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Colombia Solidarity Campaign Bulletin Nº 6



p22     LETTER TO BP
p39     LETTER


On 11th April, as Colombia Solidarity was going to press, news came in
of a military coup against the popular and progressive President of
Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. Fortunately within 48 hours the coup was
defeated and Chávez was back in power.

A popular and progressive President
An ex-paratrooper who had formed a popular movement for change and who
was elected with a large majority in December 1998, Chávez was
inaugurated in February 1999 and proceeded to hold a series of elections
and referenda to change the Venezuelan Constitution and implement a
radical overhaul of the country's entire political, economic and social
system. A passionate orator, he used his weekly phone-in TV programme
"Aló Presidente" to maintain dialogue with the people and to combat the
overwhelmingly hostile Venezuelan media.

In three turbulent years Chávez succeeded in implementing nationalist
measures to increase Venezuelan control over the oil industry, in
reviving OPEC and increasing oil revenue, in tripling the education and
health budgets and in organising popular neighbourhood committees known
as "Bolivarian Circles" in poor areas. These and other progressive
measures were feared and resented by the wealthy classes in Venezuela,
who denounced Chávez as dictatorial despite the fact that he allowed
total freedom of the press and that there was not a single political

Washington's hostility to Chávez
Not surprisingly, the US also expressed its "concern" about Chávez from
the beginning. His revival of OPEC, his public friendship with Cuba, his
opposition to Plan Colombia and refusal to allow overflights by US
aircraft - all these things incurred Washington's displeasure. The US
had to tread carefully because they were dealing with a freely elected
government and one which went out of its way to maintain constitutional
legitimacy, but there can be no doubt that Washington was working behind
the scenes to undermine Chávez.

The coup
Opposition pressure on Chávez began to intensify in November 2001 when
his government decreed an agrarian reform to give land to poor peasants
and a package of economic measures to reinforce State control of
resource industries. Now that Chávez's "Bolivarian Revolution" was
beginning to affect fundamental class interests, the opposition began to
take to the streets. Mass anti-government demonstrations and strikes
were organised on 10th December and again in January of this year, and
in February several military officers made public declarations against

Chávez refused to back down and announced a series of measures to reform
the State Oil Company, PDVSA, replacing its management and ending the
privileges of the corrupt union bosses who ran the oil workers' union.
The opposition, led by the employers' organisation FEDECAMARAS, called
for a general strike which began last week and culminated in a mass
anti-government demonstration on Thursday 11th April.

Last Thursday's demonstration was the pretext for the coup. Some 200,000
people marched from the wealthy eastern suburbs of Caracas on the
headquarters of PDVSA, but at the last moment they changed direction and
headed for the presidential palace at Miraflores. A hastily-arranged
pro-Chávez demonstration challenged them and the Police and National
Guard intervened. Suddenly shots rang out, and a gunfight started which
left some 20 dead and over 100 wounded. The official version of the
upstart Junta was that chavistas did the shooting on orders from the
President, and this was the pretext for the Generals to arrest Chávez
and take him to military HQ at Fuerte Tiuna, where they held him
incommunicado and where they said he signed a document resigning the

An illegitimate Junta
The Junta was headed by Pedro Carmona Estorga, president of the
employers' organisation FEDECAMARAS, and included a Roman Catholic
bishop as well as at least three military officers. It decreed the
dissolution of Congress, of the judicial authorities, of all state and
municipal authorities and of the Supreme Electoral Council. It was in
other words  totally arbitrary and illegitimate, a complete throwback to
the days of Pinochet and the military regimes of the 70s and 80s.

For two days there was  reason to fear the worst: Chávez was said to
have resigned and the Junta was talking in ominous terms about
"searching for criminals" involved in the previous administration. The
personal safety of Chávez, his ministers and supporters was seriously

The coup defeated
International reaction to the coup was immediate. The Presidents of the
"Río Group" of Latin American countries, meeting in Costa Rica,
expressed their concern at the interruption of constitutional order in
Venezuela and said they would raise the issue in the OAS. Cuba, through
its foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque, condemned the coup as a
reactionary plot and declared that it still regarded Hugo Chávez as the
legitimate President of Venezuela. European and Asian countries
expressed concern, although significantly the US blamed Chávez for the
critical situation.

Meanwhile in Venezuela, people took to the streets across the country to
protest against the Junta and demand the release of the President.
Despite total censorship by the Junta, reports emerged that Chávez had
not resigned. At least two State governors declared their loyalty to the
deposed President, and several military garrisons threatened to revolt
against the golpistas. In Caracas chavista ministers backed by the
people reoccupied the Presidential Palace, and progressive military
commanders issued an ultimatum demanding that the Junta release Chávez
by midnight on Saturday 13 April or face open revolt. By 3 am on Sunday
Chávez was back in Miraflores and soon afterwards he was sworn in as
President again.

A great popular victory
Much still remains to be explained about the events of the last few
days, but one thing is clear: reaction has been defeated and the
Bolivarian Revolution will now move forward, confirming Venezuela's
position as a beacon of hope in Latin America and a challenge to the
neoliberal "New World Order". Those in Venezuela who organised the coup
have a lot to answer for, and the US appears once again to have been
caught red-handed sabotaging popular democratic processes in Latin

Independent reports suggest that those who started the shooting in
Thursday's demonstration were sharpshooters posted in surrounding
buildings who sound suspiciously like provocateurs. It seems clear that
the plan was to get rid of Chávez or force him into exile and discredit
him and his movement, and reverse everything he had achieved.
Circumstantial evidence points to direct CIA involvement in the coup,
and sources in the Chávez administration indicate that they already have
concrete evidence of this. It is very encouraging that not only Cuba but
most Latin American governments repudiated the coup, and Chávez has
already been congratulated by most of them and by China, Iran, Iraq and
other OPEC members.

Implications for Colombia
The impact of these events in Colombia has been immediate and
instructive. The Colombian establishment made no secret of its disdain
for Chávez, and accused him of supporting the Colombian guerillas when
in fact he made great efforts to facilitate the peace process. The
Colombian media were jubilant when the coup occurred, and are now having
to eat humble pie as the real situation becomes clear.

The progressive victory in Venezuela will seriously complicate matters
for the Colombian establishment, which will now have to face the fact
that its repressive and genocidal policies will find no support from its
eastern neighbour. Moreover, as the blatantly anti-democratic character
of US intervention in Venezuela becomes clear, it will become more
difficult to defend subservience to "Plan Colombia" and the Andean

Support the Venezuelan revolution!
Until now many progressive people were confused about the Venezuelan
process and distrustful of Chávez. It is now crystal clear what is at
stake in Venezuela, and surely the time has come to organise solidarity
with the Bolivarian revolution.

David Raby

index | Venezuela


The Colombia Solidarity Campaign condemns the Pastrana government for
its unilateral decision to break negotiations with the FARC and its
bombing of the zone for dialogue.

We call for mobilisations to protest against this dangerous escalation
of the civil war in Colombia.

Colombian Government Breaks Talks
The official peace process in Colombia ended at 12.00 midnight on 20th
February. By 5 minutes past twelve on 21st February the Colombian Armed
Forces began bombarding the 'zone for dialogue', a 16,000 square mile
area in the south of the country.  According to RCN (national Radio)
over 200 bombing  missions were carried out that night. So far three
civilians have been reported dead, many more deaths can be expected as a
result of the bombing.

The Colombian army is using Blackhawk helicopters provided by the USA
under Plan Colombia, along with other military aircraft to attack 85
strategic targets in the zone.

These attack forces have been built up over the last two years with the
aid of $2 billion from Washington. They have been equipped, trained and
inspired by US governments to conduct counterinsurgency warfare. All
that planning is now being put into practice.

The FARC, the largest guerilla organisation in Colombia, have had
control of the demilitarised zone for the last three years since
negotiations began.

The talks have threatened to break down many times, but were always
pulled back from the brink at the last moment.  This time however, there
was no reprieve and at 9.00pm on Wednesday night President Pastrana
announced on national television that he had passed four decrees to end
the peace process.  Firstly, he ended negotiations and announced removal
of the FARC's political status. Secondly, that the demilitarised zone
was terminated. Thirdly, that arrest warrants had been reactivated for
FARC negotiators, and finally that the permission to set up a civilian
police force in the demilitarised region had been revoked.

Pastrana gave the FARC and the civilian population in the zone less than
three hours to leave, thereby flagrantly breaking the agreement he made
on 21st January to give a clear 48 hours notice. Pastrana has
unilaterally broken the process of dialogue.

Pastrana's move came after the FARC had allegedly hijacked a commercial
airliner on an internal flight and kidnapped the senator Jorge Eduardo
Gechem Turbay on 20th February.  Raul Reyes, chief spokesman for the
FARC denied any knowledge of the kidnapping.  The FARC responded  in a
communiqué published hours after Pastrana's speech, rejecting the
government's belligerent attitude:

"Pastrana, in his speech to the nation broke-off negotiations with the
FARC - People's Army... the intolerance of the oligarchy has been a
constant for almost two centuries of bi-partisan domination, and with
the rupture of the talks the government once again has shown its
commitment to war and against the interests of the popular classes.
Tonight the bi-partisan liberal conservative rulers in a show of
arrogance unprecedented in the history of Colombia called for more blood
>from the Armed Forces, one of the main perpetrators of state terrorism
in this Latin American Country.." (Translated from EL Pais 21st February

Colombia's second guerilla movement the ELN issued a statement on 21st
February that "we greatly regret this outcome because we believe that in
Colombia the correct way can only be a political solution to the armed
social conflict which our country and society are living through."

No Peace Without Social Justice
Although there have been talks it was not a real process of peace or
reconciliation. The Colombian state has all the while continued its
dirty war through the paramilitary death squads. And so the FARC has
refused to agree a ceasefire so long as the paramilitaries are allowed
to operate with impunity.  But at least while the talks were in process
there was some hope of a peaceful solution.

Pastrana has done his best to extinguish that hope. The army's generals
egged on by the USA have been pushing for all out war. And now they have
their way. We condemn the Pastrana government's solution to the
conflict, relying on US gunships to silence opposition movements.

The Colombian government claims that the FARC are 'terrorists' and is
engaged in its own war against terror, backed by the USA in its global
mission to rid the world of terrorism.  The reality is different. The
Colombian state is itself the principal source of terrorism and human
rights violations against the people. The Colombian armed forces, the
USA and the paramilitaries will now begin an all out assault on all
those forces that oppose the neoliberal economic programme that has
wreaked havoc on the population over the last 10 years.

Officially 20.3 % of the urban population is unemployed, but this figure
is an enormous underestimate as up to 60% of adults are 'underemployed',
that is with no regular job.

The neoliberal project has driven 68% of the population into poverty,
while the small elite has grown increasingly wealthy on the backs of
privatisation programmes that have forced up prices for public services
and sacked thousands of workers.

The same president who has been conducting economic warfare against the
majority of Colombians has turned to an all out military assault on
resistance. The consequences of Pastrana's latest decision spell
disaster for the people of Colombia, with conflict likely to spread
across the country. For the Colombian trade union movement the collapse
of the talks is likely to lead to further assassinations of their
leaders, 3,500 of whom have been murdered by state and parastate forces
since 1986. For the peasants, black communities and indigenous peoples
the end of the talks is likely to lead to more massacres in rural areas
as the military and the paramilitaries clear the land for the

The Colombian state backed by US imperialism is now at war, not against
drugs, nor against terror but against working people whose only crime is
to struggle for peace with social justice.



Extrajudicial Executions of Youth
Young Colombians in Arauca department are repeatedly targeted for
arbitrary detention, torture, assassination and attempted assassination.
Over Easter week there was a new turn to extra-judicial assassinations.
In one incident amongst many to detailed by  the Regional Human Rights
Commitee, on 27th March four young men were out hunting chigiros as is
the local custom, when they were run into the "Heroes de Saraguro"
battalion of the national army, who shot and threw grenades at them
killing 17 year old  HUGO HORACIO HURTADO CASTRO  The other three were
arrested and taken to the military post inside the Caño Limon oil
complex, where they were maltreated and accused of being guerillas.
That same day paramilitaries set up a roadblock in Tame and assassinated

Cucuta Pool Hall
On 4th April a paramilitary death squad working with military
intelligence agents attached to the Colombian army's 5th Brigade entered
a pool hall in the 'Cecilia Castro' neighbourhood of the city of Cucuta
in Norte de Santander department. The paramilitaries opened fire killing
four men and a woman and injuring several more people. The
neighbourhood, which is made up predominantly of poor displaced
families, has recently been on the receiving end of regular accusations
that its inhabitants are guerilla sympathisers and the security forces
have long harassed and intimidated local residents. Paramilitary units
have murdered nearly 100 people in Cucuta so far this year.

Indigenous Leader Assassinated
María Fabiola Largo Cano, the  leader of the Embera Chami people, was
assassinated by hitmen on 9th Abril 2002, at 1:20pm in Sipirra community
within the Cañamomo - Lomaprieta reserve in Riosucio. The assassination
was carried out by two killers on a high powered motorcycle, near the
Rural School at Sipirra where she had been attending a meeting with
other indigenous leaders.



Alvaro Uribe Velez holds a comfortable lead in the polls for Colombia's
Presidential elections on 26th May. The candidate of the ultra-right is
often alarmingly frank in his support for paramilitarism, but as recent
developments show, it is far more dangerous to investigate his ties with
the drug cartels.

In his article 'Cuando era Moscorrofio' (El Espectador, 17th February
2002) Fernando Garavito sheds light on Uribe Velez's and his father
Alberto Uribe Sierra's links with the Medellin cartel's Ochoa brothers
and with Pablo Escobar himself. Garavito reports that the USA tried
unsuccessfully to extradite Uribe Sierra, a well known mafioso, on
charges of drug trafficking, and how later, Uribe Velez when he became a
Senator in Colombia, played an important role in sabotaging the new
legislation that allowed for the extradition of drug traffickers to the
United States. Five days after the publication of this article, Garavito
was forced to flee the country after receiving repeated death threats.

