Archive for 2001

‘Tis the Season to Be Killed

Category: Human Rights
By · December 17, 2001 · Comment

A regional block of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), recently sent out Christmas cards to its fighters. In a letter that accompanied the cards, the paramilitary group declared, “And with Christmas come our new projects and hopes for the next year.” Unfortunately, the AUC’s projects and hopes for next year will likely be the same as in years past: the slaughter of Colombian labor leaders. While the paramilitaries are sending greetings cards to their troops, it is bullets they are delivering to Colombia’s trade unionists. As the year comes to a close, a record number of labor leaders were killed in 2001. Last week’s murder of Aury Sara, an oil workers union leader, brought the total number of unionists assassinated so far this year to 152, compared to 128 killed in 2000. Read more»

A Tolerance for Paramilitaries?

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights
By · December 10, 2001 · Comment

A United Nations special representative for human rights has made scathing comments about the Colombian government’s tolerance of right-wing paramilitary militias. During a recent fact-finding visit to Bogotá, Hila Jilani called the country’s human rights situation “very serious,” adding that there is “almost complete impunity” in cases of human rights violations. “There is a high level of tolerance toward the paramilitaries, and there are incidents that would seem to indicate negligence and collusion on the part of the security forces,” she added. Read more»

The Tragedy of Alternative Development in Colombia

Category: Economics and Globalization
By · December 3, 2001 · Comment

Go to one of Colombia’s coca-growing zones, and almost everyone there will tell you that they hate having all those green bushes in their fields. This message, which I’ve heard dozens of times, cannot be dismissed as a case of “tell-the-gringo-what-he-wants-to-hear.” There are compelling reasons why they despise growing coca. Certainly, coca has given many southern Colombian campesinos something approaching a lower-middle-class lifestyle — no mean feat in a country with 20 percent unemployment, 30 percent underemployment, and a minimum wage equal to $120 per month. But it has also brought Colombia’s brutal civil war to their doorstep. Read more»

Colombia’s Coffee and Oil Crisis

Category: Economics and Globalization
By · November 26, 2001 · Comment

About 15 years ago a good friend of mine bought an old coffee finca from an elderly couple who wanted to retire and move to Spain. My friend, an extremely successful businessman, wanted me to see his future weekend country home where he planned to relax and escape the rigors of the city. The 25 acre coffee farm was carefully maintained but not modern, it still spread out washed coffee beans on a cement patio to dry in the warm sun. The farm was special, perched on the summit of a long rolling hill it commanded a breathtaking view of the lush valley below. At the time, I thought the finca was truly a slice of heaven. Read more»

U.S. Shifts Gears: Launches PR Campaign Against Terrorism Instead of For It

Category: Armed Conflict, War on Terror
By · November 19, 2001 · Comment

One of the difficulties facing the White House in its war of words with presumed mass murderer Osama bin Laden is that it is on unsure footing. Unlike most American propaganda campaigns about terrorism, this one portrays the evil-doers as evil. We’ve had considerable success over the years in persuading international and domestic audiences to think well of one or another evil terrorist outfit, so this new campaign requires a complete reorientation for President George W. Bush’s veteran propaganda team. To use a baseball analogy for our baseball president, it’s like asking Derek Jeter to run the bases in a clockwise direction. It will be a while before official U.S. propagandists start to act instinctively, but once they do, watch out. These guys got game. Read more»

The Pastrana Legacy

Category: Politics and Democracy
By · November 12, 2001 · Comment

On the morning of October 28, 1998, President Andres Pastrana was honored in Washington D.C. with a State Visit by the Clinton White House. With only 82 days in office the Harvard-educated Pastrana was heralded for initiating a historic peace process with revolutionary guerrillas and for rehabilitating a shattered Colombian-American diplomatic relationship. It was an electrifying moment. A spirit of hope was in the air…hope for the fulfillment of Colombia’s citizens most profound dream…the end of violence…and a lasting peace. Read more»

Losing Sight of Che

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights
By · November 5, 2001 · Comment

Ernesto “Che” Guevara once wrote that it is essential for guerrilla groups to gain the support of the people in order for a revolution to succeed. In actuality, it is a lesson the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) learned years before Che wrote about his guerrilla warfare experiences during the Cuban Revolution. However, the FARC’s evolution from armed protectors of a victimized rural population to perpetrators of crimes against the same citizenry has diminished the guerrilla group’s legitimacy in the eyes of many Colombians and the international community. Furthermore, the FARC’s participation in the drug trade and its use of tactics that target the civilian population, such as kidnapping and indiscriminate rocket attacks, have seriously eroded its popular support. Read more»