August 31, 2008

The Desperate Lies of a Criminal Regime

By Justin Podur
Pueblos en Camino
30 August, 2008

I would have preferred to do some kind of letter to the editor, but it won't work. The need to react precisely precludes writing in Spanish, the need to write quickly precludes finding a translator, and the need to explain a great deal precludes the writing of a short letter. This article concerns the recent articles in el Tiempo, Colombia's national newspaper, on the FARC in Canada.

For the record these are: "Las Farc en el Canada" (24/08/08) and "Rastrean giros de sindicatos de Canadá a la ONG Fensuagro que habrían terminado en las Farc" (29/08/08).

So now the computer of an assassinated guerrilla leader, a computer that survived a missile attack and 48 hours of tampering by Colombian authorities according to INTERPOL, yields email evidence "linking" the decimated guerrillas to a peace activist and economist. We are supposed to believe that this laptop provides credible information that Hector Mondragon, a highly respected and principled economist, was corresponding with FARC, and helping link FARC with Canada.

El Tiempo's a previous round of vague accusations by a military man named Colonel Villamarin "linking" FARC to Canadian groups had logical leaps and evidentiary gaps that would be laughable, if such accusations in Colombia weren't deadly serious.

In this case, I know that they are lying about Hector Mondragon. I know Hector, and he's already said that the claims against him are false. More on that below.

These articles, and the accusations to come from "evidence" from Raul Reyes's laptop, are not the exposures of evidence by investigators of crimes.

They are the desperate appeals of a criminal regime to divert attention from its own crimes by inventing crimes of others.

The media, and el Tiempo, as they often do, are doing their bit to help the regime.

Colombia's regime is currently being studied by the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the key witnesses in cases of crimes against humanity (mostly massacres of peasants and activists) are being extradited to the United States to face drug charges. The ICC got involved because Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe Velez, rather than help the country's Supreme Court investigate paramilitarism and its links with politicians in his party (and from his family), attacked the court publicly and institutionally. The testimony of paramilitary killers who surrendered to the authorities, the computer files they handed over, and a document from the United States DIA courtesy of the National Security Archive all point to Uribe himself as a suspect in paramilitarism and narcotrafficking. A few days ago I collected the public evidence and presented it (with Dawn Paley and Manuel Rozental), partly hoping that those pursuing prosecution of the regime might find the collected public evidence of use. And hoping that the case against the regime might restrain it from further attacks on peoples, lands, and social forces opposed to displacement and exploitation.

As I pointed out in that article, the legality of Uribe's second term in office is itself in question, since there are accusations that bribery was involved in the vote in Congress when it passed the constitutional change to allow Uribe's re-election. The evidence that his party was heavily involved with the death squads is available in spades. He is isolated from his neighbours, in the region, and in the world - except for the US. And recent events in Pakistan show, as the fate of US clients from Manuel Noriega in Panama to Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in Bolivia that while authoritarian regimes are useful to the United States, any individual head of a regime is expendable if the costs of supporting him are too high.

But against all this, Uribe has a weapon that has served him well: tremendous popularity in Colombia as expressed in the polls. This has to do with various economic tricks that have been used to keep Colombia afloat (even as the underlying economic basis is being eroded) and Uribe's ability to polarize the country between his regime and the guerrillas of FARC and to capitalize on the unpopularity of the latter, in recent months by pulling off spectacular operations against them, from the assassination of their most visible commander Raul Reyes to the rescue of their most visible hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

I am an internationalist, but I am Canadian-born, a citizen here, a part of this community, and concerned about the things this government and its corporations do in the world. Canada's involvement in Colombia through free-trade agreements, corporate investments, and three-way interactions involving the United States, mostly act to bolster, and profit from, a regime of armed plunder. Indeed, in my view the principal beneficiaries of the plunder and the consequent massacres (of thousands a year) and displacement (of millions, now) are in North America (and to a lesser extent Europe). That puts a massive responsibility on people in Canada and the US to try to stop their own regimes from organizing and motivating these acts. I make these arguments regularly, in any forum that I can.

Trying to understand any political situation or country is always easier to do with help, especially the help of people with more experience (or insight or knowledge or all of the above). Sometimes, though it isn't necessary, these people also have tremendous courage and integrity. My own understanding of Colombia has come from several people, but among them is someone who is truly a hero to me, the Colombian economist Hector Mondragon. I have been his translator on a lot of his extremely insightful articles (see the translations section of my writings archive for examples. I have interviewed him several times. Whenever I have been to Colombia and had questions he was able to help me make sense of the situation.

We have a few differences. Part of what makes him extraordinary is a story he tells. As a much younger activist in a more intense phase of Colombia's war, Hector was caught and tortured by the regime before being released. He wrote about it when the Abu Ghraib photos came out. He knows who his torturer is. Many who join the guerrillas or worked with them are motivated by a need for revenge for atrocities like these, but to Hector this would be contributing to more violence, and so he has kept silent in the decades since about who it was. This even though Hector would never equate the violence of oppressed and brutalized people, or the violence of self-defence with the violence of a system of power and wealth. And he is too concerned with trying to stop the bigger violence to try to preach nonviolence to the oppressed, which I've never seen him do (though he has always been consistent about the importance of political solutions and the failures of violence in bringing about social change in Colombia). He is the best kind of pacifist, one who practices it himself even though it is incredibly difficult, but seeks always to understand why people do violence and change it through politics and organization. I share his analysis, but personally, while I don't know for sure because I have luckily never been put to such tests, I don't think I have that kind of courage.

According to the El Tiempo article, Raul Reyes wrote to Hector to introduce him to codename 'Sara', who is in the custody of Colombian authorities, and who was in charge of raising funds for FARC abroad, especially in Canada. Here is the relevant paragraph:

Y en un correo del 2 de abril del 2006, 'Reyes' le escribe a un hombre identificado como Héctor Mondragón: "Quiero presentarle a la camarada Liliany (...) ella trabaja conmigo y al mismo tiempo presta asesoría a Fensuagro (Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria) en su trabajo de relaciones internacionales. Naturalmente se trata de una camarada de absoluta confianza".

Let's translate it before proceeding:

'In an email of April 2 2006, Reyes wrote to a man identified as Hector Mondragon: "I want to introduce you to Comrade Liliany, she works with me and at the same time advises Fensuagro (National Agrarian Workers' Union) in international relations. Naturally she is a Comrade that can be completely trusted." '

The key sentence there is "a man identified as Hector Mondragon". Note the passive voice. Who identified him? Not el Tiempo, obviously. Had Raul Reyes been writing to Hector's publicly known email account, we can safely assume that El Tiempo would have said so. So, presumably, the Colombian authorities used some subjective method to 'identify' that the email was going to Hector. How? Perhaps Hector has a secret identity that even Hector doesn't know about? The opportunities for fabrication and false accusation abound, and the Colombian authorities and el Tiempo have clearly taken advantage of some of them.

I have been involved in Colombia solidarity in Canada since 2001. I helped raise money for social movement groups in Colombia, and made donations to them, through the Canada-Colombia Solidarity Campaign (2001-2003) and then through Pueblos en Camino. Mainly we raised money for the NASA indigenous and their organization, the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca. But we also have supported (mostly just through information and media efforts but on rare occasions financially) various unions, afro-Colombian groups, women's groups, peasant groups, and the Polo Democratico Alternativo. Part of what appealed to me about these groups was that they had all the courage that the guerrillas had in facing a deadly system, but their political analysis was different and they argued that the war was serving the system and the only way out was political. They suffered, sometimes at the hands of the guerrillas, for saying so, but they never succumbed to the temptation to support the state in repressing the guerrillas (knowing that they were as much a target as the guerrillas of such repression) or to support the guerrillas, despite all the attacks by the regime. I don't know everyone involved in Colombia solidarity but in all these years I never met 'Comrade Liliany'.

If the regime is going after Hector Mondragon, then it is not about FARC's fundraising networks but about the same thing it's always been about: destroying any social forces and organizations, including - or perhaps especially - the political and unarmed ones that oppose the plunder of the country. If the fabrications keep coming I can only hope that Hector is not alone and that at least something is made up about me. It would of course be better if el Tiempo would apologize for this character assassination (which also puts Hector in greater physical danger) and admit that it should not be publishing the fabricated claims of a desperate regime.

Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and activist with Pueblos en Camino ( He is Hector Mondragon's translator and has been involved in Canada-Colombia solidarity efforts since 2001.

In Support of Hector Mondragon and Against the Brush of Lies

By Michèal Ó Tuathail
30 August 2008

The infamous computer of "Raul Reyes" is once again cited in an article published in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo to defame people opposed to the regime in that country. This latest article follows another that is aimed at branding all groups working on the Colombia issue from Canada as "linked" to the FARC, again of course, without even remotely credible evidence.

This time, the attacks are directed at "social organizations, trade unions, and leftist groups, principally in Canada" and several Colombian individuals. It is no coincidence that these attacks are published on the eve of a Colombian trade unionist tour in Canada and while the regime in Colombia is being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for its relations with right-wing paramilitary death squads and crimes against humanity. It is also no surprise that the focus on Canada comes as a free trade agreement between the two countries will face serious debate in Canada in the coming weeks, whether that be in parliament or during a looming election. How very convenient!