The following report is taken from extracts from an article released by
the Latin American Solidarity Collective, entitled, 'Uribe Velez, a
candidate to be aware of'.

The rise of Uribe Velez began at an early age. At just 26 years old,
having recently completed his university studies, he was named Mayor of
Medellin, at a time when the drug cartels were booming. As Mayor he was
fully able to ally himself with the leaders of the Medellin cartel, who
at that time were attempting to win image and social acceptance through
publicity campaigns and civic programmes such as building sports fields
and stadiums, and also housing for the poor.

'Medellin without slums' was a programme launched publicly by Mayor
Uribe Velez, and consisted, as was later discovered, of one thousand
half-built homes donated to the residents of a city rubbish tip,
completely financed by Pablo Escobar.

Another programme was 'Civic Medellin' which involved the planting of
trees in the city's streets and parks, again financed by Escobar. With
the huge publicity that he was given by the press, and with the approval
of the church and of the authorities themselves, Pablo Escobar managed
to recast himself in the image of a great benefactor and illustrious

After the drug traffickers had acquired the image of honest citizens,
Alvaro Uribe Velez won the post of Director of Civil Aviation (March
1980- August 1982) where he was in charge of aerial navigation, airports
the granting of pilots licenses and the construction of public and
private airfields. This post he undertook generously and contributed to
the consolidation of the conditions and infrastructure that allowed drug
trafficking to flourish.

According to the investigative reporter Fabio Castillo "Senator Alvaro
Uribe Velez granted most of the licences to the mafia pilots when he was
Director of Civil Aviation" (Los Jinetes de la Cocaina, p72)

As Director of Civil Aviation, Uribe Velez had as his deputy Cesar
Villegas, who developed strong relationships with the Cali cartel, and
who was later prosecuted and sentenced to five years in prison for
accepting several million dollars from the Cali mafia for the 'Ernesto
Samper- Presidente' campaign in 1996. Villegas was assassinated in
Bogotá on 4th March of this year.

After leaving Civil Aviation, Uribe Velez was elected as Governor of
Antioquia, a position from which he initiated, promoted and defended the
CONVIVIR private security associations that have been widely condemned
by national and international human rights organisations as the official
project to legalise the paramilitaries or 'Autodefensas'.

Ernesto Samper was in government at the time, with ministers Haracio
Serpa (Interior) and Fernando Botero (Defence). Botero was also
convicted for accepting donations from the Cali cartel. Samper's
government gave legal life to the CONVIVIR with decree 356/94 describing
them as "special services for vigilance and private security, licensed
to use arms for defensive reasons, with the aim of supporting the armed
forces with communications and armed networks."

Uribe Velez was the special guest of the Ranchers' Congress in 1996,
where he spoke enthusiastically of expanding the CONVIVIR networks
throughout the country. The President of the Ranchers Association, Jorge
Visbal Martelo suggested that the multi-national oil companies should
create their own CONVIVIR.

"At the [ranchers] congress, the strongest applause was saved for the
Governor of Antioquia, Alvaro Uribe Velez, who the ranchers proclaimed
as a future President. The applause that the governor received is
explained by the fact that Uribe Velez had initiated the CONVIVIR
project in his department. General Faruk Yanine also received a huge
applause. He has been accused of collaboration with paramilitary
groups." (El Tiempo, 17th October 1996)

Despite efforts to cover up the criminal nature of these associations,
the newspaper El Pais  (3rd August 1998) published the following:
"Representatives of more than 200 private security associations
(CONVIVIR) have announced that they will unite with the paramilitary
group AUC under their leader Carlos Castano, chief of the main far-right
organisation in the country."

During a recent interview with Newsweek magazine, (which was abruptly
terminated when the reporter asked about his links with drug
trafficking) Uribe Velez chose as his principle discourse to praise
Generals Rito Alejo Del Rio and Fernando Millan who had been forcibly
retired due to their links with paramilitary groups accused of carrying
out massacres and other atrocities in 1996 and 1997. He described Del
Rio as "an honourable man." In the same interview he went to great
lengths to defend the reputations of old friends such as Pedro Juan
Moreno Villa. In 1997 the DEA confiscated 3 shipment of potassium
permanganate, a chemical used in the processing of cocaine, that
belonged to Pedro Juan Moreno.

According to a journalist writing in El Tiempo (19th March 2002) Moreno
Villa "is nothing but a bully. If he is famous for anything in
Antioquia, its for being a very violent man, and as secretary to the
governor of Antioquia, during Uribe Velez's mandate, he was one of the
major forces behind the CONVIVIR. He is a person who relies on violence,
overt or covert, to impose his will."

Jesus Maria Valle Jaramillo, President of Antioquia Human Rights
Committee, made the following denunciation a few days before his
assassination. "Through a mistaken concept of public order we are
exporting violence to previously peaceful departments like Choco. We are
exporting violence all over the country through CONVIVIR. The military
and CONVIVIR share everything, their uniforms, their camps and the
vehicles they travel in". Valle Jaramillo was assassinated in his office
on the 27th February 1998.

Unionised workers also saw a change in management-worker relationships
in Uribe Velez's Antioquia. Threats to workers and their families were
constant. Jose Luis Jaramillo, General Secretary of his union was
followed and received telephone calls that threatened "stop smearing Dr.
Uribe Velez, or you'll pay with your life." Between 18 and 21 November
1998, the President of the same union received threatening phone calls
at his house,  "tell that son of a bitch that we're going to kill him,
we're going to make him pay for what he has said about the governor
[Uribe Velez] we know where he is, or maybe we'll get one of his kids."

All of these different elements, give us a clear idea of the interests
that Uribe Velez represents, interests that at times seem contradictory,
but which all aim to maintain and give credence to an exclusive,
arbitrary, corrupt and criminal system.

As Jesus Maria Valle Jaramillo said, "the state, big business, land
owners, drug traffickers and the military are all the legitimate parents
of paramilitarism".



Álvaro Uribe Velez esta ocupando el primer lugar en las encuestas
realizadas para la elección de presidente el próximo 26 de mayo. Este
candidato de ultraderecha es abierto en apoyar el paramilitarismo, sin
embargo es muy peligroso que la prensa entre a analizar sus nexos con el
narcotráfico. En su articulo "Cuando era Moscorrofio" (El Espectador,
17/02/02) el periodista Fernando Garavito saco a la luz publico los
vínculos entre Uribe Velez, su padre Alberto Uribe Sierra, los hermanos
Ochoa del cartel de Medellín, y el mismo Pablo Escobar. Garavito escribe
que los EE.UU. intentaron, sin éxito, extraditar a Uribe Sierra, un
narcotraficante conocido, y que su hijo en su calidad de senador realizo
algunas artimaña para cambiar la ley de extradición lo que permite que
no fueron extraditados varios narcotraficantes del cartel de Medellín.
Cinco días después de publicado el articulo, el periodista se vio
obligado a dejar el país, después de varias amenazas a su vida.

Las siguiente información es extractada del articulo titulado "Álvaro
Uribe Velez, un candidato para tener en cuenta" escrito por el
Latinamerican Solidarity Collective.

El ascenso de Uribe Velez comenzó a temprana edad. A los 26 anos, cuando
recién termino sus estudios universitarios y en pleno auge de los
carteles del narcotráfico fue nombrado alcalde de Medellín. Como alcalde
pudo relacionarse libremente con los barones del cartel de Medellín, que
se proponían ganar imagen y aceptación social con amplias campanas
publicitarias, programas cívicos y solidarios como la construcción de
campos y ciudadelas deportivas, además de viviendas para familias

Los coqueros buscaron la solidaridad social a través de programas que
aparentaban tener sentido cívico como "Medellín sin tugurios", plan
lanzado públicamente en Bogota por el Alcalde Álvaro Uribe Veles y que
consistió, según se supo luego, en las mil casas en obra negra que
fueron donadas a los residentes de un basurero de la ciudad, financiadas
por Pablo Escobar.

Otro programa fue "Medellín Cívico" para sembrar en calles, parques y
antejardines árboles donados por Escobar. Con la gran publicidad que le
hicieron los medios de comunicación a sus obras benéficas y el aval de
sectores de la iglesia y las propias autoridades, Pablo Escobar adquirió
la imagen de gran benefactor y ciudadano ilustre.

Cuando el narcotráfico había adquirido carta de ciudadanía ante la
sociedad colombiana, Álvaro Uribe fue designado Director de la
Aeronáutica Civil (marzo de 1980- agosto de 1982), quedando bajo sus
facultades el control de la navegación aérea, los aeropuertos,
otorgamiento de licencias para pilotos y la construcción de aeropuertos
públicos o privados, facultades que debió ejecutar en forma generosa,
contribuyendo a la consolidación y estructuras para el florecimiento de
la actividad del narcotráfico, tal como lo plantea el investigador Fabio
Castillo, "el senador Álvaro Uribe Veles quien le otorgo licencia a
muchos de los pilotos de los narcos, cuando fue Director de Aerocivil"
(los Jinetes de la Cocaína, pag 72).

En la Aeronáutica Civil, Uribe Veles tuvo Cesar Villegas como
Subdirector, quien resulto con estrechas relaciones con el cartel de
Cali, y cuando hizo parte de la campana "Ernesto Samper-Presidente" en
1996, fue vinculado penalmente por recibir varios millones de dólares de
esta organización del narcotráfico (Proceso 8.000), siendo condenado a 5
anos de prisión. Villegas fue posteriormente asesinado en Bogota, el 4
de marzo 2002.

Después de dejar la Aeronáutica Civil, Uribe Velez fue elegido
Gobernador del Departamento de Antioquia y desde este cargo impulso,
promovió y defendió las Cooperativas o Asociaciones de Seguridad
Privadas- CONVIVIR, ampliamente conocidos y denunciados por las
organizaciones nacionales e internacionales de derechos humanos como el
proyecto oficial para legalizar los grupos paramilitares o

Fue el gobierno de Ernesto Samper, con sus Ministros Horacio Serpa
(Interior) y Fernando Botero (Defensa), este ultimo condenado en el
proceso 8.000 por las donaciones del cartel de Cali, quien dio vida
jurídica a las CONVIVIR por el decreto 356/94, defendiéndolas como "un
servicio especial de vigilancia y seguridad privadas y facultadas para
utilizar armas de uso restringido, con el propósito de agrupar a la
población civil alrededor de los militares para que se constituyan en su
apoyo por medio de redes armadas y de comunicación.

En el Congreso de los ganadores celebrado en 1996, fue invitado especial
Uribe Velez y se acogió con entusiasmo la tarea de expandir las CONVIVIR
por todo el país e inclusive, el Presidente de la Federación Fedegan,
Jorge Visbal Martelo insto a las compañías transnacionales petroleras a
crear sus propias Convivir.

"En este congreso los aplausos mas prolongados fueron para el gobernador
de Antioquia, Álvaro Uribe Velez, a quienes los ganaderos proclamaron
como candidato presidencial. La ovación de los ganaderos al gobernador
tiene su explicación en el hecho de que el funcionario ha impulsado en
su departamento las cooperativas Convivir. Así mismo fue aplaudido el ex
General Faruk Yanine, quien ha sido acusado de promover grupos
paramilitares" (El Tiempo, 17/10/96)

A pesar de los esfuerzos hechos por los defensores de las Convivir para
encubrir la naturaleza criminal de estas Asociaciones, el periodico El
Pais de Cali (3/8/98) publico la siguiente información, "Representantes
de mas de 200 Cooperativas de Seguridad Privadas han anunciado que se
armaran y se unirán al movimiento paramilitar AUC, bajo su líder Carlos
Castaño, jefe de la principal organización de extrema derecha del país."

La revista estadounidense NewsWeek señalo a Álvaro Uribe como el
personaje que pronuncio el discurso principal en el homenaje de
"desagravio" que se le hizo a los generales Rito Alejo Del Rió y
Fernando Millán, después de que fueron retirados del servicio por sus
implicaciones con grupos paramilitares acusados de cometer masacres y
otras atrocidades entre 1996 y 1997, caracterizando a Del Rió como "un
hombre honorable". La misma revista afirma que "Uribe defiende
ferozmente la reputación de viejos amigos como Pedro Juan Moreno Villa",
y recuerda que en 1997 "la DEA decomiso tres cargamentos de permanganato
de potasio- comúnmente usado en el procesamiento de cocaína- comprados
por la compañía de Moreno". Moreno Villa, según la descripción que hace
el periodista del diario El Tiempo, D'Artagnan, "No es mas que un gran
patán. Si de algo tiene fama en Antioquia, es de ser un hombre violento
y como secretario del gobierno de Antioquia durante el mandato de Uribe
Velez fue el gran propulsor de las Convivir. Es un personaje que apela a
la fuerza (abierta o soterradamente para imponer su voluntad."

Política que tuvo dignos opositores como el jurista Jesús Maria Valle
Jaramillo, presidente del Comité de Derechos Humanos de Antioquia quien
denuncio días antes de ser asesinado, "Estamos exportando a través de
una concepción equivocada del orden publico, violencia para
departamentos pacíficos como la costa y el Choco. Estamos exportando
violencia a través de las Convivir, para todo el país, y los militares y
las Convivir se confunden en los uniformes, en los sedes, en los
vehículos que utilizan." Valle Jaramillo fue asesinado en su oficina el
27 de Febrero de 1998.

También los trabajadores sindicalizados del departamento dieron cuenta
de cómo se manejaron las relaciones obrero-patronales por la
administración Uribe. Las amenazas a los trabajadores y sus familias
fueron constantes. El Secretario General del Sindicato Jose Luis
Jaramillo fue objeto de seguimientos y amenazas telefónicas que decían,
"deje de lanzar calumnias contra el Dr Uribe Velez, porque si no, lo
pagara con su vida." En la casa del Presidente del Sindicato, entre el
18 y el 21 de noviembre de 1998, se recibieron varias llamadas
telefónicas ordenando "Dígale a ese HP que lo vamos a matar, le vamos a
cobrar el desprestigio del gobernador Álvaro Uribe y ya sabemos donde
están, o a lo mejor le cogemos una hija".

