June 30, 2008

Statement of Carlos Gaviria Diaz (PDA) on the 'Uribe-politica' Scandal

An update on the Colombian governments' so-called 'Yidis-politica' scandal, one that has called into question (once again, but with increasing force) the very legitimacy of 'President' Uribe's para-government:

On the evening of Thursday, June 26, Uribe called a rushed press conference in reaction to the decision by Colombia's Supreme Court on the case of Yidis Medina: a guilty verdict. The court found that Medina did in fact cast her vote in exchange for political favours. She will spend 3 ½ years under house arrest for accepting bribes from the president. The Court's statement on the case called into question the very legitimacy of the process that led to Uribe's re-election. The president responded, on national television, that the justices who questioned the re-election process are doing the bidding of terrorists and called on the Colombian Congress to schedule a national referendum to repeat the 2006 elections, which is overstepping his constitutional powers but also a sign that he's in serious trouble.

On July 3rd, social movements and trade unions in Colombia will hold a rally in Bogota against the illegitimate regime and in defense of the Colombian courts.

The proven illegitimacy of the Uribe presidency must also render illegitimate the policies imposed under his rule, including the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, the negotiations for which were completed earlier this month. Harper's ally, it appears, is in even deeper trouble than the federal Liberals during the so-called 'sponsorship scandal' that the Conservatives played off to no end. Will Harper crusade against corruption this time? Or is it business as usual?

What follows is an English translation by La Chiva of the statement of ex-presidential candidate for the Polo Democratico Alternativo, Carlos Gaviria Diaz, probably the most legitimate voice in defense of the courts: he is a former Constitutional Court Magistrate, constitutional law professor and member of the Constituent Assembly.

Declaration of Carlos Gaviria Díaz, President of the Polo Democrático Alternativo
Author: Polo Democrático Alternativo (PDA)

"Now is the time for all democratic sectors (social and political) in the country to come to the defense of what little of our democracy we have left. We must rally behind our courts and scream will all the force of our voice that Uribe must not continue to govern the country to preserve his impunity and impose a populist dictatorship."

Bogotá, June 27, 2008

President Uribe's address on the evening of June 26th disguises an extremely serious situation.

With the rule of law and a constitutional democracy, both of which were entrenched the Constitution of 1991, the duty of the head of state is to comply with the distinct organisms of the state – and in this specific case, the ruling of the justices – or to contest them through the proper mechanisms established for such situations. It is not, however, the head of state's duty to ignore them when they are not oriented in alignment with his or her political interests, much less mis-conceptualize them or brand Supreme Court Justices as liars and conspirers of terrorism. This circumstance alone merits a House of Representatives Commission investigation into the President of the Republic. What would have finally seemed like the adequate path through which president Uribe could perpetuate his power he could not let escape and took advantage of it to satisfy his libido imperandi [insatiable desire for power], bring the reverse, an episode that ought to very well force him to consider his resignation.

In the past, dictators have reverted to armed force to keep themselves in power and impose their unlimited will for the benefit of the most wretched interests. Uribe – in order to keep the country in its condition of subjugation to the most powerful empire the world has known and the people in misery – calls on those same people to push forward his perverse objectives.

Like those of the past who believed that armed force could achieve anything, those of today use the people as instruments to construct puppet dictatorships. Now is the time for all democratic sectors (social and political) in the country to come to the defense of what little of our democracy we have left. We must rally behind our courts and scream will all the force of our voice that Uribe must not continue to govern the country to preserve his impunity and impose a populist dictatorship.

Translated by Michèal Ó Tuathail for the La Chiva Collective, Canada.

June 29, 2008

A 'Populist Dictatorship' in Colombia

The following is an excellent post by the Center for International Policy's Colombia Program on what Polo Democratico Alternativo President Carlos Gaviria has described as the declaration of a "populist dictatorship" by Colombian 'President' Alvaro Uribe Velez.

Uribe's announcement comes in response to the Colombian Court's calling into question the process through which he bought, through political favours, his 2006 reelection.

Hey, Harper, is this the kind of (illegitimate) 'democracy' Canadians are supporting through your FTA?...

Written by the Center for International Policy, Colombia Program, Originally published in CIP's Colombia and Beyond Blog, 27 June, 2008

In Colombia, President Uribe called a press conference at 11:15 PM last night. He was reacting to a decision by Colombia’s Supreme Court: a guilty verdict against Yidis Medina, a former congresswoman who had cast the decisive vote on constitutional reform legislation that made it possible for Uribe to run for a second term in 2006. It turns out that Medina cast her vote in exchange for promises of political favors, and will now spend 3 1/2 years under house arrest for accepting bribes. In the text of its decision, the Court seriously called into question the legitimacy of the process that led to Uribe’s re-election. Uribe’s reaction last night was extreme.

I have wanted to fight for a safe, prosperous and equitable country. The trap of the power of terrorism in its death agony - to which justices of the Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice have lent themselves - does not appear to have a judicial solution.

After saying on national television that the justices who questioned the re-election amendment process are doing the bidding of terrorists, Uribe called on Colombia’s Congress to schedule a national referendum to repeat the 2006 elections.

El precio de la indiferencia [The Price of Indifference]

The following video clip was put together by a member of the La Chiva Collective for a presentation at the Alberta Social Forum in March, 2008.

"El precio de la indiferencia" (The Price of Indifference) aims to show the human side of the armed conflict in Colombia, exacerbated by the militarization of territories through Plan Colombia I and II and the implementation of president Uribe's 'democratic security' policy, a name that constitutes nothing more than a sick joke in much of the country and for much of the population.

Many of the images featured in the video are the work of award-winning British photojournalist Jason P. Howe, someone who, through his extensive work in Colombia, has witnessed the attrocities of this senseless war for the benefit of a few.

The price of our indifference is paid by many every single day... a price that is paid not only in Colombia but wherever this model of self-legitimizing terror roams.

June 27, 2008

Colombia: Indigenous Self Defense in Times of War

By: Raúl Zibechi,
Originally published in Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP), 5 June, 2008

Translated from: Colombia: Autoprotección indígena contra la guerra Translated by: Aaron Shapiro

The Cordillera Central is one of the prime regions torn by the war between the Colombian military and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The rural population, which is mostly lower class and of indigenous decent, and consequently the sector of the Colombian populous most dramatically hit by the armed confrontations, defends itself through the "Indigenous War."

An enormous green desert. Leaving the Cali Airport, a sea of sugarcane plantations covers the extensive flats of Cauca, one of the most fertile regions of the Colombian countryside. Here, coffee cultivation has barely taken root, going back only two decades. Manuel Rozental, a doctor who has followed the activities and movements of the indigenous peoples of the North Cauca region for years, comments on the scenery from his seat at the back of the bus, remarking "It's the agrofuels business." Here, sugarcane trains stuffed to the brim cross all along the Pan-American route as they make their way to the refineries that border the track systems. As they go, they are met with the indifferent, and seemingly lost, gazes from rows of black countrymen, as they slowly saunter toward their poorly-constructed houses.

Indigenous Lands: An Alternate Power

The 1991 constitution legally set up hundreds of refuges, or indigenous territories, that take up nearly one-quarter of the country. According to all indications, those at the North Cauca region are the best organized of all of these refuges. There are 14 in all occupying nearly 191,000 hectares out of the total 1,200 and 4,000 meters above sea level. Around 110,000 inhabitants live in this region: 85% Nasa ("the people" in the native vernacular), 5% indigenous Guambians, and 10% Africans and Mestizos. In total, some 25,000 families inhabit the area, distributed among the many rural passes and communities. However, the land is not sufficient to serve the inhabitants as 50% is eroded by the hills and inclines, 20% is forests, and only 30% of the land is cultivable, of which barely 10,000 hectares are flat.

In those lands there are 18 cabildos, indigenous political authorities that coexist with the municipalities of the Colombian State. The cabildos are administered by governors named by the larger assemblies and are accompanied by functionaries which are elected within each of the smaller regions. The consortium is a power based on the land, which must coexist with the other governing bodies that struggle to reduce its influence: basically, militias and guerrillas. This has cost the lives of thousands of Nasa inhabitants over the past three decades, so that the warring bodies can take advantage of a region rich in minerals and coca cultivation. Experts say that the army and the paramilitary are responsible for 60% of the deaths, corresponding to 40% by the communist guerrilla forces, which take particular delight in harming the indigenous doctors.

In the indigenous refuges of the Northern Cauca there are other problems, such as the predominance of communal justice, which is trying to bring harmony and balance back to the region, while facing the state justice system, which is striving to separate those that commit crimes; also the compatibility of the two types of medicine, that given as pills and traditional medicine derived from plants; and that between education centered on the values of native thought and vision, versus the education of competition and individualism. Further, communication is also an issue in dispute: In all of Cauca there are 32 communal broadcasters with a strong indigenous base and presence.

After an hour of travel, we reach Santander de Quilichao, a large rural town of about 70,000 inhabitants, the first city of Cauca to appear on the route. Here, the black population is the majority, mostly those emigrated or displaced by the war, and surviving on jobs within the sugarcane industry or local businesses.

The first sensation to hit is one of insecurity, possibly because of the disorder, and undoubtedly due to comments from those accompanying me, who haven't stopped talking about how this region still belongs to the paramilitaries. Manuel gives his seat to a pair of indigenous guards that take his place in silence, holding their nightsticks that flaunt small multicolored strips.
Heading to the Cordillera

We depart from the city on route to the cordillera, and in no time at all the fields of crops disappear. Thick groups of trees mark the outskirts: the giant samanes, the tree of rain, with an extensive round canopy, large enough to cover a soccer field, flowering guayacan trees, monumental olive green ceiba trees, tulips and violet cherry blossoms, cachimbos, cambulos full of red buds, higuerones, and matapalos. Thin guadua trees, a species of bamboo highly valued by the locals, with round trunks and fine leaves, run rampant and cover the scene. From the highway shoulder rows of soldiers observe the passing vehicles.

The roar of the motor hints at its poor condition. The mountain crests rise above the clouds and thin fog, and below, the Palo River collects the waters from all over the mountain range. Only mountains can be seen, summit after summit, green walls adorned with streams of silver. The crops appear along the almost perpendicular slopes of the range. Banana trees protect the coffee trees from harsh equatorial sun, along with the subsistence crops, yucca, beans, and further up the mountain in the colder reaches, potato and corn. The area seems a true vernal mixture compared to the monotonous litany of the lowlands.