The article cites (surprise, surprise) the PC of 'Raul Reyes', that same PC that survived a missile attack in Ecuador and, according to INTERPOL, had been tampered with by Colombian authorities for 48 hours.

Not only does the article allege a nexus among the FARC and Canadian organizations working in solidarity with Colombia, painting with the thickest brush one could imagine, it also claims "a man identified as Hector Mondragon" received an email from 'Raul Reyes.' Here's a translation of the passage I refer to:

In an email of April 2 2006, Reyes wrote to a man identified as Hector Mondragon: "I want to introduce you to Comrade Liliany, she works with me and at the same time advises Fensuagro (National Agrarian Workers' Union) in international relations. Naturally she is a Comrade that can be completely trusted."

As Justin Podur has pointed out, the newspaper's use of the passive voice is suspicious. Had El Tiempo known for sure that the email had been sent to Hector, it would have said so. We can assume at the writer didn't know, but published the name there anyway, complying with the objectives of his or her source, the Colombian regime. The end result is another life threatened by accusations of 'links' with the FARC.

I don't know who El Tiempo is referring to, but it is not the Hector Mondragon that I know. Hector is the heart and soul of social movements in Colombia. I would dare say that Hector is a reflection of Colombia's past and present. He lived through terror while tortured as a young activist and wrote about it. Hector didn't fall to anger, to hate and revenge. He continues to expose the transnational regime at every step. Through it all, his hands still shake, and he sleeps very little; yet he is tireless. His life is constantly under threat not only for what he exposes through his writing, which contains some of the most original analysis one can find on Colombia (when Hector Mondragon writes, you read it!), but also for his commitment to communities peacefully resisting the terror inflicted on Colombia, coming from the left or right, and the importance of transnational corporations, many with very explicit links to Canada, to that project of terror and pain.

Hector has gone through hell yet continues to oppose the war system of the armed groups. He is living proof of what is possible, and that is precisely why he is being singled out now.

It is shameful that baseless claims are duplicated without question in Colombia's largest daily newspaper, El Tiempo; but it is also a reflection of the state of media in that country, which is in part responsible for opinion polls expressing outrageously high support for Alvaro Uribe in spite of the reality. Canadian mainstream media is hardly any better, yet I denounce this all the same.

I live in Canada and have worked in solidarity with Colombia for a few years. I reject the attempt to defame my friend Hector Mondragon and people, like myself, who work in solidarity with Colombia from the outside. While it is obvious that the FARC does have support outside Colombia, the attempts to put us all in that category are, as Justin Podur has so eloquently put it, "the desperate appeals of a criminal regime to divert attention from its own crimes by inventing crimes of others."

Many more voices are needed against this latest defamatory campaign.

The witch hunt that is being expanded within Colombia and exported to Canada must end now.

August 28, 2008

International Criminal Court Scrutinises Paramilitary Crimes

COLOMBIA: International Criminal Court Scrutinises Paramilitary Crimes
By Constanza Vieira

BOGOTA, Aug 27 (IPS) - The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor ended a three-day visit to Colombia Wednesday, where he has been investigating who is ultimately responsible for the human rights crimes committed in this civil war-torn country.

In the scenario of Colombia’s internal armed conflict, where "we have an enormous number of crimes and a massive number of criminals," the criteria being followed is "to go after the people who may be considered among those most responsible," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in Bogotá during his three-day visit to the country this week.

In Colombia’s decades-long civil war, appalling human rights crimes are committed by all sides: the leftist guerrillas who took up arms in 1964, the security forces and the far-right paramilitary militias.

But the latter, whose leaders are drug traffickers or have ties to the drug trade, are blamed by the United Nations for 80 percent of all killings, while the insurgents are held responsible for 12 percent and the security forces are blamed for the rest.

Some say today’s paramilitary groups emerged in the early 1980s, when drug traffickers turned landholders organised private militias to combat the guerrillas, who had started kidnapping wealthy landowners and their family members.

But others say the extreme-rightwing groups were created to do the dirty work in the counterinsurgency war when Colombia’s international image began to be hurt by the widespread human rights abuses committed by the security forces.

In any case, the paramilitaries worked closely with the authorities, according to numerous rulings against the Colombian state handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

This is the second visit to Colombia by Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine lawyer who first gained renown outside his country for his work as assistant to prosecutor Julio César Strassera, in the 1985 trial that convicted nine members of the military junta that ruled Argentina during the 1976-1983 dictatorship for crimes against humanity.

Moreno-Ocampo’s first visit was in October 2007, when he announced that he had been keeping a file on Colombia for the past three years.

He also said he was closely following the judicial processes held under the Peace and Justice Law, which governs the partial paramilitary demobilisation process negotiated behind closed doors with the rightwing government of Álvaro Uribe.

The Peace and Justice Law offers legal benefits, like short sentences, to paramilitaries who provide full information about their crimes and make reparations to their victims.

The ICC, based in The Hague, was set up to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in cases where countries directly connected with such crimes are not able or willing to carry out prosecutions themselves.

The ICC prosecutor’s visit to Colombia coincided with a growing uproar around what has been dubbed the "parapolitics" scandal, in which the public prosecutor’s office and the Supreme Court have arrested or are investigating some 70 legislators -- nearly all of them Uribe allies -- for alleged ties with paramilitary groups.

The Supreme Court investigates and tries sitting members of Congress, while the public prosecutor’s office brings former lawmakers to justice.

One of the latest developments in the ongoing scandal is the removal of senior regional prosecutor Guillermo Valencia, the brother of Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia, for alleged ties with "Don Mario", a fast-rising drug kingpin and paramilitary chief.

But the underlying battle involves repeated, veiled government attacks on the Supreme Court, especially associate Justice Iván Velásquez, the Court’s chief investigator in the parapolitics scandal.

Witnesses who accused Velásquez of trying to dig up evidence to implicate President Uribe in the scandal, but later confessed that they were pressured or deceived into doing so, are feeding the spiral of the "clash of powers."

So is last Sunday’s news that two senior executive branch officials have held meetings over the past year, in the presidential palace, with emissaries sent by a druglord who claimed he had evidence to undermine Justice Velásquez.

Just before Moreno-Ocampo’s visit, the issue heated up when the president of the Supreme Court, Justice Francisco Ricaurte, referred to "a strange alliance," in which the government and the paramilitaries were making common cause against the Supreme Court.

Ricaurte repeated what he said several months ago: "There is a plot against the Supreme Court to discredit its magistrates and undermine the legitimacy of the reports of wrongdoing."

"There is a plot here. The public prosecutor’s office should investigate," said Velásquez himself.

Prosecutors who have been taking the confessions of demobilised paramilitaries under the provisions of the Peace and Justice Law have all been threatened, as have the magistrates of the Supreme Court’s criminal chamber.

And in the meantime, Interior and Justice Minister Valencia is pushing for changes in the justice system which could limit the power of the Supreme Court to investigate and try legislators implicated in the scandal, and for political reforms that would only go into effect shortly before the current legislature ends in 2010, thus prolonging the status quo.

Iván Cepeda, spokesman for the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), said the ICC should be alerted to how the politicians caught up in the scandal "have begun to be absolved."

Among those implicated in the scandal is Mario Uribe, the president’s cousin and close political ally, who stepped down as senator to avoid being investigated by the Supreme Court and to fall instead under the jurisdiction of the public prosecutor’s office, which is headed by a former deputy minister of the current government, Mario Iguarán.

Before being arrested in April, Mario Uribe attempted to seek political asylum in the Costa Rican Embassy.

The Supreme Court began to investigate him in July 2007 for allegedly receiving support from the paramilitaries in his election campaign and for the purchase of 5,000 hectares of land reportedly acquired by means of threats against the owners.

But the former senator was released from prison on Aug. 20 after the public prosecutor’s office said there was insufficient evidence to hold him.

And although the investigation of Mario Uribe continues, it is not including a 2000 land deal with one of the paramilitary chiefs extradited to the United States on drug charges in May, according to the Bogota magazine Semana.

Three other former lawmakers who quit Congress have also been released from prison in the last few weeks, after witness testimony was dismissed by the public prosecutor’s office.

"The government coalition is made up of parties whose leadership has been implicated in the parapolitics scandal. The parties’ presidents are under prosecution, and between 30 and 70 percent of the votes the parties won are compromised because the legislators are either on trial or in jail," former minister Camilo González Posso, the head of the Institute for Peace and Development (INDEPAZ), told IPS.

This is "a governing coalition that has won power by the use of violence. They share the responsibility for the appalling crimes for which the paramilitaries are being tried," he added.

"How will impunity be avoided, and what kind of reparations will be demanded of the ‘parapoliticians’ who contributed to murders, massacres and the forced displacement of three million people in Colombia?" asked González Posso, alluding to the provisions of the Peace and Justice Law.

The same questions are being asked by the ICC prosecutor, according to a letter to the Colombian government from Moreno-Ocampo, dated Jun. 18 but kept secret until Aug. 15, when it was published by the Bogota daily El Nuevo Siglo.

"How will the trial of those most responsible for crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC, including political leaders and members of Congress presumably linked to demobilised groups, be ensured?" asked Moreno-Ocampo.