Estos elementos planteados dan una idea de los intereses que representa
Álvaro Uribe; intereses que, en ciertos momentos se busca presentar como
contrapuestos, pero que persiguen los mismos objetivos de mantener y
legitimar una sistema excluyente, corrupto y criminal, pues como decía
Jesús Maria Valle Jaramillo, "Estado, empresarios, terratenientes,
narcotraficantes y militares son legítimos padres de los grupos

  Piquete frente la embajada Colombiana
  Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge
  0900 - 1600 el domingo 26 de mayo
  ¡No vote para la guerra contra el pueblo!
Convocado por LASO Colectivo, CORAS y Colombia Solidarity Campaign



While only a few months ago, the war in Afghanistan was hailed as a
total success, and opponents of the military adventure were roundly
condemned as traitors and appeasers, we find ourselves in the early
stages of a truly global war. US, British and Canadian forces continue
the fighting in Afghanistan. US troops have expanded their operations to
the Philippines and Georgia, and are currently dismantling their
principle air base in Saudi Arabia and moving it to Qatar in order to
side step Saudi opposition to attacking Iraq.

On 20th February 2002, President Pastrana unilaterally ended the peace
negotiations with the FARC-EP, and 2 hours later started the carpet
bombing of the previously demilitarised zone, using US intelligence to
pinpoint FARC troops and installations.

Even before September 11, US policy towards Colombia was undergoing a
subtle change away from the questionable rhetoric of a war on drugs
towards open admission of a war against the insurgency and in protection
of US economic interests in Colombia. The overtly military nature of the
US "war on drugs" had been widely criticized. A Colombian judge had
ordered the suspension of the fumigations, and a bill was being
considered by the Colombian House of Representatives, for an end to the
fumigations due to environmental and health concerns. Many observers,
including Klaus Nybold, the head of the UN Drug Control Programme, had
questioned why the US was targeting only FARC controlled territory.
According to Nybold, "the paramilitaries are far more involved in drug
trafficking than the FARC, and the Colombian government has largely
ignored this fact in order to focus its war on the guerilla."

In August 2001, the US authorities went to extraordinary (and largely
illegal) lengths to frame the 3 Irishmen arrested in Bogotá after
leaving the demilitarised zone, and casting them and the FARC-EP as
players in an international drugs and terrorism conspiracy. This
propaganda has continued, with Republican Senator Henry J. Hyde, chair
of the Senate International Relations Committee, denouncing the IRA as
responsible for enabling the FARC-EP to more effectively kill US
military and civilian personnel. In December 2001, George Bush
underlined this shift in policy when he announced that "when we fight
drugs, we fight terror."

The hawks in the White House are now lobbying stronger than ever for the
US to support the war against the Colombian insurgency. In March of this
year, George Bush, General Fernando Tapias, head of the Colombian armed
forces, and Asa Hutchinson, head of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency),
have echoed Carlos Castaño in calling for Congress to allow funds from
Plan Colombia to be diverted directly to counter insurgency operations.
According to Hutchison, "the US will not leave Colombia alone in the
fight against terrorism."

The US Congress in currently considering a plan to provide a further $98
million, to set up, train and equip a new anti-guerilla battalion to
carry out counter insurgency operations around the Caño Limon oil
pipeline, an asset of Occidental Petroleum. It is inevitable that the
plan will be approved. Only 2 weeks ago, Congress themselves passed a
resolution urging the White House to do more in helping Colombia fight
terrorist organisations and the scourge of illegal narcotics. Bush has
asked for another $35 million for as yet unspecified military assistance
to Colombia, on top of the $98 million for the Occidental pipeline
protection. Needless to say, Occidental are a major donor to the
Republican Party. This proposal contains not a mention of the war
against drugs, it is an open escalation of US involvement in the war
against the Colombian people

Congress is also expected to raise the limit of US military and civilian
personnel allowed to be operating in a military capacity in Colombia at
any one time. The limit currently stands at 400 of each. The 400
official military personnel are largely involved in training and
intelligence work. The so called civilians, almost exclusively ex US
special forces, are paid for by US taxpayers through mercenary firms
such as DynCorp, Military Professional Resources and Virginia
Electronics. They are directly involved in combat operations, from a
squadron of ex Navy Seals patrolling the rivers of Putumayo, to flying
helicopters and aeroplanes in combat missions, although they are
currently prohibited from manning the guns or bombing systems.

These numbers do not include CIA or Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA)
personnel working with Colombian military intelligence, a long time
hotbed of paramilitary collaboration. US military sources admit that the
use of private military contractors and "civilian personnel" is an
attempt to avoid the public criticism of US casualties and fatalities
that became so strong during the Vietnam war. The deaths of 3 such
civilian personnel so far in Colombia, and the complete lack of reaction
in the US media suggests that the plan is working.

Similarly the British media has failed to mention the role of the SAS in
Colombia's dirty war, despite its wide reporting in the Colombian press.
El Tiempo of 3rd February 2002, "Infierno en la jungla" reports on the
activities of the "jungle commandos" including lurid accounts of the
killing of guerrilleros. The jungle commandos are proud to admit that
they were trained by the SAS. It is time that Tony Blair explained why
the British armed forces are training the army with the worst human
rights record in the Western hemisphere.

David Rhys-Jones

PHOTO British military advisers embarrassed to be photographed at a
passing out ceremony of an elite Colombian army unit 1995.
Source Amnesty International



The abstention of more than half the citizenry; the vote for traditional
parties of the extreme right; the continuing proportion in the
legislature of 70% traditional bipartisan electoral barons, and the
surprising growth of an alternative vote for the left and centre-left
were the characteristics of Colombia's 2002 parliamentary elections.

As usually occurs, 38% of the citizenry voted this Sunday March 10 for
the Congress of the Republic. 56% abstained, and 6% spoiled their
ballots. *

The reigning climate of war fed the vote for the extreme right: the
liberal senator German Vargas Lleras was elected to the senate in the
third vote; General Canal was elected in the Cauca Valley in the first

The predictions of the triumph to the presidency of the extreme right-
wing candidate Alvaro Uribe Velez, who advocates a total war against the
guerilla, caused various liberal and conservative candidates to switch
sides at the last minute. This is what the ex-mayor of Medellin and
liberal Luis Ramos did, winning in the first vote.

Several candidates of the traditional parties were not re-elected,
however, and among these were candidates who were prominent in
struggling for a negotiated solution to the armed conflict with social
and economic reforms. This was the case for senators Piedad Cordoba and
Amilcar Acosta, liberals, and Juan Manuel Ospina, a conservative.

The alternative and independent candidates had better results. Antonio
Navarro, an ex-militant of M-19 was elected to the senate in the second
vote and chose as the second on his list the indigenous Gerardo Jumi.

The left vote was bigger, surprisingly, than in previous elections,
despite the decimation of the left since the extermination of the Union
Patriotica in the 1980s. The candidate from the 'Social and Political
Front', Carlos Gaviria, was a surprise winner in the fourth vote.

As representatives of the Valle del Cauca, the same left movement chose
Alex Lopez, president of the combative Sintraemcali municipal workers'
union and for Bogota, the president of the state worker's union
Fenaltrase, Wilson Borja. Borja is a communist who barely survived an
attempt on his life on December 14 2000.

Also elected to the senate were two Maoists, the president of the
agrarian worker's union, Jesus Bernal, and the president of the
Association to Save Agriculture from Neoliberalism, Jorge Robledo. Efren
Tarapues, an indigenous authority was also elected to the senate, and
the administrative unionist Jaime Dussan was re-elected.

As for the presidential elections, the parliamentary results support the
polls in predicting the possible triumph of Uribe Velez. Every other
presidential candidate has lost ground. Naomi Senin (a conservative who
leads an independent movement) and Juan Camilo Restrepo (another
independent conservative) have lost any opportunity to maneuver in the

The liberal candidate Horacio Serpa has lost terrain in the Congress,
even though he continues to insist he is still in the election. The left
candidate, Luis Eduardo Garzon seeks to use the coming presidential
elections as a platform to debate and struggle against war and for
political, social, and economic reform: he does not have a chance at
winning the presidency.

The debate on political reform, whose absence explains the abstention of
a large part of the electorate, is crucial. Will it be a political
reform on the Fujimori model, centralizing corruption in the president
and his aides, fuelling war and repression? Or a reform that will
increase democratic rights, create a new level of seriousness to
electorial and party politics, and open a way to a negotiated solution
to the armed conflict?

Another debate has to do with economic reform which, unfortunately,
Uribe Velez has closed off. He is the author of laws in parliament that
have re-destroyed worker's rights in accord with the international
dictatorship of neoliberalism. Senator Vargas Lleras, an ardent follower
of Uribe, is also the most well-known opposer of agrarian reform in the
parliament. The left candidates, by contrast, have tried to bring labor
rights, agrarian reform, and an end to the opening to agricultural
imports, to the agenda.

But still more consequential is the debate on war. Luis Eduardo Garzon,
the left presidential candidate, considers the breakdown of peace
negotiations a grave historical error.

Despite the success of war demagoguery, the culmination of months of
national media campaigning, the population will begin to realise that
there is no quick victory for any armed group, only growing sacrifices
for the civilian population and growing intervention by the United
States-- seen by the government, by Uribe Velez, and by the Armed Forces
as the solution and by the United States itself as the gateway to a
convulsing Latin America upon which it is trying to impose the FTAA.

Despite its bombardment of Caguan, the Armed Forces have not been able
to contain the guerilla offensive. Athough the success of the elections
is shown off as a defeat of the guerilla-- and it is obvious the
guerilla was far from being able to stop them-- it is also obvious that
the guerillas have made military advances throughout the country in
their attacks of recent weeks.

These attacks have seen a disastrous destruction of the country's
infrastructure, between the FARC (all over the country) and the Air
Force (in Caguan, Ariari and the old demilitarized zone) that has
destroyed bridges, roads, and energy towers. The guerillas have
launched attacks against paramilitary bases in el Valle, Choco,
Antioquia, Putumayo and Catatumbo, attacks that the paramilitaries have
not been able to withstand, perhaps because of a lack of air support.

Both the right and the guerilla are trying to impose war. The
strengthening of the movements of the left for peace, could possibly
resolve the conflict. This is the possibility that the dirty war and the
assassinations have been designed to prevent.

Hector Mondragon

* Editor's note: when lack of registration for voting and no-votes are
taken into account, only about 1 in 4 Colombians voted for a candidate.



After the success of the SINTRAEMCALI occupation Alexander didn't even
pause for breath. In 28 days the campaign gained more support than the
establishment politicians had in a year, and after they had spent
millions of pesos. Alexander's campaign was financed by bonos,
individual donations by thousands of workers. It's headquarters was the
home of an old age pensioner. The campaign mobilised in the communities,
and held a mass rally of 15,000 people. It's leaders were continually
followed by the military intelligence, trying to deter people from
meeting with them, nonetheless over a thousand activists joined the
Social and Political Front team.

Alexander's main campaign slogan was "Dare To!". It is a big risk for
him to go parliament, everybody knows what might happen. That is why
there is a strong tradition of abstentionism, not only on the left but
amongst the majority of the population.  Most of Alexander's votes came
>from people who had voted for the first time in their lives. He pledges
to be with the people every step of the way. He will work for the

The Front is a process of fusing the social and political. Our
delegation met many different militants, the most common theme was that
they are preparing to confront fascism, as this leader explains:

"Uribe Velez will be right wing, more so than even the previous right
wing governments.

What we are facing now is the state linking with a deep right wing
perspective with some of the security forces that could be characterised
as involving fascism in Colombia.

Open fascism, that is an open state - fascist link. The biggest
electoral results in the recent campaign are for army generals. The
paramilitaries claim influence over 35% of the elected Congressmen. The
paramilitary struggle has come to Parliament.

Also there is North American policy, as it is elsewhere in the Third
World. And this has a lot to do with the attitude of the government [in
Colombia]. The New World Order means a really cruel policy. That is what
we are facing."

Andy Higginbottom



In March a student delegation went to Colombia to meet with other
students in order to build a network between the struggle there and the
North.  The students were able to discuss issues around the current
presidential election, the persecution of student activists working to
protect public education and how the international community can play an
important role in witnessing and calling for solidarity with the people
of Colombia.

One of the most active student groups is the Movimiento Estudiantil
Universitario Organizado (MEUNO). This group feels that the Colombian
state neglects and oppresses the public sector and has taken it upon
itself to defend public education and other aspects of public space.
Through a series of outreach projects based around education they are
seeking ways to overcome social disintegration and rebuild a sense of
community in some of the most socially disadvantaged parts of the city.

MEUNO is based in Cali where its aim is to strengthen  existing
community organisations and trade union relations who also defend the
rights of the public sector.  It is important to MEUNO to promote social
creativity in the community and create programs and projects for more
people to get involved where they can use their university education in
the real world. A current project the delegation was able to witness
during their visit was a scheme to encourage reading and literacy
amongst street vendors within Cali's sprawling Santa Helena marketplace.
>>From a stall, they offer a lending service for books that are donated to
them. When we visited, we found an impressive selection of reading
material that included language, mathematics, politics, science, as well
as fiction.

Santa Helena is the largest market in Cali and locals told the
delegation that it had the lowest prices.  The market was originally
founded 40 years ago and went corrupt under the control of the state.
The existence of the lending stall has allowed MEUNO to become more
integrated with the market, and the group now uses its facilities to run
workshops on rights and literacy. Today the marketplace is self-managed
through their store holders association whose president is a member of
MEUNO.  The store holders pay to belong and all have a say in how the
market is run and decide communally about what changes are necessary.

The association is working hard to improve practices and conditions
within the market, for example by segregating the different types of
stall for purposes of hygiene and by establishing recycling practices.

The students involved in the Santa Helena project have a wide range of
knowledge and skills they provide including engineering, sanitation and
low-cost dentistry.

