero de la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria para hacer parte del Laboratorio Internacional "Estrategias alternativas al desarrollismo" el cual sesionara en la ciudad de Buenos Aires Argentina. En su agenda internacional como vocero de la Minga el día 18 de abril debía salir de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, rumbo a la ciudad Cochabamba Bolivia, con el fin de participar en la CONFERENCIA MUNDIAL DE LOS PUEBLOS SOBRE CAMBIO CLIMÁTICO Y DERECHOS DE LA MADRE TIERRA.

Esta nueva persecución política del Gobierno Colombiano contra FELICIANO VALENCIA, se suma a las sistemáticas amenazas de muerte por su importante labor como dirigente indígena, destacado miembro de la Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Cauca y ante todo por su labor en defensa de los derechos del pueblo colombiano y las reiteradas denuncias por las arbitrariedades del gobierno que ha hecho públicas en diversas oportunidades. Como vocero de la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria FELICIANO enfrento ataques directos del Presidente ALVARO URIBE VÉLEZ. [2]


Sea puesto en libertad de manera inmediata el vocero de la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria Feliciano Valencia.

Se garantice la integridad del líder Indígena Feliciano Valencia.

Se garantice su presencia como vocero de la Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria en el Laboratorio Internacional Estrategias alternativas al desarrollismo, en Buenos Aires Argentina y en la CONFERENCIA MUNDIAL DE LOS PUEBLOS SOBRE CAMBIO CLIMÁTICO Y DERECHOS DE LA MADRE TIERRA, en Cochabamba Bolivia.

Solicitamos al organismo de Naciones Unidas, OEA, OIT, de acuerdo a sus mandatos y normas internacionales de protección a los derechos humanos, realice las investigaciones sobre la arbitrariedad de este caso y aplique las sanciones correspondientes.

Solicitamos a la comunidad Internacional exigir al gobierno colombiano el cumplimiento de normas internas e internacionales de respeto a los derechos humanos.

Solicitamos a la comunidad Nacional manifestarse y hacer uso de todos sus medios de difusión para movilizar sus organizaciones y salir en Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria a protestar por la detención injusta del vocero FELICIANO VALENCIA.















Sus pronunciamientos los puede enviar a:

Presidente de la República
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Nariño Bogotá
Fax. 5662071

Vicepresidente de la República
Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C.

Ministro de la Defensa (E)
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.

Ministro del Interior y de Justicia
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 2221874

Fiscal General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 570 20 00

Defensor del Pueblo
Calle 55 No. 10 – 32 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 640 04 91

Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.


Dirigir copia de sus comunicaciones a:



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We owe the residents of the tiny island paradise called Vieques full compensation: The Free Press

This important report was posted on the website of Free Press. I share it with you as a public service in light of the fact that nobody ever thinks about Vieques in the major media.



Paradise lost

by Robert C. Koehler

March 5, 2010

We owe the residents of the tiny island paradise called Vieques full compensation for the illnesses they are suffering courtesy of the U.S. Navy — and we owe them so much more than that.

We owe them a full accounting of what was done to their Manhattan-sized island, about 10 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico (the island is part of Puerto Rico and hence part of the United States) between 1941 and 2003, when it served as the Navy’s premiere weapons testing site. Bombs were dropped and guns were tested on the eastern portion of the island at least 200 days out of the year for 62 years; an estimated 80 million tons of ordnance pummeled the island’s fragile, tropical ecosystem over that time, contaminating soil, water and air, and bequeathing an array of serious health problems — cancer, birth defects, cirrhosis of the liver and much more — to the island’s 10,000 residents.

We owe them — how can I put this? — a commitment to sanity in the realm of national defense. What kind of defense involves the commission of war crimes against our own citizens? We owe them a national conversation about who we are and what we’ve allowed to happen in the name of national security and global dominance.

Vieques, one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever visited — its stunning features include what may be the world’s largest bioluminescent bay (microorganisms in the water glow when disturbed, as by swimmers) — was commandeered by the U.S. military as a throwaway site for weapons testing. The Navy occupied three-quarters of the island until 2003; it finally left following four years of protests, which were ignited when an errant bomb killed a civilian security guard in 1999.

