In The Press 

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  • Human Rights Watch, a New York-based human rights group, is accusing the Bush Administration of ignoring human rights abuses by the government of Colombia.

    Human Rights Watch said in a Friday that the administration has squandered its leverage in Colombia by its decision to renew aid to the Colombian Armed Forces.

    Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell certified that Colombia is meeting congressional standards for protecting human rights. The decision releases $34 million in aid to Colombia.

    Human Rights Watch says it has "abundant evidence" that Colombia has not complied with human rights protections.

    For example, the group says when Colombian officers are linked to human rights crimes, they get promotions or pay raises : Rights Group Criticizes US Aid to Colombia VoaNews


  • According a new report published today by Human Rights Watch, Colombia leads the Western hemisphere in reported human rights and international humanitarian law violations. In 2003, the government claimed as a success a decrease in the worst categories of political violence. These decreases are genuine; yet a close inspection reveals that they are due to many factors, among them the consolidation of control by illegal paramilitaries in some regions. So far, President Álvaro Uribe has failed to break continuing ties between units of the security forces and paramilitaries and has failed to ensure that the perpetrators of crimes against humanity and serious human rights violations are brought to justice.

    Guerrillas also commit serious violations, including massacres, selective killings, and indiscriminate attacks. In 2003, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) continued to kidnap civilians and hold them hostage for financial or political gain : HRW report on Colombia HRW


  • The Organization of American States has agreed to monitor the disarmament of Colombia's paramilitary forces, lending significant international support to a peace process that has proven highly divisive at home.

    OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria, a former Colombian president, agreed in weekend talks with President Alvaro Uribe to send representatives to Bogota to verify a paramilitary cease-fire and assist in disarming the militias following a negotiated agreement between them and the government.

    But Gaviria's decision, made without consulting the 35 nations that make up the OAS, has angered some diplomats and human rights officials in Bogota, who say it bestows international legitimacy on a process that remains a work in progress.

    Essential questions such as how paramilitary leaders would be punished, including those accused of committing civilian massacres, have yet to be resolved.

    Uribe plans to disarm 11,000 to 20,000 members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, the paramilitary federation known as the AUC, by the end of 2005.

    He has argued that demobilizing the group, which makes much of its money from the drug trade, would remove a major illegal participant in the war and open the door for talks with two enduring Marxist insurgencies.

    The AUC agreed to a cease-fire in December 2002, though several hundred civilian murders have been attributed to the group since then.

    Despite its harsh military tactics, the AUC enjoys deep political support in much of the country for its success against the guerrillas, which it fights alongside the Colombian army.

    Its leaders, Carlos Castano and Salvatore Mancuso, are wanted in the United States for drug trafficking.

    The State Department, which has not taken a formal position on the peace process but has provided money for its earliest stages, considers the AUC a terrorist organization.

    Last year, Uribe proposed legislation that would have allowed paramilitary leaders to avoid jail time, even those charged with grave human- rights abuses : OAS will help to disarm Colombia's paramilitaries - San Francisco Chronicle


  • The United Nations put forward a proposal to help the peace process with paramilitaries in Colombia but warns that this must be carried out with a sense of purpose.

    Yesterday, James LeMoyne, the special delegate sent by Koffi Annan to Colombia, made a declaration to this effect.

    "We have studied with Chris Patten (EU Commissioner for External Affairs) reports of the talks with paramilitaries which are going on at present. If the peace process is achieved, it can end forever the scourge of the paramilitaries, finish violence carried out with impunity, reinforce the legitimacy of the State in order to strengthen democracy in Colombia and open a way to negotiated settlements with ELN and FARC".

    If this initiative is badly handled, however, it could weaken democracy and the State in Colombia, thereby squandering a historical opportunity to reach a comprehensive solution to the conflict in the country. We hope that the government will choose the right path", he declared.

    The special delegate of the UN Secretary-General also referred to an eventual agreement to have a humanitarian exchange between the government and FARC, thereby allowing the liberation of hostages held by the rebels.

    "The General Secretary renews his offer to act as a mediator to reach this goal. His offer is sincere and transparent and he will not limit his efforts. We hope to be able to help to start a dialogue with FARC and ELN", he said.

    He added that the United Nations Organisation wishes fervently for the liberation of hostages and "that the time had come for the Government and FARC to make the necessary decisions".

    The declaration shows, as well, that the EU and the UN are on the same wavelength as regards the importance that Colombia must give to the " putting in place of the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights".

    In this regard Commissioner Patten has indicated that during the visit of President Uribe to Europe next February this subject "would certainly be put on the agenda by many speakers"

    UN Special Delegate LeMoyne also stressed that the 'Declaration of London', signed last July with the Government, which demands the implementation of these recommendations "is an international agreement without precedence with regard to Colombia. This agreement is vital to help Colombia" : Naciones Unidas abre las puertas al proceso de paz con los paramilitares, pero debe ser serio El Tiempo


  • European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Chris Patten, visited Bogotá where he met amongst others President Uribe. At a press conference Mr Patten criticised Plan Colombia, the aerial fumigation of the cocoa crop undertaken and supported by the United States as an anti- drugs measure. He also called on the FARC to sign a humanitarian agreement that would allow an exchange of prisoners.