We arrive at a site called El Tierrero, the last city refuge of the indigenous Huellas-Caloto region. We veer to the left and leave the asphalt and continue on an irregular shaky bridge hanging from above. Swaying back and forth as we go, the car reaches El Damián, within the Tacueyan refuge. The first surprise: underneath the bananas, in place of coffee trees, we find large groves of coca, growing along the sunny slopes, at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters.

Since mid-March the FARC guerillas and the national army have engaged in combat on the top of the mountain. During these incursions the national forces blew up a storage facility storing large deposits of marijuana. The explosion killed an indigenous Nasa inhabitant, wounded 14 others, and toppled all of the houses within 100 meters. Since then the 800 inhabitants of the neighboring areas, El Damián and La María, have taken refuge in the local school, chosen to serve as the site of their "permanent assembly," and a gathering point in case of emergency. Above the school, a giant white flag flies, tied to the end of a sugarcane stalk, in hopes that it will dissuade any armed assault by the combating forces. More than half are young children, the rest mothers and elderly. The men leave during the day to tend to the crops and chickens, trying to evade the combatants. The director, young and indecisive, is thankful for the visit and asks not to be recorded. Clothing barely hanging on to threads and mattresses lying on the hard floor have taken the places of the normal school apparel, desks and chairs. Although the Nasa people have filled the school facilities to the brim for a week, classrooms, bathrooms, and hallway all remain clean and tidy, denoting a strong-willed internal organization and order.

A write-up from the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of the North of Cauca declares that in case of emergency, the population is to go to their areas of permanent assembly, spaces of "indigenous resistance defined by the assembly as areas for protection, reflection, and community analysis." The director adds that it is about resisting together, and about "respecting diversity and differences so that the land of the future can be a mix of collective consciences and autonomy in equilibrium and harmony with all."

Uribe Militarizes Social Protest: Betraying the Leaders

On March 15 President Alvaro Uribe celebrated the 192nd "Community Council" in which the "living forces" of each region meet. This year it was held in the colonial Popayán region, the capital of Cauca and the cradle of the landed aristocracy. Surrounded by ranchers and farmers, he referred to the indigenous people who recover lands usurped in the conquest or stolen by narco-traffickers in the last 20 years, as delinquents. Even worse, assimilating the struggle for land with terrorism, Uribe offered a reward to those who betrayed the heads of the social movements.

-"Have we given a reward for information about invaders?"

Without awaiting reply and in the full silence of the auditorium, he continued:

-"Then let's offer rewards; that has been very useful in our country."

He knew that he was putting a price on the heads of the indigenous that have taken back their lands since 1971, when the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca was created. Turning toward the men in uniform that always accompany him, and elevated his tone:

-"The delinquents will end up betraying each other, and the reward will help assure that this happens. It is necessary to break them with the rewards, my General."

He ended his speech with an almost martial turn and gesture:

-"The military and police authorities are, as of tonight, granted the power to offer rewards for these cases and facilitate justice."

In 2004 the indigenous guard received the National Peace Prize, which is awarded each year by a group of institutions: The United Nations, the Ebert Foundation, and various media sources such as El Tiempo, Caracol Radio and Television, and Semana magazine. In effect, it has been one of the most original experiences ever to happen to any one social movement. "We are not an armed military force, nor guerillas; we are just a community in the service of the other communities," says one guard, whole-heartedly taking to the idea that he is an instrument of defense for the territory. In this way, the concept of self defense of the different communities is key and promotes organization. Their resistance strategies include promoting food sovereignty, early warning systems, communal gardens, and above all, collective training processes such as those involving permanent assembly areas and the reinforcement of community-run authorities.
Communal Protection

Luis Alberto Mensa, 42 years old, walks so slowly that he appears to glide over the earth. He carries a nightstick like all the other guards who accompany him, the only symbol to indicate his authority. However, he is the coordinator of all the indigenous guards in the region. He assures us that "the guard, which always existed within the Nasa community, became official in order to make itself visible in 2001 in response to a series of conflicts in 2001. The people did not believe that an armed conflict would reach this place because this was historically a FARC zone. However, the paramilitary did enter our region and killed many, so the assemblies decided to install permanent guards."

The guard structure is very simple: each town elects, through assembly, 10 guards and one coordinator. Later, one coordinator is chosen for each refuge area and another for the entire region, always with the approval of the governors. The guards serve a two-year duty but many decide to continue. "In the entire North Cauca zone we have 3,500 guards distributed among the 18 cabildos. There are young people and women, ranging from 12 to 50 years of age. The training is the most important aspect and we do it through the discussion of human rights and our own native laws. We prioritize the policy formation over that of physical exercises. The guard is very important to the security of the population and it has become a problem for the armed attackers," says Luis Alberto.

The events are obligatory and last three days. Lawyers, judges, and community leaders all take part and recount the history, uses, and costumes of the Nasa people. Later, each coordinator recreates these same activities and practices in his own town or province. One of the central aspects is the so-called, "derecho propio" or self-right—communal justice that defines the activity of the indigenous guard. "We have nothing to do with any sort of police. We are organization founders, and the community's protection and the defense of life without involvement in the war." However, both the militia leaders and the guerrillas are considered enemies as they make recruitment difficult and get in the way of military activity.

Three Waves of Violence: One Million Dead

Reports from various human rights organizations sustain that Colombia's many waves of violence have intensified concentration of land. The situation has reached the point where 30% of the best land in the country is, today, in the hands of narcotics traffickers and the paramilitary.

Between 1947 (a year before the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán) and 2007 there were around one million people assassinated. The first of these horrible waves of violence is known as "La Violencia," and lasted until 1955, when General Rojas Pinilla decreed amnesty and the end of the persecution between the conservatives and liberals. This horrific occurrence drew to a close with 600,000 victims, which some sources have reduced to "only" 200,000.

An era of relative calm followed. Then, between 1956 and 1988 another 100,000 people were assassinated, even today a very elevated figure. Starting in 1989, when peace talks began to be signed and the "Union Patriótica" (the electoral branch of the Communist Party) was formed, until 2007, the death toll rose to 200,000. However, Human Rights Watch maintains that between 1998 and 2003 paramilitary violence caused around 200,000 deaths.

Floresmiro, 33 years old, is one of the coordinators of the 300 guards in the refuge of Tacueyó. "The guard service has been a school. As we live with the insurgency, at times the idea pops into your head to go with the guards and take up a rifle. Those who go do so because they like the arms and because they have problems with their parents, but those who join in the greatest numbers are the abandoned children. In the guerrilla forces, or in the army, they feel as though they have power and control." Since participation in the guard is voluntary and not paid, the neighbors and the authorities of the provinces collaborate to help those absent by maintaining their crops and on occasion sowing seeds, and even harvesting. "Here the education is key. We work on the Nasa way and vision, which rejects violence. We defend ourselves by staying alert and with strong organization and we get in the way of the armed forces in groups so that they do not attack our community. We teach our people what they need to do in the case of an emergency and we call on our guards using our forms of broadcast, or cell phones, and mobilize the population with the radio. In just four hours we can gather together the 300 guards from my area."

Luis Alberto has proposed a trip of about 100 meters to see the storage facility destroyed by the army. Some 40 guards march along a thick path. Along the way we find two "tatucos" that failed to explode. These are homemade grenades launched from a distance by the guerrilla forces, and guards with us decide to remove them and place them off the path and out of the reach of children. Upon arriving at the enormous hole left by the explosion we see three young guerrilla fighters appear from within the banana groves at about 100 meters away. The chief of the guard does not remain silent. "Where is the army?" "Over there," one of them points with his nightstick toward the mountain crest. They observe each other, vigilantly, and every few days someone takes a shot, similarly as the indigenous guard passes between the two armies.

"The Guard is more for the purpose of educating than for repressing and it helps in deterring the young from getting involved in the armed forces," says Manuel Ul, the young coordinator of the Huellas guard unit. The young find themselves mesmerized, gazing into the crater left by the explosion that caused the confrontations in March. Slowly we begin to make our way toward the school where lunch waits for us. The mid-day heat transforms the relative calm into a rare placid sensation. Surrounded by indigenous guards, it is almost impossible not to feel a sense of security, isolated in this land.

Translated for the Americas Program by Aaron Shapiro.

Raúl Zibechi is an international analyst of the weekly magazine Brecha de Montevideo. He is a teacher and researcher on social movements in the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and an adviser to various social groups. He is also a monthly collaborator of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org).

June 24, 2008

Canadá: ¿la ‘tercera vía’ o más de lo mismo?

Por Augusto Bohorquez
Bogotá - 22 de junio de 2008
[To our English-language readers: translation on the way...]

El día 7 de junio del presente año, en la página oficial de Relaciones Exteriores del Canadá, aparece el titular: “Canadá concluye negociaciones de Tratado de Libre Comercio en cooperación laboral y ambiental con Colombia.” [1]

Curiosamente, dicha negociación no contó con la debida difusión entre la inmensa mayoría de los ciudadanos que conforman los pueblos canadiense y colombiano. El ministro Canadiense de Relaciones Exteriores y Comercio Internacional, David Emerson, dice que este tratado “ayudará a solidificar los esfuerzos del gobierno colombiano para crear una democracia más segura, próspera y con equidad.” [2]

En primer lugar, ¿a qué tipo de democracia se refiere, cuando los tratados se hacen a espalda y en total secreto de sus pueblos?

Con este tipo de democracia, Canadá está demostrando al mundo que apoya uno de los regímenes más ilegítimos del planeta actualmente, como se puede concluir por el hecho generado desde la primera elección del presidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez, en Colombia; que fue obtenida gracias al control territorial de los grupos paramilitares, escándalo conocido y documentado como ‘La Parapolítica’ o política paramilitar.

Además, se modificó la Constitución para reelegir al presidente, para lo cual se contó con el voto decisivo de la representante a la Cámara Yidis Medina, que cambió de opinión a última hora gracias a la compra de su voto por parte del gobierno (según la propia confesión de la parlamentaria ante la Corte Suprema de Justicia); escándalo político que los medios de comunicación colombianos han bautizado como la ‘yidispolítica.’