The Navy left but, of course, it didn’t really leave. It left behind heavy metal contaminants (arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminum); unexploded ordnance (18,700 live shells or bombs that the Navy itself has identified); barrels of unknown, likely toxic substances dumped into the ocean or stored on ships that were deliberately sunk; depleted uranium; Agent Orange; napalm; secrets, lies and a legacy of irresponsibility almost beyond comprehension.

But it’s irresponsibility in the name of national security. This implicates all of us. The story of Vieques demonstrates that there’s nothing peaceful about preparing for war.

This small, fragile island — sometimes called Isla Nena (Puerto Rico’s “little sister”) — along with its impoverished residents, were, like the Downwinders of Utah, Nevada and Idaho, whose health was compromised by nuclear testing, collateral damage of the Cold War and all the pretexts for perpetual war readiness that have succeeded it. Vieques is proof of the flawed vision of militarism, which uses up the world.

The Navy is in the process of cleaning up its mess, but this too is controversial and problematic. It has detonated about a third of the unexploded ordnance it has identified, thus continuing not only the nerve-wracking explosions but the spread of contaminants, a problem exacerbated by the island’s east-to-west prevailing winds, which carry the smoke to the populated portion of the island. In addition, the Navy has proposed to burn hundreds of acres of contaminated vegetation on its former bombing range in order to facilitate the detonation process. This proposal is vehemently opposed by the islanders, who fear the wholesale spread of pollutants in the process.

Meanwhile, the Navy continues to deny that the pollution left over from six decades of weapons testing, including secret experimentation with biological and chemical weapons, is a health hazard to the residents of Vieques. Ignoring inconvenient science is, of course, standard procedure for the military.

Nevertheless, “The pervasiveness of the contamination and the poverty of most of the population leaves Viequenses with no way to escape the poisonous substances,” according to “The toxins are all around them in the air they breathe, the water they drink, the soil where they grow crops, and the food they eat. . . . Children on Vieques are 25 percent more likely to die in infancy than those on the main island of Puerto Rico.” There are, the site explains, far higher rates of cancer and other illnesses among the residents, and the island lacks even a clinic, forcing residents to travel for hours by ferry (with unreliable service) and bus to get treatment.

The damage done to this beautiful island can never be fully undone, but perhaps a better future — for all of us — can blossom here. This is the vision of John Eaves, a lawyer whose firm represents, and has filed suits in U.S. District Court on behalf of, 8,500 residents. Though he titled a legal update he recently gave about the island “Paradise Lost,” he told me: “We see (the suits) as an opportunity for a global solution to Vieques.”

The redress the law suits are seeking, he said, include a hospital on the island, better transportation, windmills for economic development and a research center devoted to the study of environmental cleanup — indeed, to the development of a new science of environmental reclamation.

Military-industrial contamination is, of course, a worldwide problem: the nightmare legacy of modern war. How fitting if Vieques should become home to its solution.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at or visit his Web site at © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Union Members Slain Last Year in Colombia

Hi folks,

This is a disturbing news release on the current situation facing trade unionists in Colombia under the Administration of Alvaro Uribe, sent to me by our friends at Labor Exchange. It is followed by a report on the European Union's concerns about the human rights violations being carried out against trade unionists in Colombia. As talk increases about rekindling free trade talks between the U.S. and Colombia, and Obama talks favorably about such a bilateral trade deal, this information poses serious questions about the "improvements" on the ground for the labor movement. Will the U.S. President do yet another about face from his progressive talk during his long forgotten campaign in 2008?


Union Members Slain Last Year in Colombia

BOGOTA – Forty union members were murdered last year in Colombia as the Andean nation remained the world’s most dangerous country for labor activists, union officials said Thursday in the northwestern city of Medellin.

The figure signifies that “60 percent of the trade unionists killed worldwide are Colombians,” the head of the Human Rights and Solidarity Department of the CUT labor federation, Alberto Vanegas, told Efe.

“This forms part of a systematic policy of violation of human rights, of violation of union rights,” Vanegas said after speaking at the opening of a two-day conference in Medellin on anti-labor violence.

