October 27, 2009


Santiago de Cali, 22 October 2009

The below-signed organisations reject the threats and persecution which is being levelled against diverse organisations all over Colombia, in particular organisations which are part of the Minga of Social and Communitarian Resistence.

Today, October 22nd 2009, a threat arrived by fax to the offices of the trade union central CUT Valle. Signed by the ‘Black Eagles New Generation’ paramilitary group, the threat declares the following organisations as military objectives:


The following leaders were also named as military objective:

LICIFREY ARARA- mining leader from Suarez municipality, Cauca department;
EDWAR VILLEGAS- member of the CUT Valle Human Rights Team;
JOSE GOYES- member of the Political Commission of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC);
DIEGO ESCOBAR- Member of CUT Valle Executive Committee;
PLUTARCO- Member of human rights association Siglo XXI in Buenos Aires municipality, Cauca; and
MERALDINO CABICHE- member of Suarez municipal council who has been the victim of multiple threats in the past week.

The threat seems to have been sent from a fax machine in Santander de Quilichao municipality, Cauca department, in an internet café called ‘Terra Punto com’.

Details: The fax arrived to the CUT Valle fax machine (number 3901498) at 12.33pm today, titled ‘THE GOVERNMENT CONTINUES COMPLYING WITH THE AGREEMENTS AND COMMITMENTS’.

The text reads as follows:

“You are defenders of the guerrilla, requesting land to plant coca to strengthen the indians and the guerrilla. You don’t understand the efforts of the President of the Republic Alvaro Uribe, who with the help of Familias en Accion (Families in Action), Forest Keepers (Guardabosques) and Democratic Security (all 3 are policies of the Uribe government)- a group of men and women concerned with improving the country. We have decided that it is necessary to begin again the fight against thos who camouflage themselves in social organisations such as CUT Valle, Nomadesc, Human Rights defenders, NGOs, enemies of our democracy.

Those bureaucrats don’t let Cauca progress, they don’t allow the entry of multinationals which bring benefits to the communities of SUAREZ, MORALES and BUENOS AIRES. Some of these organisations have made agreements with owners of mining deeds requesting the eviction of communities in mining zones in return for money, such as in La Toma community. We have documents to prove this.

Today we have decided to declare these son of a bitch bureaucrats as military objectives: human rights defenders, Nomadesc, CUT Valle, PCN, La Toma Community Council, Cerro Tijeras, Licifredy, Eduar Villegas, Jose Goyes, Diego Escobar, Recheche, Plutarco, Counciller Meraldino. Signed Aguilas Negras Nueva Generacion (Black Eagles New Generation).”

It is important to highlight that the organisations and individuals mentioned in the threat have been working together in defence of the rights of the communities of Suarez, Morales and Buenos Aires municipalities in Cauca department for several years.

In particular, they have denounced the Colombian state’s non-compliance with agreements signed with the indigenous, afro-Colombian and campesino communities in the area in 1986 (and ratified in 2006).

They have also denounced the harmful presence of the multinational companies Union Fenosa (Spain), AngloGold Ashanti (South Africa) and Smurfitt Carton de Colombia (Ireland). Harrassment of Aida Quilcue continues At approximately 7.45am on October 21st, four men who in a 5 door vehicle were seen to be monitoring the house of AIDA QUILCUE, ex-Chief Counciller of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC).

The car’s registration plate was recorded, but when the details were taken to the police to ask them to run a check on the vehicle, the reply was that this registration doesn’t exist. At approximately 12pm on October 16th, when AIDA QUILCUE was in the mobilisation of the Minga of Social and Communitarian Resistance in the outside the Cali Municipal Administation Centre, she was followed by two men.

When the men were apprehended by indigenous guards and members of the CUT Valle Human Rights Team, they stated that they didn’t have identification (in Colombia it is obligatory to carry identification at all times). The men were handed over to the police, but the authorities have yet to clarify the men’s identity, where they come from, and why they were following AIDA QUILCUE.

Threat to Jose Goyes The same day, at approximately 1pm, member of the CRIC Political Commission and Ex-Governor of Honduras indigenous reserve JOSE GOYES received a call from a man who said, ‘Am I speaking with Jose Goyes?’, Goyes replied, ‘Yes, with him’, ‘Son of a bitch, we’ve been looking for you for days, but before we shoot you we’re going to give it to you in the face you you faggot, then we’re going to finish you off with lead’.