Paramilitarismo de Estado

El paramilitarismo es una estrategia de estado- confesó el ex-jefe paramilitar Mancuso, en una de sus entrevistas en donde aseveró que él es prueba fehaciente de ello,- [3] pero hasta ahí no había problema, sino hasta que empezó a destapar y hablar acerca de la relación entre el paramilitarismo como estrategia de estado al beneficio de las trasnacionales, para garantizar tierra y mano de obra barata para la implementación de megaproyectos, por un lado, y prestar su seguridad para continuar teniendo una excelente ganancia comparativa, por el otro.

En ese momento, ya no pudo hablar más, y fue extraditado a los Estados Unidos; no para pagar por sus crímenes y masacres al pueblo colombiano que beneficiaron directamente a las trasnacionales. Con dicha extradición se ve afectado el derecho a la verdad y reparación de los familiares de las víctimas, ya que la justicia norteamericana lo requiere para ser juzgado únicamente por narcotráfico.

Canadá también negoció con uno de los países con mayor violación de derechos humanos, perpetrados a defensores de derechos humanos, miembros de partidos políticos de oposición, miembros de movimientos sociales, sindicalistas, estudiantes, campesinos e indígenas que se oponen a un régimen ilegítimo y sus políticas. Hoy, Uribe macartiza todo tipo de oposición, al señalarla como ‘terrorista’.

Colombia: sin Estado de Derecho

Semanas atrás del cierre de las negociaciones del tratado de libre comercio (TLC) entre los dos países, en beneficio de la ‘democracia’, el presidente colombiano, Uribe, durante la intervención en uno de los denominados ‘consejos comunitarios’, llamó desde el ejecutivo a la eliminación paulatina del estado de derecho.

Uribe mostró a la comunidad nacional e internacional el carácter autocrático de su gobierno (que se vería reforzado con la nueva reelección que se mueve como una nube tormentosa que amenaza la atmósfera política en Colombia, al monopolizar y socavar el equilibrio de poderes en el que se fundamenta el Estado de Derecho que constituye una democracia) al desconocer diferentes clases de autonomías y derechos constitucionales, tanto en el caso de la autonomía indígena, como el derecho al debido proceso y la autonomía universitaria y sus procesos en defensa de la vida.

Por una parte, cuando los indígenas reclaman la falta de cumplimiento del estado colombiano con acuerdos y sus derechos, el gobierno, por medio del ministro de agricultura, señala a los indígenas como “elementos desestabilizadores,” y recalca la decisión de pagar recompensas por los líderes indígenas que luchan por sus derechos.[4]

En otro mal llamado ‘consejo comunitario’, el mismo presidente ‘democrático’, avalado y respaldado por Harper, se refiere a algunos senadores de la oposición como “auspiciadores de terroristas” y le ordena al general Gómez Méndez: “judicialícelos y métalos a la cárcel.”[5]

Todo, según el señor presidente, amparado en el discurso antiterrorista, con el desconocimiento de la Constitución Política de Colombia.

La autonomía universitaria también es atacada por el autoritarismo del ejecutivo cuando el mismo presidente Uribe en Mayo 29, deja clara la decisión del Gobierno: "La Policía debe entrar a cualquier recinto universitario”, se olvida una vez más el señor presidente que la autonomía universitaria está garantizada por la ley. [6]

Canadá: ¿la ‘tercera vía’ o más de lo mismo?

Hoy Canadá se presenta a Latinoamérica como la ‘tercera vía’ diferente al modelo presentado por los Estados Unidos y Venezuela. ¿Es esto cierto? Al estudiar los Tratados de Libre Comercio en Latinoamérica, se llega a la conclusión que cada nuevo acuerdo comercial es progresivamente más perjudicial para estos países.

El TLC entre Colombia-Canadá es de suponer una copia al carbón del TLC firmado entre Colombia y EEUU, pero rechazado en el congreso de los EEUU por el sinnúmero de violaciones de derechos humanos perpetrados en Colombia por parte del Estado.

Estos tratados manejan el discurso del llamado ‘desarrollo’ y su situación de doble ganancia o‘win- win situation’. Ahora, si analizamos la falacia del desarrollo y la democracia, se ve en un caso histórico - el Tratado de Libre Comercio con México- que uno sólo tiene que dejar la burbuja de aire de Cancún para darse cuenta de la pobreza que ha generado.

Así mismo, la democracia mexicana ha quedado en entredicho al observar la forma en que se desarrollaron las elecciones que culminaron con la elección del ‘presidente’ Calderón.

Con el TLC Canadá-Colombia, lo que está en juego es la decisión canadiense de definir su política exterior y qué tipo de desarrollo y democracia estamos apoyando; pues, al ratificar el TLC Canadá- Colombia, los canadienses nos volveremos cómplices de los crímenes perpetrados por el régimen ilegítimo de Uribe.

La decisión de firmar este TLC con Colombia en beneficio de intereses privados, y por encima del interés general de la población, de las dos naciones, agravará la situación de hambre, salud y educación en Colombia y con esto traerá los ya conocido problemas sociales que se pueden generar.

La lógica de acumulación promovida por estos tratados es una lógica que beneficia el capital transnacional en detrimento de los pueblos. Si esta es la política exterior del Canadá, se le debe informar a su pueblo y al mundo; pues al presentarse como una ‘tercera vía’, mejor que la ofrecida por EE.UU. o Europa, se está mintiendo acerca de lo que significan este tipo de tratados, pues son igualmente perjudiciales y nefastos para la población.

Además, se está utilizando el supuesto 'buen nombre’ internacional que tiene Canadá con respecto a su política exterior: ¿Qué tipo de desarrollo y democracia está exportando?, pues si es la del caso colombiano, es igual a la política exterior estadounidense.

Canadá, al aprobar el TLC con Colombia, decidirá cuál es el modelo de 'desarrollo' que pretende: ¿desarrollo para las transnacionales?

Hoy más que nunca sabemos por la experiencia que este sistema es insostenible en términos del ambiente y la seguridad económica, alimentaria, humana y de inclusión política, y es nuestro derecho y obligación construir un nuevo modelo para garantizar la supervivencia del planeta, de las especies y de nosotros los humanos.

Esto sólo va a ser posible si lo hacemos de forma integral, si formamos un solo coro con todas nuestras voces y experiencias, para conseguir la fuerza necesaria que produzca los resultados que buscamos.

Finalmente, recordemos que el cierre de las negociaciones del TLC Colombia-Canadá no representa la entrada en vigencia del tratado bilateral, por eso invitamos a los pueblos de Colombia y Canadá y las diferentes organizaciones sociales, políticas, estudiantiles, sindicalistas, campesinos, indígenas, mujeres y otros a realizar una inmediata movilización en rechazo de dicho tratado que va en contravía de los dos pueblos y en beneficio únicamente de las transnacionales.

Nosotros los pueblos que creemos en la posibilidad real y necesaria de crear un mundo más justo y solidario de inclusión con justicia social y en defensa de la vida, tenemos el derecho democrático de exigir la no firma de esta tratado por ser lesivo para nuestros pueblos.

Se convoca:

Primero, a enviar cartas no únicamente a nuestros gobiernos (canadienses a los MP’s y colombianos a la presidencia) sino tambien, canadienses al gobierno colombiano y viceversa.

Segundo, planear una acción conjunta de los pueblos en frente de embajadas y/o consulados en los dos países, demostrando el poder del pueblo y la inconformidad de los mismos por la ilegitimidad de nuestros gobiernos a firmar estos tratados a espalda de nosotros los que dicen representar.

De esta forma, recordémosles a nuestros gobiernos que la legitimidad se gana únicamente representado los intereses de sus pueblos y este tratado No representa los intereses de nuestros pueblos, únicamente los intereses de las transnacionales.


[1] Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. (Junio 7, 2008). Trade negotiations and agreements, news releases and backgrounder. Versión electrónica. encontrado el 21 de junio de 2008 en http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/andean-andin/can-colombia-colombie.aspx?lang=en

[2] Ibid

[3] BBC Mundo. (16 de mayo 2007). Uribe defiende. BBC Mundo. Versión electrónica. Encontrado el 21 de junio de 2008 en http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_6660000/6660281.stm

[4] Audio del sabado 24 de mayo 2008 durante el consejo comunitario de Florida Valle. Versión electrónica. encontrado el 21 de junio de 2008 en http://nasaacin.org/audio/uribeenflorida.mp3

[5] Ibid

[6] El tiempo (29 de Mayo 2008). Entrar a universidades en las que se presenten acciones violentas ordena presidente Álvaro Uribe. El tiempo. Versión electrónica. Encontrado el 21 de junio del 2008 en http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-4216875

June 21, 2008

Chiquita -- Did You Know?

Chiquita has created its own brand in the violation of human rights in Colombia... Any similarities with former United Fruit Company is a capitalist considence.

So... Enjoy that banana...

Goldcorp: Occupation and Resistance in Guatemala (and Beyond)

By Dawn Paley, Originally published in her blog in The Dominion, June 21, 2008

Goldcorp Inc.'s Marlin mine in Guatemala has been a hotbed of controversy since locals became aware of the presence of the company (then Glamis Gold) in their municipalities.

Adding weight to the resistance to the mine is a ruling made public on June 9th by the Constitutional Court in Guatemala, which has found eight Articles (or sections thereof) of the Mining Law to be unconstitutional. (fulltext of the ruling in pdf format).

Among the Articles deemed unconstitutional are 19 and 20, which allow mining activities to start while the corresponding paperwork is still being processed, Articles 21, 24 and 27, which allow mining activity to take place to unlimited depths of the subsurface, Article 75, which allows mining companies to discharge water from their tailings pond directly into surface water, as well as Articles 81 and 86.

Goldcorp has refused to comment on the ruling, as they are in this case unable to use their regular discourse about the importance of the rule of law."

Lawyers and environmentalists in Guatemala hopethat the ruling will prevent Goldcorp from discharging untreated waterfrom the tailings pond at the Marlin Mine (pictured) into local rivers, which the company had planned to begin doing in the next few months.

¡Viva la Consulta Comunitaria, Bajo la Represión!

The municipality of Sipakapa, a Mayan Sipakapense community, held a consulta (community referendum) three years ago this month, rejecting the activities and presence of the company and open pit mining in their territory.