"The parapolitics scandal is a key issue for us, because those who are ultimately responsible should be tried and convicted," he added in the letter.

Cepeda pointed out to IPS that since the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, went into force in July 2002, elections have been held in Colombia "in which mechanisms of armed pressure and territorial control were used, which can be linked to crimes against humanity."

IPS learned that the ICC prosecutor is not pleased with the fact that the legislators investigated in the parapolitics scandal are accused only of conspiracy to commit crimes, with aggravating circumstances, and not of crimes against humanity.

One possibility is that the most heavily implicated legislators will be sentenced in Colombia on charges of conspiracy to commit crimes, and could face possible prosecution before the ICC for crimes against humanity.

"Parapolitics is the main front in the struggle today in Colombia," said Cepeda.

"The possibility of a way forward to democracy depends on how this struggle between hopes for impunity versus the search for truth and justice in the parapolitics cases plays out," he said. (END/2008)

August 24, 2008

VIDEO: Pirates and Emperors

A bit of fun on a serious topic. This is a great little video that calls into question the difference between pirates and emperors. If it walks like a duck and acts like a duck...

Colombia's Indians risk extinction from conflict, drugs war and multinationals

Anastasia Moloney, Originally published in Reuters AlertNet, August 15, 2008.

Colombia's decades-long conflict, U.S.-backed anti-drugs measures and resource-hungry multinational companies are pushing the country's indigenous peoples towards extinction. War alone uproots 20,000 Indians from their ancestral homes each year, the United Nations' refugee agency says.

From the Arahuacos of the remote snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, to the Wayuus - a matriarchal group of goat herders living in the deserts of the Guajira near Venezuela - most of Colombia's 84 indigenous groups have been forced at some time to flee sporadic fighting between government troops and left-wing guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

"We lose our identity when we're displaced," says Luis Evelis Andrade, president of the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC). "We feel lost in the big cities and it's an alien habitat for us. Our ties and traditions are with our Mother Earth. Once we leave (our lands), our language and family structures begin to break down."

There are roughly a million indigenous people in Colombia. That's just under 3 percent of the country's population of 44 million, but indigenous people account for about 7 per cent of country's internally displaced population, which stands at about 3 million.

At least 18 of Colombia's indigenous groups are at a risk of disappearing altogether, threatened primarily because they've been forced off traditional lands.

And Bruno Moro from the U.N. development programme agency paints a grim picture of the future for Colombia's indigenous groups. "Without doubt we're talking about a humanitarian emergency on a large scale," he said in Bogota this week.

It's not the first time that humanitarian agencies have raised the alarm about Colombia's endangered indigenous communities. ONIC, the country's main indigenous association, has been warning about the disappearance of indigenous groups for years.

"We've repeatedly denounced the presence of illegally armed groups and the (state) army on indigenous reserves, who use our lands as a refuge or to hide in," Andrade tells reporters. "They take crops and place communities in the line of fire. They've no right being there." He says 20 indigenous leaders have been murdered this year by illegal armed groups.

Colombia's indigenous groups speak 64 different languages and live in distinct habitats - from remote jungle to mountainous regions - which means their plight remains largely invisible.

Many of the tribes are already very small. Around 32 indigenous tribes have fewer than 500 members and around a dozen have less than 100 people, ONIC estimates.

The ones at highest risk of extinction are the tribes who live in the Amazon, the Guayaberos from central Colombia, the Embera Indians living near Panama, the Kankuamo in northern Colombia, and the Nukak, a small tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers who came under the international spotlight two years ago when they were forced out of their their rainforest homes.

As displaced indigenous communities seek refuge in other reserves, U.N. agencies say some indigenous reserves and their food supplies face growing pressure.

"In some cases, different tribes are obliged to concentrate all under the same territory to survive, something that endangers their own cultures," Moro says.

The government's war on coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine, has also uprooted indigenous groups.

Increasingly, U.S.-sponsored coca crop-spraying campaigns are forcing indigenous tribes off their lands as duster planes accidentally destroy their food crops at the same time. Indigenous groups often live in and around coca-growing regions, which brings them in close contact with FARC guerrillas who fight to control coca production.

"The fumigation of coca has forced some of our people to leave their lands and has caused illnesses among our children and women," says Hernando Criollo, a representative of the Siona tribe from Putumayo, a major coca-growing region in the country's south.

The recent arrival of new multinationals looking for oil, gold and coal across Colombia's largely unexplored and resource-rich lands is a growing concern among indigenous organisations. The Colombian government is legally obliged to consult indigenous leaders if it wishes to carry out exploration projects on their lands or negotiate their resettlement, but this doesn't always happen.

Indigenous social and cultural customs are intertwined with their ancestral lands. Displacement disrupts traditional ways of life and makes it difficult for indigenous groups to preserve their cultures and bind communities together.

For example, the use of traditional medicine among some tribes is disappearing completely, Andrade says.

To help preserve their cultures, indigenous leaders are demanding more government funding for schools in their reserves and bilingual teachers who speak both Spanish and indigenous languages. Universities, they say, should be encouraged to offer scholarships and diplomas relevant to indigenous people.

"We're responsible for our communities in our autonomous lands but the government is not fulfilling its legal responsibilities to those who've been displaced or in the provision of basic healthcare and education," Andrade says. Despite laws enshrined in the country's constitution, he says around 400,000 indigenous people still have not been granted their own reserves by the government.

Other indigenous leaders are encouraging their people to take up positions in local and central government so that Indian interests can be better represented.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, is currently training indigenous leaders about human rights and how to effectively denounce abuses by illegal armed groups against their communities.

But Andrade remains pessimistic and says there's a march planned in Colombia next month to raise awareness about the plight facing Colombia's indigenous groups. "There's little political will to preserve indigenous cultures and alleviate the poverty that we suffer," he says. "We form part of Colombia's great cultural heritage and it's not being cherished."


Reuters AlertNet is not responsible for the content of external websites.

August 23, 2008

On Wars and Occupations...

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper

Dear Honourable Stephen Harper,

I am mourning the death of a friend and a colleague, Dr. Jacqueline Kirk. Jackie and two other women international aid workers were slain by Taliban forces. The lives of these courageous women, like thousands of Afghan women, were wasted in a senseless conflict where your government is playing a major role in prolonging and perpetuating it. It was only a few months ago where students in my graduate course "Women, War and Learning" were reading Dr. Kirk's work on "Promoting a gender-just peace: The roles of women teachers in peacebuilding and reconstruction." Dr. Kirk and I planned to work, upon her return from Afghanistan, on the impact of war on women's education; she will not be back and I am devastated and deeply saddened.

Prime Minister Harper, it is more than a decade that I am teaching and practicing peace. As a Canadian educator and scholar on the topic of women and war, I have come to the conclusion that your decision to prolong and expand a war that your predecessor had participated in is against the interests of both Afghan and Canadian peoples. Your government is robbing us from resources which should be devoted to the immediate needs of our people; just consider the situation of appalling living conditions of the aboriginal communities, the rise of violence on our streets, the matter of homelessness, poverty, or joblessness. Add to this list the loss of Afghan and Canadians lives.

As my students engaged with the scholarly work of my dear colleague Jacki Kirk, they also heard first-hand from American War Resisters about their decision to abandon the army and not to take part in any military action when a group of them appeared in my course as guest speakers. Their act is as honorable and courageous as the act of Jackie and her colleagues who decided to join the International Rescue Committee in order to bring some sense of normalcy to a war-torn society. Now, I am also mourning the loss of a nation which once was at the helmet of international peace initiatives. Your government has planned to deport Mr. Hinzman and his family after more than four years of residing in Canada and trying to rebuild a life outside the military. You know that upon his return to the United States, he will face severe punishment. Your government has made this decision against the will of the majority of Canadians who oppose the involvement of our nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti.

Prime Minister Harper, I have mourned the death of Canadian women and men that the previous government and you have sent to the war zones of Afghanistan and Haiti. The death of a dear friend or the deportation of a family whom I know, bring much pain and agony upon me. The occupation of Afghanistan by the NATO and Canadian forces has strengthened the Taliban. Let's not forget that the Talibans are the enemy of Afghan people first, therefore, listen to the voices of women of Afghanistan who demand peace and security and the departure of foreign troops from their homeland. My dear friend, Jackie was responding to this call and wanted to provide training opportunity for future women teachers in Afghanistan. Her dream for peace, her vision for a better future for the people of Afghanistan was brutally shattered.

In the name of Canadian citizens such as Jackie and American war resisters who have taken refuge in Canada, I call upon you to put an end to Canadian involvement in this war, and allow American war resisters to stay in Canada and contribute to the building of a peaceful future. People of Afghanistan, be assured, know how to dismantle the oppressive Taliban regime; they need our human support not military force.