MEUNO also hopes that the book stall will encourage others to run their
own shops, but they have run into much apathy amongst the students and
their community.

They told the delegation that this was due to the level of state
terrorism against any public resistance to the savage, neo-liberal
regime in place by the government.  They overcome this by creating a
united, community support base.  They also told the delegation that they
do not consider themselves pacifists, but they believe in peace with
social justice.

Another project taking shape when the delegation visited was an evening
school in Agua Blanca, Cali's poorest district, where the levels of
poverty and unemployment are extreme. The aim of the school is to
provide affordable informal education to adults (16 upwards) who have
fallen through the gaps in state provision.

At the same time trying to foster a greater sense of community and
provide people with the vital tools to find ways out of the grinding
poverty trap that they are in. When the project started, MEUNO conducted
a survey of local residents to establish what they felt their own needs
to be, and found that one of the biggest complaints was a lack of
knowledge about where to receive appropriate help. In practice what will
really set this school apart is the students' insistence on taking
teaching away from the classroom as much as possible and encouraging
people to learn by doing in a series of micro projects within the

For example, they contend that a good deal of practical physics can be
learnt through simple building work. The concept of communication lies
at the heart of MEUNO's strategy, and they hope that their work will
enable highly deprived people to recognise the commonality of their
struggle and build up their own capacities to defend vital public

MEUNO's hopes for their projects are the continuance of establishing a
strong solidarity amongst the people who participate and get involved in
resisting the oppressive structure of neo-liberalism and defend public
space as well as education.

They believe this will encourage them all how to run a better society
and create an environment that nourishes the young and protects the
popular masses rights of human necessity.

Cata Corazon and Max Fuller

PHOTOS Graffitti in Valle de Cauca University
Top left: "Granny  - I have come to help you fight drugs trafficking!!!"
Above: "I don't believe that we are close relatives, but if you shake
with indignation every time the world commits an injustice, then we are
comrades, which is the most important thing" Che
Left: "Shall we start another day?"



Our delegation was invited to visit the district of Agua Blanca, over
600,000 people crammed into the poorest housing to the east of Cali. We
have been invited to a meeting of the Community Mothers who provide
crèche facilities for pre-school children.

We meet in a small house in a row that forms part of a tight grid of
similar houses spread across this particular district. It has a small
square front part, and tiny bedrooms with a small neat kitchen and yard
at the back. The concrete floors and walls are as they were built but
are decorated with colourful paintings done by the children. It is here
in their front rooms that the community mothers provide care for up to
twelve children each, whilst their parents are at work. It is an
essential service for poor families who need both parents' income, and
for the preponderance of households that are headed by a single female.

But we are here today to hear that the Colombian state does not value
these women, as it should. Instead the ability of community mothers to
care for children is being eroded by poor pay, high charges on services
and the continuing disruption to community life caused by the forced
displacement of millions of people from rural areas.

Fifteen mothers are here with us, and community leader Fabiola Ramos
begins to explain what they do and why. She says that up to 55% of
community mothers are heads of household or have husbands/partners with
no or irregular income. For providing care for up to 12 children in her
home, spending the day looking after each child's particular needs and
encouraging them in creative work, each community mother is paid a small
wage by the state (132,000 pesos, about £40). On top of this the
government insists on charging community mothers commercial rates for
services such as electricity and water. Considering they use their own
homes as crèches and get so little pay this is outrageous. As Fabiola
says they are carrying out work paid for by the state, but it does not
treat them as proper workers. When I ask if they feel exploited by the
state the answer is a unanimous 'Si!'

The women are acutely aware of the wider social context of this failing
of Colombia's young by the government. As Fabiola continues

"The two main presidential candidates Velez and Serpa favour policies
that slowly reduce subsidies for consumption ... They want to carry out
the orders of the World Bank and the IMF ... there are many youth on the
streets, they have no opportunities to study, to build their own
communities, to work. This is what generates the violence".

This statement has particular resonance in light of the high recruitment
rates of young working class men into the army and paramilitaries. Often
this is their only opportunity for regular paid work.

The massive internal displacement from the rural reas is also making
things harder for the community mothers. Poor living conditions for the
internally displaced, the pressure on resources in an area experiencing
huge influxes of refugees, and lack of resources for organising between
departments often hundreds of miles apart means some areas are rapidly
losing community mothers and no alternative option for the care of young
children exists.

Fabiola continues in a vigorous denouncement of Plan Colombia the
violence it creates, and the resources it diverts from social welfare;

"Our big economic problem is in terms of International recognition of
social cultural and economic and social rights. The Colombian state
doesn't recognise them in any way whatsoever.

One of the things that we've been beginning to demand is for state aid
to improve the quality of housing which is important for the children.
But this aid goes elsewhere. This is part of overall picture of
corruption with the misadministration of resources.

We want the budget for community mothers to be increased, and that there
is a special rate for services where social programmes are being carried
out. We want that children are given proper healthcare, and that each
child that is with us is able to go into public education-that each one
should have a place".

Milena Olave a community and human rights worker adds;  "through the
recent successful occupation by Sintraemcail the cost of services for
the poorest stratas levels 1, 2 and 3* were prevented from being

What we are now calling for is to mobilize and to work with e recently
elected congressman Alexander Lopez to change law 142".

Fabiola tells us that at 9am the next day the community mothers will be
at a protest because they haven't been paid for the past two months.
"The state is saying that the community mother must manage herself as
though she is a commercial concern".

She continues; "They say the war is against the Guerrillas but really it
is against the campesinos, and they are our brothers and sisters, they
grow the food that we in the cities need. We demand that the war is
ended and that there is no more Plan Colombia because the money is just
for war".

Phyllida Cox

* Colombia's urban population is classified into 6 levels, or strata.

The working class makes up the three lowest levels, characterised as:
Level 1: no income, homeless
Level 2: house-rented maybe owned, no or only   irregular work
Level 3: regular work, but low paid manual labour NOT professional work
85% of the population of Cali are classified level 1 - 3.



Compiled from CUT reports:

members of the Electricity Workers Union SINTRAELECOL - CUT were
assassinated on the road that goes to the Rió Bobo Electricity
Generation Plant, in Nariño Department. LUIS had received death threats
in the town of San Pablo and for this reason had moved to work at
another electricity plant in the region, where he and Juan Bautista were
intercepted by the paramilitaries and executed.

· On 22nd March 2002, the teacher ERNESTO ALFONSO GIRALDO MARTINEZ was
assassinated on the road from the town of Rió Negro to the city of
Medellín in Antioquia Departament. He was a delegate of the Antioquia
Teachers Association ADIDA. He was taken from his home on 21st March,
shot and seriously wounded. He was being taken to San Vicente Hospital
towards Medellín. Just a few meters outside the city limits he was
pulled out of the ambulance and finished off as he lay in the stretcher.
According to a report in El Tiempo newspaper of 24th March, this murder
was carried out by the FARC operating in this part of the country.

· On 8th April 2002 DIOFANOL SIERRA VARGAS was assassinated. She was on
the executive of the Barrancabermeja branch of the Food Industry Workers
Union SINALTRAINAL, affiliated to the CUT, and a member of the Popular
Women's Organisation - OFP [in which she was a volunteer dance
instructor].  DIOFANAOL was a trade union and social leader. She was
taken by force from her family home and executed by the paramilitary
group that operates in the oil city of Barrancabermeja, in Santander

· On 9th April 2002 OSCAR ALFONSO JURADO was assassinated in the city of
Cali, Valle de Cauca Departament. He was a leader of the Yumbo Branch of
the Chemical Industry Workers Union SINTRAQUIM - CUT. OSCAR was waiting
for transport to take him to his work place when he was attacked by an
unknown man who shot him twice, taking his life.


· On 23rd March 2002, JOSÉ ORLANDO CÉSPEDES GARCÍA a teacher and leader
of the Arauca teachers Association ASEDAR was intercepted and
disappeared on the road to Tame, Arauca Departament, at the place called
Pueblo Nuevo [New Town]. At this moment his whereabouts are not known.

· On 25th March 2002,  comrades JOSÉ PÉREZ and HERNANDO SILVA were
kidnapped by the Paramilitares. They were on their way to work when they
were intercepted at a spot called Quebrada La Nata, which is in the town
of Araguaney, Casanare Departament.  They are members of the Oilworkers
Union USO. No more is known.

· On 5th April 2002, ARTURO VASQUEZ GALEANO was kidnapped as he was
travelling from his work in the town of Abejorral towards the city of
Medellín in Antioquia Departamento. ARTURO  is a social leader and an
activist in the Workers and Employees Union of Antioquia, affiliated to
the CUT. We call for URGENT action to save the life and personal well
being of our comrade, so that he may be returned safe and sound to his
family, to the community where he does his social work, and to his trade


On 12th April 2002 HERNAN DE JESÚS ORTIZ, a teacher and member of the
National Committee of the United Workers Federation of Colombia (CUT),
member of the Executive Committee of the Teachers Union in Colombia,
also Vice-President of the Caldas United Teachers Association (FECODE),
an active member of the CUT Human Rights National Team and office bearer
of the Caldas Permanent Human Rights Committee (CPDH), and JOSÉ ROBEIRO
PINEDA, ex-leader of the Electricity Industry Workers Union of Colombia
(SINTRAELECOL) who was an outstanding union leader in Caldas and always
involved in the trade union movement's activities - were assassinated.

This political, anti-union murder was carried out by the paramilitary
groups which operate in that part of the country. The two leaders were
dining together in a restaurant in Aranzazú Municipality, in Caldas
Department. At approximately 8.00pm they were interrupted by a group of
armed men who arrived in a van. They were totally undefended and fell
dead as victims of the assassination attack.

HERNAN ORTIZ was an outstanding human rights defender and union leader
in the CUT.

We have repeatedly communicated to the Interior Minister reports of the
danger to trade union leaders and the need for a Protection Programme
for leaders who have had their lives threatened and been declared
military targets by the AUC. The names of these and other human rights
defenders and social leaders appear on the paramilitaries'list of those
who are to be assassinated. But our request for protection have not been
responded to.

The assassination of our comrades HERNAN and ROBEIRO is due to the lack
of political guarantees to enable human rights defenders and trade union
leaders to carry out our work.

With all due respect, we consider that Doctor Juan Somaviva, the
governments, employers and workers with representation and
responsibility at the International Labour Organisation - ILO - must now
take careful note of this GENOCIDE that is being carried out against the
United Workers Federation of Colombia - the CUT.

Since the Colombian Government with President Pastrana at its head does
NOT implement the policies necessary for us to carry out our union
activity, then a COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY must be agreed at the June 2002
meeting of the ILO Council of Administration. This would be a mechanism
to call the attention of the Colombian State and Government to halt this
genocide against our federation, and the systematic, massive and serious
violation of human rights as with the treacherous assassinations of

CUT General Secretary
Director Human Rights Departament
13th April 2002

After 6 weeks in the hands of the paramilitaries, GILBERTO TORRES a
regional leader of the Colombian oil workers union USO [Unión Sindical
Obrera] was freed on Sunday 7th April.

GILBERTO was kidnapped as he left his work on the OCENSA pipeline in
Casanare on Friday 22nd February. The OCENSA  pipeline transports BP's
oil from wells in the eastern Andes to the Caribbean port of Coveñas.

The paramilitary group AUC [United Self-Defence of Colombia] kept
GILBERTO shackled a hole in the ground covered with barbed wire. They
finally handed him over at midday last Sunday to a special commission
comprising the International Red Cross, the Presidential Peace
Commissioner and the People's Defender.

GILBERTO's disappearance had triggered a national strike by USO that
originally lasted several days, and was restarted on 20th March after
another USO leader RAFAEL JAIMES was assassinated in Barrancabermeja.
USO's stoppage only ended last Saturday when the union heard of
GILBERTO's impending release. Union leaders spent last week in
negotiations with the top executives of state oil corporation ECOPETROL
demanding that management do more to protect the oil workers. Union
President Hernando Hernández pledged USO to fight on to defend the human
rights of its members.

The Colombia Solidarity Campaign mounted two pickets of the Colombian
Embassy in London demanding GILBERTO's release. The TUC, UNISON and many
other unions and individuals have sent messages of protest.

To our knowledge this is the first time that the paramilitaries have
released an abducted trade unionist. It is a great victory, primarily
for the solidarity of the Colombian oil workers who took immediate and
united militant action, as well as those of you in the international
community who responded to the call to take urgent action.

We celebrate this victory with USO, and with them we fight on.



This peasant farmer's land has a 200 meter wide cleared corridor where
the two oil pipelines pass through. The pipelines have disrupted water
supplies so badly that he can no longer work the farm.  He has lost his
fish ponds and a small mine as well as his animals and his crops. His
family has moved away.

Many of the families displaced off their land by the pipelines have
moved to Medellin, where they live on the city's rubbish tip in the
Moravia district.

They have to send their children out to sell sweets at traffic lights.
They are obliged to pay for the right of a day's work recycling bits
>from the incoming rubbish, from which they might clear £3.

The farms in the north east of Antioquia are wonderfully productive. It
is not unusual to find a peasant proudly listing the twenty or thirty
different types of fruit he cultivates on his land. And around there it
also a mining region, with gold deposits streaking under the rolling

After decades of struggle, the peasants had by the 1980s established
titles to their land, they had a fairly settled life, their families
were growing.

But their land was on the export route between the oilfields in central
and eastern Colombia, and the outlets to the US and European markets.
And driven on by the neoliberal mantra, the Colombian government was
desperate for export earnings. It was ready to do everything it could to
help BP and the other multinationals transport their oil cheaply to
market. The peasants' lands stood in the way of 'Progress'.

And  Progress moved very fast. Without bothering with environmental
impact studies, the state oil corporation completed the first pipeline
in 1991. The damage grew progressively worse. As the disruption to water
courses accumulated, mudslides avalanched down onto the farms, wells
dried up, springs were covered over and the streams died.  Where before
there was running water, the land became a boggy mess. The cows got
caught in holes and couldn't get out. Other animals ate away at the
pipeline's restraining sacking, which choked them to death. The
peasants got a deputy to raise their complaints in Antioquia's assembly.