Since the 2005 consulta in Sipakapa, more than 20 other municipalities that have been concessioned in the Guatemalan highlands have held pre-emptive consulta proceses, most recently in Tajamulco.

The consulta was undermined in a 2007 ruling by Guatemala's Constitutional Court -a product of an unconstitutionality suit filed by Glamis Gold against the validity of the consulta- that ruled that the consulta in Sipakapa was legal, but not binding.

The people of Sipakapa have brought their case in favour of the validity of the consulta to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights based in Washington DC. Thus far, the case has been accepted by the court.

In San Miguel Ixtahuacan, a Mayan Mam community consisting of about 45,000 inhabitants, a consulta is expected to take place in the next few months.

Repression by national and private "security forces" has been particularly harsh in San Miguel Ixtahuacan. A Sipakapense man was killed by mine "security" in 2005.

Police entered the community of Ajel in San Miguel Ixtahuacán last week and sprayed tear gas at women, children and men who were peacefully protesting because they "do not want the mining company or the presence of electrical wires and transformers to service the mine in their territories."

"It's all the same struggle"

North-South solidarity has brought the issues connected to the Marlin mine, and to large scale, open pit mining more generally, to light in Canada over the last few years.

Dustin Johnson, from the Gisbutwada (Killer Whale Clan) of the Tsimshian Nation, stated at a recent event in Vancouver held in support of the communities in resistance in Guatemala that "People see the value in this because their struggle in Mexico, their struggle in Guatemala, in Northern BC, in Northern Alberta, it's all the same struggle."

Protests and events with guest speakers from Guatemala and Honduras wereorganized in Toronto on May 20th, to coincide with Goldcorp's Annual General Meeting.

Dawn Paley is a freelance investigative journalist based in Canada. She has worked extensively with communities resisting large-scale mining projects throughout Latin America.

June 15, 2008

Paramilitaries Threaten Canadian Embassy in Bogotá

By Micheal Ó Tuathail, 15 June, 2008

BOGOTÁ - COLOMBIA – Little more than a week after the Canadian government announced the completion of free trade talks with Colombia, that country’s national daily, El Tiempo, reports that the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles), a violent right-wing paramilitary organization, has sent threatening emails to the Canadian Embassy in Bogotá.

The threats are reported to include references to the Embassy’s granting exile to witnesses in the Colombian government’s on-going ‘para-política’ scandal, in which at least 65 Colombian Congress members are under investigation for direct links to paramilitary groups.

Twenty-nine Congress members, all supporters and close political allies of current Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, are currently behind bars for proven links with paramilitary groups over which the government is suffering a serious legitimacy crisis.

Five months ago, the Canadian Embassy – as well those of other countries – received similar threats. However, this case seems to be different, as the emails included specific references to a particular witness and his or her family.

“The information about the asylum of this family,” an inside source told El Tiempo, “was only recently collected and known only to a small group of high level Canadian officials.”

This suggests that the security of the embassy might have been breached, at least electronically.

If the past is any indication, this breach could have serious consequences. In 2002, Jairo Castillo Peralta, alias ‘Pitirri,’ was brought to Canada fleeing threats against his life. Castillo Peralta was a Colombian Supreme Court star witness in the cases of at least 6 congress members accused of paramilitary links, including the president’s cousin, Mario Uribe. Last month, Colombia’s Attorney General advised him that two assassins on tourist visas were reportedly on the way to Canada to kill him.

Colombia’s controversial Justice and Peace Law of 2005 was said to pave the way for the demobilization paramilitary groups, though human rights organizations have been especially critical.

According to Amnesty International, the Justice and Peace Law “fails to comply with international standards on victims’ right to truth, justice and reparation. It will exacerbate Colombia’s endemic problem of impunity, and risks demobilized paramilitaries being reintegrated into the armed conflict.”

Paramilitaries who demobilize receive reduced prison terms – from five to eight year terms – no matter what their crimes, which often include a combination of massacres, forced disappearances, drug trafficking, and crimes against humanity.

Contrary to the claims of Colombian officials, such as Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo, the Justice and Peace Law is not the end of the paramilitaries in Colombia. Not all have demobilized, and other groups have resurfaced, such as the Águilas Negras.

In spite of international criticism and the Colombian government’s legitimacy problem, Canada has been an avid supporter of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and official government statements have tended to overlook the on-going violence in the country. Behind the Harper administration’s allegiances to Uribe is the pursuit of the economic interests of Canadian businesses mainly in the extractive sectors, culminating in the advancement of economic partnerships through a free trade agreement.

In 2006, Canada granted asylum to 1,200 Colombians out of 1,400 applicants. Over the last 10 years, 8,000 Colombians have officially fled their country for Canada.

June 13, 2008

Disaster in the Making: Canada Concludes its FTA with Colombia

By Todd Gordon, Originally published in The Bullet, June 11, 2008

What's the monetary value of a Colombian trade unionist's life? As it turns out, it depends on how many are killed in a given year since the potential fines the Colombian government will have to pay as penalty under its free trade agreement (FTA) with Canada whenever a union activist is killed is capped at $15 million. If this sounds like a sick joke I apologize, but this is in effect what the Canadian government actually negotiated.

On June 7th, Canada proudly proclaimed that it had successfully concluded its trade deal with the human rights-troubled Andean country. Negotiated with an efficiency that must make the Bush administration – whose own trade agreement with Colombia has stalled because of Congressional opposition – jealous, the deal was concluded less than a year after negotiations began.

With four Canadian cabinet ministers visiting Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and other members of his cabinet between July 2007 and February 2008, it's clear the Harper Tories had made the trade deal a major priority despite Colombia's appalling human rights record (see, for example, my article on Canada and Colombia). As new Foreign Affairs minister (and ex-Liberal), David Emerson, declared, “The Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to open up opportunities for Canadian business in the Americas and around the world.”

The agreement, which still hasn't been made public, will now undergo a legal review by Canadian and Colombian lawyers. After the review is completed, it'll be brought to the House of Commons for ratification, which should not be a problem for the Tories despite their minority government since the Liberals have said they'll support it if it contains language on human rights. It does – but I'll come back to that in a moment.

Let the Canadian Capitalist Onslaught Begin

Like the trade deals before it (NAFTA, Israel, Chile, Costa Rica and most recently Peru), the Canada-Colombia FTA will significantly reduce tariffs on exports between the participating countries across a whole range of industries. But like the trade deals before it, it perhaps more importantly opens another country up to Canadian investment. As a press release from Foreign Affairs states, “Once implemented, the agreement will lock in market access for Canadian investors and provide them with greater stability, transparency and protection for their investments.”

Since NAFTA, Canadian-negotiated free trade deals have included chapters that provide extremely strong corporate investment rights (the infamous chapter 11 in NAFTA). That's the “stability, transparency and protection” Foreign Affairs is talking about. Canadian multinationals will now be given privileged access to the Colombian market and its resources, backed up by the right to sue Colombian governments if they feel their rights under the trade agreement haven't been fulfilled – as might be the case, for instance, if local community opposition halts a mining project. Canadian companies have in fact been actively litigious under the other trade agreements; they are more likely to sue foreign governments than their foreign counterparts are to sue Canadian governments.

Add to the new FTA the aggressive neoliberal restructuring Colombia has already undergone in the last several years, including the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-funded rewriting of its mining code (which allows corporations access to indigenous land) and the ridiculously low royalty rate imposed on foreign investors (as low as 5% in the oil sector and 0.4% in mining), and Canadian corporations could have a field day. Colombia is rich in petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds, and hydropower – and Canada has the largest mining industry in the world, and not insignificant oil and hydropower sectors.

The Colombian FTA is part of Canada's so-called Global Commerce Strategy, a significant part of which is increasing Canada's economic influence in the Americas. According to the Foreign Affairs press release announcing the conclusion of the trade negotiations, “The Strategy includes an aggressive trade negotiation agenda that aims to secure competitive terms of access in markets that offer significant potential for our products and expertise.” This strategy has clearly been a success in Colombia.

Putting a Price on the Lives of Trade Unionists

Never mind that an earlier wave of Canadian investment in the 1990s was a disaster for Colombian trade unionists and indigenous people. Canadian investments in mining (Corona Goldfields, for example), oil (Enbridge, for example), telecommunications (Nortel, for example) and hydro-electric power (BFC Construction and Agra-Monenco, for example) in the 1990s proceeded on the basis of murder and displacement.

Stephen Harper and his cronies claim that President Uribe is addressing his country's human rights problems. The reality, however, is quite different: paramilitary murders have remained steady since Uribe was elected in 2002, while according to several human rights organizations the rate of trade union assassinations in 2008 is thus far greater than in 2007. Colombia is by far the most dangerous place in the world to be a union activist, with more than 2000 murdered since 1991. And forty percent of the human rights violations committed against unionists are in the mining sector – where Canadian corporations are strongest. Paramilitaries are responsible for the majority of the violence, and currently the Uribe government is embroiled in a scandal in which several dozen of the President's political associates (including a member of his family) have been found to have ties to them.

So how will a FTA improve the human rights situation in Colombia, rather than make it worse? How will Canada ensure that Canadian companies won't profit off of Colombia's climate of fear, persecution and murder? The answer, apparently, is the Labour Cooperation Side Agreement (LCSA). Canada's Labour Minister, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, argues that the FTA “contains some of the most comprehensive labour provisions to be found in any agreement in the world,” adding for good measure that “as the Colombian government moves forward to strengthen labour rights after a difficult past, Canada will be there to help.” How charitable.

LCSAs aren't new, however. They call on the parties to trade agreements to enforce their own labour standards, and to keep those standards in line with those of the International Labour Organization (ILO). But Colombia doesn't currently follow its own labour standards. After all, it doesn't have legislation allowing for the murder of union activists. That's the most egregious example of the violations of Colombia's labour law; mass firings and union decertification regularly happen with impunity as well.

Canada's solution: to add a little twist to the Colombian FTA's LCSA, which is clearly meant as window dressing and little more. According to Foreign Affairs' press release on the trade agreement (which is all we have to go on right now), “If obligations [under a country's labour law] are not respected, the offending country may have to pay up to $15 million in any one year into a cooperation fund, which will be used to resolve issues identified through the dispute resolution process.”