Dr. Shahrzad Mojab
Professor and Director
Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology
OISE/University of Toronto
Room 7-116
252 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 1V6
Tel.: (416) 978-0829 or at the WGSI (416) 946-5383
Fax: (416) 926-4749

August 22, 2008

The Para-Uribe Regime, the Extraditions, and Justice in Colombia

Written by Justin Podur, Manuel Rozental and Dawn Paley,
Originally published in Pueblos En Camino,
22 August, 2008

A New York Times article by Simon Romero on August 15 suggested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo was going to investigate the FARC in Colombia, and its connections to other countries. In the 12-paragraph article, one paragraph (the 10th) noted that the ICC would also look at paramilitarism:

“In relation to the paramilitaries, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he was concerned that there had been few convictions of paramilitary warlords, despite the extradition of more than a dozen to the United States and a scandal over paramilitary ties among senior members of Colombia’s political establishment.”

The NYT article is deceptive. The ICC's main concern was with paramilitarism, not the FARC, whose crimes are dwarfed by those of the paramilitaries. The Supreme Court of Colombia have been seeking convictions of the politicians involved in the 'scandal over paramilitary ties', not just the paramilitaries themselves. These cases are going to be harmed by the extraditions of the main witnesses, the mentioned dozen paramilitary leaders. The paramilitaries (and politicians) are guilty of major massacres, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, but they will be tried in the US exclusively on drug charges. Above all, the motive for the crimes is lost in the article. The paramilitarism, and for that matter the drug trafficking to help finance it, was done to destroy social opposition and displace people from territory, to facilitate the plunder of the country through violence.

Some background is necessary. Colombia's civil war has been running, by some counts, for sixty years, since change through the political system was closed when Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated in 1948. For the first few decades the instrument of destruction of social movements and indigenous and afro-colombian peoples was the national army and police, supplemented by private armies affiliated with political parties. Starting in the 1960s, the United States became heavily involved in sponsoring counterinsurgency warfare. The paramilitarism currently seen in Colombia, in which private armies act as auxiliaries to the military, conduct narcotrafficking, perform 'social cleansing', and contract with landowners, multinationals, and politicians to commit murder and massacre, has been around since at least the 1980s, when the Castano brothers helped found Muerte a los Secuestradores (MAS), which then became Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).

Colombia's current President Alvaro Uribe Velez’ political history is intimately tied with paramilitarism. He was mayor of the then drug-trafficker controlled Medellin in 1982, and when he became governor of Antioquia in 1995-1997, he supported the legalized paramilitarism of groups called CONVIVIR. Elected president in 2002 he changed the constitution so he could be re-elected in 2006, and reams of evidence have accumulated of links between politicians in his party and the paramilitary death squads. During Uribe’s nearly three decades in politics, paramilitaries have ravaged the country, killing several thousand Colombians every single year, carrying out spectacular public atrocities like playing soccer with victims' heads and creating mass graves.

As President, Uribe's strategy was to attack the FARC continuously, politically and militarily, to capitalize on the political errors of the guerrillas and suggest a military solution to the conflict with them. In tandem, he also initiated a full-blown 'peace process' with the paramilitaries. The idea of a peace process between the government and the paramilitaries, which were basically the clients of the state and multinationals, performing the killings and terrorism these institutions did not want to be openly associated with, was always preposterous, a mechanism for legalizing paramiltarism. But the process went forward over a number of years. Many paramilitaries who came forward and surrendered their arms were allowed impunity for their crimes and in some cases, were also allowed to keep the territories of the peasants they had driven from the land by terror. Others were incorporated into Uribe's 'democratic security' apparatus as paid informants. Still others came forward to confess to lesser crimes than they had actually committed.

The peace process and the 'demobilization' of paramilitaries did not end paramilitarism. Assassinations and death threats proceed as normal despite the supposed demobilization. The new generation of paramilitaries on August 11/08 made genocidal threats against the indigenous of Cauca, saying the region had been surrounded by their agents and that “there will be a significant number of you murdered and disappeared. We know that your population will not go above 1 million people in Colombia. We want Popayan, Bogota, and Cali free of Indians...” The current indigenous population of Colombia is about 1.4 million.

The number of paramilitary atrocities has decreased somewhat since the peace process, but the Colombian army and police have taken up the slack. An LA Times report on August 20/08 by Chris Kraul quoted figures from the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) that the military killed 329 people in 2007 compared to 223 in 2006. The murders that would have been committed by the paramilitaries are now being committed directly by the greatly-expanded military forces.

One major political risk in the paramilitary peace process was that, while the killings could continue, for the process to succeed even as theatre at least some people would have to be punished for the horrendous crimes. But no one wanted to be the scapegoat, and paramilitarism was deeply embedded – in the military, in local politics, in Congress, and in relationships with the multinationals on the ground. One general, Jaime Uscategui, on trial for a paramilitary massacre of civilians at Mapiripan in 1997, suggested publicly that if he went down for it, he would bring many others down with him and had the evidence to do so (he was acquitted).

With both founding Castano brothers (Fidel and Carlos) probably dead, the AUC had been under the control of a third Castano, Vicente, and Salvatore Mancuso, a commander with close links to Italian mafias. AUC leaders had a history of making comments embarrassing to the Colombian administration. According to the paramilitary ideology, they were performing a service, exterminating leftists, unionists, indigenous people and peasant leaders, all of whom they deemed enemies of Colombia, and were unashamed of it. Carlos Castano admitted that 70% of their revenues came from drug trafficking. In 2002, Mancuso praised the election of Uribe and said that 35% of Colombia's congress were friendly to the paramilitaries.

At the end of 2006, these admissions spiralled out of the control of Uribe's administration. Mancuso turned himself in. At around the same time, a document called the “Pact of Ralito”, signed by paramilitaries and politicians in 2001, was exposed. A paramilitary leader, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo (codename “Jorge 40”), had his laptop confiscated. Jorge 40's computer contained many other documents that the Colombian Supreme Court used as the basis for an investigation into the links between elected politicians, most of whom were in Uribe's camp, and the paramilitaries. Through 2007, between the Jorge 40 laptop documents and the testimony of Mancuso and others, some very uncomfortable realities were being exposed before the Supreme Court and the country. The scandal was called 'para-politica', though opposition Senator Jorge Robledo called it 'para-Uribismo', because most of the dozens of politicians involved were in Uribe's camp.

Indeed, it is remarkable how much evidence of paramilitary and narcotrafficking involvement has emerged about Uribe himself. In April 2007 opposition Senator Gustavo Petro presented photos of Uribe's brother Santiago with a drug dealer (Fabio Ochoa) in 1985 and suggested Uribe's support for the CONVIVIR paramilitaries in Antioquia helped facilitate massacres in that department in the 1990s. A former lover of notorious drug dealer Pablo Escobar (Virginia Vallejo) said in her book that Escobar and Uribe had been great friends in the 1980s. More seriously, so too did the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 1991, as a document published by the US National Security Archive shows: Uribe was said to be “a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar”, “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel”, and was against extradition – something the narcotraffickers had always feared. In April 2008, Uribe's cousin Mario was arrested as part of the para-Uribismo scandal, and another paramilitary fighter accused Uribe himself of helping plan a massacre in 1997.

Uribe met these varied accusations with a single response: attacking the source. Thus in Uribe's accusations, Gustavo Petro and his party, the Polo Democratico, were guerrilla supporters. The photograph with an Uribe and an Ochoa existed because both families were famous ranchers and attended common horse breeding competitions. Virginia Vallejo couldn't produce any photos of him with Escobar, and was only the vehicle of journalist Gonzalo Guillen, who Uribe attacked publicly (and who then was forced to flee the country due to death threats from paramiltiaries). He had supported the legalized CONVIVIR paramiltiaries as governor, but when he learned of their atrocities he tried to demobilize them. And the Supreme Court was partisan, political, and should be reformed. In recent weeks Uribe has suggested a reform to put the Supreme Court under the jurisdiction of the executive, to which we will return.

The “para-Uribismo” evidence included specific agreements between politicians and paramilitaries on planning specific massacres, arrangements on how to cover up and erase records of crimes in official databases, and more.

Among the most uncomfortable of the revelations came from Mancuso himself. In March 2007, the American fruit company Chiquita admitted before a US court to paying over a million dollars to the paramilitaries, who massacred banana workers in Uraba. Chiquita made a plea to pay a $25 million fine (in the US) as punishment. A separate case against Chiquita on behalf of the victims of the massacres, represented by Jim Reider, is currently being pursued in a New York Court. Chiquita argued the payments were capitulation to murderous extortion, and that they paid in order to protect their workers from the paramilitaries.

A year later, Chiquita's relationship with the paramilitaries was brought to a wider American audience in a 60 Minutes program aired May 11, 2008. The interviewer, Steve Kroft, spoke to Mancuso:

* * *

60 Minutes did find one person who was willing to name names inside a maximum security prison outside Medellin: Salvatore Mancuso was once the leader of the paramilitaries.

"Chiquita says the reason they paid the money was because your people would kill them if they didn't. Is that true?" Kroft asks.

"No it is not true," Mancuso says. "They paid taxes because we were like a state in the area, and because we were providing them with protection which enabled them to continue making investments and a financial profit."

"What would have happened to Chiquita and its employees if they had not paid you?" Kroft asks.

"The truth is, we never thought about what would happen because they did so willingly," Mancuso says.

Asked if the company had a choice, Mancuso says, "Yes, they had a choice. They could go to the local police or army for protection from the guerillas, but the army and police at that time were barely able to protect themselves."

