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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 03:02 AM
Original message
UN calls for investigation into deaths of Colombia activists
UN calls for investigation into deaths of Colombia activists
TATIANA GUERRERO, Associated Press Writer
March 14, 2008 7:45 PM

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - The U.N. on Friday called for an investigation into the deaths of six organizers of a march protesting the Colombian government and paramilitary death squads.

The victims included union workers and human rights activists. They were killed around the time of the March 6 protest that drew tens of thousands of people.

''This office asks state authorities to guarantee prompt and efficient protection for those human rights defenders and the leaders of social organizations,'' the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

Activists accuse President Alvaro Uribe's administration of lumping human rights workers together with rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country's largest leftist guerrilla group, supposedly giving the death squads a green light to attack the activists.

A human rights organization called Movement of Victims of State Crimes said one paramilitary group sent a threat Wednesday by e-mail to organizations connected with the protest.

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magbana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 09:46 AM
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1. Thank the New UN Human Rights Council for this one
This swift response by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on this issue can only mean one thing -- the new UN Human Rights Council is working. It's working because the US is NOT a member . The Latin American members are Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. With broader representation on the HRC, we get a more enlightened approach to human rights. The HRC is meeting in Geneva until March 28 we can only hope for more similar actions.
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 10:39 AM
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2. Oh, no. I didn't know about these poor people.
I did hear that the Uribe government pretended they were FARC but not that that was a signal.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 11:52 AM
Response to Original message
3. The death squad threats to the marchers is mentioned again in this article:
Hypocrisies of a US-backed Crisis
March, 15 2008

By Michael Fox

With Colombian President Alvaro Uribes admittance of wrong-doing last Friday, and his promise never to invade another country in South America again under the excuse of its war on the Colombian insurgency, it appears that the so-called Andean Crisis is slowly coming to a resolution. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has reopened his boarder to trade with Colombia, and the increasing threat of one of the first region-wide military conflicts in decades is quickly residing.

Nevertheless, South Americans are left with a lingering sense of hypocrisy, and a feeling that perhaps this chapter in history is not yet completely written.

As usual, the international media had a field day reporting that Chavez, not Uribe, was pushing the region to the brink of war.

Colombias Uribe may get off without a scratch while he has called for Venezuelan President Chavez to be brought before the International Criminal Court for the ridiculous claim of financing of genocide. This, while Uribe himself has been accused of attempting to impede the investigation of several of his top supporters who themselves where recently under investigation for ties to the Colombia paramilitary, which has killed tens of thousands of Colombians.

Meanwhile, the US unilaterally supported Colombia in its invasion of Ecuadoran soil, and its excuse of legitimate defense which remarkably resembled the US excuse for its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The similarity isnt just a coincidence. Nor are reports that U.S. Admiral Joseph Nimmich met with Colombian military leaders in Bogot two days before the March 1st attack, with the stated purpose of "sharing vital information in the fight against terrorism" (1). Connections between the US and Colombia go much deeper than most Americans realize- connections which were blatantly absent in the stories on the Andean Crisis, which captured the worlds attention last week.

US Support for Colombia

According to reports, there is a very good possibility that it was US intelligence that pinpointed the precise location of the guerrilla base inside Ecuadoran territory, which was bombed on March 1st killing two dozen Colombia guerrilla, including #2 in command of the guerrilla, Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) Raul Reyes. Considering that Reyes was the lead international contact in the humanitarian negotiations for the release of the FARC hostages, it is speculated that US intelligence was able to pinpoint the location of the base when Reyes used his satellite phone to arrange the delivery of four FARC hostages to Venezuelan officials the days before Nimmichs trip to Bogot.

This wouldnt be out of the ordinary. Colombia is Washingtons number one ally in the region, receiving more US military aid than another other country outside of the middle east. As verified in the Dallas Morning News article, U.S. Aid Questioned in Colombian Battle from August, 1999, the US military is used to providing logistical, administrative and material support for Colombias military incursions against its guerrillas. This appears to be the case, even if it may result in a relatively large numbers of civilian casualties. While the article is nine years old, it shows long-standing collaboration which has only increased since the passage of Plan Colombia in 2000, which increased US military support to the South American nation. (2)

Since 2000, the US Congress has appropriated $5.5 billion for Colombia mostly in the form of military aid in the memorable name of fighting drugs- i.e. attempting to directly attack the source of the cocaine entering the US by fumigating and destroying the coca crops where they are grown. Unfortunately, if that is the case, its not working. According to a report released last month from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) which referred to the results of the program as dismal, coca is now cultivated in nearly twice as many Colombian states than it was in 1999. If anything, the price of cocaine in the US has dropped, and DEA intelligence chief, Tony Placido verified late last year that the disruptions in the US cocaine supply in 2007 were not a result of decreased cocaine production in Colombia. (3)

Meanwhile the widespread crop fumigations have caused a veritable environmental and humanitarian disaster, not only in Colombia, but along the Ecuadoran border where fumigation raids have been common. So, if the program is clearly not working, why does the US continue to fund it?

As the WOLA report points out:

Plan Colombia was altered in 2002, in the wake of the Al Qaeda attacks on U.S. soil, when Congress approved a request from President George W. Bush to use financial, human and technical anti-drug resources for Colombia to combat organizations classified as terrorist.

This at least partially explains why both the Colombian and the US governments take great care in labeling the more than 40-year-old FARC guerrilla, the terrorists.