This is a de facto decriminalization of murder. Trade unionists regularly face physical violence in Colombia, and Canada's response is a system of fines. It seems the Tory's law-and-order zealotry flew out the window here. According to the International Centre for Trade Union Rights, in 2007 there were a recorded 384 major human rights violations committed against union activists, including 38 assassinations, 11 “disappeared,” 16 armed attacks, 201 threats of physical harm, 14 illegal arrests and 95 people forced to move for safety reasons. At a $15 million cap, that's $39,062.50 per major rights violation. But that's recorded violations, and it doesn't include mass dismissals, illegal union decertification and so on, all of which brings down the cost per rights violation. True to its capitalist form, the FTA's human rights penalty works on an economy of scale: the more the Colombian government and its paramilitary allies violate the rights of unionists, the cheaper it is for them. More bang for their murderous buck – and Canada is completely complicit.

This may be a moot point, though, at least as far as the paramilitaries are concerned. Even though they're responsible for the majority of rights violations, despite all the evidence to the contrary they retain an official independence from the state. And Canada hasn't said whether the Colombian government will be held responsible for paramilitary abuses, or if it will get a pass on this.

On top of that, Foreign Affairs' press release doesn't mention indigenous peoples and peasants, who are at the greatest risk of violence in the country. Paramilitaries assassinate several hundred people a year, most of whom are indigenous or poor peasants living on land rich in oil or subsurface minerals. The press release also doesn't explain who'll participate in the dispute resolution process. It's hard to participate when you're dead or when you're too scared to testify. Or is the Colombian government, which is implicated in the rights violations through its security apparatus and its ties to paramilitaries, expected to take up the cause of the country's oppressed?

In an earlier article (whose link is provided above) I argued that Canada's rapprochement with Colombia is also geopolitical in nature – support for a country that offers itself as a bulwark against anti-imperialism in the Andean region. The new FTA, with its cavalier attitude towards Colombia's passionate distaste for human rights, will only strengthen that relationship and encourage Colombia to continue doing what it does so well, while at the same time offering Canadian companies great new opportunities to make profit. And so it goes with Canadian foreign policy in the Andean region – profits over people, misery and violence over social justice.

Todd Gordon is the author of Cops, Crime and Capitalism: The Law-and-Order Agenda in Canada. His articles have appeared on Znet and in New Socialist magazine. He is an assistant professor of Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto, and can be reached at ts.gordon@utoronto.ca.

Canada-Colombia FTA: When Democracy Gets in the Way, Just Sign It, eh?

By: Micheal Ó Tuathail, June 13, 2008

On June 7 2008, less than one year after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the beginning of bilateral free trade talks with Colombia, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade announced the conclusion of negotiations.

While the US-Colombia free trade agreement has been stalled in the US, due mainly to the grave human rights situation in Colombia and, some say, a US election campaign, Canada has offered transnational capital an opening through the back door.

Canada-style, eh?

"The Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to open up opportunities for Canadian business in the Americas and around the world," stated the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade David Emerson, revealing the true beneficiaries of this agreement. Emerson went on to note that "the free trade agreement will expand Canada-Colombia trade and investment, and will help solidify ongoing efforts by the Government of Colombia to create a more prosperous, equitable and secure democracy."

Many Colombians might ask just what "efforts" for a "prosperous, equitable and secure democracy" Emerson is referring to. It seems obvious that Canadian officials don't understand what those "ongoing efforts" look like in Colombia.

In a feeble and superficial attempt to understand the situation in Colombia, several Canadian members of parliament made a short and very limited trip to Bogotá last month. The delegation didn't leave Bogotá, on the advice of the Canadian embassy, but they did meet with trade unionists and Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

After this very limited foray into Colombia, without further investigation into the situation on the ground for communities affected by the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia, and also without waiting for the completion of a report about the deal being prepared by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the negotiations have concluded, and the agreement is heading for ratification.

NDP International Trade critic Peter Julian told the Toronto Star that the Harper government has made "a horribly bad move by signing the agreement rather than respecting the procedure, rather than respecting the opinion of the committee."

The truth is that the negotiations and the agreement remain shrouded in absolute secrecy. All Canadians and Colombians are told is that Canadian business will have greater access to Colombian markets and, perhaps more crucially, to their resources.

Even if Canadians overlook the current occupations of Afghanistan and Haiti, as well as the flaring conflicts between indigenous peoples and extractive industries across the country, the latest phase of Canadian imperialism also falls short in terms of Canadian democracy. The Canadian public will get not so much as a debate, as Harper et al. open the back door for capital that has no national allegiances.

The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is seen as a cornerstone in the Harper government's policy of "re-engagement in the Americas," where Canada fancies itself as a "third way" for Latin American countries seeking to break the United States' historical grip on the region.

Hardly a superpower itself, the Canadian government mascarades around the world as an altruistic superhero and human rights defender. Tell that to the Haitians, the Afghans, the victims of genocide within Canada, and now to the Colombians whose brutal regime the Canucks are shaking hands with, taking them under their wing and showing them how to "do" democracy.

I have to wonder what kind of democratic lessons Canada has in mind for the Colombians when there are no conditions for serious debate on free trade, among a slough of other issues, in Canada itself?

Uribe's Colombia: a country for sale

Colombia, the greatest recipient of US military 'aid' in the hemisphere, is widely considered one of the last bastions of US power in Latin America. In the context of the so-called 'war on drugs' and more recent 'war on terror,' there is 'Plan Colombia', implemented in 2001, marketed as an anti-drug strategy that has at its heart a counterinsurgency strategy.

Colombia is home to Latin America's longest-surviving leftist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The Harper government sees increasing economic 'partnerships' with the country as part of the road to peace.

However, a trade deal with Colombia in the context of a 60-year armed conflict has been controversial to say the least. The Colombian state is the greatest perpetrator of violence against civilians in the conflict, and the country remains the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists (year after year, more Colombian trade unionists are murdered than in the rest of the world combined), the much-lauded Colombian democracy is of dubious legitimacy, at best.

Claims that Uribe has toned down political violence in the country are contradicted by the increase of 'false positives,' whereby civilians murdered by the Colombian armed forces are dressed up as guerrillas in order to "gain points."

President Uribe has been condemned for his human rights record by international observers in the country, whom he has referred to in the press as guerrilla collaborators. The 'demobilization' of paramilitary death squads, the same terrorist groups that Uribe himself had a hand in creating, have been applauded just as new groups such as the Nueva Generación and Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles) emerge, continuing the dirty war on civilians, trade unionists (and their family members), and Uribe's political opposition across the country. Death squad activity is often in response to Uribe's statements in the media and in so-called 'community consultations.' In short, a mafia runs the country.

I recall one particular election issue that brought Harper's Conservative government to power not too long ago: the corruption of the long-ruling Liberal Party in the 'sponsorship scandal' that Canadians didn't hear the end of. Liberal arrogance had overcome their legitimacy to govern, and the answer was, we were told by Harper and the media, the 'transparency' of the Conservatives. But in the context of an FTA with Colombia, the scandals of Canada's so-called 'friends and allies' is conveniently overlooked.

Scandals have shrouded the Colombian government in recent years, penetrating to levels as high as Uribe's closest political supporters and a family member. At least 65 of Uribe's allies (the number rises almost weekly) in the Colombian Congress are being investigated for links to right-wing paramilitary death squads, a scandal known in Colombia as "para-política." Of that number, 29 are currently in jail for proven links.

Another recent scandal has called into question the legitimacy of the Uribe regime altogether. The "Yidis-política" scandal involves allegations that the president bought the votes of several Colombian congress members for constitutional reforms that paved the way for Uribe's re-election in 2006. Former Colombian House Representative Yidis Medina, who made the scandal public last month, is now in jail, and Uribe is under investigation for his role in soliciting Medina's vote in exchange for political favours. Previously, consecutive presidential terms had been constitutionally forbidden, and the constitutional reforms, rejected in a national referendum in October 2003, were pushed through the pro-Uribe Colombian Congress.

Media Complicity in Colombia

The Canadian mainstream press will no doubt be reporting on Uribe's 84% approval rating in the country. This distorted figure is a product of the gross media concentration in the country, a media owned and controlled by Uribe's friends and allies that duplicates on a daily basis the message that the FARC are the only problem in the country.

The famous 4th of February mobilizations against the FARC and for the release of the hostages they are holding are emblematic of the propaganda process in the country. While the release of hostages is a position that many Colombian agree with, many sectors of the population did not participate because Uribe used the march – organized partly through Facebook and supported by the Colombian business community by granting workers a day off to attend the march – to his political advantage.

Just over a month later, on March 6th, mobilizations were held in Colombia in support of the victims of state and paramilitary crimes but were largely ignored by the national and international media. Six trade unionists and organizers of that march were murdered in their homes in the days that followed, more facts ignored by the mainstream press. These were seen as messages to the opposition and victims seeking reparations and justice: "do not oppose your own extermination."

The approval of a supranational constitution such as an FTA by a government that came to power through support from paramilitaries, influence peddling, and propaganda indicates the shadowy and shaky character of Colombian democracy frequently applauded in Ottawa.

The country's 4 million internally displaced people (nearly 10% of the population) is referred to by the United Nations as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the hemisphere. Systematic forced displacement occurs largely in territories where transnational megaprojects are in the works.

The link between displacement and megaprojects has led Colombian activists, such as economist Hector Mondragón, to conclude that "it is not that there is displacement because there is a war; there is a war so that there can be displacement."

In any other context, displacement for profit would be called armed robbery.

A Backdoor Agreement

Canadian-Colombian trade relations are nominal in comparison to other countries, barely surpassing $1 billion in trade each year. However, in terms of sectors engaged in megaprojects, such as mining, oil and gas, Canadian multinationals are among the major players. The all out war on guerrilla groups, handshakes with paramilitaries and narcotics traffickers, and the dirty war on trade unionists, the political left, and human rights defenders are construed as "stability" and "security" for Canadian investors.

DFAIT reports that, now that negotiations have been concluded, a legal review of the texts will be carried out. These negotiations have occurred in complete secrecy, and the texts have not been released to the public. This begs the question, "if the FTA is so good for the Canadian and Colombian people, why aren't they telling us all about it?"

Following the legal review, the FTA will be signed by the Colombian and Canadian governments and brought to each country's legislative bodies for ratification. In spite of the serious legitimacy crisis of the Colombian government, there is little doubt that the FTA will be signed there. The Uribe government is in a desperate situation in terms of legitimacy, and Canada's endorsement is essential to deflect international criticism.