We are deeply concerned by the serious incidents involving threats, harassment, persecution, eviction and murder which have been occurring all over the country. Such events have increased drastically over the past few months.

We want to highlight that the country’s human rights crisis is intensifying as we enter the pre-electoral period, and when the social sectors all across the country have staged mass demonstrations in the Minga of Communitarian and Social Resistance, manifesting their inconformity with the current government’s policies.

The Minga has been able to show the serious human rights violations which are being committed all over the country.

We call on all of you to speak out as soon as possible, and demand a clear response from the Colombian state, in order to prevent an attack against any member of the threatened organisations.

If you are in Britain, you can direct your correspondence to the Colombian embassy at elondres@cancilleria.gov.co. [also mail@colombianembassy.co.uk ]


Translation courtesy of Colombia Solidarity Campaign, UK

October 20, 2009

Calle 13 to the Colombian Foreign Ministry

At the recent MTV Latin America awards ceremony, 'Residente', of the Puerto Rican group Calle 13, showed up in a shirt that read "Uribe Para Bases Militares" (Uribe, Stop the Military Bases). The design of the shirt offered a double meaning: "Uribe Paramilitar" (Uribe: Paramilitary).

While it's not sure which meaning was more offensive to the Colombian government, as either express equally damning truths about the regime, the Foreign Ministry felt compelled to issue a statement on the rock star's t-shirt: "The message presents offensive content against the president of Colombians."

(He also said Chavez should be nominated for the 'best pop star' award, and demanded Honduran coup government leader Micheletti "leave power".)

We've translated below the response of 'Residente', within which there are no apologies for expressing an opinion and a fact lived by too many in Colombia, as well as in the artist's native Puerto Rico. Adelante, Calle 13!

October 20, 2009

San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Open letter to the Colombian foreign ministry,

I write this letter to let you to know how I feel from the bottom of my heart. I love Colombia, and that’s why I’m worried about the establishment of foreign military bases in the country. As a Puerto Rican, I have lived this reality in my heart and soul, and I wouldn’t like what happens in my country to happen in yours.

According to your statement, I have insulted your president through the text on my t-shirt. On that shirt there was a play on words, a double meaning. You can interpret it however you like. I read it clearly: Uribe, Stop the Military Bases. A clear and direct message.

Through Twitter, the people created the concept of my shirts. The Colombia shirt was made by a Colombian, the Venezuela shirt by a Venezuelan, and so on.

The idea behind the shirts was to give voice to the people, those who, in general, aren’t listened to. Instead of wearing a nice tie, I decided to send a message. The message didn’t come from me but from someone who breathes the same air breathed in Colombia everyday.

My struggle is not against the president but against everything that promotes war, such as the military bases. The text of the t-shirt represents the feelings of many young people in your country, those who like any other human being with feelings I share completely. In this century, it can’t be that there are still those who lack the ability to understand the right artists have to express what we feel at every level. Censorship shouldn’t be the business of government. Whoever doesn’t want to listen to me should simply not go to my concerts. That would be the most valid and legitimate way to censor me. With all due respect to Mr. Uribe, the president of Colombia isn’t Colombia. Colombia is much more than a president. As Rubén Blades says, “patriotism is not defined by those who suppress a people.”

With these words, I sign off. But before I do so, I send a kiss to all the places I have visited in Colombia, such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Palenque, San Jacinto, Maicao, Cali, Medellín, Bogotá, Valledupar, Cúcuta, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla, Cartagena, and all the places that I haven’t been.

René Perez Joglar.
calle 13

October 18, 2009

The Social and Community Minga and its Word

Hello friends,

The Pre-Congress of the Social and Community Minga was held in the Coliseo del Pueblo in Cali from October 13 - 16. The event brought together indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other social sectors from southwest Colombia to elaborate on how to carry forward the word and action of the Minga's five-point agenda, first articulated in the Indigenous and Popular Mandate of 2004 and brought to the national and international spheres with massive mobilizations last Fall. The Minga has put the national and international spotlight on Colombia's popular movements, demonstrating the dignity of peoples with an agenda of their own. The five points of the agenda illuminate a path for peoples in resistance in Colombia and beyond:

1. No to the Free Trade Agreements and the 'free trade' model.

2. No to all armed actors, each whose presence reinforces the actions of the others and threatens the lives of people in their communities. No more war and terror.

3. No to laws and legislation that evict people from their lands and deny them the right to the use of the earth's resources for sustaining life, laws that instead put people and nature at the service of transnational capital and accumulation.