US military support doesnt end there. In last weeks article from Foreign Policy in Focus, John Lindsay-Poland points out that 1400 US soldiers are based in Colombia, nearly half of them privately contracted through companies such as Dyncorp, which has received $150 million a year from the US government for operations in Colombia since 2000. (4)

Theyre not the only ones. According to the US State Department report to Congress on Certain Counternarcotics Activities in Colombia, in 2006 alone US taxpayers paid out a total of well over $300 million to the following defense contractors for services rendered in Colombia: Lockheed Martin, Dyncorp International, Olgoonik, Arinc Inc., Oakley Networks, Northrop Grumman, Mantech, ITT, Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, Optec, Telford Avaition, King Aerospace, Caci Inc., CCE, Omnitempus, PAE Government Services, and others. (5)

Claims of Chavez connection to FARC

Of the most serious allegations to come out of the March 1st bombing, Colombian officials presented documents last week, allegedly recovered from three computers belonging to Raul Reyes, which they say indicate relations between the Ecuadoran and Venezuelan governments and the FARC. Uribes calls for Chavez to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) are based on these documents, which Uribe says proves that Chavez is and has been aiding and abetting the FARC terrorists.

If true, the revelations would be a hard blow to Chavez international image, only days after the Venezuelan President was able to secure the second unilateral release in two months of Colombian hostages held by the FARC. As to be expected, top Venezuelan officials refuted the accusations immediately.

While the legality of the documents can only be verified after a truly objective international analysis, already the validity of the connections they supposedly reveal is coming in to question. It appears that for the Colombian government to arrive at their conclusions, they had to extrapolate from the documents in question. As veteran investigative journalist Greg Palast pointed out last week, the mention of the number, 300 in a document dated December 23, 2007, led Colombian officials to infer that Chavez was going to, or had delivered $300 million dollars to the FARC. Was this really a reference to $300 million dollars, or- as Palast points out -the FARCs previous prisoner exchange (which) involved 300 prisoners. (6)

Why Chavez? The answer is also only an assumption. As the Brazilian paper, Zero Hora, pointed out after their own investigation in to the documents, Colombian officials assumed that the reference to an individual by the name of Angel is actually a codename for Venezuela President Hugo Chavez. The connection appears to be a little presumptuous, when only a few lines later the email refers to President Chavez directly when speaking about next steps in the humanitarian exchange.

It appears that Colombias evidence supposedly proving that the FARC was attempting to build a dirty bomb is also based entirely on another similar assumption. Zero Hora pointed out that Colombian officials have no proof, and made the assumption from an email which states, the material for the explosive that we prepared. Colombia says this is a reference to Uranium.

Even if the documents are legitimate, the serious accusations made by the Colombian government were based largely on nothing more than loose assumptions. This too, would not be the first time. Its important to remember that the fight against terrorism, be it led by Washington or Bogot, is only half the story. There needs to be an excuse, regardless of weather or not it is fabricated- excuses in the name of self-defense that plague the history of US intervention in Latin America, and the roll that Colombia has played at the hand of the US for decades.

US Intervention

It was a US-backed media coup that took President Hugo Chavez from office for a brief 48 hours on April 11, 2002. The reports from Venevision and the other private Venezuelan TV channels fabricated their images and reports to appear as though Chavez supporters were firing in to a crowd of opposition protesters, and Chavez was doing nothing to stop them. The mock images was used as a pretext to take Chavez from office, abolish his institutions and hunt down his supporters.

The scenario has been repeated countless times across the Americas.

In 1954, the US acting through the CIA -promoted and planned the overthrow of Guatemalas democratically elected leader, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. The US launched a considerable media campaign in order to fabricate the pretext that he was a communist, in order to build public sentiment against the Guatemalan leader. The US military-backed ousting of Arbenz set off a 40-year civil war in which more than 200,000 Guatemalans would perish. While Arbenz was no Communist, he was threatening the almost monarchical interests of the US United Fruit Company in Guatemala. (7)

A similar model had been tried six years early in 1948, with the assassination of Colombian President Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. The killing of the Colombian President would launch the beginning of the nearly six-decade long conflict which still embroils Colombia in turmoil. Although Washington has refused to release or verify the existence of unclassified documents regarding Gaitan, according to the Washington-based lawyer Paul Wolf and many other investigators, there is little doubt the recently-formed CIA played an integral roll in the incident. (8)

The fabrication of a false reality, in the name of our security has been used time and time again to sway public opinion, and to achieve the results in question. The US bombed Iraq in the name of national security, in order to stop it from acquiring nuclear technology. The same intelligence, which rushed the country to war was soon also found to be fabricated and planted on the American people through the New York Times, as proof of the need to act quickly and decisively.

According to an FIDH report last year, since they first appeared, the Colombian paramilitary has committed approximately, 60,000 crimes against humanity and serious human rights violations.

This figure does not include the more than one million persons displaced as a direct result of the strategy of terror, threats, and paramilitary action, the report continues. From January to June 2007 alone, more than 770 civilians were murdered in Colombia or fell victim to forced disappearance. More than 80 mass graves have been discovered; in late 2006 the Office of the Prosecutor estimated that there were still more than 3,000 persons remaining to be found. It is believed, however, that this figure falls far short of reflecting the more than 30,000 forced disappearances that have been reported.

Although the Colombian paramilitaries were officially demobilized a few years ago, Colombians know that the continued violence, and the intimate relationship between the state and the Paras (as they are called), means that they are far from gone. In fact, just last week paramilitaries in South-Eastern Colombia threatened to attack any person or organization participating in the March 6th international protests against the continued violence of the paramilitaries and the Uribe government. (10)


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