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Colombia Manifestation: JOIN US APRIL 20TH IN Washington D.C. or San Francisco

by Militante Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2002 at 1:46 AM

Colombian Crisis Escalates: 2002

errorEnd of the Peace Process
After 5 years of the Colombian Military loosing all battles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia Peoples Army (FARC-EP), the Colombian government needing a break decided to start peace negotiations. As soon as this was decided, the U.S. along with Multinationals and Colombian ellites decided to build up Colombian Military forces. As you know, the Colombian peace process has been highly volatile since its inception in 1998 with moments of serious crisis and jubilation. Nevertheless, since January the peace process has been on the cusp of a final breakdown. When President Pastrana took office in '98, he was voted in with a "Mandate for Peace" in which more people voted for peace (10 million) than voted for Pastrana (7.5 million = 18% of population). Around that same time there were simultaneous marches for peace throughout the country-in at least 15 cities-in which around 12 million people participated. Due to many different factors, not the least of which is that fact that in the negotiations there have been virtually no concrete steps towards peace, public opinion appears to be changing its tune.

Nevertheless, another short-term solution to the crisis was achieved in mid-January when a timeline was set that would have culminated with a ceasefire agreement signed no later than April 7, 2002. Colombia and the international community experienced a moment of relaxation and braced for the next crisis. Unfortunately, the crisis arrived earlier than anyone expected. After two months of a fairly intense offensive by the FARC-EP which included attacks on the Colombian military and police, and infrastructure. At 10pm on Feburary 20th President Pastrana announced that the peace process with the FARC-EP was over and that the Colombian military would take back the zona de despeje beginning at midnight. At midnight the Colombian Air Force began bombing military targets in the zone and by 10am on February 21st, they had carried out 200 bombing runs, hitting 85 targets. In doing so killing three civilians (two children). The Colombian Armed Forces moved in ground troops beginning the morning of February 22nd.

The FARC released a statement condemning the Colombian government and oligarchy for breaking off the peace process. They had reiterated, on numerous occasions, that if the government broke off negotiations and decided to move the army back into the zone, the FARC would hand over the urban centers but would not leave the rural areas since this was their historic territory. The FARC-EP state that President Pastrana did not give them 48hr period to leave the zone because when that was done in January, the international community was able to jump in and stop Pastrana from ending the Peace Process. This time Pastrana, with pressure (from U.S. military advisors and Colombian Military) to end the peace talks decided not to give adequate warning.

Groups working for peace, justice and human rights continue to work for a negotiated, political solution to the Colombian armed conflict. Nevertheless, they appear to be increasingly isolated voices in the wilderness. Ever-louder voices in the national and international press discuss the need to get the killing over with in the next couple of years by giving up the false hope of peace accords. They claim that a military solution is the only solution.

Colombian Elections Could Lead to More Death
The outlook for the near future is not bright. Congressional and presidential elections are scheduled for March 10 and May 26 respectively with a second round of presidential elections on June 19, if necessary. The new president will take office in August 2002. Rumors are circulating in the Colombian press that armed actors from both the right and the left will influence the congressional elections. The paramilitaries stated publicly that they expect at least 30% of the new members of congress to be "their people." Meanwhile polls (done by big media) show presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe Velez (who conection have been made with paramilitary death squads) has over 50% of the vote while the next closest candidate stands below 30%. In the past six months Uribe Velez has shot up in the polls basically running on a platform of a hard-line military approach to the armed conflict. On numerous occasions Uribe Velez has insisted on the need for foreign military troops to engage in fighting the guerillas. During his time as Governor of Antioquia, Uribe Velez oversaw the participation of the civilian CONVIVIR groups with the Colombian Military. These groups have since been determined illegal and are often associated with current paramilitary groups. Many groups in Colombia have decided to boycott the election due to their non-democratic tendency.

US Military Policy Widens

But these are internal Colombian affairs. What is the US government up to these days regarding Colombia? It appears as though things are going from bad to worse. There are four main elements of US policy that we are watching. First of all, in early February the Bush Administration proposed a new aid package to supplement the US emergency aid to support Plan Colombia, which for the past two years has been called the Andean Regional Initiative. The proposed package for 2003 totals US$731 million for the Andean Region, 60% of which is earmarked for Colombia. 60% of the package is currently military aid. According to the Center for International Policy, included in the military aid is funding to establish a second Counternarcotics Brigade. For more specific information on this and any other US aid to Colombia, see www.ciponline.org/colombia.