But this was not enough Progress. A second pipeline was needed to
transport the oil from BP's massive new oilfields. It was already clear
the type of damage that would be caused, unless appropriate
preventative and remedial action was taken, which would cost. The
peasants made it clear they did not want the second pipeline. When the
earthmoving equipment arrived they mounted a day and night protest
blockade. It took the army to clear them.

The army unit posted to guard the pipeline violated the local
population. A woman was raped, but in Colombia there is impunity for
such crimes against the people.

The displaced peasants now live in absolute poverty. "When we arrived we
had no money, my sister helped us a bit. There is more than 80%
unemployment here - we can't get work."

"I have a back problem, I hurt it rescuing a calf from a hole. It is
very painful, so I can't work now. But the operation would cost £600."

"My daugther is 13 years old. She is out selling on the streets. I can't
tell you how worried I am."

It is not hard to summarise the peasants' feelings. They have an all
embracing nostalgia, and a sense of bereavement for the land and the way
of life that they have lost. They want their land back, they want their
lives back. They deserve justice.


p22     LETTER TO BP

Lord John Browne
BP Group Chief Executive
12th April 2002

Dear Sir,

As a campaign group concerned with human rights in Colombia we are
hosting the visit to the United Kingdom of three Colombian lawyers. We
would like to arrange a meeting with BP at the most senior level as soon
possible so that the lawyers may present points to you.

The first set of cases are represented by Marta Hinestroza and Carlos
Sanchez. They concern the ODC pipeline constructed in 1990/91 and the
OCENSA pipeline constructed in 1995/6.  The claims are for damages as a
result of these pipelines by former occupants of land in the Zaragoza
and Segovia municipalities in Antioquia Department affecting 46 peasant
farms, that is 200 families or approximately 1,500 individuals. These
families have lost use of their land as a result of the environmental
damage, especially to water supplies, caused by the pipelines.

It is clear that BP has responsibility for the damage, it has been a
member of the pipeline consortia since their foundation. It was BP
Colombia who sought the licence to construct the pipelines from the
Environment Ministry. BP was involved in formulating the original
contracts with the peasant farmers in which they agreed for their land
to be used, and BP's agents were directly involved in paying the
derisory sums in lieu of damages that have been paid to the peasants.

ODC/OCENSA have adopted a consistently hostile attitude to the claimants
that is in direct contradiction to BP's declared corporate policies on
ethics and the environment. There has been considerable delay in
reaching a just settlement in these cases.

Meanwhile the peasants have been displaced off their land, and they are
existing in absolute poverty and in grief for loss of their way of life
as well as their livelihoods. Continuing delay and refusal to recognise
responsibility for the displaced peasants' loss has added to their

This issue was raised at last year's Annual General Meeting, but nothing
has been done.  Once again we urge that the BP group acknowledges the
pipeline victim's claim, commits to a just solution and immediately
ensures that its Colombia subsidiary adopts a more humane and socially
responsible attitude.

The second set of cases are represented by Claudia Sampedro. She has
raised cases that highlight serious problems in BP's environmental
policies in Colombia. They cover the broad concerns of a) application of
the preventative principle, b) duty to respect the natural habitat, and
c) the obligation to pay for the use and consumption of natural

The two Popular Actions have been lodged in the Colombian legal system
in defence of collective rights. The action raised in 1997 concerns gas
contamination in Tauramena, and the action raised in 2000 concerns
diversion of waters from the Cusiana River. Both actions raise the
following issues concerning BP's Colombia operation:
a) the irrational use of water and gas;
b) non-payment for the water and gas used in oil exploitation;
c) consequential deterioration and contamination of the environment.

Together these factors highlight the need to discuss Contracts of
Association that only pay for one natural resource, oil, when three are
being used, i.e. oil, gas and water.

In sum, we believe that these issues are both urgent and important and
should be addressed by BP's executive. And we believe that they are
significant for BP's shareholders and the public at large as they go
right to the heart of the debate concerning corporate social
responsibility. We therefore urge you to arrange a meeting with
ourselves and the three Colombia lawyers as soon as possible, that is
early next week. I can be contacted on the above telephone to arrange
this meeting.

Yours sincerely,
Andy Higginbottom
Co-ordinator Colombia Solidarity Campaign



MAP: BP's pipelines run from south of Barrancabermeja and Casanare to
Coveñas. The more northern Caño Limon pipeline is used by the US
multinational Occidental.

The first pipeline was built in 1990/91 by the state oil corporation
Ecopetrol. It set up a special company ODC to run the project. The ODC
pipeline is 480km long, starts in the central Magdalena valley, and ends
at the Caribbean port of Coveñas.

The pipe was laid along the higher ground of undulating terrain, with
the peasant plots directly below. ODC stripped all the trees from along
the pipeline corridor, leaving it without vegetation, exposed to water
and wind erosion. The earth moving operations caused avalanches, blocked
springs and diverted streams. Works for the pipeline destroyed 150 water
sources along the Zaragoza section alone.  ODC's restoration work was
carried out badly, topsoil was not replaced, and sacks of earth had
rotten away within a few months. Farm animals that ate the synthetic
sacking were poisoned. The peasants lost their fruit trees and other

In the early 1990s, getting its Casanare production to the Caribbean was
a crucial challenge for BP. In December 1994 BP formed a new company
             called Oleoducto Central, S.A. (OCENSA), partnered by Ecopetrol, two
Canadian companies, and the oil operators Total and Triton. OCENSA
managed the construction of a 800 km pipeline which crosses the eastern
Andes, before it meets up with the ODC line, running alongside it north
to Coveñas.

BP got directly involved with communities along its new pipeline.
David Arce Rojas, the agent of BP Exploration Company (Colombia), signed
detailed eight page contracts with the peasant proprietors. The
contracts agreed compensation for a strip of land just 12.5 metres wide.
The compensation rate was 400 pesos (worth about 25p at the time) per
square metre of this strip, plus any additional damages. Between June
1995 and March 1996 BP made three payments to each smallholder. In one
typical case the peasant family's total compensation package was for
1,576,250 pesos, about £1,000 or £4 per metre of pipeline at 1996
exchange rates.

The OCENSA line came on-stream in 1996, by which time the security
situation had deteriorated in the Zaragoza region.  Army units enforced
a civilian free corridor for 100meters on either side of the double
pipeline. The army brought in a 6pm to 6am curfew, which curtailed
locals' access to their own land, and for some to their homes.

The combined effects of additional erosion from the second pipeline and
the curfew meant that instead of losing use of a narrow corridor, the
peasants had lost use of their entire holdings.

OCENSA now represents ODC's interests as well as its own in the dispute
with the peasants. The peasants have been forced to quit their homes and
have fallen into acute poverty in the outskirts of Medellin. They have
lost everything. The peasants sum up their predicament with the saying,
"My shirt has no value to you, but for me it has". Five families are
still seeking compensation from ODC for damages and loss of income.

A second group of twenty families has claims against OCENSA for damages
caused by BP's Cusiana pipeline. A third group of families from Segovia
is also claiming. There is ample evidence. A report by two officials of
the Zaragoza court summarises the damage as "constant erosion, scarce
re-vegetation, and fundamentally the total lack of water".

OCENSA has so far refused to make a settlement beyond the original
payment. Its spokesman claims that, "No company has had such
environmental responsibility. We've
done things well".



The BP group has worldwide oil production interests totaling 1,931
thousand barrels of oil a day (tbd). The main centres are the North Sea
producing 580 tbd, Alaska which yields 288 tbd and other parts of the
USA which together produce 456 tbd, including expanding production in
the Gulf of Mexico. BP's sales as well as production are strongly
oriented towards the USA, where the company receives 45% of its sales
income - 40% of sales are in Europe and 15% in the rest of the world. BP
is a global operator.

The company has enjoyed bumper profits for the last two years. Thanks to
high oil prices, 2000 was a record year for BP, it made the biggest
profits ever of a British company. Oil prices fell by 15% in 2001, so
results for last year presented at this AGM were never going to surpass
BP's own record profits. Nonetheless the profits from this global
enterprise remain fabulous.  BP's Annual Report notes a profit result of
$13.18 billion for year 2001, that is £9.2 billion, which means that the
company has been clearing profits of just over £1 million an hour, every
hour. Of this $4.935 billion was paid out in shareholder dividends, an
increase over 2000. The rate of profit remains exceptionally high, with
a return of 19% on average capital employed.

Although BP has over 350,000 shareholders, share ownership is highly
concentrated with just 903 shareholders each holding over a million
shares, that is nearly 94% of the total share capital.  The Prudential
holds at least 1.2 million preference shares, while the Co-operative
Insurance Society Limited holds over 3 million preference shares.

It is not only BP's shareholders who have been doing nicely. The
company's top executives are very well paid indeed. Peter Sutherland,
BP's part time chairman who is also a director of Goldman Sachs, enjoyed
a 75% remuneration increase from £160,000 to £280,000 in 2001. But BP's
Chief Executive, Lord John Browne, caps even that with a salary package
of over £3 million plus shares worth a further estimated £6 million.

BP's Big Porkies

"In Colombia, where we are a major oil producer, we have been closely
involved with local people and local authorities in Casanare to ensure
that the wealth generated by our production furthers the area's economic
and social development.  These efforts include promoting a more open
relationship with the security forces in this area of violent conflict.

Our own security and success are inextricably linked with those of the
community. Experience over more than a decade in Casanare has taught us
that improving the well-being of local communities must go hand in hand
with the development of any project." Annual Report for 2001



Question 1 - The Pipelines

In the Annual Report John Browne states that  "We have to show too that
our activities are conducted in line with high ethical standards, and
that we are contributing to human progress in all the communities in
which we work". The report states unequivocally that "Unethical
behaviour is not tolerated."  The company claims "We will pursue our
business with integrity, respecting the different cultures and the
dignity and rights of individuals in all the countries where we

Why then is BP in Colombia behaving so unethically? Why is it that BP
Colombia tricked peasants living along the ODC and OCENSA pipelines into
receiving derisory compensation and continues to refuse to pay them
reasonable damages for the pipelines' destruction of water supplies that
has driven the peasants off their lands and into absolute poverty? How
much longer is this unethical behaviour going to be tolerated?

In October last year the company appointed a director of business
ethics. Will this director intervene directly to ensure progress in
settling the claim of the peasant communities from Zaragoza and Segovia?

Question 2 - BP's Operation in Cusiana

According to Peter Sutherland and John Browne's introduction  to the
Annual Report "good business depends on making a positive impact on the
lives of the people we touch by striving to operate in a way that does
no harm to the environment"  and elsewhere  the company states "BP has a
simply stated goal - to do no damage to the environment." BP Colombia
has fallen woefully short of this goal.

Why is it that in BP's operations in Cusiana in Colombia gas is being
burned off causing noise and light pollution as well as chemical
contamination, rather than the gas being recycled in a sustainable,
environmentally friendly approach? And why is BP diverting water from
the Cusiana river and underground reservoirs, and injecting it into the
wells to pump out oil?

If BP were serious about the goal of no damage to the environment it
would immediately change these practices. Or are we to believe that this
goal is just for publicity and the gullible while the people in Colombia
are expected to continue to suffer behind a smokescreen of
misinformation and the sinister intimidation to their lives that the
company's critics face?

Question 3  - Carlos Vargas Suarez

In light of the corporate policy of transparency can you explain why BP
refused to co-operate with a crucial investigation by the respected
Human Rights Unit of Colombia's Attorney General into the assassination
on 2nd December 1998 of Carlos Vargas Suarez, the environmental
regulator for the Orinoco basin, when they were asked for the names of
your security personnel who left the country within days of his murder?

And is it a coincidence that Carlos Vargas Suarez was about to blow the
whistle on corruption in the awarding of environmental licenses to oil
companies like yourselves?



Despite the fact that a company contracted by the US government to carry
out its program of fumigating and eradicating coca crops in Colombia has
been caught smuggling heroin out of the country, no attempts have been
made to bring it to justice. For more than a year the Office of
Prosecutions has failed to render a decision on the case, while the
police official responsible for setting the whole process in motion has
since retired from active duty. This is not the first time a case
against DynCorp employees has disappeared in the labyrinth known as
Colombia's judicial system.

On May 12, 2000, according to an official US Drug Enforcement
Administration document obtained by The Nation magazine under the
Freedom of Information Act, Colombian police intercepted a parcel sent
>from DynCorp's Colombia offices to its air base in Florida.

Colombian authorities discovered two small bottles of a thick liquid in
a package which, when tested, was found to be laced with heroin worth
more than $100,000. When authorities discovered the name of the company
responsible for shipping the heroin they turned the results of the
'narcotest' over to the Immediate Reaction Unit, which then set into
motion prosecution procedure 483064. However, the heroin bust remained a
secret for more than a year until The Nation began its investigation and
now it seems the evidence has simply disappeared.

Apparently, a similar situation occurred last year when 29-year-old
Michael Demons, a paramedic member of DynCorp's team, suffered a cardiac
arrest and was taken to a hospital in Florencia, in southeastern
Colombia, where he died. Forensic tests conducted at the time revealed
that the cause of death was a cocaine overdose. Mysteriously, when the
Colombian Central Office of Prosecutions took an interest in the death
and requested more information, all related documents, such as the legal
medical reports, vanished.

And two years ago, the records of ten DynCorp employees involved in the
illicit trade of amphetamines also disappeared. "Faced with evidence of
the scandal, DynCorp decided to expel these employees from the country
and so drop the heat on the issue," a government investigator told
Colombia's Semana magazine.

These discoveries might only be the tip of the iceberg as DynCorp's
activities are conducted in absolute secrecy and appear to be beyond the
jurisdiction of any governmental body. A high ranking police official in
Colombia, who has known about DynCorp since their 1993 arrival in
Colombia, told Semana magazine, "no authority, whether the Civil
Aviation Authority, police or army, is authorized to search DynCorp's
planes. Nobody knows what they carry on their return to the United
States because they are untouchable."

