Archive for 2007

Bush and Harper Ignore Colombia’s Labor Rights Reality

Category: Economics and Globalization, Human Rights
By · December 10, 2007 · Comment

In the past year, there have been ongoing debates in both Washington and Ottawa about potential free trade agreements with Colombia. The failure to implement a hemisphere-wide agreement has led the governments of both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to push for bilateral pacts with their ideologically-aligned ally in Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe. Both Bush and Harper are facing domestic opposition that seeks to thwart the signing and ratification of the agreements due to ongoing human rights abuses in Colombia, particularly against unionists. The US and Canadian governments repeatedly point to a recent reduction in the number of Colombian labor leaders killed as justification for a free trade agreement. However, in actuality, the intensity of attacks against Colombian workers has increased, not decreased, under the Uribe government—and state security forces are directly responsible for an increasing number of the abuses. Read more»

Uribe Didn’t Want Prisoner Exchange Talks to Succeed

Category: Human Rights, Politics and Democracy
By · November 26, 2007 · Comment

Last week, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ended negotiations seeking an exchange of prisoners between his government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The end of the process came when Uribe effectively fired Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba from their roles as mediators. Uribe did everything he could to undermine the prisoner exchange talks since reluctantly initiating the process in August. His actions have made evident that he never intended to allow Chávez and Córdoba to succeed in their mission. Read more»

Colombia’s Elections Highlight Democratic Shortcomings

Category: Politics and Democracy
By · November 5, 2007 · Comment

While there were some signs of democratic advances in Colombia’s recent local elections, for the most part the electoral process again illustrated the weakness of formal electoral democracy in this war-torn nation. The October 28 local elections for governors, mayors and municipal posts were marred by violence as almost twice as many candidates were assassinated this year than during the 2003 campaign—twenty-nine candidates killed compared to 15 four years ago. Furthermore, the elections were plagued by vote buying, threats against voters, illegal campaign financing, government intimidation, massive disenfranchisement of citizens and outright fraud. According to election monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS), the electoral irregularities undermine democracy in Colombia. Read more»

Women and the Struggle for Social Change in Colombia

Category: Human Rights, Politics and Democracy, Race and Gender
By · October 22, 2007 · Comment

Many Colombian women on the political left see their daily participation in community and peasant organizations, social movements, and armed revolutionary groups as intimately bound up with the society they seek to build in Colombia. A lot of these women feel the need to confront inequality and implement a more redistributive political and economic agenda, suggesting that political economy is as important to gender politics as identity. In fact, a significant number of these women did not come to their politics from a gender or feminist perspective, but rather they began their engagement from a sense of injustice at the broader socio-economic conditions in which a majority of Colombians live. As a result, women struggle to organize in the context of a dirty war in which they are threatened, harassed and killed for being “subversives.” Read more»

Seven Years of Plan Colombia … and Little Has Changed in Putumayo

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights, War on Drugs
By · September 24, 2007 · Comment

In December 2000, fumigation planes began to fly over Putumayo as part of a massive aerial eradication campaign under the newly signed and recently delivered Plan Colombia aid package. The spray planes first came to Putumayo in 1997, but the spraying occurred on a much smaller scale. Their arrival in 2000 brought increased levels of sickness, human displacement and an overwhelming destruction of legal crops, all of which, like the fumigations, were not new to Putumayo. And now, seven years later, Putumayo continues to see fumigations and war. However, manual eradications have recently been added to the mix. They are conducted by a team of 125 men, guarded by anti-narcotics police, which goes from farm to farm uprooting entire coca field’s in a matter of minutes. Read more»

Life in a FARC Camp

Category: Armed Conflict, Race and Gender
By · August 27, 2007 · Comment

We met two female members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at the pre-established rendezvous point deep in the Colombian jungle. There we waited in a simple two-room wooden shack, which served as the home of a local peasant family. We sat there talking and drinking coffee while one of the guerrillas stood on the riverbank communicating through a hand-held radio. Finally, having received the all clear, which meant that there were no army patrols on the river, the four of us climbed into a canoe for the next stage of our journey. It had taken Terry Gibbs and myself more than two days to reach that point and we still had a short river trip and a hike through the jungle before we would finally arrive at the FARC camp that was our destination. Read more»

Reflections on Mining in Colombia: When “Development” Creates Deprivation

Category: Economics and Globalization, Human Rights, Race and Gender
By · August 13, 2007 · Comment

When the Make Poverty History campaign swept the globe two years ago, its message of debt relief, charity and development for the global South came with an impressive lineup of celebrity endorsements, but the credibility for this package of messages came from renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs. His publication The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time trendily re-packaged the issues in a way that made the international community take notice. But while many in the activist community seized the opportunity to breathe new life into campaigns for development and aid, Indian physicist and philosopher Vandana Shiva warned against the dangers of buying into Sachs’ analysis. Read more»