Protecting US Oil Intrest while Arming Assasins
In what was a surprise move to some, in early February the Bush Administration's "Foreign Military Financing" aid request for Colombia included funding that was outside the scope of the counternarcotics package provided in the Andean Regional Initiative request. According to preliminary information, the Foreign Military Financing request includes US$98 million for the Colombian Army's 18th Brigade (there are allegations that the 18th Brigade has links with paramilitary groups). This money would be used for approximately 12 UH-1 Huey helicopters, communications equipment, intelligence and for training of one of its battalions by US Army Special Forces. The singular focus of this battalion would be the protection of the Cao Limn-Coveas oil pipeline. This pipeline is partially operated by Occidental Petroleum Corporation. According to US Ambassador Anne Patterson, almost US$445 million was lost last year due to more than 150 guerrilla attacks against the pipeline that halted pumping of oil through the pipeline for approximately 250 days. For years critics have been saying that US military aid, regardless of the governmental rhetoric, has been aimed at fighting the Colombian insurgency and protecting US oil interests in the region. Now the US government has publicly admitted it. Ambassador Patterson recently said, "the issue of oil security has become a priority for the United StatesAfter Mexico and Venezuela, Colombia is the most important oil country in the region We explored different types of cooperation, and we came to the conclusion that protecting the Cao Limn-Coveas pipeline was a crucial project."

There are allegations that the 18th Brigade has links with paramilitary groups operating in the region and thereby could be implicated in paramilitary human rights violations by action or omission. Due to the Leahy Law, this could preclude the Brigade from receiving any US military aid. This law says that no US military aid can be provided to foreign militaries if there are credible allegations of human rights abuses against a "unit" until those allegations have been fully investigated and the responsible parties have been brought to justice. During the creation of the Counternarcotics Brigade, founded and training by US Special Forces in 2001, the US and Colombian governments moved "clean" troops from other brigades to create a brigade that the US could legally fund. It is not yet clear if the Colombian and US governments will have to move troops around to legally fund the 18th Brigade.

U.S. Aid Freed for Counterinsurgency?
A third important issue that we are following closely is that of freeing up Counternarcotics aid for counterinsurgency. For almost a year, President Pastrana and the Colombian Military have been lobbying the US government to remove the restrictions on US military aid and allow it to be used for both counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations. While the proposal to provide US military aid to protect an oil pipeline from guerrilla attacks is obviously outside of the counternarcotics scope, the US government has been hesitant in the past to allow the almost US$2 billion dollars in counternarcotics aid that it has given in the past two years to be used in strictly counterinsurgency operations.

Nevertheless, two high level State Department officials told the Colombian daily, El Tiempo on February 20th, "all the violence in Putumayo is linked to drug trafficking. The (armed) groups that are present there fight for control over the (drug) business and not for any ideology. For that reason, if a town is attacked (by an illegal armed actor) the Counternarcotics Brigade can intervene without violating the law that was passed by the US Congress." This represents another step by the US government towards freeing up counternarcotics aid for counterinsurgency operations.

Furthermore, on February 22, the Bush Administration expressed desire to provide in the next few days US military intelligence information to the Colombian military for counter-insurgency operations. Currently, US intelligence sharing in Colombia is limited by US laws exclusively to counter-narcotics operations.

JOIN US APRIL 20TH IN Washington D.C. or San Francisco

For these and many other issues:

*Stop US Military and Economic Intervention in Latin America

*No to Plan Colombia

*No to the FTAA

*US Bases out of Vieques and all of Latin America

*Close the School of the Americas / WHISC

*Stop the Direct Assault on people of color and the poor in the US and Latin America through the phony war on drugs

Contact Info for some of the organizing Centers for April 20th in Washington and San Francisco:
New York - (212)633-6646
Washington (202)543-2777

California:

LOS ANGELES
IAC, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 487-2368,
iacenterla@action-mail.org

South Central LA
KRST Unity Center for African Spirituality, 323-759-7567

Anahiem, Committee Against Racism & Unnecessary War - Veterans for Peace
714-956-5037
quetzcoatl38@aol.com

Claremont
Irvin Landrum Jr. Justice Organizing Committee
909-624-4796

Eureka
707-442-2925
humboldtlocal@yahoo.com

Hunington Beach
Coastal Convergence Society
714-964-2152
ccshbca@aol.com

Placerville
530-622-9549

Sacramento
Sacto/Yolo Peace Action
916-448-7157
sypeace@jps.net

San Jose
408-975-0670

So. Humboldt County
707-943-1847
fchampagne@humboldt.net

SAN FRANCISCO
Regional Headquarters
(415) 821-6545;
iac@actionsf.org
www.actionsf.org
Meetings held on the first Thursday of the month at 7pm at the IAC office 2489 Mission St., #24, (Near 21st, MUNI 14 & 49, 24th St. BART, Garage parking at Valencia and 21st.)

Chico
Chico Peace Works
530-892-8361

Davis
530-304-4573

Hemet
909-652-7317

Modesto
209-526-9588,

Riverside
Coalition for Peace and Human Rights, UCR
909-272-6684
oneearth1nation@aol.com

SAN DIEGO
Int'l Action Center
(619) 692-4422
sdiac@earthlink.net

Santa Cruz
831-502-3468

_______________________________

Ramon Acevedo
Comit por la Nueva Colombia
(415) 821-6545
ramon_cnc@yahoo.com


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