Mancuso helped negotiate a deal with the Colombian government that allowed more than 30,000 paramilitaries to give up their arms and demobilize in return for reduced prison sentences. As part of the deal, the paramilitaries must truthfully confess to all crimes, or face much harsher penalties.

(CBS) "Dole and Del Monte say they never paid you any money," Kroft tells Mancuso.

"Chiquita has been honest by acknowledging the reality of the conflict and the payments that it made; the others also made payments, not only international companies, but also the national companies in the region," Mancuso says.

"So you're saying Dole and Del Monte are lying?" Kroft asks.

"I'm saying they all paid," Mancuso says.

Mancuso has been indicted in the U.S. for smuggling 17 tons of cocaine into the country. He says he's more than willing to tell U.S prosecutors anything they want to know.

"Has anyone come down here from the United States to talk to you about Dole, or to talk to you about Del Monte or any other companies?" Kroft asks.

"No one has come from the Department of Justice of the United States to talk to us," Mancuso says. "I am taking the opportunity to invite the Department of State and the Department of Justice, so that they can come and so I can tell them all that they want to know from us."

"And you would name names?" Kroft asks.

"Certainly, I would do so," Mancuso says.

* * *

About 24 hours after the program aired, on May 13, 2008, Uribe had Mancuso extradited to the United States for drug trafficking, along with a dozen other paramilitary leaders.

The extraditions continue, disrupting the spiral of revelations and given Uribe a chance to try to return to the initiative. Uribe's attack is three-pronged. First, attack the evidence by deporting the paramilitary leaders who can testify to the links between paramilitary massacre and displacement with Colombian politicians and, more importantly, with multinational and US corporations. Second, attack the Supreme Court institutionally and try to bring it under political control. Also use the legal offices that are under the President's influence to get people close to the President released: Mario Uribe, the President's cousin, and William Montes, another accused “para-politician”, were released by Colombia's prosecutors in the past few days. Third, use the popularity gained from successful operations against FARC to attack anyone pointing to the evidence of para-Uribismo as guerrillas.

These popularity-swelling operations are tarred by their own illegality: Uribe admitted that the Colombian government rescued FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt and the other captured soldiers and police by impersonating an international humanitarian organization and using the Red Cross logo, something that is also illegal under international law (AFP, July 17/08, “Uribe Admits Red Cross Emblem Used in Hostage Rescue”).

But yet another challenge to Uribe and to “para-Uribismo” has come from an unexpected direction: the International Criminal Court (ICC). Its prosecutor, Argentine attorney Luis Moreno Ocampo, began proceedings against a sitting head of state last month when he sought a warrant for the arrest of Sudan's President Omar Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. Observers of the Darfur conflict argued that doing so was a mistake, that it mixed false accusations with legitimate ones and would damage the prospects for peace in Darfur (see for example Alex de Waal's comment).

Others have argued that the ICC's actions in Rwanda and Yugoslavia were also politicized: US officials would never go on trial for their crimes, nor in most cases would their clients – so what justice was the ICC dispensing? And yet, when Uribe's office received the ICC's letter about the paramilitary extraditions, the Colombian president had to be aware that he was receiving a letter from someone who had issued a warrant for the arrest of a sitting president for crimes committed in the name of counterinsurgency and carried out by proxy forces.

Moreno's letter, addressed to the Colombian Ambassador at the Hague, was diplomatically worded. Its key paragraph:

“How will the prosecution of those primarily responsible for crimes that are under the jurisdiction of the ICC (translator's note – these are genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and aggression), including political leaders and members of Congress presumably linked to the demobilized paramilitaries, be guaranteed? In particular, I would like to know if the investigations into crimes punishable under the Rome Statute will continue and if the extradition of the paramilitary leaders presents an obstacle to the effective investigation of the aforementioned politicians. I should clarify that as of today there is no decision on opening an investigation. The situation remains under the analysis of my office.”

Colombia is a signatory to the Rome Statute, but it exempted itself for 7 years from the war crimes article of the statute in 2002, the year Uribe came to power. Should the ICC open an investigation, the legality of this exemption will no doubt be considered.

Colombia is not Sudan: Colombia is a devoted US ally and Sudan, an official enemy. Colombia is a sought-after free trade partner of Canada and the US and Sudan, the subject of sanctions. For the ICC to intervene in Colombia to ensure that the evidence against the regime, its links to crimes against humanity, and the relationship between these crimes and the enrichment of multinational corporations is allowed to emerge would be a different direction for the court, one that could damage support for Colombia's regime in the US and Canada. Perhaps the threat of an ICC investigation could help undermine Uribe's efforts to abuse Colombia's Supreme Court and force Canada and the US to stop their armed plunder of that country.

Justin Podur and Manuel Rozental are activists with Pueblos en Camino ( Dawn Paley is a contributing editor of The Dominion (


Manuel Rozental, Que justicia exige la Corte, ALAI:

Dawn Paley, ICC investigates extraditions, Dominion Weblog:

For basic information: see wikipedia on Alvaro Uribe Velez, Para-political scandal, and Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia.

August 20, 2008

¿Qué Justicia exige la Corte?

[08/19/2008] [ACIN] [ Autor: Manuel Rozental]

El régimen que Gobierna a Colombia, acaba de ser objeto de una comunicación de un Fiscal de la Corte Penal Internacional. Es necesario clarificar que al utilizar el término "régimen" nos referimos a mucho más que el Gobierno presidido por Álvaro Uribe. El régimen incluye la institucionalidad Nacional y transnacional, la estructura y flujo de poder, las políticas que allí se elaboran e implementan, los recursos que maneja y los objetivos que persiguen.

El régimen incluye a las transnacionales que arman, entrenan y financian escuadrones de la muerte (Chiquita Brands y todas las bananeras, Drummond, Coca-Cola, según confesiones de paramilitares y evidencias acumuladas) y que no han sido objeto aún de los procesos de investigación jurídica que se requieren. También incluye a los Gobiernos extranjeros de potencias encabezados por los EEUU, que dictan las políticas e imponen el sentido y propósitos del régimen al servicio de las transnacionales, es decir, el uso y abuso de recursos públicos de estos Gobiernos para acceder a territorios y riquezas para beneficio de las corporaciones transnacionales: Plan Colombia, IIRSA, Escuela de las Américas, iniciativas militares y de inteligencia con el mismo objetivo. El régimen así constituido de manera transnacional y con una estructura de poder vertical al servicio del gran capital, es quien recibe esta carta de la Corte Penal Internacional a través del Gobierno de Colombia.


1. El Fiscal Argentino Luis Moreno, actuando a nombre de la CPI, dice en su carta publicada en el Nuevo Siglo: "Investigaremos de cerca por qué algunos ex paramilitares fueron extraditados a los Estados Unidos", con lo que advierte al régimen que, si la Justicia del régimen ha actuado para impedir que se haga justicia, la CPI tendrá jurisdicción para actuar en este caso y proceder para que se haga justicia.

2. La CPI solicita información sobre la decisión de extradición de paramilitares por parte del Gobierno de Colombia a los EEUU, porque esta decisión parece implicar que criminales de lesa humanidad, los delitos más graves y que deben tener prerrogativa sobre cualquier otro, son transferidos a la justicia de los EEUU para responder por cargos menores. Queda en evidencia la puerta giratoria de la justicia a través de la cual reos acusados por un delito en un lugar de la jurisdicción bajo control del régimen (en este caso Colombia) son transferidos a otro lugar (EEUU) con el efecto inmediato de quitarle a la justicia Colombiana el derecho de juzgarlos o de siquiera poder recoger evidencias y proceder en derecho de acuerdo con los cargos más graves: crímenes de lesa humanidad.

3. El régimen, a través del Presidente Uribe y del Ministro del Interior Valencia Cossio, se ha dedicado en los últimos meses a someter a la Corte Suprema de Justicia y a toda la justicia en Colombia, al poder del Ejecutivo. Específicamente, el Presidente Uribe violó la Convención de Ginebra al utilizar emblemas de la Cruz Roja en la Operación Jaque y mintió al respecto para encubrir la evidencia, extraditó a paramilitares y ha tenido una relación constante desde los niveles más altos, de coordinación y articulación con estas fuerzas del terror. Ante las acciones de la Corte para investigar estos temas y obtener respuestas del Gobierno y del Presidente, este ha lanzado una estrategia integral para desprestigiarla y someterla, lo que ha obligado a la Corte, en días pasados a proceder jurídicamente contra el Gobierno por su abuso de poder. La reforma jurídica propuesta tiene la intención de proteger a los políticos y funcionarios involucrados en la parapolítica [ver: , y]

Click aquí para leer mas.

August 14, 2008

An Open Letter to Canada and All First Nation Leaders...

So it happens in Canada, too. Regimes murder people, and the best the rest of us can hope for is a hollow apology, symbolic gestures 'making up' for historic wrongs while, in the present, the horror continues. This open letter by Shelley Brant screams for a wake up call, not just for First Nations leaders and the Canadian government but for all of us. She writes, silence means consent as far as I am concerned and if we have lost the meaning and value of human lives, the lives of our own people then we have completely lost who we are as a people.

We hear you, Shelley, and we scream with you!

