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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 04:09 PM
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State Department Denies Visa to Leading Colombian Journalist and Nieman Fellow
State Department Denies Visa to Leading Colombian Journalist and Nieman Fellow
By Matthew Rothschild, June 29, 2010

His name is Hollman Morris, a highly acclaimed investigative reporter and TV journalist in Colombia. Among many prestigious awards, Morris received a Defender of Human Rights award from Human Rights Watch in 2007.

A journalist and human rights activist, Morris has dedicated his career to uncovering the truth about atrocities committed on all sides: by right-wing paramilitaries, left-wing guerrillas, and government authorities, said Human Rights Watch in granting him the award. Morris has faced serious harassment and death threats for his work. . . . Human Rights Watch honors Morris for his courage and unfaltering dedication to exposing Colombias most egregious human rights abuses.

On October 30, 2007, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns met with Morris and congratulated him personally for winning this award. Burns expressed great admiration for his valiant work, the State Department said.

That was then.

Now the State Department wont deign to let him into the United States.

On June 16, the U.S. embassy in Bogot denied his visa, Morris reports.

Visa records are confidential, says a State Department spokesperson, who refused to comment further on this case.

The Nieman Foundation at Harvard had selected Morris as one of its International Nieman Fellows for the next academic year in Cambridge, Mass.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-10 03:29 AM
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1. MADRE Talking Points: The Role of the US in Colombia's Conflict
MADRE Talking Points: The Role of the US in Colombia's Conflict
Source: MADRE (Madre)

Date: 30 Jun 2010

The Conflict in a Nutshell
  • For over 40 years, Colombians have endured an armed conflict over their country's highly concentrated sources of natural wealth, especially land.
  • In the mid-1960s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) arose as a peasant movement demanding land redistribution and social reform from the government.
  • Since the 1990s, the conflict has been a three-way war: the FARC is battling the government; the government is fighting to eliminate the FARC; and brutal paramilitary groups function symbiotically with the government and Army to protect the interests of powerful elites.
  • Instead of battling one another directly, Colombia's armed groups usually attack civilians suspected of siding with their enemy. The main victims of the conflict are women and families, hundreds of thousands of whom have been assaulted, displaced from their homes or killed.
The Government
  • The Colombian government has historically refused to address the desperate conditions of the poor majority, opting instead to criminalize all political and social opposition.
  • After his election in 2002, right-wing President Alvaro Uribe exploited the climate of the US "War on Terror" to expand the power of the military and silence critics. Those targeted for assassination by paramilitaries or intimidation and arrest by the army include labor organizers, human rights workers, Indigenous leaders, opposition party candidates, peasant activists, student and neighborhood groups, intellectuals and religious leaders.
  • In June 2010, former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos was elected to succeed Uribe as president. He has promised to continue the policies of his predecessor, an outcome decried by Colombian human rights groups. Between 2006 and 2009, during Santos' tenure as defense minister, more than 2,200 people were killed, apparently by state security forces.
  • The FARC is a guerrilla force estimated to number between 15,000 and 20,000 recruits that controls large territories in Colombia. Its demands revolve around issues of social welfare, economic development, agrarian and judiciary reform and reorganization of the military. However, the FARC's overall political platform is murky. Some progressives charge that the organization has no coherent program other than to perpetuate its own existence.
  • Although the FARC has a strong support base in some areas, it lacks credibility because of its brutal tactics, including massacres of civilians. In 1999, three US-based activists, including former MADRE staff member and Indigenous rights activist Ingrid Washinawatok, were tortured and killed by FARC combatants.
The Paramilitaries
  • Colombia's paramilitary groups use extreme violence to protect the interests of elites, including US-based corporations, large landowners and drug traffickers.
  • Because paramilitaries are not formally linked to the state, the government avoids accountability for their violence. Yet the paramilitaries operate with the tacit approval and sometimes open support of the military.
  • The government claims that paramilitary groups have significantly demobilized since an agreement in 2003 with the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), a major coalition of paramilitaries. Yet, they continue to be responsible for the murder of civilians and other human rights violations.
  • Amnesty International has also reported that the Colombian government continues to use former paramilitaries in its own operations, regardless of a ban on such activity.
How Has the Conflict Impacted Women and Families in Colombia?
  • There are nearly five million internally displaced people (IDP) as a result of the conflict, putting Colombia on par with Sudan as having one of the two largest displaced populations in the world.
  • Violence against women, especially rape and forced servitude, is systematic and widespread in the shanty towns and camps where displaced people find refuge.
  • Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Colombians are disproportionately affected by displacement and tens of thousands have been forced from their homes each year by the violence.
  • The Colombian Constitutional Court has warned that at least 34 Indigenous Peoples "are in danger of cultural or physical extermination due to the internal armed conflict."
  • Most displaced families end up in overcrowded and impoverished urban slums. Almost 60% of displaced women have no job or income.
  • Nearly all internally displaced households fall below the poverty line; and nearly half are headed by women.
    High-ranking government officials continue to make statements linking Indigenous communities with guerrilla groups. Meanwhile, FARC claims that these groups closely collaborate with the army. This has encouraged a climate in which abuses against Indigenous Peoples are tolerated, encouraged or facilitated.
What Has Been the Role of the US in Colombia's Conflict?
  • The rise of paramilitarism in Colombia can be traced directly to the United States. According to declassified State Department documents, a 1962 US Special Forces mission to Bogot advised the Colombian military to use "paramilitary terror" against "communist proponents" (defined as virtually anyone who challenged the status quo).
  • During the Kennedy Administration, the US began giving weapons and training to the Colombian military. This policy marked the onset of the "National Security Doctrine," which the US eventually instilled across Latin America. The strategy uses the military to wage war on the domestic population as a means of safeguarding elite interests.
  • Under the guise of the war on terror, the Bush Administration began funding operations against leftist guerillas directly, rather than channeling funding through counternarcotics missions. Since thenand for the first time since the 1980sthe US has waged a direct counterinsurgency effort in Latin America, giving weapons, training and money to a government that relies on paramilitary death squads.
The Vicious Cycle of Neoliberalism & Armed Conflict
  • The root causes of Colombia's conflictpoverty and inequalityhave been exacerbated since the 1990s, when the US began demanding neo-liberal economic reforms including wage suppression, debt servicing and public sector budget cuts.
  • In the 1990s, the US insisted that the Colombian government stop subsidizing agriculture (although the US and Europe maintain this lucrative practice for themselves).
  • Without government subsidies, millions of small farmers were unable to compete with large-scale agribusiness and were driven off their lands.
  • Displaced farmers generally have four options: join the guerrillas or paramilitaries; move into the jungle to cultivate coca (the one crop that promises a profit); become poorly-paid laborers on large plantations or in urban factories, or migrate to the urban slums to join the "informal economy."
  • The same economic policies that concentrate land ownership in the hands of a few drive people to join the armed conflict and the drug trade. The forced displacement of Colombians by the armed conflict also creates a labor force for the factories and plantations created by neo-liberal policies.
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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-10 09:51 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. Plan Colombia is Clinton's legacy to human rights abuses
and the Obama Administration has accelerated support for death squads, and keeps cranking out future human rights abusers out of SOA/WHIMSEC at Fort Benning.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-10 03:59 AM
Response to Original message
2. Hollman Morris denied US visa .
Hollman Morris denied US visa .
Wednesday, 30 June 2010 16:13 Hannah Stone