Some Colombian officials who disagree with DynCorp's involvement in
Colombia believe the pilots of the company are nothing more than
mercenaries who travel around the world offering their services.
According to another high-ranking police official who did not wish to
disclose his name, "They are very difficult people to deal with. Most of
them consume large amounts of drugs. Many inject before flying. Several
officials have had open confrontations with these pilots because they
don't respect the disciplines of military bases. And our officials don't
accept that these people, no matter how experienced they are in the
field of war, consume drugs on military grounds".

According to the Guardian Weekly, the US government's contract with
DynCorp is full of ambiguities, giving the company even more leeway to
avoid oversight by both Colombian and US authorities. This not only
increases the opportunities for DynCorp employees to personally profit
>from drug-trafficking, but also enables the company to conduct counter-
insurgency operations for the US government that go far beyond their
official role of assessing and implementing the fumigation of illicit

The lack of transparency with regards to DynCorp's role in Colombia has
led Human Rights Watch to accuse the Pentagon of using companies like
DynCorp to violate conditions demanded by the United States Congress
when it approved Plan Colombia. The US aid package allows for a maximum
of 500 troops and 300 civilian contractors in Colombia at any given
time. But according to Human Rights Watch, the policy of subcontracting
the war has resulted in some 1,000 professionals with links to the
United States working in Colombia, many of whom have retired from US
Special Forces and are now employed by private companies like DynCorp.

Consequently, Washington is sitting pretty. It may secretly approve of
and encourage counter-insurgency operations conducted by DynCorp, but it
doesn't have to take responsibility for them. Clearly, serious questions
need to be answered regarding the role of both the US government and
DynCorp in Plan Colombia and why personnel from DynCorp are being
implicated in drug trafficking.

The fact that nothing has been done to bring DynCorp employees to
justice implies a high level of corruption and complicity with regards
to these crimes. It also raises the question as to why a poor Colombian
drug smuggling mule should be sentenced to many years in prison while
highly paid US mercenaries remain 'untouchable'.

Robert Lawson, English Ecologists in support of Campesinos of Colombia



SINALTRAINAL the Colombian National Food Industry Worker's Union has
been the victim of a systematic campaign of destruction, which has seen
the assassination of 14 union leaders (7 from Coca-Cola).

Crimes committed by Coca-Cola and the Colombian state against workers,
SINALTRAINAL, and the environment, have remained in total impunity. The
Colombian judiciary has neither investigated nor punished those
responsible for these crimes, allowing these repressive policies to
quash dreams of building a more just society.

As we no longer believe in the impartiality nor the objectivity of the
Colombian justice system, we are calling upon international public
opinion so that these crimes be judged and sentences pronounced. We have
decided to convene an International Public Hearing, which will be
divided into 3 sessions:
· The 1st session will be held on July 22, 2002 in Atlanta, USA.
· The 2nd session will be held on October 12, 2002 in Brussels, Belgium.
· The 3rd session will be held on December 5, 2002 in Bogota, Colombia.

There are many different ways you can support the Hearing:
· Become an official endorser (either individually or your organization)
· Letting other individuals or organizations know about it
· Making a financial contribution to the Hearing.
· Participating in the sessions of the Hearing, and working to carry out
its conclusions.

Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Alimentos

Carrera 15 No. 35-18. Telephone: 2 45 53 25 and 2 32 46 26. Bogota,




Mineworkers union  SINTRAMIENERGETICA and the families of three murdered
union leaders have raised a civil action in the US District Court in
Alabama, demanding a jury trial for equitable relief and damages,
against the Drummond Company and Gary Drummond. "We have evidence that
the paramilitaries who killed the three union leaders were in fact
working for Drummond," said Terry Collingsworth of the International
Labor Rights Fund, that with the United Steelworkers is suing Drummond.

In the 1990's, with forecasts that Alabama's coal reserves would soon be
depleted, Drummond looked to Colombia. It invested more than $500
million in its huge La Loma mine, opened in 1994.

Last March, when the mine was in a bitter dispute with
SINTRAMIENERGETICA, the union's president, Valmore Lacarno Rodrguez, and
its vice president, Victor Hugo Orcasita Amaya, were assassinated. The
recent lawsuit, brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, contends that
several paramilitary gunmen stopped a company bus carrying miners back
to their villages and ordered Mr. Lacarno and Mr. Orcasita off.
"Several witnesses heard the paramilitaries say that they were there to
settle a dispute that Lacarno and Orcasita had with Drummond," the
lawsuit said.

Fearing assassination, Mr. Lacarno and Mr. Orcasita had asked the
company to let them sleep at the mine. Drummond officials refused. Last
October, seven months after the two leaders were killed, Gustavo Soler
Mora, the new president of the union at Drummond's mine, was ordered off
a bus by gunmen. Farmers later found his body. He had been shot twice in
the head.

Francisco Ramírez, secretary of the Colombia Federation of Mine Workers
points out that "Drummond could have stopped these assassinations, but
they chose not to, We've brought suit in the United States as a last
resort because there is no punishment in Colombia against those who
commit crimes against union leaders."



18th April marks the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Eduardo
Umaña Mendoza, one of the bravest and most influential Colombians of
modern times.

Eduardo was a campaigning human rights lawyer who combined rigorous
commitment to scientific method with respect for people in struggle. He
was enormously admired, his funeral occasioned a national stoppage, and
his inspiration is still cherished in the mass movement. The themes that
he was focussing on at the time of his death are still dominant issues,
they can be seen for example in the work of our solidarity campaign: the
criminality of the state, the fight against impunity,  and the
criminalisation of social protest against the multinationals' takeover
of Colombia's resources.

Eduardo wrote 'To The Workers of the World' in February 1998, just two
months before his death. It is a searing indictment of the repression
faced by the oilworkers union USO in which Umaña showed how military
intelligence interfered in the system of 'justice without a face', the
juryless courts used to incarcerate political opponents featuring
testimonies from informants and absurd judicial decisions.

In his last few months Eduardo was also working feverishly to help the
telecommunications workers union to expose the corruption involved in
privatisation of their sector, a story which is still unfolding.
>>From a statement issued by Colombian human rights and social
organisations at the time:

"On this day, 18th April 1998, in his home in the district of Nicolas de
Federman, to the north-west of Bogotá, Eduardo Umaña Mendoza, the
criminal lawyer and human rights defender was killed in a vile and
cowardly manner, with two shots in the head, by severalarmed individuals
dressed in civilian clothes who broke the security of the residential
block and got into his flat....

The violent death of Eduardo Umaña Mendoza is part of a wave of
persecutions, attacks, disappearances and assassinations of human rights
defenders - some very well known, others anonymous - that has been going
on in our country for more than a decade and has intensified in the last
three years. This mournful fact occurs in the context of a generalised
climate of hostility to defenders of human rights, tolerated for several
years by successive governments, which have insisted on accusing human
rights defenders as enemies of state institutions and allies or
spokespeople for the guerilla groups. A climate in which functionaries
of the military or security organs of the State, or members of
paramilitary groups, feel that it is a good thing or a patriotic thing,
rather than a treacherous and cowardly crime, if they take the life of a
human rights defender...

Eduardo Umaña Mendoza was from the beginning of the 1970s an unselfish
fighter for human rights. He dedicated his efforts, his intelligence and
his passion to an intransigent defence of the weakest and those
persecuted for political reasons, through the exercise of his profession
as a lawyer, with his capacities for investigation, for criticism, for
polemic and for public denunciation of grave violations of human rights.
In 1977 he was an active founding member of the Committee for Solidarity
with Political Prisoners and in 1978, together with other professional
human rights workers, he founded the Lawyers Collective 'José Alvera
Restrepo', in which he participated until 1994. From then he continued
with his brilliant work from a corner of his home, until the assassins
cowardly entered to take his life..."



La capacidad física de las carceles colombianas es mas o menos de 28 a
30 mil personas. Hay una población carcelaria de 55 a 56 mil personas.
Aqui practicamente  es desconocida una causión o cualquier otro
mecanismo que asegure que la persona no vaya a la carcel antes de ser
juzgada, me entiende que la persona es sindicada ya es traida a la
carcel sin ninguna razon para estar preso. De esos 55.000 presos se
puede  decir que el 60% o la mitad no son condenados sino sindicados.
Uno de los problemas es la lentitud que opera la justicia, aqui una
persona puede durar en proceso 3 o 5 años sin que se sepa todavía si es
culpable o no.

Las condiciones
El nivel de vida en las carceles es muy difícil, teniendo en cuenta las
condiciones mismas de falta de educación, recreación y posibilidades de
trabajo. Las carceles colombianas en su mayoría son construcciones  muy
antiguas que tienen mas de 50 años. La celda  es un espacio de 3 metros
cuadrados sin condiciones sanitarias, solo es el espacio para dormir.

En La Modelo por ejemplo, en una celda puede haber 3 a 4 personas y en
otras hay de 1 a 2 personas.  En La Modelo hay tantas personas que ya no
solo duermen en las celdas sino también en los pasillos, en los baños,
en los patios. Eso llevo a que hace 2 años la Corte Constitucional
declaró un estado de inconstitucionalidad en las carceles porque decía
que los derechos humanos y los derechos fundamentales no eran respetados
dentro de las carceles. Hace poco hubo un pronunciamiento de las
Naciones Unidas en el mismo sentido la violación de derechos humanos en
las carceles era permanente de parte del estado.

Mesas de trabajo
Los presos políticos son mas o menos el 10% de la población carcelaria.
Todos los presos conviven juntos en los mismo lugares; aún con los
paramilitares que son los causantes de la mayoría de los actos
violentos, disturbios y malestar dentro de las carceles. Los
paramilitares son numéricamente pocos; pero gozan de un poder porque
ellos tienen conexiones dentro de los estamentos del estado, el
ejército. El objetivo de ellos es el control y manejo de las carceles.

Hace aproximadamente cuatro años  en todas las carceles colombianas
convivían en los mismos patios todos los paramilitares, presos sociales
y políticos, y se presentaron conflictos armados donde huvieron muertos;
y por tal situación fueron separados; pero no en todas las carceles.
Hace poco en algunas ciudades intermedias han ocurridos actos violentos.

Tradicionalmente desde hace unos veinte o veinticinco años han existido
organizaciones con finalidades de mejorar las condiciones de vida de los
presos; pero en los ultimos años los presos políticos y los sociales nos
hemos organizados juntos para exigir el mejoramiento de las condiciones
de vida en las carceles. Hace cuatros años se creó una forma de
organización nueva que se llamó la mesa de trabajo; fue el resultado de
una serie de motines y levantamientos ocurridas en el año 97 debido a
las condiciones de encierro de los reclusos. En ese año hubo alrededor
de cien motines.

Para ese entonces habían alrededor de 167 carceles y eso llevo al
gobierno a tener que aceptar la figura de la Mesa de Trabajo donde se
sentaron representantes de los presos, gobierno y algunas de las
instituciones interesadas en ayudar a mediar. Se institucionalizó la
Mesa de Trabajo como un mecanismo donde el gobierno reconoce la
participación de los presos. Pueden hacer propuestas y discutir temas
importantes. A su vez los presos puedan relacionarse con la rama
administrativa, u otras organizaciones del estado. En la mayoría de las
carceles hay Mesas de Trabajo.

Las Mesas de Trabajo hay respresentación de todos los sectores. La mesa
de trabajo ha sido muy importante por que ha permitido canalizar la
inquietudes, pretende crear un medio pacifico, un proceso de paz y
convivencia entre los presos. Buscar disminuir los enfrentamientos
dentro de los mismos presos.

Una de las cosas que se ha pretendido acabar es el cobro, cuando uno
llegaba a la carcel para poder entrar a un patio tenía que pagar, para
entrar a una celda había que pagar. Eso dependía mucho de existencia de
bandas que habían dentro de las carceles; que vivían de eso . Esa
situación todavía se presenta en muchas carceles; pero en las carceles
grandes o mas pobladas se ha venido trabajando para acabar con ese tipo
de practicas aunque no se ha conseguido del todo. Pero ya también hay un
numero de carceles donde no se permite cobrarle a la gente. No se
permite que se mate a la gente por cualquier cosa, donde no se permite
esa violencia que se daba todos los dias.

Hoy en dia es muy extraño, al menos de las carceles grandes, que se
presenten violencia de parte de la guardia contra los presos. Hay
denuncias de una carcel que esta ubicada en un ciudad que se llama Tunja
y la carcel se llama el Barrio, de allí  se reciben 1000 quejas de
violencia por parte de la guardia.

Estamos en manos de nuestro enemigos
Nosotros estamos en una situación muy particular, estamos en manos de
nuestro enemigos por lo tanto las relaciones de la insurgencia y el
gobierno nos afectan.

Cuando se presentan rupturas de dialogo, se toman represarias contra los
presos,  se producen traslados para carceles de seguridad o se recortan
los beneficios de seguridad.  En general lo que nosotros pensamos de
este proceso de dialogos esta muy lejos deconseguir los resultados que
se pretende, porque nos parece que el gobierno esta utilisando este
proceso de negociación en dos sentidos por una parte para lograr apoyo
internaciónal para conseguir recursos y por otra parte esta utilisando
este proceso como una maniobra de distracción dentro de nuestro mismo

Concretamente, mientras el gobierno habla de paz esta tomando medidas
económicas que son dificiles de desmontar para la mayoría del pueblo. La
aplicación de este modelo neoliberal que biene dandose en estos ultimos
años se ha venido agudizando están cerrando empresas, el gobierno esta
dejando de lado responsabilidades  en materia de salud y educación.

En esas condiciones es muy dificil hablar de paz porque en Colombia se
viene dando un proceso de empobrecimiento de la población. Aqui en los
ultimos 5 años se ha desaparecido las clases medias. La desaparición de
las clases medias ha influido en el desarrollo de la derecha y el
desarollo de el paramilitarismo. Políticamente se puede decir que
Colombia esta en un proceso hacía la derecha.