La Chiva

Written by By Shelley Brant
Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
August 6, 2008

The recent questionable killing of yet another First Nations man, Craig McDougall 26 by police in Winnipeg has led me to write this letter:

How many more inquiries and bodies is it going to take???? How many more unimplemented recommendations? ??? How many more police lies and cover-ups supported by the governments in this so called great country before people wake up to the truth????? How many more planted weapons in the media and on our own people?????

This is the list of First Nations people killed by police across Canada and some have led to inquiries and some haven't and is probably not even a complete list:
Frank Paul, a 47-year-old Mik'maq man - Vancouver- Vancouver police officer dragged the man, soaking wet and unconscious, from the downtown holding cells and dumped him in an alley across town. - Paul had died of hypothermia accelerated by acute alcohol poisoning. Dudley George, aged 38, - Ipperwash - Ontario - was killed by a police sniper during a Native land protest at Ipperwash Provincial Park. Craig McDougall 26 - Winnipeg - shot 4 times by police while on a cell phone with his girlfriend.Matthew Dumas, an 18-year-old Anishnabe, - Winnipeg - was pepper-sprayed, shot twice and killed by a Winnipeg Police officer.Dennis St. Paul - Norway House Cree Nation reserve - Winnipeg - shot and killed by the RCMP.Donald Miles - Winnipeg - shot and killed by police.Howard Fleury - Winnipeg - shot and killed by police.John Joseph Harper - Winnipeg - shot and killed by police.Helen Betty Osbourne 16 - The Pas- police complicity in the murder case of Cree teen The Pas Manitoba.Neil Stone child 17 - Saskatoon - inquiry was released, stating that the Saskatoon police investigation into the 1990 freezing death of the 17-year-old - Saskatoon.Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner - Saskatoon- whose bodies were also found on the outskirts of town in February, 2000 Geronimo Fobister at the Anishnabe - Ontario - reserve of Grassy Narrows Lorraine Jacobsen 40 - British Columbia - on a Kwagiutl reserve at Alert Bay - shot and killed by police.Gerald Chenery, a Nisga' man - Vancouver - was shot 12 times and killed by two Vancouver cops Michael Langan , Metis 19 - Winnipeg- Death by police taser

You stepped into Iraq with the U.S. because of a dictator who was killing his own people, yet there is no difference between mustard gas and police bullets, they are both a permanent means of death, which makes you no better!!!!!

Perhaps someone should invade Canada and come to the aid of the First Nations people in this country who are at the mercy of it's governments and their police forces, just as Canada comes to the aid of people in other countries for the same reasons.

I will say right now that I am ashamed to live in a country so full of hatred and racism, to the point where you can't even trust the very people who are suppose to protect you which are the police not to shoot to kill because you are a First Nations person. There is case after case after case of First Nations people being killed by police who lie and cover up their deaths, only for the ugly truth to come out later yet they get exonerated and you would like people to think these are isolated incidents. They are not, they are country wide and you turn a blind eye because it might stain your quaint reputation. Well I am here to tell you: your secret is out and now we know why the U.N Declaration of Indigenous Rights did not get signed by Canada don't we. It's because in Canada we are not considered humans so therefore why should we have any rights that might empower us??????

It is quite apparent that the lives of First Nations people mean nothing in this country and I am ashamed to say it also doesn't mean a lot to the Native leaders of this country either. If it did the people would not be left on their own to speak out on police killings or attempts, yet they remain silent, all except one group decrying the deaths of two recent First Nations men in Winnipeg. My point???? This going on all across Canada and where is the public outcry from the First Nations leaders????? ??? It's going on right here in Ontario, where is the public outcry from the First Nations leaders????? ? Have we become so colonized and politicized that the human lives of our own people boil down to who they are???? Does one life means more than another????? Are we so afraid that we might not get a vote or that the government might deny us something that we can't even speak out and stand up for what is wrong in this country together, even when life and death is at stake?????? Silence means consent as far as I am concerned and if we have lost the meaning and value of human lives, the lives of our own people then we have completely lost who we are as a people. We might as well quit the nation talk and quit the cultural talk and quit the talk about who we are as a people because they are just words, your actions as leaders of all the nations across this country tell me there is nothing left worthy of fighting for. The only things left are an illusion and come from the outside, which has no meaning when it comes to being a First Nations person in this country. I will stand here today and say that I am no longer proud to be a Mohawk woman whose leaders can't even stand up and do what's right for their own people and that goes for the rest of the leaders across the country too.

I hang my head in shame at both this country and the First Nations leaders it has produced who would rather be silent than stand together with their own people who are systematically being killed by the police in this country!!!!! !!!!

Canada you can take your apology and stick it where the sun don't shine because they are just mere words that mean nothing and perhaps in another 100 years rather than do something about the deaths of First Nations people at the hands of police now, you can apologize again!!!!!!

Shelley Brant
Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory

New Criminal Upsurge in Saravena, Arauca

Dear readers:
We are passing along this communique detailing the latest aggression faced by communities in the department of Arauca, Colombia, where it is sadly no surprise that the supposedly 'demobilized' paramilitaries of the AUC have resurfaced (if one could claim that they ever went away in the first place) and murdered 7 people since the 3rd of August. Below the text of the communique is action recommended by the UK-based Colombia Solidarity Campaign, who sent us the message. Also below is the communique in its original Spanish. La Chiva
Written by the "Joel Sierra" Human Rights Foundation, 12 August 2008

The Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation presents this Early Alert communiqué to the regional, national and international community, and to the state’s institutions of justice and control, demanding that they take immediate steps with regard to the following:

Since 3 August seven people have been assassinated in Saravena, Arauca. At the same time graffiti have appeared in the town authored by the paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).

3 August, Puerto Contreras district, Mr. WILSON RODRÍGUEZ MOSQUERA, 31 years old, is assassinated.

5 August, Barrio Cuatro de Diciembre, Mr. OMAR YESID TARAZONA, 29 years old, is assassinated.

8 August, Puerto Contreras district, Mr. URIEL ORTEGA CÁCERES, 31 years, is given the coup de grace. On the same day, Barrio Galán, at approximately 8:30 in the morning, social and political leader LUIS MAYUSA PRADA, 46 years old, is assassinated.

10 August, at approximately 9:20pm LUIS ALEJANDRO DÍAZ VILLAMIZAR, 18 years old is assassinated in the commercial establishment ‘La Chorizada de Papi’, situated 9th avenue with 28th street.

Yesterday, 11 August, at approximately 5:00 pm, Mr. ALEXANDER TULIVILA, 29 years old is assassinated on 16th avenue with 19th street, Barrio Seis de Octubre. Also, at approximately 7:00 in the evening, in Puerto Contreras district, an as yet unidentified male between 30 and 35 years old is violently killed.

Graffiti of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia AUC has been appearing on the front of buildings in the last few days, saying things like “THE AUC HAS ARRIVED”. The panic they generate is furthered by the death threats received by human rights defenders, journalists and tradesmen.

These events bring to mind the recent past when sicarios hit men acting in the name of the paramilitaries moved freely through the security cordon of the National Police to commit a great many murders, many of them of social leaders.

The upsurge of violent deaths in a region with such security force presence shows that the government policy of ‘democratic security’ is for the economic interests of the transnational corporations, but makes no reference to the life and integrity of araucanos, the people of the region.

For these reasons we repeat our demand that the Colombian state immediately activates its System of Early Alerts, and deploys all the required administrative, judicial and control measures to protect the life and integrity of the general community.

[We further demand that] the judicial authorities carry out proper investigations to clarify the facts surrounding the violent deaths reported above.



Saravena, 12 August 2008.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Colombia Solidarity Campaign adds:

Please write to the Colombian state, pressing for immediate action. Cite the above Early Alert and urge the authorities to:

Investigate the seven murders in Saravena between 3 and 11 August

Protect the community from further paramilitary attacks.

Address your message to President Alvaro Uribe Velez and send it to the nearest Colombian Embassy, in the UK to


Saravena, 12 de agosto de 2008.



La Fundación de Derechos Humanos Joel Sierra, presenta a la comunidad Regional, Nacional e Internacional, a los organismos de justicia y control del Estado, la presente Alerta Temprana, exigiendo se activen de manera inmediata las medidas que el Sistema Nacional tiene instituido para ello:

Desde el domingo 3 de agosto, han sido asesinadas 7 personas en el municipio de Saravena, al tiempo que en algunos lugares de su casco urbano, aparecieron grafitis alusivos a las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).

1. El día 03 de agosto, fue asesinado el señor WILSON RODRÍGUEZ MOSQUERA, de
31 años de edad, en la vereda Puerto Contreras.

2. El día 05 de agosto fue asesinado el señor OMAR YESID TARAZONA, de 29 años de edad, en el Barrio Cuatro de Diciembre.

3. El 8 de agosto, fue ultimado el señor URIEL ORTEGA CÁCERES, de 31 años, en la vereda Puerto Contreras. Ese mismo día en el Barrio Galán, aproximadamente 8:30 de la mañana, fue asesinado el dirigente social y político LUIS MAYUSA PRADA, de 46 años de edad.