Prominent Colombian journalist Hollman Morris was denied a visa to the U.S., reports The Progressive. In April, documents came to light which apparently revealed security agency DAS's plot against Morris, including a plan to "request suspension of visa."

Morris' visa was denied on June 16, according to The Progressive. He applied for the visa in order to take up his place as International Neiman Fellow at Harvard University.

Morris, an outspoken critic of the Colombian government, was a target of DAS's surveillance of a range of individuals and organisations considered to be opponents of President Alvaro Uribe's government, including opposition politicians, human rights workers, and Supreme Court judges.

In April, Morris was given files by the prosecutor general which allegedly belong to the DAS. The files include Morris' photograph and address, and instructions such as "Initiate a smear campaign at the international level, through the following activities ... inclusion in FARC video," and "Request the suspension of visa." Cipcol, a U.S. organization which published the files online, interprets this statement to mean Morris' U.S. visa.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-10 07:58 PM
Response to Original message
3. Colombian journalist celebrated for his courageous dedication to truth, democracy
Colombian journalist celebrated for his courageous dedication to truth, democracy

Colombian journalist Hollman Morris, who has been selected as one of the 2011 Nieman Fellows at Harvard, and his television program Contrava were honored June 28 at the Universidad Javeriana for demonstrating courage in the fight for truth, peace, and democracy, according to the Center for Investigation and Popular Education (CINEP), one of the organizations responsible for the homage.

Through the program Contrava (loosely translated as "against traffic," or "the wrong way"), Morris has criticized Colombia's armed conflict, fighting on behalf of the victims and voiceless, according to an editorial in El Tiempo.

Contrava's investigative work has revealed links between paramilitary leaders and Colombian officials, resulting in the imprisonment of 30 Congress members, according to a feature story about Morris in the Columbia Journalism review.

As such, Morris, who recently was denied a visa to come to the United States as a Nieman Fellow, has been the target of death threats and a campaign to discredit him, forcing him to go into exile several times.

Even President Uribe has accused Morris of having ties to the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), prompting various journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch to come out in defense of the journalist, who has won numerous awards for his work.

"These days the word of those who resist adversity is of particular value, for that reason, we reject the accusations against the honor and decency of Hollman," said Luisa Fernanda Vallejo, president of the Association of Colombian Colleges and University Programs of Communication, at the celebration, reported CINEP.

During the homage, CINEP quotes Morris as saying, "To be going 'the wrong way' means giving a voice to the weakest people, to those who have never had a voice."

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