Todas estas clase medias se han creido la propaganda de el gobierno que
la insurgencia es la culpable de la crisis de provocar lo que se esta
dando y no son conscientes de eso no es culpa de la insurgencia sino
culpa de una política- económica que se viene aplicando. Por ejemplo, a
la fecha de hoy han sido despedidos 20 a 30 mil personas que trabajaban
en el estado anteriormente. Ahora mismo en Cali se viene presentando una
toma de trabajadores de las oficinas publicas como resultado de la
privatisación que se pretende hacer de esas empresas.

El Plan Colombia para las carceles
El regimén es las visitas occuren en los fines de semana, el sabado de
hombres y el domingo de mujeres.  Ultimamente se han venido construyendo
un nuevo modelo de carceles de alta seguridad, son carceles de castigo
En esas carceles se aplica un regimen diferente donde las personas viven
mucho mas aisladas y las posibilidades de visitas son reducidas a por
haya cuarenta dias son mucho mas aisladas sin posibilidad de visitas.

En este momento existen 3 carceles de alta seguridad y están en
construcción otras cuantas en poco tiempo van a inagaurar dos mas con
asesoria del gobierno norteamericano. Se pretende es llegar a un tipo de
carcel donde el modelo o la función no sea resocialiación del recluso;
sino el castigo.

La ayuda norteamericana se ha disfrazado bajo la consigna de la lucha
contra las drogas y por la lucha contra las drogas empieza en su propio
territorio , la lucha contra el consumo de drogas tan elevado que se da
alla; pero lo que no hace EE.UU en su propio territorio lo viene hacer
aqui; pero sabemos es que esa lucha es contrainsurgente. Pretende frenar
el desarrollo de las organizaciones armadas y el desarrollo de la lucha
popular. Se aquerido plantear que es un plan de ayuda para el desarrollo
colombiano; cuando en realidad es un plan para el proceso de guerra

La perspectiva del gobierno norteamericano y el colombiano es construir
carceles de alta seguridad para cambiar el modelo de justicia que hay en
Colombia contradiciendo la ley y la constitución. El proposito es
venganza y no de resocializar.

Cuando contruyeron la carcel de Valledupar dijeron alli no se van a
llevar presos politicos y en este momento hay treinta o cuarenta presos
políticos en esas condiciones infrahumanas y sabemos que el numero va
aumentar. Ahora ya han construidos dos carceles que ya están casi
terminadas una en Popayan y otra en Santa Rosa de Viterbo, y por las
informaciones que hemos recibidos los pisos son subterraneos, donde el
aislamiento es total y son carceles contruidas para los presos
políticos. Para impedir que se puedan hacer denuncias, por que no
permiten ningun tipo de trabajo.

No existen Mesas de Trabajo en las carceles de maxima seguridad. Estamos
empenados en exigir al INPEC el reconociemiento de las mesas de trabajo
en las carceles de alta seguridad.  Para nosotros es importante que se
empieze de nunciar en el exterior las condiciónes de estas carceles son

Estas condiciones buscan  quebrar la resistencia y la voluntad del preso
y  también desanimar a su familia para que no vaya a visitarlo. En esas
carceles estan estructuradas por sectores; pero el aislamiento consiste
en no tener ningún contacto con el exterior, con nadie que venga de

A nosotros nos gustaría que existiera posibilidades de que no solamente
en Inglaterra sino en Europa se conociera la situación carcelaria en
Colombia.  Y el mismo estado colombiano en cabeza de la Corte
Constuticional esta diciendo que en Colombia en las carceles se violan
los derechos humanos y las Naciones Unidas; para nosotros es imperativo
y es urgente que haya un pronunciamiento  y solidaridad no solamente de
los colombianos que viven en el exterior, si no de la gente de otros
paises. Que se conozca mas la realidad carcelaria en el pais.

Que se hagan campanas de denuncia, que se presióne al gobierno
colombiano ha que tome  acciónes concretas en el mejorameinto de la
situación cacelaria.

Será un articulo por Frances Meyler-Kadioglu de la Haldane Society of
Socialist Lawyers en la edición entrante.



The physical capacity of Colombian prisons is more or less 28 to 30,000
people. There is a prison population of between 55 and 56,000.  In this
country it is practically unknown to receive bail or whatever mechanism
to avoid a person coming to prison before their trial. So that people
are brought to prison just on a charge. Of the 55,000 prisoners maybe
about 60%, at least half, are charged but not sentenced. One of the
problems is the slowness of the judicial process. A person may wait in
prison for 3 to 5 years without knowing whether they will be found
innocent or guilty.

Life is very difficult in the jails, taking into account that conditions
include lack of education, recreation or possibilities to work.
Colombian prisons are in the main old, built more than 50 years ago.

The cell is 3 square meters, without sanitary facilities.  It is only a
space to sleep. In La Modelo for example, there may be 3 or 4 prisoners
in such a cell, although in other prisons it is 1or 2 prisoners per
cell. La Modelo is so overcrowded that inmates don't only sleep in the
cells, but in the passages, bathrooms and in the yards. This meant that
2 years ago the Constitutional Court declared that there was an
unconstitutional state in the prisons, saying that human rights and
fundamental rights were not being respected in the prisons. And recently
the United Nations made a similar pronouncement, that prisoners human
rights are being permanently violated by the state.

Work Commissions
Political prisoners form about 10% of the prison population. All the
prisoners live together in the same place, although the paramilitary
prisoners are the cause of the majority the violent acts inside the
prisons. The paras are few numerically, but they enjoy power because
they have connections with the foundation of the state, the army. Their
objective is to control and manage the prisons.

Until about 4 years ago the paramilitaries, the social prisoners and the
political prisoners used to these sorts of practice, although that hs
not yet been completely achieved. But there are now some prisons where
charging is not allowed. Nor is it permitted that inmates are killed for
whatever cause, that there is no more violence as used be given out all
the time.

Today it is very unusual, at least in the larger prisons, for the guards
to act violently towards the prisoners.  There are [however] serious
complaints about what has happened in El Barrio prison which is in
Tunja.  There have been  a thousand complaints of violence by the

We are in the hands of our enemy
We are in a very particular situation, we are in our enemy's hands.
Therefore relations between the guerilla movements and the government
affect us. When the talks break down, reprisals are taken against us
political prisoners. We are moved to security prisons or our benefits
are cut.

In general we think that this process of talks is very far from reaching
results that it is supposed to be aiming for.  It seems to us that the
government is using the talks, or this negotiation process, in two ways.
On the one hand it is using the process to get international financial
support, and on the other hand it is using the talks as a manoeuvre to
distract attention inside the country.

Specifically, while the government is talking of peace it is
implementing economic measures that are causing difficulties for the
majority of our people. The application of the neoliberal model has been
so strong these last few years that it has accelerated the closing down
of businesses.  And now the government is giving up on its
responsibility to provide health and education.

It is very difficult to speak of peace in these conditions, when the
Government is directing a programme to impoverish the population. The
middle classes have disappeared in the last 5 years. And this
disappearance of the middle classes has influenced the development of
the right and the development of paramilitarism.

Colombia is moving to the right politically. All the middle classes have
believed the government's propaganda  that it is the insurgency [the
guerilla movements] that is to blame for the crisis, provoking it. They
do not realise that the crisis is a result of the government's own
economic policies. For example, just today there have been twenty or
thirty thousand people sacked. And right now in Cali there is an
occupation by the workers of public offices as a result of a
privatisation that the government is trying to impose on their

Plan Colombia's prison programme
Recently a new model of high security prisons has been constructed. They
are punishment prisons.

The standard visiting regime in Colombian prisons is that there are
weekly visits. They take place at weekends. Men come on Saturdays and
women visit on Sundays. The people in these new high security prisons
are much more isolated with visits reduced down to once every forty
days, or even more isolated without even the possibility of visits.

At this moment there are three high security prisons and some more are
under construction.  Two more will be inaugurated, thanks to the advice
of the US government.  What they are trying to reach is a form of prison
regime where there is no function of resocialisation of the inmate, only
their punishment.

US aid has been disguised under the slogan of the fight against drugs,
and anyway in the fight against drugs they [should] start on their own
territory and fight against the high levels of drug consumption that
they have there. What the USA does not do on its own territory they come
here to do. But we know that this is not a fight against drugs, it is
counterinsurgency. They are trying to stop the growth of the armed
organisations and the development of the popular struggle. They would
like to present it as a plan for the development of the Colombian
people, whereas in reality it is a plan to prosecute an internal war.

The US and Colombian governments' perspective is to build high security
prisons to change the model of justice in this country, in contradiction
to the law and the Constitution. The proposal is revenge, not
resocialisation of the prisoner.

When they built Valledupar High Security Prison they said it was to
house political prisoners there. So far there are thirty or forty
political prisoners who have been taken into its sub-human conditions,
and we know that this number will increase. They have built two other
prisons, one in Popayan and the other in Santa Rosa de Viterbo, that are
just about finished.  From the information we have been receiving these
prisons have underground floors, where the isolation is total, built for
the political prisoners. To stop the prisoners from making any protests,
they will not be allowed to do any work.

There are no Working Commissions in the maximum security prisons. We are
demanding that INPEC [the state prison authority] recognises Working
Commissons in high security prisons.

For us it is important that these shameful new prisons are denounced.
The purpose of these conditions is to crush the resistance and will of
the prisoner, and to discourage his family so that they don't visit him.
These prisons are built in sections, but the isolation consists in
having no contact with the outside world, not with anybody who comes
>from outside the prison.

We would like the prison situation in Colombia to be known in England
and the rest of Europe. The United Nations and the Colombian state
itself, in the form of the Constitutional Court, are saying that human
rights are being violated in Colombia's prisons. For us it is imperative
and urgent that there be statements and solidarity, not only from
Colombians who live outside the country, but also from people of other
countries so that are prison reality becomes known.  We want you to
initiate campaigns to denounce the situation, to put pressure on the
Colombian government to take concrete measures to improve the situation
of prisoners.
January 2002

There will be an article by Frances Meyler-Kadioglu of the Haldane
Society of Socialist Lawyers in the next edition.



Plan Colombia is part of a regional strategy and indeed of a continental
one.  It has a serious impact on all of its neighbours.  In the case of
Ecuador, on the Southern border of Colombia and very near some of the
operating zones of the FARC, I want to discuss four types of impact.
First I will look at the specific ramifications in terms of military
activity by the US.  Second I will describe some of the environmental
effects of the operations of Plan Colombia.  Then I want to look at the
economic and political implications of the Plan and of the general
direction of US policy at present.

Military Operations
The main focus of US military intervention in Ecuador has been the huge
Manta airbase on the coast of the province of Manabi.  An agreement for
its expansion was signed by the Ecuadorean government in 1999.  The base
has undergone a massive overhaul in the last couple of years to make it
a principal centre of USAF operations.  $62 million has been spent on
runway construction, hangars, accommodation for US personnel and
maintenance facilities.  There are now 400 US military personnel there.
The base is now ready to be the hub of US airborne surveillance, with
facilities for AWAC planes and KC-135 refuelling planes.  Also deployed,
according to the US Southern Command, are C-130 giant transport planes,
two US Coastguard P3s and one of two US Navy P3s.  These can cover the
whole Caribbean region and reach as far South as Bolivia, thus replacing
Panama as the major base for US flights.  It also houses Special
Operations forces.  Colonel Pausto Cobo, ex Director of the Ecuadorean
army's Escuela de Guerra, summed Manta up succinctly: "The base permits
the USA to intervene directly with strategic, operative, technological
and logistical means in its whole theatre of operations".

In terms of regional military training, there is the Coca (honest!)
jungle facility, which trains military personnel from Peru, Brazil and
Ecuador and has been in operation since March 1999. It is financed by
the US Defence Department.

There has also been increased joint military activity between US and
Ecuadorean forces, especially in the Amazon border regions with
Colombia.  The US provided $20 million to the Ecuadorean armed forces to
secure the border in 2001, with a further $76 million projected for
2002.  Ostensibly the funding is for operations to prevent incursions by
Colombian guerillas either for rest or for securing supplies. This in
itself is likely to bring increased militarisation and the displacement
of large numbers of refugees, as Plan Colombia has done inside the
country.  Colombian government helicopters have already made incursions
into Ecuador and paramilitaries from AUC have attacked Ecuadorean
indigenous people and forced them to abandon their land.  FARC
commanders in the Southern Bloc have indicated that Ecuador will be
regarded as a military target if its government continues to collaborate
with the North Americans in operations directed at the Colombian
guerilla.  Despite continual denials from Ecuadorean military sources,
it seems that the Ecuadorean army is already playing a de facto part in
the implementation of Plan Colombia in its operations in the FARC

US funding is also directed against coca growers in the region and in
particular it is part of a security operation for a big expansion of oil
company investment in the Ecuadorean Amazon.  There are 5,000 Ecuadorean
soldiers posted on the border at any one time.

A giant oil pipeline is under construction from the Amazon to the port
of Balao on the Pacific Coast near the Colombian border.  It will have a
capacity of 450,000 barrels per day and according to Ecuador's Energy
Minister Pablo Teran will double the country's productive capacity in
three years.  Once in place, it will allow expansion of drilling, with
US company Occidental committed to spending £1 billion to expand its
jungle operations.  Environmental objections to the plans have been
dismissed by President Noboa, who has pledged to allow no
"interference".  The pipeline is to cross traditional lands of
indigenous people, who may well find that the military operations
outlined above are used to clear the area of "undesirables".

The oil industry has wreaked truly terrible environmental destruction in
the Ecuadorean Amazon.  There has been widespread water pollution, the
appearance of new diseases and increased incidence of others, an utter
disregard for the cultural traditions of the region's people and of
course a brutal exploitation of the wealth of the area for the benefit
of the oil companies and their partners in the Ecuadorean establishment.
Plan Colombia will inevitably extend its project of clearing the way for
the multinationals into Ecuador and other neighbours.