The gathering was organized by the CUT, the National Union School, the Center for Popular Research and Education and the Jose Alvear Restrepo Attorneys Collective.

Roughly half of the 150 attendees are relatives of slain union members, while the remainder includes representatives of human rights groups and U.N. agencies.

More than 2,700 labor activists have been murdered in Colombia since 1986, according to the CUT. The vast majority of those killings have gone unpunished.

“It’s a complete genocide of the union movement,” Vanegas said. “The families of the murdered unionists struggle for truth, justice and reparation.” EFE
The European Union's Parliament sets out concerns over Colombia trade deal


02.02.2010 @ 18:17 CET,

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Union's ongoing free trade negotiations
with Colombia featured twice in European Parliament debates last week, with
deputies from across the political spectrum raising serious concerns over
the South American country's human rights record.

The Spanish EU presidency has said it is keen to finalise the deal under its
watch, with the tussle set to escalate over the coming months ahead of a
EU-Latin American summit scheduled to take place in Madrid this May.

Parliament's trade committee is set to call for a debate on the subject at a
March plenary session in Strasbourg, and will urge the European Commission
to launch a formal enquiry into the country's human rights abuses.

A resolution on the EU's long-standing banana dispute with Latin American
countries last December cleared a stumbling block to initialing the
agreement, with commission officials saying the Colombian negotiations are
now "in the final stages."

Under the EU's new Lisbon Treaty rules, the European Parliament gained an
equal footing with member states in ratifying EU trade deals, leaving
deputies keen to use their new powers.

The Greens, the far-left, a majority of socialists and a considerable number
of centre-right MEPs, all harbour strong reservations over the Colombian
accord as it currently stands, potentially scuppering Spanish plans for a
speedy ratification.

Trade unionist murders

Objection to the deal centres primarily round the country's high rate of
murders of trade unionists, accounting for 60 percent of the world total.

Trade unions also accuse the government of President Alvaro Uribe of
collaboration with Colombia's extensive network of right-wing
parliamentaries, and condemn the judiciary's low rate of prosecutions.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and
Colombia's principle trade union confederation, the CUT, 39 trade unionists
were murdered in 2007 in the country, with 49 murders in 2008.

Alberto Vanegas, director of human rights at the Central Unitaria de
Trabajadores union told MEPs last week the violence amounted to a "political
genocide of the trade unionist movement," and urged the EU not to sign the
free trade agreement.

Irish centre-right MEP Gay Mitchell said the killings were "unacceptable,"
while British socialist MEP Michael Cashman said his UK Labour Party
colleagues would not support the deal without an investigation. "I see the
fact that we have not signed the agreement as a great way to push for
increased changes," he said.

The US, Canada and Norway have all negotiated bilateral trade deals with
Colombia, only to see them held up in their respective parliaments due to
similar human rights concerns.

Supporters of a trade agreement say greater co-operation with Colombia is
the best way to bring about improvements inside the country however, citing
reports of recent reductions in the number of killings as a further reason.

"I think it would be very unfair, given the progress that has been made on
human rights, not to sign the agreement," said Spanish centre-right MEP Jose
Ignacio Salafranca.


Observers say parliament's new trade powers will also bring greater lobbying
pressure, with left-leaning critics citing Spain's struggling domestic
economy and considerable business interests in Colombia as being behind the
government's haste to secure a deal.

Pointing to potential gains for Spanish companies such as Repsol and
Telefonica, Paul-Emile Dupret, an advisor to the left-wing GUE/NGL group in
the parliament, said the Spanish government was leaning hard on its MEPs.
Others cited Colombia's largely untapped mineral deposits as attracting the
interest of European big business.

"Spanish businesses are pressing MEPs to pursue the Spanish government's
agenda," Tom Kucharz from the Spanish environmental organisation,
Ecologistas en Accion, told this website.

The EU initiated discussions for a region-to-region Association Agreement
containing trade, political dialogue and co-operation aspects in 2007 with
the group of Andean nations - Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

But a breakdown in negotiations in 2008 led to the EU initiating bilateral
discussions on free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia in early 2009.
Bolivian President Evo Morales subsequently said this "seriously weakened"
the Andean integration process.