4. Yes to the Colombian government honouring its agreements with indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other communities.

5. Yes to weaving an agenda of the peoples. All causes are our own.

This agenda has mobilized tens of thousands of people across Colombia, Latin America, and the world. At the march in Cali this past October 16, some 30,000 people walked together from the Coliseo del Pueblo to the centre of Cali. There were two other Pre-Congresses in Cartagena and Bogotá. People also marched in solidarity in other countries, such as Peru and Ecuador.

The mobilizing capacity of the Social and Community Minga has also garnered much attention from outside, which has arguably threatened its autonomy as a process of political and social change and community-based resistance. With the massive influx of interest from international funding agencies, some of the participating organizations have sought to change the Minga's agenda. These changes are not expressed explicitly but through subtle manoeuvres and strategic re-articulation of the five points, such as placing opposition to the FTAs alongside laws of eviction (calling not for their rejection but a public 'discussion') and replacing the first point with one that focuses on human rights, reflecting the interests of hundreds of NGOs and funding agencies operating in Colombia. That is not to say that human rights is not an important issue. The problem is that the changes to the agenda have occurred without discussion and debate, outside the spirit of the communities that have given the Minga its force; decisions are now being made through the leadership of organizations in private discussions with funding agencies, and the tens of thousands who continue to participate in the Minga are thus largely unclear on how the five-point agenda currently stands. In sum, there is much confusion.

The following notes, courtesy of some of the primary defenders of the original spirit of the Minga, the Tejido de Comunicación in Northern Cauca, not only provide journalistic reports of the events of the Pre-Congress in Cali earlier this week but also provide an analysis that focuses on the voices of the participants, those who have walked the word in every sense and right from the beginning. We share them in English below:

From the Minga in the Peoples’ Pre-summit
“Whether indigenous, Afro-Colombians, mestizos or peasants, we’re all here with the same objective: a Colombia where we all belong, where we all have justice, a Colombia where we all decide and not just the oligarchy-government that we have now. The people rule, the people choose, the people decide,” said an Afro-Colombian leader.

The Minga and its word move on
“I don’t care about the traffic [caused by the march],” said a taxi driver stopped outside the Coliseo del Pueblo. “Someone has to do something different. This country is full of blind and ignorant people, people who refuse to see their own reality.”

Colombia has to wake up
In improvised tents, the communities will rest in the city of Cali until Friday, ignoring discomforts. They will continue walking the word woven from thought and feeling, from the teachings of the elders to defend the agenda of the Social and Community Minga that began with the Indigenous and Popular Mandate in 2004.

The Popular and Campesino Minga attacked by the Public Forces
On the 12th of October, the Campesino and Popular Assembly, which includes about 2,000 campesinos, students, and popular sectors in the departments of Cauca, Nariño and Huila, began a session of reflection in five working groups to establish the central points and proposals to present at the Pre-Congress [of the Social and Community Minga] to be carried out in the city of Cali on the 14th and 15th of October.

October 10, 2009


Hello readers,

Please find below the text of the latest action alert put out by the Council of Canadians. It remains urgent that people in Canada voice their opposition to the Canada-Colombia FTA, as the agreement is moving through parliament and back to the committee phase. We have to stall this as long as possible.

With the possible calling of an election, C-23 (the implementing legislation of the CCFTA) will die.

This has to happen, and it can happen if parliamentarians remain aware of the importance of this issue to Canadians.

The conservative government is doing all it can to support the murderous regime of Uribe. The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have done outstanding work from within parliament to stop it. Outside parliament, pressure must be kept up. Please participate in this action. It should only take a few minutes of your time, and it is extremely important.

La Chiva

The Council of Canadians message follows...

Dear chapters,

About a week ago we told you about Scott Brison’s statements in the House of Commons suggesting that paramilitary violence in Colombia was a thing of the past, and that the Liberals should no longer be concerned about passing Bill C-23 – ratification legislation for the Canada–Colombia Free Trade Agreement and related environmental and labour side agreements. Today, Council of Canadians Chairperson Maude Barlow wrote to Brison, Liberal trade critic, urging him to retract those statements and to adhere to his earlier statement from May 25, calling for “a full independent human rights assessment, as recommended by the committee… before we vote again on Bill C‐23.”