Clearly, the Canadian government has nothing to offer Colombia in terms of democracy other than a veneer of credibility unduly enjoyed by Canada in the world. But just as real democracy means much more than elections every few years, the vitality of debate in any country must be viewed from the bottom up, from what is going on in communities and among social movements.

Whose resistance is it, anyways?

One day after Democrats in the US House of Representatives froze the Bush Administration's attempt to push the US-Colombia FTA through Congress, the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) sent an open letter to US House Representative Nancy Pelosi. In that letter, they outlined clear lessons destined for the US public, lessons that are no doubt relevant for Canadians as well. The indigenous communities of Northern Cauca do not politely ask to be heard, they demand it.

On the 5th of March 2005, six municipalities in the department of Cauca held the first Popular Consultation on free trade in Colombia*. The referendum was monitored by national and international observers and included a process of popular consciousness-raising, reflection, decision and action.

Ninety-eight percent of the people responded NO to the following question: "Are you in favour of the FTA between Colombia and the United States?"

Since that popular consultation, others have been carried out in different parts of Colombia. In short, an illegitimate regime is progressively being replaced by direct democracy in communities in resistance.

Imagine the bravery of people who continue to resist and seek alternatives in the context of a brutal war, a plan of integral aggression directed at displacing them from the territories where they live for the benefit of transnational corporations, who seek resources and cheap, 'flexiblized' labour from a population living in a state of permanent shock.

The Colombian government attempted to discredit the referendum in Cauca, taking a position that is racist by inferring that those who voted are incapable of understanding and consciously deciding for themselves, that they could not understand the fruits of 'free trade.'

Imagine their bravery, and then look in the mirror. What have Canadians done? How have they engaged in this issue, or any issue for that matter, and taken matters into their own hands? Many Canadians may never know the difficulties of people resisting the military imposition of an economic model that is ultimately intended for the entire planet, or for 'our Mother Earth' as the indigenous peoples in Cauca call it. Many Canadians may not know the extent to which they are kept in the dark through the entrenched telling and retelling of the "Canada the good" mythology.

In some ways, the victims are not only those in Colombia who have claimed political agency for themselves at high costs, but also those of us in Canada who cannot see the extend to which the atrocities of our own history provide the backbone for the perpetuation of war and suffering for the benefit of a tiny few.

The Canada-Colombia FTA is just a part of the latest chapter in that history. The alarm bells rang generations and generations ago, but have we heard them?

It's time to wake up, eh?

*Read more about the Popular Consultation held in Cauca, Colombia, in March 2005: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1224/61/

Micheal Ó Tuathail is a member of the La Chiva Collective (www.canadacolombiaproject.blogspot.com), a group of people working in solidarity with Colombian and Canadian social movements and communities.

June 9, 2008

Permanent Tribunal of Peoples: Session Colombia

Bogotá, August 3 and 4, 2007
Translated by La Chiva Collective


The Permanent Tribunal of Peoples (PTP), established in 1979 as the successor to the Russell Tribunals, which at different times addressed both Vietnam (1966-1967) and Latin America’s dictatorships (1974-1976), in accordance with its mandate and constitution, is charged with giving visibility and clarification in legal terms to all those situations in which the massive violation of fundamental rights is not institutionally recognized, be they at the national or international level. Spanning its 35-year history and 33 sessions, the Permanent Tribunal of Peoples has accompanied, anticipated, and supported the struggles of peoples confronting the specter of violations of their fundamental rights, including the denial of self-determination, foreign invasions, new dictatorships, economic slavery, and the destruction of the environment.

The tribunal addressing the involvement of transnational corporations working in Colombia in the violation of human rights began in the month of April, 2006.

To date, the following hearings have been carried out: agriculture and food production (Bogotá, April 1 and 2, 2006), mining (Medellín, November 10 and 11, 2006), and developed biodiversity in the humanitarian zone of Nueva Esperanza in the Río Cacarica basin in the lower Atrato, Chocó (February 25 and 26, 2007).

The hearing has been preceded by four pre-hearings that took place in Saravena (December 11, 12, and 13, 2006), Barrancabermeja (March 22, 1007), El Tarra (May 19 and 20, 2007), and Cartagena (May 25, 2007), which have allowed for the direct participation in the process of investigation and testimonial collection of the communities most involved in and affected by the issues at hand.

The hearing took place in the head offices of the District Association of Educators, Southern Office, in accordance with the program detailed in Annex 1, and has involved around 400 people, principally from the regions affected by transnational petroleum activity. Also present were representatives from the international network Enlazando Alternativas [Linking Alternatives], which includes more than 80 NGOs from Europe and Latin America.

In accordance with the agreement with the international foundation Lelio Basso and the Secretary General of the Permanent Tribunal of Peoples, this fourth hearing has relied on the collaboration of the Transnational, Megaproject, and Human Rights Observatory for preparatory material and documentation of the accusations.

The jury named by the PTP includes the following judges:

- DALMO DE ABREU DALLARI. Professor of Law at the University of Sao Paulo, member of the International Commission of Jurists, member of the Advisor for the Defense of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil.
- MARCELO FERREIRA. Professor of Human Rights at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina).
- ANTONIO PIGRAU SOLÉ. Professor of International Public Law at the University Roviria and Virgili de Tarragona, author of numerous writings on international law, and member of various academic circles on the subject.
As co-judges:

- NATIVIDAD ALMÁRCEGUI. Secondary professor, Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT Spain) Coordinación del Seminario Solidaridad Política. University of Zaragoza.
- DOMINGO ANKWASH. President of the CONFENAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon).
- DIERDRE GRISWOLD. Journalist, representative of the International Action Center, former member of the Secretariat of the Russell Tribunal on the war crimes in 1967.
- RALF HÄUSSLER-EBERT. Theologian and Reverend of the German Lutheran Church, Directive Initiative Board for Central America.
- IVONNE YANEZ. Ecuadorian ecologist, South America Coordinator for the OILWATCH Network (a network for the resistance of petroleum industry activities in tropical countries).
With the attendance of Father Javier Giraldo and the Secretary General of the PTP, Gianni Tognoni, Italy.


Given the responsibility of the named companies, it is indicated that Oxy, BP, and Repsol have adapted common policies in Colombia. Such policies have cemented the plundering of natural resources and systematic violence against the population. For its part, this has implied the destruction of the social fabric, the carrying out of murders, persecution, and violation of the human rights of the majority, and the destruction of indigenous groups.

According to the accusations, the abuses of these companies seek to carry out population control and shut down all resistance to their activities. Various strategies have been used by these companies, not the least of which includes the exertion of pressure on the state, so that it may create policies favorable to these entities, such as the minimization of regulations, the flexibilization of contracts of association, the privatization of energy companies, the granting of physical benefits, and the handing over of more oil and gas reserves. Moreover, these companies have contributed to the militarization of the life of society, deepened by the application of Plan Colombia and the direct support given to the armed groups, both legal and illegal, and the promotion of corruption.

According to those experts who back the accusations, there exists a similitude of objectives among the three accused petroleum transnationals. This convergence is based in imperialist policies that have plundered Colombia’s petroleum reserves using various strategies, including the hiding of production test results, entering into contracts unfavorable for the nation, carrying out fraudulent transactions to evade taxes, using the national budget to provide infrastructure for exploration and construction, invading the ancestral territories of indigenous groups, entering into security agreements with private security companies and the military forces, and the violation, with the effective cooperation of the State, of every judicial point that regulates such activity in Colombia. This behavior is symbolized by their more than 605 million dollars in profits obtained in 2005.

According to the accusations, obtaining these profits means evoking fear in their enemies without discriminating among environmentalists, workers, campesinos, and indigenous peoples who oppose these policies and who, in the words of the neoliberals, “create restrictions to the efficient functioning of markets”.

It is known that oil and gas are non-renewable natural resources. Therefore, their extraction is definitive, and the country that inevitably consumes its reserves will not recuperate them, assuming new deposits are not found. If Colombia is dedicated to irrationally exporting its petroleum (as it has done with Caño Limón, Cusiana, and Cupiagua, deposits that have combined reserves of 3.5 billion barrels), in less than 15 years, these mega-deposits will dry up. An example of this is that, while the life of the largest discoveries in Colombia will not last 30 years, the exploitation of Cira Infantas, another gigantic deposit now in the hands of Oxy, could last 100 years.

The rate of extraction has been so rapid that, according to Ecopetrol, by 2002, Oxy had extracted from Caño Limón 750,000 barrels of oil, while BP, in Cusiana and Cupiaga, had taken 806 million barrels. To date, both deposits have produced 2.5 billion barrels with a total value of more than 60 billion dollars, a sum that is almost equivalent to Colombia’s combined internal and external public and national private debt.

The particular accusations presented against the petroleum companies and the Colombian government are the following:

Oxy and Repsol are co-players in a variety of business activities. Repsol has come to complement the activities of Occidental in Colombia. As has been its practice, the US multinational, Oxy, sold part of its share in the Caño Limón deposit to Repsol, the Spanish transnational. After reacquiring Shell’s share, through the purchase of Colcito, which became Occidental Andina, Oxy sold, through Oxycol, 6.25% of its shares to the transnational Repsol YPF. That transaction was reported to be worth 150 million dollars. With this agreement, Repsol began to participate as a minority player in the association agreement Cravo Norte, made between Ecopetrol, holding 50%, and Oxy, represented by its subsidiaries, Occidental Andina, holding 25%, and Occidental de Colombia, holding 18.75%.

Repsol, whose principal players are Spanish financial conglomerates (starting with La Caixa, which controls 31%, followed by the Basque-based Bank, Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, with 9%, and the Castilian energy company, Iberdrola, with 3.5% of shares), has a growing amount of investment from US capital. One of this company’s US-based action holders is the Brandes investment fund, which controls 9.4% of its ownership. Furthermore, the Spanish-based petroleum company is developing a growing association with the Occidental Petroleum Corporation.

With the acquisition of part of the ownership of Caño Limón in 2003, Repsol bought enormous responsibility in the genocide committed by the US multinational against the Arauca population. It was also associated with ethnocide (which has claimed as victims both the Guahíbo and U’wa peoples), the environmental destruction originating from petroleum exploitation, and the brutal plundering of natural resources carried out by the multinational companies. Above all, it joined in a counterinsurgency project and an extremely aggressive war against the civil population.