    The European Union still refuses to ally itself with Washington in the crop eradication schemes and prefers to give social assistance. Chris Patten announced a finance package of 54 million dollars known as "The Peace Laboratory" to help 62 towns out of a total of 1,100.

    Chris Patten said: "I have come to express the strong support of the EU for the difficult fight undertaken by the government against the terrorists but also to underline that the wisest approach is to operate within the legitimate framework", he added, in a reference to the concern of the EU with anti-terrorism laws. These laws have been criticised on several occasions by the United Nations as they give judicial powers to the army.

    Before he attended a meeting of NGO's concerned with Human Rights, Chris Patten met Yolanda Pulecio , mother of Ingrid Betancourt and Angela de Perez, the wife of the former Senator, Luis Eladio Perez who is also kidnapped.

    " We need support from the EU for a Humanitarian Agreement. We believe that one must separate the Peace Process from the Humanitarian Agreement because those who are kidnapped are in mortal danger," said Yolanda Pulecio .

    After the meeting, Chris Patten stated that he was very disturbed by the abuse of Human Rights in Colombia. He invited the FARC to "negotiate and bring about a Humanitarian Agreement (for the release of prisoners)" and he condemned the kidnapping of civilians by rebels.  "Kidnapping is the worst violation of Human Rights, it causes the break-up of a family for years", he said.

    Chris Patten's statement concerning the attacks on Human Rights in Colombia provoked controversy last week in Colombia. Vice-President Santos had even spoken of the "neo-colonialist practices of the states of Old Europe"

  • EU, UN ratify their support for humanitarian deal in Colombia - EU Business

  • Patten in Colombia announces join-up with UN on prisoner swaps, ...  - EU Business

  • EU calls on Colombia to respect rule of law Reuters AlertNet, UK

  • Gobierno acoge iniciativa de Unión Europea de impulsar ante la ONU acuerdo humanitario El Tiempo 
  • ONG dan informe negativo a Christoper Patten sobre manejo que ha dado el Gobierno a derechos humanos El Tiempo 


  • Ingrid Betancourt proposed for Nobel Peace Prize 2004

    Ms Ingrid Betancourt, the former presidential candidate, detained in Colombia for nearly 2 years has been nominated by a member of the French Parliament to the Selection Committee responsible for choosing the Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

    Ms Danielle Bousquet, the Socialist Party deputy from Saint -Brieuc who is proposing Ms Betancourt. According to Ms Bousquet, Ms Betancourt's campaign is based on her passionate belief in Human Rights.

    Ms Betancourt's struggle to establish a Peace Process, her campaigns against corruption and her efforts to re-establish democratic values and laws in her country are the principal reasons cited by the French deputy in her letter to the Selection Committee. She stated that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 to a candidate such as Ms Betancourt would promote the greater commitment and involvement of International Organisations and democratic countries in an attempt to end the intolerable situation of the Colombian people.

    42- year-old Ingrid Betancourt, a former Green candidate in the Colombian Presidential elections was kidnapped by FARC on 23 February 2002. A native of Colombia she has dual French nationality as a result of her marriage to a French diplomat.

    Since 1964, the civil war in Colombia has resulted in 200,000 deaths with an average of 3000 civilians kidnapped every year : La candidature d'Ingrid Betancourt proposée pour le Nobel de la Paix 2004 (AFP)


  • 79-year-old Acuna, one of 14 founding members of the Mothers of Buenos Ayres' Plaza de Mayo and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo (the latter created to find missing grandchildren), could be home celebrating an August decision by the Argentine government to repeal two amnesty laws that had long shielded hundreds of military officers from prosecution for the estimated 30,000 killed or disappeared during the armed forces' 1976-83 "dirty war" against its political opposition.

    Instead, she recently traveled 3,000 miles north, to Colombia's Choco province, to bolster an interfaith church group called the Justice and Peace Commission, which is fighting to protect and find out what happened to the disappeared of Cacarica. This remote, predominately Afro-Colombian community of 1,200 inhabitants was created several years ago after a massacre and at least 70 disappearances by paramilitary militias drove its residents from their villages.

    Acuna says she also came to offer support to the relatives of an estimated 6,350 Colombians who have disappeared during the nation's four- decade-old civil war pitting leftist guerrillas against the armed forces and right-wing militias. The Association of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared (ASFADDES) says there has been a dramatic increase in disappearances -- 3,593 since 2001, compared with 258 from 1994 to 1995.

    Reminding the world

    "Our job is to remind the world that what happened in Argentina is happening in Colombia. Disappearing people is the most savage tool," said Acuna. "Your loss does not officially exist; the authorities deny your situation. Only you know what happened."

    From the 1980s until the mid-1990s, most human rights groups agree, disappearances in Colombia were mostly carried out by the armed forces. But the tactic has become a favorite of paramilitaries since then. Leftist guerrillas, on the other hand, typically kidnap victims for ransom and engage in political assassinations of mayors and other local officials.