As mentioned in a news update earlier this week, Bill C-23 is still moving slowly through Parliament on its way to a second vote in the House of Commons, which would send the free trade agreement to the international trade committee for further study. An NDP sub-amendment to a Bloc amendment failed to pass this week, and MPs are still debating a Bloc amendment that would defeat the FTA on the grounds that democratic process was not followed (Harper rushed C-23 into the House of Commons while the international trade committee was still studying it).

From what we’ve heard, the Liberals are not entirely comfortable supporting the FTA with Colombia because of the human rights implications and ongoing violence, some of it linked to paramilitary groups with ties to President Uribe’s security forces. The ongoing investigation into Uribe’s spying on human rights groups, as well as his public campaign against the Supreme Court and proposed constitutional reforms that would remove a “parapolitics” investigation from its jurisdiction are also not endearing the Colombian government to Canadian MPs.

But even pro-FTA Liberals such as Bob Rae are committed to further studying bill C-23 if or when it reaches the international trade committee. It’s absolutely crucial they keep their word to hold an independent human rights impact assessment.

TAKE ACTION – Demand Brison retract his false statements!

Send the following letter or a version of it to Liberal Trade Critic Scott Brison at BrisoS@parl.gc.ca.

Make sure you CC your own MP and other key Liberals, including:
Michael Ignatieff (IgnatM@parl.gc.ca); Bob Rae (RaeB@parl.gc.ca); Marina Minna (MinnaM@parl.gc.ca); John Cannis (CanniJ@parl.gc.ca); Mario Silva (SilvaM@parl.gc.ca), and; Irwin Cotler (CotleI@parl.gc.ca).


Dear MP Brison:

I am writing to demand you retract your statements in the House of Commons from September 30, 2009 regarding paramilitary violence in Colombia. It was completely irresponsible to suggest that: “To say that paramilitary forces are murdering union leaders today is false, because everybody who has been studying the issue recognizes that the paramilitary forces have been disbanded...”

A recent report from Amnesty International found that paramilitary groups remain active, despite Colombian government claims that they have demobilized through a government‐sponsored process that began in 2003. “Paramilitaries continued to kill civilians and to commit other human rights violations, sometimes with the support or acquiescence of the security forces,” says the Amnesty report.

A 2008 Human Rights Watch report called “Breaking the Grip: Obstacles to Justice for Paramilitary Mafias in Colombia” also states that “the administration of President Álvaro Uribe is squandering much of the opportunity to truly dismantle paramilitaries’ mafias. While there has been progress in some areas, some of the administration’s actions are undermining the investigations that have the best chance of making a difference.”

Human Rights Watch states in its report that the Uribe government:

- Repeatedly launched public personal attacks on the Supreme Court and its members in what increasingly looks like a concerted campaign to smear and discredit the Court;

- Opposed and effectively blocked meaningful efforts to reform the Congress to eliminate paramilitary influence;

- Proposed constitutional reforms that would remove the investigations into the links between paramilitary groups and the Uribe government from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

In the past 12 months, 27 trade unionists and 77 Indigenous leaders have been murdered in Colombia. The vast majority, if not all these murders, have been carried out either by government security forces or the paramilitaries. How can you deny these facts simply to support the Conservative government’s efforts to fast-track a free trade agreement with Colombia?

Mr. Brison, retract your September 30 statement and adhere to your May 25, 2009 call in Parliament for “a full independent human rights assessment, as recommended by the committee… before we vote again on Bill C‐23.” It is the only responsible action to take – action many Canadians would expect of a party that prides itself on its support for human rights. Sincerely,

[Your name]

RECALCA: On the territorial minga de pensamiento, Toez, Cauca

Colombian Action Network in Response to ‘Free Trade’, RECALCA

Webpage: www.recalca.org.co

Email: recalca@etb.net.co

Indigenous Territory of Toez - Caloto, 29 September, 2009


Between the 28th and 30th of September, hundreds of indigenous peoples from the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), Colombia, met to debate the environmental, territorial and economic situation in Latin America, Colombia, and in their own communities. RECALCA, as a participating organization in this process, gave the following declaration at the event:

The superpowers of the world, especially the United States, the European Union and Canada, the same that have tried to sign ‘free trade agreements’ with Colombia, have found themselves struggling for control over the exploitation of natural resources and biodiversity wherever it is found.

The advance of infrastructure megaprojects – dams, highways, telecommunications projects, mining, and fossil and agro-fuels – occurs quickly and voraciously through the activities of transnational corporations with the support of governments at the service of private interests. This occurs against the sovereignty and autonomy of countries and communities, the true owners of these territories.