As well as the plunder of the jungle by the oil companies, there have
been specific instances of environmental damage caused by the systematic
crop spraying in the South of Colombia.  The details of this have been
well publicised in terms of Colombia itself, but the water and eco-
systems of the region are such that, of course, the environmental damage
and human consequences of the use of highly toxic defoliants are not
confined to Colombia's borders.  Ecuadorean environmental and indigenous
activists have already been in Colombia to denounce the effects of
fumigation in the province of Sucumbios, presenting a detailed medical
report commissioned by Accion Ecologica and CONAIE, the Ecuadorean
Indigenous Peoples' Confederation.  The issue is part of an ongoing
conflict between CONAIE and Noboa's government.

Economic and Political Strategy
More generally, Ecuador is the target of the same economic and political
strategies as Colombia.  We are arguing today that Plan Colombia is
about clearing the way for the multi-nationals.  It is about regional
security for the interests of capital.  It is about breaking any
resistance to the neo-liberal economic agenda.  It is about the
criminalisation of dissent and its physical elimination where necessary
to achieve that agenda.  It is about throwing the region's economies
wide open to despoilation by the multinationals and the banks.  It is
about propping up corrupt, venal and brutal ruling classes who share in
the rape of their countries and the oppression and exploitation of their

Ecuador has seen all this in the last decade.  As a weak economy, it has
been an early victim of globalisation and the neo-liberal agenda.  It
has fallen deeper and deeper into debt, while foreign bankers and
individuals have enriched themselves.  Its industry and agriculture have
been devastated by the WTO/IMF free market models.  Its people have been
impoverished while its rich have grown richer and secured their
interests through dollar bank accounts in which to salt away the
proceeds of their corruption.  Its economy has been dollarised to fit
the needs of capital.  Its environment has been ruined and its
indigenous peoples ignored and oppressed.

Plan Colombia seeks to extend all this across the region and eventually
through the FTAA the project is for the whole continent.  Fortunately,
in Ecuador as in Colombia there is resistance, both to Plan Colombia
itself and its ramifications and to the neo-liberal model.  The popular
organisations and human rights groups in Ecuador are at one in their
denunciation of Plan Colombia, their government's slavish involvement in
it and the ever greater US incursion into their country.  This is part
of their own continuing resistance to their government, the bankers and
the neo-liberals project.

Andy Brown

index | Ecuador


PHOTO: Berenice Celeyta shows photos of the SINTRAEMCALI
occupation against privatisation to the TUC General Council

After the great success of the campaign's London conference on
23rd/24th February Berenice Celeyta, director of SINTRAEMCALI Human
Rights Department and Hector Vaca, member of the National Committee of
the USO oil workers union, accompanied by activists from the campaign
set off around the country for a two-week whistle stop tour of Britain
and the North of Ireland.

The aim of the tour was clear and simple: firstly to put the issue of
Colombia firmly on the political map, and secondly to begin the hard
work of moving the Colombia Solidarity Campaign from a largely London
based organisation to a truly national one, with branches in a range of
areas across Britain and in the North of Ireland.

Despite the demanding timetable Berenice and Hector were consistently
brilliant in their speeches and presentations, talking not just of the
pain and brutality of the situation in Colombia but also of the dignity
and heroism of the popular movement. In resistance to the imposition of
neo-liberalism the popular movement has taken on the monster of US
imperialism which in the interests of the multinationals has facilitated
and funded the dirty war which leads to thousands of political
assassinations every year in Colombia, and last year took the lives of
160 trade union leaders and activists.

While the focus of the tour was very much on the great victory of the
SINTRAEMCALI occupation, it was also more generally aimed at telling the
story of that 'other' Colombia which both the Colombian and
international press seek to keep hidden from view as they simplify and
obscure the real issues and present the conflict as one of only drugs
and guerilla.  Through clear and emotive speeches Berenice and Hector
talked of the scramble for resources in a country rich in oil, emeralds,
coal, water and a whole other range of minerals, and Colombia's
important geo-political location.

They talked of the long history of US intervention in Colombia and how
consistently the USA backed by other Western powers has been directly
implicated in directing and funding the 'dirty war' aimed against all
those sectors of Colombian society who seek to defend their natural
resources and struggle of peace with social justice.  Plan Colombia, is
but the latest in a whole range of imperial attempts to tame that
resistance.  But even against the formidable alliance of local elites
and the US, the Colombian resistance movement is not about to give up
its struggle.  This fact was clearly illustrated by examples from both
SINTRAEMCALI and USO which have fought a long and historic battle,
despite massive repression, in the search for peace with social justice.

After the conference, we divided forces and Hector Vaca went to
Sheffield to speak to supporters of the campaign, and Berenice Celeyta
went to Bristol.  Both meetings went well, and the Bristol meeting
particularly had a range of different people from the Labour movement,
the Socialist Worker Party, anarchists, church groups, and the academic
community which was a tribute to the politics of the Colombia Solidarity
Campaign which has attempted to unite under one banner a broad section
of the left in a similar manner to that which SINTRAEMCALI has achieved
so successfully in Colombia.  On Tuesday the tour moved to Manchester
where the local UNISON branch hosted a successful meeting and donated a
substantial amount to the campaign. On Wednesday morning Berenice
addressed the TUC General Council in London as a representative of
SINTRAEMCALI, and in the name of the workers and activists of the union
she thanked the TUC for their support durin the occupation of the CAM
Tower, and pushed forward the idea that it is only through struggle that
ordinary working class people can gain and defend their rights, and that
international solidarity was an important component of that.

We flew to Glasgow where we were hosted by Globalise Resistance at a
meeting of  200 people in the centre of the city, one of the highlights
of the tour.  The following day we met with different unions including
the regional committee of the FBU .  On Thursday evening we moved to
Edinburgh again hosted by GR at the University.

The following morning we split up, with Hector remaining in Scotland to
work with local unions, while Berenice and other members of the campaign
flew to Belfast for a 24 hour visit which took us to a range of meeting
with trade unions and local groups both in Belfast and also in Derry.
We were hosted by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and UNISON. In
Derry the meeting was organised by Derry Trades Council.  The warmth of
our reception in the North of Ireland was amazing and we were taken on a
brief tour of the political murals of Derry and to the memorial of those
Irish people murdered by British Imperialism on the Bloody Sunday

PHOTO: Berenice with Eamon McCann and Derry Trades Council banner

On Saturday we flew back to Glasgow where Berenice was one of the
keynote speakers at the annual conference of War on Want, and Hector
lead a workshop on Plan Colombia and the multinationals. On Sunday
Berenice and Hector addressed the Scottish Socialist Party's annual
conference in Dundee and received a warm reception.

On Monday we attended a meeting organised by Notts UNISON in Nottingham
Town Hall, and on Tuesday we went to Cardiff to meet with Colombia
Solidarity Campaign supporters setting up a local branch.  On Wednesday
Berenice and Hector spoke at the London School of Economics, and on
Thursday evening we threw a party in London to say thank you to Hector
Vaca who was leaving the following day. On Friday 8th March, Womens Day,
Berenice spoke to a meeting organised by local activists in Oxford. She
finished the tour that Sunday at the Fire Brigades Union Womens's
Conference, an invitation organised by Ken Cameron of the Justice for
Colombia campaign.

Everywhere we went we were met with great human warmth and enthusiasm,
and treated with kindness and respect.  On behalf of the Colombia
Solidarity Campaign and in the name of Berenice Celeyta and Hector Vaca
we would like to thank all those people who attended meetings, donated
money, fed us, looked after us and showed us that International
Solidarity in Britain and the north of Ireland is alive and kicking.
Let us now move forward together and create a powerful national
organisation with the strength to face the challenges of the coming year
in Colombia.

Mario Novelli



PHOTO: Hector Vaca of oilworkers union USO, whose presentation on the
multinationals and Colombia's oil was a highlight

The Colombia Solidarity Campaign's conference weekend 23rd/24th February
showed the enormous concern and interest there is in campaigning against
injustice in Colombia.

The Saturday day school on "Plan Colombia: Clearing the Way for the
Multinationals" started with a session on human rights. Caroline
Annesley, International Officer with UNISON reported on the delegation
to Cauca Valley last October. Berenice Celeyta,  on behalf of the Human
Rights Campaign Against Privatisation, Corruption and the
Criminalisation of Social Protest, and Hector Vaca,  USO Oilworkers
brought the situation up to date.

One workshop introduced by Susan Branford and Grace Livingstone examined
Plan Colombia's impact on the environment. In the other workshop a panel
of speakers addressed Plan Colombia in the context of Latin America.
John Smith (Argentina), David Raby (Venezuela) and Andy Brown (Ecuador)
led a real debate about the dynamics and significance of developments in

After lunch Andy Higginbottom argued that neoliberalism is now in crisis
in Colombia and, in what was for many the highlight of the dayschool,
Hector Vaca explained the history and political economy of the oil
multinationals in his country.

The International Solidarity Rally to celebrate SINTRAEMCALI's victory
over privatisation was dedicated to the memory of Julio Galeano, the
community activist assassinated two weeks previously. It was kicked off
with a tremendous performance by the massed ranks of the Strawberry
Thieves & Red and Green Socialist Choir.

An array of speakers shared what the victory meant for them - Christine
Hafiz (UNISON), Nick Dearden (War on Want), Frances Meyler (Haldane
Society of Socialist Lawyers), Tony Staunton (Socialist Worker), Dan
Glazebrook (Sussex University Students), Mario Novelli (writer from the
occupation), Hector Vaca, Dave Patton (Fire Brigades Union - just
returned from TUC delegation) and Berenice Celeyta for SINTRAEMCALI
Human Rights Department.

Already an evening to remember - which only ended after the fiesta with
live salsa played by Latino Na'ma.

The next morning we concentrated on the nexus between Britain and
Colombia with two workshops. One on the impact of BP in Colombia,
introduced by investigative journalist Michael Gillard, and another on
mining and dispossession led by Richard Solly and Roger Moody on El
Cerrejon, and Berenice Celeyta on Sur de Bolívar.

In the final session David Raby explained the basis and significance of
international tribunals, and we discussed amendments to the Campaign's
constitution, but unfortunately ran out of time. This process will have
to be completed at the next National Committee on 1st June.

The Conference had been completely illuminated by Berenice and Hector's
contribution. It established both the breadth of support  and depth of
understanding to start building a national solidarity movement.



Students at Sussex University who have been strongly involved in the
Colombia Solidarity Campaign hit the national press as their nine member
delegation to Palestine got caught in the Israeli state's latest
onslaught. The Sussex students are mostly members of the anti-
imperialist Che-Leila society. They joined a number of volunteers who
had gone to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people under
siege, which turned out to be literally the case.

That same week saw Israeli forces shoot live rounds at a peaceful
demonstration of international observers trying to break the blockade.
Three of the students were in Ramallah on the West Bank, on the day that
200 Israeli tanks rolled in.

Speaking over the phone to fellow Socialist Labour Party Youth members
in London Sukant Chandan said that one woman and one child were among
those killed, and that death toll was increasing by roughly one every
hour. As he was speaking on the phone he could hear Israeli gunfire. He
also reported that at least 25 people had been injured, and that
ambulances were not allowed to go and help the injured. Sukant, was
lodged with Dan and Zaki in a house on the outskirts of Ramallah. The
previous night they witnessed first hand five tanks (made in the US) and
one personnel carrier (made in Britain) rolling past.

Sukant reported that the delegation had met with a number of
organisations and activists, and that there was complete unity in the
Palestinian resistance: PFLP, DFLP, Fateh, Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade,
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, "all these groups have united for the common aim
of fighting a people's war of the Palestinian people for independence
and freedom, to overthrow Zionist oppression".  He said the delegation
was very proud to be in Ramallah, facing occupation and curfew with
President Arafat and the Palestinian people united in the Intifada,
adding that this occupation will do nothing to end the conflict, only
exacerbate it.

Dan Glazebrook's mother was on television defending her son's decision
to stand with the Palestinians. And between 150 and 200 people came to
welcome the students return at Heathrow airport.

Speaking at a rally in London on 10th April Dan Glazebrook said it was
good to see newspapers like the Daily Mirror criticising the USA, but it
is also important to see Britain's responsibility. Palestinian people he
met emphasised it was Britain that had caused the problems in the first
place. Britain is still backing Zionism, with £11 million arms sales to
Israel last year, including rifles, parts for helicopter gunships and
the Armoured Personnel Carriers the delegation had seen.

The man from the British consulate had told Dan that the Israelis should
use similar strategies that the British colonial forces had pioneered in
Malaya, and launch a 'hearts and minds' initiative to win over the
natives. He advised the Israeli military that if they said 'please'
and 'thankyou' at their checkpoints it would help.

index | Palestine

p39     LETTER

Thanks for all the e-mails we receive with important information about
human rights violations, social injustice and the struggle of the people
of Colombia. I have been forwarding these e-mails to all members of
Praxis. Your work is very valuable and relevant and it really makes a

I am convinced that the outcome of the workers action at Emcali earlier
this year would have been completely different had not been for your
support and all the international support and involvement.

There is one piece of information which, I am sure, is not new to you
but I think should be explicitly said regarding the killings of
political and trade union leaders in Colombia. I am referring to the
AUC, which is not just another independent, violent, guerilla group in
Colombia as many would like to put it. It has been proved that the
Colombian Army is directly and indirectly involved in the actions of
this group which was originally created under the instructions of the
army and many officers continue to be part of it.

The AUC normally only operates in areas where there are military bases
and only kill or massacre whole towns or individuals who, they believe,
are enemies or potential enemies of the Colombian government, the army,
the landowners or the multinationals like BP and Coca Cola.

Jaime Florez



Here it from the front line

Colombian trade union leaders will be visiting Britain throughout May.
If you want to find out where they are speaking, or to arrange a meeting
for them, then contact us at:

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Andy Higginbottom


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