    According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, right-wing paramilitaries changed tactics in 2002, opting to stop massacres against rebel sympathizers and begin killing "individuals separately to avoid the publicity that results when incidents are recorded as massacres." Many disappearances occur when paramilitaries try to wrest control -- often with the tolerance or support of the army -- over towns and neighborhoods from the country's guerrilla armies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN).

    Acuna said she sees several parallels between Choco province and her native Argentina during military rule.

    "The Argentine military also called us subversives to control public opinion, and paramilitaries are installed in the political structure of the towns. They are mayors and judges," she said. "Do you know what it is like to live side by side with those who killed and tortured your loved ones?

    "We know how difficult it is for people to break the fear," she said, "but if more of us had dared to break the silence earlier, there wouldn't have been so many disappeared in Argentina." : In Colombia's jungles, echoes of Argentina's 'Disappeared'


  • FARC confirm they had been in talks with UN and French government and now say that the secret mission that FARC had been involved in (in Ecuador) has failed due to the arrest of the top negotiator SimonTrinidad in Ecuador.

Simon T had been looking for a place where reps of FARC would meet Kofi Annan and James Lemoyne (the special UN envoy) as well as the planned meeting with reps of French government. All this was to find a "solution" whereby a Humanitarian Agreement could allow an exchange in which Ingrid and some other P.O.W's could be freed.

Neither the UN or French authorities have denied or confirmed this. Farc has Ingrid + 47 army officers + 3 Americans + 800 civilians. There are 400 prisoners who are members of FARC in jail.

The possibility of a meeting in Brazil between FARC and the UN had been officially mentioned by the Colombian government at the end of 2003 in an effort to bring about an exchange between the hostages and those rebels in jail : Les FARC révèlent des contacts avec l'ONU et la France pour libérer les otages (AFP)


  • "Ingrid Betancourt is well and awaits a Hunanitarian Agreement between FARC and the Colombian Government", says Raul Reyes, number 2 leader of FARC. Following the special documentary transmitted by TV5 in Latin -America and Ireland last week, FARC has assured the family of Ingrid Betancourt, the Colombian politician kidnapped by FARC since Feb 23 2002.

    According to FARC, Ingrid knows that her freedom depends on the humanitarian agreement that FARC are anxious to sign with the Colombian President. However Reyes stated that it is impossible for FARC to negotiate an exchange of prisoners with the Colombian government because of the "intransigence of President Uribe."

    Ingrid's family has confirmed this state of affairs. In a statement issued by Fabrice Delloye, ex-husband of Ingrid and father of her 2 children, he said that President Uribe is unwilling to get involved in any negotiation. This leads the family to think that Uribe is ignoring the fate of 900 of his fellow countrymen who remain in the hands of the various rebel groups. Some of these have been in the hands of FARC for over 5 years. "In the name of humanity and in a desperate attempt to save the lives of those people who are in danger of death the family calls on the International community to help find a way to begin a dialogue that will free our hostages" (see news in French)


  • U.S. counter-drug policy in the Andes gives too much priority to military aid, focuses too much on Colombia and pays too little attention to urgent economic and social issues, a new report said on Thursday.

    Launched in 2000 by the Clinton administration and the centerpiece of the Bush administration's anti-drug fight abroad, Plan Colombia makes about $700 million a year in mostly military assistance available to the Andean region, with the lion's share earmarked for Colombia.

    Officials in Colombia and the United States say sharp drops in the planted acreage of coca crops in Colombia, thanks to crop spraying, and reduced violence across the region are signs that Washington's policy has been working.

    But the report's authors say the plan will fail in the long haul, with drug production merely shifting to other countries, notably Bolivia.

    "Security issues, drugs, corruption, poor land distribution, income inequalities and other problems need to be tackled multilaterally" said John Heimann, former Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury and one of the report's authors : Report says U.S. anti-drug policy failing in Andes Reuters


  • Colombia's rebels had pinned their hopes to Simon Trinidad to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the government, a move that could free dozens of hostages, including three Americans, being held by the guerrilla fighters.

    But the high-ranking Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia commander now has become a prisoner himself - topping the list of those the rebels want the government to hand over in exchange for the soldiers, politicians and three U.S. military contractors they are holding captive. The rebel commander was captured in neighboring Ecuador on Friday.

    Trinidad's seizure has dampened many hopes surrounding the potential exchange.

    Observers say that while the FARC will be more anxious than ever to push through such a swap - particularly given rumors that Trinidad has cancer - the hardline administration of President Alvaro Uribe is not likely to release its catch, the most senior rebel netted in nearly four decades of civil war : Rebel Capture Nixes Prisoner Exchange The Guardian UK


  • A senior commander of the Colombian left-wing guerrilla group, the FARC, has been deported following his capture in Ecuador.

    Ricardo Palmera, better known as Simon Trinidad, is the most senior member of the FARC to be caught so far. 

    Mr Palmera was captured by Colombian and Ecuadorean authorities on Friday while he was being treated at a clinic in the south of the Ecuadorean capital Quito, Colombian officials said.

    He was receiving treatment for leishmaniasis, a disease common in Colombia's jungles : FARC leader deported to Colombia - BBC News

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AlterFocus : info Ingrid Betancourt