The pace has quickened over the past 20 years, robbing countries and generating misery, hunger and poverty for the majority of the inhabitants of Latin America. In Colombia, the situation is extreme: 4 million internally displaced, 4 million Colombians forced to leave the country, 22 million living in poverty and 8 million homeless.

If that weren’t enough, the government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez has signed ‘Free Trade Agreements’, at the behest of companies from these countries, to ensure control over natural resources, food and inexpensive labour. This project goes against indigenous, Afro-descendent and peasant communities, workers in the fields and in the cities, students, women, average citizens and national companies. It is a project of re-colonization, not unlike that from which all of the Americas suffered during the Spanish colonization.

The Cauca Department, and especially its indigenous territories, is one of the primary targets of the FTAs and the transnational corporations. In these territories, there is an abundance of resources: water, arable land for agriculture, rich biodiversity, coal, gold and other minerals.

The principal priority of the government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, as demonstrated by its actions over the last 7 years, is to hand this territory over on a silver platter to foreign capital through policies such as ‘Investor Confidence’ and ‘Democratic Security’. Feigning to minimize the effects of the armed conflict, the government has increased its military presence in the region, repressing all expressions of social organization and resistance to neoliberalism and, in so doing, opening the way for the penetration of big extractive and agro-fuel companies.

The submission of the government of Uribe Vélez to the interests of Empire pushes forward the destruction of democracy and national institutions, stigmatizing and persecuting critics of his policies. Moreover, he is perpetuating his power in order to continue this project, which successively diminishes national sovereignty to the point that he is willing to give 7 military bases to the United States, so they can continue their intervention in Colombia and expand into other South American countries.

The only way out for indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant communities in Cauca is to strengthen their resistance against this model, defending their ‘life projects’ within their territories and without falling into appeasements meant to ruin us. An important example of this is that – through resistance – the Social and Community Minga has enjoyed important victories with its 5-point agenda. Through this agenda, the Rural Development Statute came down, and not a single FTA negotiated by the government has been ratified.

What is required is an expansion of the unity of all democratic sectors in Colombia and Latin America, an unavoidable precondition for reversing neoliberalism and the recuperation of sovereignty. May the project at the service of all triumph.

* RECALCA brings together the 53 most important social and worker organizations in Colombia to coordinate strategies of education, information and mobilization against the Free Trade Agreements pushed forward by the national government.

October 7, 2009

Liberals vote with Conservatives against NDP amendment to Colombia FTA

By Stuart Trew

Debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and attached environmental and labour side-agreements, is drawing to a conclusion in the House of Commons. Tonight, Liberal and Conservative MPs voted against an NDP sub-amendment to a Bloc amendment, both of which would stop the FTA from going to second reading, essentially killing the agreement.

The government motion is as follows:

That Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade

The Bloc amendment, brought by Bloc MPs Cardin (Sherbrooke) and Ménard (Hochelaga), suggests:

the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, because the government concluded this agreement while the Standing Committee on International Trade was considering the matter, thereby demonstrating its disrespect for democratic institutions

Finally, the NDP sub-amendment, brought by NDP MPs Crowder (Nanaimo-Cowichan) and Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster), which was voted down tonight by the Liberals and Conservatives (74 yeas to 194 nays), says the following:

That the amendment be amended by adding after the word “matter” the following: “, including having heard vocal opposition to the accord from human rights organizations.”

With the NDP sub-amendment off the floor, MPs will now be given a chance to debate the Bloc amendment, which mostly has the effect of stalling the legislation before the 2nd reading vote, which would send it to committee.

The vote against the NDP sub-amendment tonight cannot be seen as a defeat. Without such strong civil society opposition to Canada signing the FTA with the corrupt regime of Alvaro Uribe, the agreement would be law by now. Even the Liberals are saying they will work during committee, after 2nd reading, to stall the deal.

Big congratulations to the NDP (Peter Julian in particular) and Bloc Quebecois (thank you Serge Cardin) for their efforts to stop this dangerous and useless free trade pact with Colombia. It can and will happen if we keep the pressure on.

For a comprehensive update on Colombia — government spying on rights groups, ongoing paramilitary violence, and Liberals Scott Brison and Bob Rae’s summer vacation — see the article “Where will you stand on the Canada-Colombia FTA?” by Micheál Ó Tuathail, 30 September 2009.

Stuart Trew is Trade Campaigner at the Council of Canadians.