Archive for 2006

How the EU and Canada Could Work for Peace in Colombia

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights, Politics and Democracy
By · December 11, 2006 · Comment

For the most part, the United States has established the terms of the international debate on Colombia’s civil conflict. Consequently, the language of war has dominated the discourse, a fact most apparent in Washington’s labeling of US intervention in Colombia as a “war on drugs” and more recently a “war on terror.” Prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, the European Union and Canada maintained a certain degree of independence with regard to their approaches to Colombia. In fact, both the EU and Canada refused to directly participate in the Clinton administration’s counter-narcotics initiative known as Plan Colombia or to consider the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) a terrorist organization. However, following 9/11, the latter situation changed when the EU and Canada placed the FARC on their terrorist lists, adding legitimacy to the Bush administration’s efforts to seek a military solution in Colombia. But given the current regional political context in South America and the evident military shortcomings of the US global war on terror, the EU and Canada are perfectly situated to begin contributing to a negotiated solution to Colombia’s long-running conflict by re-visiting their decisions to list the FARC as a terrorist organization. Read more»

Censorship, Hegemony and the Media in Colombia

Category: Armed Conflict, Media
By · November 27, 2006 · Comment

Shedding light on issues of government corruption, state officials indirectly involved in the violation of its own citizens’ rights, or sectors of the nation’s elite hiring killers to eliminate their adversaries would, in many countries, be on the front pages of any press or be a headline story on any television news channel; however, this is not necessarily the case within the country of Colombia. Rather than seeing these issues presented in the media or awards given to those involved in such investigative journalism, Colombian journalists experience dismissal, incarceration or even death when exposing information that places the Colombian state or the elite in a critical light. Read more»

Digging Up Canadian Dirt in Colombia

Category: Economics and Globalization, Human Rights
By · November 6, 2006 · Comment

Up a flight of stairs, behind double-enforced bulletproof glass and a large, silent bodyguard sits the office of Francisco Ramírez, a mining-policy researcher and president of Sintraminercol, Colombia’s state mineworkers’ union. Mining policy really isn’t sexy stuff and researching it usually isn’t a dangerous occupation, but some of Mr. Ramírez’s conclusions can mean life or death, both literally and figuratively. “Once they tried to kill me right here in this office,” said the researcher, who has survived seven assassination attempts. Read more»

Abandoning a Negotiated Prisoner Exchange for a Militant Rescue Attempt? Uribe Further Alienates Colombia’s Elite

Category: Armed Conflict, Politics and Democracy
By · October 23, 2006 · Comment

At a time when the Colombian government is experiencing growing urban and rural opposition to state-induced political and economic policies such the VAT tax reform, new inequitable bilateral-trade agreements with the United States, and a significant reduction in socio-economic aid to regions most affected by the civil war, one would think that the Uribe administration would seek to mend the frayed relations with his remaining allies within the traditional dominant class. However, with the recent announcement that the Colombian government seeks to replace a negotiated prisoner exchange with the FARC-EP for a military-based rescue attempt, it looks as though this rationalism has failed to enter the president’s thinking. Read more»

Power and Double Standards in the U.S. Legal System: The Cases of Coca-Cola and the FARC

Category: Politics and Democracy, US Foreign Policy
By · October 16, 2006 · Comment

What does the recent dismissal of the suit accusing Coca-Cola and its Colombian bottlers of complicity in human rights abuses have to do with the indictment in the United States of a Colombian guerrilla leader on charges of kidnapping, murder, drug trafficking and terrorism? At first glance, one may think very little. However, interesting legal and political questions emerge from the comparison of these two cases. For example, why, how and under what terms can groups—whether political such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or economic such as Coca-Cola—be brought to account for their actions abroad through the U.S. legal system? Read more»

Drummond Generates Profits and Misery in Colombia

Category: Armed Conflict, Economics and Globalization, Human Rights
By · October 2, 2006 · Comment

In early August 2006, while driving on the highway that links the northern Colombian cities of Bucaramanga and Santa Marta, a uniformed officer with a sidearm signaled for us to pull over to the side of the road. The officer was speaking into a walkie-talkie as he approached our vehicle and I noticed the words “private security” emblazoned on his uniform and a name badge hanging from his breast pocket identifying him as an employee of the Drummond Company. My Colombian driver and I had just passed the entrance to Alabama-based Drummond’s open-pit coalmine near the town of La Loma in the department of César. The guard said he had orders to detain us until the mine’s chief of security arrived on the scene. Ten minutes later, Drummond’s security chief pulled up with a truckload of Colombian soldiers to question us about our activities in the region. It was then that it hit me; we had just been detained and interrogated on a public Colombian highway by the private armed security force of a U.S. mining company. Read more»

The Massacre in Altaquer

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights, Race and Gender
By · September 18, 2006 · Comment

In early July, 64-year-old Segundo Ortiz was displaced from his land along with 1,700 other indigenous Awá in a remote jungle region in southwestern Colombia. He and many others had to walk for as long as two days to escape Colombian army operations in the region, finally seeking refuge in the small towns of Altaquer and Ricaurte. But one month later, tragedy struck the displaced Awá again when five of their leaders were dragged from their beds and shot to death on World Indigenous Day. It appears to many observers that the very forces that were charged with protecting the displaced Awá were the likely perpetrators of the massacre. Read more»