4. El 10 de agosto, aproximadamente a las 9:20 de la noche, fue asesinado el joven LUIS ALEJANDRO DÍAZ VILLAMIZAR, de 18 años de edad, en el establecimiento comercial La Chorizada de Papi, ubicada en la Carrera 9 con calle 28.

5. El día de ayer 11 de agosto, aproximadamente a las 5:00 p.m., fue asesinado el señor ALEXANDER TULIVILA, de 29 años de edad, en la carrera 16 con calle 19, Barrio Seis de Octubre. De igual forma, aproximadamente a las 7:00 de la noche, en la vereda Puerto Contreras, fue muerto de manera violenta una persona de sexo masculino entre 30 a 35 años de edad, la cual no ha sido identificada.

De otra parte, varias fachadas de viviendas de diferentes barrios del municipio, han venido apareciendo en los últimos días grafitis alusivos a las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia AUC, con indicaciones como “YEGAN LAS AUC”, generando zozobra, por las amenazas que han venido recibiendo algunos Defensores de Derechos Humanos, periodistas, comerciantes etc.

Estos acontecimientos hacen recordar el pasado resiente, cuando sicarios que actuaban a nombre de paramilitares y que se movían en los cordones de seguridad de la Policía Nacional, asesinaron un gran número de personas, muchos de ellos dirigentes sociales.

Este número elevado de muertes violentas, en una región con tanta presencia de la fuerza pública denota que la seguridad democrática tiene su sentido frente a los intereses económicos de las transnacionales, pero no en lo que hace referencia a la vida e integridad de los araucanos.

Por lo anterior reiteramos nuestra exigencia de activar de manera inmediata el Sistema de Alertas Tempranas, disponiendo las medidas administrativas, judiciales y de control que el caso amerita para proteger la vida e integridad de la comunidad en general.

A los organismos de justicia, adelantar las investigaciones pertinentes a esclarecer los hechos que rodearon las muertes violentas arriba señaladas.




August 13, 2008

VIDEO: Plan of Aggression in Northern Cauca, Colombia

This short (6:40) video was produced by the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) in July 2008. It outlines the context of aggression faced by this community, the context in which threats are made to destabilize local processes of resistance, such as the threat sent to the ACIN just days ago, on 11 August 2008.

August 11, 2008


Earlier this afternoon, the Association of Indigenous Authorities of Northern Cauca (ACIN) received the text of a threat by email, which we are attaching below for you to read. This letter of terror, signed by the CEC (Campesinos Embejucados del Cauca, or ‘Furious Peasants of Cauca’), announces that “at approximately 00:00 tonight, you will receive information regarding the murders at the hands of peasants of paHECES [1] and the ex-guerrilla heads of the CRIC, which will be confirmed by phone and a consequences of their disrespect.” In this threat, we are referred to as paHECES, or ‘excrement,’ exposing the racism of the author(s).

The 7-page threat states throughout its hateful and false content the decision to defame the indigenous process and the commencement of a campaign of terror and death. The context in which this letter has been sent is that of the parapolítica [2], with the clear collusion of the Colombian government:

The threats against the indigenous movement made by the President of the Republic, who has ordered the payment of rewards for the arrest of indigenous Senator Jesús Piñacué, who is mentioned in the threat;

The recent confession of the paramilitary member Orlando Villa Zapata, involved in the 1991 massacre in El Nilo [Cauca], that said massacre was planned in the Hacienda La Emperatriz in the presence of the landowners;

The recent spree of murders in Santander de Quilichao [Cauca] of 25 young people in one week and this past weekend’s massacre of ten people in El Tambo.

This letter is the culmination of a sharp increase in threats against indigenous leaders in Northern Cauca. This threat is also based on the unfounded declarations of General Jaime Esguerra, linking functionaries of the indigenous mayor’s office in Toribío with the 6th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The initial reading of this letter obliges us to make a call of MAXIMUM ALERT to Paez leaders and community members in Cauca as well as in the departments of Valle, Tolima, Putumayo and Huila and in the cities of Cali, Popayan and Bogota. All indications lead us to believe that this letter comes from the landowners and paramilitaries in collusion with their counterparts in the government.

We urgently call for national and international solidarity. Concerted actions in solidarity will allow us to uncover the origin of these threats in order to ensure that this criminal action will face justice. The web site of has been blocked, and internet access at the ACIN’s Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas [Communication and External Relations Network] has been cut off.

This threat was not written by peasants. Its crude yet carefully elaborated language has allowed us to discern this with certainty. We reiterate our solidarity with the Afro-Colombians and peasants with whom we have united in our shared struggle for social justice, freedom and resistance against the power of the landowners, a power that attempts to condemn us to silence and flight from our lands through the use of terror.

We will not fall into the trap of hate that tries to divide us in order to maintain an order of injustice and poverty. For life, peace, and the Freedom of Mother Earth, we defend dignity and unity and call out to collectively reject the hate of these false peasants.

We call upon the National Indigenous and Popular Movement and all the peoples of the Continent to accompany us in these difficult moments in which power cannot learn to accept our historic struggle. WE WILL RESIST!

Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC)
Association of Indigenous Authorities of Northern Cauca (ACIN, Cxab Wala Kiwe)
Cauca, 11 August, 2008


This text will be published [in Spanish] on the websites of the ONIC [National Indigenous Organization of Colombia] and the CRIC [Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca]

Subject: masacres cauca
lunes, 11 agosto, 2008 4:14 PM
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The Blame is on the Criminal paHECES


In recent years, the CRIC has ordered the taking of lands in particular parts of Cauca, lands that we peasants have been obliged to sell against our will. When all we want to do is produce bread, food and jobs, our intentions have been carried out in spite of the worst threats and hostility by organizers and leaders of the CRIC, where they claim that the territory is theirs and that there isn’t enough room for the indians, peasants, and blacks together – that this area belongs to the paHECES. We understand that these threats, intimidation, and occupations are occurring among the poor, in the midst of conditions of poverty, in one of the most violent and conflictive areas of Cauca, such as Caldono, Santander, Piendamo, Cajibio, Jámbalo, Totoro.

Areas inhabited by indians, blacks, mulattos, mestizos, but 99% of those inhabitants are humble human beings, poor, excluded by the system of the state and exploited by big capital, which today has taken this part of the country. We furious peasants not only live alongside state persecution but also the persecution of the CRIC and their councils, who put us, our families, properties and small farms, in a very difficult situation, through which we have always survived.

The CRIC’s persecution, and that of the councils of the paHECES, that not only are allowed to work and live but also fill our families and children with uneasiness, terror and confusion because they say that peasants, blacks, mestizos and mulattos are terrorists. They even pursue, harass, and nearly kill each other. They rob food through their [indigenous] guard and councils, which we aren’t even sure of being guerrilla, paramilitaries, or just thieves hired by the CRIC. Their intention is to evict peasants, and the saddest thing is to see how they reject, threaten and kill each other. The paHECES think that Cauca, Valle, Tolima, Huila and Putumayo belong to them; that is what the CRIC (Combo de Revoltosos Incitadores de la CXenofia) does.

Today, we must RISE UP to stop the oppressors, or we will have no future. We are making known the “root of the problem” that threatens us by announcing a path that we have already started, and we call out for everyone to walk that path together to defend ourselves from the CRIC and the paHECES, those who talk about liberating Mother Earth. The concern of the peasants of Valle, Cauca and Huila is that we have to defend ourselves from aggressions and xenophobia, and there are many ways to do that militarily, because we already know who they are, where they are, and what they do.

For us peasants, the scenario in Cauca, Valle and Huila is really desolate. Aside from the abandonment of the state, we have other problems. The ability to organize ourselves to obtain necessities such as access to water services through an aqueduct, which the Indians (especially the paHECES) have messed up for us, is met by the national government under these circumstances. There ought to be a search for a solution, be it public or clandestine, because we won’t put up with this any longer.

In Colombia, we thought that the indians were going to fight for what, at some point, would bring some sort of equilibrium among the population. In recent years, that has been burned by the imposition of the CRIC, which through their actions are the same as the guerrilla in that they have lost any possibility of negotiating humanitarian agreements in favorable conditions for the entire population of the countryside, including those same indians. We can neither accept nor remain on our knees before the aggressions, offensives and miserable policies of the paHECES, who today suffer and confront a serious and grave lack of credibility among the population of Cauca, Colombia and the world.

We already know about their significant allies in the region. Even still, the most certain thing is that the FARC will continue to move forward in diminished capacity and with probable fragmentation among their commanders and fronts, like the CRIC and the paHECES, who prepare their young people militarily in the army in order to hand them over to the FARC.

“We Celebrate the Liberation, and We Don’t Accept the Regime of the CRIC and the paHECES”

It needs to be said clearly: A CRIC-paHECES dictatorship has been founded in Cauca and Valle in Colombia. The CRIC judges, sentences and orders the occupations and evictions of poor peasants. They are as ignorant as the rest of their race. Those same indians will be our allies in the future.

To begin the challenge and condemn those responsible requires nothing more than your word. We aren’t responsible because we’re in Colombia. The charges that the CRIC and the paHECES make to justify the occupation of land are false because we aren’t the ones who own 5,000 hectares, like Uribe Velez does.