Repsol YPF owns mining rights in Colombia in 8 blocks, 7 of which are for exploration. It has under its control an area of 7,863 square kilometers. Also, through the company Natural Gas, it is the most important provider of home heating fuel in the country. This company has monopolized the distribution of natural gas in Bogotá, the Cundinamarca and Boyacá highlands, and the Eastern region, accumulating more than 1.5 million customers.

In the case of Arauca, it has established a tight alliance with Oxy and its militarization project. It has consistently helped in the intensification of conflicts in the region. For example, its arrival coincided with the first paramilitary actions in the town of Tame, one of the municipalities in which the company explores and exploits petroleum and where the Capachos I [Paramilitary] Block operates and intensifies the armed conflict in the region. The same thing has happened in the zones of the Lower- and Mid-Atrato and the Mid- and High-San Juan, where there has also been an abundant paramilitary presence accompanied by Repsol exploration and exploitation.

Some of its activities are being carried out in the ancestral territory of the U’wa people. Three deposits – Capachos, Caño Limón, and Catleya – are located very close to indigenous territory, lands divided up by the Colombian government with the intent of taking these lands from the reserves in order to permit multinational exploitation activity.

1. To the Colombian Petroleum Company – ECOPETROL – and the Colombian State:

2. To the OXY, REPSOL, ECOPETROL companies and the Colombian State, for the plundering of natural resources, the destruction of ecosystems, and the contamination of the environment, the destruction of the territory and culture of the U’wa and Guahiba indigenous communities, and the genocide against communities and social organizations in the Arauca department. This last crime is represented by specific cases: the massacres in Santo Domingo, La Cabuya, Tame (Boroughs of Flor Amarillo, Piñalito, and Cravo Charo), Cravo Norte, Caño Seco, the murder of Hugo Horacio Hurtado, and the implementation of a systematic judicial strategy against social leaders in the region.

The Occidental Petroleum Corporation is a US company founded in 1920. It was registered in the state of California and owns operations in various countries worldwide, principally in the Middle East and the Americas.

In Colombia, OXY is accused of favoring the annihilation of the Oil Workers’ Union [Unión Sindical Obrera – USO], a union in ECOPETROL; in particular, OXY is held responsibility for the murders of Manuel Gustavo Chacón, Jorge Orlando Higuita, Auri Sara Marrugo, Enrique Arellano, and Rafael Jaimes Torra.

OXY, in order to maintain its right to exploitation and friendly relations with the Colombian State, has resorted to the most extreme repressive measures in Arauca. These include the massive expulsion of campesinos using military and political pressure; the direct support of military action, promoting and defraying the war to assure its strategic interests, guaranteeing its profits and their flow to the exterior; the intervention of the US military through Plan Colombia; the creation of operational war theatres by means of special legislation (states of internal commotion, states of exception, states of emergency, and zones of rehabilitation and consolidation); the general militarization of Arauca, linking members of the civil population to military programs, institutionalizing paramilitary groups, and adapting the justice apparatus to satisfy the interests of the transnational; and removing the backbone of social movements.

3. To the British Petroleum Company and the Colombian State, for the dismemberment of social and campesino movements, the extermination of the Cunamá Boroughs Association (ASOVEC, the Communitarian Association for Agroindustrial and Social Development of Morro), Acdainso, and the Departmental Association of Campesino Users (ADUC) – through the murders of Carlos Mesías Arriguí, Daniel Torres, Roque Julio Torres Torres, Oswaldo Vargas, and Carlos Hernando Vargas Suárez.


During the course of the hearings, expert opinions and written and testimonial evidence was provided to the tribunal. Documented proof was of significant length and quality and thus exceeds the narrow margins of this ruling. Nevertheless, it is added though a separate channel, which will be used in a PTP hearing to take place in July of 2008.

The hearings heard testimonials from numerous individuals, first-hand witnesses and those who had seen their families die; thus, this summary of testimonials balances extreme emotions. Some witnesses expressed fear of the possibility of retaliation for their testimonials upon their return home.

The expert opinions gave focus to the general situation in Colombia, economically, politically, and especially in the context of the social and armed conflict and the United States’ war policy in the region.


The different aspects

It is important to mention that the oil industry follows a dynamic of capitalist accumulation, just as it follows a national security dynamic for countries highly dependent on energy.

First, because of the strategic importance of hydrocarbons, in the last decades, petroleum industry activities have produced such a huge surplus that they have consolidated the most powerful economic groups in history: the oil corporations.

Second, it is publicly known that world oil reserves are diminishing in a fast and irreversible manner; as such, these resources have become highly appreciated, and access has become a national security concern for industrialized countries, particularly for the European states and the United States, the country that consumes the most and is most dependent on fossil fuels.

Oil industry activities, in all its stages – exploration, extraction, transportation, refinement and consumption –, have catastrophic and irreversible social and environmental impacts at the local and international level. But corporate greed and the increasing energy demand have expanded the oilfield frontier, which now encroaches on areas of high biodiversity as well as indigenous peoples’ territories.

The strategies of petroleum industry multinationals have no limits. For example, they collude with the international banking system, ensuring that oil-producing countries accrue debt in order to facilitate natural resource extraction and exportation. These corporations also pressure governments to ease environmental, labor, and fiscal legislation in order to be able to act more freely and to obtain greater revenues. Also, they force the dismemberment and privatization of public (state) corporations, make deals with international organizations to cleanse their social and environmental images, form alliances with local mafias, regular armies and paramilitary forces – accused of killing, torturing, persecuting or disappearing community leaders -, in order to conduct their operations with complete security.

These and other strategies allow these corporations to act with a mask of corporate social responsibility and respect for human rights. However, public accusations and evidence continually come to light, describing their direct responsibility for environmental crimes in polluting land, rivers and seas; for the loss of forests and biodiversity; for provoking displacement and thousands of social and environmental refugees; and for destroying sources of subsistence, affecting the food sovereignty and chances of survival of the cultures and peoples who inhabit the areas where they operate.

Petroleum industry companies violate the rights of the Colombian people, their fundamental social and environmental rights. They become silent yet known killers and operate under systematic impunity, corrupting the rule of law and benefiting from the country’s armed conflict.

Petroleum multinationals’ home countries are also responsible for allowing this impunity, for promoting repression and the militarization of oil-rich zones, and for creating conditions of uneasiness, invasion, and permanent war against the local population and those who oppose the social and environmental impact of oilfield operations.

In Colombia, petroleum multinationals obtain profits of over 80%. This is only possible under the militarization of the production facilities. Even though this hearing has focused only on the companies mentioned above, all the big players in the petroleum industry operate in Colombia.


Given the aforementioned conditions and the context of the social and armed conflict faced by the Colombian people, and considering the documents and testimonials gathered, the existence of generalized and systematic violations of human rights are evident.

First of all, serious violations of the right to live and the physical integrity of several people were made clear with cases of murders, massacres (the bombing of Santo Domingo, the massacre of Caño Seco, the massacre of Tame – Piñalito, Flor Amarillo, Cravo Charro, La Cabuya, Cravo Norte), tortures, and threats. During the hearings, several witnesses testified about the crimes committed against their family members (mothers, father, siblings, children, and cousins).

Second, a constant persecution of union leaders was verified, to the extent that one can consider Colombia the riskiest country to be involved in such a activity. In the past twenty years, more than three thousand union members have been killed. The persecution of members and leaders of USO is condemnable; over the past twenty years, this organization has suffered the murder of 105 of its members and also several cases of disappearances, kidnappings, murder attempts, internal displacements and exiles.


From the gathered evidence, a systematic persecution of any form of opposition to the interests of the multinationals involved was verified; these companies secure their interests through a mechanical or operational persecution of social protest by arbitrary and legal persecutions and massive detentions, like the ones that took place in several areas of Saravena. In some cases, these procedures had given persecuted persons a “guilty” ruling. A witness detained and condemned for rebellion refers to the moment of her capture: “As a teacher, I was worried that we would end up with no students… We got together, facing the imminent retaliation announced by the government of closing schools.” “Then,” she adds, “they burst into the room where I was resting, screaming ‘where are the weapons.’”


The Tribunal also verified the violation of the right to freedom of movement as guaranteed by the Colombian Constitution and international legislation, which influences internal governance. To that end, there have been established what one witness referred to as ‘zones of exclusion,’ areas facing a virtual state of war and under the direct control of the military and private security companies working in the service of petroleum multinationals. The militarization of these zones is extremely disproportionate, as demonstrated by the following excerpt from a mother’s testimony on the murder of her son: “my son went with his friend to a lake to catch some chiguiros for a party… someone who saw them called the army from Caño Limón.” Later, the boy showed up dead. It is common for witnesses to refer to the Colombian military as the army of a transnational company.

It is clear that this situation is aggravated by the arbitrary nature of military controls over the highways and the subsequent restrictions on the movement of food, medicines, and other essential goods, keeping in mind that rural communities are very poor. According to one witness, “if we were bringing food that had a value over 150,000 pesos, they would take it from us, claiming that the food was meant for the guerrilla… We weren’t able to bring neither cement nor food, nothing of a significant value”.


Petroleum industry exploration and exploitation have meant displacement, expulsion, and near extinction for a large portion of Colombia’s indigenous communities (U’was, Sikuanes, Macaguanes, Cuibas, Guahibos, Betoyes, Bari, Cofanes, Nasa, Inga, Embera, Siona, Awá, Pastos, Camsá, Yanacona, and Camentzá) through the invasion and destruction of their ancestral lands. Equally, since this activity began in their regions, indigenous peoples have been victims of homocides, massacres, detentions, and torture, all at the hands of state and para-state agents. Both the companies and the state consider indigenous peoples an obstacle for resource extraction.

Frequently, people in these communities are accused of being terrorists, guerrilla, rebels, or subversives. This has the objective of debilitating indigenous resistance and encouraging the abandonment of their lands. Paradoxically, communities accused of such activity have cultures that are traditionally pacifist. They have lived in the countryside and worked the land for thousands of years like this.

The process of the gradual abandonment of indigenous lands has been carried out in violation of the ILO’s Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples, which expressly establishes the right to consultation on the transfer of their lands and prescribes that such peoples shall not be forcibly moved from the lands they occupy. This has also been recognized by the Constitutional Court in its recent ruling T-880 in relation to the Barí people; this ruling extends to all indigenous peoples.


Petroleum exploration and exploitation activities carried out by transnational companies and the Colombian government have required a significant amount of infrastructure, including communication routes, buildings, crude transport systems, oil wells, water treatment facilities, stabilization lakes, military camps, airports, and heliports. These projects have destroyed vast expanses of forests and affected swamps and wetlands, estuaries and rivers that feed the Orinoco; this has meant grave alterations to the natural cycles of the ecosystem.

The contamination of various bodies of water, perforation of oil wells, felling of trees, generation of heavy metallic and gas waste, alteration of water temperature, emission of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, oxidization of nitrogen and sulfur, uncontrolled burning of petroleum waste, and spilling of oil waste in pools near oil wells that contaminate the water table all represent the harmful effects faced by the regions’ vegetation, animal and human populations.

The defense of the environment has also implied repression from state actors, who have murdered people simply carrying out their posts, such as in the case of CARLOS HERNANDO VARGAS SUAREZ, the manager of CORPORINOQUÍA.


The right to justice comes from the obligation to guarantee rights. This translates into a provision of duty and imposes on the government the obligation to organize the entire state apparatus to ensure that all liberties and rights consecrated in international human rights agreements are respected and realized. This obligation implies the responsibility of the state to investigate, judge, and sanction those responsible for the violations of human rights recognized in those treaties.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has defined impunity as follows: “the combined lack of investigation, prosecution, capture, judgment, and condemnation of those responsible for the violation of rights protected by the American Convention.” The body has also signaled that “the state has the obligation to combat such a situation through all available legal means in order to ensure that impunity is not chronically repeated through the continuous violation of human rights and the failure to defend the victims and their families.”

In this respect, the Colombian government has not complied with its responsibilities. The scarce independent judicial investigations have neither completed nor passed their preliminary phases because, in general, every investigation faces administrative obstacles. An emblematic example is the fact that the Special Prosecutor’s Unit has its head offices within the installations of the 18th Brigade and has affirmed its participation in military operations. In the same way, it has become clear that arbitrary displacement through judicial means have been dealt with in distinctly ad-hoc trials, pre-established specifically for certain situations.

In this context, it is opportune to make reference to the phenomenon of paramilitarism in Colombia and its relationship with the political realm. According to one expert, “they dress as Senators in the morning, sell cocaine in the afternoon, and give orders to paramilitaries in the evening.”

It is clear that paramilitarism is responding to the development of a state strategy that goes beyond a counterinsurgency policy to a purely military response. Such a strategy has a profound political, economic, and social impact. Paramilitarism has been made available for the rich, the multinationals, the violent plunderers of property, and narco-traffickers. It responds to a model set forth by the state as well as distinct sectors of society. Thus, paramilitarism has garnered significantly unrestricted economic and political power. Fundamentally, paramilitary actions against the civil population have been granted impunity over the civil population; most frequently, their victims are small communities, women, children, youth, and people who have been critical or opposed to state policies that threaten their rights. With nowhere else to turn, many victims have come to the commission with their stories of massacres, ethnocides, genocides, assassinations, murders, forced displacements, tortures, and disappearances: in sum, an interminable line of crimes against humanity.

That enormous quantity of crimes, however, has been sheltered by an impunity encouraged by a policy directed at protecting the victimizers, disregarding the rights of society, and denying the victims their rights to know the truth, obtain justice, and receive full reparations. The government has not put forth concrete and effective actions to overcome impunity, that which has been recommended time and time again by international institutions.


Given the preceding, the Tribunal agrees to ACCUSE:

1. To the transnational petroleum companies BP, OXI, Repsol, and the company ECOPETROL:

* For the development of oilfield exploration and exploitation policies that signify the forced displacement of the populations that reside in those areas.

* For the development of exploration and exploitation policies that lack any environmental impact evaluation whatsoever and that imply the destruction of forests and other natural spaces as well as the grave and increasing contamination of water sources, such as the Arauca river, and the forced restriction on the ways of life for the affected populations.

* For the creation of authentic zones of exclusion, denying citizens access to massive areas that happen to be under exploitation, areas under a state of war and disproportionate militarization. This has been accomplished with the support of the armed forces, private security contractors, and paramilitary groups.

* For tolerance. These companies tolerate the activities of armed groups as long as they serve their interests. This has meant the persecution of those collectives and individuals that show even the slightest hint of opposition to oil industry activity and the conditions that it produces. This persecution is carried out through false accusations, threats, kidnappings, physical aggression, torture, and murder, as has been widely documented by the Tribunal.

* In particular for the systematic and generalized persecution of unionists, such as in the case of the leaders and members of the Oil Workers’ Union (USO), in violation of internationally and constitutionally recognized labor rights.

2. To the Colombian government:

The Colombian State did not fulfill its legal obligations, neither by action nor omission, at least in these most important aspects:

* It did not give needed protection to the political militants, social organizers and trade unionists, who were victims of treats due to their pacific community work, effectively ignoring human rights and respect for human dignity.

* It did not do the necessary investigations nor impose the needed punishment for murders and other types of violence committed against people and human rights organizations, even though many of the perpetrators were easily identifiable and members of the Colombian army.

* In the use of public forces for the repression of groups accused of rebellion, it did not make the necessary distinction between armed groups and members of the civil population.

* In the failure of the obligations assumed in concordance with ILO Treaty No. 169, which relates to the rights of indigenous peoples, by imposing the exploitation of the natural resources within the indigenous communities’ lands without their approval.

* In the failure of its obligations to prosecute crimes against humanity, particularly with regards to violations of the right to effective guardianship and the internationally recognized rights enjoyed by the victims of these crimes mainly due to the absence of a truly independent judicial system.

3. To the governments of the states whose nationals have significant participation in providing capital for the aforementioned companies:

* For permitting that these entities have the ability to disregard international standards with respect to human rights and environmental protection in other countries, like Colombia.

4. And, in particular, to the United States Government:

* For defending a presumed right to intervene in any country’s internal affairs in the name of securing the national interest, which includes controlling access to petroleum resources and having decisively contributed, through providing plans, training, and financing, to the extreme militarization of Colombia’s oil-producing regions. It is being carried out in Colombia as is has in the past and present in other parts of the world, with atrocious consequences for the civil population.

5. The Tribunal considers that there are reasonable grounds to describe a great majority of concrete acts of murder, massacre, torture, forced displacement, and persecution as crimes against humanity, given that they have been committed in a systematic and generalized manner against a civil population. In this context, the Tribunal would like to recognize the fact that each person, whether or not he or she is protected by the state, is also individually responsible in the legal arena for those crimes against humanity that he or she may have perpetrated, be it as author or accomplice, without exception. That responsibility makes the person answerable not only to the Colombian courts but also to international courts established as of November 2, 2002, such as the International Criminal Court.


Given the aforementioned reasons, and invoking the Argel document on Civil Rights, considering the totality of the accusations against each and every one of the companies and the responsibility of the Colombian government, and with the conviction that the violations of rights constitutes an attack against the common conscience of humanity and concerns all peoples, the Tribunal resolves:

1. To elevate the accusations and evidence produced for the final deliberation of the Permanent Tribunal of Peoples, Colombia Session.

2. To distribute this declaration to the unions, indigenous peoples, and urban and rural communities who have suffered the impacts of the destructive actions of these multinationals as well as to organizations that work in solidarity with them, academic and student organizations, the Public Prosecutor of Colombia, the high courts and other control agencies of Colombia, alternative media networks, mass media, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the UN’s Special Envoy for Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, and the accused companies’ head offices and governments of their home states.

3. To express solidarity and recognition of the pain of the victims.

4. To actively support the struggle for truth, justice, full reparations, the re-establishment of breached rights, and the guarantee that these crimes will not again be repeated.


With the conclusion of this hearing, the delegates present at the Permanent Tribunal of Peoples, as well as the judges, express their admiration for the profundity and courage of the cultural resistance work and the defense of their dignity and right to a life with justice that we were able to see in the representatives and witnesses who presented at this hearing, men and women who have suffered so much and who continue to follow a constructive path toward a future of peace and self-determination. They deserve not only our solidarity but also our equally important commitment to a just society. The recommendations that follow seek to be a reflection of that commitment and one more way to accompany the communities we have come to know and remain with us in our memories and actions:

1. The jury makes a call out to intellectuals and members of social organizations in Latin America and beyond to devise proposals for norms of controlling multinational corporations and for creating a system by which their economic and environmental crimes may be condemned and companies pressured to act in accordance with the standards of the United Nations with the end of safeguarding the rights of peoples.

2. We also call upon the shareholders of the multinational petroleum companies in their countries of origin that they become informed about the behavior of their affiliates and submit them to ethical control.

3. The jury also calls out to the international community so that it be critical of the official information it is given about Colombia, that it keep in mind that, in a country in which so many atrocities occur, an official source cannot be considered reliable while these crimes are permitted to be hidden.

4. Similarly, we call out to organizations and social movements in Latin America who share the same problems and suffer similar aggressions from multinational companies that we find spaces to denounce these crimes and find solutions.

5. We demand that the International Criminal Court stop delaying its decision on receiving the Colombian case, where many diverse hearings of this session of the Permanent Tribunal of Peoples have proven the existence of crimes against humanity.

6. The Tribunal considers it necessary and opportune to encourage Colombia’s lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and magistrates to take an active role in the quest for real justice, which is necessary for peace. In this sense, it is considered important to highlight that, beyond the recognition of an independent judicial power as indispensable for the protection of human rights, the humanistic conception of law is universalized. In modern jurisprudence, there is now no place for overcoming judicial positivism, which, conceiving law as inherently formalist, permitted the degradation of judicial institutions and the perverse use of the law as a shield for unethical procedures, making the use of law for the benefit of immoral privileges, giving the appearance of legitimacy to aggressions against life, and making the dignity of human beings more fragile and unprotected.

7. Finally, we express our profound worry for the unprotected situation in which those who fight for human rights in Colombia find themselves. In particular, we worry for those who have participated as witnesses in this and other PTP hearings. The jury considers anything that could come to affect the witnesses of these hearings the responsibility of the Colombian government.



Given in Bogotá, Colombia, 4 August of 2007.