But that doesn’t seem to be too important because their reputation has reinforced their illegitimacy. The apparatus of the CRIC and the paHECES Councils has long been used as a weapon against the people of Cauca, particularly against the poor (a great number of whom were made poor since the CRIC was founded), against those who organize, denounce or resist.

The evidence and testimonies are hidden by order of the accused. The witnesses disappear because they are bribed, bought, murdered. The high-level leaders of the CRIC justify civilian claims and lie.

In the middle of all this, we must rise up to see who resists more. If we don’t resist, if we don’t rise up, if they don’t stop us, they will remove us from these lands and the planet through disaster, force, hunger and lies ordered by CRIC functionaries, indigenous guards trained militarily for the war of terror. The illegitimate Councils are installed in power to convert life into profit and to destroy the rest.

They denounce the Grave Situation of War in Northern Cauca, but the terror, corruption, laziness, delinquency, and prostitution is within the CRIC’s own office. All that is done against the peasants is hidden.


WE APPEAL FOR PRUDENCE AND RESPECT FOR THE LIFE OF THE CIVIL POPULATION. What appeal? What prudence? What respect for the LIFE of the poor peasant population of Cauca?

1. Now we are going to report the news. At approximately 00:00 tonight, you will receive information regarding the murders at the hands of peasants of paHECES and the ex-guerrilla heads of the CRIC, which will be confirmed by phone and consequences of their disrespect.

2. Don’t be surprised when the CRIC and paHECES are found dead and a significant number of your members have disappeared. We know that, in Colombia, you hardly pass one million people.

We want Popayan, Cali and Bogota Free of Indians because that is where their lair and greatest concentration of leaders are.

3. Your lairs will be surrounded by our members of intelligence as well as other paHECES. That is, your own people are giving us information so that we can defend ourselves. We have our equipment and logistics prepared.

3. As you do to us, you will also have the chance see how good it feels to stay awake at night and experience uncertainty.

5. Your Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida [the ACIN’s Comunication and External Relations Network for Truth and Life] is a synonym for paHECES.

We must advance a process of military occupation and extermination against the heads of the CRIC and paHECES of Cauca, because they attack us with false and criminal declarations. Those who are infiltrated by armed groups (QUINTIN) are part of the sects that pressure through disrespectful plans oriented to evict and hand over land to the councils.

We have no alternative but to defend life and call upon humanity so that our tranquility and desire to live not be extinguished. We also have rights, not just the indians. The criminals of eviction and death are you … the CRIC paHECES who do and undo, order evictions, lie, and kill to accumulate. You deserve to be punished by our justice because we, too, deserve life and tranquility.

The accusations of the Commander of the National Army’s Third Brigade, General Jaime Esguerra, through the media “assure through documents in his possession that there exists a nexus between functionaries of the mayor’s office of Toribio and the 6th Front of the FARC.” When the river makes a sound, it is because there are stones.

What are the CRIC and paHECES demanding? The right to life, dignity and peace coexistence, while they don’t leave the peasants to live in peace?

They say that, with False and Serious Accusations [the Uribe government] Wants to Exterminate Processes of Resistance. We peasants will also resist the abuses of the CRIC and paHECES.

1) The government gives them money so they can do bad things. With their farces of community processes, they only project Envy Plans [3]. They are called that because, on the path of self-determination, they are meant to dominate and scare the idiots.

2) The government gives them money to rent their communities. They spend that money in Popayan, organizing misdeeds and justifying the civic movement, carrying out diagnostics, planning clear short-, medium-, and long-term policies of division and land thievery from peasants and blacks. In the same way, they waste the transfers from the Nation, in assemblies where the people and delegates from the townships of Cauca are invited to eat and get drunk on the dime of the rest of the ignorant indians.

3) They want governments to believe that the functionaries of the CRIC are suitable people elected through public assemblies and accountable to community assemblies in accordance with traditions and customs. This is false because they are a bunch of rats who live off of these processes (Alcibíades).

4) The CRIC and the PaHECES talk about transparent processes with community oversight at assemblies, and because of this process have received national and international recognition. This is a lie, because they sell the land just as readily as they sell us peasants, yet they want to make others outside the country believe that they have done so much. Considering how much money they have received, where is the development?

5) The indigenous organization has, on several occasions, made it publicly known that they do not agree with an armed solution to the conflict; given this, they have assumed a critical and constructive position in defense of life through humanitarian mechanisms, putting them at odds with those who seek a military solution. If so, then why do they pursue us, discriminate against us, and threaten us poor peasants?

6) The anti-indian peasants request that National and International human rights organizations remain vigilant before the accusations of the CRIC and the peHECES, who for years have been disrupting our tranquility.

The municipalities and their peasant populations in Cauca, Valle, Tolima and Huila have been affected by the violence generated by the Indigenous conflict. Violent events have caused the death of innocents and destabilized peace and peaceful coexistence with the peasants and Black populations. Faced with these acts against humanity committed against peasants, we call out for national and international solidarity, to human rights organizations and international law, for mediation so that the civil population and the actors in the conflict will no longer be affected by the indians.

Peasants of Cauca (Colombia), we reject the Indians’ privatization of our natural resources, “the only chance of survival for poor peasants.”

There is more to Colombia than the FARC guerrillas and the government of president Uribe, even though those are what the foreign media gives most space and attention to. We are talking about the other reality, that of other Colombians; in this case, the peasants of Cauca, Valle, Huila and Tolima.

The CRIC and paHECES go around saying outside the country that they defend the self-determination of their territories through non-violent resistance and are bound by a pact with indians, peasants, afro-colombians and trade unionists to work on a popular agenda that will bring about the realization of their objectives and resolve the serious problems of the indigenous communities, those communities that continue to be dispossessed from their lands and means for living. This is a lie because they seize our lands and force us to sell them.

Given the structural problems faced by peasant and black Colombians, we take up, on the one hand, our right to make known the other reality of the country; other the other hand, we call out for solidarity from outside. The presence of the FARC, while serious, is not the root of Colombia’s problems. There are hunger and the privatization of natural resources by the Indians that deny us water and land, all of which is coordinated by former guerrillas.

We do not agree with the guerrillas’ politics or with kidnappings. We do not agree that they should deprive people of their freedom or disturb the peaceful existence of our peasant children. We also need to eat, drink water, but we don’t want this to be used by others to bring forward the entirety of the problems faced by Colombian peasants.

We can assure that the indigenous communities are a part of an “integral plan of aggression,” and that the privatization of resources, land and water, has only been brought about in favor of the entry of their ethnocentric and xenophobic interests. All this in order to take control of and exploit the natural resources of Huila, Valle and Cauca, precisely where we peasants, blacks and urban poor live and subsist from our peasant-based economy. We also accuse the CRIC and the paHECES of sowing terror on our small properties.

Displacement is not only carried out by the guerrilla but also the indigenous, especially the CRIC and paHECES, who force us to move to the cities without work. When we return to our burned farms, they tell us we are “no longer the owners of the land.” We don’t understand their policies.

The CRIC, peHECES and their Coucils demand their self-government and proclaim the defense of life and territory, but they don’t respect us; therefore, we must find other ways to live.

We also “know who else” acts and hates and at the same time seeks justice and the revelation of truth. The organizers at the highest levels of the CRIC lack respect. They sentence us to repression in the name of respect, peaceful co-existence, resistance, while they have the same interests as the government.


We peasants are peaceful people. It shocks us when the CRIC and paHECES kill each other in Silvia, yet we see that they don’t even respect each other. We are emphatic in declaring that the only real solution is for them to reform their actions or we will act under our own criterion of Security, which we are financing ourselves. It is the only way to do away with this terrorism. For us, they are the greatest threat to peace. In the past, without the CRIC, there was peace and never disagreements.

Senator Piñacue only speaks for them in his speeches, where he says that the paHECES are the motor, believe in the law, and speak of patience and heroic strength. Meanwhile, the small peasants are terrorized by them. Speaking of adversities and threats, the tragedy that he talks about was created by the CRIC in 1991. They say they are tired, tired of doing nothing, sweating from not doing anything. They say that they fight for territory. Does that mean all of Cauca? All of Colombia? All of America? This is a stupid discourse, because the intention of Piñacue is to eliminate the peasants and Blacks and for the Indians to kill each other. Yet, in the Congress, he says the opposite.

We have no other choice but to protest through these means, defend our lives and call for humanity to not allow the peace in our lands to be ruined. We peasants and blacks are also everyone’s responsibility. The miserable criminals of the CRIC created this destruction, and they must pay with their lives because it is they who order the actions of eviction, lie, and kill to “accumulate.” They deserve to be punished by justice.



Translator's notes

Please note that all bold text and grammatical inaccuracies in this translation are as per the original source text.

[1] a racist slur. Instead of 'Paez', another name the indigenous Nasa go by, the author(s) use the word 'paHECES'. ‘Heces’, in Spanish, means ‘stool’ or 'human excrement'.

[2] Parapolitica refers to the scandal in which Colombian politicians have been shown to have proven links to right-wing paramilitary death squads. See:

[3] A play on the ‘Life Plans’ for which the indigenous of Northern Cauca in particular are famous, have won numerous awards and gained much international recognition.